During his lifetime John Paxon “Jack” Harlan’s career involved being a miner, merchant, farmer, trapper, teacher, soldier, historian, public servant, civic leader, timber cruiser, coroner et al. Following is a brief synopsis of his life:
John Paxon Harlan
John P. Harlan with his children l-r: Stila Myrtle, Eda Belle and George Washington (ca. 1913) on the boardwalk at Pierce City, Idaho
John “Jack” Paxon Harlan was born on February 9, 1866 in Guthrie County, Iowa to George Washington and Emma Webster (Brown) Harlan, the seventh of ten children. His father was a descendant of Michael Harland, who came to America in 1687, with William Penn and settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Jack’s parents were married in 1849 at Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and remained there until the 1857. In the Spring of 1857 Jack’s parents, along with his maternal grandparents relocated to Guthrie County, Iowa. The family would remain in Guthrie County until 1879, when they moved to Lake County Colorado.
Wild Times in Leadville ‘The Silver City’
Leadville Colorado was incorporated in January of 1878 and soon Leadville had the reputation as one of the most lawless towns in the West. In 1879 a large vein of silver was discovered at Leadville and the boom started in earnest, which would last until 1893.
It is unknown if George and Emma were aware of the town’s reputation when they decided to pack up their large family and head West. I cannot imagine what a culture shock it must have been for Jack’s mother, Emma. Emma was a deeply religious woman, who adhered to her Quaker beliefs and was actively involved in the Temperance Movement. However, this experience must have been a great adventure for young Jack, who was just coming into his own. The Harlan family quickly became a prominent family in the region, Jack’s father George would become a Justice of the Peace, in Leadville. Jack completed his studies at Central School and then attended college at the University of Colorado, where he studied law. He returned to the area and was taught the skill of assaying, under the guidance of Clarence Hersey and would eventually become the assayer of the Montezuma mine, in Pitkin County. Jack left Colorado in 1889 and according to his biography, published in 1914, he traveled for many years:
“He was a resident of Leadville until 1889 when he began to travel, following mining operations for many years in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Western Washington and British Columbia.–(Source) History of Idaho, A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, Its People and Its Principal Interests (Vol. 2) – Hiram T. French, M. S.
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