dogs of the mining west western mining history
Most dogs in the western frontier were considering working dogsusually hunting, killing rodents, or guarding the prospectors camp or cabin. Occasionally, as seen in the photo or the Alaskan Prospector below, they filled the role of pack animal.
These dogs often appear in photos of miners and mining towns. The images demonstrate one thing conclusivelythat the dogs may have been hired for a job, but they were also revered members of frontier homes and towns, and reliable and cherished companions to miners and prospectors.
This miners humble cabin near Altman, Colorado (Cripple Creek district) was situated at over 10,000 feet in elevation. It certainly must have felt warmer with this big fluffy member of the family inside. Altman is a ghost town now, but was once an active mining town in one of the Wests greatest gold districts.
This iconic image of a prospector and his dog was taken near Seward, Alaska sometime between 1900 and 1916. In addition to be a valuable companion in what was a lonely occupation, the dog is packing more than his share of the goods necessary for life in the wilderness.
This photo of a miner with his dog was taken near Silver Plume, Colorado around 1900. The photo is further proof that although dogs were largely kept as working animals, they were still cherished by their owners.
A photo of this boarding house in Silver City, Utah wouldnt be complete without the resident dog posing with the staff. Note how many large breed dogs there were in the West these were often used for hunting.
Photobombs may be a regular feature of the internet today, but dogs invented the art over 100 years ago. This dog gets into a photo of the citzens of Nevadaville, Colorado, but nobody seems to mind. Note the small dog being held by a man at the right of the photo.
The silver mining town of Mace, Idaho was prone to snowslides and was almost completely destroyed by one in 1910. This photo captures a family inspecting what is left of their home after the 1910 slide destroyed it. Even in times of tragedy the family dog was present and ready to help.
At over 10,600 feet, Sneffels, Colorado was one of Colorados highest elevation mining towns. In this photo a family with a baby is traveling in a horse-drawn sleigh and the family spaniel rides with them. Another dog poses with the crowd behind the sleigh.
By 1904 when this photo was taken, the camp had recovered and the business of mining had replaced the basic struggle for survival. Photos of Thunder Mountain often depict dogs as an important part of camp life.
Kennett, California was a copper mining town in Northern California. Copper camps were ususally large industrial affairs rather than loose collections of log cabins that typified prospectors camps in the West. Despite that, dogs still had a place in the community.
The silver mines at Virginia City, Nevada experienced what was referred to as the Great Bonanza in the late 1870s. The silver ore was incredibly rich, but also very deep in the ground. Extremes of heat and high water tables also complicated mining efforts.
The difficulties of the Virginia City mines spurred the development of new technologies and mining equipment at scales never previously seen. In the photo above a massive bull gear is leaving the foundry, and trusted spaniel oversees the delivery.
This comically named pawn shop in Ironton, Colorado demonstrates that the pioneers did indeed have a sense of humor, even if they never smiled for photos. Even B. Ware and I. Steele Pawn Brokers had a resident canine.
At 11,600 feet, Corona, Colorado existed for one reason to keep trains running over the the highest altitude standard gauge rail station in North America. Almost the entire town was built in giant snowsheds, as illustrated by the photo above.
This was known as one of the most inhospitable locations in the west, where railroad workers didnt want to be. Despite all that, the station had a little spaniel as seen in the photo perhaps to hunt rodents, maybe to greet passengers, or likely both.
Spaniels are one of the more common breeds seen in mining camp photos from the late 1800s. They were primarily hunting dogs although so many of them are seen posing in these photos that mining camp ambassador was likely their secondary job.
A man at his palace, relaxing with a book and his best friend. Certainly many people these days would exchange their current lives for a few days at the storied Elkhorn Palace. Location: Rosita, Colorado
Even rail workers can be found posing with their four-legged friends. Salida, Colorado was one of the Wests most important railroad hubs and an important smelting center for the mines of Chaffee County.
The caption on this 1912 photo reads Coasting on dogmobile trip from Shelton to Nome Alaska July 28 1912. The image depicts Walter W. Johnson, a mining engineer and designer of gold and tin dredges, who traveled around the Seward Peninsula on the family pupmobile and on horseback.
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