John Wesley Conant is a prominent and influential citizen and miner of Redding, Shasta County, California. A brief sketch of his life is herewith given.

Mr. Conant was born January 14, 1845. His parents, Jacob and Matilda Conant were both natives of Tennessee, and of German ancestry. They had nine children, six of whom are still living. The subject of this sketch spent his boyhood in Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri, and learned the mason and stone-cutter's trade.

In June, 1862, he enlisted in the service of his country in Company H, Eighth Missouri Cavalry, and in 1864 re-enlisted in Company K, Twelfth Missouri Cavalry. He saw a great deal of active service; was bearing a dispatch to General Lyon when the General fell; was in the battles of Lone Jackstone Mountain and Springford, and many of the battles of the Army of the Potomac. They were sent to join Sherman at Savannah; were in the fight at Port Selma on the 8th of April; from there went to Montgomery, and drew up to fight at Lime Creek on the evening of the night that President Lincoln was killed. He was with his squadron on the right flank, and nearly all of them were killed, wounded or fell into the hands of the enemy. Mr.Conant received two shots; the ball which entered his breast he still carries behind the shoulder blade; and the other one entered his side and broke his lower rib and he cut it out with his razor. He joined his regiment in June, 1865 and was discharged in April, 1866.

In 1867 he went to the plains in the western part of Kansas and drove a team for the Government; then engaged in carrying dispatches to Fort Harper; in 1868 he went as a scout for Custer and Sheridan, and was on the raid to Fort Cell. In February they rescued the white woman who had been carried of by the Indians, and returned to Fort Hays. He was in the massacre at Salmon Falls, then went back to Fort Harper, and thence to his home in Southern Kansas in April, 1869. There he engaged in work at his trade in Shasta County. In 1870 he married Miss Alice Umberger, a native of Kansas and a daughter of Captain Umberger. By her he had one daughter, Maggie M., born in Shasta County.

Mr. Conant came to California in 1872, and settled at Stockton. From there he went to Chico, and worked for General John Bidwell. In the fall of 1873 he engaged in mining in Plumas County, and the following March he came to Shasta County. Next he went to Yreka, where he was employed at driving stock. In 1875 he went to the southern part of Siskiyou County, near the Calahan ranch, and there made a good find. In 1887 he took out over $5,000 taking $320 in a single day, no piece larger than ten dollars, and from that down to fine gold. After this he went with a pack-horse to the mountains and spent some time there prospecting. Finding nothing on the Salmon River or in the New River country, he came to the Niagara Mine, at French Gulch, and worked two months for W. T. Coleman. Then he started on another prospecting tour, and arrived at Squaw Creek, Shasta County, July 5, 1855. There he found several good mines, and named them as follows; The Mountain Rose, the Black Bear, the Logan and the Uncle Sam. Shortly after locating them he sold the first three to Edward Riley, of New York, for $45,000. Then he developed the Uncle Sam, the Hawkeye, and the Mocking Bird and the Grizzly Bear; built a steam saw-mill and a ten-stamp quartz mill, and took out $138,000. He sold the claims to the Sierra Butte mining Company, supposed to be an English syndicate, for $150,000.

At this time Mr. Conant made a trip East, returning to San Francisco in March, 1889. Since then he has invested largely in real estate, In April, 1889 he purchased a ranch of 640 acres on Feather River; came to Redding in June and bought the Reed ranch, 700 acres, one-half mile from the town; has invested in 3,608 acres of timber land and a number of city properties. In 1889, at a cost of $8,500, he built his house and barn in Redding, where he resides with his family. On his ranch near Redding he has planted 13,413 fruit trees. He has also devoted much time and attention to stock, having purchased 102 breeding mares. Among his other possessions are the ferry and the ferry-boat.

Mr. Conant is still the owner of a number of mines, which he is developing. His long experience has been of much value to him and also the county. He put down the first tunnel, 497 feet perpendicular, and thus demonstrated the fact that the deposits extend down some distance. This has done much toward reviving the mining interest of Shasta County, for mining, in a measure, was dead when he began operations. Through his influence capitalists have been induced to make investments here, and many new mines are now being developed. There are fourteen stamp mills within twenty-five miles of Redding.

Mr. Conant is a man of remarkable endurance and courage. He has roughed it in the mountains through sunshine and storm, through rain and snow, and knows what it is to live on short rations. At one time he dug a tunnel thirty-three feet deep, having nothing to eat all the time he worked except beans--beans baked, beans boiled and beans roasted. A man of strong determination and will power, he has made himself of great value in capturing criminals who had sought refuge in the mountains. He captured three murderers in Shasta Valley, and returned them to the authorities in Siskiyou County. Mr. Conant followed them four days and nights, and fired several shots at them before they surrendered. Their crime was the murder of Walter Scott, in Squaw Valley. He also captured two stage robbers, for which he received a reward of $1,600. With two hired men as assistants he rode ninety-five miles, night and day, and found them in a canon on the north fork of the east fork of Trinity River. He came upon their camp and jumped his horse down a bank eleven feet, covered them with his pistol, captured them and delivered them to justice. With the reward thus obtained he was enabled to continue his prospecting at the time. While on the plains Mr. Conant was with Dick Cody (Buffalo Bill) and went by the name of Buckskin Jack. He was captured by the Indians, under command of Charley Brent, who, after detaining him a few hours, turned him loose.

Mr. Conant's present wife was nee Miss Nellie Hamilton, a native of Sacramento. They have three children: John S., who was born in Virginia City, and Nellie E. and Mary C., born in Redding.

Our subject is a strong Republican. During the Harrison campaign he accepted the bluffs of Democrats and won $8,773 from them on the result of the election. He is a member of the G. A. R.; was reared by Methodist parents, who gave him the name of the founder of Methodism. Mr. and Mrs. Conant live in their beautiful home in Redding, surrounded by flowers, pictures and music; and the stone cutter and mason, by his perseverance and go-aheadativeness, is now the wealthy citizen in Redding.

Transcribed by: Melody Landon Gregory
Source: Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, Lewis Publishing Co. 1891 page 767

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