PIKE'S PEAK: DISCOURAGEMENT
With the nation edging out of depression and tottering on the brink of disastrous civil conflict, thousands of Argonauts surged to Pike's Peak in search of quick wealth. Fergus yielded to the temptation of "easy" riches and joined the tide. After reaching the best settlement possible with the company, he traveled south by steamboat and railroad to Omaha, taking about fifteen days. Supplied with $330 in cash, and furnished with $170 in equipment—teams, wagons, provisions—he pronounced himself ready to cross the plains. [James Fergus to William Fergus, December 1, 1861, MC, MHSL.]
As usual, Fergus left Minnesota in control of as many variables as possible, for he and three others—O. J. Rockwell, Saul Bosworth, and James Dillin, Pamelia's brother—had organized the Pike's Peak Company of Little Falls. The three partners drove wagons to Omaha, where Fergus joined them. By April 29 they advanced about 300 miles up the Platte River from Omaha, half way to Denver with 100 miles beyond that to the mines—roughly thirty days of additional travel. James thought they moved ahead of most travelers since there were "probably not more than 1000 teams ahead of us." [Pike's Peak Company Record Book, James Fergus, secretary, March 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.]
The Fergus party consisted of the four partners and four travelers. James described the party: "We have three yoke of cattle, and a load of over 4500 lbs. on our wagon, being 9 blls of flour, 350 lbs. of side bacon, 100 lbs. of dried beef, beans, sugar, tea, tools, clothing, bedding and cooking utensils." After informing Pamelia he would not write again, because of a lack of mail service, until they reached the mines, he added "we have to walk all the way and after walking 20 miles helping about the teams fixing tents looking for grass and water hunting a little etc. we are generally tired." [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, April 13 and 29, 1860, Box 11 F. 57 and Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.]
After reaching the mountains, Fergus and his party explored the diggings and finally bought two claims for $400 in cash, cattle and flour "on the west side of the Snowy Range or Pacific Slope." [James Fergus to William Fergus, December 1, 1861, MC, MHSL. James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, June 10, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.] James calculated it cost them about $500 in time and money to locate. Next they secured town lots in Breckenridge and built a cabin.
Trying to improve their probability of success, the partners, during June and July, fanned out and staked claims in promising lodes. By September, Fergus served as recorder for the Cannon Mining District on Clear Creek, Utah Territory. [James Fergus: Little Falls Co. Notes and Accounts Notebook, July 13, 1860, Box 24 F. 6, FP, UM. Lodes included: Peterson, Rockwell, Dillin, Randall, Fall River, Fergus and Minnesota. Fergus had claims in most of these. Also, recorder's notes, September 12, 1860, Cannon Mining District, Clear Creek, Utah Territory.]
James had been there only a short time when he could see that too many had come from the states. Many, in fact, turned back before getting to Denver; numerous others left the mines, disappointed and broke. A very few realized $50 a day per man. Fergus remained bravely optimistic for "I may be disappointed but I came here to make money and I mean to do it before I go back if possible. It will only require time, patience and some energy." [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, June 10, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.]
Mining, Fergus soon discovered, required more than casual amounts of time, patience and energy. "The fact is it is confounded hard work picking and shoveling gravel all day in this confounded cold water." Also, unless one partner stayed at the cabin to cook, they had to rustle food after putting in a long, hard day. Before quitting in disgust, Fergus reported that "my clothes are about all worn out except my shirts, but I still have hopes of making my pile. I am working very hard as much as 16 hours a day Sundays and all." [Ibid., January 30, 1861, Box 17 F. 18, FP, UM.]
Even by early July of that first summer the mountain streams remained so full and swift that they could do little panning. James quickly identified fall as the best season to mine and concluded, "It is very uncertain whether I shall come home this winter at all (if I do it will be late) unless compelled to by business. I came here to make something for my family and I will do it before I leave the mountains entirely." [Ibid., July 1, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.] Thus Fergus, like so many others before and after, even though mining only a few weeks, realized quick wealth would take some time and considerable energy, determination and luck. He reluctantly told his disappointed family, therefore, that what he had intended to be a summer's adventure would require at least a year more than anticipated.
The problem, of course, was not just locating and extracting gold from rushing mountain streams or quartz veins, but it meant overcoming the physical and emotional obstacles. Hundreds of miles from the edge of civilization, the men struggled with crude tools, temporary housing and just enough food to keep them strong enough to swing a pick, for physical necessities remained secondary to the flurry and excitement of getting rich. When they first arrived, Fergus confessed:
We are now reduced to bread, bacon, and beef, varied by corn cake, beans, rice, etc. We would like a few potatoes, some pudding and milk, pies cake so forth, but they are not in our bill of fare. So we content ourselves by cooking what we do have, better than the women do, and make the rest up in keen appetites. [Ibid., May 12, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.]
Later, after settling into the mountain routine, Fergus described their menu this way:
The principle living here in the mountains is bread and bacon, or bread and beef. Those who live in the thickly settled part of the mines or in the towns can get plenty of beef at a low price, from 8 to 14 cts, but those who live on the frontier, or are prospecting, have to depend principally on bread and bacon. Sometimes a few dried apples stewed. Occasionally we get some corn meal and make mush, and fry it again when cold. Sometimes we have beef soup, and again bean soup, and those living in Denver or at the Gregory Diggins get all the vegetables they want now. They were raised on the Platte Valley last summer and are quite plentiful and of good quality. [Ibid., September 28, 1860, Box 17 F. 17, FP, UM.]
The isolation led to other problems, including erratic mail service, which led to depression among the men. When they first arrived at Denver letters had to be carried by express, expensive at twenty-five cents each. Consequently, James encouraged Pamelia to send fewer letters but to write more in each. A year later it would be more reasonable at ten cents a letter. [Ibid., May 12, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, and June 10, 1861, Box 11 F. 57, FP, UM.]
But the cost became secondary to the concern created by irregular and undependable mail delivery. Unlike most miners, Fergus wrote his wife often and expected her to do the same. When he received little response he worried; consequently he worried a good deal that first summer and fall. By late July he still had received few letters from home, complaining "another week has passed away and still no letters from home. My letters to you may share the same fate but still I wrote." [Ibid., July 30, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.]
The situation continued to be frustrating, with sporadic delivery of letters through the fall. Pamelia complained of similar problems in Little Falls. She wrote George Stephens, who relayed the message to Fergus, that she had received no letters in a month and was worried. James responded:
Without keeping an account of the number I think I must have written you over twenty letters since I left home, having written you when convenient one letter each week, and in no case that I recollect has the time exceeded two weeks. I have had the same kind of experience in receiving your letters, having been weeks without receiving a letter and then receiving several at a time months after they were written. [Ibid., November 23, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.]
Thus the problem existed on both ends, worrying each party of the other's well-being. James considered it his duty to keep his family informed of his activities and health, and despite his fatigue or multiple tasks, he found time to write at least once each week.
Some families left in Minnesota were not as fortunate, for many other men did not write as often, if at all. One distraught Sauk Rapids wife pleaded with Fergus to provide information about her non-communicating husband because:
I do not know what has become of my husband. I have not heard from him since last September, then he told me he would start home the first of October. I am in a suffering condition without anything to help myself with. My children are sick and destitute and as you know how I must feel, I hope you will lend me aid in trying to find where he is, as I am afraid he is dead, but if he is in the land of the living, I should be very glad to know of it. [Mary A. Paul to James Fergus, Fall 1861, Box 9 F. 3, FP, UM.]
Indians constituted another serious problem, at least psychologically, and while miners were not often under attack, the constant threat remained. The observant Fergus held much respect for the plains Indian:
One great trouble is the Indians which although apparently peaceable and friendly are very different from our Minnesota Indians. They are in their own country here, in their own native plains and mountains, while the whites are trespassers. They are well mounted on active Mexican and American horses, are well armed and altogether sassy fellows. They don't go (so far as I have seen them) in small bands but in large companys, and from there constant use of the saddle and rifle I think 100 of them could whip 500 of our miners many of whom scarcely ever fired a rifle in there lives. When we left Omaha the first Indians we saw were the Pawnees, then the Omahas, then the Souix, then the Cheyennes, then the Arrapahoes and now the Utes in the Mountains. [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, July 1, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.]
When Fergus considered moving his family to Red River of the North the winter of 1860, friend George Stephens urged him to review the needs of his children, for that frontier held little culture or formal education. When it came down to facts, however, Little Falls did not provide an intellectual smorgasbord either. James had been in the mountains only a month when Pamelia urged him to send the two older girls, Agnes and Luella, to school in Moline for "our little children must get all the learning that is possible. We have school about six weeks here then we will probably have no more until winter." Pamelia thought Agnes could, if they stayed with the George Stephens family, help Mrs. Stephens for her board; if not, James could pay the expenses. [Pamelia Fergus to James Fergus, June 10, 1860, Box 3 F. 25, FP, UM.] Fergus agreed, writing Stephens who took the girls "as a matter of course" to board and educate for a year; during that time he promised to treat them as his own. [George Stephens to Pamelia Fergus, September 2, 1860, Box 17 F. 31, FP, UM.] Pamelia wrote James expecting him to agree, for she knew he approved of education. As early as 1855 Fergus had been active in forming a common school district in his developing city of Little Falls. The following year he sought advice and presumably helped raise money to build a school house for the school district. Partners Tuttle and Sturgis supported the action. [Taylor Dudley to James Fergus, December 12, 1855, Box 2 F. 69, FP, UM. W. G. Babbitt to James Fergus, December 1, 1856, Box 1 F. 17, FP, UM.]
Pamelia, too, believed in educating their children to improve them and "give them a chance to know for themselves and have confidence in themselves. I feel as though if I only had half the mathematics that you has I would be very glad but it understands you must make arrangement for them children." [Pamelia Fergus to James Fergus, April 14, 1861, Box 3 F. 26, FP, UM.]
Sending the girls to Moline that school year proved to be a wise choice, for the Little Falls school met only sporadically. Andrew, about ten years old, received little education that year, which did not bother him much as he considered it less than exciting. [Ibid., February 16, 1861, Box 3 F. 26; June 2, 1861, and September 6, 1861, all Box 3 F. 26, FP, UM.] Of course Lillie, being too young for school, remained at home keeping her mother company.
In Moline, Agnes and Luella attended what they considered to be a good school and liked it, studying geography, arithmetic, composition, reading and spelling. The teacher lived with the Stephens family, which all considered advantageous. [Agnes Fergus to James Fergus, May 14, 1861, Box 5 F. 24, FP, UM. George Stephens to James Fergus, October 18, 1860, Box 10 F. 24, FP, UM.] When James did not bring his family to the Colorado mountains the summer of 1861, Agnes and Luella returned to Moline for additional education. They again stayed with the Stephens and attended dancing school in addition to their normal classes. [Agnes Fergus to James Fergus, December 2, 1861, Box 5 F. 24, FP, UM.]
After Fergus returned from Pike's Peak he tried to pay Stephens, at least for the extra expense incurred for boarding the girls. George refused, indicating he would accept it late as Fergus' financial condition improved. Two years later, in January 1864, James sent Stephens $64, planning to send more in the future. [George Stephens to James Fergus, January 26, 1862, and January 18, 1864, Box 10 F. 24 and 25, FP, UM.]
Before Fergus left for the mountains, George Stephens, D. B. Sears and William Lee, all of Moline, talked of forming a company to mine gold and recover it in quartz mills. They planned to send James to the Peak and report back concerning the potential of such a venture. [Ibid., January 26, 1860, Box 10 F. 24, FP, UM.] James had been in the mountains only two months when he became increasingly convinced of mining's highly unstable nature, but if Stephens sent money for a quartz mill James agreed to initiate such an operation. Stephens encouraged such thinking and urged Fergus to buy a mill from a discouraged miner saving freight charges; in fact, he thought it would cost less than the freight charges. [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, July 22, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM. George Stephens to James Fergus, August 22, 1860, Box 10 F. 24, FP, UM.] Stephens, however, expressed concern for the venture and encouraged Fergus to investigate carefully before buying a mill because "you had better be fully satisfied as to the richness of the quartz so that there may be no failure, but a sure thing of any arrangements that we may go into." [George Stephens to James Fergus, September 2, 1860, Box 10 F. 24, FP, UM.]
James considered it a good investment and in December bought one-third interest in a six stamp quartz mill, paying $1000 down and promising to pay the remaining $833.33 as the mill started paying. He agreed to manage the mill that winter but thought he could make more if he owned it alone. Stephens thereafter sent the promised $1000. [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, December 1, 1860, Box 17 F. 17, FP, UM. George Stephens to James Fergus, January 1, 1861, Box 10 F. 24, FP, UM.]
Fergus and Stephens discovered, however, that wealth did not necessarily follow, even if "fully satisfied as to the richness of the quartz." Fergus offered this description:
The next claim to ours was the discovery (that is the claim or place where the vein was first found—claims are 100 ft on the vein) and yielded over $600 to the cord of quartz. My friends thought I had a good thing, several of them wanted to take an interest with me. Well instead of ours yielding over $600, the greatest yield we got was $17½, which resulted in my losing my $1000, $100 that I had left of my own and five months very hard labor, often working 18 hours out of the 24. [James Fergus to William Fergus, December 1, 1861, MC, MHSL.]
Thus Dame Fortune again turned on Fergus. Though optimistic in February 1861, when he wrote Pamelia that "I have made no money yet but the prospects ahead are far better than any time since I came to the mountains. . . . I am pretty sure certain now of making my pile before leaving he mountains for good," by spring he yielded to pessimism when failure seemed imminent.
I never worked so hard in my life nor lived so poor and I will not do it any longer if I never make anything. I have not complained any of what people usually call bad luck but some times I think my cup of misery and misfortune is full. And that not being able to get any lower, every change I make must be for the better, which makes me hope on. [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, February 10 and April 25, 1861, Box 11 F. 57, FP, UM.]
George Stephens became increasingly concerned about the quartz mill operation and though Fergus discouraged him from coming, George crossed the plains, arriving in early summer. He found the mines depressed and the mill in debt, so returned to Moline shortly thereafter. [Ibid., April 16, 1861, Box 11 F. 57, FP, UM. James Fergus to William Street, July 21, 1861, Box 11 F. 57, FP, UM.]
By this time, Pamelia had been without James, raising their children and wrestling with company problems for over a year. Though the two older girls spent much of the year in Moline, Andrew, aged 10, and Lillie, three, remained at home. [James Fergus to William Fergus, December 1, 1861, MC, MHSL.] Pamelia's mother came to help, and while they lived in a secure house with adequate food and money, Pamelia soon complained of poor health and mental depression, though she realized that "in reality we had not ought to complain. Other husbands go away and leave their familys destitute and not even write once in three or four months that is worse than my troubles. We have a plenty at present and a good warm house and plenty of wood." Her income seemed to come from several sources: what James left, debts others paid her, selling butter and eggs, income from the store. [Pamelia Fergus to James Fergus, July 4, December 23 and December 28, 1860, Box 3 F. 25-26, FP, UM. Also, undated letter from Pamelia to James, Box 3 F. 29, and May 1860, Box 3 F. 25, FP, UM.]
James had not yet reached the mines when he informed Pamelia of his plans to leave Little Falls, probably within a year. Therefore, he urged her to sell what lots and shares she could at reasonable prices, vote against any increased assessments, and tell no one of their potential move. [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, May 12, 1860, Box 17 F. 16, FP, UM.] That fall Fergus indicated his desire to bring the family out the following spring. He then planned to stay about three years as "I don't see how I can make much money short of that time," and wanted the children to see the scenery for "the mountain air will do them good." [Ibid., November 25, 1860, Box 17 F. 17, FP, UM.]
Despite Pamelia's efforts, the company assessed all stock once again and she raised the money to pay it, then worried to James who tried to reassure her. He insisted his absence was to her advantage as it would increase her self confidence. He tried to encourage her and rationalize his absence.
Although you have done different probably from what I would in paying the assessments, you have done the best you could and I think have managed first rate. My going away has and will be a great benefit to you, by throwing you on your own resources and leaving you to do business for yourself if in no other way you can see how where the little business I left with you caused you so much trouble, how you ought to have looked over and accounted for my pecularities of temper and disposition amid such a press of business and losses that I had to bear at Little Falls. Do not fret and worry your self about business. Do the best you can, use your own judgment, then if necessary consult your friends. Then do as you think best [but] don't let everybody know your business. [Ibid., October 10, 1860, Box 17 F. 17; Pamelia Fergus to James Fergus, April 22 and August 18, 1860, Box 3 F. 25, FP, UM.]
Though James wrote often giving Pamelia advice concerning land, livestock and children, he insisted "I cannot give you advice about any particular thing, because it is so long before I get your letters and you get mine." Thus, Pamelia was thrown on her own resources which bothered her considerably. [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, November 23, 1860, Box 17 F. 17, FP, UM.]
By February 1861 Pamelia's problems had not lessened, even though she had her mother and sister living with them. She confessed her loneliness to James, who responded "you may think your lot hard, if you was here you would find it harder." [Ibid., February 10, 1861, Box 11 F. 57, FP, UM.] Later that spring Pamelia, after relaying information concerning the stock assessments, debts collected, the children and their financial situation, insisted to James she cared more for him than potential wealth, therefore ". . . you must come home next fall and make a home for us in Illinois or Iowa and we never can spare you to [go] back their again as Bosworth has done it." Clearly, Pamelia did not want James to continue risking his health and the family's well-being for illusive riches. She opposed additional prospecting and preferred to have him rejoin the family and remain with them, whatever their status. She probably hoped to relocate the family in a more civilized area such as Illinois or possibly Iowa, certainly not further west onto the spacious plains. In addition, she cautioned him against overwork:
Now father don't work so hard the day is quite to long for you to labor in your old age don't get to much business on hand. I cannot bare the idea of you leaving your bones their you say you still hope to make your pile if you should happen to find a streak of luck don't be to gready and never get home you are very energetic and don't seem to think or time is short here at best now I want to enjoy you and our little children riches I do not want enough to be comfortable is all I ask. . . . Now Fergus get you some warm cloths try and be careful of your health you say your cloths are about worn out. . . ." [Pamelia Fergus to James Fergus, March 2, 1861, Box 3 F. 26, FP, UM.]
While ill health had forced James out of the Moline foundry and he had left Little Falls partially for the same reason, Fergus seemed to rejuvenate in the mountains. Despite the fact that he abused himself with punishing sixteen to eighteen hour days and an imbalanced diet, he suffered little sickness and his health improved. His only illness came that initial fall when he became sick for three days and nights; his friends insisted it resulted from a 45-mile walk the previous day; Fergus blamed too much bread and bacon compounded by lack of good fruits and vegetables. [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, October 10, and November 23, 1860, Box 17 F. 17, FP, UM.]
Of course, Pamelia expressed concern and suggested her cure: get "some mustard and grate it into some fresh lard or seed oil. This is what cured you in a short time when we were in Rockland. Be careful about lifting heavy things." She later urged him not to save all his money if it meant going without for them. He should get warm clothes as his family valued his health more than money. [Pamelia Fergus to James Fergus, November 22, 1860, and April 7, 1861, Box 3 F. 25-26, FP, UM.]
After returning to Minnesota, James insisted, in relation to his health, that:
In every respect except making money it has been beneficial to me (the Colorado trip), in that most summers when I went away my system was prostrated by too close an application to business. Now my health is excellent. I can stand almost any amount of fatugue. Although I have done some of the hardest work I ever done in my life, fared the hardest, slept much of the summer time out of doors in the open air, often on the mountains among the snows, carrying from 20 to 70 lbs of provisions, tools, blankets, etc. for days. [James Fergus to William Fergus, December 1, 1861, MC, MHSL.
By the summer of 1861 Fergus had been in the mountains over a year and both he and his wife were becoming very discouraged. In many ways Pamelia bore the heavier burden, for she shouldered the responsibility of raising the children and trying to salvage something from a splintered business though understanding little of its operation. The problem must have seemed enormous to her at times, for example when C. A. Tuttle raged into Little Falls shortly after James left, accusing him of robbery, demanding the company books and immediate compensation; or when the Mississippi flooded again, tearing out the southeast corner of the mill and washing it downstream. [Pamelia Fergus to James Fergus, April 17 and June 10, 1860, Box 3 F. 25, FP, UM.] In addition, there were assessments to pay, debts to collect, town property and livestock to manage—all this with the constant, nagging uncertainty as to her husband's whereabouts and well-being let to worry and loneliness, despite the presence of mother and sister.
James took note of this and tried to reassure Pamelia: "I see that you are somewhat discouraged and have the blues . . . but keep up good spirits, advise yourself as well as you can." [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, May 25, 1861, Box 17 F. 18, FP, UM.] Still, Pamelia exploded:
Now Fergus I do not know what to say about your business here in your town. Our county taxes are not payed yet nor won't be if I do not watch it. You had better come home and do something with this property it is good for nothing. The taxes are $40 and the whole thing is not worth that amount.
And later she wrote, "I know you hate to put your hand to the plow and look back but I don't see anything here to live for not even a school," indicating again she preferred leaving Little Falls, hopefully for an area that at least had schools. [Pamelia Fergus to James Fergus, July 8, 1861 and June 25, 1861, Box 3 F. 26, FP, UM.]
James had little to celebrate either, as the spring sun melted the snow in 1861; the previous winter had proven their quartz vein to be worthless and surrounding mines did not produce enough to enable the mill to profit. Besides, though Pamelia wrote faithfully, mail remained irregular; late in April Fergus had received no letters for two weeks, disappointing him and leading him to confess that "I feel a little lonesome." [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, April 25, 1861, Box 11 F. 57, FP, UM.] Mining activity usually quickens with spring warmth but that year their quartz vein spawned little activity and the mill stood idle. Production determined value. Since the property brought no yield it had diminished worth and could be sold for little or nothing, if at all. Fergus put it this way in describing the rise and fall of Mountain City, Utah Territory:
During the preceding eight months a large town had grown up with some 10 stores two hotels theatre Masonic Hall. Six quartz mills in the two months after I left it was all deserted and not one man at work on that quartz vein. Such is gold mining in the Rocky Mountains. After losing all I had . . . in this milling and mining operation I went off west some two hundred miles to the Snake Mountains. [James Fergus to William Fergus, December 1, 1861, MC, MHSL.]
Fergus became increasingly disgusted, for he found no trace of quartz in the Snake Mountains. Still, he expressed an interest in returning the following year. "But the longer I stay here the poorer I get. I believe there are more broken men in these mountains than in Minnesota, at least one out of every four mills are laying idle." [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, July 10, 1861, Box 17 F. 18, FP, UM.]
If Fergus possessed one characteristic in abundance, it was persistence. Late in July partners William Lee and George Stephens, discouraged with the entire situation, left for the states. They encouraged Fergus to return, offering him free transportation, with the idea that he could clear up his Little Falls problems. He refused, and though he planned to return later that fall, James wanted to remain through the good mining months and allow every potential for discovery. [Ibid., July 24, 1861, Box 17 F. 18, FP, UM. Stephens later refused to accept James' repayment of the $1000, insisting that he had worked very hard in Mountain City and Blackhawk City. While Fergus did not strike it rich and return the investment, it had not been his fault. George Stephens to James Fergus, March 23, 1875, Box 10 F. 26, FP, UM.]
By early September James became increasingly lonesome; though he had promised to come home that fall, and planned on doing so, he still flirted with the idea of staying that winter:
I have received but one letter from you in four weeks, that was two weeks ago and none from George Stephens or the children (in Moline) since George left here. That together with no prospects of me making anything before it is time for me to come home makes me feel rather lonesome. I could do something I think if I was to stay here this winter but I promised you I would come home and I will. [James Fergus to Pamelia Fergus, September 1, 1861, Box 17 F. 18, FP, UM.]
Broke and discouraged, James had to abandon prospecting and work as a millwright to earn money for his return trip. Still, he hoped to return to the mountains the following year for:
I have made up my mind that unless business is better in Minnesota than I think it is, or that I can get into something there that I can make something at I will try and get back here next season either with or without my family and go into some steady business with some of my friends or if I can't do that to go into mill [work].
While a return to Little Falls would alter these plans, Fergus kept his promise to Pamelia and left for home by mid-September. [Ibid., September 8, 1861, Box 17 F. 18, FP, UM. It might be noted that Black Hawk Point, if the same town as today's Black Hawk, is adjacent to Central City, Mountain City, Gregory Gulch, all in Gilpin County, which later yielded gold after liberal application of foreign capital and knowledge mixed with scientific training. Fergus lacked both so failed, though he had claims in the area. Rodman W. Paul, Mining Frontiers of the Far West: 1848-1880 (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963), pp. 114-134.]
On his way back to Little Falls, James stopped in Moline to visit the Stephens family and pick up Agnes and Luella, who had returned for additional education. The three lingered in St. Paul to spend the day with Ignatius Donnelly, then the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. [James Fergus to Fergus County Argus, n.d. (shortly after Ignatius Donnelly died in 1901), Box 2 F. 5, FP, UM.] Thus Pamelia and James were reunited after being separated for a year and a half; the entire family came together again for the first time since the spring of 1860. This sweet unity lasted only a few months, however, for the lure of mountain gold drew Fergus across the plains again the following spring, this time to the Northern Rockies.