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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


Family Ephemera

On the letterhead of the Butte Saddle Mining Syndicate Offices in the Bacon Building, Oakland

April 2nd, 1909 This is a memorandum for you, I have this day put in escrow 100,000 shares of the Butte Saddle Mining Syndicate Stock owned by me with a like number of shares owned by each Mr. John R. Richards. And Mrs. Josephene Chick. This stock being pooled was put in the Security Bank and Trust Co. Oakland, Cal., for safe keeping. For three years. Mr. Richards. And Mrs. Chick have each signed over to me there proxy, to vote there stock for the next three years. N.B. Williams, Pres.

I have looked at this particular memo many times (copied here with its original spelling and punctuation) and wondered about the story behind it. N.B. Williams was my great grandfather, and he spent at least the last twelve years of his life in California, far away from his Rhode Island wife and four children. Because the family back home kept some of his letters and papers, there is a collection of ephemera that keeps on tantalizing me. The collection reveals only bits and pieces of the story and raises far more questions than it answers.

The problem with inheriting a family ephemera collection is that the people who could have helped you understand it may already be gone. I used to love to listen to my grandmother, Mary and her sister Ruth, two of those children back home, talk about the old days. I remember them talking about their mother Essie and their brothers Ira and Ralph and their brothers’ wives Alice and Gladys. I remember talk of the Esmond Mills, where some of them worked, and family friends like Josie Keefe, but I don’t remember them talking about their father. If I had known about him and his gold mine, I probably would have asked a question or two. The main one that comes to mind is, “Why aren’t we rich?”

As a child, I wouldn’t have thought to ask them questions that occur to me today like, “How was it for your mother, on her own for all those years? How was it for the two of you?” And to my grandmother, “Did he get back for your wedding?” (My grandmother’s wedding was in 1910.) But my grandmother and her sister Ruth had both been gone for many years when these papers came into my hands.

Following are some of the parts of the story, told through the papers I have. I still know few details except that we are not rich and that my great grandfather died with a few dollars in the bank, a gold watch and $10.00 of new underwear, some of which was sold to a rag man for 35 cents and some of which was stored.

In the following quotations I have preserved the original spelling and punctuation, but anything in bold face type is my own emphasis.

From the Prospectus Butte Saddle Mining Syndicate

Page 3: The Butte Saddle Mining Syndicate was duly organized and incorporated under the laws of the Territory of Arizona on the 25th day of January, 1909.

Officers: President: N.B. Williams; Vice-President: A.G. Schindler; Secretary and Treasurer: G.W. Wheeler; Superintendent: O.E. Anderson Directors: I.W. Bridenbacker; S.T. Chapin; G.W. Wheeler; A.G. Schindler; N.B. Williams Depository, First National Bank of Oakland, Cal.

Page 7: Large deposits of very rich ore were continually encountered during the operations of the former owners, and we now have many fine samples at our offices taken from this vein that will run from $10,000 to $40,000 per ton, which we will be pleased to show to anyone who may be interested.

Page 11: OPPORTUNITY: Buttes Saddle Mine will prove a wonder. She is the King of the Sierras. The $48,000 taken out is just enough to prove the great worth of the property. Page 13: In order to raise a small amount of money with which to complete the equipment of these works by installing the rock breaker and concentrator before referred to, which will not only more than double the capacity of the mill………..the Directors of the company have decided to offer for sale a few shares of the Capital Stock at ground floor prices, and those who would like to secure a few shares of this dividend-paying stock should apply early, for it will soon be taken up, and after this block is taken no stock can be obtained for less than $1.00 per share. Don’t fail to secure some of this stock before the supply has been exhausted. While it lasts it will be sold at bed-rock prices. Call early at the offices of the company and inspect samples of ore, and obtain prices and further information regarding this wonderful mine.

February 4, 1909: Stock Certificate 1 share of Capital Stock of the Butte Saddle Mining Syndicate

April 2nd, 1909 Letter from Newell B. to his wife Estelle

My Dear Essie, ……………Now Essie, you don’t see how I can stand it to stay away from home so long. I know I could not stand it to stay home as things are now, so I just have to stand it and stay away… I think I have been away now two years on April 1….I will go home for a little. But not to stay for the west looks better to me than R.I. and I want to have you arrange to come back with me and stay for at least 2 or 3 months….Essie, I would like to help you a little and will as soon as I can, that you know. I have something more than $300 coming to me and it is good.

I have pooled my 100,000 shares of stock of the Butte Saddle mining Syndicate with Mr. John R. Richards and Mrs. Chick and signed there Proxy over to me to vote as I think best for the next 3 years. I do not know as yet what I will do with these papers but will let you know later on. Now you can see that I hold and will own 1/5 of the mine when sold or when paid for. We are going to try to put it in shape to sell for about 2 or 3 million and think we can do it inside of 3 years………..Net that would give me $100,000. That would not be bad for a 2 or 3 years trip to the west. Well this may be all a air castle but things look very bright and we must dig and hope………If this comes my way I can see where I can make it a million in something else I know of….I guess this is all for this time from Your Hubby Newell in the West.

September 21, 1909 Letter from Newell to my grandmother

My Dear Kid Mary D, I have been thinking how much pleasure it be to me if I could have you all out here for at least the next six months so that winter would go by and you would not know it….The winter is no colder than many days that we have in the summer…I would like to have Ruth go to the Berkeley College. I understand they have about 3,000 this term on beautiful grounds…. From Your Pa Williams in the West

October 15, 1909 Two certificates for Capital Stock, 100 shares each, issued to N.B. Williams

February 11, 1910 One certificate for Capital Stock, 50 shares, issued to N.B. Williams

Undated: A list of the shareholders of the Butte Saddle Mining Syndicate and the number of shares held by each

Undated: Letter from Newell B. to his wife Estelle Dear Essie, I do not think these papers are of any use and I am sending them home. I hope some day I can look them over and tell you a long and interesting story about this mining venture. N.B.Williams

California State Board of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics Standard Certificate of Death

Full Name: Newell B. Williams Date of birth: 1876 Date of death: March 3, 1921 Age: 45

Cause of death: Pneumonia Lobar & myocarditis & acute dilation of the heart

Letter to Estelle Williams from F.W. Swigart, on the letterhead of F.W.Swigart Real Estate and Insurance March 9, 1921

Your letter of March 4th to hand, in reply I will say, I have known Mr. Williams for about 5 years, and for the last one and a half years he has been a salesman in this office, am glad to say he was one of the squarest men I ever had around me. He took sick on February 24th and on the 26th we took him to the Providence Hospital. I saw him every day. We settled up all of our business before he got serious, he seemed to think he would never get out, I tried to cheer him up, at the same time I saw he was loosing, he died on March 3rd just one week after he took sick with Pneumonia….

Mr. Williams and I were very warm friends and on the morning he died had the nurse phone me to come down to the Hospital soon as I could as he was getting worse fast, I went down as soon as I could get there and he was gone before I arrived, I am sure he would want me to take charge of his affairs and if I had he would have been burried before this, as it is I can do nothing, but if I am aware of the time he is to be burried I shall certainly see that it is him before he is laid in the ground………….

Yours very respectfully, F.W.Swigart

Undated: Dear Madam:- In cleaning out some papers and letter left in Mr. Williams room at our house I found the enclosed letter and am taking the liberty of writing to you to find out if you are a relative of his, or could locate them anywhere……….He was living at my house when he was taken sick & I thought perhaps they would like to know the situation as near as I can give it.

Yours truly, Maude L. Silvester

March 14, 1921 Letter from a name I can’t read. Looks like Roch W. Chirch Dear Madam: Your letter of March 9 just received. Mr. Williams was taken sick on a Thursday of one week and died Thursday of the following week. I saw him about 3 o’clock of the afternoon before his death: he died about 8 o’clock the following morning. At his request I interviewed the bank where he did business and ascertained that his balance in the bank was $507–. He wished us to draw the money and expend it in meeting the expenses of his sickness and funeral expenses. He had talked about his desires in case of his death: though thinking that death was so near I suggested to him to wait a day or two and if no change in his condition for the better appeared we could arrange as he desired then. It was his request that he be buried in an inexpensive lot with environments in the cemetery in this city……..

Remaining at your service Yours truly, Roch. W. Chirch

March 18, 1921 Letter to Estelle Williams from F.W. Swigart Mrs. N.B.Williams Esmond, R.I.

Dear Madame:

Your letter of March 14th to hand, I thought I ought to write you once more and explain a few more things. Mr. Williams had a few articles that I think you and his children ought to have, for instance, he had a gold watch, gold chain, an extra gold watch fob with sliding buckle, the ribbon had worn out and I made him a leather ribbon as I used to be a leather worker, and while he was in the hospital I bought him about $10. worth of new underwear, all these things should be sent to you and if you write Mr. Hill the Public Administrator and demand them I think he would send them.

Yours very respectfully, F.W.Swigart

Letter from Maude L. Silvester to Estelle Williams March 23, 1921

Dear Mrs. Williams:- Your letter of the 18th just received…I know you are anxious to hear from me…We only took over this place on Jan 1st so was not very much acquainted with Mr. Williams. He had a room here in our basement and done his cooking there too. He first complained of being ill on the 24th & came home from his office…My husband and I put two plasters on him, one on his chest & one on his back…I took his temperature on Friday the 25th & told him he should go to the Hospital where he could get proper care, but he said he didn’t have any faith in Hospitals…Then his partner came up and brought him some oranges & some milk-he kept getting worse…there was no way to take care of him down there as I had carry all the slops upstairs. So we done the best we could for him until Sat when I took his temperature again and it was 103 so I said he must go to the Hospital and must have a Dr…The Dr. wouldn’t even steady him to the Automobile, for we help him up and he took him thro the cold to the Hospital instead of calling an Ambulance…. I went to see him on Tuesday the first of March, (but we had phoned every day) and he was very low……I knew then that he was dying…….I was just beginning to go out on Thurs. when the Public Administrator came to get his papers, letters, etc. and said that he had passed away. He took everything that was of any importance in the way of letters, etc. and Mr. Williams watch and I think you should have that. There were a few clothes he had had when he worked in the shipyards. Mr. Hill said to burn them up but we sold them to a rag man for 35 cents-his best suit was used to bury him in. I will find out from the Administrator what became of his watch and let you know…….I’m sorry I cannot tell you more, but I thot you’d like to know that we don the best we could for him……

Yours sincerely, Mrs. M. L. Silvester

August 24th, 1921 Letter from John A. Hill, Public Administrator of Alameda County Re: The Estate of Newell B. Williams, Deceased

Dear Madam:

Regarding the correction of the Death Certificate, we regret to say that nothing can be done at this time. It will be necessary for you to write direct to the State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Sacremento, California, sending to them the enclosed Death Certificate and also the corrected one which you have made out……

Regretting that I could not correct this for you, I remain,

Yours respectfully, Public Administrator of Alameda County

April 3, 1923 Letter from Bertha Heck, law firm of Dunn, White & Aiken to Mrs. Martha Williams Wood, Long Beach California, sister of Newell B.

Dear Mrs. Wood, I have your letter of March 29th relative to the personal property belonging to the estate of N. S. Williams, deceased. The attorneys have filed, on behalf of the administrator, a petition to set aside the entire estate to Estelle L. Williams, widow of deceased. The matter comes up for hearing on April 12th… As the entire estate consists of a small amount of cash and personal property consisting of one yellow metal watch and compass-the personal property could be sent to you by express or parcel’s post to whatever address you may send us as soon as the Order has been obtained and Receipt gotten from Mrs. Williams. Mr. Hill examined the package which is at the store room of J.A.Munro & Co., belonging to your late brother. He states the contents, consisting of old shirts, underwear and socks, is absolutely valueless. There are no papers or letters. Assuring you that we will do all in our power to bring the matter to a speedy conclusion.

Sincerely, Bertha Heck

So there it is, excerpts from a set of documents spanning 14 years, raising many questions I will never be able to answer.

Did Newell ever get back home? See Essie again? His grandchildren and grandchildren? It seems unlikely, although his sister Martha (Mattie) seems to have made regular trips back and forth from California to Rhode Island.

Do I have distant cousins in California? Possibly, but Wood, Newell’s sister’s last name is awfully common, and it would probably be difficult to track the missing cousins down.

Did they get the right man in the coffin? Probably, but if not, it’s too late to do anything about it now.

What is the error on the death certificate? I believe that his birthdate is misstated, perhaps a number reversal. Everything works out better if he was born in 1867 not 1876. If he was born in 1876, he was having children before he was a teenager, which is unlikely. He probably died around age 54, not 45.

What happened between 1910 and 1921? I don’t think I will ever know, not without an awful lot of research.

I am certainly well informed about the cost and fate of my great grandfather’s underwear, something I don’t really need to know. (Message to self: Call the lawyer who has done my estate work and have him put language in the estate documents that says “disposition of underwear is confidential and private.”).

Over the years I have made sporadic attempts to learn more.

Early on we had the Smythe Company evaluate the stock certificates. They are worthless except to someone who collects old stock certificates. On par with the $10.00 underwear sold to the rag man. Nevertheless, way in the back of my mind, there is always the thought that there really is a family fortune. Those stock certificates are still there in a safe deposit box no one has paid for in a bank that no longer exists, and they are worth a fortune. Maybe that’s that same kind of feeling that drove my great grandfather’s search for gold. His daughter, my grandmother, herself married a man (my grandfather) who invested in gold mines and he too hoped one day to make a fortune. I have some documents about that too, but nothing as tantalizing as the Butte Saddle collection.

A few years ago I went to our public library and tried to find the surnames of some of the shareholders in the Oakland phone book. Not that I expected people who were shareholders in 1909 to still be living, but if the families stayed in the area, they might know more than I did about the mining venture. I believe I found a few familiar names, but I never followed up.

The advent of the Internet has made everything easier, and I did learn that the Butte Saddle Mine eventually produced gold, evidently in good quantity, but apparently not in my great grandfather’s time.

I have researched surnames of the shareholders online, hoping to locate relatives of the shareholders, but with little luck.

I contacted the Oakland Public Library, which has mining archives, and they were extremely helpful, but I learned no specific details about Butte Saddle. I know that I will never know the personal stories of the people, but I might be able to locate the business records and find out what happened to Butte Saddle Mining Syndicate.

I have, on and off, used but again with no particular luck.

It has always seemed to me that to get to the bottom of this I would have to go to Oakland and spend some time in the Oakland library or go to the town of Sierra City itself, just to get a feel for the area, or maybe research the corporation records in Arizona.

Last spring we had the opportunity to go to Oakland and San Francisco and maybe even visit Sierra City where the mine was located. I underestimated the time it would take to do this job in any kind of thorough way though and came back knowing little more than I had known before. Our vacation was just too short. I think doing a thorough job would involve quite a few hours of looking through old newspapers and other kinds of records. Maybe next time.

One thing we did do was visit Serendipity Books in Berkeley. Just as I have that feeling in the back of my mind that there still is a safe deposit box with valuable stock certificates, I expected to find a book there that would help me, maybe “The Rise and Fall of Butte Saddle Mining Syndicate.” If any place had it, it would surely be in Serendipity Books. Of course no such work exists, and although I did purchase two books on mining, and both were books I would have had difficulty finding anywhere else, neither helped specifically with Butte Saddle.

I suppose there is some kind of monetary value to the archives I have, but I wouldn’t think of selling them. I will keep them for future generations to puzzle over.




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