Stibnite 1949 Radio Script
Valley County, Idaho
Radio Script and Photo Collections shared by Sandy McRae courtesy Jim Collord
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Stibnite Idaho Radio Series Part 1
Peffer CBS Radio Station KGDM Stockton, California 1140 on Dial
From Mr and Mrs. Edward F. Peffer
This is the first in s series of three stories on Stibnite, the world’s most unique mining community. The village of nine hundred population, located in a primitive area of the Salmon River Mountains in Idaho, grew up around the Yellow Pine Mine, operated by the Bradley Mining Company of Idaho and San Francisco. The Mine, in some months of World War II, produced more tungsten than all the rest of the mines in the world combined. It is credited, by those who know, with having shortened the war by many months.
This broadcast, which comes from the Peffer CBS Station in Stockton, California, was compiled and written especially for Idaho listeners by Elsie Flower, KGDM script writer, now on vacation at the lake-shore Summer-home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward F. Peffer on Payette Lakes. This broadcast, September 22, 1949, is voiced by Bill Hill, special announcer for Idaho, speaking from the home studio of KGDM, Stockton, Calif.
We describe Stibnite as being unique – – – as being without like or equal in the world. We do not think we are over-reaching the facts in our estimate. The history of the mine itself, and of the man, Frederick Worthen Bradley, who developed it, would give Stibnite a valid claim to that distinction. But, there are qualities, other than the historical, which make Stibnite an outstanding community.
Of these qualities we will give first place to the youth of the population. Of approximately 900 residents, sixty per cent is between the ages of 19 years and 39. Thirty-five percent of the population is under 19 years. Less than five percent is older than 39. There is not a member of the Yellow Pine Mining Staff over forty.
We give second place to the superior type of individual who makes up the Stibnite population. The intellectual and educational level is high.
Third place is given to the advanced social and civic concept of community life in Stibnite. By this, we mean that people living there do not accumulate a lot of cancelled checks for rent of their houses, and they do not know the meaning of fear at the sight of the doctor’s bill, rent is free; doctor’s bills, the minimum.
In fourth place, we put the stability of family life, prevailing in the village. Two hundred and fifty families, average from two to three children each, and the year 1948 brought 46 new-born babies into the population.
We give fifth place, to what, we as a Californian, dream, the most important of all. Every child of the 137 enrollee in the Stibnite School, was ABLE TO READ AT THE END OF THE FIRST GRADE. By the time the second and third grades are finished the child is a proficient reader. Much of this enlightened community atmosphere emanates from conditions created by the Bradley Mining Company, now carried on by the three sons of the late Frederick Bradley, and their mother. But, even the most considerate regard for the welfare of others will fail unless there is reciprocity. The people of Stibnite reciprocate.
We have now outlined to you why we think Stibnite a remarkable community. We shall now tell you how we happened to make the pilgrimage there. When we arrived in McCall, the latter part of August, one of the first plans made for us by our hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Edward F Peffer, was a flight into Stibnite. Forest fires were raging at the time and all commercial airplanes were requisitioned by the Payette National Forest Service. Stibnite could he reached by automobile, in some three hours time, but the Peffers had their hearts set on the twenty-minute trip by air, over mountain peaks, 18,000 feet above sea level, as the fitting approach to the town.
It was through the influence of Mrs. Carl F. Brown of McCall that planes and pilots of the Bradley Mining Company were made available to us, going and coming. We took off from McCall airfield at 5:20 o’clock last Friday afternoon in a 550 horse-power twin-engine Sesna [sic], Glenn Higby, Chief-pilot of Aircraft Services at Bradley Field in Boise, was at the controls, The plane, flying at 110 miles and hour, climbed steeply to surmount the ten thousand feet elevation which arises somewhat abruptly from the floor of Long Valley. Our pilot sang or whistled. We ventured an occasional question or comment, but we were mainly concerned with the feeling of the plane as it climbed toward the towering mountains ahead. We could feel its power pitted against the ascent, and curiously enough, we were reminded of the great mule-teams of our childhood which strained and pulled at the load up-grade or over heavy roads. We soon made the climb, and the plane leveled off to cross sixty miles of magnificent mountain-peak and gorge. Beautiful lakes, sparkling like precious stones, were set in the hollows of the mountains, thousands of feet below. Our pilot told us that many of these lakes had never been seen except from the air. We gradually came lower, and turned into the narrow approach to Stibnite.
It seemed that the mountains on either side, allowed little freedom to the plane as the pilot reconnoitered to if the landing field below were free and clear. The pits, which have yielded a half million tons of tungsten ore and more than three million tons of antimony ore, stretched below us in walls and terraces like a miniature Grand Canyon.
The village of Stibnite looked like a collection of white painted toy houses set in a miniature forest. Our pilot set the plane down on the field as gently as a Mother lays her child on its pillow — and we were greeted by Robert James McRae, mill and smelter superintendent of the Yellow Pine.
A short drive brought us to a white-painted two-story Dutch colonial house, which was about the last architectural style we expected to see in a mining town. We were greeted at the door by a Great Dane, a magnificent dog of seventeen months, who stood more than three feet high and, we were told, had not yet reached full growth.
Mrs. McRae, slender and blonde, attired in T-shirt and pedal-pushers, followed at the dog’s heels; and pretty soon, the children came in. Robin Stewart McRae is the ten-year-old son, and Lorna, is the five-year-old daughter. The children have the blonde hair and skin of their mother, with the dark eyes-of their father. They are attractive and interesting, despite the fact that their well behaved and courteous reserve with strangers, guards them from quick acquaintance.
We were soon seated with the family at the dinner table, which was set at a large window, looking out toward the Mill, the Smelter and the airfield. Planes flew by, seemingly opposite the window, moving as casually as the automobile on the road below them. The McRaes told us that in addition to the two company planes, maintained by the Bradley Mining Co. at Stibnite for official use, there are seven privately owned planes in the village.
After dinner, Mr. McRae took us on a tour of the mill, which covers two acres, and the newly built electric smelter which stands on an acre-site. The holdings of the Bradley Mining Company in the Stibnite area exceed five thousand acres. Our acquaintance with mining had been limited to the simple stamp-Mill operation for extracting gold from quartz, a method common in the California Mother Lode country, – and, during World War I, we had seen the equally simple flotation process to get copper from the ore at Copperopolis, in Calaveras County. But this ore, now being mined at the Yellow Pine is such a tight combination of antimony, gold and silver that a most gigantic milling, chemical, and smelting operation is necessary to separate the valuable metals from the base elements imprisoning them.
We shall make no attempt.to describe the great mill and smelter, which are in operation twenty-four hours, the day and night through, and which have a record to date of three million tons of milled ore and half a million tons of tungsten ore. We make no effort to describe what is past our power to describe and our complete comprehension, but we will narrate to you the history of the Yellow Pine Mine and the Bradley Mining Company, as Bob McRae told it to us.
Outcroppings of antimony ore in the Stibnite area were discovered as early as 1880. Prospectors mistook it for lead ore and submitted samples to assayers at Coeur d’Alene, When antimony was found instead of lead, there was no interest. Antimony had little or no value at the time, and metallurgically could not be treated. In the late Nineties prospectors, going to the famous Thunder Mountain Gold boom, re-discovered the outcroppings and some shallow prospecting was done. Activity in the region was sustained by an appreciable discovery of quick silver, but for the most part, antimony and gold ores were not greatly explored by reason of their base nature. That is, the ores were difficult to treat and no smelter, at the time, would accept a concentrate from them.
In 1920, Mr. J. J. Oberbillig, who still resides in Boise, prospected the present Stibnite holdings by driving underground workings. In 1927, after many failures to interest large mining companies he brought the properties to the attention of My Frederick Worthen Bradley, of San Francisco, One of the Greatest and most venturesome mining men of the West.
Oberbillig told Bradley of metallurgical difficulties which other big mining companies regarded as insurmountable, Frederick Bradley regarded the difficulty as a challenge to the ability of his organization, and in 1927, in association with Ogden Mills of New York and Washington, D. C. and William H. Crocker of San Francisco, he took over the development the properties. He had had the benefit of mining experience in the Grass Valley area of California. In the early 1890’s he became interested in the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mine in the Coeur d’Alene district in Northern Idaho, and, as president and manager, for many years, built the mine up to become one of the largest load producers in the United States, complete with its own smelting plant.
Throughout his career, Frederick Bradley was interested in developing large low-grade gold mines. His outstanding achievement in this direction is the Alaska Juneau Mine at Juneau, Alaska. He developed the mine to a capacity of 10,000 tons a day on ore that ran less than a dollar a ton, and made it pay. He was associated in many other ventures in Canada and the United States, equally as spectacular from the mining point of view.
During World War One, Frederick Bradley and Bernard Baruch owned the Atolia Mine on the Mojave Desert in California. Under Bradley’s operation the Atolia was developed into one of the world’s largest tungsten mines supplying domestic tungsten during years of the first war. With this background of experience Frederick Bradley felt that the ores of Stibnite could be profitably mined and milled. His faith was justified in the development of 1927, ’28 and ’29. In 1930 the first milling unit was built with a capacity of 150 tons a day. The first milling operations on Stibnite properties were disappointing. No successful treatment of the concentrate could be worked out. The six-hundred mile truck and rail haul to the smelter at Salt Lake City cut down profit.
In 1933 some of these difficulties had been overcome. In June of that year, Frederick W. Bradley, the greatest mining man the West has ever known, died. His wife Mary, and their three sons, Worthen D. Bradley, James Bradley and John D. Bradley, succeeded him in the operation of the Yellow Pine properties, with John D. Bradley as executive vice-president of the Bradley Mining Company, in charge of Idaho Mining operations.
During the years of ‘World War Two, the three Bradley brothers repeated the tungsten history made by their father in the first war. Operating in Stibnite, one thousand miles away from the Atolia Mine in Mojave, Frederick Bradley’s three sons, more then thirty years later, supplied. the United States with tungsten which helped this country and its allies to win the grimmest war in world history.
[End Part 1]
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Stibnite photos c. 1951-1953
photo collection shared by Sandy McRae courtesy Jim Collord
page updated Sept 7, 2020