Rossi case: Rossi’s mine holdings, wealth, and networks of contacts

Rossi Post 8.1:  More mind-numbing detail from me I’m afraid.  Sorry!

— See Roster of Rossi posts


Amazon-Dixie Mine, Sildex, Montana, 1923 (PHOTO CREDIT: Barnard-Stockbridge Collection, Special Collections & Archive, University of Idaho Library)

Not the least interesting – nor the least revealing – section in Hull’s change-of-venue motion leveled the charge that Herman J. Rossi was so thoroughly enmeshed in the area’s mining business that the full scope of his relationships with persons associated with mining would augur against the possibility of a fair trial for the prosecution.  The defense’s response to this charge – as it was framed particularly by Rossi himself and lead defense attorney Walter H. Hanson – would reveal an unexpected aspect of Herman J. Rossi’s business and financial circumstances.  The defendant’s relationships to local mining properties, Rossi’s side would argue, were less than they might appear to be — and so too was the influence Rossi might wield because of his mining involvements.  This less-than-it-appears reality sprang from different sources.  In some cases, mines Rossi was associated with had gone fallow and were receiving little attention from their owners.  In other cases, Rossi’s actual share in a mining property was vanishingly small or nearly so or nonexistent.  And in still other cases, so few men were associated with a mining operation that the impact on the jury pool would be negligible.

There was also a deeper implication harbored in the exchange between attorneys over Rossi’s mine holdings.  Hull’s dredging of Rossi’s elaborate network of mine properties had revealed, once Rossi’s rebuttal was heard, that the defendant commanded considerably less power, influence, and wealth from his mining portfolio than many might have imagined.  Rossi, it turned out, was not so well off as Hull, or for that matter, the wider community had thought.  Indeed, in due course, and in relation to a separate issue Walter H. Hanson raised in rebuttal of Hull’s change of venue motion, it would emerge that Herman J. Rossi was actually in serious financial trouble, even close to possible bankruptcy and ruin.

One byproduct of the two camps’ debate over mine holdings was that it left behind, in the surviving record of the trial, a kind of economic geography of a segment of the mining industry in Rossi’s time – particularly in relation to smaller mining ventures.  The picture it suggested was one of gross disparity in the region’s mining business.  A few enterprises were large, richly productive, and had created great wealth for those involved.  Yet, beyond the few, “the happy few,” lay an economic hinterland comprised of numerous small, struggling, barely solvent, or moribund mining projects.  Hull had identified “at least” 26 mining properties in which Rossi “was either an officer or director.”  At first sight, it was an impressive portfolio.  But Rossi’s rebuttal would argue, in effect, that virtually all his holdings were drawn from this second, have-not pool.

Hull’s motion’s list merits reproducing here in full (I’ve added numbers in bold and bolded the properties’ names, below):

The defendant was at the time of said killing secretary, treasurer and director of the [1] Amazon-Dixie Mining Company; president and director of the [2] Atlantic Mining Company; director of the [3] Ambergria Mining Company; manager of the [4] Basin Mining Company; treasurer and director of the [5] Blue Wing Mining Company; secretary, treasurer and director of the [6] Bobbie Anderson Group; president and director of the [7] Butte & Kelly Mines Co.; secretary, treasurer and director of the [8] C. & R. Mining Co.; director of the [9] Coeur d’Alene Exploration Company; president and director of the [10] Douglas Mining Company; president and director of the [11] Iron King Mining Company, Ltd.; president and director of the [12] East Caledonia Mines Company; director of the [13] Kill Buck Mining Company, Ltd.; secretary, treasurer and director of the [14] Leslie Copper & Gold Mining Co.; co-owner of the [15] Liberty Group; secretary, treasurer and director of the [16] Little Butte Mining Company; secretary, treasurer and director of the [17] Lombardy Mining Company; president and director of the [18] Le Roy Mining Company; president and director of the [19] Mammoth Mining Company; president and director of the [20] Rainbow Mining Company; treasurer and director of the [21] Red Cloud Mining Company; secretary, treasurer and director of the [22] Rex Mining Company; co-owner of the [23] Silver Reef Group; secretary treasurer and director of the [24] Sunset Banner Mining Company; director of the [25] Trapper Mining Company, Ltd., and director of the [26] Wallace Mining, Milling & Realty Group.

It was indubitably an impressive list.  Among other things – and at a minimum – it showed that Hull and the prosecution team had done their homework.

Hull concluded his argument in relation to Rossi’s mine holding as follows:

Many of the men associated with the defendant in the management of the above corporations, are general managers or in other positions of controlling influence with mining companies operating large mines in said county and employing large numbers of men, many of whom must necessarily be called to act as jurors on the trial of this case.  Affiant is informed that many of the business associates  of the defendant are actively engaged in creating and attempting to create sentiment in the county favorable to the defendant, and thereby secure his acquittal.


Mammoth mine, Mace, Idaho, 1912 — but does this photo, identified thus, undercut Rossi’s claim that the Mammoth Mining Company operated in Montana, not Idaho?  (PHOTO CREDIT: Barnard-Stockbridge Collection, Special Collections & Archive, University of Idaho Library)

Hull’s concluding assertion, that many of the Rossi’s associates across these 26 mining properties were also connected with “large mines in said county” suggests of course that Hull was at least aware that many, most, or even all of the properties on his list were small potatoes.

For his part, Herman J. Rossi spared no ink – in his rebuttal affidavit – emphasizing this very point.  Rossi offered additional counterarguments as well.  He addressed Hull’s 26 holding item by item:  Property [1], Rossi noted, was a Montana corporation, not an Idaho company; properties [2], [5], and [6] did assessment work only; it wasn’t true, wrote Rossi, that he was a director of [3]; nor that he was a manager of [4], in which property he had no interest at all;  he was only “nominally” interested in [7], which in any case had no employees and did no work, wrote Rossi; [8] had only two men in its employ and [9], to his knowledge, had none; Rossi, said he, had nothing whatsoever to do with [10]; [11], [14], [16], [20], [23], and [24] had no employees, [12] had only four; Rossi was not, to the best of his knowledge, a director of [13]; his interest in [15] didn’t exceed $100; [17], over which he had no control, was up for sale and employed only two or three men; it wasn’t true he was president and director of [18], which in any case had no employees; [19] owned claims in Montana, 200 miles eastward of the state line, Rossi added for good measure; [21] had no employees and had been dormant for 15 years; Rossi had nothing to do with [22]; [25] employed no one and did no work on its property; and, finally, regarding [26], Rossi did not know if he was a director but, and in any case, it employed only about two men.  Rossi noted, in addition, that he was not true that his mining associations linked him to the owners and managers of the area’s large mines and, as well, that he believed “absolutely untrue” that his business associates were trying to deflect community sentiment in his favor.  In Rossi’s hands, in short, all the seeming and potential wealth and influence that might have dwelled in prosecutor Hull’s impressive roster of the defendant’s mine holdings evaporated like morning mist.

Walter H. Hanson, in his own rebuttal affidavit, echoed and buttressed Rossi’s dismissive analysis of these mine holdings.  Hanson wrote that he was “personally acquainted” with the status of most of the mining companies on Hull’s list.  “…[P]ractically all of them,” he observed, “are companies owning undeveloped mining claims in a prospective stage of development, employing very few, if any men, and seldom doing anything but assessment work[.]”  Hanson would reveal still more about the troubled condition of his client’s finances and wealth in response to another issue raised by the possibility of a venue change.  But that additional unhappy information will be examined in a future post.  Soon.

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