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Yaak couple seeks old mill preservation

| June 2, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Grizz Markley claims he's sitting on a gold mine rich in historical significance.

On his 9.3 acres on Yaak River Road near Sylvanite, Markley owns a former ball mill operated in the 1950s and '60s. From what he's heard, it was used for crushing gold, silver, copper and zinc mined in the area.

Markley would like to see it preserved as an historic site. All the equipment and machinery used to operate the mill 13 miles north of Route 2 remains.

"It's amazing," Markley said. "It's still all there. You could hook a generator up and it would still run."

So far, he has not found a government or non-profit agency interested in funding the project, which he estimates would cost about $250,000.

"It's going to either get fixed or torn down," said Markley, who with his wife, Sheila, also co-own the Golden Nugget restaurant and bar on the same property across from the mill.

"I want to try and save it for western Montana," he said.

Kate Hampton with the state Historical Preservation Office in Helena noted the Markleys should attempt to get the mill listed with the National Registry of Historic Places. Hampton advises applicants on that process.

"We need to know why it's significant and why it's important," she said.

Her office also can provide technical assistance for the physical preservation of a building, but not the money.

"There are a few grant programs out there," Hampton said.

A 20 percent federal tax credit also is available to anyone who restores an historic structure for commercial use.

The ball mill once belonged to Haywire Mining and Milling Co. Haywire in 1947 sold it to Morning Glory Mines. J.H. McNally in 1952 purchased it from Morning Glory. J.H. Stevenson purchased it in 1957 and sold it to Orma Thom in 1971.

The Markleys in 2003 moved to the Yaak from Fairbanks, Alaska, and bought a home near the Golden Nugget. In September 2004, they purchased the closed bar.

"We bought a house across the river with no ideas of buying the bar," said Sheila Markley. "We didn't know it was for sale."

"I was in the bar business years ago," Grizz Markley said.

Grizz Markley, 60, understands the ball mill "is part of the last of the Sylvanite Mining District."

"It's a very big part of Lincoln County history and all I want to do is restore it and make it available for self-guided tours," said Markley, a retired union operating engineer raised in Glasgow. "My hope is to save it for the betterment of Lincoln County. That's a part of history."