11 April 2010

Old Yogo and Millies' Hunting Cat

P. W. Korell, Stanford Pioneer, Tells Yogo Gulch History in Address Before Women’s Club.
Special to the Tribune. Stanford, No. 6.—Judge J. H. Huntoon, Lewistown, and P. W. Korell, Stanford, spoke at a meeting of the Stanford woman’s club on local history.

Mr. Korell, who landed at Fort Benton in 1876, came into the Judith basin with the Yogo stampeders in 1880 and to Stanford in 1923. Referring to early days in the basin he says:

"Jack Wirth and I left Fort Benton Aug. 2, 1880, with two four-horse teams and wagons loaded with tobacco, four barrels of whisky, a crate of picks and shovels, flour, sugar and bacon. We were headed for Fort Maginnis and Yogo.

"Arriving at the Judith river Aug. 7, 1880, we camped on the flat now owned by C. M. Belden, formerly the Murphy ranch, half way between Utica and the Belden residence. We made camp in brush along the old channel of the Judith as a precaution against Indians, who were traveling across the country frequently.

"Whisky is Stolen. When I went to my wagon in the morning the wagon sheet was untied. Investigating, I found the load was short two 55-gallon barrels of whisky. Jack Murphy, Wirth and myself noticed grass had been tramped and w could see where the barrels had been rolled away.

"We followed the trail back and forth across the bottom until it was lost. The following January, in 1881, a man known as Cherokee Jim, coming from Yogo, stopped to kill a deer and found one of the barrels containing 20 gallons of whisky.

"Jim came down to the Murphy cabin, where the postoffice had been established after being moved from Yogo. It consisted of one empty beer case and a rubber stamp. Jim was feeling pretty good but refused to tell where he got his ‘jag,’ so he was followed when he returned to the cache and the barrel was found. Two years later the other barrel, empty, was found in a patch of brush on the Korrel ranch.

"At the time the liquor was taken, two white men were camped where the Utica schoolhouse now stands. One was known as Mike Henderson and the other, Aleck Jesup. The latter, years afterward served a term at Deer Lodge for burglary at Butte, dying shortly after he was released. Whereabouts of Henderson is unknown.

"Yogo did not produce the gold that was expected, the bedrock being too deep. Small bars paid only small returns. However, quite a number of miners remained, expecting to strike it some day.

"Among those who stayed was a colored woman by the name of Millie Ringold. Her faith was so strong in her mine, the Garfield, that she worked it for more than 30 years, doing anything she could to earn a few dollars, washing nursing white women and doing manual labor generally performed by men, returning at intervals to the hills to work her mine.

"Old Millie, as she was called, came to Fort Benton in 1878 as a maid for Colonel Switzer’s wife, and when rumors of the Yogo gold stampede came to Fort Benton, Millie was one of the first to hit the trail. She opened a hotel and restaurant and everyone could eat whether they had money or not, all promising to pay when the cleaned up bedrock.

"Millie had a coal oil can for a musical instrument, with which she entertained her guests. She would drum on it and sing southern songs as long as she had an audience.

"In after years, when dollars were scarce, many of her meals were provided for her by the cat, George Washington. It would catch a rabbit and bring it to the cabin, where it was enjoyed by himself and his mistress. Sometimes Bedrock Jim, another Yogo character, would share in the feast by providing potatoes and an onion or a carrot to make a mulligan. Millie died at her old cabin in Yogo and was buried in the cemetery at Utica by a few old timers.

"Bercham a Character. Jim Bercham, better known as ‘Bedrock’ Jim was another of the old guard who would not leave Yogo. He had his boxes going all the time, shoveling every day, and making regular trips to Utica for me to send his dust to Helena to the assay office. His cleanup averaged an ounce and a half of gold dust, which, at $16 an ounce, kept him in provisions.

"A few years later Mr. Weatherwax built a machine at the mouth of Skunk gulch to work some of his ore. The machine was all homemade and power was furnished by water from Yogo creek.

"One windy day he climbed on the wheel to lubricate it and, losing his balance, fell and was killed.

"Placer mining and prospecting since 1879 has been entirely abandoned on Yogo Creek. My predictions are that some day a corporation with money for development work will show the world that there is gold in Yogo and lots of it."
Source: Great Falls Tribune Daily 7 Nov 1931, p. 13]

Poker Jim, Montana's Oldest Chinese Resident

“Poke Jim,” Aged Chinese Passes Away. Gambler of Early Day Mining Camps Known by Pioneers; Was 105 Years Old.

Special to The Tribune. Helena, Dec 28—News of the death of “Poker Joe,” an aged Chinese who died at the county farm in Powell county recalled to R. J. Quigley of this city that the man was a resident of Last Chance gulch when Mr. Quigley was a boy. Even then, the Chinaman appeared old. He spoke the English language fairly well and said he had come to Montana territory when Bannack and Virginia City were capitals. From Virginia City he had come to Helena when gold was discovered in Last Chance gulch. Later he drifted to Blackfoot City and to Ophir.

Mr. Quigley had nearly forgotten “Poker Jim” until a year ago last summer, when he was driving with his family in the vicinity of Blackfoot City. He learned that the Chinese was the only inhabitant of the ghost city. Mr. Quigley entered the cabin and in a bunk in the corner he saw what appeared to be a mummy, its clawlike fingers clutching the stem of an opium pipe. The man was awake and his beady eyes, peering from their setting of wrinkled parchment, fastened themselves on the sheepman’s face.

Taught Count in Chinese. If he remembered the days when he taught Quigley, as a boy in Helena, to count in Chinese, he gave no sign either by look or work that he recognized his caller. Seeking to rouse memory, Quigley counted to 10 in Chinese and paused. There was barely a flicker of the eyelids and a twitching of the lips. No sound came from the mouth but the eyes remained fixed upon Quigley.

Memory was gone, seemingly, yet it was evident that the Chinese managed some way to keep house and do what little cooking was necessary to supply his needs.

The cabin was clean, the floor swept and the cooking utensils behind the stove were scoured brightly. Mr. Quigley finally gave up an attempt to start a conversation. The eyes of Poker Jim followed him to the door as Quigley withdrew.

Speaks for Last Time. While a resident of Helena, Poker Him lived in the Chinese quarter. He worked as a placer miner on his own hook and spent his nights gambling. He was an inveterate poker player and because of that gained the sobriquet by which he was known throughout the early day mining camps and which he carried to his death.

So far as known, the last time he spoke was when Sheriff Lou Boedecker was taking him to Deer Lodge Nov. 30. In answer to a question, he told the sheriff he was more than 100 years old and that the trip to Deer Lodge would be his first visit there since he went to Blackfoot City 60 years ago. He was though to be 105.
[Source: Great Falls Tribune Daily 29 Dec 1931, p. 5]