Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home
Dick Horn - Personal Communication
Taped interview, 12 August 1974Harry Majors interviewed Dick Horn in Winthop as part of the North Cascades history project sponsored by U.W. and The Mountaineers. The interview runs about 1 hour. I listened to the tape on 21 August 2003, taking notes by hand.
by Harry Majors
UWSpecColl, Accession 2309, Tape 178
Notes by Lowell Skoog
Dick Horn went to work for Charles Ballard at the Azurite mine in 1930. That year he helped build a narrow road from Slate Creek over Cady Pass to Mill Creek and the Azurite Mine. (USGS quadrangles show a trail over this route today.) The American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) leased the mine in 1934 and widened the road in 1935. Horn said this route was a pack horse trail before he started working at the mine in 1930. He said the road has sluffed and become overgrown since then.
Men at the mine had to stay put all winter. Supplies to last the winter were packed in during the autumn. [Other sources describe dog-sled service to the mine in the 1930s, so the mine was not completely isolated. Perhaps it was expected that only mail, not men, would go in and out.]
January 1935 was a terrible month for avalanches in the Azurite country. Dick Horn remembered four deaths that winter. One was an old prospector named Johnny Young, over 80 years old. He lived in a cabin near the mouth of Mill Creek at Canyon Creek. Following a period of snowslides, Horn and another man went down from the Azurite mine to check on Young. They found his cabin crushed by snowslides. Some of the timbers had been pushed into the living space, but nobody was inside. Young had apparently set off on skis for another cabin that he had 1-1/2 miles up Canyon Creek from the Mill Creek fork. He didn't make it. Horn and partner followed Young's tracks to another large snowslide and found Young collapsed and dead on the other side. Horn thought Young might have been injured when his first cabin was hit. There was an empty bottle of Sloan's liniment lying near Young, and the odor of liniment was strong on the body. Horn said that Johnny Young had owned the Anacortes mine at one time.
Another man died that month near Barron, hit by an avalanche while going to fetch water. On the south side of Harts Pass, two CCC boys were staying in a cabin to trap. A slide buried them in their cabin.
The conversation turned to other old-timers, trappers and prospectors. Horn said the road to Barron was built in the 1890s and widened in 1930. There were gold mining operations at Barron and Azurite. The Ruby Creek and Skagit River canyons were too rugged for the old-timers to build a road down there to take the ore out. They decided it would be cheaper to build roads going east. That's why the route over Harts Pass was established. These days, with heavy road-building equipment, building a road to the west would be much more feasible.
Dick Horn's first year in the Methow Valley was 1925. He did some trapping in the area that fall. Hazard Ballard had the Gold Hill mine in East Creek, west of Majestic Mountain. His brother Charles had the Azurite mine in Mill Creek on the east side of the mountain. Charles Ballard had another, earlier claim that I neglected to record the name of. Some people thought the Gold Hill and Azurite claims may have tapped into the same vein.
Nobody made much of a living from mining in the North Cascades. As you go down, the ore peters out. The conversation turned to other early industries in the Methow Valley--fruit growing, timber, sheep, cattle, dairy farming.
Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page