Extracted from Under
the Shadow of Mt. Haggin: The Story of Anaconda and Deer Lodge County from
1863-1976, A Bicentennial Year “Heritage” Project collected and
compiled by the Deer Lodge County History Group, 1975. Pages 24-27.
The community of Opportunity was founded and named by Dr. Henry C. Gardiner,
head of the Anaconda Company’s ranch properties, in the years preceding
America’s entry into World War I.
was born at St. Catherine’s, Ont., in March, 1879. He came to Montana at
about the turn of the century when James J. Hill of the Great Northern
Railroad was encouraging young men from the East, Middle West and Canada, to
settle in the state.
from Montana State University in 1903 and then went to Chicago Veterinary
College and returned to Montana. As a young veterinarian, he started his
practice in the Gallatin Valley. He was brought to Anaconda by the company to
manage their rural properties and to prove that ranching and farming could be
carried on profitably in the vicinity of the smelter. He was principal
witness in the famous Smoke case of 1907, an action brought by the residents
of Deer Lodge Valley area vs Anaconda smelter operation.
Company, won. Dr. Gardiner continued on as ranch manager improving and
developing at Willow Glen stock ranch where he resided with his family.
He formed the
Mount Haggin Land and Livestock Co.
from England the famed Hampshire sheep with which he established a
considerable reputation, exhibiting them at livestock shows throughout the
country and bringing many honors to the Deer Lodge Valley.
Due to a
shortage of homes in Anaconda, and with the declared purpose that the people
of Anaconda should have the opportunity to rear their children in a rural
atmosphere if they wished, he was chiefly responsible for the development of
the little community of Opportunity.
started as 10 acre plots. This was swampland owned by the Anaconda Company,
which had to be drained and prepared for building. The land was bought by the
Deer Lodge Valley Farms Company, a department of the Anaconda Copper Mining
Company, in 1912, from early day ranchers, as Morgan Evans, George Parrot, Dan
Murphy, Tom Ford, Bill Norton, Tommy Harris and Mr. Hensley.
consisted of about 500 acres and was surveyed into tracts of about 10 acres
each, and then sold with restrictions to the people who were employed by the
Anaconda Reduction Works located seven miles west.
homes occupied in Opportunity were built in 1914, and the first home
remembered by many was the home of Napoleon “Shortie” Bouchee on Hauser Ave.
where the street car line made the turn-around. This at present is the
Hungerford residence. Among some of the early property owners who are still
living in this community are Mrs. Mary Meshnik, Mrs. Frances Preskar and Mrs.
Mary Matosich, the latter having moved to Opportunity somewhat later, perhaps
in the 1920’s.
service was operated by the Company to Anaconda and the smelter over Montana
Central Spur Line running from Stuart to Anaconda (Stuart was located about
three miles southwest of Opportunity and it was an old railroad depot, an
interchange on the Montana Union and N.P. Railroads). Traces of this rail
line bed which joined at Hauser can still be seen parallel to the Steel Tower
on the outskirts of Opportunity along the Butte-Anaconda Highway running on
into the pasture land.
In 1915, the
extension of this rail line along Hauser Ave. to the smelter settling ponds
made transportation available to the residents of this community. Hauser Ave.
ran centerly through Opportunity and this made it possible for people to catch
the street car with less than a 15 minute walk from any location, and it was
convenient for the members of the County Club, which was built in 1918.
In May, 1914,
the Mill Creek Irrigation Company was incorporated with H. C. Gardiner, and J.
C. Harrington as Board of Trustees and F. E. Gordon, secretary. The
Irrigation Co. was authorized to sell shares of stock at $10.00 per share and
the Deer Lodge Valley Farms had one thousand shares the largest amount dated
July 9, 1914.
The first 500
inches of water from Mill Creek was granted to Opportunity for irrigation.
The main ditch heads east of the present site of Mill Creek Community and it
the first irrigation ditch to receive water from the creek. The money
obtained from the sale of stock was used to install and maintain ditches and
It is reported
that 60 bushels of wheat has been raised on one acre of ground and the early
residents raised splendid garden produce to include cabbage heads equal in
size and weight to anything exhibited at a fair.
Some of the
residents also had horses, cows, pigs and other animals. A grocery was opened
by a Mr. Van Egan in about 1915 and was located on West Stewart St. near the
junction of White Ave.
Smith opened a second store in conjunction with his house at Potts and East
Stewart for a short time. Theodore Smet, an uncle of Charlie Smet, in 1919
took over the Van Egan store and it continued in operation until about 1926,
when Charles “Ohio” Norcutt opened the first store at Hauser and Stewart St.
The store again changed hands to the following: Art Walsh, Mr. and Mrs. H.
Waldorf; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Brophy; and later the Solans had taken their
turns, first Charlie and then Anthony Solan, now deceased. This store burned
to the ground in 1951 and the Solans rebuilt it on the present site in Feb.
1952. It is presently run by Mrs. Anthony Solan and family. The Brophys were
related to Mr. and Mrs. Waldorf and came to Opportunity from Harlowtown,
Mont. Art Welsh was married to Rod Munn’s daughter early residents to
Opportunity, who resided across Stewart St. from the store.
The Beaver Dam
School was built in 1914 by the Anaconda Company and opened its doors upon
completion of two classrooms, and later two more classrooms were finished
accommodating eight grades, with four teachers. The first principal was Miss
Workman, teachers: Miss Conroy, Miss Martin, Miss Cox and Miss Nickols. Mr.
Earl Campbell was the first janitor, he was Audrey Aubertin’s first husband.
Beaver Dam School was not in School District No. 10 when it started.
Bus service to
Anaconda for high school students began in 1925 by the Intermountain
Transportation Company. In 1928, the Junior High School was completed in
Anaconda and students of the 7th, 8th and 9th
grades were transported to that school. Later on, all students above the 6th
grade went to town school which continued to the present time.
school bus driver and one who is well known in this community in commercial
bus service is J. J. “Chalkie” Verzuh, a veteran of this service, who relates
that the first school bus was a Pierce Arrow. Roads were not too good and
after a snow storm he, along with a helper, would get up at 4:00 a.m. and plow
the school route with a snow plow to insure an on time schedule for the school
club was started in 1918 and is one of the historical sites and has watched
Opportunity grow from a few houses into a community. The golf course is well
cared for with velvet like greens. A spacious and well furnished dining room,
modern equipped kitchen and an attractive lounge afford many facilities. The
club was organized in 1915 by Mr. E. P. Mathewson as president. The gold
course was a nine hole affair and in 1922 was expanded to 18 holes. The same
year, Anaconda’s first state golf tournament was held. In 1954, the present
nine hole all grass course was constructed. It is the site of an invitational
tournament held each year during the first week in July.
Mrs. Charles Brancombe took the state championship in 1922. Mrs. Frank Tucker won the
state championship 5 times.
In 1924 the
Community Club House was built by volunteer labor with materials purchased by
Dr. Gardiner, who contributed $100.00. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company
contributed $300.00 through Frederick Laist, then the manager of the Anaconda
Reduction Works. Memberships were sold to residents at $10.00 to help defray
the expenses. The ground was purchased from Thomas Solan. The first dance
helped to complete the financing. William C. Penniman was the first president
and Frank Cole was vice president. Trustees were: Joe Chavrack, J. C. Visser,
George Brolin, H. T. Nilsson and George Spahl.
station was opened in 1932 by Pete Grus located at the Junction of Butte and
Anaconda Highway and Stewart St. Later this station was purchased and
operated by Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Tuss up until 1952, when a new modern service
center was opened at the same location under the management of Vern Tuss. To
supplement the service for automobile owners, Clinton Rice opened an
automobile repair shop at his home on Erickson St.
On Jan. 1,
1952, bus service for the smelter workers was provided by the Mountain View
Transportation Company. Deer Lodge Valley Bus Lines operated a regular
schedule every day with three round trips from Deer Lodge to the smelter and
made connections with the Intermountain Transportation Company in Anaconda.
Intermountain bus service is available to Butte and Anaconda and with its
inauguration the street car service was discontinued.
places bordering on the outskirts of Opportunity frequently discussed: The
Bill Norton Home which was at the end of the Norton Trail, which name was
later changed to Stewart Ave. over the N. P. Tracks on the southeast side.
home was west of the Gun Club. The Dave Evans, Jeannette and Bill Evans home
at the end of Willow Glen Road on the old Butte-Anaconda Highway.
The Three Mile
Road House was just at the turn to Wisdom and up farther the Ten Mile House.
These places furnished lodging, food and drink.
The Scott Peck
Ranch up the old Butte-Anaconda Highway across from the highway where an old
barn still stands. The Albert Clark family resided there for awhile. They
had moved from Opportunity. Later the house burned down.
Stuart was a
railroad station on the Montana Union before the B. A. & P. Railroad was built
in 1884. Stuart offered freight and passenger service to Anaconda and the
smelter. Its location was in the area of the old gravel pit. Along with the
Railroad Depot, there also was a schoolhouse, two saloons, one run by Parrot
and the other by Fuller, a Pool Hall, Post Office and Dance Hall. Long after
everything had been moved away or done away with, the little schoolhouse
remained into the 1930’s.
In this area
too, Dave Norton had a chicken ranch. He was a cousin to Wesley Norton of
Opportunity. Wesley’s father, Bill Norton, came from Canada and his
grandfather came from Wales. Dave Norton’s daughter, Winona Peterson, lives at
Morrell, and Elgin was his son.
Tent Town was
located just south of Igalls, where people lived in tents during the first
World War, due to shortage of homes in Anaconda.
Drivers and Jack Steimetz, known to all as “Fat Jack” lived on the mountain
side northeast of Opportunity.
lived about a mile from the Nortons in a two story frame house.
Mitchell and his wife Elizabeth lived on the mountainside. Jack Steinmetz,
was a bachelor who lived in the vicinity of the Mitchell’s and I remember he
hauled our wood at that time it was $5.00 a cord.
There was also
a Mitchell family that lived just across the road from Willow Glen and worked
for Dr. Gardiner, their daughter Ella attended school at the Beaverdam.
a spot in the road right at the turn on the Butte-Anaconda highway to the
Country Club road. The Jim Paddocks live there now.
All of the
avenues were named after the governors of the state of Montana. The first
girl born there was Angela Antonich, now Mrs. Walter Softich.
first arrivals who lived on to celebrate their 50th wedding
anniversaries were: Mr. and Mrs. Anton Stipech and Mr. and Mrs. Adam
Rodocay. Jacob Meschnik died just three months before their anniversary and
Mr. and Mrs. Aubertin.
McCarthy of Butte, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Dan McCarthy, early timers.
children too young to attend the dances the theatrical group had performances
at the club and consisted of Mrs. Joseph Chavrack, Mrs. Frank Cole and Mrs.
Pete Grus and others.
I don’t think
anyone very famous came from Opportunity that is to my knowledge, like a
president or a movie star. I think I can understand that.
assisted with the history: Pat McCarthy, Wesley Norton, Kay Stipech Casey.
Many of the
early timers came and stayed awhile and some came later and stayed longer. In
1914, 27 of the first residents to Opportunity, on record at the Deer Lodge
County Courthouse, entered a contract to purchase the land with the Deer Lodge
Valley Farms Company; 1915 about 12; 1916 about 27; 1917 about 4; 1918 – 2;
1919 – 1; and in 1915 – 1.