The site of Helena, though the railway station is a mile from the heart of the town, was most happily chosen. It could not have been better had Cowan and his confreres foreseen the future size and importance of the camp they founded. The city faces toward the north. Behind it rise the mountains of the main range, the noble isolated peaks, bare, brown, and of every varying shape and size, forming a background of which one never tires. The old camp was gathered into the narrow quarters of the winding gulch, that extends from the mountains to the open valley of the Prickly-Pear. The present city has outgrown such limitations, and from the gulch, down which the leading business street runs, has spread over the confining hills, and today proudly looks out upon the broad valley and far beyond it, to the peaks that mark the course of the great Missouri. Directly overshadowing the city is Mount Helena. From it the view is broadest, grandest, most complete. At one's feet is the town of rapid growth. You can see the houses scattered at random over the low, bare elevations, and in the old ravine, the source of so much wealth, the scene of such strange stories, are the flat-roofed business blocks in which Helena takes such justifiable pride. It is no mere frontier town that you look upon. It is a city rather-a city compactly built, and evidently vigorous and growing. On its outskirts, crowning sightly eminences or clinging to the steep hill-sides, are the new houses of those upon whom fortune has smiled, and far out upon the levels are scattered groups of buildings that every day draw nearer toe the railway that has come from the outside word to lend Helena a helping hand.
Leaving the hotel in the very heart of the tow, and following Main Street to its upper end, wee find ourselves in the oldest part of the city. Nothing here is modern or suggestive of wealth. AT your side are rudely built log cabins, with gravel roofs and dingy windows. They are time-stained and weather-beaten now. Chickens scratch upon the roofs; half-fed dogs slink away at your approach. A chinaman has taken this for his home, and has hung his gaudy red sign of â€œWah Singâ€ over the low doorway; and in this live those who have failed to find in Helena their El Dorado, and now are reduced to living Heaven only knows how. But in years gone past, when the city was a camp, who scoffed at a cabin of logs? These huts were the homes of the future capitalists.
We pass once more into Main Street, and from it onto broadway, that climbs a steep hill-slope, and brings us to the government Assay Office. It is a plain two-storied brick building with stone trimmings, and occupies a little square by itself. Within, all is order and neatness. To the right of the main hall are the rooms where the miners' gold-dust and silver ore are melted and poured in molten streams from the red-hot crucibles. Bars and bricks of the precious metals are shown, and in the vaults they are stacked in glittering array. Every room has its interest. In one the accounts are kept by the assayer; in another are rows of delicate scales, in which the smallest particles of ore are weighed to determine the purity of the moulds packed away in the strongly guarded vaults.
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