Country Boy Mine superintendent discovers historic artifact dating back to the mine’s original superintendent
Country Boy Mine has stumbled upon a previously unearthed historic artifact.
On Wednesday, Oct. 13, Mine Superintendent Jonathan Bellew ecstatically recounted how he was patrolling the property with Mine Foreman Bridges Simmons when he noticed a bit of writing on a piece of timber in a pile of rubble at the mine’s old mill.
“I just caught (the edge of the writing) out of the corner of my eye because there was another plank on top of it, and I was like, ‘That’s not natural,’“ Bellew said. “I was like, ‘Bridges, no way. Come look at this.’”
The plank of wood was hand-painted with the inscription “C.M. Mullen Supt. Breckenridge, Colorado.”
C.M. Mullen refers to Charles Mullen, who was the first superintendent of Country Boy Mine. He was brought to the mine in 1888 to run the operation. Bellew noted that in addition to running Country Boy Mine, Mullen located several other nearby mines in the area. By 1892, Mullen had sold all of his property in Summit County and moved to Idaho.
Simmons said he wanted to take a look at the old mill because there’s a big boiler tank sitting there that he was thinking about bringing down to the mine’s on-site museum. If Simmons hadn’t opted to go check out the mill, Bellew said the exposed artifact might have been destroyed over the winter. He noted that someone was doing some work up at the mill last summer. The individual likely didn’t see the artifact but might have partially uncovered it, aiding in its discovery.
“Even bringing it down, the paint was rubbing off on my jeans,” Bellew said.
Bellew and Simmons had two early theories about what the artifact was: part of a wooden crate that brought some sort of machinery to the mine or a wall hanging in an office. Simmons thought the latter theory made sense because there are grooves on the edges of the plank that make him think it was hung on a wall.
Tour guide Maeve Aislinn, who has a particular interest in 19th century history, said that when Bellew and Simmons found the piece, they sent her a photo of the writing. She said her first thought was that it was definitely old and that she wanted to see it in person.
“They brought it down, and I looked at it. And the first thing I noticed was it was literally just black ink and a brush, which is a sign that something is a little bit older. And the specific form of handwriting — it was the ‘g’ that really (tipped) it off for me, the way the ‘g’ was written — I knew that it was probably either very late 1800s, but most likely earlier 1900s that it was written in, which checks out because (Mullen) became superintendent 1888,” Aislinn said.
Aislinn added that the style of writing on the piece of wood would have been obsolete by about 1915, but that the script was “on trend” in the early 1900s. The fact that the piece was handwritten is also telling of the time, Aislinn said, because an ink stamp would be more likely to be used if the piece was from later in time.
“This is a … in my opinion, priceless artifact for the mine now — just because it’s over 130 years old and it survived this (environment) for 130 years,“ Bellew said. “All the snow, all the nasty stuff.”
The artifact will be displayed as an exhibit in the mine’s on-site museum with a full biography on Mullen, which Bellew is working on putting together. He noted a factoid about Mullen: He sent 54 ounces of gold to the Denver Mint in the early 1890s. Bellew said it was common in the 1800s to sell materials like gold, silver and zinc to mints to make coins.
As the current superintendent, Bellew discovering the artifact carrying the name of the first superintendent brings things full circle. Bellew and Simmons said they have been on cloud nine since the discovery.
“Jon’s the current mine superintendent, and this was the original (superintendent), so it was weird for him to find it,” Simmons said.
Simmons said it will be interesting to pick through the pile where the piece was found and see if anything else is there.
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