National Park Service
The superintendent’s house structure in the camp because it was built for the camp superintendent. The original superintendent at Blue Heron, Claud Markam, was only in place a brief time. Lemmie Wright is most remembered as the first Blue Heron superintendent, it was for him the house was built.
The last superintendent at Blue Heron "Cack" Slaven also lived here with his family. Slaven took over the running of the camp after a year’s halt in production some say was because of a company attempt to "break" the union. Others say it was because business was bad.
The camp superintendent held sway over the tipple boss, the foreman and all of the mining camp workers. Hiring and firing, promotions and better positions within the mines were the superintendent’s to decide. Even which house a miner’s family lived in was in the hands of the camp superintendent.
The basic changes in mining between the Lemmie Wright period and the Cack Slaven period were small. The mining operation gradually moved to an all "machine" operation from a hand loading operation, and some say Wright was best a supervising a hand operation and Slaven at working men with machines.
The lives of the superintendent’s families were different than those of other mining families. More luxury and more mobility were the rule. The superintendent’s house had the first telephone in camp and the first television at Blue Heron—with its antenna high on the mountain in a tree.
In general, both Slaven and Wright were remembered positively. Some said Lemmie Wright got his supervisor’s job because his brother John ran the entire Stearns mining operation, but jobs in the region were often gotten through family connection.
Lemmie Wright was the boss. Now he was the superintendent there at Mine 18. In 1900, Mr. Williams opened up a mine called William's Siding. Dad been a carpenter took in their to build a camp. That's how come me to get to work so early. Trapping, I called it trapping. I went to trapping. Nine years old and I trapped three years. I'd driven mules awhile. I laid track. I run a machine. I run a motor. I repaired. Then I went up on the river to 18, that new mine. I built me a six room house. I paid twenty-six dollars and tens cents month rent.
We had plenty food. We were better off than plenty people. I can remember my daddy going out and coming back with two fifty-pound cans of molasses. We had, this before I was married, chickens. We kept ducks at times. We had maybe a couple of cats all the time. We always had a dog. Of course, we kept a cow all the time. Dad was a good boss. Mom use to say he told us what to do.
To be a good superintendent of a hand-loading operation you had to be known as a very fair man. And Lemmie Wright had a reputation. If you do the dirty work this time; you'll get better work next time.
Now my two oldest brothers they would have liked to put him in a jug and put the lid on him a few times. But to me, he give me a lot of breaks.
A man is what you make him. If a man does something wrong and jump on him right in front of the crowd and ball him out; you've killed his spirit. Well if you wait, call him off to his self and say, "You made a mistake the other day." Well if he is a good human, he can see it.
They worked till 52'. They had labor trouble and closed all our mines down. They were down in almost two years.
Well they claimed it was coal sales.
They wanted to break the union. I reckon they thought I was a little too nice to the men.
After Mr. Wright left, Mr. Slaven was superintendent down there. He moved his family.
Well the first work I did was around saw mills. I was working them sawmills and driving teams. Oh I started out by helping my dad down in the tie woods. Oh I was about eleven years old and my brother-in-law was working in the mines up here at Stearns at a place they called Co-op. He got me a job hauling a machine. Then they made me machine boss. I kept that awhile. Then I went from that to assistant foreman. Then from assistant foreman to mine foreman. Then from mine foreman to Superintendent. Then from Superintendent to General Superintendent over all the mines.
Back there when Lemmie was running it I had a lot of hand-loading. I was a superintendent's daughter there was concrete steps that came up from the railroad tracks up into the yard area. It wasn't very much yard because there was so many rocks. We walked into a living room which I would say was 9' x 12'. To the right of the living room was a bedroom which I say was 9'x10'. You went on back towards the kitchen. There was another bedroom and a bathroom. The bathroom was to the right and the bedroom was to the left. There was only about four of them that had bathrooms. He got us a TV. We never had a TV before. We needed to have the antenna up on top of the mountain. It cost an awful lot of money for that time.
If we knew that house was coming empty. Why, we would go. They would give it to whoever they wanted to give it to. So, we would go and talk to the superintendent of the camp of the mines was who took care of that. If we could get there first and he liked us well enough, we got the house.
His wife had a lot to do with it too. If she liked you, you'd get the house.
I'd rather have one good old satisfied man than have a dozen dis-satisfied fellas
We had some of the best men there ever was in the world.
To continue your visit through the Blue Heron Mining Community, choose the next "ghost structure" you wish to visit.