LUNDIN FAMILY HISTORY
EARLY PIONEERS OF THE WEST
John is a proud product of the West where his family members were early settlers and pioneers, drawn initially by hard rock mining. He has done extensive research into his family’s history for several books he is writing.
The lure of instant riches drew hundreds of thousands of hopefuls west in the later half of the 1800s, many going from one mining area to another as one dried up and a new strike lured them, as described by Carrie Adell Strahorn in her book Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage. The west was filled with
gold fields where towns rise and fall in a night with the news of richer prospects farther on….It is a sad but oft-repeated struggle for the one who can not resist the charm of possibility, the hope of much for little, calculating not on the actual percentage of successful ones, and believing the next victory may be his. The hunger for gold in a mine is a disease more contagious than measles, and once in the blood it is seldom, if ever, eradicated.
John’s paternal great-grandfather, Andrew Lundin, immigrated from Sweden in the 1870s, and worked as a blacksmith in various mining camps before settling in Deadwood/Lead area of the Black Hills in Dakota Territory (now South Dakota). In the spring of 1877, Lundin was a member of a the first party of 50 men who walked from Fort Pierre to the Black Hills after the Sioux forces were defeated and the area opened for mining, times portrayed by the HBO series Deadwood, when Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane lived there. He met and married Helen Brakke, who immigrated from Norway. Lundin became the head blacksmith at the Homestake Mine owned by George Hearst, and was later in charge of the repair shops for the Black Hills and Fort Pierre Railroad, a subsidiary of the Homestake Mining Company. He built the Lundin house in 1886, which is the oldest house on the Lead walking tour. John’s grandfather, John W. Lundin, Sr., was born and raised in Lead. Blacksmithing was a high end respected profession and was very important to the mining industry.
The tremendous strain to which stage couch and freight wagons were subject made a blacksmith shop in the diggings imperative…In those days, fabricated supplies were not available and practically everything used in or around the mine passed through the blacksmith’s forge.
John’s Scottish great-grandparents, Matt and Isabelle Campbell McFall, met and married in the silver mining area of Eureka, Nevada in the 1870s. They moved to the Wood River Valley in Idaho in 1881, attracted by the silver boom. McFall built a high class hotel in Bellevue and became a successful businessman. Isabelle’s brother Neil Campbell followed them to Bellevue after working in Death Valley as a teamster and blacksmith, along with the rest of their family. Neil Campbell opened Bellevue’s first blacksmith shop, had the Valley’s first commercial apple orchard, operated a stagecoach line from Bellevue to Muldoon, owned several large farms, and the family owned 41 silver mines over the years. One of Neil’s sons was Blaine County Sheriff in the 1920s and 1930s, and another son was the elected Idaho Inspector of Mines in the same era, when that was an important and influential post.
The McFalls moved to Shoshone, Idaho in 1893, during the middle of the International Silver Depression, as mining shut down in the Wood River Valley and Shoshone was booming as a railroad town. They built the McFall Hotel across from the railroad station, which became the economic, social and political center of Shoshone. Several U.S. presidents stayed at the hotel, as did a number of notorious characters. In fall of 1900, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and their Hole in the Wall Gang stayed at the McFall Hotel after robbing a Union Pacific train in Wyoming, on their way to rob a federal bank in Nevada, to finance Butch and Sundance’s escape to Bolivia. Several gang members returned in November 1900, to retrieve some of their loot they stashed nearby, and stayed at the McFall Hotel again, honeymooning with their “wives,” prostitutes they brought from a house of prostitution where they hid out in San Antonio, Texas. John’s grandmother was 10 years old at the time, lived in the hotel, and likely saw the gang in the lobby or dining room. An historian at Idaho State University pieced together this story from historic records, including reports of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
John W. Lundin, Sr. moved to Shoshone in 1908, after graduating from the University of Nebraska, to work for the Union Pacific Land Company. He married Alberta McFall, and John’s father, John W. Lundin, Jr., was born and raised there, spending time on family ranches, one on the Little Wood River between Shoshone and Gooding, and another near where Fish Creek Reservoir was built.
John’s mother, Margaret Odell Lundin, came from an old English family whose roots go back to 1066, when William the Conqueror made one of his military advisors the Baron of Wodhull, giving him land in the County of Bedfordshire. He built his castle near an old Anglo- Saxon village called Wodhull. The name came from the old English words “woad” (a plant whose leaves produced blue dye) and hyll (hill), meaning the hill where woad grows. The name evolved into Odell by the Middle Ages, and when the use of surnames became standard, people from the area adopted Odell as their last name. The Odell family was listed in the Doomsday Book, England’s first census compiled in 1086, and many other early documents. The family sided with the barons that forced King John to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, dividing power between the king and the English noble families. Odells went with Cromwell to Ireland during its brutal reconquest by forces of the English Parliament between 1649 – 1653, later changing their name to O’Dell. The first Odell to immigrate to this country arrived in the late 1630s, and our direct line arrived when Austin Odell settled in Rhode Island in the 1680s.
John’s maternal grandfather, Mark Odell, was born near Baldwinsville, New York, and attended Cornell University in the 1890s, where he rowed for the school’s famous crew coach Charles “Pop” Courtney. Odell’s crew of 1897, became national champions by beating Harvard and Yale and winning the Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s (IRA) Regatta a few days later, beginning a decade of Cornell’s dominance of collegiate rowing under Courtney. Odell and his best friend dropped out of Cornell’s law school in March 1898, and joined the 100,000 other hopefuls going to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon Territory of Canada. They spent a year there, carrying a ton of supplies apiece over the notorious Chikoot Pass, building a boat to float down the dangerous Yukon River, and living in a cabin they built prospecting for gold in temperatures often below -40. They hiked out in the winter of 1899, and took the Steamship Laurada from Skagway to Seattle, which carried the year’s first group of prospectors from the Klondike and $150,000 in gold dust. “M.M. Odell and E. L. Aldrich are two New Yorkers who brought out considerable dust,” according to the Seattle Times of March 23, 1899. The Cornell Sun said Odell and Aldrich returned with gold amounting to between $15,000 and $20,000 each.
Odell’s adventures in the Klondike are reminiscent of Wallace Stegner’s description of Leadville in his classic novel, Angle of Repose, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.
A camp that strikes it rich in the middle of a depression speaks as urgently to the well-trained as to the untrained. In Leadville, Harvard men mucked in prospect holes, graduates of MIT and Yale Sheffield Scientific School worked as paymasters and clerks and gunguards, every mine office was approached daily by some junior engineer with a diploma and a new mustache…Leadville roared toward civilization like a runaway train.
Odell settled in Seattle in 1899, where he became a contractor, helping to build the booming city’s infrastructure. Seattle was changed forever by the Klondike Gold Rush, evolving from a remote town in the far west to a major economic force on the Pacific Coast. The gold rush brought the country out of the International Silver Depression of the 1890s, said to be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, and caused Seattle to grow substantially in population and wealth. Seattle was the starting point for the gold rush, and its merchants made fortunes by outfitting prospectors heading north. Much of the gold found in the Yukon, and most of the wealth generated there, ended up in Seattle, where it funded many of the city’s major businesses. By the end of the century, Seattle assayers had exchanged more than $18 million in gold, worth over $400 million in today’s dollars. In 1890, Seattle had a population of 42,837. By 1900, Seattle’s population had grown to 80,671 after many of the gold seekers like Odell settled there after leaving the Klondike, and it reached 237,194 by 1910. “By the dawn of a new century, Seattle had established itself as the premier city of the Northwest.”
In addition to being a contractor, Odell helped to start the rowing program at the University of Washington (which became famous when “the Boys in the Boat” won the Olympic gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Games), serving as its coach in 1905, and working with its famous coach Hiram Conibear for a number of years. His contributions to the UW rowing program are discussed in Essays published by HistoryLink.org, the on-line encyclopedia of Washington History, “Mark Odell and the Start of the UW Rowing Program,” and the Friends of Rowing History website, “Cornell’s Influence on Washington and West Coast Rowing.“
Peter Mallory, in his seminal book on rowing history, The Sport of Rowing: Two Centuries of Competition, analyzed the Conibear Stroke used by the UW crew, and determined that its genesis lies with Cornell and Coach Courtney as taught to him by Mark Odell.
Many have described George Pocock as the sole author of the Conibear Stroke, but history demonstrates that this is less than the full story. Conibear’s descriptions of the ideal stroke differed substantially from George Pocock’s written descriptions of the Thames Waterman’s Stroke. It would be more accurate to recognize that the Conibear Stroke was the result of crucial early consultation with Charles Courtney reinforced by having former Cornell rower Mark Odell as a volunteer assistant in Washington program. Add in the influence of George Pocock, and Conibear had everything he needed to supplement his own innate intelligence.” (Emphasis added).