Despite warning to ‘Stay in Mo.,’ gold seekers head to Colorado
Markings on this photo identify Daniel H. Ashmore, as the driver of this one horse carriage. In the late 1890s, before leaving Marion County, Mo., for the gold fields of Colorado, Ashmore was an engineer for the St. Louis, Keokuk and Northwestern Railroad’s “Long Line.” Photo from the Hannibal Free Public Library’s collection.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Two young men from Marion County, Missouri, forged westward circa 1897, in search of riches derived from the goldfields of Colorado. Leaving a wife, a young child and aging parents behind, they set their sights on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, where some 10,000 miners would converge and towns would crop up during the decade following the discovery of gold in 1891.
Daniel H. Ashmore, born at Hannibal in 1859, and Charles Francis Cary, born in 1871 near Palmyra, were off on adventure that would ultimately reshape the lives of their family members back in Missouri. The two settled first in Denver, Colorado, and later their family members who could, ultimately followed. Left behind was the Mississippi River valley that their folks had long called home.
Daniel H. Ashmore, born into the community where he was raised, was the son of James Cool Ashmore, a pork packer by trade, who as the civil war rolled around, was employed by Shields, Ray and Co., on the levee between Market and Church in Hannibal.
Daniel and his sister, Gertrude, were educated in Hannibal’s schools. He hired on as a fireman for the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, and later took a job as engineer for the St. Louis, Keokuk and Northwestern Railroad’s “Long Line.”
Gertrude taught for the Hannibal public schools, and later served as principal for Hannibal’s high school.
Charles F. Cary, single, was a member of a large and prominent Marion County family, the son of Francis Marion Cary, businessman and farmer, and his wife, Lucy.
F.M. Cary’s family started out hale and hearty, but diminished as the years went by.
Vassalonia Cary died in 1862, at the age of 2.
William Mitchell Cary died in 1888, at the age of 19, of pneumonia.
Edward Gideon Cary died in 1889, at the age of 25.
Robert Arthur Cary died in 1891, at the age of 18, of consumption.
Dr. Harrison Cliffton Cary (a 1893 graduate of the Beaumont Hospital Medical College in St. Louis) died in 1895, of consumption, at the age of 28.
George Walter Cary died in 1898, at the age of 23.
By the turn of the century, there were only four children remaining, Mildred, now married to the aforementioned Daniel Ashmore; and her brothers, Charles F. Cary, born 1872, who accompanied Daniel Ashmore to Colorado; and the two youngest sons, Frederick Llewellyn Cary, born in 1878, and Guy Max Cary, born in 1880.
Many at the time warned against heading west to the gold mines of Colorado. In fact, the Palmyra Spectator opined in its Sept. 16, 1897 edition: “Better stay in Missouri.”
But Ashmore and Cary failed to heed those warnings.
Ashmore left his employment with the railroad, and Cary abandoned his trade as a tailor, and the two Marion County men forged a plan to venture out across the plains of Kansas into the gold fields of Colorado, along the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
It was in Denver where Ashmore and Cary first settled, working together in a livery business. From there, the adventurous duo branched out into Colorado Springs and its environs, including the towns of Victor, Altman and Goldfield, in Teller County, Colo.
* Altman, Colorado was settled in 1893 on a hillside, one of the highest points in Teller County. A fire, believed to have been arson, started in the Altman Hotel, and spread, consuming most of Altman’s business district in 1903. (Daniel H. and Mildred Ashmore lived in Altman in 1920.) Altman is 57 miles from Colorado Springs.
* A post office was established in Goldfield, Teller County, Colorado, in 1895. In 2010, the town’s population was 49. (Daniel H. Ashmore owned a home and was a dairyman at the time of the 1930 census.) Goldfield is about 45 miles from Colorado Springs.
* Victor was founded in 1891, and is located about five miles from Cripple Creek, the county seat of Teller County. The population of Victor was 18,000 in 1900. (In 1950, Helen A. Ashmore Moore, daughter of Daniel and Mildred, and her husband, William B. Moore Sr., lived in Victor.)
On March 1, 1899, F.M. Cary hosted a sale at his farm, five miles southeast of Palmyra.
On the auction block: 3 all-work brood mares, a driving mare, Montrose gelding and Shepper colt; 3 Shorthorn and 2 Jersey cows, 2 heifers, 2 steer calves, 7 brook sows, 40 pigs, and a lot of farm utensils.
In June 1900, the elder Carys left Palmyra for Denver. The Palmyra Spectator of June 7, 1900 reported, “They will spend the summer in the west, and if they like the country will locate there to be near their sons, who have been there some time. The Carys are prominent people in Marion County and their departure will be regretted.”
On. Oct. 7, 1903, the Palmyra Spectator announced that Thomas Loudon of Hannibal had purchased F.M. Cary’s 175-acre farm in Miller Township for $6,500.
In 1903, Charles Francis Cary, who had forged across Missouri, Kansas and Colorado with Daniel Ashmore in a quest for gold, died in 1903.
His parents, F.M. and Lucy Cary, died in 1904 and 1908 respectively. They are buried together at Fairmount Cemetery, Denver.
The parents of Daniel H. Ashmore died in succession, James Cool Ashmore’s death came in 1902, and Sarah Howell Ashmore’s death came the following year. They are buried together in Hannibal’s Riverside Cemetery. Also buried in the Ashmore plot is their daughter, Gertrude Ashmore, who died in 1946.
And high upon a mountain range in Victor Sunnyside Cemetery, Teller County, Colo., rest Daniel H. and Mildred Ashmore, who made the mining region of Colorado their permanent home, long after the gold seekers left.
Over his lifetime, he worked as a farmer, a railroad engineer, a gold miner, a dairy farmer and a farmer in his own right. He and his wife had one daughter, Helen Ashmore, born in 1898 in Missouri, but raised to her maturity in Colorado.
Daniel H. Ashmore died in 1941; and his wife, Mildred Cary Ashmore, died in 1947. they are buried at Victor Sunnyside Cemetery, Teller County, Colo.
Their daughter: Helen Ashmore Moore died in 1990, and her husband, William B. Moore Sr., died in 1971, and they are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso County, Colo.
The Midwinter Exposition took place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park from June 27-July 5, 1894. Among the exhibits was the Colorado Gold Mine Exhibit, as depicted in the Jan. 4, 1894 edition of the San Francisco Morning Call newspaper. (newspapers.com)
Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com