A Town Recycled
And Its Masterful Mover
By Kitty Campbell Widner
Photos Courtesy of Kitty Campbell Widner
In 1944, when I was a college student in my home state of Louisiana, several hundred sailors were stationed on campus for Navy pre-flight training. Among them was an Idahoan named Warren Campbell, who had survived the sinking by the enemy of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lexington. He spent six hours in the water before being rescued. I was an impressionable seventeen-year-old and he was a twenty-two-year-old war hero who swept me off my feet. We were married at my parents’ home and then lived in Virginia, Missouri, and California. When World War II ended, we returned to his hometown of McCall, where our first objective was to find a house.
Warren’s uncle, Scott Withers, was working at Stibnite, about sixty-one miles from McCall and eleven miles north of Yellow Pine, helping to close down the mining operations. During the war, tungsten and antimony, which were needed for making landing decks for aircraft carriers, were mined there [see “Stibnite—Spotlight” by F.A. Loomis, IDAHO magazine, January 2015]. These essential elements were very rare, and because of the great need for them, the government pumped millions of dollars into Stibnite, whose population grew to one thousand. Carpenters were sent in to build large buildings, along with 126 houses. They built a school, a hospital, a service station, a recreation hall with a gym, bowling alley, beauty salon, and barber shop, as well as numerous mining facilities and ofﬁces. It’s hard to imagine all this being done over a dirt road that was snowed in most of the winter—although at the time, planes flew in daily, weather permitting, to bring mail and supplies. Stibnite had an airport with hangers and cargo ramps. The mine began to cease operations at the war’s end in 1945, and by 1952, the Bradley Mining Company of San Francisco finally closed the open-pit antimony mine and the people left, abandoning all the buildings and a two-million-dollar smelter.