Way We Were: The story of Thomas Kearns
Park City Museum
Editor’s note: This is the fifth in an occasional series about founders of the storied Silver King Mine.
Hard work and a whole lot of luck is what it takes. It helps to be a strong guy who really wants to succeed. That’s me.
I was born in Canada in 1862. My Irish immigrant parents moved us to a farm in Nebraska where they thought our chances would be better. I worked on the farm until I finished school at the age of 17, and then headed out to make my fortune. I just wasn’t cut out to be a farmer. I drifted around driving teams (working animals like horses), freighting, and mining in several states – then landed in Park City in June 1883.
David Keith gave me a job at the Ontario and helped me learn about mining and prospecting. I studied the books Keith gave me and prospected around in my spare time. I left the Ontario and signed up at the Woodside Mine where Mr. Keith had gotten a contract to do some tunneling. We realized the ore was trending toward the Mayflower so we took on some partners, got a new lease and kept on digging. Then, after we hit the paydirt at the original Mayflower, I was able to ask my little Jennie to marry me in 1890.
Albion Emery, John Judge, David Keith, W.V. Rice and I partnered up to extend the tunnel. Talk about luck: three months later we hit ore at 200 feet deep. In a little over two and a half years, we were able to buy the Woodside, Mayflower and Silver King claims, and we incorporated the Silver King Mining Company in July 1892.
That same year I was elected to the Park City Council, and a couple of years later served Utah at the Constitutional Convention. Even though the Panic of ’93 caused our profits to drop, we kept investing in the mine and developing it. I loved both politics AND mining. That old R.C. Chambers fellow at the Ontario beat me out of a State Senate seat after that, but I went on to St. Louis to the National Republican Convention and made a name for myself by walking out when they voted against bi-metalism. By 1901 I was a United States Senator and we moved into a house in Salt Lake City on Brigham Street. You call it South Temple Street now.
Funniest thing – I had some trouble with the Salt Lake Tribune during the campaign, so David Keith and I fooled them. They would never have sold to us, so we had another guy buy it for us. When we restructured, David Keith was the President and I was the Vice- President. Years later, our little nephew Jack Gallivan took over as Publisher and ran it with the Editors for many years.
It was all so wonderful and I had finally achieved my life’s ambitions. But I was hit by a car and died a short time later in 1918.
The Park City Museum will host a virtual Zoom lecture by Sandy Brumley called ‘A Brief History of Tom Kearns’ – including previously undiscovered wild-west stories from his youth, in O’Neill, Nebraska. The lecture will cover how his brother Barney was shot and killed by a “cowboy” in a shootout and more! The lecture will be given given on May 27 from 5-6 p.m. Sandy will be joined by Josh Grotstein, who will moderate a discussion with Tom’s Great Grandson Michael Kearns.
To R.S.V.P. for the lecture, please contact Diane Knispel at email@example.com. We will send you a link and instructions to follow. The lecture will also be recorded for future viewing on our YouTube channel.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.