U.S. CITIZEN - LEADVILLE 79er (1878-79)
Before leaving Pennsylvania John Irwin, on September 24, 1878, became a U. S. citizen at the Luzerne County District Court. By virtue of his naturalization his wife and minor son (Billy) also became U. S. citizens. Shortly thereafter the Irwin’s left (via train) for Colorado where John Irwin found employment in the coal mines at Golden, Colorado. Already, in late 1878, there was talk of the big silver boom in the mining camp of Leadville. However, with winter approaching the roads to Leadville were not passable and so John Irwin and family “wintered over” in Golden. As soon as the roads became passable (“spring thaw”) John Irwin, his brother Jim and brother-in-law Patrick McMahon left (via foot, horseback, freight wagon…probably all three) for Leadville and found work in the silver mines. By the summer of 1879 John Irwin sent for his wife (Bridget) and son (Billy) who arrived in Leadville via stagecoach.
Underground miners were paid $3.00 to $3.50 per day at this time and there was plenty of work in the Leadville silver mines. And so, at an early age, Billy went to work as a silver miner and continued to learn the “manly art of self-defense” for purposes of survival in the rough and tumble mining camp of Leadville.