Jeremiah “Jerry” Morton was late to the California Gulch. By the time he arrived in 1880, the largest lodes were played out or had been bought up by the large mining outfits. Nonetheless, Jerry’s knowledge of geology came through for him, and he struck a small vein of gold a couple of weeks’ ride outside of Leadville, CO. The location was rocky, and getting the ore out was a few years of hard work. By the time his claim was played out however, Jerry had a tidy grubstake accumulated, and he had learned a thing or two along the way. Most importantly, he’d noticed that while miners struck it rich or struck out, the businesses supplying them always did a brisk trade, no matter what.
So, when Ghost Rock was discovered near Brimstone, NM, Jerry pulled up stakes and headed southeast. Starting with a plot of land and a large tent, Morton was soon able to buy a little more land and build Morton’s Mercantile. While O’Hara’s specializes in general and dry goods, as well as serving as the post office, Morton focused on hardware: drills, picks, shovels, tools, pumps, surveying equipment, blasting supplies, mining lanterns, and the like. While he does carry some clothing, his selection skews to tough work shirts, heavy canvas trousers, Levi Strauss’ new riveted denim waist overalls, and heavy, waterproofed work boots for mine work. He also carries a small selection of firearms of various common types, and offers some repair and gunsmithing services. The most surprising items in his stock are the birds. Jerry started with canaries sold as sentinel animals to warn miners of toxic gases, but as Brimstone boomed and more families and wealth started funneling into town, he discovered a market for songbirds as pets, and now has a small selection of cockatiels, budgies, finches, doves, and, of course, canaries. Jerry himself has become fond of birds, and customers are often greeted by Blue Ricky, a hyacinth macaw Jerry bought on a trip back east. Although gentle and affectionate, particularly towards Jerry, Ricky is a little over 3 feet from tail tip to the top of his head, with a wingspan of about 17”, and a beak designed to crack open hard nuts and seeds, so his sudden, loud “Hi there!” has startled more than a few unsuspecting customers.
Out back of the store, about 50 yards away, is Morton’s magazine where Jerry stores dynamite, blasting powder and caps, fuse, and most anything else that could potentially blow up or burn down his store. The magazine was dug out under ground and lined with bricks, keeping the explosives stored there cool and dry in all weather. The magazine is secured with a steel door that was originally mounted on a bank vault, complete with both a key and combination lock, both of which must be used to open it. Furthermore, Jerry installed a wrought iron gate at the bottom of the stairs leading underground, which is also kept locked. When a customer needs some of these supplies, Jerry will go out to the magazine and fetch the order himself. The only other person he allows to have magazine access is his 13-year-old son, Jeremy, and that’s only if carting up an order is a two-man job.