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As It Was: Lonely Oregon Miner Writes to Brother Back East

In 1857, Franklin Mowry was 27 years old, mining for gold on Jackson Creek near Jacksonville, Ore.  In a letter to his brother Silas in Pennsylvania, Mowry described the mining life Out West.

Living alone in a rustic cabin, Mowry maintained friendly relations with nearby neighbors.  He described one neighbor, named Gardner, as “a good natured and funy [funny] old fellow.” One day Gardner came running over to show Mowry a gold nugget worth more than $100. Mowry called him a “lucky old fellow.”

Mowry mentioned prospecting with an old Dutchman, possibly the same one present-day Dutchman Peak is named after.  Mowry carefully explained the advantages of water power, or sluicing, to separate gold from dirt.

He wrote, “One man can remove more dirt in this maner [manner] in one day (if the dirt aint [ain’t] to [too] clayyi [clay-ee] than ten men can in one week with pick and shovel.” He estimated that he and the old Dutchman could each make $1,000 that winter.

Signing his letter -- “Nomore [no more] for the preasant [present], Your Der [dear] Brother Franklin,” -- Mowry promised he would soon send him “a little specimen of the Oregon gold.”  
 

Source: Mowry, Franklin S. Copy of a letter written by a gold prospector to his brother in Pennsylvania. Nov. 7, 1857,
 pp.1-3.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.