I’ve mentioned this incredible story before, but I now have some further information to add, which puts a whole different perspective on it.
For several weeks, the local press in 1901 ran a story looking for a particular person. The story had some urgent attention. A wealthy, single gold prospector in California had suddenly died and left a massive fortune to “a male relative last seen working as a checkweigher in one of the Blantyre pits”. The name of the lucky inheritor was purposely not disclosed but the claimant was asked to “come forward, provide his name, his current employment and show his connections to America for consideration“. A checkweigher was the person responsible for checking the tonnage of produced coal. Altogether, a safer and more tolerable job than most within the mine.
For many weeks, nobody came forward and it would be an understatement to say the sum was considerable. Even in 1901, the $4,000,000 being left was a whopping £800,000. In today’s money, that’s an inherited sum of around £83 MILLION!!
I’d always thought this was an unclaimed fortune, nobody coming forward given how difficult the press and authorities were in unsuccessfully finding the right person. However, I have to provide an update after doing some further research. There, tucked away in the Wellington Journal on 10th August 1901 was the column inch, stating simply “A weigher in Blantyre has received notice from a legal firm in America that $4,000,000 (four million dollars) has been left to him. The man residing in Blantyre is now traced, the claim validated and he left on the ship Curnessie, yesterday for America to receive his fortune.”
He came forward! Care has been taken by journalists NOT to mention or identify the man to the public, perhaps at his request or to prevent begging letters.
Can you just imagine a Blantyre miner, enduring that dark, dreary life underground, suddenly being rich beyond his wildest dreams and never having to work again!? This would likely have made him one of the richest individuals in the western world. There’s much more to find out about this story though meantime, I hope this benefited many of his friends and family too.
Illustration: Prospector, courtesy Blantyre Project