Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
John T. Ryan Correspondence
MSS 0679  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (70.87 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Ryan, John T.
    Title: John T. Ryan Correspondence,
    Date (inclusive): 1891 - 1934
    Extent: 0.40 linear feet (1 archives box)
    Abstract: The correspondence of John T. Ryan (1891-1934) documents the activities of a Tuolumne County, California, quartz and placer gold mine owner. The bulk of the correspondence deals with Ryan's attempts to find financial backers to help him develop the Ryan quartz and placer mines, a failed joint venture (1912-1913) with M.S. D'Albergaria of Oakland, California, and dealings with mining supply and equipment companies. Additionally, the correspondence reveals aspects of Ryan's personal life, including correspondence from friends and family, his attempts to get a female "pard" (companion) to venture to his out-of-the-way location in the hamlet of Confidence, California, as well as attempts to barter mining claims for personal items.
    Repository: University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
    La Jolla, California 92093-0175
    Collection number: MSS 0679
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    John T. Ryan Correspondence, MSS 0679. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.


    John T. Ryan (ca. 1855-1934) was a mine owner in Tuolumne County, California. Ryan was born in New Jersey, the eldest son of seven children, to Irish immigrants, Dennis and Susan Ryan. The family came to Sonora (the county seat of Tuolumne County located one hundred thirty-three miles east of San Francisco) around 1856, where Ryan's siblings were all born. Dennis Ryan operated Ryan's Saloon in the rough and tumble gold-mining town and the saloon was still under family ownership as late as 1913.
    Ryan attempted to exploit the Ryan mines located thirteen miles east of Sonora in the tiny Sierra Nevada mountain hamlet of Confidence (elevation 4,200 feet). The early days of easy gold mining, when loose gold could literally be found on the surface of river beds, was long past. Therefore, Ryan engaged in hard-rock mining, digging and blasting deep shafts into the quartz rock that contained veins of gold. The rock was then brought to the surface and crushed. Finally, the gold had to be separated out by using moving water or leached out by using arsenic or mercury. This type of mining operation was expensive and explains why Ryan had to continually seek financial investors.
    Although Ryan appeared to have remained close with siblings and friends, there is no evidence he was ever married and had children, and the date and whereabouts of his death are unknown. Additionally, there is no evidence that Ryan was able to successfully exploit his mines, but it is not clear if this is because of a lack of financing, or if the mines were simply not rich in ore (the quartz mine was never assessed at more than $100 value), or if the name he gave his home, "Never Hurry Land," was reflective of his work ethic. The correspondence does, however, document the difficulties in attempting to mine California gold long after the shimmer of the earlier and easier "gold rush" mining days had faded.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The John T. Ryan Correspondence reflects the life of a post-"Gold Rush" California mine owner as he struggled to exploit quartz and placer mines in Tuolumne County, California. The correspondence is arranged in two series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, and 2) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series documents Ryan's life as the owner of quartz and placer gold mines (the "Ryan Mine" and the "Mexican Mine") in the Sugar Pine Mining District in Tuolumne County, California during the period 1891-1934, with the bulk of correspondence covering the period from 1912-1916. The correspondence reflects Ryan's struggle to acquire financing from potential investors willing to finance the necessary equipment to work the mines.
    Of significance is correspondence (1912-1913) with M.S. D'Albergaria of Oakland, California, who initially brokered a note signed by M.E. Starbuck and entered into a joint venture with Ryan. The agreement was an installment purchase whereby the mine's owner (Ryan) would continue to work the mine and would be paid the purchase price, over a period of years, from proceeds of the mine's production. D'Albergaria, living more than one hundred miles away, began to manage and equip the mine with Ryan directing day-to-day operations. D'Albergaria quickly became dissatisfied with Ryan's efforts, and even accused Ryan of submitting false expenses. The joint venture quickly deteriorated with recriminations on both sides.
    A diverse mixture of both the business and personal aspects of Ryan's life are reflected in other correspondence. This includes letters from friends, some of whom attempted to find investors for Ryan, family members including his brother, James, a hostler and tax assessor of Tuolumne County, and his sister, Susie, who still lived in Sonora. Also included is correspondence from women, including one who apparently responded to an advertisement to be a "pard" (an Americanism for a partner or companion) at Ryan's residence in the tiny hamlet of Confidence, and responses to Ryan's attempts to barter mining claims for such items as a motorcycle, a diamond ring, and a Winchester-Lee straight-pull sporting rifle.
    The MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series includes mining supply and equipment bills of lading; a mining notice (1912) evidencing Ryan's mine ownership, along with other Ryan family members; advertisements; bid requests for mining equipment; receipts, and a business card of a San Francisco gold dealer. In addition, the series contains a small printed map of the Sugar Pine Mining District which shows Ryan's mines; Tuolumne County tax notices; Ryan's brother James' campaign business card for the position of tax assessor of Tuolumne County (1914), and a fire insurance policy (1913) on the Ryan Saloon in the city of Sonora, still owned by the family's estate.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Ryan, John T.
    Gold mines and mining -- California