Way We Were: The life of John Joseph Daly
Mine owner survived hardship as a youth
Park City Museum researcher
Many of Park City’s famous mine owners shared several similarities: a lack of extensive formal education, their consuming ambition, the rural poverty of their childhoods, and their diligent self-education. All of them acquired mentors along the way who were attracted to their eager willingness to learn. John J. Daly is exemplar of this model.
Born Oct.15, 1853, in Morris, Illinois, his father, listed in the census as a day laborer, died in 1861, and John Daly was orphaned before age 11 when his mother died in 1863. To survive, he took a job as a cabin boy on a steamship plying the upper Missouri and got as far as Ft. Benton when he left that job. He was just a kid of 14 with only two years of formal schooling.
On arrival in 1867 at Ft. Benton, Montana, at the headwaters of the Missouri River, he began to work for an Indian trader. His new employer treated him harshly, even when work became painful after he suffered severe frostbite. Another old trader, witnessing the hardship, took John under his wing and saw to it that he learned about the gold mining ventures in Montana. Around the campfires at night, John absorbed the tales the prospectors shared and he learned his early lessons about finding and processing ore.
Another similarity of Park City’s successful miners is that they achieved great knowledge of mining, minerology and techniques of discovery in their early experiences in mining camps of the West. Most of them spent several years in California, Nevada, Colorado or Montana before arriving in Utah to find their fortunes. Many of them knew each other and had worked together prior to coming to Park City.
Daly remained in Montana prospecting and learning about mining, but at the age of 16 went to White Pine District, Nevada, where the outlook appeared brighter for him, remaining there for seven years. John overlapped his stay in White Pine with R. C. Chambers, the eventual head of the Ontario Mine, for a year. Both men later achieved great wealth in Park City and worked in close concert to establish the Daly Mine, the Daly West Mine and the Daly Judge Mining Company.
Daly visited Utah in 1873 and moved to Salt Lake City in 1876 with some considerable savings. On arrival, he worked in the Territorial Jail, prospecting the hills around Park City in his time off. He managed to acquire several claims during this time.
His first venture in Park City was with a few associates at the Jones Bonanza Mine on Bonanza Flat. It was not productive, so he turned his attention to the Anchor Mine. As he prospected high in Empire Canyon and beyond, he began to suspect that he was following an extension of the same great bed of ore that R. C. Chambers, George Hearst, Lloyd Tevis and James Ben Ali Haggin were exploiting at the Ontario Mine.
On March 1, 1880, he married Eliza Margaret Benson, an immigrant from Liverpool, England. Eliza and John had seven children: John Clarence, Albert Moxum, Morris Allen, Evelyn Roberts, Ethel Angela, Margaret Elizabeth Brown and Eudora Lillard.
Just three years after their marriage, on Nov. 21, 1884, at the age of 31, John Daly organized the Daly Mining Company in Empire Canyon, which eventually produced $10 million.
The Park City Museum is hosting a virtual lecture on the Daly West Mine by geologist Brian Buck Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 5 p.m. Sign up at parkcityhistory.org and look out for the lecture to be posted to the Museum YouTube channel.
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