Thomas Walsh (miner)

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This article is about the American gold miner. For other uses, see Thomas Walsh.
Thomas Francis Walsh
Thomas F Walsh.jpg
Thomas Walsh in 1904
Born (1850-04-02)April 2, 1850
Lisronagh, Ireland
Died April 8, 1910(1910-04-08) (aged 60)
Washington, D.C.
Occupation Gold mine owner
Children Evalyn Walsh McLean, Vinson Walsh
Parent(s) Michael Walsh
Bridget Scully
Relatives Edward Beale McLean (son-in-law)

Thomas Francis Walsh (April 2, 1850 – April 8, 1910) was an Irish-American miner who discovered one of the largest gold mines in America. He was also famous for giving the famed Hope Diamond to his daughter Evalyn Walsh McLean as a wedding present.[1]

Early life[edit]

Walsh was born April 2, 1850 to Michael Walsh, a farmer, and Bridget Scully. He was most likely born on his father's farm, Baptistgrange, in Lisronagh, Tipperary, Ireland. Walsh had the following siblings:

According to his daughter's book, Father Struck It Rich, he became an apprentice to a millwright at the age of twelve and grew into a fine carpenter.

In 1869, he immigrated to the United States with his sister, Maria, after the death of his father. For a time, he settled in Worcester, Massachusetts, with his aunts, Catherine and Bridget Walsh Power, who helped "shake the greenhorn off him".


In the early 1870s, he heeded the call to "go west young man" and found himself in Colorado getting paid well for his carpentry skills. During the 1870s, the Black Hills of South Dakota saw a gold rush that attracted hoards of hopeful men afflicted with gold fever. It has been said that at first Walsh was attracted to the opportunities that came with the gold rush, including trading goods and services at inflated prices, as opposed to the gold rush itself.

Gradually, he became more and more immersed in the world of gold and was soon trading mining equipment to prospectors for mining claims as payment. He also studied mining technology at night. In 1877, he moved to Leadville, Colorado with a small fortune between $75,000 (equivalent to $1,669,000 in 2015) and $100,000 (equivalent to $2,226,000 in 2015). Along with his wife, he ran the Grand Central Hotel in Leadville.[2]

After becoming an expert in the subject in gold mining, Walsh was overcome by gold fever and took to the hills. Unlike other prospectors he took a far more methodical and careful approach to prospecting which soon paid off. In 1896, he came home and uttered the words which later became the title of his daughter's book, "Daughter, I've struck it rich!" The Camp Bird Gold Mine near Ouray, Colorado soon turned out $5,000/day (equivalent to $142,000 in 2015) in ore and produced riches for the Walsh family "beyond the dreams of avarice". In a short period of time, Walsh extracted a fortune totaling $3,000,000 (equivalent to $85,476,000 in 2015).[2]

Washington, DC[edit]

Walsh home in Washington, DC

The wealth that Walsh discovered soon provided the family with a lavish lifestyle that included trips to Europe, fine clothes, and expensive motor cars. Around 1898, the family moved to Washington, D.C. where in 1900,[2] he was appointed by President William McKinley as a commissioner to the Paris Exposition of 1899.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Carrie Reed Walsh

On July 11, 1879 in Leadville, Colorado, he married Carrie Bell Reed. The couple had two children:

In 1903 the family moved into the ornate mansion at 2020 Massachusetts Avenue. Later, the house became the Indonesian Embassy.[4] On January 23, 1909, The Aero Club of Washington was founded, with Walsh as serving president, to promote the new technology of Aviation.[5] Due to his involvement with the Paris Exposition of 1899, Walsh became friends with King Leopold of Belgium, whom he created a suite in his home to host. Unfortunately, the King never made a trip to the United States. However, when King Albert, Leopold's nephew, and Queen Elizabeth traveled to the United States in 1919, Walsh's wife, then widowed, was decorated by the King for her service during World War I.[2]

In 1908, Walsh's daughter Evalyn, and only living child at the time, married Edward Beale McLean, the son of John Roll McLean, who became the publisher and owner of The Washington Post newspaper in 1916 until 1933.[6][7]

Thomas Francis Walsh died on April 8, 1910, at his home in Washington, D.C.[2]

Extended family[edit]

Thomas Walsh is a cousin twice removed to W. Arthur Garrity, Jr., the federal judge who issued the famous 1974 order that Boston schools desegregate by means of busing.


  1. ^ Columbia, David Patrick (March 9, 2016). "A Life of Style". New York Social Diary. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Staff (February 26, 1932). "MRS. T. F. WALSH, SOCIAL LEADER, DIES Widow of Former Miner Who Won Fortune in Colorado Is Stricken in Washington. ONCE HOSTESS TO ROYALTY Honored by Albert, King of the Belgians, for Her Work for His People in the World War.". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  3. ^ "The Great French Show". The New York Times. 1889-05-19. pp. Front Page. Retrieved 1 December 2009. 
  4. ^ Weeks, Christopher (1994). AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C. (3d ed.), pp. 179-80. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4712-5.
  5. ^ Tom D. Crouch. "Aero Club of Washington: Aviation in the Nation's Capital, 1909-1914": 39. 
  6. ^ New York Times - July 23, 1908
  7. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, November 15, 1931


  • An informal family history written by Margaret Kennedy (c.1972)
  • Father Struck it Rich, by Evalyn Walsh McLean (1936)
  • Hope by Mary Ryan (c.1998)

External links[edit]