You can’t go there anymore.
The place where people once grew big gardens and shopped at the local mercantile, where neighbors visited over the fence, exists now only in the memory of those who lived there.
More than 50 years have passed since the mining location between McKinley and Gilbert called Elcor — so named for the Elba and Corsica mines — disappeared from the landscape. It began as Elba in 1897 and ended as Elcor in 1956.
“By edict of the mining company, 35 families were forced out of the townsite, and Elcor died a sudden death,’’ it was written in a history of the community for a 1982 reunion. “The land on which the people lived was reclaimed by the mining company, and in the process a ghost town was made out of a thriving community. Not one house remains. Grass has grown long over the streets. The sidewalks are heaved and cracked. Tall trees shade the streets that no one takes care of anymore.’’
Years later Inland Steel would mine the land, and now even the lilacs that thrived long after the families moved away are gone.
The Elba Mine had opened following the discovery of an enormous body of ore by Merritt test pit crews. The Corsica mine opened a few years later.
Finnish pioneers sunk the first mining shaft at the Elba, and later immigrants from the Slavic and Balkan countries moved there. The ore was loaded from the Elba stockpile and pushed by hand to be deposited in a wooden ore car. When Pickands Mather & Company came in, a second shaft was sunk by steam. Work hours were long underground, up to 12 hours.
The Corsica underground began operations in 1901. Sawmills were set up and tall pines were cut to make boards for the building of more homes. In the center of town was the community pump from which people would draw water. “There was no shut-off valve, so usually everyone would have to get busy with buckets, tubs and barrels so that there would be enough water to tide over. During the winter the ice buildup around the open water spigot was like a slippery rink. Many families owned big dogs to help carry the water to the homes.’’
There were no stores in Elba until 1920 when a combination store and post office was built. Joseph Potocnik bought the Elcor Mercantile in 1928 from Anton I. Lopp. “We sold most everything at Elcor Merc,’’ Potocnik wrote in a story for the 1982 book. “Fresh meats, smoked meats, Joe Potocnik’s polish sausage, pork sausage, potato sausage and blood sausage. We sold groceries, flour, animals feeds such as middling, bran, scratch feeds, cracked and whole corn for chickens. We sold light and heavy hardware and appliances, jewelry, shoes, clothing and the most beautiful cloth yard goods one could wish for… We sold fuel oil for 9 cents per gallon. People came from afar to shop Elcor Merc.’’
The Corsica and Elba mines were the chief source of employment until 1925 when the Elba mine closed. The next year the Corsica was converted into an open pit mine “and the future of the town seemed secure once again.’’ With the start of World War II, the mining business boomed again. Elcor would lose four boys in the war — LeRoy Veralrud, Robert Brady, Lloyd Nicholas and Rudolph Indihar. By 1964 the Corisa was closed and the pit allowed to flood.
Elcor was home to — and this is not an all-inclusive list — the families of Frank Arko Jr., Paul Bajda, Matt Bergan, Frank Beton, Marko Biondich, Daniel Biondich, Frank Boitz, John Bombich, Joseph Bombich, Frank Butala,
John Egger, Joseph Faith, John Faith, Frank Ferkul, John Glatch, Anton Glatch, John Holmstrom, Frank Indihar, Paul Indihar, Joseph Kodunce, Alex Kosir, Hans Leiviska, Matt Mahovlich, Rudolph Marolt, Anton Mohar, Joseph Mohar, Frank Novlan,
John Omersa, Albert Pauletti, John Phillipich, John Potocnik, Peter Ruotsi, Paul Ruotsi, Florian Shuster, Martin Schuster, Michael Shuster, Eric Sandstrom, Harry Scholar, William Sedgeman, John Skule, Michael Sterk, John Torresani, William Thomas, John Tushar, Rocco Trunzo, Thomas Veralrud, John Veronick, Peter Yurkovich, John Zallar.
They had nicknames like Hammer and Shunka, Dotso and Cricket, Uncie and Beanie, Yonko and Zeetz.
Eventually there was no work to be had in Elcor, “but the quiet beauty of tree-lined streets and the general serenity of the place were more than ample reasons for commuting to work elsewhere,’’ it was written.
“Then in 1955 it happened. After the final closing of the Corsica Mine, Pickands Mather & Company announced it was reclaiming the land, and the people of Elcor would have to go. Their concept of America had been the quiet little town in which they had lived for most of their lives… Why did the company do it? No one in any official capacity would reveal what was to become of the land in the future…
“Elcor was no more.’’