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2016 Trip to-and-from the FC Roundup

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<– See Overview of Trip Posts | Beginning | Day 1: Friday March 9: Oh, the Inhumanity! –>

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who offered to read the book! I’ve selected a couple readers. I will do my utmost to get the book finished so everyone can get a copy.

On Wednesday afternoon we begin our drive to the FC Roundup. We’ll be on the road just under three weeks. We’ve got several tours, a giant fork, a wild west town, an art museum, a ride in a GPW, dinner on a plane, a photo op with a (mostly) naked book seller, lunch at 13,000 feet, and much more planned. Of course, we’ll also have a busy couple days of FC fun at Jesse’s.

2016-trip-to-fc-roundup-initial-map

This is a rough map of our planned trip.

On another note, I’ve printed seven “proof” versions of my next book. I plan to do one more sweep through the book to refine it, build an index, and look for errors. The book is a non-fiction 450-page book that has nothing to do with jeeps. I’ve included the book’s author’s preface below:

Computers are made from more than sixty-six different minerals—gold, silver, copper, tin, aluminum, quartz, cerissite, hematite, cassiterite, sphalerite, and euxite, to name a few—all starting as raw earth and transformed, through smelting and refining, into usable forms that go into many modern products. Today, mines, smelters, and refineries exist worldwide, but in the American West, the once prominent industry has all but disappeared, leaving behind numerous ghost towns, a half a million abandoned mines, and crumbling smelting and refining works. They are reminders that in the second half of the 1800’s, as America manifested its destiny within western territories bounded by uncertain borders, before farming and ranching took root, mining and miners ruled the day.

One of those miners was my mother’s grandfather, who staked a mining claim in the Idaho panhandle. For forty years he picked and dynamited his way through 1,000 feet of his Palisade Mine on a Coeur D’Alene mountainside, only to die broke. It was a typical hard-luck miner’s story. Years later, when I was a kid, my dad hauled one of the Palisade ore cars down that same mountain and installed it in a corner of our backyard—Mom still uses it as a planter to this day.

My father’s side of the family was also in the mining industry, but their story was far different. It was one that revealed itself to me slowly over a twenty-year period of research, a story no living member of my family could recall. It grew out of my curiosity about one man, Anton Eilers.

The first seeds of interest were planted when I was a young boy and Grandpa Fritz Eilers was still alive. For years we visited my grandparents’ home in rural North Idaho, a woodsy two-story cabin pinned to a steep bank on Hayden Lake’s south shore. Their modest home was appointed with the trappings of great wealth—something even my youthful self recognized as unique—finely crafted tables and chairs, a heavily carved ebony bench, oil paintings, lamps and clocks from Tiffany Studios, crystal glassware. Our holiday dinners were served on china plates, hand-painted with delicate butterflies, no two the same. The sterling silver dinnerware had swirling EE’s etched onto each handle. “Who’s EE?” I asked my father once. “Your great-great-grandmother Elizabeth,” he answered.

I was six years old when Grandpa Fritz died, so except for his baldhead, grizzled mustache, and his pipe collection, I remember little of him. My grandmother, on the other hand, a graceful slender woman with elegant white hair, lived a long life. She was somewhat impoverished in her later years, despite the items around her house, a puzzling contrast I didn’t question at the time.

I was in my mid-twenties when she passed, and it was soon afterward that I discovered a box in my parents’ basement containing items from the Idaho house. Inside it were pictures, notebooks, and mining engineering handbooks. The photographs depicted ladies in long flowing dresses in front of grand homes with circular drives, of immaculately dressed children, of proud men in dark suits with watch fobs and carefully trimmed beards, of expensive automobiles, and European travels. Then I came to a slim gray book with the name Anton Eilers impressed on its cover, a memorial book from his funeral. It was filled with condolences from a university president, business leaders, friends, and editors of several periodicals. Eulogies praised Anton for his strength of character, thoughtful demeanor, and kindness, as well as his many engineering accomplishments. The memorial also mentioned him co-founding a large company called American Smelting, a business I knew little about. As I leafed through the pages, this distant relative, who seemed to have been very important, fascinated me.

I counted back through the generations: me, my father Karl, my grandfather Fritz, my great-grandfather Karl, and Anton, which made him my great-great grandfather. When I asked Dad about him, he had little to share, except that he was a wealthy mining engineer and that my Uncle Tony, whose given name was Anton, was named for him. So I researched what I could and wrote a quick biography of Anton to share with other family members.

It might have ended there, but other events occurred that caused me to probe my family’s history more deeply. The first was when I was an undergraduate finance major at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. There, I often bicycled for exercise, riding north along the Puget Sound waterfront toward a place called Ruston. My route circled past an abandoned ASARCO smelter that was undergoing pollution mitigation and whose landmark smokestack was scheduled for demolition. “Good riddance,” I sputtered as the stench emanating from the property forced me to hold my breath as I rode passed it, making me wonder who could have created such a mess. Several years later, to my surprise, I got my answer.

It happened when I was twenty-seven and living in Madison, Wisconsin. I was deep in the stacks of the local historical society when a book on mining caught my eye. I pulled it from the shelf and flipped through its pages until I came to a photograph of a large smelting works. Its caption read: American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO).

My jaw dropped and mind whirled. ASARCO was the same thing as American Smelting? The company my family co-founded was ASARCO? I reread the caption several times to make sure.

In hindsight it was obvious, but, until that moment, I’d never made the connection, in part because in its early years the company’s name was abbreviated as American Smelting or A.S.&R. It wasn’t until decades later that American Smelting And Refining Company became ASARCO.

That moment in the library changed my life. I began to research my history in earnest. Over the years, my efforts uncovered a story grander than I had ever expected, a two-generation saga that began in Europe, blossomed in the untamed American West, and ended in a fight between my family and the highly prominent Guggenheim family, one that began in the boardroom and spilled into Wall Street, with journals, newspapers, and shareholders wondering whom to believe. Was, as the Guggenheims claimed, my great grandfather Karl Eilers simply a disgruntled shareholder? Or were his claims true, that the Guggenheims had looted American Smelting & Refining Company for millions of dollars? The answers proved surprising and unexpected.

Out of those questions came this epic history, one of adventures, friendships, immigrants, partnerships, greed, dishonesty, successes and failures. It’s more than just my family’s story; it’s a quintessential American story, one that plays out in both the east and west, through national parks, international expositions, presidents, and well-known figures in history. The evolution of mining, smelting, and refining and its cultural ripples, for better and worse, continue to impact many of us.

Cover-2016-01-28-Slag-Western-Mines-Eastern-Money

<– See Overview of Trip Posts | Beginning | Day 1: Friday March 9: Oh, the Inhumanity! –>

 

8 Comments on “2016 Trip to-and-from the FC Roundup

  1. Jay Knight

    I have only been a daily visitor your site for about a year an a half….but love reading your trips/adventures.
    So far I really like what I read of your book. As with anything, if marketed right, to reach the people who would read it as it is “quintessential American story” rather then just a mining story. I think it will do well….good luck and safe travels on your newest adventure!

  2. Lynn Elrod

    Read your site daily. I enjoy American history and my favorite history professor in college was particularly interested in American business history. I am a retired pastor so narratives are a part of who I am and how I communicate. I would enjoy reading about mining and smelting because I know so little about it.
    My address is 9327 Highway F70 West, Monroe, Iowa 50170.
    Lynn Elrod

  3. Ted Jordan

    Hey Dave , good luck on the finish of your book . Also have a great and safe trip. Looking forward to seeing the posts and pics of your travels
    Ted

  4. Gordon West

    Dave, I’d love to do an advance read of your book. I have had some dealings with ASARCO aftermath due to my landscape mitigation work and am very interested in the history.

    Gordon

  5. Benita

    Dave…I would LOVE to read a copy of your book…..reading the preface was very interesting and then when you said ASARCO I got really interested. Growing up part of my life in El Paso, thr ASARCO towers were just a part of the landscape.

  6. David Eilers Post author

    Thanks everyone! I’ve selected a couple people to receive books. I wish I could have bought some more to distribute, but Createspace limits the amount of proofs I could purchase. While I will be self-publishing some copies of the book, which will include extra appendicies—kind of an extended version of the book—we are also working to get a real publisher to handle it. At least, that’s the goal.

    – Dave

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