Friday, July 24, 2009

Cosmo, Cuthbert and Cudbear

My 5th great granduncle, Cosmo Gordon was born in 1748 in Clashdow, Morayshire, Scotland. A descendant of the Gordon, Stewart, Grant, MacWilliam and O’Laggan families / clans in northern Scotland, Cosmo was the oldest son in the family. As such, much was expected of him.

A Gordon Arms Living in the Gordon Castle and surrounding properties presented opportunities for education that weren’t enjoyed by all of the residents in the area. Eventually, his education and desire to succeed in life were rewarded with wealth and notoriety.

Cosmo met beautiful young lass named Magdalen Gordon and fell in love. I haven’t been able to trace Magdalen’s lineage beyond her father yet, but have little doubt that they were related to some extent.

Two of Magdalen’s brothers were entrepreneurs by nature, a trait that matched Cosmo’s own inclination.

George Gordon was a coppersmith from Banffshire and his brother Dr. Cuthbert Gordon was a dye merchant from Leith.

One day, while mending a copper boiler in a dye house in London, George noticed the orchil (reds) dye being used was similar to the dye used in his native highland home.

The sight sparked an idea in George’s mind. Talking it over with his brother, Cuthbert, who had training as a doctor and chemist, the pair knew the red and purple dyes used at home were made from lichen that grew on rocks and old wood ruins.

After some experimentation, the pair discovered a secret formula to extract a permanent, non-fading dye from the lichen.

Telling their brother-in-law, Cosmo, about their discovery, the trio decided to go into business with Cosmo providing the financial expertise and many of the contacts in the marketing world.

The dye became famous because unlike other dyes on the market, it didn’t fade in the light. The trio patented their process in 1758 under British patent no. 727 and named it “Cudbear”. The name was unique because it was named after Cuthbert.

An entry on Wikipedia details the extraction process:

“The lichen is first boiled in a solution of ammonium carbonate. The mixture is then cooled and ammonia is added and the mixture is kept damp for 3-4 weeks. Then the lichen is dried and ground to powder. The manufacture details were carefully protected, with a ten-feet high wall being built around the manufacturing facility, and staff consisting of Highlanders sworn to secrecy. The lichen consumption soon reached 250 tons per year and import from Norway and Sweden had to be arranged.”

Eventually, Cosmo became a Deputy King's Waiter of the Customs of the Port of London. In that position, he found huge errors in accounting and theft in the tobacco warehouses. Presenting his evidence and recommendations to Prime Minister, William Pitt, on January 6, 1786. He was subsequently appointed Comptrolling Surveyor of the Warehouse in London.

London Custom HouseCosmo’s recommendations were introduced into a new law to stop this type of theft and accounting manipulation resulting in huge increases in tax revenues to the governments coffers.

Passage of the new law was not easy because so many well connected people had benefited from the graft. Mr. Pitt instructed Cosmo to be in attendance to all discussions of the law in the House of Lords to explain the proposal, illuminate the graft and address the opposing statements and efforts by the Lords who opposed the law. After a long and arduous period of time, Mr. Pitt was satisfied that Cosmo had represented the proposal so well that he pushed for approval. The law was subsequently passed in the Act of the 29th George III cap. 69.

Cosmo was promoted to Principal Surveyor of the Tobacco Warehouse, at the desire of the Commissioners of the Customs. He traveled throughout England and Scotland arranging import agreements, procedures and documentation for several years thereafter. As he had expected, graft and mismanagement was rampant throughout the the import activities in every port.

The Commissioners of Customs moved on his recommendations and much of the corruption was stopped. Of course, not everyone in government, or even among the Commissioners were happy with these actions. They had benefitted from them and thus, Cosmo accrued numerous well-placed enemies in government.

Eventually, the acrimony in their hearts moved them to action. Cosmo was forced out of his prestigious position in London to a lesser assignment in Liverpool where he lived the rest of his life.

Magdalen Gordon died on 24 Oct 1796 in London.

Cosmo eventually remarried. On 12 Jan 1808, he and Mrs. Sarah Butler were joined as husband and wife.

Cosmo and Magdalen had two children:

Thomas Gordon of whom it was said that he "seemed to possess rather more than common abilities, and never was sent to any school except to learn French, having acquired all the knowledge he had under his father. Indeed he was almost self-taught, for he used to say that what one had heard and seen and could not teach himself to do it was not worth being taught it. He prided himself in his penmanship and accuracy in accounts, and at the time of his death he kept as elegant a set of mercantile books as any in London." He died October 1798, in his 19th year.

Robert Henry Butler Gordon, who was third mate in the Albion East Indiaman and died the preceding year at Bencoolan, on his voyage to China, in the 24th year of his age.

With his death, his branch of the Gordon family surname ended although the Gordon name was carried in the names of many generations of the descendants of his only sister, Elizabeth Gordon, who married Major James Logie.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Charly Dug Out A Dead Man Yesterday.

April 1856 started out with an adventure for David Lewis Drew and his gold mining partners in Calaveras County, California. The river was high from the continuing snow melting in the high country and then something unexpected was found.

David’s partner, Charley was digging soil to run through their sluices when he uncovered the body of a man. Returning to camp, he told David that he ‘supposed that he had met with foul play’. Life in a gold rush setting actually seems to have produced a scene from a Hollywood movie for the partners.

David noted that he read three books during the month; Rose Clark and Ruth Hall by the author “Fanny Fern”. Wondering what the books were about, I searched for them on Google Books and found that both are available for download. So, one hundred and fifty three years after my second great grandfather read the books, I will too.

We leave David’s April 1856 diary entries noting that all the hard work did not produce a lot of gold. As noted before, the spellings here match the writing in David’s tiny pocket diary.

April 1856 .

TUESDAY 1, -- Looks rainey and the river is up pretty high. Four years from home to day.

WEDNESDAY 2, -- Cleared up fine to night.

THURSDAY 3, -- Charly dug out a dead man yeasterday. supposed that he had met with foul play.

GoldRushShipPosterFRIDAY 4, -- John and his partner came down to see us this eavening.

SATURDAY 5, -- Finished the history of England this eavening.

SUNDAY 6. -- Went up to Columbia to day. Find it rather dull a loafing around there all day.

MONDAY 7, -- Shifted sauce to day. The watter was so high in the river that it backed into the boxes.

TUESDAY 8, -- Looks like rain to day. but you can not tell much by looks this season.

WEDNESDAY 9. -- Commenced reading Rose Clark. By Fanny Fern.

THURSDAY 10, -- Rained pretty much all day to day.

FRIDAY 11, -- Commenced raining this afternoon about four o’clock. so that we had to quit. Finished reading Rose Clark tonight.

SATURDAY 12, -- Finished ground sluceing to day and I am glad of it. White and Len went up to the log to miners meeting this evening to make some new laws.

"The log" refers to Pine Log Crossing, on the South Fork of the Stanislaus, about 1 3/4 miles above the confluence.

SUNDAY 13, -- Went up on the Flat to day and bought a Horse of George Collingwood and (paid) him one hundred dollars.

Collingwood was another miner from Massachusetts, living at Shaws Flat, and was listed in the census taken in May, 1851.

MONDAY 14, -- Got my horse shoed to day. cost me three dollars. Hauled down lumber for sluces. to day had to pay six $ and a half per foot.

TUESDAY 15, -- Set up sluces to day and got ready to go to washing. Len bought a horse to day. Commenced Ruth Hall to night.

WEDNESDAY 16, -- Commenced washing to day.

THURSDAY 17, -- Finished reading Ruth Hall to night Liked it first rate.

FRIDAY 18, -- Shifted sluce to day Seth Holmes another Mass boy was down here to see us to day and stoped and got diner.

Seth Richard Holmes was involved in the Stanislaus Tunnel Company. His shares were up for sale, according to an advertisement in the "Weekly Columbian" of December 20th, 1856, presumably because he had failed to pay his assessment.

SATURDAY 19, -- White and Len have gone up to the log to night to a miners meeting. Took out one hundred and eighteen dollars and eighty -five cents.

The "Columbia Gazette" of April 26, 1856, reports that White was elected Chairman for the Pine Log Crossing Mining District at this meeting. This district apparently included the downstream bars down to where White was working.

SUNDAY 20, -- Went up to the flat to day Took diner at Capt Bartletts. Took a ride up to Yankey hill this afternoon.

gumtree MONDAY 21, -- Our horses strayed off last night and Len found them up to Jarvis's ranch.

E.S. Jarvis, a `state of Mainer", had a ranch in the vicinity of Gold Springs. This comment and the one about the miners meeting at Pine Log Crossing are two of the good reasons for believing that Drew was mining up near the South Fork. But the horses could easily have strayed up this far from Walker's Bar.

TUESDAY 22, -- Paned out to nigh and got $29.25 our dirt did not pay very well this last two days.

WEDNESDAY 23, -- John and Co were down here last eavening and we had a game of cards for the first time in a good while.

THURSDAY 24, -- Blowed pretty hard down here to day.

FRIDAY 25, -- Took out one hundred and forty eight dollars and twenty four cents this week.

SATURDAY 26, -- Went down to Jimtown to attend a meeting of the Know Nothing tunnel Company. Took dinner with William Bradford.

SUNDAY 27, -- Went up on the Flat to day.

MONDAY 28, -- White went to sonora to day. Rained a little this morning.

TUESDAY 29, -- Charly and his Company commenced work on there claim to day.

WEDNESDAY 30, -- Rained a little to day. Shifted sluce this afternoon. Caught a sheep that had strayed down the hill.