The Lost Dutchman Mines

There have been at least three traditional books produced over the last sixty years which make some attempt to summarize the life of Kansas pioneer Thomas Lovewell.  By “traditional” I mean a physical volume which has required the sacrifice of a few trees, a book with tactile pages that can be dog-eared and marked up with notes scribbled in the margins with Flair pens.  The first of these, “The Wolf and Little Wolf” by Sherman Lee Pompey, was published in 1962.  

By that year, work must have been well underway on “The Lovewell Family,” although Gloria G. Lovewell’s tome of family history did not officially roll off the presses until 1979.  In 1995 regional historian Roy V. Alleman’s “The Bloody Saga of White Rock” hit bookstores and libraries in the central part of the country.  Alleman’s book, which is still in print, has probably introduced Thomas Lovewell’s story to more readers than any other source.  It also marked the first time Thomas did not have to share the stage with long lists of forebears and distant cousins, although he had been allowed to take the spotlight in Pompey’s book, which devotes the last ten pages of a 212-page manuscript to Thomas and his immediate family.

Pompey cited Ellen Morlan Warren’s 1933 pamphlet “White Rock Historical Sketches,” Winsor and Scarbrough’s 1878 “History of Jewell County,” and correspondence with Thomas’s granddaughter, Orel Elizabeth Poole, as his primary sources.  Reading Pompey’s manuscript of “The Wolf and Little Wolf” (available for downloading from can produce a prolonged tingle of deja vu.  Not only are the stories familiar, but the wording sometimes varies only slightly (if at all) between Wolf, Family, and Bloody Saga.

As far back as 1933 Ellen Morlan ended her sketch of “Tom” with news of his return from a fruitless trip to Alaska, noting that, “After that he was content to retire to the town that was named for him, the streets of which were named for his children.”

Pompey’s concluding section, written nearly thirty years later, also ends with the Alaskan adventure and a slightly reworded benediction, “After that he was content to live in the town that was named after him, and whose streets were named after his children.”

In fact, the chief distinction among the several books, pamphlets and newspaper articles generated by Thomas Lovewell’s adventures may be the fact that the word “Wyoming” did not enter the Lovewell lexicon until Gloria Lovewell added it in 1979.  Gloria’s father-in-law, Frank Lovewell, had accompanied his father on some of those treks to Wyoming and northern Colorado, and was no doubt present the day when a souvenir nugget glued to a workman’s tie-clip fell into a bucket of dirt, causing premature whoops of glee, which quickly died down after the owner recognized it.  

What “The Lovewell Family” and the subsequent “Bloody Saga of White Rock” both got wrong was the order of events.  Thomas’s trip to Alaska was not a culmination, but a starting point.  Yes, the old pioneer was all of 73 when he sailed to Cape Nome and Cape York, but he continued heading West on prospecting expeditions for another eight years, often traveling by covered wagon.  He had not been a “49’er” per se, but he did make his last trip to the gold fields 49 years after his first.

The particulars of those later visits have come to light over the last several months, through searches of newspaper archives, and on-site visits by Thomas Lovewell’s great-great-grandson Phil Thornton (who is also a grandson of family historian Orel Poole).  Phil, who’s not only making up for lost time but racing to find physical evidence before it disappears forever, returned home a few days ago from his latest visit to southeastern Wyoming.  He reports:

I have lost track now of how many claims I have found but pretty sure it is around 20 and all within a 15 miles radius.  They were taking this seriously and crawled all over those mountains. 


Rosefelt Mine

Phil’s previous visits to Laramie and the Hurley Mining District resulted in a number of blog posts last year, including one about the whimsical names the gang from Jewell County picked for their mining claims (see “The Bible, the Beatles & the Board of Trade”).  The subject of naming comes up again because Phil notes that some of the mines which were called “Rosefelt #2” or “Rosefelt #3” are referred to in a Proof-of-Labor document as “the Roosevelt mines.”  

In a blog entry called “A Brush With Greatness,” concerning Teddy Roosevelt’s tour of the West in 1903, I guessed that Thomas may have named a few of his mines to honor a Republican president whom he had glimpsed in person, but faltered when spelling out the names on a claim form.  After Phil reminded me about the son-in-law who was putting in such long hours working the mine, I realized that I was wrong. The name was a deliberate attempt at humor.

The joke was not entirely original.  A standard comic device in that era was the ersatz letter to the editor, supposedly written by a German immigrant to the folks back home, typified by the following sentence from a 1905 Washburn Review:

Presitent Rosefelt’s intermeditation iss needed here vonce alretty yet.

Yours Respectfuly, 

Hans Downs 

Roosevelt’s name lent itself to ethnic caricature.  Seeing the double “o’s” most Americans automatically pronounced the first syllable of the new president’s name as “ruse.”  Residents of German or Dutch enclaves would have said “rose.”  And as anyone who’s seen a single episode of “Hogan’s Heroes” knows, the German “v” often sounds more like “f,” especially when the actors are playing it for laughs.   

For Thomas, naming the “Rosefelt” mines may have been a playful jab directed at some of his neighbors, including the Heldts, Baums and Shulers, but perhaps especially his own in-laws, the VanMeters and Pooles. 

His mining partner in Wyoming, Walt Pool, was the son of Abraham and Calinda VanderPool of Kinderhook, New York, parents who had jointly agreed to whittle down the family name, while appending a final “e.”  Walt had married Thomas and Orel Jane Lovewell’s eldest child Josephine in 1885.  Thomas’s sons Stephen and Frank also married into a Dutch heritage, when they paired up with daughters of Adam and Elizabeth VanMeter, whose surname had been shortened from the Old World form, “Van Meteren.”

By the way, there is still some disagreement about Theodore Roosevelt’s preferred pronunciation of his name.  His youngest daughter Alice sometimes corrected people who used a long “o,” which, we know from audio recordings, is how Teddy's cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt actually said it.

Thanks to modern communications technology, we no longer have such problems pronouncing the names of politicians.  In fact, let’s all say it together - “Pete Buttigieg!”

Wyoming Mine Photo courtesy Phil Thornton   

© Dale Switzer 2023