Biography of Sylvester Mowry

Sylvester Mowry entered West Point Academy in 1848, graduating high up in his class in 1852. Among his classmates were General Crook, General Kautz, Colonel Mendel, Jerome Bonaparte, Jr., Major General Evans, Captain Mullin of San Francisco, Lieutenant Ives, and other well known army officers.

In the summer of 1853, he was engaged with George B. McClellan on the Columbia, surveying for a railroad route; in 1855 he was with Colonel Steptoe at Salt Lake City, and in the spring of that year conducted some recruits and animals through to California. At this time he was a lieutenant, and, late in the season, was sent to Fort Yuma, from which place he made an expedition into the wilds of Arizona, which inspired him with a high opinion of the territory’s great mineral resources. He resigned his commission in the army, in 1857, or about that time, and became the owner of what was known as the Patagonia Mine, which name he changed to his own, and, thereafter, the mine was known as the Mowry Mine. An account of this purchase has been heretofore recorded in these pages. He worked this mine until 1862, when it was confiscated by General Carleton, and Mowry was imprisoned at Fort Yuma on account of his alleged southern sympathies. Mowry always contended that it was the result of an old feud between him and Carleton when they were both in the service.

At any rate, after Mowry had been held a prisoner for six months, he was liberated, and sometime afterwards his property was restored to him, but in such condition that it was practically worthless. Mowry said it was paying well at the time he was arrested, but that at the time of its restoration, all the machinery and much of the works were destroyed, or in such condition that it required large capital to place the mine on a productive basis, which he failed thereafter to do. From the close of the war up to the time of his death, he wrote many articles dealing with Arizona, and its political history, which were published in the San Francisco papers.

He printed two books, the best known of which is his “Arizona and Sonora” which is, today, used to some extent by mining men. Mowry advocated the extermination of the Indians, saying that was the only way in which a permanent peace could be established in Arizona. In one place he says: “There is only one way to wage war against the Apaches. A steady, persistent campaign must be made, following them to their haunts – hunting them to the fastnesses of the mountains. They must be surrounded, starved into coming in, surprised or inveigled – by white flags, or any other method, human or divine – and then put to death. If these ideas shock any weak minded individual who thinks himself a philanthropist, I can only say that I pity without respecting his mistaken sympathy. A man might as well have sympathy for a rattlesnake or a tiger.”

Sylvester Mowry was twice elected Delegate to Congress from Arizona before the organization of the Territory, but was never allowed to take his seat. He died in London, England, on October 15th, 1871, where he was trying to raise money to operate his mine. In speaking of his death, the Miner, of Prescott, under date of October 19, 1871, says:

“Honorable Sylvester Mowry died in London, England, on Tuesday. This is sad news for Arizona. In the death of Mr. Mowry this Territory has lost as faithful a friend as it ever had in the person of one man. At the present, when all the departments of the Government seem combined in one great effort against us, we can ill afford to lose the advocacy of a man so influential and so earnest in our behalf.”



Farish, Thomas Edwin. History Of Arizona, Volume 2. Printed and Published by Direction of the Second Legislature of the State of Arizona, A. D. 1915.

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