Helena's new school sits on 1917 mine


It's a foundation of history and a place where a new generation will study. While excavating the site for Helena's new high school, archaeologists and local historians are finding pieces of the past. A new school will sit on what used to be 4 mines. {}We{}went on a trip back in time to learn about the people who lived and worked there.

"A lot of history here. A lot of it," Brian Wallis, an archaeologist said.

The artifacts{}reflect hard labor endured by the workers of the Eureka Number Four Mine. Workers - like Ken Penhale's grandfather.

"My grandfather was foreman of this mine number 4," Ken Penhale, Helena Historian said.

The first of four Eureka mines was opened after the Civil War ended. Around if formed a tight community giving jobs to thousands.

"In the early days, it was the backbone and the livelihood of the town," Penhale said.

The Eureka Number 4 mine {}was the center of what was formerly the Roebuck Mining Camp - right inside the city of Helena. It operated from 1917 to 1925.{}

Archaeologist Brian Wallis gave us a tour of what used to be the four Eureka mines.

"A lot of it is just walking along and looking down," Wallis said. "There's a lot of metal detecting. We'll pick an area and take GPS coordinates of where we're at and document it."

So far, they've found mining equipment, old soda bottles from the early 1900's, a spoon, and pottery. Even the concrete entrance to the mine will be preserved in Helena's museum. But their most profound discovery isn't flashy or even valuable -- not with money, anyways.

The miners i.d. tags were placed on their carts of coal. Miners were paid based on how many carts they could load.

"It's a shame it's got to go," Wallis said. "Every time I find a tag, that number represents a person."

'When you start finding human-related, where it actually represents a person - that's really exciting because then you start to get an idea of what it was like to live out here," Wallis said.

The pieces of the past will be saved in Helena's museum{}as the mining trails will soon be replaced with fresh construction and an opportunity for a new generation.

"It'll be preserved for future generations to appreciate I hope," Penhale said.


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