“You Know that Wyoming Will Be Your New Home"

Bless Phil Thornton.  He wrote recently to ask if I had turned up any new information about the Lovewell family’s outings in Lincoln Gulch and other mining sites in Wyoming in the early 1900’s.  His reminder led me to one of the best Christmas presents I can think of.

We don’t know if anything came of Thomas Lovewell’s lawsuit against Aaron Everest’s widow to reclaim deposits lost in that shady Courtland bank failure in 1893 (see “A Swindling Business”), but judging from his activities in Alaska and Wyoming after the turn of the century, the old pioneer was determined to regain his fortune the old-fashioned way.  He famously took a steamship from Seattle to the gold fields of Nome in the spring of 1900, returning to Kansas before autumn, announcing that he would pay Alaska a return visit the following year.  A news item indicating that he had traveled by wagon from Lovewell, Kansas, to his mining claim at Jelm, Wyoming, in 1907 was an eye-opener, one that led me to wonder whether this was the old man's usual mode of travel on those summer pilgrimages, or a one-time-only stunt.  After following up on Phil’s query, I now have some new answers.

On previous searches for historical issues of Wyoming papers, I’ve always come up empty.  Chroniciling America, my go-to online source for historical papers, doesn’t even list the Wyoming as a valid search term. 

However, last night I bumped into a wonderful state-sponsored website for combing Wyoming newspaper archives, one with a topnotch search engine.  I was delighted to find dozens of references to Lincoln Gulch, especially in mining periodicals, and scoured a few of them for news about visitors from Kansas.  On a whim, but with little hope of success, I did the obvious:  I typed the name “Thomas Lovewell” and hit return.  Turns out, there were a couple of Wyoming residents named “Lovewell" in those days, and bogus hits always turn up whenever the words “love” and “well” are situated close together on a page of newsprint.  However, half a dozen search results turned out to be bona fide sightings of, not just Thomas Lovewell, but his whole entourage from Jewell County.

The following mining claims in the Hurley district, near Lake creek, were filed today:

By Jennie Pool, the Last Chnce; by Walter Pool, the Lunetta; by Mrs. O. J. Lovewell, the Rosefelt No. 3; by Thomas Lovewell and others, the Lovewell and the Edna Lode; by Thomas Lovewell, the Rosefelt No. 2 and the Ora, and by Grant Lovewell and others, the Jewell. 

 ~Laramie Republican October 15, 1906

When Thomas Lovewell wasn’t prospecting or thinking up names for his mining claims, he apparently occupied his spare hours doing what he often did back home in Kansas - dropping by newspaper offices and chewing the fat with small-town editors.

Mine Prospector Visiting in City.

Thomas Lovewell, the mining prospector in the Fox creek district, who owns some valuable claims there, is in the city for a few days and was among the pleasant callers at this office this morning.

 ~Laramie Republican May 18, 1906

We can’t be sure just how “valuable” those claims ultimately turned out to be, but Thomas was occasionally able to shake some cash out of potential investors, including his son Stephen.

A one-third interest in the Kansas Lode Mining claim, in the Hurley Mining District was yesterday transferred from Thomas Lovewell to Stephen Lovewell and Clark Emery for $200.

~Laramie Weekly Boomerang September 3, 1903

As for whether Thomas actually made that planned second trip to Nome in 1901 - it seems doubtful that he would have gone to Alaska and Wyoming in the same year, and his name appears in the advertised letters list printed in the Laramie Boomerang on September 24, 1901.  At least someone writing a letter late that summer thought he was in the vicinity of Laramie at the time.  Another crucial item printed May 29, 1908, satisfied my curiosity about how often Thomas made that journey from north-central Kansas to Wyoming and back again by wagon.

Arrived from Kansas with Two-Horse Team

Thomas Lovewell of Lovewell, Kans., and his son arrived last night from Kansas and left today for their mining claims at the foot of Lake mountain, where they have been spending the summers for the past eight or nine years developing their excellent mining properties.  Mr. Lovewell is 82 years of age and has made most of his trips by wagon, but says his advancing years will make it necessary to make future trips by train, the Laramie Plains line furnishing transportation to within a much shorter distance of his mines.  The party left for the country this morning, having laid in some supplies here.

Place names listed in the various news items, Lake Mountain and Lake Creek, like the previously mentioned Lincoln Gulch and Jelm, are all in the region southwest of Laramie, at the edge of Medicine Bow National Forest.  If nothing else, Thomas and his companions enjoyed some spectacular scenery for six months of the year.  Wyoming was more than just a vacation destination for Lovewell - it became a second home where he spent nearly half a year every year for the better part of a decade.  For the record, I’ve seen no evidence thus far that he ever returned to Wyoming after turning 83 at the end of 1908.  

The revelation that he almost always traveled there by wagon cleared up one more mystery for me.  One of Thomas’s favorite stories about his return from California in 1865 concerned his narrow escape from being caught up in a massacre at a fort guarding the stagecoach stop he identified as the one at Gothenburg, Nebraska (see “The High Point of Mr. Lohnes”).  Since Gothenburg would not exist for more than a decade after the attack on Dan Smith’s Station, I always wondered how he could pinpoint where the fort had been.  It’s now clear that, since he drove a wagon past it some twelve or fourteen times, Thomas Lovewell had ample opportunity to pick out landmarks along the Platte that jogged his memory, even if the tale about the amount of blood spilled there in May of 1865 had been stretched a bit.

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com