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 Krotki Iron Mines     

The Krotki Iron mines in Marysvale, Utah, were opened and developed by a Jewish immigrant from Poland named Max Krotki; this is his story.

Max arrived in the US in 1888, following in the footsteps of his brother Saul, who had arrived before him in 1881. Max (born June 30, 1868) and Saul (born March 20, 1860) were the sons of Maria Cohn and Moyzesz Aron Krotki who lived in the town of Golub-Dobrzyn, a German-speaking settlement in central Poland. Both men, in their 30s, began a new life at the western terminus of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad – part of a small group of early Jewish settlers in Utah. They first set up a mercantile business in the town of Richfield, Sevier County, about 30 miles north of Marysvale.

The Richfield Mercantile Company, managed by Saul Krotki, boasted in regular advertisements in the Richfield newspaper, "We are the only Strictly CASH store in Sevier County. We Credit Nobody and Undersell EVERYBODY. Our Store is Crowded with the Choicest of Seasonable Goods for Men Women and Children." This ad, in bold white fonts on a black background, ran in every issue of the newspaper for many years.

Some years later Yetta (née Yetchen Cohn, was born in 1880; they married in 1899), Saul's wife, would recall, "There was an older uncle who had come first. He was interested in lode gold mining and was possibly knowledgeable from early experience in Germany. He mined successfully in the Marysvale district and returned to Poland before 1900. He may have been a mentor to Max and Saul.

Max Krotki, apparently self-taught in mineralogy and mining, became a key figure in the early 1900s mining community of Marysvale, Piute County, Utah. His best known mining effort, Krotki Iron mines, was but one of numerous productive claims that he operated.

By 1900, Max Krotki, Saul Krotki, Fred Tilton, Hyrum Weymouth and Levi Bartholomew were operating the Copper Belt mine, seven miles west of Marysvale. The mine was equipped with a steam hoist which had the sinking capacity of 500 feet. The Utah Mining Review reported, "The Copper Belt is regarded as a winner by those familiar with its merits and future possibilities."

The Copper Handbook for the year 1902 reported on the Copper Belt Mining Company, Piute County, Utah. Excerpts: "Employs 10 men. Organized 1901, under laws of Utah with capitalization of $1,000,000. Saul Krotki, president, Max Krotki, treasurer. Comprised 45 unpatented claims on an area of 900 acres, with 20-acre mill-site. Four fissure veins with average width 8'. Four shafts; deepest 400'; and tunnels of 125', 150', 500'; with 1,633' of underground openings."

Max expanded the family mercantile business, adding a store in Marysvale and also one in Kimberly, the gold mining Wild West town which had originally been settled in 1890, at high elevation in the Tushar Mountains. The initial gold rush phase in Kimberly lasted until only 1910 when new mine management forced miners to accept payment in "scrip" redeemable only at the company store. Miners resigned in disgust, and the town collapsed.

We will see that Max, who soon settled in a small apartment in Marysvale, was as adroit at selling mining property as he was at selling overcoats and shovels!

The geology in the Marysvale mining district was itself something of a prospector's dream. Vertical, fault-filling hydrothermal plume deposits of varying mineralogy ringed a 23-million-year-old stock of quartz monzonite known as the Central Intrusive. Another 18 million-year-old stock was located just south of the Central Intrusive in the Antelope Range; it contained uranium and molybdenum vein deposits peripheral to the stock. These fracture-filling veins were generally located at the crest of ridges at 10,000 to 11,000 feet altitude, 4000 feet about the railroad in Marysvale!

The exact date when Max first staked his claim on the Krotki Iron mine deposit is unknown, but in 1905 the United States Mining Company (known for mining activities in Bingham, Utah), purchased a half interest in the Krotki Iron mines, and negotiated further to take complete control of the mine with payments to Max Krotki that were contingent on the value of future production. The iron ore was expected to produce the highest quality flux for use in the company's smelter.

The hematite/limonite "iron hat" gossan that Max leased to the US Mining Company represented only a section of the Krotki Iron mines. With the US Mining Company focusing on the flux material, Max mined adjacent claims and continued to use the name Krotki Iron mines. What particularly caught Max's attention was alunite, a pink vein rock long known to local prospectors, but not yet considered to be economically significant. Most of the prospecting up until this time concentrated only on the meager metal values found in the siliceous wall rock of the alunite veins, and not the alunite itself. Samples were sent to the US Geological Survey in 1911 and analyzed by Waldemar T. Schaller, who confirmed a high-alumina alunite of unusual purity and value.

US Geological Survey Bulletin 511 on Alunite (by Butler and Gale, 1912) refers to the Krotki Iron vein as an example of an outcrop vein of alunized rock that stands up prominently, locally known as a "geyser." There were widespread, valuable alunite deposits waiting to be mined. In 1912, the Florence Company mapped open cuts along one alunite vein, which it traced for more than 5000 feet with individual parallel fissures up to 20 feet across. Prospectors soon located new deposits entirely independent of the original discoveries.

Saul closed the Richfield Mercantile Company and move his business ventures to Salt Lake City, where he raise four children with his wife, Yetta. Their youngest son, Carl Krotki, was born in Salt Lake City in 1914. He was six years old when his father passed away in 1921. Yetta subsequently moved her four children to New York City where her mother and sister lived.

Max remained in Marysvale. He continued his mining and prospecting and, at the same time, managed his Marysvale "Cash Store." Max was also active in town affairs, and in 1914 joined in signing to petition the county of Piute to incorporate the town of Marysvale. In 1918, Max sold his Marysvale Cash Store to devote all of his time to his extensive mining interests. At this time he staked claims north of the Central Intrusive in the Yellow Jacket Cell, west in the Big Rock Candy Cell, and south and east in the White Hills Cell.

In 1921, The Industrial Potash Corporation with capitalization of $30,000,000 took a lease with option to purchase given by Max Krotki for fourteen of his claims known as the Close-In Group in the Ohio and Mount Baldy mining districts in Piute County, Utah. It was their purpose to mine and prepare phosphate and nitrate deposits for the manufacture of fertilizer. The American Fertilizer Hand Book (1921), reported that The Utah Potash Company was operating a deposit of alunitized rock (formerly known as the Krotki Iron mine) west of Twin Peaks in the Marysvale region, and that it had developed a more economical method of recovering alunite as a source of potash salts.

Once again, new leases and sales would not inhibit Max from working his other claims. He continues to ship profitable loads of alunite. His sales of mining properties and shipments of alunite continued well into the 1940s.

The Cal-U-Nite Corporation leased, with option to buy, Max's White Hills claims, Close-In Mining Claims 1-12 and Blackbird Claims. As long as he lived, Max shipped ore from claims that he mined and managed on his own terms.

According to Professor F. W. Christiansen, the renowned professor emeritus of Geology at the University of Utah, Max was a highly knowledgeable mineralogist and economic geologist. Professor Christiansen, though 40 years younger, often visited with Max. He commented, "Max was an intrepid exploring geologist. He would ride horseback 40 miles a day! Max was highly respected. Miners and geologists counted on his advice."

Saul's son Carl Krotki, after being discharged from the US Navy in 1944, visited Max in Utah with his wife, Shirley. Max never left Utah nor visited family in New York City; he never married, and had no children. Though regarded as a recluse by certain members of his New York family, he nevertheless corresponded clearly, sensitively, and informatively.

In a letter dated November 18, 1946, Max wrote, "I really had a very busy summer. A lot of men were here looking for something in mining and I had my share of showing around. And now winter had set in and the mountains are covered with snow. I have received a number of orders for Alunite. Have shipped several carloads to California and have a number of orders to fill. And it looks like I will have plenty to do as long as the weather will permit to mine and bring it down to the railroad track. Metal mining has become almost prohibitive on account of a lot of useless government regulations."

Marysvale was above an elevation of 5800 feet. Productive claims were often at 11,000 feet, making some months of winter prospecting and mining impossible.

Max passed away on September 15, 1953. He was 85 years old. Near the end of his life, trustees were appointed to administer Max's estate. Payments were being made to Max long after his death for numerous leases and sales, mostly in the Mount Baldy and Ohio mining districts, and additionally the Close-In and the White Hills Mining Claims. Cal-U-Nite Corporation, for example was making monthly $100 payments for many years after Max's death.

Carl Krotki initiated efforts to consolidate Max's assets and settle his estate. Lists of mining claims, contingent expenses and legal fees were reviewed. Letters went back and forth between Carl and the trustees in Richfield, Utah. Finally, on December 15, 1967, Carl received notice of the proceedings of the Probate Division of the District Court of Sevier County, Utah: "The Estate of Max Krotki has ultimately been closed after an extended period of fourteen years or more, comprising during this lapse of time, a multiplicity of proceedings which have been complicated, involved and complex in their varying aspects. I feel that you will be pleased to know that this protracted and perhaps vexatious matter has been laid to rest by decree of Court, approving the Petition for Final Distribution."

And so it was that after all this time, Max was still running a profit! In was in 1967 that each heir at law, Carl Krotki and his two sisters (one brother having passed away), would each receive the net amount of $300.56! The Krotki Iron mines had come to its end!

by Saul Krotki (Seattle, 2015)
grandson of Saul Krotki (1860-1921)
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
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The Mineralogical Record -  Krotki Iron Mines Saul Krotki (1860-1921), Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1919 with his son Carl Krotki (1914-2002).
The Mineralogical Record -  Krotki Iron Mines
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