(Fourth in an occasional series about founders of the storied Silver King Mine.)
My life was very different from the other Silver King founders. I was born in Salt Lake City in a polygamist family. My father, James Ferguson, left Ireland when he was 12 and became an early convert to the Mormon religion. He came out to Nauvoo and signed up with the soldiers to go fight in the Spanish American War. While he was in California he met his first wife and they rode horses back to Utah. Then he met my mother Jane Robinson and they all lived together in the same house.
My father studied law and became an attorney. He had quite the flair for drama and was very active in the early Salt Lake Theater scene, even playing Hamlet in local productions. He was the first Sheriff of Salt Lake and had quite a kerfuffle as Brigham Young’s bodyguard when he burned all the Federal Judge’s books and files in an outhouse at Brigham’s direction. He became the Attorney General of Utah, was a General in the Nauvoo Legion and fought Federal Troops in Echo Canyon as they came in to subdue the Territory in 1857.
We were quite comfortable in my childhood. My father had four wives, he was a prominent attorney and a founding editor of the Mountaineer newspaper, which he created to contradict the Ft. Douglas soldiers’ Valley Tan.
Unfortunately, my father was a very heavy drinker. You know, old time Mormons had breweries and distilleries all over Utah in the early times before Brigham outlawed them. Anyway, he died when he was 35. I was only 7. We struggled after he died and when I finished school at St. Marks, I went to work as the first female telephone switchboard operator in Salt Lake City. Pretty soon they decided they needed to have men running that business and sent me to Park City. They provided a place in Park City for my mother and me to live and what an exciting place that was.
I knew everyone in town because I managed the telephone company. I met dear David Keith, a Silver King Mine owner, and we married in June 1894. He was 47 and I was 39. We both had had difficult lives, and it was good to have such a wise and wonderful husband after so many years of living alone. How wonderful that he became quite rich.
I helped him care for his other children and we had our own precious David Keith in 1895. David was such a blessing and comfort for me. We built a beautiful home on South Temple Street down in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, we were both failing in our health by 1816, so we sold it to our dear friend Ezra Thompson, and lived in a grand apartment at the Hotel Utah. My dear David died two years later, as did I in April 1919.
Learn more about Mary Ferguson Keith and Park City’s fascinating history at the Park City Museum on 528 Main Street.