Google+ Georgia On My Mind: The Four Georgians

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Four Georgians

Here’s an interesting fact….Helena, Montana was founded by the “Four Georgians” following a gold discovery along the Last Chance Creek on October 30, 1864.

Hmmmm…..the “Four Georgians”.

Who are these folks and how did they get a label like that?

The four Georgians are thought to be John Cowan, D.J. Miller, John Crab, and Reginald (Robert) Stanley. History is really a strange thing because only one of the four was a true Georgian…John Cowan. The others hailed from other places. D.J. Miller came from Alabama, John Crab was an Iowan, and Reginald Stanley was from England.

Many folks who have researched the four men had come up with the theory that the gang of four was called the Four Georgians not because they were from Georgia but because they used the Georgian method of placer mining.

The four had moved about Montana for six weeks looking for gold and finally returned to one of the first places they had visited. They had aptly named it Last Chance Gulch because they decided to try it one last time before giving up.

On July 14, 1864 they found flat gold nuggets and gold dust and the Last Chance Bonanza had begun. Three years later the four men sold out their claims and went about their lives as wealthy men.

This site states, “Once the news spread about the gold discovery, Helena became a boom town seemingly overnight. In only a few short years, several hundred businesses opened up shop in Helena, and more than 3,000 people called Helena home. Also, many previous mining strikes in other areas of Montana began to play out. As a result, many miners in these areas gravitated toward Helena.As the gulch began to fill up with people, the miners decided they needed to come up with a name for the town. The name “Helena” was not immediately bestowed upon the town. The “Four Georgians” originally named it Crabtown after John Crab, one of the founders. However, many of the miners from Minnesota began to call the town Saint Helena, after a town in Minnesota. The name was eventually shortened to Helena, its current name.”

Today, the same creek where the Four Georgians found their gold, runs underneath Helena’s main street. Helena even has an elementary school named for the Four Georgians.

Of course, as many historical events go there are two sides to the story. John Cowan returned home to site of the old mill (the original burned awhile back) is now a great restaurant. The website for the The Old Mill Restaurant advises John Cowan did travel to Montana with his cousins Frank and Tom Cowan. Also along for the trip were John Boring, Bill Palmer, and Henry Rusk all from Forsyth County.

Notice that Cowan’s traveling companions are not the same men mentioned in the local area history I found for Helena listed earlier in this article.

The Old Mill Restaurant website further states that after several months John Boring and Tom Cowan returned home to Georgia. Along the way John Boring was killed by Indians, but Tom made it home. This left John Cowan, Frank Cowan, Henry Rusk, and Bill Palmer in Montana….four men, four Georgians.

Hmmm….the only Georgian we know for sure was in Helena is John Cowan.

I just hate it when I research something and can’t find the answers I want.

I’ve sent an email to The Old Mill Restaurant…..perhaps they can clear this up for us.

For now we have a mystery on our hands.

Yes, you aren’t seeing things. This post ran here at Georgia on My Mind in September, 2009 and the reason why I’m re-running it can be found here. I never did hear back from the Old Mill Restaurant. :(


tipper said...

Wow Fascinating!So neat that the 4 Georgians played a role in Helena Montanna.

John said...

John Cowan was the son of Isaac Cowan (ca. 1773-1824) and Ann Scott Knox Cowan (1773-after 1850), and grandson of William Cowan (ca. 1735-1789) and Sarah Stewart Cowan (ca. 1740-1807.) These Cowans came to GA from Rowan County, NC in 1785 with the pioneers of the Bethsalem community in Oglethorpe County. The family moved into what became Jackson County in the mid 1790s.)

Anonymous said...

Iknow for very sure that William Henry Rusk was with John Cowan when the first gold was found at what they named "Last Chance Gulch." He was my great-grandfather, and a portrait of John Cowan hung in my grandmother's (his daughter's) home. He came home a wealthy man, having stopped in Philly to have his gold minted and to have a wedding ring made from his gold for his fiance. Rusk, Cowan and the other two men with them were the Four Georgians who found gold first. The other three men (none from GA), later erroneously called Georgians, filed claims while Cowan filed one claim for himself and the three younger men he brought with him from GA.

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