Charles W. Westover
Charles W. Westover was born in Rushville, Fayette County, Indiana in May of 1837, the son of farmers Hiram Westover and Minerva Campbell. His family moved to Huntington County, Indiana when he was quite young, and it was there that he grew up, working on the family farm and attending school. As a young man he farmed in the Afton, Iowa area for a few years, where he married a woman named Maggie E. in 1856 and had two children: Howard Beryl Westover (1858) and Olive O. Westover (1859/60) before traveling to Colorado, crossing the plains by wagon train, during the gold rush of 1860. He appears to have been reasonably successful; The Daily Mining Journal (Blackhawk, Colorado) reported in June 1864 that Charles Westover was hosting the entire community at his ranch for the 4th of July. In preparation he had erected "eating saloons," a 50-foot building for dancing and other amusements, and had "fitted up a fine race track where all lovers of racing may enjoy themselves."
In 1864 he moved back East for a few years, to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he had a third child, Clarence K. (in 1864), and worked as a painter. Around 1869, however, his passion for minerals and prospecting demanded that he leave Iowa and return to the Rocky Mountains; he moved permanently to Colorado, settling first in Central City (where he is mentioned in the Daily Register Call for May 4, 1869). Then he moved to Denver and on to the new boom town of Leadville in 1879, where he listed himself on the 1880 census as a "mineralogist," and his son Howard as a "civil engineer" (most of the civil engineers in Leadville at that time were involved in mining).
Westover had begun making his living as a professional mineral collector and dealer in 1871, ranking him as among the very earliest of all American mineral dealers. This is documented by Baskin (1881), who states that "for ten years Mr. Westover has been engaged in gathering geological specimens in Utah, Wyoming, Dakota and Colorado, making a specialty of furnishing cabinets for schools and colleges with specimens." He was also a skilled taxidermist, and maintained the largest collection of stuffed animals in Colorado.
In 1881 Charles' son Howard joined him in business and they became "Westover & Son," collecting and dealing in minerals. The family was also involved in mining; Charles' brother Fleming Westover worked as a miner in Leadville in the mid-1880's. And two other relations, Burton Westover (possibly Charles's son or cousin) and Lee Westover (Charles' nephew), were miners as well, the latter in the Yankee Doodle mine on Carbonate Hill.
Charles' son Clarence must also have been involved in the mineral specimen business; the Leadville City Directory lists him as a "collector" in 1882, and as a miner in 1883 and 1887. By 1879 Charles had opened the "Leadville Museum" at 326 Harrison Avenue (one of Leadville's better streets). The Fairplay Flume noted his doings on April 24, 1879:
"Westover, the Denver mineralogist, has been 'doing' Park and Lake Counties the past two weeks in the interests of his museum and specimen store."
At the Leadville Museum and mineral store he and Howard dealt in minerals at least through 1885, when they advertised in The Exchanger's Monthly ("Collectors and Dealers in Mineral and Geological Specimens") and were listed in the Leadville City Directory as dealers in "mineral specimens." Lee Westover helped out as a proprietor of the Leadville Museum, along with W.J. Young and C.D. Fuller in 1883-1885.
The City Directory listed Charles W. Westover as an “insurance agent” in 1886-1887, and his son Howard is not listed at all, so perhaps the mineral business had faltered by then. In 1889 Charles Westover and his wife left Leadville and moved to Ogden, Utah (Carbonate Chronicle, April 29). By the time of the 1900 census they had moved on to California, where he worked as a gold miner in Lake Valley, El Dorado County. His son Howard remained in Colorado and was living in Cripple Creek, working as a “traveling agent.” As of 1910 Charles and Maggie (who by then had been married for 53 years) were living in Malibu, California and Charles gave his occupation as “real estate operator”; their son Clarence was living with them and listed his occupation as “miner, quartz mines,” though one wonders if there were many gold mines near Malibu. No specimen labels from Westover & Son or the Leadville Museum are known.
BASKIN, O.L. (1881), History of the Arkansas Valley, Colorado, Baskin & Co., Chicago, 889 p.
US Federal Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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