Friday, April 30, 2010

Portneuf Canyon Stage Robbery

Portneuf Canyon Stage Robbery
and Charlie's Wells Fargo Badges about 1870

Story compiled by R. Michael Wilson

Before the railroad barreled through Idaho Territory, freight and stage lines provided transportation and movement of trade goods, as well as gold, along the routes leading from Montana to Utah.

In 1864, Ben Holladay expanded his stage line through Idaho, and though it provided a much needed service, the paths were fraught with danger. The Portneuf Road, leading from Virginia City, Montana to Pocatello, Idaho often carried gold from the rich Montana mines and soon became the target of thieves hiding out in the forested areas along the trail.

Such was the case on July 26, 1865.

Carefully planned, four outlaws met in a saloon in Boise City, Idaho during May, 1865. Leading the "gang” was a man named Brockie Jack who had recently broke out of a jail in Oregon and had been hiding out on a nearby ranch. The next main member of the group was Big Dave Updyke, who had been elected Ada  County Sheriff just a few months previous. Parading as a descent citizen, he was known to have consorted with known felons and was watched closely by the Payette Vigilance Committee. The third member was a man named Willy Whittmore, who was known for his quick temper and deadly aim. The fourth man was a little known player that went by the name of Fred Williams.

On May 31, 1865, the four outlaws left Boise City headed toward the Portneuf Stage Route in eastern Idaho, more than 200 miles away. Making camp at Ross Fork Creek near Fort Hall, the men worked out the details of the hold-up. Fred Williams was sent to Virginia City, Montana to gain information about the gold shipments. Once he was sure that the stage line would be carrying the precious cargo, he was to purchase a ticket and ride along as a passenger.

In the meantime, the other three bandits traveled south along the stage road, looking for the perfect place for the hold-up. A few miles south of present-day Pocatello, Idaho, the trio found a narrow canyon that was heavily timbered, rocky, and filled with brush. Determining that the location provided everything that was needed, the bandits began to work out the details of the robbery. They soon gathered a number of large boulders that would be utilized to block the stage road, hiding them out of sight until they were needed. Additionally, they decided that Willy Whittmore, armed with a new Henry repeating rifle, was to shoot the lead horses if the driver found a way around the roadblock.

With the details worked out, the three bandits returned to Ross Fork Creek to wait for their accomplice, Fred Williams. It would be nearly two weeks before they received any word.

On July 21, 1865, the stagecoach left Virginia City with seasoned driver, Charlie Parks, and seven passengers, including one calling himself Fred Williams.

Crossing the Ruby Mountains, the stage spent its first night at the Corral Station near present-day Dillon, Montana. For the next three days, the stagecoach traveled along the route, where the Union Pacific Railroad would later be built, to Pocatello.

On the fourth evening of their journey, the stagecoach stopped at the Sodhouse Station to overnight. After the passengers had completed their evening meal, Williams excused himself and headed toward the Ross Fork Camp. The other outlaws were ecstatic to hear the news that two large strongboxes, laden with gold, were being transported on the stage. After a celebratory drink or two of whiskey, Williams headed back. No one had even noticed he was gone.

On July 26, 1865, the coach set out once again. Around midday, it reached the stream near the place that the three outlaws were hidden in the brush. Slowing down to cross the water, the coach traveled through, went up the bank, and suddenly stopped. There, across the road were the boulders the bandits had placed to stop the coach. Suddenly, the outlaws appeared from their hiding places with guns raised.

From the coach, one of the passengers, a professional gambler named Sam Martin, poked his head out of the side door with a revolver in his hand. Aiming at Whittmore, he pulled the trigger and shot off Whittmore’s left index finger.

Enraged, Whittmore shouted, "It’s a trap!” and began to empty his rifle into the side of the stagecoach. In a desperate attempt to escape, Charlie Parks tried to break through the brush but Brockie Jack shot both of the lead horses and the stage stopped dead in its tracks.

Hit by some of the buckshot, the injured Parks scrambled down from the coach and made a mad dash towards the woods. In the meantime, Fred Williams, the outlaw accomplice, and James B. Brown, a Virginia City saloon-keeper, were also able to escape into the nearby timbers.

Finally, Brockie Jack grabbed the rifle out of Whittmore’s hands and the sounds of gunfire ceased. Cautiously, Jack approached the stagecoach while Whittmore and Updyke covered him. "Come out of there with your hands up,” he called, but was met only by silence. He then opened the door of the stage and shouted, "My God, they’re all dead.”

Inside were the five broken bodies of Sam Martin, the professional gambler who had shot Whittmore; Mr. and Mrs. Andy Ditmar, a Mormon couple who had been visiting relatives in Bannock, Montana; Jess Harper, an ex-Confederate soldier who was on his way to visit his parents in Sacramento, California; and a man named L. F. Carpenter, who was headed for San Francisco to catch a steamship to New Orleans. All were dead except Carpenter, who was injured and feigned his death in order to survive.

As the bandits began to loot the stagecoach and its dead passengers, accomplice Fred Williams staggered from the woods with a shattered arm from one of Whittmore’s deadly bullets. The three other outlaws barely noticed as they were too busy with their frenzied plundering.

Whittmore and Brockie Jack soon hauled the two heavy strongboxes from the stage and cracked the large iron locks with an ax. Inside were 15 heavy gold bars and two large pouches filled with gold dust and nuggets. Two more pounds of gold dust and nuggets were found in the passenger compartment. Pleased with their stolen cache, the four outlaws packed up and rode out of the canyon.

After they were out of sight, Charlie Parks, the stage driver, and James B. Brown, the Virginia City saloon-keeper, cautiously emerged from the timbers. Brown pulled the still breathing Carpenter from beneath the dead bodies and made him and the injured Parks as comfortable as possible inside the coach. He then cut the stage loose from the two dead horses and drove it to Miller Ranch Station.

As the survivors told their story, Parks recognized Brockie Jack and David Updyke, while James Brown positively identified Fred Williams and Willy Whittmore. The insurance company, in an attempt to reclaim its $86,000 loss, immediately offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the gold and the capture of the robbers. In the meantime, the ever active vigilance committee issued orders to hang the criminals once they were captured.

Willy Whittmore, the hot-tempered gunman who had killed all the passengers, was the first to be caught. While on a drinking binge in Arizona, he resisted arrest when lawmen tried to take him in and was subsequently shot. Just a week later, Fred Williams, was captured in Colorado and hanged by the local vigilance committee. Both men were nearly penniless when they were killed.

David Updyke was a different story. Having been duly elected as Ada County Sheriff in March, 1865, the vigilantes were more cautious and waited until the opportune time to punish him for his suspected wrongdoings. On September 28, 1865, the Payette River Vigilance Committee arrested him on a charge of defrauding the revenue and failing to arrest a hard case outlaw named West Jenkins.

However, Updyke made bail and knowing the reputation of the Vigilance Committee, he immediately left town, fleeing to Boise City where he had more influence. However, the citizens there too, were fed up with the criminal elements and began to form groups for the purpose cleaning up the county. By the next spring, Updyke feared for his own safety and accompanied by another outlaw by the name of John Dixon, the two departed Boise on the Rocky Bar Road on April 12, 1866. Unaware that a vigilante party was following them, the two overnighted at an abandoned cabin some thirty miles out of town.

During the night, the vigilantes captured the unsuspecting pair and lead them some ten miles farther down the road to Sirup Creek. The next morning as the vigilantes prepared to hang the men, they questioned Updyke about the whereabouts of the stolen cache. The crooked sheriff only glared at them in contempt, refusing to respond. The vigilantes then hanged both men under a shed between two vacant cabins. Updyke had only $50.00 on his person at the time of his death.

On April 14th, the bodies were found with a note pinned to Updyke's chest accusing him of being "an aider of murderers and thieves.” The next day an anonymous note appeared in Boise that further explained the committee’s actions. "Dave Updyke: Accessory after the fact to the Portneuf stage robbery, accessory and accomplice to the robbery of the stage near Boise City in 1864, chief conspirator in burning property on the overland stage line, guilty of aiding and assisting escape of West Jenkins, and the murderer of others while sheriff, and threatening the lives and property of an already outraged and long suffering community.”

As to the last outlaw -- Brockie Jack, he seemingly disappeared into oblivion.

There is no record of the gold bars as having ever been sold. This, coupled with the weight of the bars and the destitute state of the three men killed, has led to much speculation that the gold was buried somewhere near the site of the robbery. The gold, valued at $86,000 at the time of the theft, would now be worth about $1.6 million. The robbery site was in the canyons around the Portneuf River a few miles south of present-day Pocatello, Idaho.

Story from Wild West Tales R. Michael Wilson

Charles "Charlie" E. Parks (1841-1907) - In the early 1860's Parks was one of 80 Pony Express riders who served Utah , Nevada and California, where he was regarded as one of the most capable and faithful men of the western division. After the Pony Express came to an end, he worked for Wells-Fargo as a "shotgun messenger." In this capacity, it was his duty to guard the treasures that were contained in the iron boxes in the boot of the stagecoach. In his seat beside the driver, he carried his "sawed-off" weapon ever ready for use as encounters with road agents were plentiful in the early days of placer mining in California. Parks won undying fame as a defender of the trust over which he watched, carrying to his grave more than a score of bullet wounds. After Wells-Fargo he made his home in San Francisco where he was in the insurance and brokerage business. He was about 70 when he died in San Francisco on March 27, 1907.

Charlie was my great/great grandfather
Here's another mention of Charles Parks on Idaho Genealogy
The Stagecoach in Bannock County

Thursday, February 11, 2010

George Dow Bunker

GEORGE D. BUNKER is a young man of San Francisco. He is associated with the early history of Northwestern Alaska, and has been identified with mining interests of the Council District since 1897. He is the son of a pioneer business man of San Francisco, and was born in that city June 6, 1870. He attended the San Francisco public schools and subsequently Brewer's Academy, San Mateo. Mr. Bunker's grandfather was Cromwell Bunker, one of the first whalers to sail in Alaskan waters. The date of his whaling cruises was near seventy years ago. The family at that time resided in Nantucket. R. F. Bunker, father of the subject of this sketch, came to San Francisco in the early days of the Western metropolis, and engaged in the butcher business. In 1897 when Captain Libby was outfitting to go to Alaska George D. Bunker grub-staked Louis F. Melsing to accompany him. Captain Libby and Louis Melsing are both brothers-in-law of Mr. Bunker. The other members of this expedition were Harry L. Blake and A. P. Mordaunt. They were the original discoverers of gold in the Fish River country, and were prospecting in this region at the time the strike was made on Anvil Creek.

Mr. Bunker has been interested in mining in the Council District ever since the historical trip of his brothers-in-law. At one time he owned 106 mining claims in Seward Peninsula, but realizing the unwisdom of such extensive holdings in the new country, he concentrated his interests on Ophir Creek. During the past few years he has disposed of his interests in ten claims on this stream. He is now operating No. 3. above Discovery.

He was one of the first arrivals in the Nome country in the spring of 1899, being a passenger on the steamship Garonne. Mrs. Bunker accompanied him on this trip, and she was one of the first white women in Council City. Mr. Bunker has had a varied and interesting experience in the Northland. He has been with the country since the earliest days. In 1899 he set up and operated the first gasoline engine on Ophir Creek, which was probably the first engine of this character brought into the country.

Mr. Bunker was married December 18, 1890. Mrs. Bunker was formerly Miss Dora Melsing. The issue of this union is one girl, Alfarretta, twelve years old. Mr. Bunker is an energetic business man, genial companion, and a loyal friend.

Alfarretta was my grandmother

Council City - 1902

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sincock - Uren (U'ren) - 1770's - Illogan, Cornwall

Family is headed for California mid-1880's

Sincock family
Thomas SINCOCK (AFN: 1JP9-D88) Pedigree
Sex: M Family
Birth: Abt. 1779
Parents -
Spouse: Mary (AFN: 1JP9-D9G) Family
Mary (AFN: 1JP9-D9G) Pedigree
Sex: F Family
Birth: Abt. 1783
Parents -
Spouse: Thomas SINCOCK (AFN: 1JP9-D88) Family
Uren family
Stephen U'REN (AFN: 1JP9-D37) Pedigree
Sex: M Family
Birth: Abt. 1775
Parents -
Spouse: Ann (AFN: 1JP9-D4F) Family

Ann (AFN: 1JP9-D4F) Pedigree
Sex: F Family
Birth: Abt. 1779
Parents -
Spouse: Stephen U'REN (AFN: 1JP9-D37) Family

Married children on my side - headed for California
Bathsheba SINCOCK (AFN: 1JP9-DBN) Pedigree
Sex: F Family
Birth: 7 Jul 1805

Death: 8 Feb 1884
Illogan, Cornwall, England
Father: Thomas SINCOCK (AFN: 1JP9-D88) Family
Mother: Mary (AFN: 1JP9-D9G)
Spouse: William U'REN (AFN: 1JP9-D72) Family
Marriage: 23 Sep 1833
Illogan, Cornwall, England

William U'REN (AFN: 1JP9-D72) Pedigree
Sex: M Family
Birth: 18 Jan 1807
Father: Stephen U'REN (AFN: 1JP9-D37) Family
Mother: Ann (AFN: 1JP9-D4F)
Spouse: Bathsheba SINCOCK (AFN: 1JP9-DBN) Family
Marriage: 23 Sep 1833
Illogan, Cornwall, England

The Urens

91,,William Uren,Head,M,43,,Mining Smith,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,Bathsheba Uren,Wife,,,44,,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,William Uren,Son,,16,,Blacksmith,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,Simon Uren,Son,,15,,Mining Smith,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,Stephen Uren,Son,,13,,Mining Smith,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,Ann Uren,Dau,,,12,Scholar,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,Thomas S. Uren,Son,,10,,Tin Dresser,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,Joseph Uren,Son,,9,,Scholar,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,Phillip Uren,Son,,7,,Scholar,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,John Uren,Son,,5,,Scholar,Illogan Cornwall,,
,,Andrew Uren,Son,,2,,,Illogan Cornwall,,

Monday, February 1, 2010

Captain D. B. Libby in Alaska


Captain D. B. Libby first went to Alaska in 1866 and had charge of a part of the construction work of the Western Union Telegraph Company, which at that time was attempting to erect a telegraph line across Canada and Alaska to connect with a Siberian line by a cable across Bering Strait. Some of the old telegraph poles that were erected in 1866 and 1867 may still be seen in Seward Pen-insula. Captain Libby discovered gold on Ophir Creek in 1866, and always cherished a desire to go back to this country, but did not have an opportunity for its gratification until the dis-covery of gold in the Klondike country created greater interest than had hitherto been manifested in the Northland. He is a native of Maine, and was born February 3, 1844. He served as a soldier in the Union Army, and after the war went to Pike's Peak. While in Alaska in the employ of the Western Union Telegraph Company he had charge of a division of the line construction. He spent the winter in 1866 and 1867 in a camp on Grantley Harbor named Libbysville. After he returned from Alaska he was ticket agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, Fourth and Townsend Streets, San Francisco, for fifteen years. Failing health compelled him to resign this position, and he went to Mendocino County, California, where he fully recovered. His second journey to the Northland was made in 1897. He left San Francisco August 18, sailing on the steamer North Fork. He was accompanied by his brother-in-law, Louis Melsing, and by Harry L. Blake and A. P. Mordaunt. He spent two winters in the Fish River country. At the present time he is at the head of a prospecting expedition in the unknown and unexplored country of the Kuskokwim Valley.

Miss Louise Melsing, of San Francisco, and Captain Libby were married in 1882. They have two children, Daniel B., Jr., and Adeline E. The son is now a young man of eighteen years and an assayer. When he was fourteen years old he accompanied his father on a trip to Alaska.

Captain Libby is a prominent figure in the history of Northwestern Alaska. He has trodden many miles of the "toe-twisting tundra," and his work has been distinctively of the kind that falls to the lot of the pioneer explorer and prospector. The region he is now investigating is so far away from the direct and usual methods of communication that possibly a month or more would be required for him to send a message to the nearest postoffice or telegraph station. It is to men of this type that future generations will be indebted for a better knowledge of Alaska than we possess today. (Source: Nome & Seward Peninsula, History, Description, Biographies & Stories, by E. S. Harrison, Seattle, 1905; pages 202-203 - Submitted by Peggy Thompson)

Libby, Melsing, Kerner, Bunker, Parks Genealogy

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 Golden Gate Park

Family members identified from a family picture at the 1915 International Exposition at the Palace of Fine Arts - San Francisco

4th Row -- Gertrude Kerner / ? / ? / Al Shaden / Minerva Kerner / Louis Phillip Kerner / Harry Stephen Kerner

3rd Row -- Neil Uren / ? / Gertrude Uren / Aunt Grace Schaden / Louis Kerner / Aunt Nell Willianson / Harry Kerner / Dick Williamson

2nd Row -- Will Uren / Majorie Uren's mother / Great Grandfather Uren / Mrs Uren / Grandma Kerner / Grandpa Kerner

1st Row -- Boy / Janis Kerner / Marjorie Uren / ? / ? / Dorothea Williamson / Buster Kerner

San Francisco’s 1915 Pan American International Exposition to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal and to show the world it has recovered from the earthquake devastation.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Uren family from Cornwall to Sacramento

Stephen UREN was born in Cornwall Sept 10 1837, the son of William and Bathsheba (SINCOCK/LINCOCK) UREN. His father was a blacksmith and son Stephen followed the trade. William died Aug 15 1883 and Bathsheba died Feb8 1884. Both were buried in Illogan church yard, England.

Traveling on the steamer 'Constitution' to Aspinwall, he crossed the Isthmus, sailing on the steamer 'Golden Gate' to San Francisco, arriving there on Oct 15 1858. He then went to Sacramento and worked as a blacksmith at Folsom. He went to Virginia City and then returned to Sacramento.

He married on Sep 9 1865 in Sacramento to Miss Mary WELCH. She was born in Ireland Aug 12 1844 and had come to CA in May 1863. She died Mar 14 1917.
William Stephen b Jun 18 1866 Sacramento
Edward b Mar 31 1868
Mary (Minnie) Gertrude b Mar 22 1871; d 04/19/1945 Sacramento
Stephen J. b Aug 2 1873; died 05/03/1952 San Francisco
Walter b Dec 6 1876
Grace Ella b Nov 24 1879; died 04/20/1945 Sacramento
Nellie Maude b Mar 6 1882

William S. married Miss Anna McDONALD, native of Toronto Canada
Gertrude M. E. b Mar 30 1902 Sacramento
Marjorie b Oct 26 1909 San Francisco

Edward married in 1892 Miss Lulu CROMPTON
Nell b Aug 9 1893 Portland OR (reared in home of grandfather)
Ruth b Mar 20 1895 San Francisco

Mary Gertrude married Oct 25 1891 L. P. KERNER (b Apr 20 1865 San Francisco)
Harry S. b Sep 24 1892 San Francisco; died 5/26/1947 Solano County
LouisPhilip b Mar 3 1896 San Francisco; died 04/03/1945 San Diego
Gertrude Helen b Mar 28 1899 San Francisco
married William SWEIGERT
child: William SWEIGERT
Frances X. b Apr 6 1907 San Francisco

Stephen Joseph married Miss Annie Theresa BURKE (b Jul 29 1878 Sacramento)
Raymond Steven b Nov 9 1900 Sacramento
Cleta Mary b Feb 2 1902 Sacramento
William Donald b Mar 6 1912 Sacramento

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Born in California

This is probably a correction of the last post from someone that has studied the family a lot longer than I have. I don't know how well my mother knew her father or if he shared much of his life with her. I only remember Alpharetta's second husband so little talk of the Bunkers.

"But the census records say George was born in California and his father, Robert Fosdick Bunker, was in San Francisco by the 1860 census. Grandfather Cromwell was whaling out there in 1840 and thereafter so that is most likely why the family ended up in San Francisco. We will never know for sure unless we can find more records."

Great Register of San Francisco 1867
Bunker, Robert Fosdick Age 29 From Massachusetts is living at Jackson, n. Leavenworth June 11, 1866

Monday, January 25, 2010

George Bunker of the Bunkers

When your line of the family leans toward the 'black sheep' side it's easy to loose contact with the rest of the lineage. So it seems this happened with our side and George. George married Dorothea Melsing in 1872 and they had (issue) Alpharetta (my grandmother) in 1892 in San Francisco.

Note from my mother Nancy, daughter of Alpharetta

The family tree is interesting but we heard a different tale about the Bunker Family. As far I knew the family always lived on the east coast, well to do and George Bunker didn't adhere to the family traditions. So he was sent out to Menlo Park to a military school and continued to live in San Francisco.

Even though the Bunker Family Association knew about our side of the family their info was partially incomplete. Found them with Internet search on genealogy sites followed by an email. So I guess we will be sent a pedigree back to Roger Bunker, from about 1500 and a CD with much of the family history. Will be interesting to see how the other half has lived. Now how about all these other family names .....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Party on Third Street

The San Francisco Morning Call - October 31, 1890

Party on Third Street.

A very pleasant party was held at the Melsing residence on Third street on Wednesday last.

The evening was passed in the enjoyment of choice music. Professor MeKenzie rendered "Was It a Dream," and. for an encore, "I Was Dreaming." Miss. Elsie A. Duncan favored the company with the ballad, "The Song Which Reached My Heart," which she rendered with peculiar tenderness.

Then followed a duet by Mr. R. S. Duncan and Mrs. Jennie B. Alderton. The latter was in fine voice, and her friends were glad to welcome her back to the musical gatherings where she has been much missed of late. 'Take Back the Heart", by Mrs. Tyrell, "Love's Old Sweet Song", by Mrs. J. B. Alderton, a tenor solo by Mr. Gus Melsing, a trio in which Mrs. Jennie Alderton, Mr. Gus Melsing and Mr. Robert Duncan participated, selections on the piano from "II Trovatore", "Mikado" and. "La Travista" by Mr. Davidson, "The Galiants of England", "Loves Sorrow", "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep", "The Two Grenadiers", which Mr. Duncan rendered in his usual successful style, ended the musical entertainment, which was followed by dancing and refreshments. The ladies present all wore evening

Among the guests were: Mrs. Melsing, Mrs. Keppler, Miss Jessie C. Duncan, Miss Nettie Melsing, Miss Elsie Duncan, Miss Lizzie Melsing, Miss Alma Rivers, Miss Dora Melsing, Miss Emily Reid of San Leandro, Messrs. R. S. Duncan, G. Melsing, J. W. Geogan (Gagen), George Bunker, L. Melsing, Mr. Detlefsen, E. Sachs, L. Keppler, Professor McKenzie, F. Quiltey, H. C. Abel, George Richt, F. Curtis.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nome Diary - Alfaretta and George Bunker

A young girls adventures during the Alaskan gold stampede A tribute to a very strong minded woman -- my Grandmother

I scanned these pictures out of a magazine article my grandmother wrote for a retirement magazine back in the early 1980's. Sorry they won't get better

Alfaretta with her father George Bunker on the deck of the steamer taking them to Nome Alaska.

It was exciting getting into a big boat. I was told we were going near the top of the world where there were only snow. On the ship men played cards but my mother remained in the cabin most of the time suffering mal de mer. My father was supposed to watch me but he too played cards so I roamed about by myself.

I loved the olives they had at meals. One day I went to the kitchen to see if I could get a handful. I found a barrel of them but they were covered with so many cockroaches that I've never been able to eat an olive since.

The steamer Fortune Hunter traveling up the Fish River bound for Council City from Nome.

Reservations on the Fortune Hunter were hard to come by -- there were so many people waiting to go to the gold fields. I roamed around Nome. All there seemed to be were bars. There wasn't any underground sewage. We had to buy a ticket to use a toilet or take a bath.

Interior of the Bunker cabin at Ophir Creek.

We had a lovely cabin and mother made it very comfortable and pretty. However I loved the outdoors and spent most of my time roaming the countryside. The miners gave me a small white mule that I called 'Chiquita'. She just roamed loose around the camp and to catch her I had to coax her with grain.; but it was worth it once we went riding in the hills and visited the various claims along the river. My only rule was to be home by noon since that was the scheduled time to dynamite in the mines.

George Bunker and his crew working the Ophir Creek Claim number 3.

I felt sorry for my father and the men who worked the claim with him. It was a hard grueling life. They worked all season in those pits with their often cracked and festered hands. When winter set in most of the men would return to Nome with their hard-earned money and squander it saying 'goodbye' to all their hard work.

A reindeer herder, his family and the tent they called home.

I was fascinated by the Eskimos. They were happy and gentle. They lived in tents or small cabins made of driftwood. Their windows were made of seal gut. The Eskimos always had salmon drying on the racks outside. I would watch them shred the fish and dip it in seal oil and gulp it down. They would beckon me to join them for a feast. Ugh ... I could not swallow the concoction but tried to be polite.
Sparks Genealogy

Hero of Hundred Hold-Ups - Charlie Parks

Below is an article from the Salt Lake Herald. Our family had the original which I scanned (below) but was unable to read parts of it. I emailed the Herald and they had a micro-phish copy that they sent. Charlie Parks is my Great/Great grandfather Love the flowery descriptions of the time !!

Hero of Hundred Hold-Ups is Dead In San Francisco

Charlie Parks, Intrepid Pony Express of Pioneer days, Succumbs Remembered in Salt Lake.

Special to the Herald. (March 28, 1907)

San Francisco, March 27 -- One of the picturesque characters of the pioneer days of the west passed away today when Charles E. Parks died at his home, No. 1198 O'Farrell street in this city. In the early '60's Parks was a pony express rider in Utah, Nevada and California. For a time he rode into and out of Salt Lake City. Afterwards he became a member of Wells Fargo's corp of armed messengers. As such he engaged in numerous battles with road agents and was often grievously wounded. It is said that he bore more bullet scars on his body than any other man in California. He had made San Francisco his home for half a century and was engaged in the insurance and brokerage business. He was about 70 years of age. He was survived by a widow and four daughters, Mrs. R.S. Martin, Mrs. H.C. Rickard, Charlotte Parks and Mary Parks and one son, Walter S. Parks. He had amassed a comfortable fortune during his lifetime.

"Charlie" Parks was one of the 80 pony express riders who served Salt Lake City during the early 60's. Many of the old-time residents of this city recall the name well but as Parks was on the Salt Lake division only for a short time, he is not so well remembered as some of the other lightening mail carrying heroes of those days. Captain Thomas Dobson of Centerville says he recalls the fact that Parks was regarded as one of the most capable and faithful men of the western division.. Parks work was chiefly performed in Nevada and California, where he became famous for his daring courage and loyalty.

A Famous Mail Service

The death of Parks brings to mind the stirring times when the pony express was the swiftest of all things in these regions. The first of the riders to reach Salt Lake City arrived here on April 7, 1860: he carried mail four days old from Sacramento. The first mail from the east by pony express come on April 9: the service was inaugurated on April 3 simultaneously at Sacramento an St. Joseph. Between St. Joseph and Sacramento eighty riders were constantly on the road, forty going in one direction and forty in the other. The 1,900 miles were covered in eight days, or at the rate of 250 miles per day. The stage coaches covered the distance in from fifteen to sixteen days, making between 100 and 125 miles per day. The pony express service had 400 of the swiftest horses obtainable continuously at work.

Tribute to the Riders

Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) pays a deserved tribute to the pony express riders in his delightful work on western life and the scenes in the days of the pioneers. "Roughing It." He writes: "Think of that for perishable horse and human flesh to do. The pony rider was usually a little bit of a man brim full of spirit and endurance. No matter what time of day his watch came and not matter whether winter or summer, raining, snowing, hailing or sleeting, or whether his 'beat' was a level, straight road or a crazy trail over mountain crags and precise or whether it lead through peaceful regions or regions that swarmed with hostile Indians, he must be always ready to leap into the saddle and be off like the wind. There was no idling for a pony express rider on duty. He rode fifty miles without stopping, by daylight, moonlight, starlight, or through the blackness of darkness -- just as it happened. He rode a splendid horse that was born for a racer and fed and lodged like a gentleman: kept him at his utmost speed for ten miles, and then, as he came crashing up a station where stood two men holding fast a fresh, impatient steed, the transfer of the rider and the mail bag was made in the twinkling of an eye and away flew the eager pair were out of sight before the spectator could hardly get a ghost of a look.

No Unnecessary Weight

"Both the rider and the horse went 'flying light'. The riders dress was thin and fitted close: he wore a 'roundabout' and a skull cap and tucked his pantaloons into his boots like a race rider. He carried no arms -- he carried nothing that was not absolutely necessary, for even the postage on his literary freight was worth $5 a letter. He got but little frivolous correspondence to carry -- hi bag had mostly business letters in it. His horse was stripped of unnecessary weight too. He wore a little wafer of a racing saddle and no visible blanket. He wore light shoes or none at all. The little flat mail pockets strapped under the riders thighs would each hold about the bulk of a child's primer. There they held many and many an important business chapter and newspaper letter, but these were written on paper as airy and thin as gold leaf nearly and thus bulk and weight were economized.

Past Like the Wind

In another part of his description Mr. Clemens tells of the anxiety with which a stage coach full of people awaited the coming of the pony express rider. At the cry of "Here he comes" the writer says, every neck is stretched further and every eye strained wider. Away across the the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears against the sky and it is plain that it moves. Well I should think so, in a second or two it becomes a horse and a rider, rising and falling, rising and falling -- sweeping towards us nearer and nearer -- growing more and more distinct -- more and more sharply defined -- nearer and still nearer, and the flutter of hoofs comes faintly to the ear -- another instance and a whoop and hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the riders hand but no reply, and man and horse burst past our excited faces and go winging away in a belated fragment of a storm.

"So sudden is it all, and so like a flash of unreal fancy but for the flake of white foam left quivering and perishing on a mail sack after the vision had flashed by and disappeared, we might have doubted that we had seen any actual horse and man at all, maybe."

First News for Salt Lake

The first pony express rider from the east brought to Salt Lake City news of alarming and momentous import. He carried the announcement of the intended introduction in the federal senate of a bill removing the seat of government from this city and establishing it at Carson Valley; furthermore changing the name of the "Territory of Utah" to that of the "Territory of Nevada".

The pony express riders carried the rumor's of war and the internecine strife that followed. Their coming, it can be easily imagined, was eagerly awaited each day.

A Shotgun Messenger

Parks, after the abandonment of the pony express entered the employ of Wells-Fargo Express company in the capacity of a "shotgun messenger". It was the duty of these messengers to guard the treasures that were contained in the iron boxes in the boot of the coach, his seat beside the driver and his "sawed-off" weapon ever ready for use. In his encounters with road agents who abounded in the early days of placer mining in California, Parks won undying fame as a defender of the trust over which he watched. It is said that he carried to his grave more than a score of bullet wounds in token of the fact that he had done his duty well.

Sparks Genealogy

Starting a Sparks Genealogy Blog

Going public with my Genealogy is a new thing for me.  I got most of my info from my grandmother on one side and my dad on the other.  I made a little progress years ago but not really enough to continue the interest.  Lately I ran into a book on the Internet Archives that documents the ventures of a number of family members in the Alaska gold rush around 1900.   So, with a little more to go with I'll post what I've found and possibly run into others that can fill a few gaps or extend the history.

Most of the history is California and Alaska based except for the Parks family and a short stint with the Pony Express.   Enough of the opening and on to creating a few articles
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