(Taken from Our Kunkel Family In America, 1980 edition
compiled by Wallace M. Kunkel)
“This is some of the fascinating story of Solomon Acton
Kunkel, the gold miner – third child and second son of Jacob.
He was born in Zanesville, Ohio,
in Crawford County. His wife, Isabelle Lawrence Price was born in
England. What we know of Solomon and his wife can best
be told by recording here for posterity his obituary, a copy of a letter
written by Mother Isabelle to her own daughter, Nellie May Kunkel Doran, and
some accurate information supplied by Madeleine Doran – Nellie May’s daughter,
and Solomon’s grand-daughter.
His obituary—courtesy of Mrs. P.I. (Hulda) Rock, genealogist
for the Mormon Church, Salt Lake City, Utah (1954):
WELL-KNOWN MINING MAN
Kunkel who died at his home, 450 Redondo Ave.,
(9/14/1916) had been a resident of Salt
Lake City since 1872.
He was born in Zanesville, Ohio,
in 1837, as was taken to Missouri
by his parents at the age of seven years.
From there he went to Placerville, California,
later to Virginia City, Nevada
about the time of the discovery of the famous Comstock Mine there. Mr. Kunkel was the original locator of the
famous Imlay Mine at Imlay, Nevada,
and helped to locate the Camps of Golconda, Battle
Mt., Gold Run and Winnemucca,
He acted as foreman and guide for the first party of surveyors and
engineers that surveyed the Southern Pacific Railroad from Ogden,
Utah to San Francisco,
He married the daughter of the late Edward Price and is survived by his
widow and nine children.
And here is the priceless letter, written by Solomon’s wife,
Isabelle, to their daughter, Nellie May Doran:
I do not know that
I can tell you very much that will be interesting of your father’s trip across
the plains. I know that it must have
been long and tedious, much longer than mine was, for he traveled a thousand
mile farther across the desert. No doubt
it was full of incidents of interest and adventures but, as you say, we never
asked him, and he, like I, never thought much about talking of them.
In 1858, there was
a great deal of excitement in the East, about gold being discovered at Pike’s
Peak, Colorado. Report said that it was as fabulously rich as
the gold in California in ’49, so
the mining fever was rampant. Of course
lots of men and boys caught it, especially some of the Kunkel boys, your father
among them. So in the spring of ’59 they
formed a small company, rigged up an outfit of wagons, oxen and
provisions. I have often heard your
father say what fine, strong oxen his were.
They were some that he had raised himself. At the time he was well fixed. He was only 22 and owned over $2000 of fine
stock which he gave to his Father (Jacob) when he left.
There were three
Kunkel and two Acton boys. The Kunkel’s were, first, John Kunkel, their
Uncle, Sol (your Father) and am not sure but I think the other one was Gideon
Kunkel, Uncle Dan’s oldest son. (Note:
It was Gideon, the father of Albert Kunkel who lived in Oregon,
Mo. At the time of our first
genealogy – 1954.) The Actons
were Sol and Gabriel, always called Gabe.
I don’t know the
date they left home. (Note: Later
determined to be may 5, 1859.) There
were others in the company but don’t know how many. They started for Pike’s Peak
and the Gold but when they arrived they found the Gold excitement a fake. There were hundreds turning back, but rather
than go back home they joined a company that was going to California. In the fall they arrived at a place called Hang
Town: I think it is now called Placerville
in Shasta County, California.
I don’t know of
anything in particular that occurred on their way although there must have been
many events that would be interesting if we only knew them. I know of only one and that was awful. In the company that they traveled with to California
there was a young man who had always been boasting that he would kill the first
Indian that he met, and I suppose he tried to do it but was prevented by some one. Anyway, later on there was a band of Indians
came and demanded him, and they had to give him up for the Indians outnumbered
the campers ten to one. They would have
massacred the whole bunch. It was
supposed the Indian that he tried to shoot had told the others and they came to
get revenge. It must have put a damper
on the whole camp, for I expect the fellow was badly hurt and disfigured.
were some placer mines near Hang Town,
but they could not do much that winter in the mining, so your Father opened up
a saddle and harness shop. He had
learned that trade. He established a
fine business and was doing splendidly.
Then came the excitement of opening up the famous Comstock Mines in Virginia
City, Nevada, so they left California
for Nevada. That fall Sol Kunkel was taken sick with
typhoid fever, which lasted three months.
Then when they thought he was getting well he had a relapse which
developed into typhoid pneumonia, and that lasted another three months. All that time Gabe Acton took care of
him. He nursed him night and day as
tenderly and as faithfully as any woman.
Sol Acton worked to help them along.
to that time your father had never smoked or tasted whiskey. He was so badly salivated that the Doctor
insisted on his smoking, said it would save his life if anything could. Soon
after you Father got well, Gabe died. It
was very sad. He had left a young bride,
only seventeen years old, and he was just a boy, poor Gabe! Your father said he was a splendid young
fellow, had been married only three months when he left home.
that the two Sols (Kunkel and Acton) began to prospect for mines and found many
very rich mines, but mining was very expensive those days. There were no railroads and often their ore
would have to be hauled for miles by pack mule before they reached a place
where there were teams to take it to a mill.
Most of the time they came out losers or not more than even. Sometimes they had to build a trail or road
before the ore could be hauled down the mountain side.
was the locater of at least fifty of the richest mining camps in Nevada. Whenever the mine turned out rich they called
him, “The Father of the Camp”. Of
course, he sold many fine and rich prospects.
That would give him a chance to open up another one that he thought just
as good or better.
time he had a very rich mine. In these
days it would have made him a millionaire.
It is a rich mine now, and he shipped the first ore that was ever taken
out of it. He shipped it to Swansea
in Wales, first
to San Francisco, then across the
ocean. But are assayed up into the
thousands so he thought he would be rich.
But when he got the returns, he came out only twenty dollars ahead. So he abandoned that.
1867 he crossed the western desert again.
He was with the surveyor who surveyed the ground for the Southern
Pacific Railroad from Ogden, Utah
to the Coast. S.M. Buck was the engineer.
Your Father did not do any of the surveying. He was the wagon master and camp finder. Always a little ahead of the others, he had
quite a number of thrilling experiences with Indians on that trip, but as he
understood much of what they were saying to him he often could make friends
with them by giving them a little sugar and coffee. But on one occasion he had quite a serious
time. There were a large number of them,
and they wanted to look in his wagon and help themselves, but he did not allow
that as he had all the provisions to supply his party across the desert. He was pretty badly frightened. For some time he did not know what to
do. Finally he tried to make them
believe that there was a large company of soldiers back, and if they found the
provisions and wagon gone they would surely shoot all big Indians. He showed them tow or three rifles he had in
the wagon and made them understand every soldier had one. Those days the Indians were very much afraid
of a gun. So they built a fire and
danced around it for hours and made your Father dance with them. He said he was nearly exhausted and soon
would have dropped, but finally they heard horses’ hoofs in the distance and
probably thought it was soldiers and they fled in a hurry. It proved to be the surveying party getting
back to camp for the night.
When the trip was over he went back to mining,
and made quite a little stake, went back to Missouri
to see his folks, then he brought Uncle Jacob out with him and they did well. That was in 1870. His brother Jacob came out in 1872. His father was very sick, so they sold their
mine for quite a nice sum of money and went east again to visit. When they got home Jake invested his money in
a farm. Dad spent all his in looking at
different prospects that he thought would be good investments but proved
On his way west, he stopped over to see Salt
Lake City and met me, and the next year we were
married. Then I think his real bad luck
began. I suppose I took my bad luck to
him, for we sure had lots of ups and downs, mostly downs.
your father was truly a pioneer, first a pioneer to Missouri,
then to California, then to Nevada. And his father (Jacob) was a Pioneer of Ohio
and in the early forties a Pioneer to Missouri.
I don’t think there is much more worth telling so will close. Wish I could tell you more. We might have learned a great deal if we had
taken time to talk of these things. I
fell sure there were many thrilling events in Dad’s career if we did but know
With love from Mother.