JOSEPH FRANKLIN THORN
Mining- Goldfield Nevada, was born in
Mariposa County California, December 7, 1878, the son of Joseph
Franklin Thorn and Bessie (Collins) Thorn. On November 15, 1908, Mr.
Thorn was married to Miss Minnie Sweeney, of Grand Rapids, Michigan,
daughter of Captain Sweeney, commander of the ill-fated steamer
"Oceanic", which was burned, or last at sea, about 1887. He comes
of a family whose men had been engaged in mining for generations, his
mother, a native of England, being a member of a family well known in
the mining district of Cornwall, England. His father descended of
a prominent Southern family, was born in Mariposa County, California,
in the year 1850, when the California gold rush was it its
height. He later became one of the best mining men of the West,
and his three sons followed in his footsteps, one of whom was killed on
duty in Korea, and another, George M. Thorn is now engaged in mining in
J F Thorn, who has made a splendid record as a mining engineer and
manager, attended the public schools of Mariposa County until he was
fifteen years of age, but gave up his studies at that time to go into
mining with his father. Later in life, however, he studied two years at
the Van Der Nallen School in Berkeley, California, and also engaged in
a special course of professional studies under private teachers while
He began his career in 1893 as a apprentice machinist in the mechanical
department of the Horseshoe mine in Mariposa COunty, his father being
Manager of the property at the time. At the end of two years he
completed his apprenticeship and then went in for actual mine work at
Quartz Mountain, another property of which his father was
Manager. He worked in the mines there for about two years, then
left his father and worked for about a year in other mining camps.
In 1898 Mr. Thorn became a protégé of John H Mackenzie,
one of the leading mine engineers and operators of the West, and has
been intimately associated with him in a professional way ever
since He first began with Mr. Mackenzie at what is known as the
mariposa Grant, a gold quartz property in Mariposa County, California,
owned by the London Exploration Company. He served as Merchanical
Engineer there for approximately three years the last six months of
which he aided in the construction of a power dam across Merced River.
At the conclusion of this work he was invited by Mr. Mackenzie to go
with him to British Columbia, where the latter had been given charge of
the Le Rol Mine, the largest and most producing in that region.
It was then practically at a stand-still on account of serious labor
troubles and Mr. Mackenzie , picking several of his most reliable men,
in a very short time had the entire property operating at full capacity
and on a paying basis.
Mr. Thorn was appointed by his superior as shift boss in the mine and
began operations at once. He remained there for about a year and then
was chosen by Mr. Mackenzie to go to Korea as Superintendent of the
Oriental Consolidated Mine, one of the largest gold properties in the
world, This mine is located in the northern part of Korea, near
the Manchuria line, and the position held by Mr. Thorn was one fraught
with many perils outside of those of his work.
Mr. Thorn had taken a younger brother, M. H. Thorn, with him, who later
met death in a mysterious manner. It never been established
whether he fell down a shaft accidentally or was thrown down by
inimical natives. Mr. Thorn himself also had a narrow escape from
death at the hands of the natives on one occasion, the Koreans felling
him with a hurled stone during fight brought on by his refusal to
surrender up for execution two young Americans who had violated one of
the laws of the country. He lay unconscious for one week
following the assault by the infuriated natives.
Mr. Thorn continued as Superintendent of the Oriental
Consolidated Mine until the early part of 1907, and during that time
was continuously on duty, except for those times when he came back to
the US with the body of his brother or made trips into Manchuria, Japan
or distant parts of Korea.
Upon his return to the United Sates in 1907, Mr. Thorn rejoined Mr.
Mackenzie, becoming Manger of the Buster Mine, east of Lewiston,
Idaho. This was another gold property, owned by Mr. Mackenzie and
his associates, the firm being known as Bradley, Mackenzie &
Riqua. Mr. Thorn operated this property successfully for two
years and then went to Round Mountain, Nevada, as Superintendent of the
Round Mountain Mining Company. He was in that position nearly a year,
resigning to go to Goldfield, Nevada, as Assistant Manager of the
Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company.
This later concerns one of the most famous mining companies in the
county, its property ranking as the richest producer, for it size, in
the history of the world. It has paid many millions of dollars in
dividends and still is producing gold at a profit of approximately
$5,000.000 per year.
On January 1, 1911, Mr. Thorn was appointed General Manger of the
Goldfield Consolidated and has continued in that capacity ever
since. During the two years he has had charge of the property he
has reduced the cost of mining and milling considerably. This
economy in operation of one of the most fabulously rich properties ever
known has placed him among the most successful practical mining men of
the county, despite the fact that he is one of the youngest men holding
a position of such great responsibility.
He belongs to the Native Sons of the Golden West, and his father
is reckoned its oldest living member.