THE JOHN H. GREGORY LEGEND
The Georgian who first discovered lode gold in Colorado.
The information on this page was provided by Patsy Bradbury
Shown above is an enhanced version of a recently discovered (June 2000) copy of a picture of John H. Gregory formerly unknown to the public. Click here to see the original and its source.
The Story of the Georgian Who Discovered the First Gold Lode in Colorado on May 6, 1859
The gold coin shown above was minted at the U.S. Mint in Dahlonega, Georgia in 1861
The above John H. Gregory signature comes from a Colorado deed. A handwriting expert believes it was written by the same person who wrote the note on the right in a Gregory family Bible which records the marriage in Georgia of John H. Gregory to Christina Payne.
Up until recently, the John H. Gregory who discovered the first lode gold in Colorado was a man of mystery. Said to be from Georgia, he disappeared from Colorado when the War Between the States began. An article published in Georgia many years ago in "The Georgia Historical Quarterly" claimed that he was a man who had lived in Dahlonega, Georgia. Because the owner of this site, Carole E. Scott, was convinced that this man was both too old to be the Colorado gold miner and had died prior to the discovery of lode gold in Colorado, she did some research that convinced her that a John H. Gregory of Cherokee County, Georgia, whose wife was Christina Payne, was the man who discovered the gold in Colorado. Because she published articles in two publications with very limited circulation making this claim--hoping someone with needed information would see them--in recent years she began hearing from members of a Gregory family that thought he was the Cherokee County man and that he was a member of their family. The article below provided her by Patsy Bradbury confirms that the Cherokee County John H. Gregory was indeed the Colorado gold miner. I am very grateful to the Gregory family for doing what I had given hope of ever doing: conclusively proving who John H. Gregory was. Thanks to them a quest that began with curiosity about some place names on a map of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado is finally ended!
The Scottish Southerner John H. Gregory was a man of destiny. Born the 27 of December 1820 to Griffin and Cynthia Gregory in Pendleton District South Carolina, John’s family moved to Cherokee County, Georgia in the early 1830s, just after the 1832 Gold Lottery in Cherokee County GA. They settled in the Wildcat and Sixes Districts which were the hottest gold mining districts in Cherokee County where many gold strikes were being made.
Gold was mined extensively at Blankets Creek, Sixes Creek and down on what’s called Gold Mine Branch. The same vein of gold deposits that runs through Dahlonega also runs right through Cherokee County, Georgia. The Dahlonega gold belt runs 150 miles southwest from Rabun county down through White, Lumpkin, Dawson, Cherokee, Bartow, Cobb, Paulding and Haralson Counties. It is said "That more gold was mined in Cherokee County Georgia than any part of the United States until the discovery of Gold in California in 1848".
By 1850, John H. Gregory owned a l,000 acre plantation on the Etowah River in Cherokee County, Georgia. He was married to Christina Payne, daughter of Lindsey and Susan Bennett Payne who lived on the plantation next to his. Other affluent neighbors that had plantations next to his were the Fields; Col. John B Brooke; Brewsters; Birdwell Hill; Robert Reese married to his sister Emily; William H. Gregory (his brother); Griffin Gregory (his father); and the Sixes Indian Tribe was down the Etowah River, almost adjacent to his land. The Dahlonega Federal Mint was just up the Etowah River from his plantation, which he visited often with his mined gold. (The above picture is of a coin minted there.) John H. Gregory had learned the trade of gold mining from his father, Griffin Gregory, He was a very successful gold miner and transacted many pieces of land with mineral rights---too numerous to list. He could read and write as he signed his name on all his deeds, but he always had the best of lawyers to draw up and handle his transactions.
Col. John Brooke of the Georgia Militia, was his uncle by marriage. Silas King Payne was John H. Gregory’s brother-in-law and mentor in this gold district and Silas ended up owning 600 acres with three gold mines which he left to his children. Silas bought Land Lot 208 (forty acres) from John H. Gregory’s executor which had an excellent gold mine. One of the things Silas King Payne and John H. Gregory always did was to keep "shut mouth" about their gold business". Col. John Brook was sent into Cherokee Co. Georgia by the Georgia Militia to keep peace while the white man settled into the Cherokee Indian territory, especially the Sixes and Wildcat Military Districts, where the gold miners were flooding in after the 1832 Georgia Gold lottery.
Col. John Brook’s wife was Hester Bennett Brook, a sister to Lindsey Payne’s wife Susannah Bennett Payne. Lindsey Payne’s daughter Christiana married John H. Gregory November 11, 1844 Cherokee Co. Georgia. Lindsey Payne’s son George Washington Payne married Tempy Gregory July 4, 1848 Cherokee Co., Georgia. Griffin Gregory’s other children that married in Cherokee Co. Georgia were Emily Gregory married Robert Reese Dec. 19, 1844; William H. Gregory married Emily Waddel Jan 2, 1848. Emily Waddel was the daughter of Nicholis Waddel and a sister to Martha Ann Waddel, the wife of Silas King Payne.
John H. Gregory was arrested in 1855 in Cherokee Co., GA (Superior Court Records) for betting and playing cards in the games of poker, Faro and several other games. Also, Silas King Payne deeded his son a land lot of forty acres to set up a whiskey still for the production of whiskey to sell to the miners. The Wildcat Military District was truly named for the miners that flooded in to find their El Dorado. John H. Gregory and Silas King Payne knew they had to mix with the miners to be successful in their mining pursuits.
The year 1843 marked the peak of the Georgia gold rush and the output gradually decreased due to the exhaustion of the placer mines, the source of most of the gold. John H. Gregory was involved in prospecting for gold in this area of the county, the Sixes and Wildcat Districts, until some strange tales of marvelous wealth reached the Georgian’s home----tales of huge lodes of gold on the Pacific slope of the Sierras, the mecca of gold prospectors of the world, and the hope of the struggling laborers.
By 1856 John H. and Christina Gregory sold their plantation to Dr. Joseph Grisham (father of Elizabeth Grisham Brown, was married to the then Georgia Governor Joseph Emerson Brown). In Dr. Joseph Grisham’s will, ITEM 20, it refers to the plantation purchased from John H. Gregory and Patrick H. Brewster. John H. and Christina Gregory and their five children together with Robert and Emily Reese and their eight children moved to Gordon County, Georgia. By 1860 John H. Gregory’s family and Robert Reese’s family are in Marshall County, Ala. Also, John’s father, Griffin Gregory, and his grandfather, Edward Gregory, are in Alabama. The 1857 and 1858 Tax Digest for Gordon County, Georgia (6th District) lists John H. Gregory's property value at $21,900.
Edward Gregory purchased 80 acres of land in Blount County Alabama from the federal government in 1825. In 1858 Lumpkin County Georgia miners, led by William Green Russsell of Auraria (six miles from Dahlonega) and known as the Russell boys, had found some gold in the foothill streams along the Rockies and had become Colorado’s first real pioneers. News of their discoveries reached John H. Gregory, wintering at Ft. Laramie, Wyoming, enroute to some Canadian mines. Immediately starting South, he prospected extensively to Medicine Bow and Front Range streams. As Ovando J. Hollister, a Gilpin newspaper editor, wrote a few years later: "At length he arrived at the Vasquez Fork of the South Platte which he followed up alone. . . . to prospect thoroughly wherever the creek forked, and to follow the branch which gave most promise. . . .He toiled up the canon, perhaps the first white man who had ever invaded its solitude, to the main forks of the creek. . . then up the north branch to the gulch that bears his name, seen miles beyond which he could obtain nothing of consequence. Here he left the creek and took up the gulch. Where the little ravine . . . comes in, he again prospected, and finding it the richer of the two, he turned aside into it; but as he approached its head, the "color" . . . finally entirely failed. Gregory now felt certain that he had found the gold. But before he could satisfy himself, a heavy snowstorm occurred. . . during which he nearly perished. Upon its clearing up, he was obliged to return to the valley for provisions, and leave his discovery unperfected."
Arriving at the new Auraria, Colorado (later Denver), John H. Gregory held a consultation with the other Georgians and spent his first night on Cherry Creek with Dr. Levi Russell, Green’s brother and Denver’s Founding Father. All agreed that the fountainhead of the "color" found so far was in the mountains. Gregory, however, was almost destitute. The generally-accepted account, among many others, of how he got back, weeks later, to the gulch from which the blizzard had driven him, says that in May a party of Indiana prospectors succumbed to John H. Gregory’s urging and set out from Arapahoe, a small village on Clear Creek. Gregory was reported to have said to the Indianans, "Boys, if you-all want to put up grub and transportation against my experience as a miner, we’ll go up the creek and we’ll get gold." When their search began to look promising, he said, "Boys, we’re getting thar." The ground was still ice-and-snow covered on May 6, but Gregory reportedly knew when he reached the exact spot where the gold lay; and, climbing to the source of the wash, he scraped up a panful of dirt, panned it down, and found four dollars’ worth of gold in it and his wildest anticipations were more than fulfilled.
William Byers, editor of the fledging Rocky Mountain News, arrived in Gregory Diggings. . .about forty miles west of Denver, Colorado. . . May 19 and was told that Gregory’s first words after his "strike" were, "My wife will be a lady, and my children will be educated." Gregory showed Byers three days’s pickings of gold worth approximately $l,000. "He had ceased operation," Byers said in the News, "under the strong apprehension that he would be robbed if it became known that he had a large amount of treasure. In his anxiety he slept little. . . There were only 17 men in the gulch. The following day there were at least 150. . .and thenceforward, as the reports spread, there was a continued inpouring of people."
Three very important visitors arrived in Gregory Gulch June 8th. . . The Boston Journal’s A.D. Richardson, The Cincinnati Daily Commercial’s Henry Villard, and The New York Tribune’s editor, Horace Greeley. They interviewed Gregory, investigated the mines, wrote a preliminary statement signed by Greeley and first published as a Rocky Mountain News extra on brown wrapping paper, and then issued a joint report carried in the News, June 11th, which included a statement by John H. Gregory himself. In part, the report, soon famous, said: "We have this day personally visited nearly all the mines or claims . . . have witnessed the operation of digging, transporting, and washing the vein-stone. . . have seen the gold plainly visible to the naked eye, in pieces of quartz . . . and have obtained from the few having sluices . . . accounts of their several products, those of twelve companies indicating production of from $20 to $510 per day." Then the journalists gave Gregory’s statement, obviously dressed up: "Left home last season en route for Frazier River. . . heard of the discoveries . . . on the South Platte, and started on a prospecting tour . . . early in January . . . Arrived in this vicinity May 6. . . the first pan of surface dirt yielded four dollars. . .Encouraged by this success, we all staked out claims, found the "lead" (lode) consisting of burnt quartz, resembling the Georgia mines, in which I had previously worked. Snow and ice prevented the regular working of the lead (lode) till May 16th. . . From then until the 23rd, I worked it five days with two hands, result, $972. Soon after, I sold my two claims (the original and a bonus for the "strike") for $2l,000, the parties buying, to pay me, after deducting their expenses, all they take from the claims to the amount of $500 per week, until the whole is paid. Since that time I have been prospecting for other parties, at about $400 per day. . . Have struck another lead (lode) on the opposite side of the valley, from which I washed $14 out of a single pan." The three journalists then commented on mining difficulties, impatience and lack of perseverance among miners, local estimates that Gregory gold was worth $20 an ounce, and the probability that thousands of persons were "destined to encounter lasting and utter disappointment."
The report ended with a warning. Said Messrs. Richardson, Villard, and Greeley: "Gold mining is a business which eminently requires capital, experience, energy, and endurance. There are said to be five thousand people already in this ravine. . . Tens of thousands more having been passed . . . on our rapid journey to this place, or heard of as on their way hither by other routes. For all of these, nearly every pound of provisions and supplies of every kind must be hauled by teams from Missouri, 700 miles distant, over roads which are mere trails, crossing countless unbridged water courses . . . at times so swollen by rains as to be utterly impassable by wagons. Part of this distance is desert . . . To attempt to cross . . . on foot is madness—suicide—murder. To cross it with teams in mid-summer, when the water courses are mainly dry, and the grass eaten up, it possible only to those who know where to look for grass and water . . . A few months hence . . . this whole Alpine region will be snowed under and frozen up . . . There, then, for at least six months, will be neither employment, food, nor shelter within 500 miles for the thousands pressing hither under the delusion that gold may be picked up here like pebbles on the seashore."
Despite this warning, Horace Greeley’s continued Tribune stories and countless others across the land stimulated the already booming gold rush, and Americans literally stampeded toward Gregory Diggings. Soon there were named for the Georgian, John H. Gregory, a "point", three lodes, a "diggings", and two mining companies. And by 1880 no other Colorado lode was yet considered so rich as John H. Gregory’s. The Gregory lode stands pre-eminent as the first found, and the most productive of Colorado mineral veins. While not yielding as much at present as some of the later discoveries, its total output from first to last still surpasses that of any American lodes excepting the Comstock and two or three others on the Pacific Slope. In 1867 Hollister wrote: "The discovery of the lode called after himself by John H. Gregory would seem to rank among those great events whereby the race at large have profited. That in a section of broken mountains, extending the whole length and one-third the width of the United States, a man enroute for a distant country, should have diverted in the midst of his journey, two hundred miles to the South, should have proceeded directly to the spot (a ravine two or three miles in length) and in it and on its bordering hills have struck the heart of as rich and extensive gold, silver, and copper mines as are known in the world, is indeed marvelous."
Everywhere Gregory was praised for his perseverance, for his mining ability. Everywhere he was the Discoverer, his Diggings were El dorado, and the world wanted to pitch camp at this door. A June 15, 1859 story in the Missouri Democrat said: "The excitement about the Gregory diggings is still on the increase. Authentic information has been received here today of the striking of still richer leads by a prospecting party conducted by Mr. Gregory." The Nebraska City News, three days later, carried a correspondent’s letter: "The utmost excitement prevails among the miners as well as the citizens of Denver, Colorado. Every on is anxious for a claim. Nearly all have gone to Gregory. There is at least already in the mines, and between this place (Denver) and there, 2,000 to 3,000 people . . .You can set down the unparalleled richness of this country as a fixed fact. . . Old California and Georgia miners say that the quartz leads (lodes) are the richest they have ever seen." And according to the Missouri Republican, July 20, 1859: "Like flies about a horse, they continue swarming about that one locality in spite of all repulses, hoping continually to find some place or other left where-upon to settle and "suck". A few days of active but resultless prospecting generally exhausts their vigor, and then they commence pestering the fortunate miners with their requests to assist them in prospecting, put them on paying leads (lodes), stake out claims, etc. The universal center of this kind of bother is the pioneer of the valley, Gregory. From early daybreak until sunset, he is beset by perfect swarms of claimants for similar favors. At all times he can be seen surrounded by dozens of bores that would take the last particle of patience of any other human being than the good-natured Gregory. His coat tail and hands are hardly ever under his control, and yet he never gives a repulsive answer to any of the innumerable questions put to him, nor does he fail to comply with a request, if it is at all in power to do so."
A June 30th dispatch to the Boston Journal from Richardson said Gregory had shown him a very rich gold specimen and had just sold a claim for $40,000, "to receive two-thirds of the gross yield of the claim until the whole" was paid. At least twelve distinct lodes were discovered in the area (several of them by Gregory) that summer, most of them quite extensive. In 1867, for instance, at least ten companies were operating on the Gregory Lode alone, and more than seventy-five were in the Diggings. By August 26, l959, the Denver City correspondent of the Missouri Republican was saying . . . "to the writer’s own personal. . . Mr. John H. Gregory, the pioneer miner, sent $5,000 worth of dust to his family in Georgia." By September 14, the Missouri Republican’s correspondent, writing from Mountain City, Gregory Diggings, on August 28, was describing the falling off of miners and residents, due to stampedes of elbowroom in the gulch, and the correspondent added: "Most of the claims which had been disposed of during the prosperous day reverted to the original owners; Gregory, among others, had to take back the claim sold for $40,000."
The Gilpin County records contain further clues and confirmations of John H. Gregory’s character and abilities. In general, the records confirm what the journalistic accounts have already stated or implied. First of all, John Gregory was extremely shrewd. It is a surprise to have Richardson say he was "uneducated," for all the records show a definite familiarity with the rudiments of contract law in transactions in which Gregory was involved. Other more cultivated men neglected to be specific about agreements. But in any agreement with Gregory, the scale was definitely stated as "a dollar a pennyweight" or "$20 per ounce gold," "provided the gold was well retorted," and that in the event they failed to make these payments they were "to give peaceable possession with all the implements with which the claim was worked to said Gregory."
As a specific example of Gregory’s shrewdness, the case of No. 2 Claim on the Fisk Lode might be cited. (The Fisk mine was one of the biggest of the group on Gregory and Bobtail hills, whose total production up to 1915 was 35 million dollars.) On July 11, 1859 Gregory loaned E.E. Ropes $20.53, taking a lien on the claim and giving Ropes a month to redeem it. On August 13, Gregory foreclosed and sold the claim to N.S. Allebaugh of Black Hawk "for value received." Although the amount is not specified, the reader must suspect, after studying Gregory’s many business dealings, that he made a sizable profit. His friendliness was commented upon by the journalists. This is born out by the records. Gregory hardly ever did anything alone (which is probably the reason so many people later claimed to have been with him on his preliminary survey trip up the North Fork of Clear Creek, prior to the official discovery trip of May 6).
He seems always to have preferred a partner. In august of 1859, he built and operated a rude quartz mill with R.(Robert) T. Reese (his brother-in-law). In order to get ore to run through their mill, they paid $7,000 for a pile of headings and tailings from the sluice that Amos Gridley and E. W. Henderson were running on the claims Gregory had sold them, May 28, for $21,000. After running this mill about a month they sold it to C.N. Smith and prepared to leave the gulch for the winter. Before departing, however, Gregory filed on a series of claims near the Gregory, Fisk and Foote and Simmons leads, all specifying "not to be worked this season" and all in partnership with R. (Robert) T. Reese (his brother-in-law) or James Emerson.
Perhaps activity was John H. Gregory’s most conspicuous characteristic. The records hold proof of his discovery of the Gregory, Bates, and Gregory Second lodes and inferential proof for his discovery of the Illinois Lode on Quartz Hill. In regard to all these lodes, frequent sales and transactions are recorded involving sums from $50 and $100 to $2,500 and $5,000 (not to mention the $40,000 sale described by Richardson, on which the Emerson brother later defaulted). Further proof of his activity during the summer was given by W.N. Byers when he wrote: "About fifteen miles from Gregory’s Diggings, N.N.W., A.D. Gambell, late of West Union, Ohio has discovered a rich quartz lead . . . We are assured by Mr. Gregory that he has found a number of their leads in going to and from Gambell lead." Certainly he was a busy as a bird dog all season until he left September 8, 1859 The St. Joseph Journal for October l, 1859 ran this account: "Yesterday afternoon, Mr. John Gregory of Georgia, the original discoverer of the celebrated "Gregory Diggings" at Pikes Peak, accompanied by about 18 or 20 others, with five wagons and teams, arrived in this city direct from the mines. . . . he left his Diggins in the mountains on the 8th inst. And had consequently been just 18 days in coming through . . . We had a conversation with Mr. Gregory whom we found to be very pleasant gentleman. Mr. Gregory being just in out of the mines and off the plains dressed in his pioneer garb, of course does not present the appearance of a dancing master . . . . but a gentleman is not always known by his dress. . . . We were shown by Mr. Gregory various specimens of gold, to the amount of $200. One specimen of gulch, or melted gold worth $18, he panned out of a branch off of a claim for which he informed us, he was afterwards offered $10,000. . . . Mr. Gregory has come in for the purpose of fitting up a couple of quartz mills, with which he thinks, when properly running, he can make $2,000 per day in his Diggings. During his sojourn in our city he will visit our foundries to see if he can get the casting done here. Mr. Gregory is stopping at Allen’s Hotel and will remain in town some days. He is undecided whether to take his dust to Philadelphia or to a mint near his old home in Georgia. He will not return to the mines before February."
After Gregory took care of fitting up a couple of quartz mills, he and his men headed for St. Louis Missouri and then down to their families in Gordon County and Cherokee County, Georgia to share with them their newfound wealth from their Colorado gold mines. His brother-in-law and partner, Robert Reese was with him and before the winter was over John Gregory and Robert Reese moved their families over to Marshall County, Alabama. John H. Gregory’s wife, Christina Payne was listed as "head of household". This was to protect her and the children from robbers that might have heard of John H. Gregory’s gold discovery fame in Colorado and think that there were large amounts of gold in their home.
On March 7, 1860, the Rocky Mountain News said: "John H. Gregory and Company arrived on the 4th instant, 17 men, l woman, 5 wagons, 18 horses, mules and oxen, 42 days from St. Joseph via Platte Route. Brought one quartz mill, and two wagonloads of butter and building hardware. Mr. Gregory is looking well after his eastern trip. He has left for the mountains to resume business in his gold mines." One of the men on this trip was Francis M. Brooke, son of Col. John Brook of Cherokee County, Georgia. In his letter to his father Col. John P. Brooke dated March 6, 1860, St. Lewis, Missouri, he writes "We have overtaken Capt. Kippy here. I saw some gold from P.P. (Pikes Peak) today. " In Francis M. Brooke’s letter to his father, Col. John P Brooke, dated March 15, 1860, Leavensworth, Kansas Territory, he writes "We have overtaken all the Georgia boys here except John H. Gregory. Ledbetter’s Company started yesterday. Capt Kippy started this evening, also William Gregory (John Gregory’s brother) and Mayfield . Mr. Reese (Robert Reese) leaves with us. He is from Gordon County, Georgia. He has traveled the road five times and was with John Gregory when "he ate the mule". He is going with cattle turnover." (NOTE: We have certified copies of these original, hand-written letters from Francis M. Brooke to his father Col. John P. Brooke).
Another person John H. Gregory brought with him in his company was a Willis Gregory who mined unsuccessfully about the district for some years and died June 5, 1865, age 48 years. Other men in his company were Robert Reese, W. White, J.H.Wolcott, William Dickerson, C.M. Smith, William H. Gregory and Jesse Beam. The records of Gregory District immediately begin again to carry their namesake’s activities. During March he filed on a mill and water site with C.W. Fisk for $l,000, sold a house and lot at Gregory Point to A.T. Randall for $375. In April, Gregory and Fisk filed on a ditch for water rights for their quartz mill in North Clear Creek and fought an ejection damage suit in regard to their mill claim. And so it went all during the spring. He sold claims, both gulch claims and lode claims, another house and lot and entered into some complicated business dealings about the Bates Lode .
Writing in 1867, Hollister says of Gregory’s activities during 1860: "Gregory came in with a party and a quartz mill, which he erected in a few days, ran awhile taking out two hundred dollars a day and sold out for six times its cost. John H. Gregory not only knew how to find mines but it appears he knew how to sell out at the right time." No recordings occurred between May 16 and July 2, 1860, and it is safe to assume that Gregory had cleaned up his immediate business responsibilities to go off on a prospecting trip. He probably spent most of that summer scouring Colorado for another big strike. It would be quite in keeping with his restless activity. We do know that on June 6 he was off on a prospecting tour, because that night he camped with three other Georgians at Bergen’s Junction (now Bergen Park on Route 40) near Irving W. Stanton, who with three other greenhorns was also out looking for gold. Mr. Stanton recalled: "They were very friendly and told us they were on their way to a new discovery on the West Side of the Arkansas River below the Twin Lakes and invited us to join them but said they could not assure us a claim. The chances, however, were favorable and they said that was a pretty good country to prospect. The next morning bright and early, we mounted our horses and accompanied them. Soon after leaving camp we overtook Green Russell and his companion but they did not join us. It was said that Gregory and Russell were not on the most friendly terms, but I do not speak advisedly of this. The following morning we reached South Park . . . The next day we reached the new "find" at the head of Cache Creek and called Lost Canyon Gulch. It was full of Georgians, everything was staked and no chance of claim except by purchase. We bade our Georgian friends good-bye and headed for California Gulch. I never met John H. Gregory again, and think he returned to Georgia that fall or winter. He appeared to me a generous, kindly disposed man, but was very profane, talked loud and a great deal. Green Russell was the opposite of Gregory, mild and gentle in manner and speech. These two men were so closely identified and connected with the discovery of gold here that we thought ourselves fortunate to meet them."
The most interesting recording of all occurred that autumn, on October 2, 1860. Gregory assigned his interest in the Bates Lode to Henry Chapeze "for a valuable consideration". This assignment was written crosswise of the original recording in the book and is signed personally by Gregory instead of the recorder. It is a large dashing hand with the tail of the "y" extending over two and a half inches. By October 27, 1860, he was headed home and we have this item from the Omaha Nebraskian of that date: "Mr. Gregory, the discoverer of the famous Gregory’s gold diggings, was in the city yesterday on his way to Georgia. He expressed the belief that the Rocky Mountains contain inexhaustible treasures and that ages after the present generation shall have passed away, millions of dollars of gold will be taken from that region."
Once again John H. Gregory disappears from the Colorado territory scene not telling anyone where he was going and to spend the winter with his family and relatives in Alabama. The gold rush was on, but so was another event of epic proportions in America at that time. . . The U.S. Civil War. With the outbreak of the war, the Russells decided to return to Georgia. Their investments and mines in Colorado had made them financially secure. In September of 1859, a Denver newspaper reports that Green Russell and three of his men were in Denver City, dispatching 103 pounds of gold back home to Georgia. A year later, 22 men from the Russell Gulch area reportedly began the journey back to "the states" with three wagons hauling $ll0,000 in gold bullion.
Despite a rising tide of anti-Southern sentiment in Colorado in 1859, Green and Levi Russell returned to the region once again the following year to divest themselves of their mining interests there, which were many and varied. Oliver Russell had remained in Colorado over the winter, and reportedly had endured dynamitings to mining properties and other property damages. The Russell brothers’ strong Masonic ties with many of the Union partisans apparently staved off serious problems until the brothers could sell off their holdings (reportedly at a rate far below market value) and return home to Georgia.
On April 3, 1861 John H. Gregory was back in Colorado again and W.N. Byers wrote in the Rocky Mountain News: "We had the pleasure of again taking by the hand our old friend John H. Gregory, the discoverer of the Gregory mines. He has just returned from his home in Alabama to spend another season in our mines, and is looking as hale and hearty as two years ago when we first met him in a brush camp, beside his new discovery. He is accompanied by a Mr. Bean of Alabama. They made the trip from St. Joseph in twenty-four days, and pushed on for Mountain City this morning." That spring and summer there were fewer recordings. But on April 21, 186l he collected the last payment on Claim No. 6 Gregory Lead and gave a deed to E.W. Henderson for the total sum received of $7,500. He made various other sales and instituted two suits to collect defaulted payments. Finally on October 14, 1861, E.W. Henderson having paid a total of $8,250 for Claim No. 5 Gregory Lead (the Discovery Claim), he received a deed. With that transaction, Gregory’s name disappears from the Gregory District recordings. But the man, himself, was not gone from Colorado. His name still appeared involved in litigation.
Space does not permit details, but suffice it to say that in the fall of 1861 and from February 8,1862 on, Gregory was attempting to collect money due him. Careful study of these cases shows that Gregory was seemingly in court with his lawyer on February 8, 1862, that he bought a second mortgage on W.G. Russell’s mill from R.H. Sapp February 22, and that in March he sued Russell on continuance. These matters could conceivably have been handled by his lawyer, C.C. Post, through correspondence, but it is more reasonable to infer that Gregory, himself, was in the district at this time. However, no record of any activity of Gregory’s appears in the district between November 18, 1861 and February 8, 1862, and it must have been during those three months that he made his annual trip home. Otherwise, how can we account for Byers’ item on March 28, 1862 in Denver ‘s Rocky Mountain News: "J. H. Gregory, the pioneer gold finder, favored us with a call yesterday, he returns looking as hopeful as ever." More than likely, the last week in March, Gregory made a business trip down to Denver from Central City and mentioned having been home for the winter. Also inferentially, Byers misunderstood that Gregory’s return to Colorado from the East had taken place some seven weeks or so prior and wrote the item as if Gregory had just returned that day. Other court cases show that he was in full possession of the Discovery Claim of the Illinois Lode on April 16, 1862, that he had two miners, George Brunk and William C. Stone, working for him that spring, and that in June, Gregory and his partner, Richard H. Sapp, "made a verbal contract" with Augustine G. Langford and Joseph M. Marshall to furnish some machinery for the water mill the partners were then operating on the Consolidated Ditch on Quartz Hill. Gregory and Sapp "promised to pay promptly. On the 30th of June, 1862, they paid $50.
At this point Gregory disappears from the annals of Colorado. Testimony would seem to show that he was personally in business with Sapp most of the summer, certainly June and July. But on September 3, 1862, William Cozens returned to the plaintiffs a sheriff’s summons with "J.H. Gregory not found" marked on the back. At this time the Civil War in America was of epic proportions and Colorado or the North was no place for a Southern to be. When John H. Gregory discovered the mother lode of gold in Colorado, all the newspapers were hailing him as a hero and praising him for his discovery, but as the Civil War progressed and the stigma against Southerners increased the newspapers and writers began slurring him as "very little ambition", "an inveterate gambler", "wild, harum-scarum drinker and gambler, practically uneducated", "disliking routine or continued physical labor, dressed as a beggar", and O. J. Hollister wrote in his Black Hawk Mining Journal, November 30, 1863: "Mr. Gregory is now supposed to be at his home in Georgia as poor as ever he was before he made his discovery."
John H. Gregory was far from stupid. We know from Hollister that Gregory must have had considerable education in mining law and mining procedure, since it was he and Dr. Joseph Casto who drew up the first rules for the Gregory Mining District. These rules later became laws and were copied by the other mining districts and were finally incorporated into Colorado statutes. Also the wording of his contracts in the 1859 Gilpin County records show that he had a fair knowledge of business.
By September, 1862 almost all customary routes to the South were held by Union Forces, a situation which promised trouble for the Southerners. John H. Gregory, his brother-in-law and partner, Robert Reese, and 18 other men with five wagons and teams laden with gold headed for their home in Marshall County, Alabama. They were unable to make in through the Union Troops along the way and never arrived at their Alabama destination.
We do have a record of the Russell brothers that made it to Georgia from Colorado. They felt the best route home lay through New Mexico and Texas on the Fort Smith Road then known as "the back door to the Confederacy". In the end, this route proved to be flawed too. In the Texas panhandle, some 200 miles from present-day Las Vegas, the group was detained and imprisoned by a troop of Union cavalry under the command of a Lieutenant Shoup. On February 14, 1863, having found no legitimate reason to hold the Russells further, Lt. Shoup ordered that the men be released and their property restored. Once again, the Masonic ties of the Russells apparently had been advantageous. They had been instrumental in the development of good relations with the Union commander and his men, and ultimately they resulted in the release of the Russells and the restoration of their property, including their gold.
The return to Georgia still remained ahead for the Russells, but it proved to be much less troublesome than it could have been. The Russell luck was still holding. By stage, the brothers reached St. Joseph. Reportedly, they were granted passes as far as Louisville, Kentucky by a Union soldier. From the Ohio River, however, they had to hide by day and travel by night, often within earshot of both Confederate and Union soldiers. The trip, which should have taken a couple of weeks, was stretched to several additional weeks in length. The Russells, somehow, amazingly reached their home in Georgia with their gold intact.
John H. Gregory's wife, Christina Payne, continued to live in Etowah County, Alabama near the Gregorys and her brother, George Washington Payne, who was married to Tempy Gregory. She and her five children, Francis, Mary Jane, Howell Cobb, William P. and Harriet lived in Alabama until Mary Jane married David H. McCleskey, and they moved to Erath County, Texas. Christina died April 13, 1905 and is buried in Lower Greens Creek Cemetery, Erath County, Texas. The McCleskeys still have John H. Gregory and Christina's family Bible.
Well, Gilpin County Colorado, whether it should have been named Gregory County or not, felt some nervousness in the spring of 1863 during the court term. The only time in all the cases examined that a "written judgment rendered by more than a foreman of the jury" was in the case of No. 362, Langford and Company vs.. John H. Gregory and Richard Sapp. When Gregory "was not found" and after the case had been advertised in the Miners’ Register and the quartz mill was finally given to Langford, the jury must have felt the solemnity of the occasion. The verdict was signed on the back by twelve good men and true, each in his own characteristic handwriting, viz., M.B. Presley, M. Sedgwick, E.S. Perry, Chase Wihrow, W.J. Howard, William G. Shute, T.J. Oyler, and R.P. Roy. The spring court term of 1863 in Gilpin County Colorado was indeed ironic. While the court was awarding Gregory’s and Sapp’s quartz mill to Langford and Company one week, it gave Russell’s quartz mill to Gregory the next, on April 8th. It awarded a judgment of $253.00 to Stone against Gregory and Sapp and it gave William Green Russell some placer claims in Russell Gulch which belonged to Christopher Cook, John H. Gregory and Richard Sapp. These were later put up for sheriff’s sale, sold to Samuel Wilson for $104 and final report made by Sheriff William Cozens on October 6, 1863.
On July 7, 1863, C.C. Post signed receipt for $347.45 as Gregory’s solicitor for the sale of Russell’s quartz mill at public auction. Whether Post took his money to pay Gregory’s share of Stone’s decision, we do not know. Whether Post was in correspondence with Gregory in 1863, we do not know. But by the May term of the District Court in 1864, John H. Gregory was considered gone forever. Volume One of the Decrees in Chancery gives a long account of the awarding of Gregory’s Illinois Lode claim (known as the Discovery Claim) on Quartz Hill in Illinois Central District to Patrick F. Tobin. So had the mighty fallen. . . .a discovery claim taken away from the discoverer of the whole county by a decree in chancery "on this day, the 25th day of May, A.D. 1864" in Gilpin County Colorado.
Dr. Joseph Grisham’s will, Item 20, at Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Georgia.
1850 Census Cherokee County Georgia
See deeds at Cherokee County Court house in the name of John H. Gregory
Dr. Joseph Grisham’s will, Item 20, at Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Georgia
1860 Marshall Co. Census p.847., line 34. Res. 399 and p. 848, res. 405
Ovando J. Hollister, Mines of Colorado (Springfield, 1867), 61-62
Glen Chesney Quiett, Pay Dirt (New York, 1936), 133.
Quoted in Frank Hall, history of the state of Colorado (2 vols.,Chicago, 1889-1895), 193-194
Quoted in Thomas Maitland Marshall, Early Records of Gilpin County (Boulder, 1920), 5-6
Henry Villard, The Past and The Present of the Pike’s Peak Region (Reprint edition. Princeton NJ-1933)
LeRoy R. Hafen, ed., Colorado Gold Rush (Vol. X of The Southwest Historical Series, 12 vols)373-79 .
LeRoy R. Hafen, ed., Colorado Gold Rush (Vol. X of Southwest Historical Series.)379-82
James Burrell, History of Clear Creek and Boulder Valleys (Chicago, 1880), 22.
Hollister, Mines of Colorado, 60-61.
Hafen, Colorado Gold Rush, 366-67
Hafen, Colorado Gold Rush, 364-65
Part of a dispatch "From the Mines" quoted by Bancroft, "John H. Gregory," 126.
Part of a dispatch "From the Mines" quoted by Bancroft "John H. Gregory." 126
Gregory District Records, Vol. A. pp. 1, 2, 14, 141.
Gilpin County Metal Mining Assoc. Figures supplied by Percy Alsdorf.
Gregory District Records., Vol. B, pp 151.
Gregory District Records, Vol. B, pp. 248,274, 287, 288
Hollister, op. Cit., 63
Hollister, op. Cit., 64
Enterprise District Records, September 22, 1859.
Gregory District Records, Vol. B., pp. 248, 274, 287, 288
Historical Colorado by Katherine Hodges. Magazine of American History Vol. XV. Jan-June
Rocky Mountain News, June 18, 1859
1860 Marshall County, Alabama Census, p.847, line 34, Res. 399.
On June ll, 1860 he filed with five other men on lead called La Crosse County in name of C.P. Symes
Gravestone in Bald Mountain Cemetery.
1860 Arapahoe County, Colorado Census, North Clear Creek, Res. 5445.
1860 Arapahoe County, Colorado Census, Missouri City, p 573, Line 24l, Res. 6781.
Gregory District Records, Vol. A2, pp. 370, 384, 389, 394, 417.
Gregory District Records, Vol. C, pp. 12, 14, 66, 67, 72, 89.
Irving W. Stanton, "Early Days in Colorado," in The Trail, Vol. Ll, No. 10, pp. 5-16.
Gregory District Records, Vol. C, p.13.
Gregory District Records, Vol. E, p. 317.
Gregory District Records, Vol. F, p. 216
Gregory District Court Case No. 115;1862. John H. Gregory vs. James E. Lyon.
Gregory District Court Casse No. 100; 1861. John H. Gregory vs. William G. Russell, et al.
Degrees in Chancery, Vol. 1
Gregory District Court Case No. 259. George Brunk vs. John H. Gregory and Richard Sapp. Filled 1862
Gregory District Court Case No. 363.Langford and Company vs John H. Gregory and Richard Sapp. Filled January 27, 1863. Judgement for plaintiffs, March 30, 1863.
Samuel Cushman and J.P. Waterman. The Gold Mines of Gilpin County (Central City 1876),9.
Frank Fossett, quoted in Bancroft, "John H. Gregory", 131.
Quiett, Pay Dirt, 133.
Bancroft, "John H. Gregory", l35.
Byers, quoted ibid.
Hollister, op. Cit. 75
Civil War Record
1880 Etowah Co, Alabama Census, p. 253B, #61
1880 Etowah County, Alabama Census, p. 252, #33-35
Much gratitude and appreciation is given to Caroline Bancroft, with a graduate course in the History Department at the University of Denver, and also literary critic and writer of Denver, Colorado who did such an enormous research on John H. Gregory from the Gregory District claim books, Recorder’s volumes, court cases and decrees in chancery, etc. These are on file at the Library of the State Historical Society and in the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library, Denver, Colorado.
In appreciation also to Ms. Margaret Meaders for her article in the Georgia Historical Society quarterly, July 1956. . .Volume XL#2. You brought forth information in Georgia that some researchers could act upon.
NOTE: John H. Gregory was the signature always. In marriage record, Bible records, military records and deed records, the initial "H" was always used.
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