Thus proclaims a label inside a small leather-bound field book that was donated to the Archives this past week. We on the Archives staff all agreed that it was, indeed, valuable. The label continued: “If found return to BARKER-WILSON CO. ENGINEERS.” Only 5 inches wide and 7 inches high, the book contains meticulously detailed survey drawings of Butte’s public schools in the time period of 1916 to 1919.
The Great War in Europe was already in full swing, and the demand for
Butte’s copper was at its highest. The population had swelled accordingly, and the need for more classroom space was probably desperate. Undoubtedly school officials were looking at land adjacent to the schools for expansion. This was likely the reason for the surveying of schools and school lands. Several schools show a small structure in the schoolyard labeled “portable school.”
World War I eventually ended, and Butte went into a severe economic downturn. People often ask if Butte’s population ever reached 100,000. Since no official census occurred when Butte’s population was at its height, we cannot say with certainty. But the years of World War I were definitely the time it came closest. By the time of the 1920 census, many had already moved elsewhere to find work, and Butte would never reach that peak again.
Most of these schools of 100 years ago are gone now. Some were victims of the Berkeley Pit; others were replaced by more modern structures. More of the drawings can be viewed by visiting The Archives online catalog at www.buttearchives.pastperfectonline.com.