When John and Courtney McKee purchased the Schumacher Building on 21 S. Montana Street, they purchased a piece of Butte history with the goal of breathing new life into it. When the McKees searched through the contents of the building, which included the old Pioneer Club located on the top floors, they found an original copy of an Abstract of the property showing it was prepared for William Clark – the previous owner of the site.

The Abstract included two copes of a hand drawn map, showing the existing mine lodes located on the property. There were four; one of which was the Destroying Angel.

With this new information, the McKees brought these documents to the attention of Dick Gibson, a local Butte historian, and asked him what he knew about them. Dick researched the Destroying Angel and prepared this following report for the McKees,

“Lee Mantle was a business man and politician born in England in 1851. Soon after he arrived in Butte in 1877, he was managing the town’s first telegraph office and owned the first insurance company in the growing community. He was one of the first aldermen after Butte was incorporated in 1879, and established the Intermountain Newspaper. After a term as Mayor of Butte in 1893, he served in the U.S. Senate from 1895-1899. He also owned the brothel on Mercury Street – now known as the Blue Range building [torn down in 2021]. His home at 213 N. Montana is the present-day Duggan-Dolan Mortuary.

Mantle dabbled in mining and, in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s, established the Diadem Lode Claim, a narrow block that extended from Montana Street between Broadway and Park to the intersection of Galena and Main and a bit beyond.

This was in the middle of the Butte town site, and area that was fast becoming occupied by homes and businesses. In 1882, Mantle and his partners sought to evict the surface landowners and their businesses from the Diadem Claim.

The surface landowners and businessmen reacted by banding together to defend against Mantle’s lawsuit. This group felt that there was a ‘flaw’ in Mantle’s filing of the Diadem Claim and together, with legal counsel, they established a new claim that would encompass the Diadem and go beyond, for the express purpose of defeating Mantle and the Diadem claim owners. That new claim was called the Destroying Angel, an ‘ominous name’ intended to reflect the result for Mantle and his allies.

The Destroying Angel Claim’s boundaries ran just inside the block on the west side of Montana Street, from Broadway to Galena [including the land beneath Headframe today] and angles slightly southeast to a line about halfway between Main and Wyoming Streets. The partners in the Destroying Angel Claim agreed to pay into the claim, and its expenses in fighting Mr. Mantle, proportionally to their ownership. They won their challenge to Mantle’s attempts to evict them, and Mantle’s claim was dismissed in 1884.

Then, the partners began to fall upon each other. In 1887, it was alleged that some of the partners had not paid their fair share. Among them they had contributed $1,445.53 toward the case, but allegedly $1,900 was spent and not all the partners had contributed to the $450 in excess costs.

There was also confusion and difference of opinion about surface ownership of parts of the claims that had no existing lots. Some felt that there was to be a pro-rata distribution of the surface land that no one owned. Others felt that when they prevailed on Mantle, ownership would simply reflect what they already owned. A lower court held that the contract among the parties had no mistakes that mattered. The Montana Supreme Court ruled in 1889 that the claims of errors and conflicts were irrelevant and upheld the lower court decision.

But it wasn’t over yet.

In 1895, another case involving some of these partners reached the Montana Supreme Court on appeal from the Second Judicial District of Silver Bow County. This time it was a squabble between most of the group (Thomas et al.) and one V. Frank, who had, they claimed, agreed to pay $200 against the $450 excess mentioned in the pervious case. Yet another member of the group’s pro-rata assessment had owed $41.25, but he had defaulted on that payment, so in lieu of payment he sold his lot to Frank.

The deed of sale did not include a price; Frank reportedly said he didn’t care what they filled in for the sale price. An amount of $200 was filled in, with the notary going between the two parties. The plaintiffs sued to recover the $200. The defendant denied everything, more or less casting aspersions on the go-between notary. An earlier jury trial found for the plaintiffs; the defendant appealed to the Montana Supreme Court. The MSC, in a decision on June 10, 1895, found in favor of the plaintiffs, and ordered the defendant to pay the $200 plus interest.

There was, apparently, a Destroying Angel Mine established on this contentious claim. From 1895 to 1910, the location is given as 35 W. Galena Street, a space that is a vacant lot of the 1900 Sanborn map. This is on the edge of Chinatown, but near the center of the Destroying Angel Claim. This is also almost exactly the location indicated for the Destroying Angel Mine on the 1912 map by Walter Harvey Reed.”


Progressive men of the State of Montana, ca. 1901 Case law, reports of Montana Supreme Court Decisions Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, Polk City Directories Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, Montana Memory Project, U. of Montana – Maps USGA Professional Paper 74: Butte Mining District, by W.H.Weed.

When you walk into the Tasting Room at Headframe Spirits, there’s an instant sense of satisfaction even before you sample our handcrafted spirits. The first thing you’ll notice is the statuesque backbar that stands tall and proud to greet customers. Its meticulous wood work, beauty and strength has a story to tell. If only inanimate objects could speak of their incredulous journey.

The backbar came down the Mississippi River in 1906 by steamboat. Simultaneously, Gabriel “Teddy” Traparish immigrated to Butte from Dubrovnik, Croatia. He was 19 years old and single.

He aspired to be a businessperson, and Butte was a desirable place to achieve this dream.

Traparish fit perfectly in Butte. He had an outstanding work ethic, a goal driven mind and compassion and generosity for his community.

Traparish accomplished his goal after moving his way up the ranks, with long nights of working in bars.

In 1929, Teddy’s Rocky Mountain Cafe opened its doors in an Italian community named Meaderville. The Cafe would flood with the sounds of live music, dancing and delight from the patrons who filled it; finding relief after a long day’s work.

By 1935, his cafe was spotlighted, receiving attention from national magazines. The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Saturday Evening Post spoke widely of the restaurant, the food and the people.

Teddy Traparish, who ended up becoming known as, ‘Mr. Meaderville,’ said, ”Henceforth, you will please forget New Orleans, refer Charleston to the rubble heap, abandon San Francisco, repudiate New York and dismiss Boston utterly. For Meaderville is the most incredible restaurant in (I swear) the world,” according to a 2004 Montana Standard article.

Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining

What was once Meaderville, is now the Berkley Pit. During the mining encroachment, underground mining transitioned to open pit mining causing the whole community to disappear. In 1961, Traparish chose to close his Rocky Mountain Cafe at 74 years old. Five years later, he donated his backbar to the World Museum of Mining.

John and Courtney McKee, the owners of Headframe Spirits, went to the museum before opening their doors. In it, they found Traparish’s backbar in the basement. They asked if they could display it in their distillery, thinking the least the owners could say is, no. The owners of the museum enthusiastically said, yes.

Headframe’s distillery was once home to a Buick dealership; although Traparish had a love for Cadillacs and would purchase a new one every year for almost 50 years, he wouldn’t be disappointed to know where his backbar stands today.

Mr. Meaderville was a restauranteur, a cadillac enthusiast and a genuine man. He never did marry or have children that would carry on his namesake. But, his legacy is carried from each newcomer and patron who are welcomed inside the doors, for Teddy resonates with the chatter of customers and the pour of our spirits alike.

For miners of the Acquisition Mine, each trip down meant money coming up.

News reports from the time record that the output from the mine would increase during each trip into the belly of the mine. Ore found below was of “first-class quality” and went for $100 to $200 per ton.

With the estimated amount of 1,000 tons of base ore, the Acquisition Mine was the definition of the American Dream.

With signs being translated in 17 languages, immigrants played an integral role in the building of Butte’s diverse history.

For travelers in search of a better life, it was found in every ton of ore pulled up-and the Acquisition pulled up a lot.

Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining

Even though we can’t make a Canadian Whiskey here in Montana, we can acquire one. We take the Canadian Whiskey and age it in red, white and bourbon barrels, before blending them together. Breathing life into a new melting pot-our Acquisition Canadian Whiskey.

For people across the world, Butte stood as an inspiration. It was a place of opportunity where people where people could, and did, strike big.

The Acquisition Mine is no longer standing, but the lasting impact is felt our Butte Community. Through the people who care for the city and continue to keep finding riches in it every day.

Nestled on the west side of town, away from the other mines in Butte, the Orphan Girl Mine found its home in 1875.

But the mine struggled throughout its life. Changing hand multiple times and even flooding during a lengthly legal dispute over ownership which ceased mining.

By 1944, miners removed over 7 million ounces of silver from the Girl’s depths. A small amount in Butte standards. In 1956, the Girl sat abandoned and never ran again.

Ten years later, the World Museum of Mining was born around the Orphan Girl Mine. Preserving the grounds, items and artifacts in a time capsule of Butte history. When you walk through the doors of the World Museum of Mining, you step back in time as a visitor of what Butte used to be.

Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining

Headframe understands that the work the Museum does for the Community and our history is important. That’s why we made a spirit dedicated to them.

Our Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur continues that smooth transition that you feel each time you transcend through the doors at the World Museum of Mining and down into the cold of the Orphan Girl Mine.

While the Museum is a walking tour now, miners recount how the 3,200 feet ride to the bottom took ten minutes by hoist. A depth no longer accessible due to ground water flooding that has filled most of the mine shaft.

We love the World Museum of Mining. Their photo archives, their Hell Roarin’ Gulch tour of old buildings and artifacts. And we really love their underground tour which takes you 100 feet underground at the Orphan Girl Mine. This tour is a must do stop on any travel to Butte. It’s a great way to build understanding for what it was like for miners working underground.

During its operation, the High Ore mine was a strong producer of high quality ore pulling minerals like quartz-pyrite from its veins. It was during this time that Butte became known as “The Richest Hill on Earth.”

“The [High Ore] vein filling consists of quartz arid pyrite, with enriching bornite and glance, the richest
streaks being near the footwall,” writes the United States Department of the Interior. “The usual abundance of fault clays and slips of other veins is lacking, and the ore shoots end abruptly in lean quartz and pyrite.”

The high quality ore pulled from the ground had a purity rarely found in Butte mining history.

We know that high quality is hard to find, in the ground and in the glass – that’s why we chose to name our spirits High Ore Vodka. We want a high quality, pure distillation and just like those miners, we’ve found it.

Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining

Historically, the High Ore served another purpose too.

Working with the Kelley, both mines pumped ground water out of the mines at rates of around 5,000 gallons per minute. Because most of the underground workings were interconnected, not every mine needed to pump water out itself. Instead, they relied on larger mines like the Kelley and the High Ore to do the work. It was necessary work to allow miners to reach deeper veins.

Studies of the High Ore Mine found, “large high-grade ore as deep as 2,800 feet.”

These claims created hope for the miners. Digging down deeper and deeper, their efforts were rewarded with pure ore. A reminder of what is possible for hard workers everywhere.

Boat horns echo along the shore line as they pull up to dock. It’s Ellis Island, New York 1910.

Waves of immigrants step off the boat and onto the docks, met by officers who send them on their way. Some have a family name and some have nothing. Others arrive with a photo or a note pinned to their shirt.

“Send me to the Seven Stacks of the Neversweat.”

The infamous, visually striking image of the Neversweat Mine breaks language barriers. For many, it represents hope. A beacon for people around the world that a better future is out there.

They found that future here – in Butte, America.

“Those folks who finally made it here don’t know exactly where they’re going, but they’re hoping for the best,” says Headframe Co-Owner Courtney McKee.

Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining

What began as one of the cooler mines in Butte eventually soared to high temperatures and lower depths as its popularity grew. The richness of its caverns and the heat from below can be experienced in every sip of our Neversweat Straight Bourbon Whiskey where we unlock deeper characters from the mine in each glass.

“You could never understand how hot, how humid it would be in these [mines],” recounted Dinny Murphy in a 1986 interview. Murphy detailed moments where they would wring out shirts and pour sweat from out of their helmets.

While hot, miners like Murphy noted that this was not enough to change their love for working in the mines. The love for unlocking something deeper than themselves.

In 1887, the Anselmo Mine first felt the movement of life above and below ground powered by electricity and innovation.

Overlooking the homes of men who once descended its shaft, the Anselmo [Headframe] looms over Caledonia Street along with the majority of ancillary buildings that served the underground.”

Everyday, they pulled lead, zinc, silver and copper from its veins under Montana Street. 

The concept of this diverse combination found within the ore reminded us of gin and eventually led to our product, Anselmo Gin. Just as the miners found riches at depths over 4,000 feet, we also reached deeper to come up with a blend of 10 botanicals to create a one of a kind gin that lives up to its namesake. 

August 19, 1959 – workers at mines across the Butte hill went on strike against the Anaconda Copper Company after negotiations regarding better conditions failed. It took 181 days for negotiations to settle. The second longest strike in Butte history. But closing for six months, this strike shut down the Anselmo permanently. 

Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining

Now, it sits as the best preserved mine space in Butte. Often a must-see stop for historical tours or anyone visiting town as the National Park Service noted, “the Anselmo Mine yard in particular offers an impressive array of preserved mine yard structures.”

Bells and pressurized air still work in the building and are used as the hoist house in our 2014 film, “The Orphan Girl.”

“With buildings representing the full range of mine yard activities, the Anselmo is a monumental testament to Butte’s mining history and the daily experience of the thousands of mineworkers that powered the industry.”

Cornelius Francis Kelley came to Butte, MT from Mineral Hill, NV in 1883 at the age of eight. He worked as a water boy on the Butte Hill and part time as a nipper–essentially, a delivery boy of machinery to the miners–underground at the Anaconda Mine.

It wasn’t long before he worked in the engineering department and worked his way up the corporate ladder. In 1918, Kelley got the name “Mr. Anaconda,” by holding the title of President for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.

By 1949, Cornelius opened the Kelley mine when the demand for copper increased after World War II. He saw this as the adaptive solution to the economic conditions at the time. Towards the end of its life, it was the last underground mine still in operation before closing its shafts in 1974.

Photos provided by the World Museum of Mining

Today, the Kelley is home to Headframe, where we write our own adaptive reuse success story. 

Headframe took over the buildings, which were once mine offices and mining equipment machine shops, and is adaptively reusing them for spirits production, barrel storage and still manufacturing. By bringing manufacturing and innovation back to the Kelley, we help breathe life back into these old buildings and jobs back into our Community.

Headframe came up with the inspiration for the Kelley Single Malt Whiskey in 2010, with no idea that we would one day settle in right here ourselves in 2016. The goal? To honor the brave, Irish immigrants who worked below the ground with an Irish style Whiskey above it.

Now we are doing just that.

The Kelley was once a site where men gathered, risking their lives for their livelihood. Today, Headframe honors them as our team gathers here working to create something new, born from the respect of our past. 

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