|Butte, Sept. 28.The great drilling match between John Ahearn
of Colorado and William Page of Montana came off at the race track this afternoon in the presence of 1,000
people. It was a grand match, and although the result was unfortunate to the many anxious for the Butte
man, nevertheless it was a match worth seeing. Colorado had its best man up against the champion driller
of Montana, and only a slight accident gave Colorado the victory. Never was there greater excitement shown
in any match that ever took place in Butte. Most of those who went to the race track went there with gold in
their pockets to put up on one side or the other, and it was put up freely. Up town between $6,000 and
$7,000 had been put up and this amount was swelled at the track to a little more than $15,000, by the
time the men were ready for the contest.
On a strong platform built on the track in front of the grand stand had been set a huge rock, brought down
from Dublin gulch. It was an unusually hard rock, as the drillers discovered at the first blow. The game was
for each side to drill fifteen minutes and the man having the deepest hole at the end of that time should be
There was a great difference in the size and appearance of the two contestants. John Ahearn, of Colorado,
is 34 years old and weighs 175 pounds. He was born in Wisconsin and has worked most recently at the Iron
mine, Leadville. Page is a little man beside him, but for his size is well built and well knit and plucky clear to
the bone. He weighs 145 pounds, 30 less than his adversary, is 30 years old and was born in New Jersey.
He is employed at the Green Mountain mine of the Anaconda company.
At the first sight it would seem to the casual observer that Ahearn would have the best of the contest, being
so much stronger and heavier than his Montana adversary. But weight and strength go for little in a contest
of this kind. Wind, and the ability to hit a sharp, cutting blow are the chief qualities that make up a good
driller. Page and Ahearn have met before. Page winning in two wet hole and Ahearn in two dry hole
Ahearn named P. C. Reagan for his judge while Page chose Harry Hurley. Ahearn named Jerry Mullen for
final referee. "That is satisfactory to me," said Page, and so the matter was quickly arranged. M. F.
Mclnerney was named as time keeper for Ahearn and Joseph Laird for Page. Ahearn won the toss
and chose to drill first. Standing on the platform he pulled out a roll of bills and said: "Here's $100
says I win the match. Who wants it?" "I want it, Jack," said little Page, diving down into his pocket.
"All right said Ahern. I'll give you the preference. Here's another $100."
The other $100 was also taken as were several more until the roll of bills had disappeared.
"Now its win or walk home," exclaimed Ahearn, picking up the hammer.
It had been arranged that each man should use his own hammer. Ahern's weighed 7½ pounds,
while that of Page weighed 8 pounds.
Meanwhile the betting was going on very lively over in the stand, the Anaconda men standing by Page
with their dollars at every call. There was no flinching and every time a dollar was offered on the Colorado
man it found a taker. It was 4:22 when Ahearn lifted his hammer. His turner was Mike Ford his Leadville
partner, and it is safe to say that finer turning was never seen in Butte than this afternoon. Ford aided
his man greatly, being lively, quick and sure, losing no time at any point. The 15 drills were laid side by
side, easy to the grasp for a change at each minute. Jerry Mullin called each minute as it flew by, and
at the call, drills were changed.
Ahearn began striking left-handed and did most of his work in that position. His blows were strong and
powerful. They were also rapid and at the end of the first minute, 68 blows had been dealt the head of
the drill. The hole was beginning to grow. At the end of the second minute 67 blows had been delivered
with the second drill, Ahearn almost keeping up his gait. He was doing good work.
"Fifty dollars on Ahearn, yelled someone in the grand stand.
Page was watching his opponent's work. Quietly he slipped a roll of bills into P. H. Sidley's hand and Sidley
went out and covered the bet. The third minute passed, showing 50 strokes. The pace was a little slower,
but steady progress was making and the hole grew rapidly. In the fourth minute there was a delay in
changing drills, but only momentary; only a stroke or two was lost. At the fifth minute Ahearn changed
sides and struck right-handed. But at the next minute he changed back. In the sixth minute his stroke
was 60. In the seventh minute the stroke had fallen to 57. In the eighth minute the pace was the same.
In the ninth it was 58. In the tenth it had fallen to 52, the slowest he made. In the eleventh the stroke
was quickened to 56. In the twelfth it was 53. In this minute Ahearn made a misstroke and struck Ford's
hand. Ford never quavered, although his hand was bleeding. He never felt it. His heart was in the rock.
Ahearn changed sides and only lost a stroke or two by the miss.
In the fourteenth minute 55 was the gait. The fifteenth minute closed with a stroke of 50.
The hole was plugged up so no one could tell how deep it was. Friends of Ahearn thought
he had done well, but not as well as they had expected, and they knew it was to be a close
match. Page's friends were confident, Ahearn had made an average of 58 13-15 each minute,
and Page, it was known could keep above 60 all through.
Miles Finlan flourished a roll of bills and offered any part of $500 on Page. But the Ahearn men were
not anxious to bet now. There was a wait of three-quarters of an hour, while the platform was changed
to accommodate Page's smaller form. Page had a brand new set of drills that had just arrived from
Colorado. New drills are not usually considered us desirable as those that have been used, and tried,
as Ahearn's had been. The drills proved good ones, however.
It was the intention of Page to start off with a stroke of about 68, keep above 60 all through, and end by
making 70 in the fifteenth minute. It was 5:26 when he raised the hammer. At this time more money was
offered on Page, but was not taken. Tom O'Neill was Page's turner and proved a plucky and efficient
assistant, the one fatal accident being a miss that no one could avoid. In the first minute, Page made
66 strokes, one less than Ahearn made in the second minute. But he made up in the third minute, when
his average was 62. In the fourth he also hit 62 blows. In the fifth he had fallen to 60. In the sixth he struck
61 times, and in the seventh rose to 64. He was doing magnificently and shouts of encouragement came
from his friends. In the eighth he made 62. He then quickened his stroke, and in the ninth, tenth and
eleventh minutes he made 64 each. At that rate he was a sure winner. There were no signs of failing,
and it was clear that, barring accidents, he would keep the stroke and would win.
But the accident came. At the end of the eleventh minute the drill stuck in the hole
and refused to budge. The precious seconds flew by and a third of a minute elapsed before the drill
was out and another in its place. It was disheartening, but the plucky men stuck to their work. Owing
to the accident in the twelfth minute only 41 strokes were made, a falling off of 23. In the thirteenth
the stroke was 64, and in the fourteenth 62. At the end of the fourteenth drills were not changed for
the sake of gaining a stroke or two, and in the final minute 67 blows were struck.
The holes were then carefully measured and showed 14½ inches for Ahearn and 14 for Page.
Ahearn's friends were happy and cheered for their man. Page's friends felt worse over the accident
than they would have been over a defeat where there was no accident, for it left them convinced that
the champion man lives in Butte. The match was for $500 a side and the gate receipts, all of which went
to the winner. It was a great day for Colorado and they made the most of their victory. Page's average was
61 13-15 to the minute.