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Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Springville Bank Heist

In 1898 Francelia Gammell, a son of James Gammell, was serving as the Springville, Utah, town marshal. His friends called him "F. C." or Frank.

 On Saturday, June 28, at ten in the morning, a couple of rough looking characters driving a one-horse buggy rode into Springville from Mapleton and hitched up their rig in front of  the Springville Bank. A. O. Packard, the assistant cashier, was alone in the bank when the two men entered.  One of the men asked Packard whether any money had been left on deposit in his name. Acting surprised that there was no deposit, the stranger continued asking questions. For a moment Packard turned his glance away from the teller window. When he looked back, the barrels of two revolvers were starring him in the face, and he heard the order, "Throw up your hands." One of the thieves then forced his way behind the teller window and stuffed all the money he could find ($3,000) into his coat pocket. The cashier, while still keeping his hands up, pressed the electric alarm with his foot.  The alarm was wired to three nearby stores, Deal Brothers, Mendenhalls, and H. T. Reynolds and Company, where the clerks were instantly notified that there was trouble at the bank.

The robbers sped off in their buggy and headed toward Mapleton. Within ten minutes Marshal Frank Gammell and three other lawmen had mounted their horses and were in pursuit.  At the incline of the Mapleton bench, the culprits met Thomas Snelson, who was headed to Springville in his cart.  They stole Snelson's horse at gun point.  The one horse they had was already quite winded from the chase. 

 Nearing Hobble Creek Canyon, Gammell and his posse came close enough to fire off a few gun shots, forcing the thieves to abandon their horses and escape into hiding in the dense underbrush. Gammell's men spread out to guard the thicket. Within the hour fifty more men had arrived from Springville and the forty acre thicket was surrounded. 

The first bank robber was soon discovered under the dense brush.  He immediately surrendered at the sight of a dozen shotguns pointed at him.  He had $2,000 on his person when he was captured. 

Utah County Sheriff George A. Storrs of Provo was summoned by telegraph, and he promptly arrived to arrest the prisoner (named Maxwell) and took him back to Springville in irons.  

Marshal Gammell and Deputy Sheriff Brown of Provo, immediately organized a search for the other bank robber.  Forty men entered the thicket at intervals six feet apart.  Within one minute someone called out, "Keep your places all!  Here he is!"  Some words were exchanged and then a volley of five or six shots rang out. Next, a cry came from within the thicket, "My God! I'm shot!"

The robber died on the spot.  Joseph Allan of Springville had taken a ball from the robber's pistol in his leg. The leg was later amputated. Allan received $350 in reward money, $1,000 from the state, and the Springville Bank paid for the doctor's services.  Six hundred dollars of the stolen bank money was never recovered.[1]a very bit onebig one.  ne. into his coat pocket. ler window and en he looked back, ad joined the US military

[1] Don Carlos Johnson, A Brief History of Springville Utah, Springville, 1900, pp. 98-100.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Elizabeth Gammell Harris

Elizabeth Gammell Harris
photo courtesy of Jan Zollinger
James Gammell and his second wife, Elizabeth Mahala Hendricks, named their daughter Elizabeth Harriet Mahala Gammell.  Libby, as they called her, was James’ second child and his first daughter. She was named Elizabeth Mahala after her mother and Harriet after James’ first wife, Harriet Fitzgerald, who had died.

Elizabeth Gammell Harris and her eight surviving children
Photo taken after 1906
courtesy of Jan Zollinger
At the time the photo was taken eight of her thirteen children were still living.  Her husband, Eli Harris, died in 1902 and her oldest child, Drusilla, died in 1906.  Two children died in a diphtheria epidemic, and one of her twin boys died shortly after birth.   (Portraits of Eli and Drusilla hang on the wall behind them.)

At age sixteen Libby married twenty-five-year-old Eli Harris in the old Endowment House in Salt Lake City. She made her wedding dress with her own hands.   Not only did she make the dress, but she first made the fabric. The raw fleece of sheep is greasy with lanolin, so she had to wash it in hot water and some sort of detergent, then rinse it, squeeze it, and dry it. Then she carded, combed, and spun the wool fibers into yarn, and then wove the fabric on a loom. She gathered herbs to dye the cloth. From the finished fabric she made her wedding dress.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Orlin F. Gammell

Photo courtesy of Bary Gammell

1932 – James Gammell’s eldest child, Orlin Fitzgerald Gammell, died shortly before six o’clock on Monday morning, February 15, at Sheridan, Montana.  He was eighty-five years old.(1)

Healthy and strong as an ox, just like his father, Orlin had experienced very little sickness or ill health during his life.  In his prime he was a man of splendid physical build.  A trained carpenter and a skilled craftsman, he built numerous barns and houses in Sheridan.  Probably the best known of his projects was the Sheridan Public Library on Mill Street, which he built along with his partner Ed Wright.  Orlin was eighty-one years old when he built his last home in Sheridan and finally retired from the carpenter trade.  Even as his strength was failing in his final years, he never complained of any aches or pains.

At the time of his death, Orlin was the oldest Montana pioneer who still resided in Sheridan.  He was well-known and respected among the townsfolk; children and adults alike greeted him affectionately as “Daddy” when they met him on the street.  Every morning he was seen walking uptown to the Sheridan post office to pick up the newspaper.  He was keenly interested in political issues and world affairs, a trait he’d picked up from his Uncle John Fitzgerald.

For the first nineteen years of his life, Orlin had lived with his mother’s family in Spring Arbor, Michigan.  In 1866 he left Michigan and traveled to Sheridan to visit his father, whom he hadn’t seen since he was a small boy.  After a year or so, he left Montana for Texas, possibly to visit his uncle, William Gammell.  From Texas he traveled to Nebraska.  He stayed there a couple of years and then moved on to Anita, Iowa, where he entered an apprenticeship for the carpenter trade.  Here he met his wife, Sarah Louise Lewis.  The couple was married on October 8, 1876, in Atlantic, Iowa.  All three of their daughters, Harriet, Alta, and Vesta, were born in Anita.  When Orlin first arrived in Iowa, he was joined by his mother’s brother, Jacob (Job) Fitzgerald, from Michigan.  A bachelor in his late fifties, Uncle Job lived with the family for nearly ten years and helped Orlin run the farm.(2)

Orlin F. Gammell, his wife, Sarah,
and three daughters, (left to right) Vesta, Harriet, and Alta. 
c. 1910.

In spring 1889, Orlin and his family moved west to Los Angeles, California,(3) where there were plenty of jobs for skilled carpenters.  Nearly fifteen years later, in 1903, the family left California, moved to Sheridan, Montana, and used the money they had saved to buy the Goetschius ranch on the Beaverhead River.  They operated the ranch for only about two years, and then decided to return to California.  This time, according to their granddaughter Dorothy Carey, they settled in Santa Rosa,(4) the county seat of Sonoma County, one of the most heavily populated counties in the state.  Business was booming in the Bay area, and carpenter jobs were plentiful.

San Francisco:  April 18, 1906
Looking Down Sacramento Street
the results of the earthquake and the beginning of the fire
(Wikimedia Commons)
The next several months passed by quickly and peacefully, and then without even a hint of warning, everything changed.  At 5:00 in the morning on April 18, 1906, the infamous San Francisco earthquake destroyed the whole downtown area of Santa Rosa.  The earthquake and the fire that resulted are still considered one of the worst natural disasters in United States history.  More than 3,000 people died and nearly 300,000 were left homeless.  Although the death toll in Santa Rosa was not as great as in the city of San Francisco itself, the economic impact was severe.  The recovery would take several years.  Rather than live in a makeshift tent in a refugee camp, Orlin took his family back to Montana, where he remained for the rest of his life.

After the death of his wife, Sarah, in 1912, Orlin lived with his daughter Alta.  When Alta married in 1922, she and her husband, Walter Moore, continued to care for her father.  Orlin’s obituary describes his final years, “Accustomed to abounding health and activity, he was sorely tried by failing strength in later years, but bore his affliction with great patience and died as he had lived, in peace and tranquility with God and man.”(5)

Orlin died peacefully from the infirmities of old age and was buried with Masonic funeral rites in the Sheridan Cemetery next to his father, James Gammell.
  1. Orlin F. Gammell, obituaries: Montana Standard, Butte, Montana, February 16, 1932, p. 4, c2; copy , " 'Daddy' Gammell Died Monday...", from an identified Montana newspaper, February 19, 1932.
  2. 1880 U.S. Census, Grant, Cass; Iowa. 1885 Iowa State Census.
  3. 1900 U.S. Census, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California.
  4. Carey, Dorothy Ellinghouse, Pioneer Trails and Trials, Madison County History Association, 1976, pp. 468-69.
  5. Orlin F. Gammell obituary (copy), “’Daddy’ Gammell Died Monday…”, from an unidentified Montana newspaper, February 19, 1932.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Even decades after great, great grandfather James Gammell's death, he is not forgotten.  His descendants continue to find ways to honor his memory.

June 11, 1975 – James Gammell was reinstated as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in response to a request by his great grandson Raymond W. Gammell.

In October 1973, my father, Ray Gammell, my mother, Eve, and Gerald M. Haslam, a professional genealogical researcher, visited the office of Henry E. Christiansen at what was then known as the Church Genealogical Society.  They spoke with Brother Christiansen about James Gammell, who had been excommunicated on November 14, 1858.  My father requested that his great grandfather be reinstated as a member of the Church.  Henry Christiansen agreed to submit the request to the Temple Department.  He said he could think of no reason why it would be denied.

Dad received a letter, dated August 25, informing him that James was reinstated by proxy baptism on June 11, 1975, in the Salt Lake Temple.  With that baptism and confirmation, all of the temple blessings which James had received in life, including the sealing to his wives and children, were restored.  On February 28, 1977, James was sealed to his parents, an ordinance that had not been completed while James was living.

1981 – James was buried in the Sheridan Cemetery, on Saturday, April 9. 1881.  The present-day stone marker was erected one hundred years after his death by his great grandson Blake Hansen Gammell.

Blake obtained a large granite stone at the same quarry from which the stones for the Salt Lake Temple were cut.  Original drill markings from the 1800’s are still visible on the stone.  The granite, weighing several tons, was transported by truck to Sheridan.  Then Blake had to dig a hole, fill it with sand and gravel, and lift the granite piece with its bronze plaque into place with the aid of a truck and a crane.  According to Blake, he “had a hell of time doing it all!”  Since the grave was unmarked, it took him several days and a lot of research to locate the exact burial spot before setting the stone.
  1. Personal copy of the official letter of reinstatement.
  2. Short history of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Walton Criss ( including information on the Francelia Gammell family), Church History Library, MS 147774.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Last Will and Testament

No man’s life can be encompassed in one telling.  There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime.  What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record, and try to find one’s way to the heart of the man...(1)

Growing gradually weaker, James was confined to his home during the long Montana winter.  He was no longer the robust man that he used to be, with a well-knit frame and a constitution of iron.  As spring approached, the days grew noticeably longer.  James sat up in bed, and in the presence of three friends, F. J. Jones, W. E. Carter, and Thomas C. Morrissey, took a pen in his trembling hand and signed his name for the last time:  “In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my signature at Sheridan, this 24th day of March 1881, signed James Gemmell.”  He had appointed his wife, Susan Maria Gemmell, executrix of his will, and his son-in-law James Duncan as executor to assist Maria in the settlement of his estate.  He bequeathed all of his real and personal property to Maria, with instructions that the estate be kept or sold, whichever may be in the best interest of his wife and children:

It is my wish and desire that my children and family shall remain together as heretofore, and that their mother shall remain with them and take care of them as she always has done heretofore, and especially that the little ones shall be educated as well as circumstances will warrant.(2)

Just two weeks later, on Wednesday, April 6, his wife, Maria, and eight of his children gathered silently around his bed—the two little ones, George, age five, and John, age ten; the older children, Alice, age thirteen, Virginia, fifteen, Andy, nineteen, and Charlie, twenty-two; and his two married daughters, Josephine with her four children, and Jeanette with her two children.

At eleven o’clock that morning James drew his last breath.  After many months of illness and pain, he was finally at peace.  A life of adventure had ended too soon, nevertheless, in his final hours the true heart of the man was revealed.  His greatest concern was for the education of his children, the well-being of his posterity.  We wonder if, in those last moments, he might have had a glimpse of his descendants who would follow in generations to come.  No doubt his greatest accomplishment was his posterity; he was the father of eighteen biological children, “well-educated and well-read for their opportunities.”  In addition to his loved ones, “many an old mountaineer will read [his obituary] and drop a tear to Uncle Jimmy’s memory and say good-bye, peace be with you.”(3)

James Gemmell's grave, Sheridan Cemetery
Courtesy of Bary Gammell

James was buried in the Sheridan Cemetery, on Saturday, April 9.  The present-day stone marker was not erected until 1981 (one hundred years after his death) by his great grandson Blake Hansen Gammell.  Blake obtained a large granite stone at the same quarry from which the stones for the Salt Lake Temple were cut.  Original drill markings from the 1800’s are still visible on the stone.  The granite, weighing several tons, was transported by truck to Sheridan.  Then Blake had to dig a hole, fill it with sand and gravel, and put the granite piece with its bronze plaque into place with the aid of a truck and a crane.  According to Blake, he “had a hell of time doing it all!”  Since the grave was unmarked, it took him several days and a lot of research to locate the exact burial spot.(4)

A few months after James died, Maria traveled to Charleston, Wasatch County, Utah, to visit her eighty-year-old mother, Avis Hill Brown.  Avis owned her own home, and her son George and his wife were caring for her.  During the visit Grandmother Brown persuaded her daughter to sell her home in Sheridan and return to Utah in order that she might end her days in Maria’s care.  On November, 28, 1882, Maria sold the ranch property to Samuel McCrea for the sum of $2,850.00.  But before the business was settled in Sheridan, Grandmother Brown died (1884).  Consequently, Maria never returned to Utah.(5)

Susan Maria Brown Gemmell, c. 1892
Courtesy of Cathy Hall

About 1887, Maria left Sheridan, taking her younger unmarried children, Charlie, Andy, Virginia, Alice, John and George, and settled near Anaconda.  At the end of 1894, believing that her health would be benefited, she returned to Sheridan and put herself under the treatment of Dr. George W. Rightenour, her family physician.  She began to grow worse and sent for her daughter, Virginia Garrity, who remained with her to the time of her death.  Maria died on Monday, Feb. 3, 1896, at her home on Water Street at age sixty-four.(6)
  1. From the prologue to David Attenborough’s film Gandhi.
  2. James Gemmell’s will, Probate records, Madison County Courthouse, Virginia City, Montana, File #25.
  3. Obituary of James Gemmell, Dillon Tribune, April 9, 1881.
  4. "Short history of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Walton Criss" ( including information on the Francelia Gammell family), Church History Library, MS 147774.
  5. Virginia Gemmell Garrity, Letter to Ralph Vary Chamberlin, 1922.
  6. Obituary of Susan Maria Gemmell, The Madisonian, Virginia City, Montana, Feb. 8, 1896.

Friday, January 20, 2012

“The Late James Gemmell”

Image courtesy of the Friends of the Sheridan Library

It was late August 1879.  James Gemmell woke up early one morning determined to accomplish a mission he had been considering for a long time.  He had thought about it for many weeks, but hadn’t wanted to discuss it with Maria.  She would only worry about him.  After breakfast and a few morning chores, he told Maria that he was going into town to get the mail and the weekly newspaper.  She thought nothing of it; this was his usual routine.

He rode into the village and stopped at Rozelle Bateman’s place at the corner of Main and Mill Street.  Bateman was the postmaster.  His four-room house, constructed with logs from Gemmell’s saw mill, served as a post office, a store, a hotel, as well as a home for his family.  Everybody stopped at Bateman’s when they came into Sheridan.

James walked into the store and headed for the cigar box on the shelf near the dry goods to check for mail.  That cigar box was the official Sheridan post office, where the villagers (one hundred fifty of them in 1879) dropped off and picked up their letters.  Today there was no mail for the Gemmells.  James had a little time to chat with some of his neighbors and read the newspaper while he waited.  He felt some sense of relief that today he would complete what he considered some very important business at the hotel.

Like his brother William, James had always been strong and fit, and was very seldom ill.  In recent years he had noticed that old age was creeping up on him.  Even Maria noticed that his appetite had diminished, that he had lost weight and often complained of stomach pain.  Instinctively he knew that those whiskey sprees with his fellow mountain men had taken a toll on his health.  Back in 1870 he swore off the whiskey, except for special occasions.  Now, at nearly sixty-five years old, he accepted the fact that his days were numbered…perhaps he would live a few more months, or maybe even a few more years.  At best, time was short.

A few days earlier James had heard rumors that an old acquaintance William F. Wheeler would be coming to Sheridan on business, and of course, he would be staying at Bateman’s hotel.  The stage wouldn’t depart until evening, so James figured there would be time to pay him a visit before he left town.  James had met him for the first time ten years previously, when Wheeler first arrived as the newly appointed United States Marshal of Montana Territory.  A native of New York, he had studied law and worked as a newpaper reporter for the Ohio Statesman before entering government service.  His ten-year term as Marshal had just ended, and he was now able to devote most of his time to his position as a founding officer of the Montana Historical Society.

William F. Wheeler, 1890
Photo courtesy of Montana Historical Society Archives

Several folks had arrived at noon to talk with the former marshal.  James waited his turn and finally stepped forward to greet his old friend.  Wheeler recognized him immediately as one of the first acquaintances he had made when he came to Montana.  He remembered that James Gemmell was one of the very first white settlers in the territory.  He couldn’t help but notice how James had aged since he saw him last.  How feeble he looked!  He motioned for James to sit down and have a glass of wine.

Sheridan as James knew it in the 1870's
(Buildings numbered from left to right)
View from back of Bateman store
Photo courtesy of Sandra Baril

Wheeler had stopped in Sheridan on his way home to Helena after visiting Yellowstone National Park.(1)  His description of its many natural wonders sparked vivid memories for James, who then related the story of his expedition to Yellowstone with old Jim Bridger more than thirty years earlier.  All the while Wheeler was jotting down a few notes.  “Have you ever seen any views (photographs) of the geysers, the falls and hot springs since your first visit,” he asked.

James responded, “When I was in Bozeman several years back, Bird Calfee showed me his whole collection. I recognized them all right away.  Always wanted to go back again, but I had a large family to feed. Seems like I was always working.”

Two hours had flown by, and James had nearly forgotten the real reason he had come to call on William Wheeler.  At this point he invited Wheeler to go home with him to his ranch just a mile away.  He said he had some interesting papers he would like him to see.  When they arrived at the house, James retrieved two yellowed, tattered copies of the Michigan State Gazette that he had kept in a satchel for thirty-five years. The Jackson, Michigan, newspaper had reprinted two letters originally published in the New York Plebeian.  These two letters recounted the story of his involvement in the Canadian rebellion of 1837, from his capture and trial and sentence of life imprisonment in Van Diemens Land, to his escape and return home after two years of captivity.

Wheeler continued to take notes as James told how he happened to venture out on the plains.  He talked about the death of his first wife in Michigan, how he met up with Jim Bridger, how he settled in Great Salt Lake City, and how he and his family were among the earliest settlers in Montana.

A couple of hours passed unnoticed until it was time for supper.  Maria insisted that their guest stay and have a meal with them. James introduced several of his children who were still living at home.  The youngest one was three-year-old George, a stout, healthy, rosy-cheeked boy.  He was James’ twenty-first child. (James had eighteen biological children and three step children.)

After supper the two men drove the buggy back to Sheridan in time for Wheeler to catch his evening stagecoach to Helena.  As they parted, James placed the newspapers in Wheeler’s hands and explained that he was getting old and didn’t expect to live much longer.  For this reason he had told his story.  He had one last request of Wheeler, “If you consider my story worth preserving, I hope you will write it out.”  As they shook hands, Wheeler assured him that he would.

William Fletcher Wheeler served as the Montana Historical Society librarian from 1884 until his death in 1894.  He devoted much of his time collecting the reminiscences of old pioneers and writing their biographies.  He completed his article “The Late James Gemmell” in 1881, and it was published by the Montana Historical Society in 1896, fifteen years after James died.(2)
  1. Yellowstone National Park was designated by the United States Congress in 1872.
  2. Wheeler, William F., “The Late James Gemmell,” Montana Historical Society, vol. II, p.332.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Montana Gemmell Family

Jeanette Gemmell
(1852 - 1914)
Courtesy of Sandra Baril

A few months after little Katie’s death, James and Maria hosted a wedding for their eldest daughter, Jeanette.  The groom was James Duncan, son of Reverend Hugh Duncan.  As it turned out, the Gemmells and the Duncans had a lot in common.  Reverend Duncan and his family were Scottish immigrants who had settled in Montana the year before James Gemmell brought his family to Ruby Valley.  The Duncan family had arrived with the first wave of settlers heading for the Montana gold mines.  Starting out in May 1864, Jim Bridger led the first wagon train across hostile Indian Territory from Fort Laramie to the boomtown of Virginia City.  The Duncans hooked up with the Hickman Company of thirty wagons and followed the Bridger train.  Theirs was the second wagon company to arrive at Virginia City.

Reverend Hugh Duncan
(1824 - 1887)
Courtesy of Sandra Baril

Hugh Duncan had worked for a time in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and later had moved to Kansas, where he took up farming and became a Methodist minister.  In 1864 he moved his family to Montana, but not without a few harrowing experiences along the trail.  He was stricken with pneumonia after spending one whole day up to his chest in the frigid water of the Big Horn River, helping thirty ox teams and wagons to ford the deep and dangerous water.  Fortunately for Duncan, there was an excellent physician in the company, a Dr. Sherwood, who nursed him back to health.

The wagon trains stopped for one day to rest and to celebrate the fourth of July on the banks of the Big Horn, where they feasted on mud turtle soup for dinner. The next day they crossed the Shoshone, then called the Stinking River.  As the wagons crossed, the cattle that were hitched to the Duncan wagon went down stream and into a deep hole. Hugh Duncan leaped from the wagon onto the backs of the animals, trying to save them.  Then the four wheels dropped off the bed of the wagon and left the box floating downstream with fifteen-year-old James Duncan, and his mother and sister inside.  However, several men on the river bank managed to rescue those in the wagon bed.  The company reached Virginia City on July 21, but Hugh Duncan stayed there only a few months, then moved his family to one of the settlements along Alder Gulch and built a makeshift cabin.  He bought a one-third interest in a mining claim, and he and his son James went to work placer mining(1) for gold.  In 1869 Reverend Duncan moved to Ruby Valley, where he purchased one hundred sixty acres of land and engaged in farming and stock raising and became neighbors to the Gemmells—neighbors in the frontier sense of the word, anyone within a five-mile radius.

Reverend Hugh Duncan was one of the first Methodist ministers in Montana and one of the founders of the Masonic order in the state.  In 1883 he was grand master of the Masonic Lodges of Montana.  His son James followed in his footsteps in many ways.  James Duncan worked in mining for twenty years and then, like his father, he changed to farming.  He was very successful, owning an excellent farm property.  He was an honored member of the Masonic fraternity and a charter member of the Sheridan Lodge, serving four times as Master of the Lodge.  He and Jeanette were both devout Christians and served faithfully in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Sheridan.  Jeanette founded the Ladies Aid Society of Sheridan.  Both she and James were “possessed of high ideals, and led [lives] of integrity and industry.”(2)  The marriage of James and Jeanette produced a large family—ten grandchildren for both Hugh Duncan and James Gemmell.

James and Jeanette Gemmell Duncan
Courtesy of Reed Russell

These original Ruby Valley settlers had fascinating tales to tell about the early days of Montana.  For example, children and adults alike had to create their own amusement, especially during the long winters.  So they had dances, like the one held in James Gemmell’s big red barn, and they also put on plays.  James Duncan recalled performing in a home-made rendition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Since there were only boys in the cast, his brother Tom had to borrow his mother’s clothes to play Lady Macbeth.(3)

Virginia Gemmell Garrity
Courtsey of Cathy Hall

The Montana Indian war also made for some interesting stories.  James Gemmell’s daughter Virginia was twelve years old at the time of the Battle of the Big Hole, a battle between the Indians, led by Chief Joseph and Chief Looking Glass, and United States army during the Nez Perce War of 1877.  Sheridan residents built a stockade that year for protection from the Indians.  As a safety measure James had his children bury the family valuables and treasures. Virginia helped her brothers dig a trench to bury a hand-carved clock of hammered brass and a set of gold scales:

Everyone in those days kept open house and sold meals, which were paid for in gold dust weighed on the gold scales.  If a miner or a neighbor wished to borrow gold dust until his next panning, he was given the liberty of weighing the gold he desired, and when it was returned the weight was never checked, as honesty was the keynote of the old timers.

The family keepsakes were never unearthed. By the time the boys decided to open the underground vault, the landmarks had been changed, making it impossible to locate the correct spot.

The Gemmell brothers in 1900
Charlie, Andy, John, and George
Courtesy of Cathy Hall

The four Gemmell brothers (Charlie, Andy, John, and George) lived and worked in Ruby Valley most of their lives.  John was the only one who left Montana; he later moved to San Bernardino, California.  In 1900 the brothers worked together as placer miners at Bearmouth, Montana.  No doubt they had high hopes of striking it rich.  They were all single at the time, but John ended up marrying the camp cook, Addie O’Hara, and had four children.  Charlie and Andy remained bachelors, but George, who was James Gemmell’s youngest child, eventually married and had five children.
  1. Placer mining, as opposed to tunnel mining, refers to mining for precious metals found in the sand or gravel of stream-beds.
  2. James Duncan obituary, The Butte Miner, October 17, 1926; The Madison County Forum, October 22, 1926. Montana Historical Society, “The Pioneers”, author unknown; Jeanette Gammell Duncan obituary, Sheridan Forum, August 14 1914.
  3. Montana Historical Society, “The Pioneers”, author unknown
  4. Obituary of Virginia Gemmell Garrity, Montana Standard, Butte, Montana, 8 January 1942.
  5. 1900 U.S. Census, Bearmouth, Granite, Montana.