Yankee Girl Mine head frame saved


March 18, 2006
By Dale Rodebaugh | Herald Staff Writer

The tottering head frame of the Yankee Girl Mine, a relic of mining's heyday on Red Mountain north of Silverton, is safe.

The head frame of the Yankee Girl Mine, shown in 2001, was sold Thursday to a Montrose man who plans to put the property into a conservation easement. Previous owners have threatened to bulldoze the structure, located just north of Silverton.

One of the richest lodes in the United States for several years in the late 1880s, the Yankee Girl was sold Thursday to Mark Young, the coroner of Montrose County, and his wife Mary, who plan to put the property into a conservation easement.

Young said the couple paid $245,000 for the Yankee Girl and gave $15,000 more for the adjoining Wilde and Orphan Boy mining claims. The three properties total 23 acres. State tax credits and federal tax deductions will cover the cost, Young said Friday.

"It's been seven years of up and down and back and forth," Bob Risch, chairman of the Red Mountain Task Force, said Friday by phone from Ouray. "It's nice that someone had the foresight to save it."

Task force members skirmished first with Frank Baumgartner, a retired oil man who lives near Castle Rock, who burned two historic mining structures he owned in 2003 and threatened to demolish five other historic mining structures, including the Yankee Girl.

Baumgartner sold the Yankee Girl, Wilde and Orphan Boy claims to Jim and Dee Ann Kropp last year. The couple, who live near Paonia, wanted the properties for a land swap with the Forest Service. When the deal didn't materialize, the couple said they would clear the land, torching the Yankee Girl head frame in order to build a house.

"It's been a roller-coaster of emotions," said Ken Francis of the Office of Community Services at Fort Lewis College, and a founder of the Red Mountain Task Force in 1998. "We have about $48,000 left from a grant of $60,000 from the Gates Family Foundation that we can use to stabilize the head frame."

Francis said the foundation, beams and roofing of the head frame, which sits over a 1,200-foot shaft, are on the verge of collapse. Stop-gap work will allow the task force to look for preservation funding, Francis said.

Young should be happy with the news.

"The first thing was to save the property," Young said. "Now we can see what's in the best interest of the structure and how we can do it."

Young, Montrose County coroner for four years, said he read of the impending fate of the Yankee Girl head frame.

"It wasn't going well," Young said. "So my wife and I talked about it and decided that if we could get a conservation easement it would be a good thing to buy it."

The Yankee Girl claim was staked in 1882 by four hunters who stumbled onto the site by accident, Risch said.

"They staked their claim and later sold it for $125,000 each," Risch said.

A paltry sum as it turned out. A plaque at a Forest Service observation point on U.S. Highway 550 north of Silverton from which the head frame - a photographer's delight - is visible tells the story. The ore proved to be of such quality - up to $10,000 a ton - that it wasn't milled but sent directly to the smelter. In 16 years of operation, the mine produced an estimated $12 million in ore.

The granddaughter of August Deitlaff, one of the original Yankee Girl stakeholders, was delighted when told Friday that the head frame was to be preserved.

"Incredible! I've been waiting so long to hear that," Frieda Reish, 88, said by telephone from her home in Payson, Ariz. "I can't tell you how happy that makes me."

Reish said that at one time she considered buying the Yankee Girl claim.

"I was too far away to handle it," Reish said. "I decided it wasn't possible."