Book Review: Portrait of a Prospector | HistoryNet MENU

Book Review: Portrait of a Prospector

By HistoryNet Staff
5/24/2018 • Wild West Magazine

Portrait of a Prospector: Edward Schieffelin’s Own Story, edited by R. Bruce Craig, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2017, $19.95

Edward “Ed’ Schieffelin went down in history for ignoring a warning—“The only rock you will find there will be your own tombstone”—and discovering in 1877 one of the Wild West’s richest mining claims, which led to the founding of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. And without that iconic Wild West town, what could possibly have replaced the Gunfight near the O.K. Corral? Another two decades passed before 49-year-old Schieffelin found his tombstone, dying in 1897 of heart failure while seeking another fortune in Oregon.

By 1885 he’d scrawled down his adventures in 16 handwritten essays, none longer than 21 pages. Those memoirs, plus articles and other interviews, comprise this biography, edited and annotated by R. Bruce Craig.

Schieffelin was 12 when he ran away from his Oregon home to join a gold strike on the Salmon River, only to be returned by a neighbor. Before heading to Arizona Territory in 1875, he had prospected throughout the West, even traveling to Alaska in 1882, though he found too little gold and too much cold. Schieffelin’s straightforward memoirs don’t go into any depth, but he could spin a tale, and his story provides insight into a prospector’s life in the late 19th century.

Johnny D. Boggs

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