SOUTHERN CROSS

NAME: Southern Cross
COUNTY: Deer Lodge County
ROADS: 2WD
GRID: 4
CLIMATE: Warm summer
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
Summer
COMMENTS: Endangered town.
REMAINS: Many buildings.

The tiny community of Southern Cross nestles at 7000 ft. on a mountainside looking out at the snow-capped peaks of Montana's continental divide. Georgetown Lake spreads out 700 feet below, hosting rainbow trout, herons, and bald eagles, not to mention, snoose-chewing, beer-guzzling Butte ice-fisherman, themselves an endangered species. Alongside a few humans, Southern Cross' residents include frequent moose, mule deer, elk, porcupines, foxes, raptors, and even an occasional lynx.

Southern Cross began its existence as a mining claim during Montana's gold rush of the mid-1860's. Off and on for eighty years thereafter, immigrant miners harvested gold and silver for the mining companies who came and went, little bothering to clean up the mountainside after themselves.

As they eked out a livelihood, the mostly Finn and Swedish miners built themselves homes, boarding houses, stores, many saunas, a dance hall, a post office and a school house in the little hamlet. For a time in the 'teens and twenties, the Sundown Limited provided rail service 45 miles from Butte direct to Southern Cross, the end of the line. Unlike their employers, many miners and their families staid on in Southern Cross. John Huttala, the last of the generation of historic miners, known to everyone as "Little John," quietly passed away in his Southern Cross cabin in August, 1991. His ashes were scattered in the yard of his house overlooking his favorite fishing hole, Georgetown Lake. His best friend, "Old John," or "Yussi" Koski, died just the previous year.

When Little John and Yussie died, they did not leave an empty town. In the fifties and sixties, newcomers had arrived, including Joe and Lila Holt, Dr. Scott & Jean Walker, and Bob & Dottie Corbett. In 1965, The Anaconda company offered ground at Southern Cross for the construction of St. Timothy's Chapel, donated by Crete Dillon and John Bowman in memory of their son, Timothy. It has served thousands of worshipers and hundreds of marrying couples seeking the inspiration of Southern Cross' unique scenery.

In the early seventies a new generation of youthful residents began to arrive in Southern Cross. They used few resources, lived minimally and worked alongside the old-timer's to clean up the debris of mining and build a handsome close-knit community. The town constructed a water supply and shared wood-gathering, workshops, gardens, and saunas. Yussie hosted old and new residents alike for weekly saunas. Abandoned dwellings were restored by the new residents both to retain their historic flavor and to serve as comfortable homes. Today most of those structures remain in the ownership of those seventies new-comers. A few have been full-time residents throughout.

Though only three residents remain full-time in Southern Cross, the community thrives. Between St. Timothy's activities and the regular visits of home-owners, the town has more the character of an extended family, still hosting potluck dinners, community saunas, and music festivals. Southern Cross today is a well-kept piece of history, loaded with rustic charm. It's care has been continually maintained, not by the companies owning the mineral rights, but by the constant labors of the residents.

Land titles were always uncertain and chaotic in Southern Cross. The plat of mining claims looks like a broken puzzle scattered on the floor. Off and on, some residents over the years paid rent to Anaconda Company and other entities claiming to own the land. From 1981 to 1991, however, none of the residents paid rent to anyone and most felt their title to their homesites was superior to the various claimants who sought to intimidate them into leaving or paying rent.

In 1988, most of Southern Cross mineral claims came into the ownership of Magellan Resources. It immediately sought to evict all of the residents, but none left. Three years later, Magellan proposed that the residents sign leases, for which it offered to charge a mere $150 per year. Rather than fight about it, most residents agreed to Magellan's minimal leases which have remained in effect until now. Check out their web site.
Submitted by Roy Andes.

It is only speculation a sailor tired of the sea gave the town its name. Located high on the shoulder of Iron Mountain, the ghostly gold camp has only the remains of a boarding house, a mill and several other weathered buildings to prove its one time existence. Snowfalls are heavy from October to June. Submitted by Henry Chenoweth.




Southern Cross
Courtesy Dolores Steele



Southern Cross
Courtesy Dolores Steele


Southern Cross
Courtesy Dolores Steele


Southern Cross
Courtesy Dolores Steele


Southern Cross
Courtesy Dolores Steele

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