Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

How About the Early Miner/One Settled Near Here

Tri-City Pioneer
Sunday, 14 May 1961, page 8

Much has been written concerning the pioneer stockmen. Glowing accounts have been given of the horse raiser. Volumes have been dedicated to the cattleman. The sheepman has had his historians. How about the pioneer miner of the Tri-City area? He seems to be the forgotten man.

Cim Conley was the one man in this area who had devoted his entire life solely to mining. He came west as a young man to California during the great gold rush of 1849. Cim was a rather short, husky built, Irishman, born in Boston. He had a keen intellect, and a jolly Irish wit. He was a man of high principals and well liked by everyone who knew him.

Cim fell in love with an attractive young girl in California. It was rumored that she had completed a very fine girl’s finishing school in Boston. She and her parents had left Boston to join a wagon train to the west. It was an ill-fated wagon train, being attacked by the Indians. Her father and mother were killed. She and a remnant of the train finally reached San Francisco where she had a maternal aunt. The aunt was overjoyed at her arrival as the report had been that the entire wagon train had been massacred.

Safrona was a very talented and highly trained musician. She was a quiet girl and her life’s great sorrows bore on her heavily. Her aunt, to take her mind from her sad memories, gave dances and other parties. She invited the young people of the neighborhood to her large home. At one of these parties she met a fine successful young miner by the name of Cim Conley. He was born in her native city of Boston. Pneumonia had taken his father and mother. He left for the west to make his fortune and to forget his sorrows.

The meeting of Cim and Safrona was marked by the similarity of their lives. They were both orphans. Through sympathy, they were quickly drawn to each other. They were soon friends and the friendship swiftly developed into love. They were married at her aunt’s large house.

After the wedding, they took a honeymoon trip on one of the steamers that plied between San Francisco and Portland. They were fortunate in having pleasant weather. The entire trip was beautiful. They had decided to go back to San Francisco, build a home, and settle down. Before this was accomplished, the gold strikes and rushes were beginning in the northwest. Cim had never since manhood done anything but placer mining and prospecting. The news of these strikes inflamed his desire to join the rush. Safrona thought it would be a great lark and experience. She was heartily in favor of their both going. She enjoyed roughing it and was a good horsewoman and delighted in camp cooking.

Cim purchased prospecting equipment in San Francisco and had it shipped by water to Portland. They came by boat to Portland. Here Cim purchases pack mules and they started up the Columbia on a placer gold prospecting expedition. It was their mode of life and they both enjoyed it. They were in no hurry. If there was an Indian uprising, they would move in where it was safe and wait until the danger was over. Leisurely they would then proceed up the Columbia and its tributaries with their pack mules. The mules carried their supplies, paraphernalia and a canvas boat. Cim, when he would see a likely spot, would wash a few pans for colors. Carefully he would map and locate any spot that the thought would warrant future working, then move on.

Their expedition had been very successful. They experienced much pleasure in their travels and nobody but themselves knew how much placer gold they secured. They considered it enough for them to retire on. They built a beautiful large, cozy log house on the then well known Lockwood Bottom, a beauty spot situated on the banks of the Yakima River about 15 miles above Kennewick. Here Safrona surrounded herself with beautiful paintings, rugs, drapes, tapestries, rare china, and works of art. She had a Steinway grand piano. Cim purchased a large beautiful music box with musical rollers. It was imported from Germany.

Cim and Safrona never had any children of their own, but they adopted every child in the area. Every youngster would rather go to Aunt Safrona’s and eat her cinnamon rolls and hear Uncle Jim’s music box than any place in the world.

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