May Arkwright Hutton
[The following is borrowed very largely from James W. Montgomery's Liberated Woman: a life of May Arkwright Hutton (Spokane: Gingko House Publishers, 1974), from which photos have also been borrowed, permission pending.]
sheer bravado or, for that matter, boundless compassion,
no figure in Wallace's colorful history outshines May Arkwright
Hutton (1860-1915). Pair her in your mind with Denver's "unsinkable" Molly Brown, May's better known historical contemporary, and you'll have the outline of a bold form that Western womanhood could sometimes take. Like Molly, May was born and grew up in the Midwest -- in Mahoning County, Ohio -- the offspring of the second marriage of Isaac Arkwright, a father undisposed toward parenthood, and a mother (whose name history does not record) who reportedly abandoned May early on by going "over the line" into neighboring Pennsylvania.1 May had no memory of either parent in her adult years. She was raised to age 10 by her aged and blind Grandpa Arkwright. Childhood was not separated from adult responsibilities by a leisurely stretch of protected adolescence in the 19th century, and May's worklife and independence began at this tender age and as soon as she could be made use of.
May became a big-boned, large-scale woman, as plain as she was confident and plainspoken. In June of 1882, at age 22, she married Bert Munn, a hardworking stable boss and mule driver at a local coal mine. Before long, Bert disappeared and May made plans to head west to make her fortune in the Coeur d'Alenes of "Idyho." She set out with an entourage of some forty coal miners whose dreams of freedom and riches had also been fired by the recent news of new gold strikes in the Bitterroot mountains along the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River.
Out West at Last
She arrived in this region in 1883 or 1884, landing first in the North Fork towns of Eagle City or Murray. But with reports of the discovery of a rich stripe of galena by Phil O'Rourke and Noah S. Kellogg along the South Fork in 1885, May moved and took a job as waitress in Wardern camp (fromerly known as "Kentuck") in a restaurant owned by Charley Rice. When May learned in 1886 that a narrow gauge railroad was going to be built from Mission dock eastward, she shrewdly found out where the track was going to be laid and opened her own eatery at Wardner Junction (now Kellogg). She bought "a cow, a broom, a bucket, a cookstove, a piece of land and a two room shack. In the front room she put her oil cloth covered table and the stove; the back room was here sleeping quarters which she separated from the 'restaurant' with a calico curtain."2
Early image of Wardner Junction, cropped from a larger shot and brightened. Montgomery wrote
that "one of the buildings in the foreground near the tracks was occupied by May's restaurant"
May's restaurant was launched
in a transitional moment in local history. Montgomery wrote eloquently
of the contemporaneous downturn in spirits and heart of the miners May
knew after her move from the North to the South Fork:
On November 17, 1887, May married railroad man, Levi W. Hutton --- whom everyone knew as "Al" -- softspoken engineer of the new train that stopped near May's restaurant and now connected Wardner and Kellogg to the rest of the world. The wedding was a propper do, marked by May's bounty of pre-prepared food and an unlikely impromptu request. "Just as the service was about to
Levi W. "Al" Hutton, cropped from a photo taken in the 1890s in Wallace.
begin," Montgomery describes, "the best man, E.D. Osier, buttonholed Al and whispered that he had jused talked Grace Hoskins, the maid of honor, into marrying him, and would it be all right if they had a double wedding and shared the expenses of the minister? Deadly serious he went on to ask if it would also be all right if they shared the wedding presents, too! Al answered yes to the first request and no to the second request" (p. 34).
As more track was laid, Al was assigned the short haul running from Wallace up Canyon Creek to Burke. May and Al moved to Wallace in 1888, which in a mere two years had grown from three log cabins to a busy town with a government, school, church, bank, and newspaper. The couple bought a "cheap two room shack on a steep hillside above the tracks" (p. 37). May's life as Mrs. Hutton change -- now affording her time for extensive reading (Montgomery's account includes reading Henry George, John Stuart Mill, Marx and Engels, Bernard Shaw, Tom Paine, Shakespeare, Burns, Bryant "along with sentimental novels" (p. 38). A contemporary photo also shows May and Al taking a handcar trip to a picnic spot with seven companions.
May Fights the Mining Wars
Striking it Rich with the Hercules Mine
Every major mine in the Coeur d'Alenes has a different story, but none is more gratifying than the tale of the Hercules-Firefly (later, just Hercules) Mine. The mine's site was discovered by Harry Day and Fred Harper after they waited out a forest fire and were gingerly making their way home in the summer of 1889. They chanced upon "a small dike of galena that had been exposed by the fire,"X and both immediately staked individual claims "end to end along the dike."X Harper named his claim Firelfly on account of the fire; Day noticed an empty keg of Hercules powder nearby and named his in its honor. Day and Harper worked the site at first, but Harper grew discouraged and sold his cliam to "Dad" Reeves, the local barber. Day and Reeves toiled for eight years but the stripe failed to widen into remunerative vein or pocket.
They needed backers to continue, and Reeves proposed Gus Paulsen, Harry Orchard, and the Huttons, May and Al. In September, 1897, after listening to Day's and Reeves' proposal, the couple secured a 1/16th share of the mine for $505 -- later upping their holdings to 3/32nds for an additional $375. Paulsen and the soon-to-be notorious Harry Orchard also bought in, though Orchard subsequently lost his 1/16th gambling. Each brought his or her special talents to the venture, bucking up the discouraged party and jumping in with extra effort when the situation demanded. Wives worked as housemaids or took in washing to support the venture, and May and the other women took turns cooking for the men "in a rough, unhewn log shelter that had been thrown up at the mouth of the tunnel, and May for one was not above donning overalls and mucking out behind the men." The work was routinely hard, disappointing, and painfully slow. And "by 1901," writes Montgomery, "not prospect in the Coeur d'Alenes had a longer nor more abject history."
In the summer of 1899, still convinced that the mine would reward them but dispairing of the success they'd won in the original tunnel, the group determined to start a second tunnel, commencing from the upper end of the original Firefly claim. Months of new work passed by. And then it happened. On Friday the 13th in June of 1901Gus Paulsen "drove his pick into a line between the granet and quartz....[and] it bounced off sending shivers of pain though his arms and into his shoulders." Gus swung again and to his surprise this time the pick sank deep into the wall. A third swing brought down an "avalanche of black waste like ashes." It was this material that Gus later scooped into a small canvas bag and brought to Harry Day in Wallace, and which Day identified as high grade silver. The story of the strike broke in the Wallace Free Press in mid-August, wherein the Hercules ore was reported as containing 11,229 ounces of the precious metal per ton or almost 38% silver. May and Al were going to be very rich.
[Hope to finish this soon! Ron]
Spokane & the Suffrage Movement
May & Al's Legacy
authored by Ron Roizen, Ph.D.
go to Historic Wallace Preservation Society homepage...