We have many ancestors who were pastors, especially in the Biddle branch of our family. Many of them were pastors in the United Brethren church, which eventually merged with the Methodist church. One of our ancestors who was a circuit-riding pastor was Alexander Biddle (1810-1899). Alexander was the 10th of 12 children of John Jacob Biddle and Rachel Todd.  Alexander and his wife, Magdalena Noftzgar had two children, two of whom, John and William Rinehart, served in the Civil War.   Alexander  was the uncle of George Washington Biddle, who was the father of Martha Ellen Biddle, who married Henry Albert Snyder.   Alexander  was born in Bedford, Pennsylvania and died in Galion, Ohio. He became a traveling minister or “circuit rider” at the age of 21.

I found an interesting but long article about Alexander in a book published in 1908 that was titled “Our Heroes: Or United Brethren Home Missionaries.” Here is the article:

“Among the many gifted and heroic men who have devoted their lives to the cause of pioneer mission work in the United Brethren Church, none have met with more distinguished  success than Alexander Biddle.  His paternal grandfather was a native of Hesse-Cassel, Germany, who, with his three brothers, Peter, Thomas and Andrew,  emigrated to  America about the year 1760, settling in the colony of Maryland, from which Andrew served with distinction as an officer in the War of the Revolution.  His mother was of English descent, her people having emigrated from England with the second Lord Baltimore about the year 1647.

Alexander Biddle was born in Bedford County, Pa., April 24, 1810.  When five years of age, his  father cut his way through the dense forests into Beaver County,  where he  moved his family.  In  that lonely region of pure air and rugged scenery, the boy grew to manhood.  Thus, at the very outset, he was inducted into the experience of pioneer life.  To settle in a new county and to go forward in the face of obstacles came natural to him.  From his parents he inherited a hardy constitution and the highest principles of independence, industry, and downright honesty.  His school advantages were very limited.  The tuition of an Irish schoolmaster for two winter seasons gave him the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but  in after years he applied himself closely as a student and built up  and education of surprising breadth and thoroughness.

Until he was about eighteen years of age, young Biddle gave the matter of religion but little thought.  He occasionally attended the services of the  Episcopal Church with his mother, of which she was a member.  On a summer evening, in the year 1828, while leisurely walking one of the streets of Pittsburgh, he passed a plain church building in which services were then being held by the colored people.  He was attracted within by the loud voice of the minister, who  was picturing in livid colors the sufferings of a lost soul.  The sermon made a profound impression upon the young man.  Indeed, it was the turning-point in his life.

While attending a  Methodist camp-meeting some time later, a mighty conviction of sin came upon him, but not until the fourth of October of the following year did he experience the peace of forgiveness, at which time he joined the United Brethern Church, and was baptized in the Ohio River by Rev. Jacob Geisinger.  Describing his experience, he says:  “As we came up out of the water, the glory of God seemed to appear.  The sky flamed with supernatural  brightness;  the hills about me were transformed into mountains of gold;   the river was as the River of Life, and the trees as the trees of Paradise.  Heaven was opened and in its splendor my soul was bathed.”   He  believed  he had seen the King in his beauty, and in the strength of that faith he walked all his days.

Mr. Biddle at once began religious work, and at twenty years of age his ability as a preacher  was attracting much attention.  He joined the Muskingum Conference in 1831,  and was  licensed to preach by Bishop Henry Kumler Sr.  His  first  circuit to which he was appointed by that conference covered Harrison, Guernsey, and Monroe counties.  It was two hundred miles around, with twenty-four appointments.  There being but two little church-buildings in the territory,  he held services in private homes, in barns, or in the  woods, as seemed best.  His father gave him a horse, saddle, and the indispensable saddle-bags, while his mother  furnished his wardrobe.  His library consisted  of a Bible and hymn-book.  A little later he added Walker’s Dictionary and Clark’s Commentaries.  He had a clear, ringing, majestic  voice and was a sweet singer; but, above all, he had his marvelous personal experience to tell and tell it he did with boundless enthusiasm.  At the end of the year he reported fifty additions to the Church and a salary of fifty-four dollars.

The following year he was appointed to the Lisbon Circuit.  It was three hundred miles in circumference, with twenty-four appointments and no church houses.  Four new societies were formed, out of which grew the Western Reserve Conference.  Seventy-two new members were added to the church during the year, and for his work  he received seventy-two dollars.   Four years later he was appointed to this same charge, which then included four hundred miles of travel, with forty-nine appointments.  James McGraw was appointed to assist in the work.  It was a year of marvelous success.  A meeting was held in Beaver County, conversions, of who three became preachers.  A wonderful manifestation of power was also  witnessed at a camp-meeting in Stark County, Ohio.  A band of wicked men organized  to break up the meeting.  McGraw was preaching when the mob appeared.  He hesitated  for a moment, when Mr. Biddle arose, and, lifting his massive  form to its great height, he cried with a mighty voice, “Lord God Almighty, let thy power come.”   The people responded, “Amen,” and come it did.  The leader of the mob fell upon the ground, crying for mercy, while his  followers fled, and a harvest  of souls was gathered.

“In the Western Reserve, distances between settlements were generally great, and the roads very bad – mere paths, made by cutting out the underbrush and marking the trees.  As the soil is composed of rich clay and loam, and as much of the country is flat, the roads in all seasons became very muddy; and half frozen in the spring and fall, our horses suffered extremely.  In passing across a prairie from one ridge of the timbered land to another, in foggy or snowy weather, one was often out of sight of timbered land, and the paths were so dim, especially in snowstorms, that the traveler risked losing his way and perishing of the frost before he could reach a human habitation.  To increase the danger, these prairies were frequently covered with water, and if frozen, but not so as to bear man or beast,  both were liable to be wounded by the ice.  We had but  few bridges and were obliged to ford streams, or to cross the ice.  Somtimes we took saddle and saddle-bags to a canoe and swam the horse by its side; sometimes when unable to  get our horses across we went to our appointments afoot rather than disappoint  a congregation.  Preachers were often lost in the woods.  Lemuel Lane was attacked one night by wolves; sticks, clubs, shouts proved ineffectual;  he bethought him of music charming the savage beast; he sang, and the retreating wolves left him to sleep in the snow.”  These words of a missionary, written in 1832, may give some idea of the difficulties encountered by Mr. Biddle on his first mission fields.

This veteran hero of the Cross recognized the period from 1837 to 1847, when he served as presiding elder, as the golden years of his ministry.  They were fruitful of toils, trials, and conflicts and most marvelous victories.  In the year 1841 he found a community dominated by a Mr. Dilk, who professed to be  God.  He was a large man of most commanding presence, piercing eye, thrilling voice and overmastering  will.  In the  face of the greatest opposition and threats of injury, Mr. Biddle conducted a meeting in that community, which resulted in completely breaking the power of this false prophet, and adding many of his delivered followers to the Church.  Returning  from this triumph, he found his home in ashes and his family homeless and brokenhearted.  He rode by the ruins, unmoved, to where his family was stopping, but when his little boy, John, climbed upon his knee and placed his arms about his neck and with sobs said, “Papa, we have no home,”  the mighty spirit of his father gave way, and rising from his seat, he turned his face to the wall and wept like a child.   But his poverty and privations were soon forgotten in his purpose to glorify God and save souls – an aim which he  constantly pursued like a giant of destiny, with no regard for losses, defeats, or obstacles.

As a preacher and evangelist, Alexander Biddle stands in the history of the early missionary work of Eastern Ohio without a peer.  A few of his triumphs are here given:

At the dedication of a church in Richester, Pennsylvania, seventy were at the altar at one time and over one hundred were added to the church.

One of his greatest triumphs came at a camp-meeting held on his father-in-laws farm.  It was a veritable Pentecost.  On Sunday morning the service began at eight o’clock and continued throughout the entire day.  It seemed that nothing could stop it.  Sinners flocked to the altar, found peace, and went away to bring others.  All day and all night the glorious work went on, and not until the new day opened could the preacher stop for rest.  The spoils of that day and night were over one hundred souls.

Near Canton,  Ohio, he began a mission in a new community and held services in a wagon shop.  The first week but little impression seemed to be made, but on the second Sabbath the congregation was mightily moved.  The preacher swept everything before the torrent of his eloquence.  Thirty-five persons came to the altar during the sermon.  The  whole community was reformed,  a class of seventy-five members were added to the church.  He closed his fifteen years of service in the Muskingum  Conference with a wonderful revival in Stark County, Ohio, where scores of souls were converted and united with the church.  When he joined the conference in 1831, there were three itinerant members; when he left in 1848, there were twenty-eight ministers and charges.  Most of this increase is due to his powerful influence and work.

There were times when Mr. Biddle and his family were in great want.  In 1850 he endorsed notes for friends and was compelled to pay them.  One of his children thus speaks of that occasion:  “I was in my ninth year when the sheriff came to attach father’s property.  He asked how many horses we had, how many sheep, and all about his property.  Father told him the truth to the letter and gave their probable value.  We had some twenty or thirty sheep and mother thought a great deal of them.  After the papers had been made out and a neighbor went on his bond for the property, mother said to him, with tears in her eyes, “Why did you not save out a few of the sheep?”  He made no reply.

In 1847, Mr. Biddle moved to Crawford  County, Ohio, and the following year joined the Sandusky Conference.  His distinguished ability and leadership  were  at once recognized.  He represented the  conference in the General Conferences of 1857, 1861, and 1865.  In these gatherings he always took a prominent part, and on each of these occasions he was prominently spoken of for bishop.  He identified himself with every progressive movement of the Church and  was a close student of theology and history.  He saw his Church changing, but he kept abreast of his age and was always young and receptive.  His loyalty to his Church was one of his chief characteristics.  He was one of the Lord’s prophets, who saw things that were to be and spoke of them as if already present; hence he was a leader of God’s hosts.  In the midst of discouragement he was always brave; in counsel, always wise; in service, always ready.  His son, an attorney in Fort Scott, Kansas,  says;  “I never saw father
weep but twice.  One morning, as he was spreading the clothing of my mother’s death-bed over  a pile of stones in the yard and hanging some on the trees, while her body was in a coffin in the room, I, a boy of nine years old spoke  to him about my mother, and it so affected him that he wept aloud, and  caused me to shudder.  I could not conceive how so strong a man could give way as he did on that occasion, but it was like tearing an oak-tree out by its roots.  On another occasion, father’s district as presiding elder was in western Ohio, quite a distance from home, and he was away from home on each trip nine weeks.  This was shortly after my mother’s death in 1857, and our house was kept by a housekeeper.  When he left us on the first trip, as he bade us good-bye, great tears coursed over his cheeks.”

One of the great occasions of Mr. Biddle’s life, showing his power over men, came to him while residing in Galion, Ohio.  One of his parishioners, a railroad engineer, had been killed in a railway collision.  When the people began to gather for the funeral, it was apparent that the church would accommodate but a small per cent of the gathering throng, so he suggested that they adjourn to the public square.  Using a carriage as his pulpit in the center of the square, he addressed the assembled multitudes.  He was in good condition, and his great thrilling voice rang out over the vast throng.  The people hung upon his eloquent words for one hour, and began to stir only when he sat down.  A prominent attorney who was present  gives the following description:  “The  square was literally packed with people.  Every office and every building around the square was filled.  Everyone could hear him distinctly, and he seemed to speak from inspiration.  He held this vast assemblage for one hour.  Not one person left, and he had perfect order from the beginning of his discourse to the end.”  Mr. Biddle was a man of large mold in body and mind, full of vigor and hope.  He was fearless, independent and industrious, positive and progressive.  He grew with the people and was always abreast of the foremost ranks of his time.

Mr. Biddle was an optimist of the noblest type.  He was wholly given up to God and absorbed by his prospects, which constantly expanded before his vision.  God and the world passed before him in greatness.  He had the divine ability of heart to separate the grandeur of earth from its infirmities, to hear strains of beautiful music rising above its harshest tumult, and thus the road of life was taken up by his great heart and transfigured until it became like Jacob’s ladder – a way to heaven.

The discipline of life  served to broaden and deepen his faith, so that at last he stood as nearly a perfect specimen of fully-rounded character as could be found.  He belonged to a class of men who seem to be chosen of Heaven to illustrate the sublime possibilities of Christian attainment – men of seraphic fervor and devotion, and whose one overmatering passion is to win souls to Christ and to be holy like him themselves.

Father Biddle retired from active service in 1876, but did not cease to preach until he had passed his eightieth year.  He was for sixty-eight years a minister in the United Brethren Church, and at the time of his death was the oldest living preacher in the denomination.  The burdens of those years were exceedingly heavy, but his physical endurance kept pace and he had reason to be thankful that he was of the hardy race of American pioneers.

On the first of February, 1899, having reached the mature age of eighty-eight years, nine month, and seven days, he exchanged earth for heaven and everlasting life.  Awhile before his death he wrote:  “I am feeling keenly the burden of almost eighty-seven years, but I am enjoying fair health.  As to the future, I am living by the day, with a bright prospect of the heirship of eternal life.  In the quiet of my lonely home,  my soul feasts on the riches of divine grace.  The time of the sunset has come, and its tints are those of a golden autumn day.  The sun is going down without a cloud, and as the earthly is fading out of sight, the heavenly breaks upon my vision and I long to be at home in the bright, eternal  day which has no sunset.”  His body sleeps beside the Biddle Church, a few miles from Galion, Crawford Co., Ohio.

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Betty Snyder Ritchie

Here is the obituary for Aunt Betty:

Betty Snyder Ritchie, age 90, longtime Colorado Springs, Colorado resident, died on December 30, 2015 at her home.

She was born on February 26, 1925, the first daughter of Ora O. and Marion Lucas Snyder in Mansfield, Ohio. Betty was the fifth child of the 13 children born to Ora and Marion. When she was five years old our country was in the great depression. The kids in her large family had substantial chores to support that large family. Two of Betty’s chores were cooking and playing music for the family business, Snyder Funeral Home.

Those chores led to her enjoyment of cooking for her family and performing music, much of that in the sanctuary of the Broadmoor Community Church in Colorado Springs where she was a charter member and member of the church choir and soloist. The saying “nobody can cook like my mom” originated with Betty Ritchie.

She was raised in Johnsville until 1937 when her father moved the family to Lexington to be closer to the Snyder Funeral Home. Even though the Snyder family moved to Bellville in 1941, Betty graduated from Lexington High School in 1942.  She loved to treat her cousins to a soda fountain coke at Hursh’s Drug Store in Bellville.

She grew up with the love of her life William D. Ritchie and they were married on July 21, 1945. They moved to Colorado Springs in 1953 after living and working in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they developed a fondness for the desert southwest.

Betty always thought of family first, others second and herself last. The word “me” was not in her vocabulary. She was known for her gift and excellent taste in decorating, furniture and artwork. She was a loving, nurturing, supportive wife of almost 71 years, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and person. She did that while working full time as CFO for the family construction business Ritchie Contractors, Inc.

In addition to her husband Bill, Betty is survived by two sons Dave and Sue Ritchie of Bastrop, Texas, and Fred and Jody Ritchie of Colorado Springs, Colorado; a daughter Jeanne and Ken Orr of San Antonio, Texas; eight grandchildren George and Barbee Ritchie of Wichita, Kansas; Phillip and Kathy Ritchie of Corpus Cristi, Texas; Ryan Orr of Bozeman, Montana; Tim and Miranda Orr of San Antonio, Texas;  Brian Ritchie of Denver, Colorado; Ashley and Alexi Ritchie-Douvas of Sunnyvale, California; Stephen Ritchie of Sacramento, California; and Kristina Ritchie of Colorado Springs, Colorado;  great grandchildren Jo Lynn Ritchie of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Kyle, Travis and Cara Ritchie all of Corpus Cristi, Texas; siblings and their spouses Helen Snyder of Mount Vernon, Ohio; Gifta Snyder of Bellville, Ohio; Madelyn Snyder of Mount Gilead, Ohio; Thomas Art and Joyce Snyder of Mansfield, Ohio, J. Paul Snyder of Bellville, Ohio, Patricia and Larry Hoffman of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Janet Hope and James and Patricia Snyder all of Bellville; and nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by a son Timothy D. Ritchie in 2001; a grandson Peter Ritchie in 1994; a granddaughter Tracy Ritchie in 1981; siblings Don and Virginia Snyder; David and Jean Snyder; Richard Snyder; Robert and Dorothy Snyder; Pete Snyder, Philip Snyder, Shontell Snyder, Jim Hope and Arden Snyder.

Services celebrating Betty’s life were held at noon on Saturday, January 2, 2016 in the Broadmoor Community Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Betty once told her daughter-in-law “all I want when I am gone is to be remembered with good thoughts and that people will raise a glass in my honor”. Please join her family in making her wish a reality

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Eleanor Jane Snyder Payne Basell on 93rd birthday

Eleanor Jane Snyder Payne Basell on 93rd birthday

By Guest Blogger, Becky (DeBoard) Perry


Eleanor Jane Snyder Payne Basell is a mouthful, I am glad I just call her Nanny. She was born March 1, 1916 to Jay Biddle Snyder (Brother of Ora O. Snyder) and Hazel Augusta Snyder. She will be 100 on her next birthday.  She was also the younger sister of Ruth. Eleanor always looked up to Ruth, saying she was so pretty and smart. She loved her dad Jay, who spent time with the girls and was always a wonderful caring guy. He was also very kind. I found this out when I asked Eleanor about the great depression, she said it didn’t really affect her life except that they made meals for the hobo’s, who chopped wood for food, and the banker killed himself. I also found out that she went to the speak easy in Centerburg before prohibition ended. Anyone interested it was in the basement of the pharmacy on Main Street. Eleanor went to Centerburg High School graduating in 1934.

There are not a lot of stories about Nanny’s first 30 years because they were before she was saved. However I do know a few. She went to Georgia for her first year of university and her parents brought her home due to her being a bit wild. She has also mentioned the drinking there. She then went to The Ohio State University graduating in 1938. She was on campus with Jesse Owen, and saw him but never met him, although her friend was lucky enough to do so. She was in the Delta Omicron, honorary music sorority, and shared a 6 girl dorm room with her best friend from childhood Chestora.

Eleanor married Gerald Payne, who she has called the love of her life, August 30, 1941. It was a small wedding held in the back yard. They moved to Columbus, where she would teach and he worked at a beverage company. Eleanor actually shared with my history students what it was like to hear about the attack on Pearl Harbor. She said that she has been to hear Handel’s Messiah at a local church with Chestora and her husband Joe Peters. They came home and rolled back the carpets to have some dancing in the living room, and when they turned on the radio for some music, it was all about the attack and going to war. She didn’t feel the war affected her much, but that her husband did go register. He didn’t go because he had a busted ear drum and flat feet.

She had two children, Terry born in 1943 and Susan born in 1945. She worked has a teacher, both full time and substitute thoughout her time in Columbus. Her life changed when she got saved in the early 1950’s. She was living in Columbus and Brother Mariano and his wife were important to her life. She still keeps in touch with Eva Stigliano from this church. She had a boarding house and a place where youth from the churches could stay. She had been separated from her husband for a bit, but they were back together when she also helped start the Williams road church. This was where her daughter Susan married Arthur Dale in 1963. She and Gerald also built a house close by where they lived, while Judy and Terry would live when they were first married. I remember going to church with them. Granddad and I got in trouble for giggling. He did magic that explained the Bible for the kids, while she preached services. She was a real prayer warrior.

Her life dramatically changed again when in 1970 when Gerald fell and died from injuries he received. After his death Eleanor moved to Centerburg to be closer to her parents. She taught in Hebron for many years. She would take me with her during my spring break and let me help in her classroom. I loved it. She always had lovely Christmas dinners and gave great presents. We didn’t visit a lot since she lived so far away but she really came and helped when Mom got sick.

Her life took another large turn when she married a Lebanese Evangelist Andrew Basell in 1978. She felt it was part of her ministry and that they would build the kingdom of heaven together. They based their ministry in Skelp PA and travelled around to different churches. He was a hell fire and brimstone full gospel preacher, according to him. At the Rock church in New York, Eleanor made a really good friend Elaine who she had visit her for years. Eleanor and Andrew were not together long since he died in 1983 of cancer, not long after they had moved to Marysville, Ohio.

At this point Eleanor moved to Mt Vernon and along with Susan decided to open the Gospel Supply Shop in Mt Vernon, Ohio. It was in the upstairs of the sewing shop first, they later had their own store front on Main Street, which is still there today. Eleanor worked at running this even after Susan moved to Penn. She really liked to help people and knew the material very well.

Eleanor became a great grandmother the first time in 1987. She has five grand kids, 10 great grand kids, and 2 great great grandkids. Both of her children have passed; Susan in 1989 and Terry in 2012. When Susan passed Eleanor sold the book store, but that had the benefit of freeing up her time to allow for travel. She took a trip to visit the Holy Land and made friends that would become more like family. She lived in a little yellow house on Chestnut Street, and attended Covenant Christian Church. She kept active volunteering at the nursing home and with church ministry. She also had a paper route delivering mid-week adds in rural locations. She had lived with her son Terry, since the early 1990’s when his mental health issues became very challenging. In 2009 when he was institutionalised she moved in with me. She was 94 at this time. She was really starting to mellow at this point and I have heard some great stories. When I married an Englishman,  a move she totally supported, and moved to England she moved in with her dear friends, Rebecca and Ivan Miller. She was there for about a year and a half, the first year was really very good. She began to lose her memory and need more care, so it was agreed that she would go into the Laurels. She is currently living there. She doesn’t remember many things about her day, but still can remember many of the things from her past. She always knows me, but is not always sure which generation I am. She is still the same gentle sweet lady, who reads the word every day and spends time in prayer. She is a pretty amazing woman who is a real inspiration. She enjoys getting cards and hearing from family.

Her address is:  Eleanor S Basell


13 Avalon Drive

Mt Vernon, Ohio 43050


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Larry Lewis Hoffman

Thanks Larry Lewis Hoffman

Larry Lewis Hoffman on ship

Larry Lewis Hoffman on ship

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Larry Hoffman

Larry Hoffman

One of my favorite uncles is Larry Lewis Hoffman. Uncle Larry is married to Patricia Maureen Snyder Hoffman. We were in Colorado Springs for several days at the end of the “In Search of Tom Cover Tour” and enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time with Pat and Larry. I spent some time with Larry talking about his time on active duty  in the U.S. Navy from 1955-1957.

Larry had joined the Naval Reserves at the suggestion of his brother, Warren. Larry had been in the Mansfield Naval Reserves for three years when he was called up to active duty in 1955  for a two year stint.   Larry was married at the time and had one son, Greg. Larry served on the U.S.S. Rigel.  The U.S.S. Rigel  was the first of a new class of high speed, large capacity refrigeration ships. Its task was to carry refrigerated items and other food stores to ships in the fleet as well as remote stations and staging areas. The Rigel, which had a crew of 350 officers and enlisted men,  was launched on March 15, 1955 and commissioned on September 2, 1955.

Larry, who was a Fireman First Class, was on the initial shakedown cruise of the U.S.S. Rigel out of Newport, Rhode Island and her home port of Norfolk, Virginia. Larry described his duties as “damage control.” In February of 1956, the U.S.S. Rigel sailed south for the first time, undergoing further training in Cuban and Puerto Rican waters. In the fall of  1956, the Rigel provided logistic support along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean. In late fall of 1956, the Rigel completed her first deployment with the U.S. 6th fleet, performing her primary mission of replenishing other ships at sea. During the first part of 1957, the Rigel spent 2 months in the Caribbean and then sailed to the Mediterranean. Larry remembers seeing the Suez Canal.

The Rigel remained active in the Navy’s service until 1975. The Rigel was decommissioned in 1994. The Rigel was 502 feet long and displaced 15, 150 tons. Here are some photos of the U.S.S. RigelUSNS_Rigel_(T-AF-58)09065811.09065827

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Bannack 1The In Search of  Tom Cover Tour stopped in Bannack, Montana. Bannack is a ghost town  located in a remote area of  southwestern  Montana. Bannack was founded in 1862 and was named after the local Bannack Indians. Bannack was the site of the first  major gold strike in Montana on Grasshopper Creek.  A mining camp was quickly built, literally springing up overnight. Word spread quickly about the gold strike in Bannack and miners flooded the area.

Among the miners arriving in the  Bannack  area was our ancestor, Thomas W. Cover and the party of miners that he led from Colorado. As readers of this blog will recall, Tom Cover had been elected captain of a group of 26 miners that journeyed from Denver. The Bannack gold strike occurred on July 28, 1862. Tom Cover and his companions arrived shortly afterwards and prospected up Grasshopper Creek, locating a good gold placer on August 15, 1862. The Cover book indicates that Cover’s group was making $10-$75 a day in gold from this placer strike. Based on the value of today’s money, this would equate to the range of $3,000 to $23,000.

Tom and his companions laid out the town of Bannack and settled down to wait out the typical ferocious Montana winter before getting rich in the spring. As winter moved in, Tom and his group were cut off from the outside world for five months as the passes were snowed in. On February 4, 1863, Tom and seven others left Bannack for the Deer Lodge Valley where they hoped to obtain good horses  from the large Indian herds reported in that area. They brought along five (5) gallons of whiskey, intending to trade the same to the Indians for the horses that they needed. The Cover book indicates that the rest of Tom’s group left Bannack in early April of 1863. Tom Cover and his party eventually ended up on Alder Creek later that same year and discovered the richest placer gold strike in the history of our country.

Bannack briefly served as the capital of the Montana Territory in 1864 until the capital was moved to Virginia City. At its peak, Bannack had a peak  population in 1862 of 10,000. Bannack is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the American West and is today operated as a state park.  There are approximately 60 buildings still standing in Bannack, most of which you can go though. The buildings are preserved, not restored. So, there was a real sense of authenticity about the buildings.  The day that we were in Bannack they had a posted warning about rattlesnakes that had been spotted in town in increasing numbers.  Here are some photos that depict what Bannack looks like today.Hotel MeadeMethodist ChurchCasey HouseRoe-Graves House nGovernors Mansionbannack47GhostTown-MT-ben-9111untitledbannack-in-the-dayban4courthouse and Skinner's Saloonbannack39article-2350339-1A89BA5E000005DC-695_964x638Governors Mansion GhostTown-MT-ben-9111IMG_0584 Gibson Hotel

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Virginia City, Montana

Virginia City, Montana

As indicated in my last post, my father, brother Randy and I recently  took a vacation to Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. One of the highlights of the trip was the time we spent in Virginia City and surrounding areas to trace the footsteps of our ancestor, Thomas Wells Cover. We flew into Bozeman, Montana. By the way, the interior of the  airport in Bozeman was  unbelievably nice and unlike any airport I had ever been in—–it more resembled a  nicely decorated lodge  than it did an airport.

Our first stop in Bozeman was the Museum of the Rockies, which is on the campus of Montana State University. The reason for our stop there was that we wanted to see a painting in their collection that depicts the death of John Bozeman, a famous frontiersman, who founded the Bozeman Trail. The City of Bozeman was also named after him.  As readers of this blog will recall, Tom Cover was with John Bozeman when they were attacked by Indians and Bozeman was killed. Tom was wounded badly and  their horses and supplies were taken by the Indians. Before the Indians got away, Tom managed to shoot and kill one of the Indians with his  rifle. Nevertheless, Tom was stranded in the wilderness with a shoulder wound and no horse. Tom started home afoot, fatigued and weak from blood loss. Tom occasionally applied snow to his shoulder to stop the bleeding and walked all night until he came to the Yellowstone River. Tom swam across the river and, after having walked over twenty miles, came across other travelers who brought him home.

The painting that we wanted to see also depicts Tom Cover shooting at the attacking Indians.  Unfortunately, the painting was not on display and we were told that it has been in Colorado for  10 years being restored.  Why it would take that long to restore a painting is unclear but it was obvious that this museum was more interested in its dinasour displays than anything else. Here is the painting that we wanted to see. John Bozeman is in the foreground and Tom Cover is holding a revolver  in the background to the left.The Death of John Bozeman
At a later point in the trip, we attempted to locate the spot where Tom Cover and John Bozeman were attacked  by Indians but we were not successful. According to the Tom Cover book, there is a marker in a field outside Livingston, Montana to commemorate the spot of Bozeman’s death. It was supposedly visible from the highway and we had the approximate location by way of a mile marker and the highway but that information was over 20 years old and we were unable to find it. It was probably a long shot anyways as the marker is on private property and the photos of it in the Tom Cover book show it being in a cow pasture.

Tom Cover  and a partner had a flour mill in Bozeman after Tom left Virginia City. While the flour mill building was torn down many years ago to make way for a railroad, the millstones from the flour mill  are now  prominently displayed in Beall Park in downtown Bozeman.  We traveled to the park and saw the millstones. Here is a photo of my father, J. Paul Snyder, standing in front of the millstones.

J. Paul Snyder beside millstones from Tom Cover's flour mill.

J. Paul Snyder beside millstones from Tom Cover’s flour mill.


Virginia City is located in southwest Montana. Virginia City is where the six (6) “Discovery Men,” including Tom Cover. discovered gold, reportedly the largest placer gold strike in the history of our country. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Virginia City. As indicated in my last post, we received a very nice reception and practically got the keys to the city. Thanks to our matching T-shirts, identifying us as being on the Tom Cover Search team, we got plenty of comments and many people advised us that “we heard you were in town.” Virginia City and the surrounding area reportedly had close to 15,000  residents in its heyday as a gold mining town. Virginia City ultimately became the capital of the Montana Territory.  The mining claims and houses stretched up and down  Alder Creek for about 14  miles. Now, however, Virginia City only has about 100 residents year round.   The later advent of hydraulic mining resulted in the destruction of many structures but a core of original buildings remain in Virginia City. Virginia City is somewhat reminiscent of Cripple Creek albeit with no casinos and less commercialization. Here are some photos that depict Virginia City. photo 1 (3)


photo 1 (4)


photo 4 (3)photo 1 (5)


Randy Snyder beside street sign for Cover Avenue in VIrginia City

Randy Snyder beside street sign for Cover Avenue in VIrginia City

photo 2 (3)


photo 2 (4)




photo 3 (2) photo 3 (4)


J. Paul Snyder outside house where five (5) outlaws were hanged by vigilante group that Tom Cover belonged to

J. Paul Snyder outside house where five (5) outlaws were hanged by vigilante group that Tom Cover belonged to

photo 2 (5) photo 1 (9) photo 1 (3).J

photo 4 (2)

There is a large monument right outside Virginia City to mark the spot where the “Discovery Men” discovered gold. Tom Cover’s name is prominently displayed on this monument. Here is a photo of the monument.

Discovery Monument

Discovery Monument

We also visited the Boot Hill Cemetery where the five outlaws were buried after they were hanged. Tom Cover is reported to have kicked the box out from underneath Boone Helm, one of the  outlaws that was hanged. photo 2 (10)
photo 2 (7)

J. Paul Snyder

J. Paul Snyder

photo 3 (9)


After Tom Cover sold his mining claims, he built a lumber mill in Virginia City. The lumber mill is no longer in existence but here is a photo of where the lumber mill was located. photo 4 (2).JP

We were in a mercantile store in Virginia City that had a nice selection of books. My brother did not have the Tom Cover book. So, we asked about it. The owner of the store did not seem to recognize the book even after I told her the title of the book and the name of the author. During that conversation, my brother spotted some of the Tom Cover books displayed on the wall behind the counter in an area where customers did not have access 4 We inquired about the price of the books and were told that the books were $150 each. My brother tried to negotiate but the owner of the shop refused to take a penny less than $150. This was not surprising as the book has long been out of print and even used copies go for well over $100 on Amazon.  Randy refused to pay that price and was able later in the week to get a used copy in good condition on e-bay for $75.


I have gotten several questions about whether we found any of Tom Cover’s gold. To quell some rumors that have already begun, let me just say that we did make some inquiries along those lines in Virginia City and did undertake some investigation. For reasons of confidentiality and because litigation is likely, I can not say much beyond that at this point but we did come back with our suitcases a little heavier than when we left. For those of you that took me up on my offer to invest in our trip for a share of the gold profits, if any, please give me a call at your convenience


All in all, we had a great time in Virginia City. In the next post, I will recount our trip to Bannack, Montana.


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September 13, 2015 · 2:24 pm