Friday, August 19, 2011

The Buffalo Mine near Palmer Alaska

.......................All this says on the back is :"10-52 - Buffalo Mine" Standing in the back, first from left  is James R Stephens. .. In the front kneeling second from right  "Fred "
Jim Stephens :"My first camp washing
 of mine clothes." (Possibly at Jonesville?)
    The following quote is from a court case involving the Buffalo Mine:

"During World War II the United States Army seized Buffalo's coal mine near Palmer, Alaska and commenced making substantial physical changes in the property for the purpose of increasing production. Before the project was finished, the war ended and the army returned the property to Buffalo, but in an inoperable condition. Buffalo lacked money to complete the work and was unable to borrow it. All activity ceased and the mine became flooded."

"Fred & Marge, Buffalo Mine"
"Fred 1952"

   Buell A Nesbett and some other investors formed a company and planned on restoring the mine. They borrowed money and immediately began construction, repairing and refurbishing the mine using the borrowed money, but they had miscalculated and didn't have enough. They tried to borrow more, but the lending company refused. The company went under and could not pay its debts.

There was nothing written on the back, but this is Edna.
"Marge, Buffalo Mine, Near Palmer, AK"

   I think that the Stephens were working for the Buffalo mine during the time it was trying to reconstruct the mine, and then were laid off when It stopped construction. My evidence for the layoff is from the caption on the last picture, below.

  These pictures may have been taken on an excursion the women took up to the Buffalo Mine to see the men. It appears that the men were working, while the women were having fun.

 Jim Stephens: "Ben Hamsrick and myself, Buffalo Mine 10-52."
"Marge at Buffalo Mine, 1953"
Edna Poore (Stephens) 1953

The two pictures of Marge and Edna in the ore cart are a match, so I have dated the second one of Edna the same as the one of Marge which was dated on the back. Edna's picture had nothing written on the back. If they had a date I typed it under the picture.

"Edna Poore, Jim (the cook) Betty McDonald" Has Kodak date Nov 10, 1952

Has Kodak date, Oct 8, 1952

   These two color photos were not developed on the same date, but close. They appear to me to be pictures of the mine, but possibly the Jonesville mine. So I am assuming that Edna worked at one of the mines, and that she met Jim while working there.

"At foot of Bailey Hill, Palmer"

   These two black and white photos (above and below) appear to me to be at the same place.  The one below, of Jim and the 1951 mercury, were taken down the road of the one above.

   The one on the right has "Hillside cabins. Unprepossing view, isn't it?" written on the back, then the caption was written  that I typed under the picture.
"Herman stays next door to me. The neighbor's kid sneaked into the picture. 51 Mercury."

   I liked the 51 Mercury in this one, so I formatted it larger. It is actually the same size as the one of the cabins above, which is about the actual size of all of these black and white photo's.

Kodak date: Week of Dec 20, 1954
   Notice the siding on the cabins. It is like a roofing material, but actually looks like bricks. It came in rolls like rolled roofing. It could be nailed around a building to act as both siding and insulation. In Cutten, in Humboldt County California where I saw this material as a boy, sometimes there was nothing on the walls except this asphalt rolled siding. It also had small brown rocks embeded into it like roofing.

    The picture on the right of Jim and Edna has the following on the back typed by Jim Stephens which identifies the lay off time:

   "Winter of the first three months we were married, and    every day a holiday, as at the time I had just been laid off."

Just after the layoff Edna and James were married.

   I think the pictures tell that story, even dating the layoff and closing of the construction. It seems to fit with the dates of the court cases, which always are delayed.  At present I have little more information about the mine nor the Stephens except what is in the captions of the pictures.

   The Stephens lived the rest of their lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  1. Mining is insane! We went to a gold mine in Idaho yesterday and it is ridiculous to learn about the conditions. So cold, dark, dangerous, etc. I admire ANYONE dares to make a living out of that work!

  2. Just found your blog while I was on genforum, trying to do the same thing you are doing: identify mystery family photos. You are doing a great job! Best wishes as you track down your "Dapper Guy" and his family.

  3. I don't know if you read comments from posts written in 2011 but I just wanted to say thank you for posting these photos. My husband and I are life long Alaskans (though not aged enough to have witnessed 1953 - We are 28 years of age). This area around Sutton is our favorite place to camp and hike. It is fantastic to see it's history and to see the people who actually used some of the things that have been left behind. It is really one of the most spectacular places in the state but luckily (for us!) one of the less visited sites. Thanks for the great post! ~Amy

  4. Also, you have greatly inspired me to label all of my photos. I think I will make a big project of it this weekend!

  5. We live in Palmer, Alaska and Buffalo mine in about a ten minute drive from us. We got there frequently and often find Los pieces of mining equipment. When we go back this weekend I will think of Edna and the gang and wonder if they had as much fun there as we always do.