2017 Grand Marshal – Fred Mark


Fred Mark’s grandfather immigrated from Austria in the late 1890’s and settled in Butte, Montana.  Had he chosen Leadville Fred might have arrived here several decades sooner than he did.  Grandfather Mark was a skilled carpenter and had mined in Austria so he hired on as timberman in the East Calusa Mine.  He advanced to foreman and later managed exploration crews and made wise (lucky) investments in mining stocks.  He left mining and bought an irrigated farm in southern Idaho.  Even though they adopted farming, mining remained an important part of the Mark family lore.  During Fred’s early days growing up in eastern Washington, the family would often pass through the Coeur d’Alene Mining District of north Idaho where his uncle worked as a geologist.  This sparked Fred’s interest in geology and mining.

After graduating from the University of Idaho with a BS in Geology, Fred went to work for El Paso Mining and Milling Company, exploring for base metals in southeast Alaska.  His team worked from remote camps and used helicopters and boats to explore the coast from Ketchikan to Glacier Bay including Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Islands.  It was like a paid vacation.  They located a significant Moly deposit that remains undeveloped to this day.  

After Alaska, Fred moved to coal exploration and worked on projects throughout the Western U.S. including the Kapirowitz Plateau where he enjoyed another extended paid vacation.  Fred later advanced to mining operations as quality control engineer, laboratory manager, and plant general foreman at the Cordero Mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.  At that time, the mine was shipping 13,000,000 tons per year.  One of his favorite things (besides watching the trains leave the mine loaded with coal) was maintaining 10 miles of railroad track.  

After Cordero, Fred returned to Alaska to work for a Vancouver over-the-counter mining company that operated a placer gold mine at Tofty, Alaska.  His wife Sandra and their one month old son Trevor (aka “Mine Baby” who now also lives in Leadville) joined him at the remote camp.  A video of the operation plays in the Gold Room at the Gold room in National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum (NMHFM.)

Fred completed a full circle by ending his career with El Paso Exploration and Production, but this time in coalbed methane.  He was responsible for drilling and completing nearly 400 wells on the Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch.

Fred is finally retired, after working 37 years in the mineral and energy industries.  His time is split between Leadville and a small farm and vineyard on the Western slope.  He continues the legacy of mining and farming that began with his Mark ancestors.

Fred had been making trips to the Leadville area in the 1960s as a kid growing up in Littleton.  He purchased a house on the east side in Leadville in 2007.  His Austrian heritage should have required that he settle on the west side, but the views are better on the east side.  Living in Leadville has allowed Fred to pursue his interest in mining history and the views of the mining district right out his window provide inspiration.  He has spent the last 10 years studying the plethora of geologic publications and has developed a good understanding of mineralization processes that created the world class Leadville Mining District.  

Much of Fred’s volunteer work in Leadville has centered around a GIS database that he has assembled.  This GIS database began many years ago, when he was determined to locate the Little Pittsburg discovery shaft on Fryer Hill.  A map showing historical railroads, mines, and towns followed; the NMHFM sells copies of the map as source of fundraising.  Fred helped with the application for National Historic Designation of the Matchless Mine and Baby Does’ Cabin, and has continued his involvement with the Matchless by providing input and mapping for the new signs, and has created a video that displays a 3D image of the underground workings.  The video plays in the shaft house at the Matchless and may be viewed by clicking this link to the NMHFM website:   Matchless Mine.  Fred also made a Google map of the Matchless site that can be viewed from a link on the same page.

Fred has enjoyed several other projects at the museum, such as helping with the remodeling of the Assay Exhibit.  Recently, he has produced Google maps of winter motorized and non-motorized trails in the Leadville area and has been working with various Leadville trails and tourist organizations to explore further uses for his GIS database to produce Google Maps.  Examples of some of this work can be seen by clicking Route of the Silver Kings  Groomed Multi-Use Winter Trails

He has given countless presentations and field trips over the years, and is looking forward to his next library talk in July: “The Wolftone Mine and the Underground Banquet.”

Finally, Fred is a strong advocate for historic preservation, and endorses stabilization of the remaining historic structures in the mining district before they are lost forever.

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