Butte is a city that prides itself on its mining past. At the turn of the last century, she was notorious for being the quintessential definition of a Western boomtown. As the world moved from its agrarian past to embrace electricity, so too did their demand for copper. As the war effort roared during the 1910’s, so did an economy that boasted the cultural, commercial, and financial center of the Great West. As the American economy shifted once more in the second half of the last century, our prosperity and population slowly receded to our current glory. Now, we are a town that stands between a prideful past and the unknown future.
There was always something special about the people in Butte. They have a resilience that never dies. Not after bone-chilling winters, not after magnitudes of environmental disaster, not after distraught economic downfall; the people here held onto a pride that the harsh of the world can never tear away. They stayed with the determination and vigor to face the future, whatever it might be. The pride of the past resonates in the hearts of every resident. But the winds shift, and our city is thrust into an evolving world with an economy that dictates change.
Copper was the lifeblood that grew a small mining town to a national city. And it’s fall in prices also unwinded a prosperous metro of 100,000. The copper mines did more than just create wealth, they forged a local sentiment that stands distinct from the rest of the country. It brought people from diverse backgrounds to earn a living from the fruits of their labor, it forged a liberality that echoed the discontent of laborers, and it built grit that defines the resilience of our city.
In the second half of the last century, the boom faded, and so did the wealth and population of Butte. But despite, she survived. I heard a wise man say that “Butte only exists because people wants it to.” It’s that sentiment that keeps us going. Our pride never falters even in the coldest of winters.
Over the last few years, there has been a renaissance of innovation and culture in Butte. It wasn’t created by luck, but by men and women who refused to let our town die. Every single day, we hear of technological marvels that dot the offices of Main street, and every weekend, we explore the cultures of art that line the windows of Uptown.
This all started with a pride that stands resolute despite the difficulties of the world. But, the most important characteristic of our town is our heart. Butte is a place where people are generous beyond their means to care for the community we share. It’s a place where the colds of winter might shiver the skin, but it never touches the soul underneath. Despite the season, people will greet you with a smile and a genuine warmth in their voice.
This ethos spawned the seeds of the revival we see today. From across the country, people who stepped foot in this town fell in love with the identity of Butte. They didn’t move here for the economy like a century past; they moved here for the heart of this community. The stories of our innovators resonate across the country, and the arts of our city define a new culture for Montana. The nickname “The Richest Hill on Earth” isn’t a forgotten jest of our past, but a testament to our future.
The Berkeley Pit that entrenches this town is a constant reminder of our history. It’s a hole that’s in a purgatorial limbo of being filled, but filling the pit isn’t the solution. Despite what happens, that pit will always be besmirched. We will never find the exact thing to fill it, because it no longer exists. The earth has been dug, the water tainted, and the damage has left a resonate mark on our town. Instead, it is a prideful remembrance of our past, and its remediation will be an augury of Butte’s revitalization. The pit is a reminder that we have persevered, and we will establish the future enshrined in our ethos.
As the years go by, Butte will always be Butte, but a city isn’t defined by its past, it’s defined by the deeds of the present. We’ll never be as fancy as Missoula, as progressive as Bozeman, as lovely as Helena, as beautiful as Whitehall, as quaint as Livingston, or as resolute as Billings. Instead, we have grit and we have heart.
There are fancier, more progressive, lovelier, more beautiful, more quaint, and more resolute cities across our nation. But there is only one Butte. It’s our grit that keeps us going. It’s the heart that pumps even when the mind chooses to concede.
Butte is a historic town where the traditions of the past sew deeply into the fabric of our being. But despite the bone-chilling winters and economic downfall, our pride never falters. We are women and men who grew up on the difficulties of life, and the scars that remain is not a reminder of our past glory, it’s evidence that we have survived and we will continue to thrive.
It’s resilience that built Butte.