Thursday, August 27, 2020

Pieplant: A Taylor Park Mining Camp

 By Steven W. Veatch

The story of the Pieplant mining camp, in Taylor Park, begins with the Ute people who hunted and roamed this land of dense forests, rushing streams, and imposing mountains. During the summer of 1860, a prospector by the name of Jim Taylor was rounding up stray horses when he rode into this remote region. The area soon became known as Jim Taylor's Park, then as Taylor Park. With the discovery of gold in 1867, placer mining began to appear (Parker, 1992). 

Figure 1. Taylor Park Reservoir is a 2000 surface acre reservoir located 29 miles northeast of Gunnison. Photo date 7/2020 by S. Veatch.

The directions to Pieplant are easy: from the north end of Taylor Park Reservoir, head north several miles on road 742. Watch for a forest road on the right-hand side. There is a sign pointing to the town/mill site. Turn right and follow this dirt road for about four miles to a clearing where several old log cabins mark the little settlement of Pieplant. 

Miners built the town beside a wide meadow near Pieplant Creek, below the summit of Jenkins Mountain (13,432 feet). Both the town and creek were named for the clumps of rhubarb (pieplant) growing wild along the banks of the creek. Pieplant Creek flows southwest from Jenkins Mountain and ranges from less than one foot to seven feet across.

Prospectors worked gold placers along Pieplant Creek as early as the 1890s. These placers did not produce much gold. Miners later established the mining camp of  Pieplant around the turn of the 20th century (Vandenbusche, 1980). Over forty men worked at the Pieplant mine, which was about a mile away from the settlement (Vandenbusche, 1980). 

By 1903, Pieplant had 100 residents, a post office, and a stamp mill (Vandenbusche, 1980). Four-horse teams hauled ore in wagons down a steep road on Jenkins Mountain to the mill (Wolle, 1962). The mill, built by Wood's Mining and Milling Company of Kansas, handled 200 tons of ore each day from the Pieplant and other area mines (Pieplant, n.d., Eberhart,1969). The mill was 280 feet long and 110 feet wide, and employed 50 men (Vandenbusche, 1980). Day (1906) mentions that gold bullion was shipped from Pieplant’s “cyanide plant” in 1905.
A newspaper article from the Turret Gold Belt (1905) describes some of the excitement of the mining camp:
"Just a year ago (1904) the Burton brothers of Virginia sold to John Lynch of this city [Turret] and J. W. Harrison, a capitalist of St. Louis, a group of four claims known as the Clinton group and which adjoins the property of the Woods Gold Mining company at Pieplant. The consideration of the sale was $16,000, and the claims are practically undeveloped. That the judgement of the purchasers was good has now been proven, as their tunnel a few days ago cut a lead [vein] which is fourteen feet between walls and from which highly satisfactory assays have been had. The average of the entire lead is good, and a portion of the vein carries gold and copper to the value of $120 per ton, while picked samples run way up into the hundreds. As soon as the assay certificates were received Mr. Lynch started at once for the East, where a plan of development will be decided upon. . . .While this district is rich in minerals lack of transportation has held it back for a number of years."

According to the Twin Lakes Miner (1906), J.W. and M.H. Woods had driven a 1,700-foot tunnel that ran along a gold vein for 1,300 feet. The best gold values, according to the article, were ahead of the tunnel where the “ore shoot widened to 4 to 7 feet in width.”

The town began to decline after 1908 as the veins thinned out and transportation costs exceeded profits from mining (Pieplant Mill, nd). Soon after 1910, Pieplant was abandoned and cows grazed there. A few of the log cabins (figures 2 and 3), the collapsed ruins of the Pieplant mine, and part of the mill building (figure 4) remain today—reminders of the early mining operations that occurred there.

Figure 2. In 2006, the Forest Service and Passport in Time put a new roof on this Pieplant cabin in their preservation efforts. Photo date 7/2020 by S. Veatch.

Figure 3. A Pieplant miner’s cabin along a meadow. The long poles supported a porch roof. Photo date 7/2020 by S. Veatch.

Figure 4. View of Pieplant mill ruins. The Pieplant mine is located about one mile north of the mill on Jenkins Mountain. Photo date 7/2020 by S. Veatch.

Pieplant is located on the western flank of the Sawatch Mountains, below Jenkins Mountain. Grizzly Peak (13,281 feet) is to the east. Locally, Paleozoic sediments mask folded and faulted Precambrian rocks. The area experienced uplift, folding, and thrust faulting during the Laramide Orogeny. Sometime in the Miocene Epoch crustal movement began again, resulting in a series of faults. 

During the Pleistocene Epoch, ice was the last major geologic agent to shape the area. Alpine glaciers moved down the mountains—carving preexisting fluvial erosional valleys into distinctive U-shapes or filling them with unsorted glacial till. 

Gravity and alluvial processes concentrated native gold in local placer deposits (Parker, 1974). The gold, hosted in Quaternary alluvium, appears as wires, small flakes, and as sporadic small nuggets (Parker, 1992). Early miners in the area worked Pieplant Creek gold placers below 9,850 feet in elevation (Parker, 1992). Despite careful prospecting, the source of the placer gold has never been discovered.

However, other minerals besides gold and black sand (magnetite) are found in the area. Pan concentrates yield columbite-tantalite, the ore of tantalum (Parker, 1992). This black mineral is not magnetic and is the principal ore of tantalum (Ta), a rare metallic element discovered in 1802 by a Swedish chemist, A.G. Ekeberg. The hard, malleable blue-gray metal has several industrial uses. 

Monazite, a slightly radioactive mineral, shows up as blackish to greenish grains in gold pans (Parker, 1992). Monazite is the primary ore of the rare earth metals cerium and lanthanum. These metals have multiple industrial uses. Because of monazite’s high density (specific gravity is 4.6 to 5.7), monazite grains, along with the gold, collected into placer deposits. Other heavy minerals that appear in pan concentrates are zircon and garnets (Parker, 1992). The sources of the heavy minerals are local granites and pegmatites (Parker, 1992).

Today Pieplant is a quiet place where a few cabins and structures remain near the edge of an open meadow. Pieplant Creek, which flows nearby, is still a good place to search for flakes of gold, especially in ravines and outwash terraces, on slopes, and in gulches.

References and Further Reading:

Day, D. T., 1906, Mineral Resources of the United States Calendar Year 1905: Washington, Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey.

Eberhart, P., 1969, Guide to the Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps: Chicago, Sage Books.

Parker, B. H., Jr. 1974, Gold placers of Colorado: Colorado School of Mines Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 3.

Parker, B.H. Jr., 1992, Gold Panning and Placering in Colorado: Denver, CO Information Series 33. Colorado Geological Survey.

Pieplant Mill. Retrieved from on July 12, 2020.

Turrett Gold Belt, 1905, Taylor Park Producers: Turrett Gold Belt, November 1, 1905, p.1, c. 3.

Twin Lakes Miner, 1906, Good News for Pieplant Gulch: Twin Lakes Miner, Aug. 11, 1906, p. 1, c. 3.

Vandenbusche, D. 1980, The Gunnison Country: Gunnison, B&B Printers.

Wolle, M.S., 1962, Stampede to Timberline: The Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of Colorado: Denver, Sage Books.



Saturday, June 20, 2020

A Childhood Lost: Cripple Creek’s Minor Miners

By Steven Wade Veatch

Even though working in Cripple Creek goldmines mines was tough labor, occasionally, miners took a break from their deep underground toil. Some Cripple Creek miners wanted to memorialize their work in the goldfields by posing for group photographs in front of their mines. A few of these photographs have survived and are stored in various Colorado archives. Some of these photographs contained surprising faces among the cast of characters. As I studied some of these old and brittle photographs, I noticed the faces of young boys looking back at me. With a magnifying glass in hand, I looked deeper. In one photo, a young boy (figure 1) puffs on a spit-soaked cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth. With his dark eyes full of mischief, he poses with his adult coworkers at the Republic mine on the Mary McKinney mine property.

Figure 1. This photo depicts a young boy posing with the adult miners
at the Republic mine in the Cripple Creek Mining District.
Photo circa 1899, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. 

These boys were part of the mine’s workforce. Some historians argue that only a handful of them were there, but their number remains undetermined and their stories lost to time.

Cripple Creek mines were dangerous, and there were many ways to be killed or injured underground: rock falls (also known as widow makers), cave-ins, explosions from unignited rounds of dynamite, and accidents with machinery. These drastic situations—the injury or loss of a father—led some children of the stricken miners, all boys, to work in the mines (Wright, 1974). These boys were supporting families that had had a father die or injured in a mining accident. Others were orphans and lived on their own.

These “minor miners” were known as pick boys (figure 2). They ran errands, fetched supplies, and brought dull drills and picks to blacksmiths for sharpening (Wyman, 1979). The pick boys also lugged water to thirsty miners to drink. It is likely that these boys tended the donkeys who worked with them underground.

Figure 2. This closeup captures a moment in time where a pick boy
is sitting with a group of miners. Photo, circa 1902,
courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.
The pick boys tramped deep underground through claustrophobic drifts (a horizontal passage underground that usually follows a vein) that wound through the gold-bearing igneous rocks. They worked amid creaking timbers, dripping water, and the threat of deadly gases. There was inadequate ventilation underground, and the fumes of blasting, candle smoke, and rock dust from drilling filled the air. Grime stained the boys’ clothes from the damp and muddy places they worked. The endless blackness of the mine swallowed the flickering light of their candles. The roar of blasting and the incessant racket of operating drills was constant. Despite these conditions, they likely labored with quiet deliberation and in their familiar routines to collect meager pay.

Some of the boys worked above ground in the ore-sorting houses. It was here that finely ground ore, considered richer than the coarser or oversized ore, was separated (Lindgren & Ransom, 1906). Some sorting houses used a process of hand sorting to separate the higher-grade ore, something a boy could do.

Lowell Thomas was 14 years old when he rode horseback for the Portland mine, gathering specimens from other gold mines to be assayed (Marist Archives and Special Collections, n.d.). The Portland mine, near the rough-and-tumble goldrush town of Victor, was one of the major producers in the Cripple Creek Mining District. Lowell Thomas grew up in Victor, where his father was the town doctor (Lee, 1958). Dr. Thomas took Lowell out for walks, where they looked for rocks and Lowell learned about geology (Lee, 1958, p. 239-240). Lowell Thomas came back to the mining district after college and worked in some of the mines and then edited several newspapers in the district for a short period (Lee, 1958, p. xii). Lowell Thomas went on to be a celebrated radio and television broadcaster, author, and world traveler.

Cripple Creek was not the only place where there were boy miners. In the Leadville district, boys left high school before graduation, usually to go to work in the mines and become breadwinners for their families (Crawford, 1959).

One miner’s account told of his mining partner at Colorado’s Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville. His partner was called “Scotty” because he was from Scotland. Scotty told him that one day when he was about 11 years old at home, the sun was low on the horizon outside, flooding his family’s kitchen with the ruddy light of sunrise. He was eating breakfast with his father. His mother was busy making his father’s lunch for work. Scotty’s father said, “Mom, fix a lunch for Junior.” The mother replied, “He’s going to school and will come home for lunch, and then go back to class.” The father said, “Not anymore. He’s goin’ to the mine with me. He’s had enough schooling.” Scotty never went back to school (G. Lewis, personal communication, 2020). Back then, children became "adults" much earlier than today, going only as high as completing eighth grade in most cases before going to work.

Colorado coal mines in the early 20th century used children in their workforce. According to Martha Todd, “The coal miners as a rule all had big families. The family of five was a small family. . . I’ve heard of families of 12 and 15 children. . .There were no child labor laws in those days and the boys were taken into the mine [at] 11, 12, 13 years old. And the girls, just as soon as they were able to take care of baby, were kept at home. They didn’t get to go to school much” (Margolis, 1985).

Child labor laws were slow in coming. In 1912, President Taft signed into law a bill creating “The Children's Bureau,” the first federal agency that focused on improving the lives of children. When the Department of Labor was established the following year (1913), The Children’s Bureau was transferred to it. However, child labor problems were far from solved.

Leadville’s Herald Democrat of October 18, 1921 featured an article about child labor. “In 20 states, boys less than 16 years old could be hired to work in mines and quarries. In 17 states, child workers under 16 years of age would not even be afforded the protection of the eight-hour workday. In 17 states there would be no law to prevent the child workers from being employed at night.”

The Walsh-Healey Act, enacted in 1936 as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, established safety standards, minimum wage, maximum hours, overtime pay, and child labor regulations on federal contracts. Finally, in 1949, the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibited child labor.

Since there were no social systems to take care of the families with a father killed or disabled in a mine, and no labor laws to protect them, some of the boys in Cripple Creek worked in the mines by necessity, becoming the breadwinners for their families. Some boys quit school and followed the lure of gold and the adventure of mining. They became the pick boys, the minor miners of the Cripple Creek Mining District. They endured the hard work and dangers of underground mining.

References Cited
Athearn, F. J., 2008, Early Mining in Northeastern Colorado Chapter 6. In The New Empire ofthe Rockies: A History of Northeast Colorado. Retrieved from on April 1, 2020.

"Child Labor Still Issue." Herald Democrat, 18 Oct. 1921 [Leadville], p. 1.

Crawford, I. C., 1959, School Days in Leadville. Colorado Magazine, Vol. 36, p. 224.

Lindgren, W., and Ransome, F. L., 1906, Geology and gold deposits of the Cripple Creek District,Colorado. Washington: Govt. Print. Off.

Lee, M. B. 1958, Cripple Creek Days. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press., pp. 239-240.

Margolis, E., 1985, Western Mining as a Way of Life. Journal of the West, Vol. 36, p. 54.

Marist Archives and Special Collections: Lowell Thomas. Retrieved from on April 5, 2020.

Wright, J. E., 1974, The Politics of Populism: Dissent in Colorado. New Haven, CT: Yale UniversityPress, (pp. 20-21, 24-27).

Wyman, M., 1979, Hard Rock Epic: Western Miners and the Industrial Revolution 1860-1910.Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p. 13.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Moment in Time: A Giggey Family Photograph

By Steven Wade Veatch

The photo shown has outlived my ancestors and the location it depicts; people died, a town changed, and there is an empty spot on the street where my grandfather's cabin once stood—burned down in a fire several years ago. This memento of my ancestors is a way for me to preserve the threads of my family’s history in a freeze frame of a certain place and time. I am trying to preserve the stories these relatives told me. I don’t want the tales to die out.

A family and friends scene at the Giggey log cabin in Nederland, Colorado. Left to right: unknown boy, unknown girl in the lap of George Nelson Giggey, Roland Giggey with crutches and brace on his left leg, unknown woman, Mary Edna Giggey (“Babe”), and Mary Ella Giggey sitting in a rocking chair. The family dog is taking a nap. Photo circa 1916. Unknown photographer. 

A traveling photographer opened the shutter on this family moment around 1916 in Nederland, Colorado, a small mountain town in southwestern Boulder County. Times were difficult. World War I was raging in Europe. The Battle of Verdun had started, leading to an estimated 1 million casualties. The US would enter the war the following year.

In this photo, an unscripted moment in the lives of my grandfather, Roland Wallace Giggey, and his family is recorded on a sunny summer day. The group is in front of the Giggey log cabin, built by my great-grandfather (George Leon Giggey) with large timbers he had hauled down the mountains with his draft horses. In the photo, my grandfather is 13. He is sitting on the ground. A brace is on his leg; two crutches are next to him. My grandfather suffered from Perthes disease, a rare childhood condition that affects the hip. His brother, George Nelson Giggey, is 15 years old and sits to the left of my grandfather, holding a small child in his lap. On the far right, sitting in a rocking chair, is my great-grandmother, Mary Ella Giggey. Next to her, on the left, is my Aunt Babe (great-aunt), at 10 years old. The standing woman, the small child, and the boy on the far left are all unknown, their names lost to history. Mary Giggey’s three children, George, Roland, and Babe, grew up in Nederland.

As I hold the photograph, I look at it carefully and begin to recall some of the stories of these early pioneers of Colorado and how strong these people were.

Missing in the photograph is my great-grandfather, George Leon Giggey. He spent his teen years in the nearby mining camp of Caribou. He later moved to Nederland, where he raised his family and worked as a teamster hauling tungsten ore. On Saturday nights, he played the fiddle at Nederland’s rowdy dance hall.

Nederland processed silver ore from Caribou. After Caribou’s silver mines declined in production, prospectors discovered tungsten (used in steel production) nearby, and the old silver mill in Nederland was converted to process tungsten ore. By the time the photographer took this photo (1916), Nederland had a peak population of nearly 3,000 people.

One morning after breakfast at my grandfather’s summer home, when I was a teenager, an elderly Aunt Babe told me stories about growing up in the Nederland cabin. She was sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace. The morning sun streamed through the window, illuminating dancing dust particles in the air. Aunt Babe began by telling how the logs in the Nederland cabin were hand-hewn by my great-grandfather, and that the brittle log chinking fell out in places, leaving holes where the wind blew snow inside the cabin and onto her bed. She told me how the blizzards stormed in from the mountains and piled up snow outside half a window high during many of the snowstorms.

Aunt Babe said that, one afternoon, her two brothers chased her onto the porch and rubbed a jelly sandwich in her face. This made me realize the similarity of brothers and sisters tormenting each other in any era. I try so hard to remember her now; she comes into focus and then fades. I remember the morning when she told me these stories while she was putting up her hair for the day. She never cut her hair, and it reached the floor. She kept her hair up in a bun on her head. Later in life, she painted oil landscapes and portraits of family members.

I look at this old photograph again, and more stories from my grandfather growing up in Nederland tease my memory, and then they begin to unfold. The nearby Barker Reservoir was a place for Nederland’s children to play. In the winter, my grandfather and his brother rigged a sail onto their sled that caught the cold wintertime gales that pushed them over the wind-swept ice. The two boys used their mother’s bedsheets. During the summer, they floated little canoes they made from tree bark on small waves in the water. Every time I pass the Barker Reservoir, I think of my grandfather and his brother playing there.

To earn some money, my grandfather and his brother cut down aspen trees and hauled them into town, where they sold them as firewood to a baker. My grandfather said that one day, while hauling wood, they discovered a dynamite shed that was unlocked. The two boys grabbed a stick of dynamite and a fuse from the shed and then set it off in a clearing. No one ever found out that they were responsible for the explosion, and fortunately, they escaped serious injury but had trouble hearing for a few days.

The two brothers enjoyed exploring the forested areas surrounding the town. My grandfather, because of his leg brace and crutches, rode “Becky” the burro while his brother George walked. One afternoon, they encountered a well-dressed English prospector who lived in a canvas tent, half hidden in the pines. The tent was well furnished. There were maps and books on a table, kerosene lamps, and a rug covered most of the wooden floor. A pot-bellied stove provided heat. My grandfather and his brother returned several times to talk with the Englishman. One day, the Englishman was gone, never to be seen again.

My grandfather and his friends spent some time at the Tanner Brother’s grocery store looking at the merchandise. One day in 1910, while at the grocery store, they heard a commotion in the street. When they ran outside to investigate, they saw a Stanley Steamer car puffing up Main Street. No one had seen anything like it before.

Prosperity in Nederland brought the extraordinary N.M. “Fatty” Mills and his movie theater to Nederland. Fatty started his theater in a white frame building on Main Street in 1914. An artist painted beautiful mountain scenes on the walls on either side of the sloping theater floor. The theater was a busy place; Fatty ran two shows each night and two matinees each week. Fatty Mills, who weighed over 300 pounds and smoked a corncob pipe, was very popular with the local youngsters. My grandfather turned the crank on the old projector and received 5 cents for each show from Fatty. Mills remained in business until his death 20 years later.

Soon my Great-uncle George Nelson Giggey—the boy sitting with the child in his lap in the photo—would be gone. The scene in the photo shifts a few years to 1918, when George was 17 years old and came home one October day from work. He was not feeling well and sank into the couch with aches that felt like his bones were breaking. George never left the couch, and a bitter gloom filled the room as he died. He was a victim of the flu that would soon become the deadliest epidemic in human history. The thieving shadow of death was everywhere in the town at that time, forcing the townspeople to convert the Antlers Hotel into a hospital to help the stricken citizens of Nederland.

During a camping trip as a young adult with my grandfather, I remember him telling me, as he stared into the burning campfire, about the loss of his brother George. As his eyes misted, he said that he still carried with him in his wallet the money that was in his brother’s pocket when he died. Years later, he had his brother’s body exhumed from the Nederland Cemetery for interment in the Boulder Cemetery, next to his mother. My grandfather would later join them when he passed away. My grandfather was with his brother once again.

The death of George ripped the Giggey family apart. My grandfather, his sister, and his mother moved to Boulder, Colorado. My great-grandfather left for Dove Creek, in western Colorado, where he took up ranching and started a new family. This portion of family history was buried deeper than a mine shaft, and I will never know what really happened.

This photograph also helps me remember the stories and historical realities that sit outside the frame of the photograph I want to hear my grandfather’s and great-aunt Babe’s stories again. I did not know how important these stories would be for me when I first heard them. I wish I could go back in time and hear them one more time. The bits and pieces of the stories I remember help me understand who I am and how I fit into the world. And the stories put me next to them—listening once again to my grandfather and great-aunt. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

April is National Poetry Month

Cave Art 

The twenty-thousand-year-old bison
of Lascaux appear arranged and alive
in the glimmering glow of a burning torch—
where ancient walls whisper
and prehistory holds us,
then slowly


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Incident at the Kalamazoo Gold Mine

By Steven Wade Veatch

During the cold day of December 27, 1901, Martin Gleason, a mining superintendent working in the goldfields of Cripple Creek, Colorado, was attacked in the shadows of the Kalamazoo mine. Gleason’s assailant struck him on the head and then pushed him into a mine shaft, where he fell 500 feet to the bottom of the mine. The attack left behind two things: Martin Gleason's corpse and footprints suggesting a struggle. What brought Martin Gleason to this grim end?

Martin Gleason was born in Queenstown, Ireland, on December 25, 1848. When he was 18, he immigrated to America. Gleason worked for fifteen years in the Pennsylvania coal mines before coming west to Colorado in the early 1880s (Annonymous, 1900). He ended up working for the Consolidated Gold Mines Company in the Cripple Creek Mining District in 1898 (Poet, 1932). Two years later, the Woods Investment Company employed him as the superintendent of the Wild Horse (figure 1), Deadwood, and Battle Mountain mines.

Figure 1. View of the Wild Horse mine. The writing on the left lower corner states “Gleason shaft.” The Wild Horse mine was one of several mines under Martin Gleason’s management when his troubles with the union deepened. Undated photo by A. J. Harlan. Photo courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum (CCDM 82 591).
Things were looking good for Gleason. His reputation as a hard-as-nails mining man brought him success in the mining district.

Prior to Gleason becoming a mine superintendent for the Woods Investment Company, the Cripple Creek Mining District experienced its first labor strike in 1894. The union called a strike to resist wage cuts and a longer workday. Specifically, the miners demanded a minimum daily wage of $3.00 and an eight-hour workday.

During the strike, James C. Veatch, former Denver chief of police, arrived in Cripple Creek with a force of 125 heavily armed deputies, mainly former policemen and firemen, to confront the striking miners (Rastall, 1906). The pro-labor Populist governor Davis Waite used the state militia (figure 2) to stop this army of deputies from advancing on union miners. The strike was resolved in favor of the miners, and the power of the union was firmly established in the mining district.

Figure 2. Encampment of state militia on Bull Hill, Cripple Creek Mining District, June 12, 1894. Cripple Creek was the site of two labor conflicts: the first in 1894 and the second one in 1903-1904. Photo by A. James Harlan. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. 
After the miners won the strike, the union’s power continued to expand, and by 1902, unions organized most of the workers in the district, including bartenders, clerks, cooks, waitresses, laundrymen, and newsboys (Jameson, 1998).  However, power soon began to shift from the unions to the mine owners and capitalists. Trouble brewed as organized labor worked to maintain its authority while intimidating miners to either join the union or leave the district. Violence escalated. Union thugs threatened miners in their homes and assaulted them as they went to and from their work. Sometimes the beatings resulted in death (Montgomery, 1904).

About this time, Martin Gleason, the superintendent of several local mines, aroused the enmity of the union as he supported nonunion labor. According to an article in the Victor and Cripple Creek Daily Press (December 28, 1901) Gleason “had the reputation of not discriminating in the employment of men” (Jameson, 1998).

Gleason further antagonized union bosses and miners when he hired a black miner at the Wild Horse mine. There were few black miners in the Cripple Creek Mining District, and when the Wild Horse mine employed another black miner, most of the white miners opposed the hiring. Gleason reminded the angry miners that President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation 35 years earlier and that they should show some “brotherly love” (Jameson, 1998). Gleason’s remarks held no sway, and the white miners refused to go work with the black miner.

The circumstances turned lethal. Two days after Christmas, 1901, Martin Gleason, 50 years of age, was found dead, with his head crushed in, at the bottom of the Kalamazoo shaft—Miners brought his mangled body up 500 feet to the surface. The Woods Investment Company, Gleason’s employer, offered a $5,000 reward for the capture of his killer (Anonymous, 1902).

Several men were charged with this crime but were later released. According to Poet (1932), the principal of the Victor High School, “the murderer was never brought to justice.”  We may never know who murdered Martin Gleason.

Although Martin Gleason worked for mine owners as a superintendent, he was sympathetic with the plight of the miners. As he tried to bridge the two worlds of labor and capital, Gleason became a grim statistic in the violence leading up to the second (1903-1904) of two Cripple Creek labor strikes.

References Cited

Anonymous, 1900, Fortunes of a Decade, Colorado Springs: Sargent and Rohrabacher for The Evening Telegraph, p. 116-118.

Anonymous, 1902, “Martin Gleason:” Mining Reporter, Vol. 45, No 1, p. 12.

Jameson, E., 1998, Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek, Chicago, University of Illinois Press.

Montgomery, W. H., 1904, Colorado Bureau of Labor Statistics: Biennial Report 1904. Denver, The Smith-Brooks Printing Company.

Poet, S. E., 1932, The Story of Cameron, Colorado. The Colorado Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 5, p. 197.

Rastall, B. M., 1906, The Labor History of the Cripple Creek District, A Study in Industrial Evolution. Madison, Wisconsin, Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, No. 108, Economics and Political Science Series, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 1-166.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Ancient Weevil Pupal Cases: Trace Fossils from Australia’s Pleistocene

Curious pupal cases made by prehistoric weevils, together with worm burrows, are found as trace fossils in rock exposures of the Upper Bridgewater Formation along the western coastline of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia (Flint, 1992; Flint and Rankin, 1991; Rankin and Flint, 1992).  According to Parker and Flint (2005), the Upper Bridgewater Formation is a middle to late Pleistocene aeolian calcarenite (a wind-blown, consolidated gritty calcareous sandstone).  These trace fossils are found inland from the coast for a distance of about 40 km.  Microscopic analysis of these ancient pupal cases shows they are made of gritty sand and gravel that were cemented by calcite over thousands of years.

Fig. 1. Fossil pupal cases from the Bridgewater Formation resemble small elongated eggs.  These cases have a hole where the fossil organism exited.  The trace fossils are characterized by their strong cementation and a hollow interior.  Scale in mm. Specimen from the S. W. Veatch collection. Photo by S. W. Veatch.
These cases are thought to have contained the pupae Leptopius duponti, a medium-size, soil-inhabiting weevil or snout beetle of the family Curculionidae. The Curculionidae are one of the largest families of organisms, with at least 44,000 described species (Grimaldi and Engel, 2005).  Adults of most species of this family have a characteristic elongate snout or nostrum.  At the end of this well-developed snout is a small pair of mandibles for biting and chewing food.

Taxonomic Classification:
Kingdom        Animalia
Phylum          Arthropoda
Class             Insecta
Order             Coleoptera
Suborder       Polyphaga
Superfamily Curculionoidea
Family           Curculionidae
Subfamily Leptopiinae
Genus           Leptopius
Species         duponti

The adult female Leptopius duponti not only relishes the foliage of acacia trees as food, but also carefully lays her eggs on the leaves.  When the larva hatch, they move underground to feed on roots. When they are ready to pupate, they form a chamber or pupal case out of the soil.  After their metamorphosis, they cut a hole near one end of their pupal case to leave and then burrow to the surface, where they quickly climb the acacia trees to feed.
The pupal cases are usually too delicate to survive for any length of time, but, occasionally, some of the empty cases remain underground where they become petrified by calcite.  (Tilley et al., 1997).  Some of these pupal cases in the Upper Bridgewater Formation are estimated to be 40,000 to 100,000 years old.

Fig. 2. Leptopius duponti is common in Australia, where they are called “wattle pigs.” 
The body length of Leptopius duponti averages 20 mm. 
These slow-moving weevils are plant eaters.
Photo by David Nelson. Used with permission.

References cited:

Flint, R.B., 1992, Elliston, South Australia, Sheet SI3-6, South Australia Geological Survey, 1:250,000 series, explanatory notes.

Flint, R.B. and Rankin, L.R., 1991, Kimba, South Australia, Sheet SI53-7, South Australia Geological Survey, 1:250,000 series, explanatory notes.

Grimaldi, D and Engle, M. S., 2005, The Evolution of Insects: New York, Cambridge University Press, 689 p.

Parker, A.J. and Flint, R.B., 2005, Yardea, South Australia Sheet SI53-3, Geological Survey of South Australia, 1:250,000 series, explanatory notes.

Rankin, L.R., and Flint, R.B., 1992, Streaky Bay, South Australia Sheet SI53-2, South Australia Geological Survey, 1:250,000 series, explanatory notes.

Tilley, D. B., Barrows, T.T., and Zimmerman, E.C., 1997, Bauxitic insect pupal cases from northern Australia.  Alcheringa 21, p. 157-160.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Michigan Puddingstone

Steven Wade Veatch

Michigan’s puddingstones are intriguing rocks that look like a glob of pudding stuffed with raisins, nuts and bits of cranberries. These white rocks, with small red, brown, purple and black pebbles, are not a Michigan product. During the last ice age, they hitched a ride into Michigan on an ice sheet and got off in the southern part of the state when the ice melted.

Fig. 1. An unpolished puddingstone from Michigan. Some contain trace amounts of gold and diamonds. These rocks are commonly found just after farmers plow their fields in Michigan.  Puddingstones were brought to Michigan by Ice Age glaciers. Jo Beckwith Specimen.  Photo by S.W. 
Puddingstones went through several steps in their formation (in what is now part of Ontario in Canada), before they went on their journey to Michigan. First, a network of rapidly flowing streams tumbled red and coffee-brown jasper, funeral-black chert, hematite and quartz in their churning water. Next, the streams deposited the material as sedimentary fill in eroded troughs and as alluvial fans, when the streams reduced their velocity and scattered the colorful pebbles onto mounds of sand (Lowey, 1985; Baumann et al. 2001). 

Then, the sand and pebbles hardened beneath the Earth’s surface and, over time, formed sedimentary rocks known as conglomerates (Slawson, 1933).  Later, intense heat and pressure metamorphosed the matrix of sand into a light-colored, coarse-grained, sugary-textured quartzite that tightly held the pebbles (Schaetzl, n.d.).  These geological forces formed the puddingstones around 2.3 billion years ago.

Today, geologists recognize these conglomerates as part of the Lorrain Quartzite of the Cobalt Series (Door and Eschman, 1970). This rock formation occurs as thick beds at Saint Joseph Island in Northern Ontario, Canada. The conglomerates also are found by the Saint Mary's River north of the Bruce Mines. This area is located 65 km (40 miles) east of Sault Sainte Marie in Ontario.
Puddingstones traveled south during the last ice age with the immense Laurentide Ice Sheet as it flowed at a glacial pace down from Canada. This ice plucked the puddingstones from the underlying bedrock, carried them hundreds of kilometers, and delivered those rocks to Michigan about 24,000 years ago.
This slowly advancing ice plowed across the landscape for thousands of years until rising temperatures, brought on by a climatic shift, ended their movement in Michigan. As the glacial ice melted, it deposited glacial till that contained the puddingstones. 

Today, farmers in the southern part of Michigan find puddingstones after spring plowing.  Since tightly cemented puddingstones can be cut and polished, they are in demand by Michigan artists and crafters, who make jewelry and ornaments out of them.  Puddingstones are commonly found as garden decorations that adorn Michigan homes and farms. People also collect and display puddingstones for their striking colors and appearance. 

Fig. 2. Since puddingstones are so hard, they take a nice polish as seen in this example. 
Steven Veatch specimen. Photo by S.W. Veatch.

In fact, as grandparents and parents take children outside to hunt for puddingstones, they pass an interest in puddingstones and geology down through generations of Michigan families. The tradition of looking for these goes back to the settlement of Michigan, and there is no sign of this interest ending anytime soon. 

References cited:

Baumann, S. D., J. T. Arrospide, and A. E. Wolosyzn, 2011, Preliminary Redefinition of the Cobalt Group (Huronian Supergroup), in the Southern Geologic Province, Ontario, Canada. Midwest Institute of Geosciences and Engineering, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Door, J. A. and Eschman, D., 1970, Geology of Michigan: Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press.

Lowey, G.W., 1985, Stratigraphy and Sedimentology of the Lorrain Formation, Huronian Supergroup (Aphebian), Between Sault Ste. Marie and Elliot Lake, Ontario, and Implications for Stratiform Gold Mineralization, Open File Report no. 1154. Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.

Schaetzl, R. J. (n.d.), Geography of Michigan and the Great Lakes Region. Retrieved, from on January 22, 2020.

Slawson, C. B., 1933, The Jasper Conglomerate, an Index of Drift Dispersion. The Journal of Geology, Vol. 41, No. 5, p. 546–52.