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Alfred D. Gambell

Honored and highly esteemed by all who know him, as an active man, but also as one of the first seekers of gold in California, whither he made his way among the Argonauts of 1849, Alfred D. Gambell of Hartville, Laramie County, Wyoming, is truly a pioneer of pioneers, a business force among the commercial bulwarked of the state, having a life story full of varied and interesting incidents, being the prime actor in a career that has few parallels in the history of the northwest. His forefathers came to New York in colonial times and made their influence felt for good in the formation and development of that state. There his parents, Seth and Betsey (Thayer) Gambell, were born and reared, and from there they removed to Richland County, Ohio, where their son Alfred first saw the light on January 27, 1822, and where he grew to manhood amid the quiet but stimulating scenes of rural life, assisting in the labors of the farm, for which he developed great aptitude, and as he had opportunity attending the subscription schools of the neighborhood gathering from there slender streams of knowledge a modicum of scholastic learning, which, though small was clear and serviceable. In 1844, when he was but twenty-two years old, he left the parental rooftree, and, making his way to the shore of Lake Erie secured a position on a steamer plying regularly on its waters, after some time locating temporally at Buffalo, from there traveling extensively in New England and the middle states. But the voice of the sea was still sounding persuasively in his ears and in 1847 he shipped at Stonington, Conn., on a whaler for the arctic regions and passed a year in that service. Returning to the United States he again went before the mast in a voyage ‘around the Horn’ to California, reaching San Francisco in February 1849. In April following he went to the mining region, after a year spent in mining and prospecting returning from San Francisco by the Panama route and New York City to his Ohio home, and there, in the Autumn of 1851, he was united in marriage with Miss Esther Loutsenheizer, a native of the state. The next four years were passed quietly on a farm in Williams County, Ohio, and in 1855, leaving his wife to look after the farm in his absence, Mr. Gambell turned his face once more to the setting sun and, taking passage by the Isthmus route, reached the mines of California without incident worthy of note, there passing another year in prospecting and mining, then returning to Ohio for his family, but coming west again as far a Colorado without them. There he was occupied in mining for a year, in 1856 removing his family to the territory where he continues his mining operations with encouraging results, and in 1859 aided to organize the Colorado Pioneers’ Society, being instrumental in having medal made out of the first silver fund in the territory to commemorate the event. One of these metals he still preserves among the highly-prized souvenirs of his eventful career. He also built and successfully operated the first stampmill in Colorado, erected at Nevadaville, where he had extensive mines, being run for years at its full capacity in reducing the ores from his claims. Mr. Gambell was not only a pioneer in the mining industry of Colorado, but bore a leading part in the development of its civil history and the directions of its public affairs, being essentially a representative man, with keenness of vision to see and resolute energy to make known the resources of the new territory to which he had given allegiance. In the mist of his success in mining his wife’s health failed and she was obliged to go east for medical treatment. She found a suitable place tin Toledo, Ohio, and there in 1863 he joined her and finding her condition much improved, came west again to Nebraska, and purchasing land near Grand Island, became a farmer and stock raiser. After the death of this wife in 1879 he went with his daughter to the Black Hills of South Dakota, and for several years devoted his attention to erecting and equipping mills in that section, being an expert mechanic, with special qualifications for making and placing in operation intricate machinery, he found plenty of remunerative employment in this line. Among the works that stand strongly to his credit is a large mill at Grand Junction, nine miles from Custer. In 1882 he disposed of his interests in Dakota and collecting a force of workmen came to the vicinity of Hartville, Wyoming, to development the mineral wealth of that locality and among the leading mines he here opened is the one that bears his name and belongs to him, one of the richest in the state, and know operated by a Colorado syndicate, its lessees. He superintended the construction of all the machinery for the mineral industries of the neighborhood and did other important work in bringing its products to the knowledge and use of the country, but is now living a life of ease and honorable retirement, realizing that there is even on this side of the grave a haven where the storms of life come not, or are felt in gentle undulations of the water, a hale and peaceful old age. He has been active in Freemasonry, holding membership in Toledo lodge number 144, since 1860 and throughout his mature life he has been an active worker in the ranks of the Democratic Party, giving ardent and intelligent attention to its campaigns for more then sixty years, and although frequently importuned to allow the use of his name for exalted political stations, he has never consented to be a candidate for any office. The death of his wife in 1879, at Grand Island, Nebraska, where she is buried, was a great bereavement, which has influenced all of his subsequent career. She was a member of an old Ohio family of high standing, both of her parents passing their entire lives in that state, she inherited and exemplified all the best traits of her lineage. She was the mother of two children, Seth Gambell, who died on July 14, 1901, aged forty-seven; Minnie, now widow of E. D. Clark, living at Custer, S. D. Mrs. Clark has six children, Alice, Avery, Frank, Minnie, Bessie, Eloise.

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