J. L. COLES

“Jack” Coles, as his many friends love to call him, was born on Long Island, New York, but was reared and edu­cated in New York City. His early training, which was thorough, dealt more particularly with matters relating to mechanism and architecture, and of which Mr. Coles is unquestionably a master. In the Fall of 1854, he resolved to sail for California, and arrived here in the Spring of 1855. His first halt was at Jamestown, where he very soon became associated with a company to work a mine on the Tuolumne river, near Jacksonville, and at which he spent his first Summer in California. In the Fall of the same year he went to the town of Sonora, and there form­ing a copartnership with Mr. Charles Bunnell, soon established a lucrative business in architectural contracting and building. They also became interested in many mining claims, and were soon surrounded by a large circle of very warm friends, “Jack” being ever ready for anything that would advance the interests of the town, or promote fun, and never tardy about paying his full share of all costs, or too busy, or hard up, to lend a helping hand in any worthy cause.  In the Summer of 1859, he became the happy pos­sessor of the hand and heart of the youngest daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Soulsby, the discoverer and then principal owner of the famous Soulsby Quartz Mine. At the beginning of the war, Mr. Coles, accompanied by his wife and brother, sailed for New York, and very soon after their arrival, he was tendered the position of Lieutenant-Colonel of a regiment then being raised in New York City, which he immediately accepted, and entered upon the discharge of his duties. Soon, however, it was ordered that their men should be consolidated with another regi­ment; but Colonel Jack not being pleased with the order, resigned his command. He then hoisted his banner in the city of Brooklyn and organized a battery of Light Artil­lery, which he was to command. But at this juncture a partnership in a very lucrative business presented itself, and Jack was persuaded to drop the Colonel and accept the merchant, forming the firm of Coles & Ramsey, whole­sale dealers in Army Supplies, Washington, D. C., with a branch store in Alexandria, Virginia. Mr. Coles, however, soon tiring of this tame life, resolved to return to Califor­nia, and in the Summer of 1863, when about to start, was tendered the command of a regiment to be sent to Arizona for Indian service, which he partly accepted, but on his arrival in San Francisco, hearing of the immensely rich quartz discoveries in Idaho, resolved to go there. At Owy­hee, Idaho Territory, he, with others, formed a company, and in the Summer of 1864, built the well-known “Morning Star” Quartz Mill, which is believed to be the first of the kind in Idaho Territory, and although costing what would now be considered a fabulous sum, all concerned reaped a golden harvest.  Next we find Mr. Coles located again in New York City, a member of the firm of Ramsey, Coles & Co., importers and wholesale dealers in white goods, laces, hosiery, etc.  In the Summer of 1868, they dissolved the firm, and Mr. Coles and brother turned their attention to inventions, and we find there names appearing in many places in the Patent Office Reports, as the invent­ors of several very valuable and now almost indispensable improvements.  At this time reports of the fabulously rich mines at White Pine, Nevada, caught Jack’s eye, and soon the monotony of New York became irksome, and in 1869 we find him located at Mineral Hill, Nevada, vindicating the law of that district as Deputy District Attorney, and handling a mining property valued at over a million dollars.  Eighteen hundred and seventy-five finds Mr. Coles again in New York as  President of a large and flourishing Ice Company. Eighteen hundred and eighty Mr. Coles and wife and their loveable little daughter returned to Sonora, where they are now happily living, surrounded by many of their old friends. Mr. Coles, throughout his eventful and active life, has always shown himself the scrupulously honorable gentleman, and enterprising to an extent which the average man not only cannot appreciate, but cannot understand.  Going into may ventures for the love of venture and for the sake of doing, he has met many reverses, but with a becoming self-confidence and command, he immediately recovers himself, and gathering up the wrecks strewn about him, begins again, without loss of tune or diminution of energy, thereby verifying his phrenological chart as written up by Messrs. Fowler & Wells— “one of the favored few, created superior to mis­fortune.” His career, full as it is with incidents and nota­ble phases, is not to be satisfactorily sketched within the limits of an article brief as this must necessarily be, and here is given only the more salient points of a biography which, written out in full, would richly repay the historian.

“A History of Tuolumne County, California” Published by B.F. Alley, 1882. Pg. 330-333. 

Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton