18 April 2010

Millie Ringgold of Old Yogo Mining Camp

P. W. Korell, Stanford Pioneer, Tells Yogo Gulch History in Address Before Women’s Club.
Special to the Tribune. Stanford, No. 6.—Judge J. H. Huntoon, Lewistown, and P. W. Korell, Stanford, spoke at a meeting of the Stanford woman’s club on local history.

Mr. Korell, who landed at Fort Benton in 1876, came into the Judith basin with the Yogo stampeders in 1880 and to Stanford in 1923. Referring to early days in the basin he says:

"Jack Wirth and I left Fort Benton Aug. 2, 1880, with two four-horse teams and wagons loaded with tobacco, four barrels of whisky, a crate of picks and shovels, flour, sugar and bacon. We were headed for Fort Maginnis and Yogo.

"Arriving at the Judith river Aug. 7, 1880, we camped on the flat now owned by C. M. Belden, formerly the Murphy ranch, half way between Utica and the Belden residence. We made camp in brush along the old channel of the Judith as a precaution against Indians, who were traveling across the country frequently.

"Whisky is Stolen. When I went to my wagon in the morning the wagon sheet was untied. Investigating, I found the load was short two 55-gallon barrels of whisky. Jack Murphy, Wirth and myself noticed grass had been tramped and w could see where the barrels had been rolled away.

"We followed the trail back and forth across the bottom until it was lost. The following January, in 1881, a man known as Cherokee Jim, coming from Yogo, stopped to kill a deer and found one of the barrels containing 20 gallons of whisky.

"Jim came down to the Murphy cabin, where the postoffice had been established after being moved from Yogo. It consisted of one empty beer case and a rubber stamp. Jim was feeling pretty good but refused to tell where he got his ‘jag,’ so he was followed when he returned to the cache and the barrel was found. Two years later the other barrel, empty, was found in a patch of brush on the Korrel ranch.

"At the time the liquor was taken, two white men were camped where the Utica schoolhouse now stands. One was known as Mike Henderson and the other, Aleck Jesup. The latter, years afterward served a term at Deer Lodge for burglary at Butte, dying shortly after he was released. Whereabouts of Henderson is unknown.

"Yogo did not produce the gold that was expected, the bedrock being too deep. Small bars paid only small returns. However, quite a number of miners remained, expecting to strike it some day.

"Among those who stayed was a colored woman by the name of Millie Ringold. Her faith was so strong in her mine, the Garfield, that she worked it for more than 30 years, doing anything she could to earn a few dollars, washing nursing white women and doing manual labor generally performed by men, returning at intervals to the hills to work her mine.

"Old Millie, as she was called, came to Fort Benton in 1878 as a maid for Colonel Switzer’s wife, and when rumors of the Yogo gold stampede came to Fort Benton, Millie was one of the first to hit the trail. She opened a hotel and restaurant and everyone could eat whether they had money or not, all promising to pay when the cleaned up bedrock.

"Millie had a coal oil can for a musical instrument, with which she entertained her guests. She would drum on it and sing southern songs as long as she had an audience.

"In after years, when dollars were scarce, many of her meals were provided for her by the cat, George Washington. It would catch a rabbit and bring it to the cabin, where it was enjoyed by himself and his mistress. Sometimes Bedrock Jim, another Yogo character, would share in the feast by providing potatoes and an onion or a carrot to make a mulligan. Millie died at her old cabin in Yogo and was buried in the cemetery at Utica by a few old timers.

"Bercham a Character. Jim Bercham, better known as ‘Bedrock’ Jim was another of the old guard who would not leave Yogo. He had his boxes going all the time, shoveling every day, and making regular trips to Utica for me to send his dust to Helena to the assay office. His cleanup averaged an ounce and a half of gold dust, which, at $16 an ounce, kept him in provisions.

"A few years later Mr. Weatherwax built a machine at the mouth of Skunk gulch to work some of his ore. The machine was all homemade and power was furnished by water from Yogo creek.

"One windy day he climbed on the wheel to lubricate it and, losing his balance, fell and was killed.

"Placer mining and prospecting since 1879 has been entirely abandoned on Yogo Creek. My predictions are that some day a corporation with money for development work will show the world that there is gold in Yogo and lots of it."
Source: Great Falls Tribune Daily 7 Nov 1931, p. 13]


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