Way We Were: Jennie Judge Kearns
Park City Museum researcher
Editor’s note: This is the seventh in an occasional series about founders of the storied Silver King Mine.
What a lucky thing for me to be the niece of John Judge, who did so well in the Park City silver mines. I was born in Port Henry, New York, in 1869 and my father Patrick was John Judge’s brother. He died when I was only 2 and my mother married William Wilson. We moved to Park City when I was 10 and I finished school there. One of my teachers was Mary Ferguson who married David Keith.
I was only 12 when Tom Kearns moved to Park City. Uncle John introduced us. We began courting when I was 17 and married in 1890 when I was 20. That was such a big year for Tom. He and his partners had leased the Mayflower Mine and discovered that valuable ore was running toward the Silver King claims.
We were blessed with little baby Mary in 1892, the same year Tom and his partners bought the Silver King claims and incorporated the Silver King Mine. In 1894, little Mary died, and our son Edmond was born. Things were moving almost too fast for me to keep up. We had two more children in Park City, Thomas Francis in 1897 and Helen Marie in 1899.
Pretty soon the Silver King partners, including Tom and I, were making lots of money. Tom wanted to move to Salt Lake City so we began building a house on East Brigham Street, just a short way from Brigham Young’s Beehive House. In 1901 we moved in — the same year Tom became a United States senator. Long after Tom died I donated that house to the state of Utah and they turned it into the Governor’s Mansion. I think at certain times, you can still take a tour of our beautiful old house.
My half-sister Francis Wilson married a fellow named Gallivan and they had a little boy named Jack, but Francis died when he was only 5. So I took little Jack and raised him as one of my own children. Jack later became publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune. I always worried about children who didn’t have loving parents to care for them, so I built Kearns-St. Ann’s Orphanage. You know, it’s just no good to have lots of money if you can’t do good things with it. We always had a Christmas party at our house for the orphanage children and I paid for them to have special dancing and music lessons.
Of course, we were Catholic, as many Irish people were. We also gave a lot of our money to help build the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
My poor Tom died in 1918 and I wore black for many years. I lived with my children until my death in 1943, but donated our beautiful house to the state of Utah in 1937.
Learn more about the silver mining industry and the rest of the investors in the Silver King at the Park City Museum or by visiting parkcityhistory.org. An online lecture on parts of Thomas Kearns life, featuring his and Jennie’s great-grandson, is available on the Museum’s YouTube channel. Other Way We Were articles — on all kinds of topics in Park City history — are available on the site, currently dating back to May of 2016: parkcityhistory.org/category/way-we-were/.
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