Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bill Fairweather

Some men just weren’t meant for good fortune. Bill Fairweather was a tragic example of luck gone awry. In the company of a party of miners on May 26, 1863, Fairweather panned the first gold at Alder Gulch, setting off the famous stampede. The gulch made him rich, but to Fairweather, the gold meant little. Legend has it that he would ride up and down the streets of Virginia City on his horse, Old Antelope, scattering gold nuggets in the dust. He loved to see the children and the Chinese miners scramble for them. He mixed gold dust in his horse’s oats, saying that nothing was too good for Old Antelope, the horse that brought him such good luck. But Fairweather died of hard living at Robber’s Roost in 1875. His pockets were empty and a bottle of whiskey was his only companion. He was not yet forty years old. A diet of gold dust did Fairweather’s horse, Old Antelope, no harm. He long outlived his master, enjoying the Ruby Valley pasture of E. F. Johnson into extreme old age. Fairweather’s remains lie in Hillside Cemetery, a windswept burial ground overlooking Alder Gulch where an iron fence surrounds his grave. A recent marker credits him with the Alder Gulch discovery.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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