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A Montana Pioneer Story by Fred Lockley Jr. [Lockley's sister was Mrs. A. J. Gibson] He grubstaked famous J. L. McClellan

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Sons of Montana Pioneers Meet in Eugene, Oregon

By Fred Lockley

(Mr. Lockley is the son of Professor Fred Lockley, former teacher in Butte schools and later editor of the Intermountain. Fred Lockley Jr., who was a Y. M. C. A. secretary during the World war and who has the distinction of having “kissed the blarney stone without having any one to hold his feet,” is and has been for about 30 years, a feature writer for the Oregon Journal at Portland.)

“My father and his two partners grubstaked John L. McClellan, who on this grubstake discovered the famous McClellan gulch, near Helena,” said Thornton J. Robinson of 1227 Onyx street, Eugene. “Within six weeks of staking his claim father took out over $40,000. He packed his gold dust on some mules, hired five men as guards and started for the mint at San Francisco. They struck heavy snow on the summit of the Bitterroot mountains, were snowed in and had to eat two of the mules. After several weeks they made their way to the new mining camp at Lewiston. Father turned in his gold to the San Francisco mint, received something over $40,000 for it, and invested $25,000 in cattle, knowing that if he could get them to the Idaho gold mines he could double his money. He started with over 600 beef steers, headed north, and when he and his herders and the herd got into the Klamath country the Modocs swooped down and ran off every steer. Father brought suit against the government, but the attorneys contended that the Modocs were in a state of war and therefore the government was not responsible.

“One result of father’s trip to San Francisco was meeting Veronica Fortune, who came to San Francisco from Liverpool with her uncle, a sea captain. They were married in 1866, when she was 19. After the loss of father’s cattle, father and mother went to visit father’s people at his old home in Ohio. Father still had about $30,000 left after losing what he had invested in the cattle. Father and mother, after their visit in Ohio, came West again and settled at Silver City, Idaho.

Idaho Gold Rush

In the summer of 1863 rich silver-bearing ledges were discovered in streams flowing into Jordan creek, and soon there was a rush of prospectors to the Owyhee country. This ore assayed around $7,000 to a ton in silver and about $800 in gold. Booneville was the first town laid out on Jordan creek. Shortly thereafter, Ruby City was founded. The lumber, whipsawed from nearby timber, brought $400 a thousand. In December, 1863, Silver City was laid out. The town of Bannack, Idaho, was renamed Idaho City in the spring of 1864. It then had a population of about 6,000.

“My oldest brother was born at Silver City in 1867. Father stayed in and around Silver City until gold was discovered in the Black Hills, in 1876, when he pulled out for the new gold diggings.

“Father had many a narrow escape while mining in California in 1849, trapping and mining from 1858 to 1864 in Alaska, when Alaska was still owned by Russia, and in Indian fights and in other mixups. His most terrifying experience happened when he was mining on the Cariboo, in British Columbia. He started for Williams creek, a branch of the Frazier river. He was told of a shortcut – an old Indian trail that had formerly been used and would save a good many miles of travel. He came to a stream crossed by a swaying suspension bridge made by the Indians. Poles had been lashed together with rawhides, and short limbs had been placed at intervals across the bridge and lashed to the poles with rawhide. The bridge was about 125 feet long and apparently had not been used for some time. Father sized it up and believed it would hold his weight. The water, a considerable distance below the bridge, was running like a mill-race, and shortly below the bridge there were rapids. As father started across, one of the buckskin strands holding the poles together broke. The bridge sagged and seemed about to part. Father fell to his knees, and as a cold sweat broke out on him he began “cooning” across the bridge. His nerves were so shaken that when he had got across he lay down for an hour, trembling. For years after that, he would wake up in terror, for whenever he had a nightmare he dreamed he was crossing the bridge and was falling into the white water far below.”

Pioneer article by Fred Lockley appeared in Butte Standard May 22, 1938 p 44

Fred Lockley Jr. was the brother of Mrs. A. J. Gibson of Missoula.

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Last Updated on Friday, 30 June 2017 21:14