The Mill Fire in McGill – 1922

By Keith Gibson

It had been a typical warm and windy McGill day on that fateful July 9, 1922.   Most McGill folks were at the Sunday dinner table when the fire whistle at the power house started blaring at  6 p.m.. There were huge clouds of smoke pouring out of the mill.  Men from all over town were rushing to the scene to help.  The Ely fire department had men heading to the fire in the large autos of the United Taxi Co. and the Star Auto Service.

The fire quickly raged out of control and the 9 acre mill site was in shambles by 7:30.  It was reported that the trees and shrubs on the nearby hillside were also in flames.

It was a disaster for the town and the copper company.  The company had just resumed production in April, at being shut down since March of 1921, due to the post WWI depression.  Copper had fallen to 12 cents a pound and demand was nil.

The company engineers had a battle plan for re-building ready to go 2 days later and the new materials were on site by August 12th.  Kansas City Steel Corp. was contracted to do the construction.  They were able to salvage about 50% of the super structure, all of the heavy machines and a large bin of crushed ore that could be smelted.  September 16 saw the first copper bars poured and it was also found that a large stockpile of high grade ore could be utilized by direct smelting.  December production was over one million pounds and January rose to over 2 million pounds.

The new mill also incorporated the newest milling techniques using the full floatation system.  The new mill stood as a monument to the genius of the American engineers, the American workers and the free enterprise system.  Those that had the money to rebuild did not hesitate.  Another great factor was the absence of “ gubberment” interference and regulations to delay the process.

The information in this article was gleaned from newspaper accounts, Russell Elliott’s fine books on the copper companies.  Also, from a large brochure made by the Kansas City Steel Co, showing the salvage cleanup and  re-building of the mill.  My Dad, Earl “Bud” Gibson had saved the copy that I have.

Keith Gibson is the Author of “McGill History of Baseball,” “McGill, NV Memories Mine and Other’s from 1935-1955”, “Making America’s Copper, and God’s Gold – A Lifelong Search”. . Keith was born December 10, 1935 at home in McGill Nevada.

He attended McGill Grade School K-8th, White Pine High School-1950-1954, and received a B.S. Degree at University of Utah in 1960.  Served with the U.S. Army-Fort Ord, CA. Fort Sam Houston, Texas. His inspiration for his books came from his daughters Alicia and Tamena.