Gold fever! The founder of Lowell, Melvin Halsted, was not the only early settler of Lake County affected by the gold rush in the west. Among other early settlers who heard the call of the gold fields was Jacob Baughman II.
His father, Jacob Baughman I, a native of Pennsylvania, was born in 1798 and died at West Creek Township, Lake County, Ind., in 1855.
He came to Lake County in 1850 with his wife Sarah (Ritter) Baughman, who was born in 1799 and died at West Creek in 1870. They came from their farm home just south of Canton, Ohio, with their eight children.
Their son, Jacob Baughman II, was born in 1829 in Tuscara was County, Ohio, where he spent his early childhood and attended local schools. He came with his parents to Valparaiso in 1849, and when the family moved to their West Creek Farm in 1851, they built their home and began to break the prairie. The farm was on the present Calumet Ave., south of 185th Ave.
In 1852, Jacob left the farm with his brother and two others and headed for the gold fields of California by the way of New York and the Isthmus of Panama. Landing at San Francisco, they were soon able to travel to Dry Creek and went on to Sierra County, Calif., near Donner Pass, and mined the Yuba River west of there with "good success." On they went to Lost Hill, near Bakersfield, and to Bush Creek.
They stayed in California for seven years before returning to the farm in West Creek. We quote from a history book of 1884: "They returned in 1859, much better off."
Jacob farmed in Kankakee County, Ill., until 1862, when the rumor of gold in Idaho attracted the veteran prospector. This trip was on the overland route to the west, following the "Bridger Trail," then just an Indian route. They finally arrived in Virginia City after sixty days of adventures and suffering. The Bridger Trail was named after early pioneer Jim Bridger ,1804-1881, a fur trader, explorer and scout who was born in Richmond, Va. He is said to be the first white man to have visited Great Salt Lake (1824). He built the trading camp which later became Ft. Bridger on the Oregon Trail, and his name is on the pass at the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. He was one of the best liked and most respected of the moutain men.
Jacob mined two months at Alder Gulch, and then moved on to his old haunts at Nevada City, Calif., north of Sacramento. In 1864, he traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, then came back to Idaho, where he found good diggings at Black Gulch.
Then on he went to mine at Helena City, Mont., and to Silver Creek, and then returned to Indiana by the way of Ft. Benton and the Missouri River. Ft. Benton was a trading post in North Central Montana, and was the main port of entry for the mines in the 1860's.
At times, some of the miners ran into hard times and were in rags, almost barefooted, without provisions and almost without tools, but when they heard the cry "the gold is here sure enough" they would "hunker" down by an icy stream to pan up water and gravel, to watch for the glint of gold as they carefully swirled for ten minutes or more, lest they sloshed out the gold with the lighter material.
Other miners, with better funds, were able to use a long sluice called a "Long Tom" to separate the gold from the rest.
Many settlements had their start from small mining claims, though many became ghost towns later when the mines failed. These towns were governed by the law of the West, with marshals, vigilantes, and hangings. Jacob Baughman, the miner from Lake County, must have seen it all.
Historian Weston A. Goodspeed wrote the following in 1884: "Mr. Baughman had a mining experience, perhaps not equaled by any man in Lake County; he has toiled, suffered, and has been rewarded."
After his return, Jacob farmed for a few years in West Creek Township, and was the owner of property in Cedar Creek Township and in Kankakee County Illinois.
On May 28, 1868, when he was 39, Jacob married Emma Dodge, daughter of Henry L. and Mary L. Dodge, early settlers. She was born in 1846 in Merrimack County, N.H.
Henry Lancaster Baughman, their only son, was born in 1869, and died in 1947. He and his wife, Amelia, were the parents of one daughter, Henrietta, who married Paul Macy. Henrietta and Paul had no children.
Jacob and Emma left their West Creek home in 1870 when they moved to Lowell. The Lake County Directory of 1909 lists their address at Main St. near Clark St.
The following is from another old history book: "Jacob Baughman was one of the self-made and substantial men of Lake County." He died in 1917, five years after his wife passed away in 1912, and both are buried at the Lake Prairie Cemetery.
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