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Collection 518 - Richard D. Cotter Papers, 1870-1878

Creator: Cotter, Richard D., 1842-1927

Provenance Note: Photocopies of an original diary and a transcription of the diary kept by by Richard D. Cotter, a record book pertaining to a dance club he joined, and two legal documents concerning him and the dance club were donated to Montana State University by Merrill G. Burlingame in 1967. Burlingame had copied some of the material after borrowing it from Dennis and Jeri Gundersdon of Helena, Montana, but the location of all the originals represented in this collection is presently unknown.

Historical Note: Richard D. Cotter was born in Ireland on September 17, 1842. Cotter worked as a packer for the Whitney surveying party to California from 1860 to 1864. He ascended Mount Tyndall and discovered Mount Whitney. Mount Cotter is named for him. It is possible that he originally came to Montana as a soldier at Fort Shaw prior to 1870, but he was certainly in New York Gulch by April of that year. New York Gulch was a mining camp in the Trout Creek mining district of Meagher County, Montana. The town site was established around 1866 and from then until 1869 the camp was in its heyday with thousands working placer claims in the area. The quartz deposits proved less profitable as time went on and by 1880 the number of inhabitants was forty-nine. In 1874 the camp boasted a social dancing club with its own meeting hall. One of the members of the club was Richard Cotter. In 1875 he left New York Guch and travelled to Washington Territory. By 1880 he was back placer mining in Cooper Gulch in Meagher County. For many years he lived in York, Montana. Cotter spent the last eight years of his life in the county hospital in Helena, where he died March 12, 1927.

Content Description Note: The Cotter papers consist of a photocopy of the original diary of Richard D. Cotter with entires dated November 14, 1875 to February 25, 1876. A partial typed transcript, completed by hand, of the same document is also included. The diary pertains primarily to a journey Cotter took through Idaho and Washington territories after leaving New York Gulch. The collection also includes a copy of a book recording the membership and financial transactions of the New York Dancing Club with entries from May 29, 1874 through March 15, 1878. Photocopies of two legal documents recording the sale of a mining claim to Cotter from D. W. Culberson in 1870 and the sale of the dancing club building by Harvey Spencer in 1874 complete the collection.

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Updated: 3/14/13