Fred Winterhoff and Jack Hood Seek Silver at Era

(In 1881 these two prospectors struck it rich. )

Editor's note: The Advertiser is beginning this week a series of articles, written by Reed Anderson of Arco who has for the past several years collected early data on the Lost River country. The articles are written in the first person, and should provide interesting reading to persons interested in the past history of this area.


    In 1877 Jack Hood held the distinction of driving the first wagon into what is now Butte County. He married Jane Kinney in 1887 at Era, Idaho. Jack went on to discover along with Fred Winteroff the famous Park & Elkhorn mines in 1881. He was an early promoter for the town of Era and was noted in the silver mining circles throughout the state as an authority on silver mining.

    Fred Winteroff came into what is now Butte County in 1881 with Hood. They shared together the roughness of mining. Winteroff eventually went on into Montana and struck it rich in the Anaconda area. He was noted in Montana for his conscientious attitude toward his fellow man and community, and pushed hard for its growth and development.


    Let's take a trip into another time in life here in the inter-mountain west. A trip to a small place called Era, Idaho Territory, the year is 1881.

    I first heard of this God forsaken country from a friend in Virginia City last night. Jack came up to me and sez "how about going to a new piece of country and dig, look, and maybe stay awhile?" "Jack," I sez, :where are you a thinkin of?" "Ever here of Leadville Idaho?" No, I repied. Jack went on to tell of the rich silver lead deposits being located there. It sure sounded good to me as I was down to my last can of beans. The next morning we kinda thought a little more of the new strokes at Leadville.

    Next thing I know we were all packed, half loaded and on our way to what I didn't know. Neither did Jack.

    If you don't think that was an awful trip across that dry, hot, lonesome Nevada desert, and especially on the back of a horse think again friend. We soon crossed into Idaho Territory near Goose Creek. I asked Jack "where to now?" He replied "Leadville."

    We then headed out across the Mindoka desert toward a mountain range in the distance, all the way we thought of making a BIG STRIKE. At a water hole we came cross some Indians camped for the duration of maybe two or three days. Although they were friendly and offered us use of the water hole.

    After leaving the water hole we came into some small town called Junction. One good thing they had at this stop was some whiskey. That night we cleaned ourselves up and went for more good liquor, when the stage from the south reined in. The next morning we bade the very hospitable Smith family good-bye. About seven that nite we came across a little creek and bedded down for the nite.

    Jack tol' me he wished we had stayed on at Junction a few more days. All that wore wrong with his was he kinda got soft on one gal, lonesome I guess, cuz I just didn't take the place of a woman an all.

     I heard Jack rattlin' around first thing in the morning. Damn his noisey hide anyways, don't he know I wanna sleep just a little more.  Damn, it's cold, I hollered. My johns must be a  gitting thin I tells Jack.  All he sez is ,  "jist git movin' around and you'll warm up." He was a gitten ready to build a fire when I hear him holler "we're rich! we're rich, Fred !"  I runs over to see what the hell he's talking about when I seen what he saw, SILVER! The  rocks  used last night to bank the fire had melted silver running our of em'.

    Soon as I seen this here melted silver all aroun' where the fir was, all I could do was jump, hoo-rah and run. It didn't take long for me to git warmed up that mornin' I soon damn well got dressed an' we were off to lookin for more. This sure looked like nice country to kinds settle in, the grass is about arm-pit high and jist as green as gall. Plenty of water, but best of all, is this mighty good-lookin' ore. Jack has located his claim together with mine. The first claim is called Park cause of it's our camp site. The other is called Elkhorn. I don't really know how all this here is gittin' to Jack but I thing he's purty well feelin' good about it all.

    Jack's fillin out his location notes, so's maybe I'd better git busy on mine, too."  

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