A prospector is someone who searches for
minerals [or sometimes oil]. Early
prospectors were looking for gold and most had never done it
before. The one thing that most prospectors had in
common was wanting to become rich. They wanted it so much that
many prospectors left their families, homes, and jobs to search for
A Prospector’s life when he WASN'T working:
An early prospector’s life was really determined by his family. If he left his family somewhere far away, he spent his free time much differently than the miner did who brought his family with him. Either way, miners usually lived in shacks, were always in danger, had pretty bad food, and were often sick.
The miner who left his family in the East, spent his free time feeling lonely and homesick. He would write home or do chores when he wasn’t mining. He would do his laundry or go to town for supplies. Many times, lonely miners would go to saloons in town and gamble most, or all, of their gold away. Miners would also go to town to drink alcohol. This usually got them in trouble with fights and gambling.
Sometimes miners brought their families with them. It was hard to travel in those days. It took a lot of time and money to get a miner and his family to the gold areas. This is why most wives and families stayed in the East. It was interesting to find out that wives could get a ‘claim’ of their own beside their husband’s. This gave the family double the land to search for gold.
Wives would grow vegetables, do the laundry, take care of the kids, and sometimes help with the mining, too. Some wives would get jobs in town so that the family would have more money. The children would help with the mining, do jobs around the home, and sometimes work in town doing jobs like delivering newspapers or working at hotels and stores. Most of the time, a miner's children didn’t go to school.
Life at a
prospector’s claim site was dangerous. The West didn’t usually
have any nearby law officers because the claim sites were
in the mountains or outside of towns. Lots of people,
who did illegal things in the East, went out West so that they
wouldn’t get caught. This brought lots of bad people to the
prospecting sites. These people sometimes tried to steal the
gold and even the claims or land that was being mined.
jumping is where someone comes along and steals the land that a
miner owns and begins to take the minerals himself. Laws to
protect miners and their claims didn’t come until after the