Challenge is a part of Darlington Heritage

Challenges . . Wayne Darlington loved them!

By Juvanne Ciezie about 1985,
published in the Arco Advertiser, June 3rd and 10th, 1999

The mining engineer, politician, and businessman followed those challenges to China, Mexico, the Far West, Alaska and the rural community in Idaho which was named after him. Brought up in the heart of Philadelphia during the Civil War, Darlington graduated from Schofield School at Yale University in 1883 and went on to do his post graduate work at the Royal Mining Academy in Frieburg, Germany. In 1889, he became a mining engineer to the Emperor of China and Viceroy Li Hung Chang.

He returned to work for the I Gugenheim brothers at Pueblo, CoIorado as an engineer. Later the Gugenheims sent him to examine reported mining activities in the Carolinas and Georgia. In Charlotte, North Carolina, while pumping out the old Catherine mine under the city, He met Elizabeth Nicholson, one of nine children of cotton plantation owner Albert Nicholson of Edgefield, South Carolina. They were married on the plantation March 3, 1896. Later, while living at the Gladstone Hotel in Philadelphia and shortly after the birth of their son Stephen, he was approached by Clarence Mackay, son of John Mackay of 'Comstock Lode" fame. Mackay asked Darlington to come to Idaho and become general manager of the White Knob Copper Company in the Lost River Valley.

Darlington accepted Mackay's offer and in 1897 the family stopped in Blackfoot, Idaho to purchase a spring wagon and horses to take them to the of mining town of Houston on the Big Lost River. The Darlington family lived in Houston until a 16-room log house I could be built on Antelope about 10 miles down river from Houston. That same year (1897) Darlington purchased the water rights for his ranch and became good friends with neighbor James R. Hanrahan, a buffalo hunter who had squatted on the land along the river below Antelope in Darlington became postmaster in 1898 and moved the post office from Antelope to his ranch, changing the name to the Darlington Post Office, Dec. 6, 1902. The Darlington ranch house became a familiar stop for anyone traveling the old wagon road which turned at Darlington west over the summit to Houston.

By 1900, it became apparent that the Oregon Shortline Railroad would build its Salmon Branch several miles north of Houston. At the request of his company, Darlington helped lay out a townsite at the end of the track, naming the new city "Mackay" in honor of his friend Clarence Mackay who had originally persuaded him to come to Idaho. The advent of the railroad led to the demise of Houston. Soon everyone was buying lots in Mackay, and many of the old Houston buildings were moved to the new boomtown. Mackay was incorporated October 14, 1901. The first city council, appointed by County Commissioners, included Wayne Darlington as chairman or Mayor, John P. Evans, George W. Collins, George M. Barlow and Nathan Clark. A smelter was built above the city across the river and the White Knob Mining Company took over the Empire Mine, with Clarence Mackay as one of the principal owners. Darlington plunged into his work, both as manager of the mining company and as Mackay's mayor. A water system was installed by the Idaho Development Co. and the railroad built a culvert on the smelter spur to carry surface water to the village for a water supply.

Hoping to attract eastern concerns, the mining company constructed a three-story Victorian mansion to entertain mining investors. Things seemed to be going well. But after five and a half years, Darlington was keenly aware the White Knob Mining Company was losing money because cop-per had fallen from its previous price of 16-17 cents a pound, and ore was not cheap to come by. The copper company was controlled by John W. Mackay and a Mr. Matthews, president of Ketchum Mining and Smelter ~ Company. Mackay died in 1902 in London leaving control to Matthews but who also died that same year. Matthews was succeeded by his son, who had a difficult time understanding why the profits were disappearing.

When a Mr. Boyd, vice-president of the company, arrived in Mackay to assume control of the company's affairs, Darlington, who had been trying to maintain the mining operation after the death of the company owners, and every official under him, resigned. The mass resignation of officers, in addition to a miners' strike, halted mining operations and construction of therailroad from the mine to the smelting plant.

Shortly after his resignation, Darlington was asked by Idaho Governor John Morrison to become the first state engineer of Idaho to work out some system of measurement for irrigation systems. However in 1904 he relinquished his office to his assistant, James Stephenson, to accept the general management of the BagdadChase Mining Company, a large concern near Los Angeles.

But Darlington did not care for big city living and returned to the Idaho ranch in 1907. After settling his family back at the ranch house, he went to New York City on business, where Buffalo Bill (William F. Cody) was playing in his Wild West Show in Madison Square Garden. Buffalo Bill contacted Darlington, asking if he would travel to a Cody, Wyoming ranch to check for valuable ore deposits. At the ranch Darlingion was loaned Buffalo Bill's horse to ride and, since it was cold, his beaded buckskin jacket. Darlington returned to New York to inform Buffalo Bill that no workable ore deposits were discovered. Cody smiled when Darlington told of the loaned horse and jacket. Later, when Darlington returned to his own ranch, he found two new horses, one for him and one for his wife Elizabeth, and that beaded buckskin jacket, with a note: "Many thanks", Buffalo Bill (Williarn F.Cody).

To comply with the 1894 Carey Act regulating homestead farmland, Darlington and Hanrahan built the Darlington (Houston) ditch, which stretched 12 miles along the foothills of Houston, and the Hanrahan Ditch, which ran for five miles parallel to the north fork of Antelope creek. These ditches opened the door to further settlements. Darlington and Hanrahan instigated the Antelope Valley Land and Stock Company which raised pigs and fowls. The Antelope Trading Company, begun in 1906, was responsible for a store and creamery and operated in the valley as late as 1923.

June 1, 1910 the Board of Trustees at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington recommended Darlington be elected Dean of the Engineering School. He served in advisory capacity, but wasn't a resident.

After visiting relatives in South Carolina, the Darlington's sought a warmer climate. So October1910, Wayne, Elizabeth, and their eight children boarded a train for the southern state where they purchased a 5000 acre plantation.

Little remains at Darlington. The farmland is still rich, originally made so by the efforts of Darlington and Hanrahan, The 16 room log house, once a haven for many weary travelers, burned in 1950. All that remains is the large trees, a reminder of the family that planted them 87 years ago and of the man who was not afraid to meet challenges.

For more about this and other historical subjects contact the South Custer Historical 5ociety. They'd love to hear from you. -
The South Custer County Historical Society Museum is located at, Mackay, Idaho.

They even have the old printing press of " The Mackay Mine" newspaper. Exhibits include lots of interesting items. Like a horse hair coat - I was told that if a cowboy like his horse a lot, when it died he would have it skinned and made into a coat. The coat I saw looked very nice.


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