Sunday, January 5, 2014

52 Ancestors: #1 Thomas K. Stevens

I've selected Thomas K. Stevens, my 3rd great-grandfather, as my first ancestor profile for the year. He was a miner in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Just last week, I uncovered newspaper accounts of his grisly death on November 22, 1886.

Herald Democrat, Leadville, 24 November 1886
According to a flurry of dispatches from the mining town of Idaho Springs, Thomas and his eldest son were killed when an explosive charge they were setting ignited prematurely. The story was news to me. Frankly, I didn't even know Thomas K. Stevens lived in Colorado let alone raised his family, including my 2nd great-grandfather, in the state.

I find it absurd that this news blurb, detailing the deaths of two men, also finds space to exonerate the mining company from any wrongdoing.

The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection contained a couple other blurbs about a Thomas Stevens - perhaps my grandfather. Two of the pieces from February 1879 detail a close call with an avalanche that killed one of his fellow miners. Thomas was the foreman of the mine and "was considerably bruised but not seriously hurt."

An August 1878 article in the Colorado Miner mentions a Thomas Stevens who was awarded a contract to drill the Britannic tunnel inside Revenue Mountain. While I cannot confirm definitively that this is my great-grandfather, I think it's possible. First, I know he was a miner living and working in the area. Furthermore, from census records, I know Thomas was born in England. The article provides a brief piece of genealogical gold (forgive the mining pun!) - it mentions an exact birth location in England!

A Google search pointed me to St. Austell not Eustell in Cornwall. I have yet to locate any immigration or naturalization documents for my great-grandfather that could help confirm this article features my ancestor, but it's an encouraging lead worth further investigation. However, the contract award date of 1875 does raise questions. I believe my 2nd great-grandfather, Thomas' son William, was born in about 1879 in New Foundland, Canada. This would indicate timeline challenges. This inconsistency reinforces my interest in discovering the whole story.

I'm hopeful that in the coming year I can learn more about Thomas' immigration to the United States, and particularly the names of his parents. It would be great to be able to jump the pond and advance my Stevens family research in England.


  1. Welcome to Geneabloggers, FamSleuther. Best of luck with your 52 Ancestors challenge.

  2. You started off with a bang! Pardon the pun. I love finding my ancestors in old newspapers. I've discovered "if it bleeds, it leads" even in long ago media. If I find an ancestor in an old newspaper, it's not usually good news.

  3. Thanks for the well wishes, Dara!

    You're right, Schalene. Finding an ancestor in the paper usually isn't good news. But, as was the case with Thomas, it's quite insightful.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, Dr. Bill. Much appreciated!