<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>AN EMIGRANT FROM THE SOUTH</b> <p> <i>James Crawford</i> <p> <p> My father, James Donald Crawford, was from the time of his birth in Missouri intense about his interests and irritable when thwarted. When he was three, the woman who knew him best, the hired and loved Mammy with whom he spent his waking hours, pierced his ears "to let the devil out," but his body and spirit resisted her intervention. The piercings healed, and his native temperament persisted. It was a temperament that led him far north, through trouble and success. <p> In grade school, Jimmy, skinny and small for his age, thrilled to the realization that hidden in the earth in the midst of dirt and ordinary stones were rocks of value-ore riddled with silver and gold that were minted into the silver dollars and $10 gold eagles that his father earned working for Wells Fargo Express. He dreamed of a future unearthing these shining minerals. His family lived on the outskirts of St. Louis in semirural Webster Groves. In the summer he wandered along local streams trapping muskrats and catching crayfish, frogs, and catfish. He relished being outdoors, but he did not dream of a future as a prospector tramping through the outback with shovel and gold pan. He was a modern boy, born in 1904, the year that the great St. Louis World's Fair, featuring newfangled automobiles and a seven-acre Palace of Electricity, announced to the nation that the twentieth century was to be an era of invention and progress. My father and his generation would apply science and engineering to human endeavors, including mining. The world was changing. <p> Certainly life in Missouri was changing. My grandfather James Marion Crawford (our family tree is replete with James Crawfords distinguished only by middle name and generation) worked in the center of St. Louis, then the fourth-largest city in the country. He had begun adulthood as a stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo & Company in Texas. By 1915 he was in charge of Wells Fargo's express office next to the great St. Louis train station where steam engines, some capable of traveling 100 miles per hour, arrived and departed constantly, hauling steel freight cars, passenger cars, and luxurious Pullman sleepers. And in Rolla, forty miles to the southwest, the state had established the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, dedicated to training engineers in modern technology. James Marion Crawford's son, my father, was determined to enroll in this institution of higher learning. <p> In 1920 only one other member of Jimmy's family had attended college, and she was considered an anomaly, a character in a proud family with a conservative view of women. Katharine Anthony, his mother's sister, had not only graduated from the University of Chicago and studied at the University of Heidelberg, but had become a prolific biographer of famous women (such as Margaret Fuller, Catherine the Great, and Susan B. Anthony), living with a female partner in New York City in a milieu of intellectual suffragists. In contrast, her sister, my grandmother Pearle, aside from one or two early adventures riding shotgun on the stagecoach for her husband, devoted herself to making her modest home gracious. Pearle was the family beauty and managed to remain distant from the rumpus of her three children by hiring Mammy to care for them. She was an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, tracing family back through a tree featuring several first-cousin marriages and a string of impressive given names-Griffith, Hershel, America, Bryce, Augustus, and Asenath. She was also a partisan for Southern gentility and the defeated Confederacy. As late as World War II she admonished her granddaughters for such unladylike behavior as smoking, wearing slacks, or performing household tasks properly allotted to the males of the family. <p> Grandmother Pearle's marriage was sometimes cited by the family as an example of the attraction of opposites. No one now can quite recall how she met her husband, or what the two of them recognized in each other that would lead to a successful sixty-three-year union. Pearle's husband, James Marion Crawford, came from a family of relatively recent immigrants, a family deeply committed to self-education and the Union cause. The American founder of the Crawford line, Henry Crawford, at age fourteen had been indentured in Scotland to a weaver after his family had been forced off the land when the laird replaced tenant farmers with sheep. By the time Henry immigrated to the United States in i839 with his widowed mother and seven siblings, he had educated himself sufficiently to become a schoolteacher and poet. Henry had strong views on slavery formed by his family's near-serfdom in Scotland. When he established his own farm in Illinois, it became a stop on the Underground Railway. His son, my great-grandfather James Garvin Crawford, also went to work after a few years of grammar school but was fully literate, writing letters home from the Union Army complaining about Lincoln's slowness in declaring the Emancipation Proclamation and regretting that a more radical candidate had not been elected president. Later in life, my father wryly observed that "the battles of the Civil War were recapitulated daily" in the Webster Groves house. <p> But there was no conflict at home about my father's desire to attend college to learn to be a mining engineer. Both parents shared his optimism about technology and progress. In 1922 they sent him to Rolla with tuition money in his inside coat pocket. He thrived at the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy. Jim was diligent and received good grades. Like his mother, he tended to be slightly proud and distant with new acquaintances, but he joined a fraternity and took pleasure in its social life. Slim and just five feet four, he was nonetheless strong and competitive, wrestling in the lightweight division for the college team. When he was a senior, his brother, Gus (Ernest Augustus), also enrolled at Rolla. <p> In 1926 Jim graduated triumphantly, ready to take the role of a modern American mining engineer, an engineer like Herbert Hoover, whose name was already being circulated as a presidential nominee. The bull stock market was making rich men out of speculators, but few Americans realized that the inflated stock prices did not mean that mining companies (or other companies, for that matter) were actually making money. To his dismay, Jim discovered that hiring was tight and that the only job he could get was a minor post with Standard Oil. He became foreman of a crew installing oil tanks and burners in the Westchester County suburbs of New York City. <p> During the two years that he (in his joking phrase) "worked in oil," Jim applied diligently, perhaps desperately, for engineering work with one mining company after another. Geography was unimportant. He was prepared to work wherever there was a professional opportunity. He finally received a job offer from the Seattle office of a gold mine in Alaska's Chisana (Shushana) District. Unfortunately, by the time he gave his two weeks' notice to the oil company and used his final paycheck to cross the continent by train, he arrived to discover that the job had been given to another man while he was en route. Temporarily, in his words, "stymied in Seattle," he gave no thought to returning to Westchester County or to St. Louis. He found a room in a boardinghouse and a job to pay his rent. <p> Early every morning he went to Kristoferson's Dairy to grease, maintain, and gas up milk trucks for the day's deliveries. Every afternoon he walked the rounds of offices that hired mining engineers, stopping first at the office that had of Iered him the job in the Chisana. Finally the representative, possibly to get rid of the annoyance and daily guilt of his visits, offered him a job as an underground miner-a mucker-trammer (translation: shoveler and ore-car pusher)-at the Kennecott Copper Mine. The wage was $4.50 per day, less $1.45 for board and 8 for hospital insurance. Jim understood the reason for the latter deduction. He may not have known the exact statistics, but he had a pretty good grasp of the occupational risks of underground mining. Moreover he was green; he had never mucked or trammed. But he was a young man desperate to break into his profession. Surely he would be closer to engineering opportunities in a tunnel near McCarthy, Alaska, than in the dairy's garage. In a leap of hope, he signed up for the job. <p> Jim bought a steerage ticket on the Alaska Steamship Line to Cordova. There he boarded the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad, which carried passengers and equipment from the coast to the mine and carried ore concentrate from the mine to the coast. The concentrate was loaded onto freighters bound for a Tacoma smelter that, like the railroad, the freighters, and the mine itself, was owned by Guggenheim-Morgan interests. The passengers on the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad, however, were not just monopolists or miners. The railroad was renowned among intrepid and independent tourists. The autumn scenery passing the train windows was unlike the Missouri Ozarks, the New York Adirondacks, and even unlike the Rockies, over which Jim had passed on his way to Seattle. Above the railroad's unpopulated valley route rose 14,000-to-16,000-foot peaks: Mounts Sanford, Regal, Wrangell, and Blackburn. A four-span "million-dollar bridge" carried the train past the facing snouts of Miles and Childs glaciers. After twisting north through the Copper River Canyon to Chitina, the railroad turned easterly sixty miles to McCarthy and the Kennecott Mine. Jim was tantalized rather than intimidated by the barrenness and beauty of the land through which he passed. He was moved by the red of the alpine tundra, the yellow of valley willows, and the great bare sweep of visible geology above them. But he was also pressingly distracted as he tried to remember what he knew, to use his phrase, "about the nuts and bolts of underground mining." His firsthand underground experience had consisted entirely of watching miners at work during college field trips. <p> Jim describes himself as arriving at Kennecott Mine in 1928 "like a typical cheechako, with a steamer trunk." The mine was built on a slope so steep that the bunkhouses were supported by long front pilings and fastened to the mountainside with cables. The bright-red mine buildings could only be reached by aerial tram. Jim had to abandon his trunk, buy used duffle bags, and repack his possessions-presenting "something of a problem for me and entertainment for spectators." He provided further amusement by arriving in leather boots instead of the standard footgear of the working North-shoepacs, whose rubberized lower halves keep feet dry and whose spacious leather uppers can be laced to adjust for insoles or layers of socks. To experienced miners he was probably an unprepossessing sight: a fair Southerner of slight build, incipient baldness visible through thinning hair. But college wrestling had given him strength for arduous work. He shoveled, shoved trams, and survived moderate bunkhouse hazing from miners of, by his count, nine different nationalities-none of whom were impressed by his college degree and lack of underground experience. Then, a few weeks after his arrival, his hopes for advancement were suddenly rewarded when first a surveyor and then the assayer abruptly quit and, in the Alaskan phrase, "left the country" for warmer and less insect-ridden climes "Outside." <p> Jim, age twenty-four, transferred from mucking to surveying to assaying with enthusiasm, eager to use his professional training and to earn more money. As assayer he made twice as much as a mucker-trammer-$175 per month, minus deductions-and he was assigned a small private bedroom in the attic of the staff house. His job advancement was a relief to him and probably also to the miners on his shift, whose safety depended in part on the skill and experience of fellow workers. In the assay office he consulted manuals and worked alone, checking and rechecking results, learning through trial and error details not taught in college. Twenty-six years later, when I returned with him to the closed ghost mine, I was thrilled to find that his story of an early mishap in the assay office was confirmed by an acid stain on the dusty floor where he said it would be. <p> Like the assayer before him, however, Jim remained a Kennecott employee for less than a year. Aware that copper was selling for seventeen cents a pound, and that the mine might have to close (as it finally did in 1938), he began looking for another job, preferably in gold mining. The price of copper fluctuated with the market, but the price of gold was fixed by the U.S. government at $20.67 per troy ounce. (Gold is measured in troy ounces, which are slightly heavier than regular ounces.) Gold was stable and not subject to job-threatening devaluation. Jim's rsum had improved at Kennecott; he could now list professional work experience. In May 1929 he applied for an engineering job with a gold-mining company farther north and was promptly accepted. Two weeks later he boarded the train, leaving behind isolated McCarthy for the larger, more sophisticated town of Fairbanks. <p> Gold mining in Fairbanks was unlike copper mining at Kennecott. Kennecott was a hard-rock mine with tunnels bored into a mountain veined with copper. Most of the gold in Fairbanks was in the form of dust and small nuggets eroded from mountains of earlier geologic times and deposited in ancient gravel riverbeds overlying impermeable bedrock. Placer miners washed this gold-containing gravel and sand through sluice boxes with riffles that separated the heavy gold from lighter dirt and stones. The difficulty that Fairbanks miners faced was that, except where modern streams had cut deeply into the earth, most of the ancient river bottoms were covered by a layer of permanently frozen "muck"-a fine silt-like material windblown from retreating glaciers at the end of the last great Ice Age. Moreover, beneath the 30-to-130-foot-thick muck layer, the gold-bearing gravel overlying bedrock was also frozen. <p> Between 1902 and 1924 prospectors staked claims and mined on "the Creeks," the common name for the Fairbanks goldfields. During the winter these early miners drove shafts through the frozen muck by thawing the ground with fires and digging it out with hand tools. The shafts were cribbed with logs and descended to the gold-bearing gravel overlying bedrock. This "paydirt" was thawed with steam and hoisted in buckets to the surface, where it was stockpiled. In the summer when running water was available, the accumulated mound of paydirt was washed through sluice boxes. Responsible for a few personal fortunes and many personal failures, this inefficient process left large areas of paydirt untouched-some of it too deep for early miners, some left in frozen pillars needed for support, some simply never drilled and discovered. In 1910, at the height of the initial mining boom, Fairbanks had 3,500 residents. Ten years later so many miners had given up that the population had shrunk to 1,150. <p> In the following decade, mining companies realized that it might be possible to dredge the Fairbanks goldfields. The largest of these was the firm that hired my father to move from Kennecott to Fairbanks the United States Smelting, Refining and Mining Company, known to its employees as USSR&M or simply the Company. In the 1920s the Company was already mining gold in Mexico, copper and coal in Utah, and iron in New Mexico, and refining lead in Illinois. It had sufficient capital to carry it through the necessary two to three years of preparation for dredging. Dredging was an offspring of the industrial revolution that made it feasible to mine large placer fields, even if the concentration of gold was too low for older methods to make a profit. As early as 1911, a partnership of Fairbanks miners had imported (by river steamer) a little wood-burning, wooden-hulled dredge from the Stewart River in Canada to mine a shallow area of naturally thawed paydirt on Fairbanks Creek. The operation ended when the small dredge ran out of thawed ground. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>GOOD COMPANY</b> by <b>Sarah Crawford Isto</b> Copyright © 2007 by University of Alaska Press. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.