© 2023 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

As It Was: Lonely Gold Miners Advertise for Mail-Order Brides

In the early gold-mining days, prospectors had difficulty finding women to marry.  The men far outnumbered the available women, so casual dating was not an option. 
Living in tents on a mining claim, the lonely men sought mail-order brides, some miners even placing newspaper advertisements.

Take, for example, Mikle Wakeman.  He ordered a bride from his home state of Pennsylvania and attracted Sarah Catherine Evans of Philadelphia.  They were married in Jacksonville, Ore., on June 6, 1853. The wedding gown, black with small lavender leaves and a full skirt, is part of the present-day Southern Oregon Historical Society collection.

A newspaper ad in the Talent News, placed in 1892 by a young miner identified as “X,” sought a wife who, he said, “must not be over twenty, good looking and an orphan, as I don’t want any mother-in-law boss over me.”  It’s not known whether anyone responded to that.

Mail-order brides remain popular today, many linking the Far East to the West, and personal ads are as likely to be placed by women as men.  But it’s doubtful anyone today requests “a miner’s flapjack” or an “acorn pie” as like some prospectors did in the 1800s.

Source: Watson, Louise A. "Wanted: A Wife." Southern Oregon Heritage: The Magazine of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, vol. 3, no. 2, 1997, pp. 18-19.

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.