Monday, August 27, 2012

Mug Book Monday - James P. Preston

Mug Book Monday
James P. Preston

This is the first post of this new Daily Blogging Theme, suggested by Miriam at:
[Thanks to Randy for bringing it to my attention]

(As is so often the case, we know that some of the following is true and some is not. I assume James provided all, or the bulk of, this information during an interview during 1884 or early in 1885. He probably believed it all to be true, at the time. The story is provided here, as written in the History of Montana.)

JAMES P. PRESTON, Deer Lodge valley, is a native of Ohio, born February 22, 1835, at Fort Defiance and is a son of Captain William Preston, an officer of 1812, being the youngest of a family of ten children.

When he was seventeen years old he left his parents, went to California and immediately engaged in mining in Nevada county, and later in Yuba county. He owned an eighth interest in the Blue Gravel Mining Company and worked in this mine for five years. He sold his interests and in 1862 went to Florence, Idaho, and mined until he lost over $20,000. He purchased a claim and opened it, but it failed to pay, as labor was worth $20 per day and board $15 per day, picks, $45 each, shovels, $45 each, and gum boots, $45 per pair. The claim required eight feet of stipping by hand and all supplies were brought in eighteen miles on snowshoes. The claim was rich, but would not pay such a tremendous outlay. After this loss he went to Boise basin $500 in debt, located a claim, and the ensuing year paid his debt of $500 and cleared $20,000. In 1863 he ran a bed-rock cut from Granite creek; flumed the lumber, costing $8,000 per thousand; used 100 inches of water at $100 per inch, and bought out his partner except a 1-6 interest. The mine did not yield as much as was expected.

At this time the mining excitement in Montana was at its height, and in October, 1865, Mr. Preston went to that territory. After visiting various parts he was not pleased with the country, and made preparations to return to Idaho. In the meantime his partner had sold their claim in Idaho, having been given the power of attorney to sell the claim - by Mr. Preston - if he decided to remain in Montana. The claim was sold for $8,000 and partner and money both disappeared. Mr. Preston again suffering a loss of about $12,000. In 1866 he mined on Elk Creek, but was unsuccessful.

He had located his present ranch near Deer Lodge in 1865, and thither he turned his footsteps, resolved in abandon the ups and downs of a miner's life. In the summer of 1867 he was employed as superintendent of constuction of the Rock creek ditch, thirteen miles long, capacity 1,500 inches of water. It was seven feet wide on top, five feet on the bottom and three feet deep. This ditch has proved a good paying investment.

Mr. Preston, in company with John Coffey, had started a livery stable in Deer Lodge City, and during 1868 gave his personal attention to the business. In 1869 he left his partner to attend to affairs and went to Pioneer, purchased a mining claim, which he worked about one month; owning half of the claim. He left his partner in charge of the claim and again took the superintendency of the Rock creek ditch. He sold his Pioneer claim in the fall, clearing some money on it, and bought a claim and ditch in company with Colonel Thornton. In 1870 he lost all he had in mining interests and returned to his livery business in Deer Lodge City.

In the fall of 1870 he returned to the states and on March 21, 1871, married Miss Ellen M., daughter of Jacob and Rebecca Miller, of Williams Co., Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Preston have four children: Ernest G., born February 20, 1872; Henry L., born July 14, 1873; Jake Miller, born October 15, 1874; Ellen Rebecca, born April 1, 1880.

Our subject returned to Montana and continued in the livery business during the summer, and in the fall of 1871 moved to his present ranch. His livery business burned in 1872 and he closed up the business and invested in cattle. He owns 200 acres of land, of which he cultivates about seventy acres, and mows nearly all of the balance, cutting almost eighty tons of hay per annum. He has about thirty head of horses, all well bred, mostly of Mambrino and Morgan stock, besides about fifty head of cattle. The record of this man's life has been one of toil and hard ship, whose conquests are not the result of favorable circumstances but of untiring energy and industry.

[paragraph breaks added here] 


History of Montana 1739-1885, 1885, Chicago: Warner, Beers & Company

p. 10897, Deer Lodge County section 

  [I first published this at:]

Families are Forever!  ;-)


  1. Yes, it was great to have it. It was also frustrating to find that some of his memories, especially of early life, were not actually true, based on documented facts. But, we always need that reminder, as well. As I get older, I realize how hard it becomes to remember accurately... if you every really knew the 'truth.' ;-)

  2. What an interesting story. I agree that sometimes people may have never known the "truth" about certain events.

  3. Turns out his father died when he was two years old. He left home by the time he was fifteen, because his mother had remarried with two young boys by new husband... likely much conflict. Not too surprising, he didn't really know his heritage, hardly at all... ;-)