William A. Clark was one of the most powerful and wealthiest of the famous Butte Copper Kings of Montana.
He migrated to Butte in 1863, to take in the excitement of the fledgling mining industry there. He opened banks in Deer Lodge and Butte and purchased The Original, The Gambetta, and the Mountain Chief Mines. Becoming more involved with mining, he headed for Columbia School of Mines to study assaying and other mining techniques. Within a year, he was back in the middle of the mining turmoil and built Butte’s first smelter, stamp mill, water system, electric light company and the electric railway company. He controlled a number of newspapers in Montana and Utah and had great sugar plantations in California. His many mines had made him a multi-millionaire, and he began expanding his holdings into Arizona.
A few years after James Douglass told the Phelps Dodge Corporation that the Jerome, Arizona copper deposit was too remote to ever be profitable, Clark developed the United Verde Mine there, eventually making over $60 million from it. He built homes for the miners, and soon Jerome had everything, including fourteen saloons -- but no water, and so a water-hauling contract was granted to the Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa!
Clark built the only railroad in the United States to be built by one man - no corporate funds were used - now a part of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Needing a place to service his trains, he purchased a large ranch in Nevada, subdivided it and populated it with his employees. It’s now known as the City of Las Vegas in Clark County!
In 1901, he began a term as U.S. Senator from Montana, but his flamboyant career reinforced the public’s image of him as a “wild western mining man” and he was not reelected. William Clark helped bring Montana and Arizona copper into world prominence and, after the turn of the century, he was designated as “one of the 100 men who ruled America.” The Copper King Mansion in Butte, built in 1884, stands today as a proud monument to the Copper King who created an empire and helped forge Montana’s mighty mining legacy.