A Biographical Sketch of William Andrews Clark from the files of United Verde Copper Company

William Andrews Clark, ex-United States Senator, was born near Connellsville, Pa., January 8, 1839, son of John and Mary (Andrews) Clark. He was a descendant of a Huguenot family which had emigrated from France to Scotland to escape religious persecutions, later moving to the north of Ireland, and then settling in Pennsylvania soon after the close of the Revolutionary War.

His father was a farmer and his boyhood days were spent on the homestead, where he enjoyed the advantages of three months’ winter school and nine months of farm work. In 1856 his father moved to Van Buren County, Iowa, and there developed a large and productive farm, in which his son had his share of work to do. He taught school for several winter terms, then entered an academy at Birmingham, Iowa, later attending the Iowa Wesleyan University at Mt. Pleasant, where he studied in the academic and law departments. In 1859-1860 he taught school in Missouri, and from then on his life was entirely given over to the building up of the new empire in the west.

In 1862 he crossed the great plains, driving a team to South Park, Colorado, and that winter worked in the quartz mines in Central City, gaining knowledge and experience for his future life in the mining industry. In 1863 news of the gold discoveries at Bannock, Montana, reached Colorado and he was among the first to start for this new El Dorado. After 65 days’ travel with an ox-team, he arrived in Bannock, just in time to join a stampede to Horse Prairie Creek, where he secured a claim. After several years’ experience in placer mining, he engaged in wholesale mercantile enterprises which continued for about five years. During this time his travels took him to the mining camps of Virginia City, Blackfoot City, Helena and Elk Creek, to San Francisco and central California to Portland, Oregon. In addition he also successfully carried on the duties of a mail contractor on the star route between Missoula, Montana, and Walla Walla, Washington.

In his various undertakings he had been eminently successful and in 1868 he formed a partnership which engaged in the wholesale mercantile and banking business, locating at Helena, Montana, later moving to Deer Lodge, and, after buying out his partners, this resulted in the locating at Butte of the banking firm of W.A. Clark & Brother.

However, it was principally in the mining field that he devoted most of his time and in which he made his greatest success. In 1872 he was attracted to the quartz prospects of Butte and purchased, in whole or in part, the Colusa, Original, Mountain Chief, Gambetta and other mines, nearly all of which developed into rich producers. The “Old Dexter,” the second stamp mill of Butte, was finished in 1876 through his financial aid, and the first smelter of consequence in Butte, the Colorado smelter, was erected by a company organized by him. In 1880 he organized the Moulton Company, which erected the Moulton Mill and developed the mine of the same name. In 1914 he constructed a large concentrating plant for the treatment of ores from the Elm Orlu mine, near Butte, which mine developed into one of the largest zinc and copper mines of that time. In the meantime he acquired and developed mining properties in other western states, including coal properties in Colorado, in the course of which he became interested in the United Verde mine in Arizona, and it was this latter mine which his genius developed into one of the best equipped mines in the world.

When acting as Commissioner for Montana to the exposition in New Orleans in 1885, he saw numerous specimens exhibited from a mine in Arizona called the United Verde mine. These specimens were rich in copper, gold and silver. Later on, when re-organizing the Orford Copper Company, to which company he had been selling the matte from his Butte smelters, he found on the books numerous shipments of matte from the United Verde mine, which at that time was operating two 50-ton furnaces. These mattes were extremely rich in gold and silver contents. With his usual keenness, he started to investigate and about the first of the year 1888, secured, through the assistance of some New York friends, particularly Mr. James A. Macdonald, who later became vice president of the company under Mr. Clark’s reorganization, a second option on the United Verde mine which, in spite of the rich surface ores, had up to that time been unsuccessfully operated. His first visit to the mine was with his mine superintendent, Joseph L. Giroux, in March 1888. Availing himself of the fact that the first option had been given up, he immediately made the first payment required under the option and proceeded to buy in as much of the outstanding stock as was possible. The stock was scattered all over the globe, and at the time of his death he and his family owned about 299,000 shares out of 300,000.

And so, having decided that the mine held great possibilities, with his usual thoroughness and genius for organizing and putting his desires into active operation, the property was developed into one of the large copper producers of the United States.

In the foregoing biography there has been purposely omitted reference to Senator Clark’s activities in the fields of public utilities, water power undertakings, construction and operation of railroads, ranching, manufacturing industries, etc., which in themselves are entitled to a separate recitation in order to depict the many and varied ramifications of a brilliant intellect, keen in its instantaneous grasp of values, combined with a force and vitality to carry his convictions to a successful termination.

Senator Clark died in March 1925 and was survived by his second wife and six children.

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