Biography of William H. Townsend

Since the earliest pioneer development of Owyhee County, William H. Townsend has resided within its borders. Silver City had as yet no beginning when he arrived on its present site, in 1863, and De Lamar, Dewey and other towns were not heard of for many years afterward. The rich mineral deposits of this region, however, have attracted a large population, and with marvelous rapidity villages have been builded and all the enterprises and business industries of older communities have been introduced. All honor is due to the brave band of pioneers who first opened up this region to civilization, among which number is William H. Townsend.

He is a native of New England and a representative of one of the oldest American families, his English ancestors having come to the shores of the New World in 1630, only ten years after the planting of the colony at Salem. Among the heroes of the Revolution were some who bore the name of Townsend, the number including the great grandfather of our subject. The grand-father, William W. Townsend, was born in Massachusetts, and built the first block house in Shoreham, Vermont. In the Green Mountain state occurred the birth of our subject’s father, Vernon Townsend, who on attaining his majority married Eunice Haskins. In his early life he was a mechanic, but in 1844 he removed to Wisconsin, where he industriously followed farming throughout his remaining days. His death occurred when he had reached the age of eighty-six years, and most of his family were long-lived people, few passing away before arriving at the eightieth milestone on life’s journey. In religious belief the Townsends were Congregationalists. The mother of our subject was about sixty years of age at the time of her demise. Vernon and Eunice (Haskins) Townsend had five children, of whom three are now living.

William H. Townsend was born in Vermont, April 12, 1832, and when a youth of twelve summers went with his parents to Wisconsin, where he remained until 1853, when he crossed the plains to California. On the long journey across the sands and through the mountain passes the party with which he traveled was attacked by Indians, and Mr. Townsend received a flesh wound in the thigh, but they succeeded in driving off the red men. On arriving in the Golden state our subject engaged in mining in Siskiyou, Trinity and Calaveras counties, and his placer-mining operations in Trinity County yielded him one hundred dollars per day on an average. Three of them took out three thousand dollars in one week. For nine years Mr. Townsend followed mining in California, and in 1862 went to Powder River, Oregon, near where Baker City is now located. Subsequently he came to Owyhee County with a party of thirty miners, who arrived on the present site of Silver City in September of that year. This rich mineral district had been discovered the previous year by the celebrated Jordan, which fact, however, was unknown to Mr. Townsend and his party. Our subject secured his claim in the Gulch, one mile below where the town of Dewey now stands, and during the first six weeks, in connection with H. B. Eastman and A. C. Hudson, he took out three thousand dollars. When the quartz mines were discovered he and Mr. Eastman engaged in packing supplies to the miners and later became interested in the Morning Star mine, in conjunction with Marion Moore and D. H. Fogus. They took considerable gold from that claim, the first ore yielding nine hundred dollars to the ton.

Since that time Mr. Townsend has followed prospecting and locating mines. He now has a mill and good outfit on Jordan creek, three miles from De Lamar, where he has impounded a large quantity of tailings from the De Lamar mines. He has about thirty thousand tons of ore, and his mill has a capacity of twenty-five tons daily. A flume, a mile in length, conducts water to his mill for power, and he will furnish employment to several men when his plant is in operation. His practical mining experience can-not but render his new enterprise a profitable one, and all of his friends wish him the greatest success.

Mr. Townsend was united in marriage to Miss Nellie Scales, a sister of John Scales, of Owyhee County. They have five children: Lottie, wife of Fred Crete, Jr.; Albert, who is his father’s assist-ant in business, and Jennie, Harry and Alice, all under the parental roof. The family have until recently resided in Silver City, where Mr. Townsend owns a good residence, but are now occupying a new home near the mill. Mrs. Townsend is a member of the Methodist church, and the subject of this review belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He has passed all of the chairs three times and is one of the most valued representatives of his lodge, which he has represented in the grand lodge. In politics he has always been a Republican, but differs with the main branch of the party on the money question. The success he has achieved in business is due entirely to his own efforts. He is a natural mechanic, being able to do any kind of work in wood or iron, and this is of great benefit to him in his new enterprise. He is industrious and energetic, and his capable management has resulted in securing to him a comfortable property, which will undoubtedly bring him better financial returns in the future.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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