Thursday, July 05, 2018

Those Places Thursday - Mining for Great-grandpa

One of the stories that was passed down in the family was that my great-grandfather Charles Taylor "C.T." Hill had gone off to seek his fortune.  One version was that he went to Alaska for the Gold Rush, another was that he went to Arkansas to mine for diamonds. 

I never heard any more details about the Alaska tale - to date I haven't found anything to substantiate this.

The tale about Arkansas contained a few more details.  One was that he was the bookkeeper at the Red Cloud Mine, the other was that he was the Mayor of the town there called Rush.

I do have a picture of him at Red Cloud dated June 26, 1915.

C.T. Hill in center of photo
I was able to find a few articles online about him while he was there.  One cited the bookkeeper of Red Cloud Mine, Mr. Hill, a "Prince of good-fellows". 

from "Mountain Echo" November 19, 1915
And, there was the report of the first election of the newly incorporated town of Rush listing him as the Mayor - a "wide awake progressive gentleman".

from "Mountain Echo" October 27, 1916
Armed with this information, my cousin and I set off to visit the mine and the town where great-grandpa was the mayor.  First, it became very clear to us that he was mining not for diamonds, but for Zinc.  Zinc was discovered in this area of the Ozark mountains in the 1880's but the mining industry really took off in the years from 1915-1918.  Zinc was used to produce ammunition, so demand was tied to the war effort. 

Selfie at the turnoff to Rush
The town of Rush itself is now a Ghost Town.  Some buildings remain and are now the property of the National Park Service.  

There was a very nice interpretive trail that discussed the boom and bust era of zinc mining and described some of the structures.

While visiting the site, I tried to imagine great-grandpa living in one of these houses,

conducting business in the general store,

or traveling down the path that paralleled Rush Creek to get to the mine.  The path itself becomes impassable during periods of heavy rain, but things were hot and dry when we were there.

Sadly, Red Cloud Mine is gone, but we did see some remains of Morning Star mine along the trail. 

The people of Marion County Arkansas are very proud of their mining history.  Everyone we talked to seemed to have a connection to the mine - someone in their family worked on a mine, lived in Rush, etc.  From the owners of the Silver Run Cabins where we stayed (highly recommended), the Park Rangers at Buffalo Point, the librarian at the county library, the staff in the County Clerk's office at the Courthouse, and the staff at the Yellville Chamber of Commerce (largest town near Rush and county seat) - they were all friendly and willing to share their stories and photos.  It was a wonderful experience mining for information about my Great-grandfather and his life and times.

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