Friday, June 7, 2013

Edwardsville's namesake John Edwards

In 1866, John Edwards was with the Brown brothers, Ben Franklin, Dan Chisholm and others when they located the Comanche mining claim in the Flint Creek District. The rest of John's life story plays out on the north shore of the Hells Gate River across from the mouth of Flint Creek at the mouth of Packer's Gulch, a site first named Edwardsville and now called Drummond.

Census records from 1870 indicate that Edwards was born in Wales in 1832. Dan Meschter stated in his "Flint Chips" history column in the Philipsburg Mail that Edwards  immigrated from South Wales to America in 1863, which comes from the information recorded in the 1900 census.

Edwards was part of the prospecting party that shows up in the Flint Creek district in the summer of 1866 and sets about staking many of the best veins in the district. Shortly thereafter,  John took up a 500 acre ranch at the mouth of Packer's Gulch (now known as Edwards Gulch), where Drummond is located today. The 1870 and 1880 US Census records give his address as Bear and First Chance Gulch, apparently because he was located on the north side of the river, as was Bear Gulch a short distance downstream. Edwardsville built up around his ranch.

Apparently he was soon overextended financially as a sheriff's sale advertised on October 29, 1868 in the Montana Post for the sum of $3,668 debt and $42.85 cost of the suit, threatened to liquidate his ranch. The sale was to be held at the Packer's Ranch 35 miles northerly from Deer Lodge City and opposite the mouth of Flint Creek. The plaintiff was William McWhirk and the sale was scheduled for November 27 at 2pm for "all the right, title and interest of John Edwards, the above named defendant, of, in and to five hundred acres of land, more or less..."  On November 28th, 1868, there was a second sheriff's sale advertised for Philipsburg, Deer Lodge County, M.T. in front of Dana's Hotel at 3pm, involving "all the right, title and interest of John Edwards, said defendant, of, in and to the following described quartz mining claims, situated in Flint Creek Mining District, said county and Territory, to wit: claim number 3, Comanche lode, east; #4 Comanche (extension) west; #3 Dan'l Brown lode west; #4 Aquilla lode, east; #4 Algonquin lode, west; #4 Bowling lode, west; #2 Silver Wave lode, east; #3 Franklin lode, west; #3 Conway lode, south-east; #3 Nika lode, south-west; #3 P.G. lode, east; #2 Mountain Queen lode, north; #4 Mioutonanale lode, west; #3 Osage lode, east; #4 Comanche lode, west; #2 Antelope no. 2, lode, west; #4 Brutus lode, west; #4 Fanny Elgin lode, north-east; #3 Comanche lode, west. Also discovery claims on the Osage lode; each of said claims comprising two hundred feet of ground. Signed  P. McGovern Sheriff of Deer Lodge County, M.T.

At this time research has not revealed whether these sales proceeded or were terminated.  But it is known that John still owned many of the mining claims in the mid-1870's when they were sold to the "Belmont Company" as part of a mining venture in the Philipsburg district. The Independent on June 24, 1875 stated that a deed was on record in Deer Lodge showing that John Edwards of Hellgate valley conveyed to M. B. Cox and  the Belmont Mining Company some 16 interests in "Philipsburg quartz lodes---consideration $40,000. The sale was made in March and several thousand dollars of purchase money went to Mr. Edwards bank account today." A very nice wedding present as 1875 was the year John married.

 He also either retained or later bought section 31 in Township 11, range 12W and when the road was built down the north side of the river the settlement became known as Edwardsville. John believed that when the Northern Pacific Railroad was built the company would take over his section of land and make it a Rail stop and he began plotting the town. Unfortunately in 1872 the N.P. Railroad decided to place rail stops only on even section numbers so would be using section 32 for their rail stop. The Missoulian on October 12, 1883 stated "negotiations long pending between Mr. John Edwards of the old town of Edwardsville and the NPR Company were adjusted satisfactorily this week and titles passed. Mr. Ed Stone Land Agent acted for the railroad company. A town-site will be surveyed at an early date". The railroad tracks were laid into Edwardsville around August 15 or 16, 1883. Then NPR decided to assign new names to many of the rail stations. Bear Mouth remained the same, but Beaverhill was renamed Bonita and Edwardsville became Drummond, according to the Missoulian, on August 31, 1883. John tried to get the railroad to use the name Flint if they were determined to not use Edwardsville but the executives in St. Paul did not agree. "Drummond is as good as any other name" was the response from General Agent Lamborn according to the New Northwest October 12, 1883. Edwards' land dispute continued on for years over section 31 and in 1889 he finally preempted 160 acres of section 32 at the east end of Drummond and relinquished his claim to section 31 in exchange for part of the town.

It remains unclear why the name of Drummond was chosen. All that is certain is the name came from St. Paul so had little to do with the local stories of a trapper named Hugh Drummond or Edwards' race horse or a town in Wales.

As stated above,  John married his wife Sarah (maiden name unknown) about 1875. US Census records in 1880 show John, Sarah, three Burt children from a former marriage (Charles 14, Sarah 12, and Nathanel (sic) 7) plus Edwin Drinokel age 31, James Tique age 45, Thomas Kelley age 25, Clon Campbell age 45 and Thomas Phipp age 28 all living in the Edwards household. Their address was Bear and First Chance, Deer Lodge County, M.T. The 1900 US Census lists Sarah, John and William Dinan age 49 at the address of Granite, Montana. This census record also states that John arrived from Wales in 1863, which Meschter cited in Flint Chips. At this time research fails to reveal his immigration records for that date, and we think it possible that the census information is mistaken, leading to many possibilities in his biography prior to his arrival in Montana.

I stated in Mettle of Granite County Book Three that Edwards was in the gold fields of California based on a news article in the 1884 Helena Herald. It is possible that John connected with the Browns and Frost in California, before they began their journey to Montana.

The 1900 census lists John as owning a butcher shop. It is doubtful that he had taken up the career of butcher that late in life, so perhaps he merely owned the shop.

According to the Drummond Call September 8, 1905 the home of Mrs. John Edwards was near completion ...situated in a grove of trees on the Edwards place and will add to the number of pretty homes in Drummond."

John's death notice was published in the Philipsburg Mail and copied from the Deer Lodge Silver State March 16, 1906. John died at Warm Springs State Hospital on March 14.  Normally this would indicate that he suffered from dementia late in life, but it is also possible that he was cared for at Warm Springs by Doctors Mussigbrod and Mitchell because they knew him as a miner and were friends. The doctors were partners in some productive gold mines in First Chance Gulch and so were "neighbors" of Edwards.

The funeral was scheduled for March 17th at New Chicago. Survivors listed were Sarah and two step sons: Charlie Burt and Eaf Hettinger. Apparently John was Sarah's third husband. There was no mention of the step children Sarah and Nathaniel Burt in the death notice. Sarah is buried next to John in the Valley cemetery with the death date of June 24, 1906, She lived only 3 months and 10 days after John died.  There are 8 members of the Burt family also buried at the Valley cemetery.

Now you know a little more about the founder of Drummond, which would more appropriately be named Edwardsville.

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