JEFF McDERMOTT. as he is familiarly known in many mining camps of the West, was born in Ireland October 31. 1839, and went to America with his parents in 1852. The family located in Ohio on the Old Western Reserve twenty-four miles west of Cleveland. In 1855 the subject of this .sketch went to Iowa and thence to Kansas, which was then a territory. He was a resident of "Bleeding Kansas" through the days of the slavery excitement and lived there until the spring of 1859.
At the beginning of the Pike's Peak excitement, in the days when the old prairie schooners, labelled "Pike's Peak or Bust," crossed the wide expanse of plains, then a wilderness, he became a pilgrim to the "New Golconda." He had saved up $300, and after arriving at Pike's Peak he invested in a prospect hole, agreeing to pay $1,000 for the claim. When he started to work on the property he didn't have a dollar left.
In those days the work of crushing ore was done by a custom mill, and the ore
was measured by the cord. He paid $100 a cord for crushing his ores and $25 for
hauling it from the mine to the mill.
After this mining venture he went to Montana. This was in 1861. He was one of the first four men to set up a sluice-box on Pioneer Gulch. He mined on Ban-
nock and on Alder Gulch until 1863. Montana was not organized as a territory, and
did not receive its name until the winter of 1863-'64.
In 1864 Mr. McDermott started back to his old home, but got only as far as the Missouri River. From Salt Lake to Atchison. Kansas, he traveled by stage, the
trip requiring twenty-two days and the fare being $300. At Atchison he met an old
Montana chum and they got six four-mule teams and started a freight line to Denver.
600 miles distant. In 1866 he was back in Montana again. During this year and
the following year he was in the freighting business on the frontier, traveling between
Salt Lake and Boise Basin; later he mined near Leesburg and worked on Silver Creek
with Tom Kruse, who is now one of Montana's millionaires.
In 1876 he stampeded to the Black Hills, and he has since mined in Colorado. Mexico, Dawson and in the Nome country. Like al! other miners, he has had his ups
and downs, but says that all the money he has ever made in his life he made at mining.
A proof that he has always been a pioneer, and has been on the frontier most of his
life, is the fact that he never had but one opportunity of voting at a Presidential election.
His first trip to the mines of the North was to the Klondike country. In this
region he mined on Bonanza Creek and had charge of 39 for the N. A. T. & T.
Company. He came to Nome in 1901, and having been in the mines all his life, realized and understood the great value of water. One of the first locations that he
made was a water right in the Solomon River country. He was one of the first men
to talk water rights and the necessity of constructing di tches. Because of the lack of
adequate capital he was not able to do anything with his water right location until
the season of 1904. The McDermott Ditch, the highest line ditch in this part of
the country, is the result of this water right location. It covers mineral ground that
will not be entirely worked out for fifty years.
Mr. McDermott is a married man and the father of three children, two boys and a girl. His family resides at Oreville, South Dakota. While he has passed a
great many mile posts on his life journey, he is nevertheless still a young man, capable
of doing his share as a prospector or a miner. Genial, witty, energetic and decisive
in action, he estimates that he has plenty of time left to make a fortune out of the
Alaska gold fields.
Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S.
Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.