The Mysterious Life of Thomas W. Cover

The Cover family arrived in Ohio sometime between 1832 and 1834.  The family had traveled from Frederick County, Maryland where Daniel Cover had married Lydia Stevenson on April 2, 1822.[1]  The couple had at least four children while in Maryland: Jason Jerome (b. February 5, 1823[2]), Upton Aquila (b. March 18, 1826[3]), Josiah Stevenson (b. July 16, 1829[4]), and Thomas Wells (b. March 31, 1832[5]).  By 1850 the family had settled in Perry Township, Richland County, Ohio and added six more children to the family: Mary, Martha, Eliza, William, Daniel, and John.[6]  Thomas Wells Cover left the family in the 1850s, traveling west to make his fortune.  His journey would take him to Montana as a gold prospector and vigilante and on to California, where he and one of his brothers would grow prize winning oranges.  His death would come early and be filled with as much mystery as his life, where he would be the villain in some peoples stories and a hero in others.

Historical and Biographical Record of Southern California by J.M. Quinn

It’s unclear where Thomas Cover was in the 1850s.  In 1860 a man with the name Thomas W. Cover purchased land in Buffalo County, Wisconsin[7], but there is no other mention of him in the area.  The next time we see Thomas is May 26, 1863, when he and 5 other men were prospecting for gold in Montana. The group set up camp in Alder Gulch. Thomas and three other men went out hunting while William Fairweather and Henry Edgar stayed behind. While waiting for the men to return, Fairweather and Edgar began panning for gold hoping to get enough to buy some tobacco when they returned to Bannack.  The first pan turned up $2.40 worth of gold and the men laid claim to the area when they returned to Bannack and bought supplies.  They tried to keep the claim a secret, but word traveled quickly and, less then a month later, cabins and tents filled the hillside and Virginia City, Montana was born.  It’s estimated more than $30,000,000 in gold was taken from the Alder Gulch in the first three years.[8]

Hydraulic gold mining in Alder Gulch, 1871. Photo by William Henry Jackson

Cover and others didn’t feel local law enforcement was doing enough to stop crime in the area, particulary those being robbed on the trails while transporting gold, and a group of men started vigilance committee to take the law into their own hands.  The committee would track down those they thought guilty and, often with little evidence, hang them.  One of the most famous was local sheriff Henry Plummer.  The vigilantes claimed Plummer was not doing enough to stop the crimes or even aiding some of the robbers.  This small group of vigilantes acted as judge, jury, and executioner, often not sharing the views of the community as a whole.  Many believe the vigilantes were the true villains in this story, getting rid of the sheriff and others for their own nefarious reasons.[9]

With his newfound wealth, Thomas returned to Ohio, marrying Mary E. Hess in Franklin County, Ohio.  The couple would have three daughters Estell, Camille, and Blanche.  It didn’t take long for Thomas to return to Montana with his new wife.  Once back in Montana, he began working with John Bozeman, the creator of the Bozeman trail which led from the Oregan Trail to Virginia City and who is the namesake of Bozeman, Montana.  Thomas was with Bozeman when he was murdered by a group of Blackfeet while traveling along the Yellowstone River on April 20, 1867.  Though many at the time and today think Thomas Cover was the true murderer.  It appears John Bozeman had a habit of making advances at other men’s wives and Mary was no exception.  It’s possible Bozeman’s past caught up with him and Thomas Cover took the matter into his own hands.[10]  Whatever happened that day, Cover made his way to California a short time later, settling in Los Angeles.

The Death Of John Bozeman by Edgar Samuel Paxson

The first record of Cover in California is in April of 1869 when he purchased a small lot in Los Angeles for $600.[11]  It looked like California would be a new start for Thomas Cover.  He was a father of one daughter, with another on the way.  A year later Cover would purchase the “extensive Robedeaux Ranch, in San Bernardino County”  and began growing oranges.[12]  Thomas’ brother, Perry Daniel Cover, would join him in California and the two would grow prize winning oranges throughout the 1870s.  The Covers were one of the first to import navel oranges to California.[13]  The tame, horticulturist life didn’t appear to be enough for Thomas and he soon caught gold fever again, making trips to the Colorado Desert in search of the fabled Peg Leg Mine.

Thomas “Peg Leg” Smith had allegedly found a hill littered with gold-bearing quartz while traveling from Yuma to Los Angeles.  Peg Leg was never able to relocated the hill and efforts were made by many throughout the years to rediscover its location.[14]  Cover made many of these trips into the desert, the last happening in September of 1884.  Cover and fellow horticulturist, Wilson B. Russell, and a team made their way out to the desert. The two split up, with Russell taking the team and Cover taking a short cut on foot.  When Russell made it to the agreed upon meeting place, Cover was nowhere to be found.  Russell continued on hoping to find Cover, but with no luck and returned to Riverside to organize a search party.[15]  A $1,000 reward was offered for his whereabouts or body and this brought in many stories of bleached bones found in the desert belonging to Cover.  In 1891, reports began to circulate that Cover had run off to Mexico.  Cover had his life heavily insured and the insurance company had yet to pay on his death.  The company sent a man to Mexico to investigate the claim, but Cover was never found.[16]  In 1901 bones were found many miles from where Cover was last seen and trinkets next to the body were identified as once belonging to Cover. His brother, W. H. Cover, was notified and many believed the mystery was finally solved.[17] 

But what happened to Cover on that September day in 1884?  Did the experienced prospector get lost in the desert, wandering for miles and finally succumb to the elements?  Or was he murdered by some person he had wronged in the past, possibly during his time as a vigilante?  Or did he simply stage his death, starting a new life in Mexico? 


  1. Maryland, U.S., Compiled Marriages, 1655-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
  6. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.                                                                       
  7. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records; Washington D.C., USA; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes
  11. Los Angeles Daily News, Volume 1, Number 94, 15 April 1869, p. 2.
  12. Weekly Butte Record, Volume 17, Number 12, 8 January 1870, p 2.
  13. Daily Alta California, Volume 31, Number 10621, 12 May 1879, p. 2.
  15. Riverside Daily Press, Volume XXXVII, Number 89, 14 April 1922, p. 4.
  16. Los Angeles Herald, Volume 35, Number 175, 8 April 1891
  17. Butler Enterprise, published in Butler, Ohio on Friday, March 29th, 1901, p. 2.

Olive San Louie Anderson: “Being a Woman, What Shall I Do?”

Hugh Pease Anderson was born in Pennsylvania about 1815 and arrived in Richland County, Ohio in the late 1830s or early 1840s. Shortly after his arrival, on December 29, 1842,[1] he married Alice Cook, the daughter of Richland County Pioneer Jabez Cook, who arrived in the area in 1815 with his father Noah Cook. The Cook’s trace their ancestry back to Francis Cooke, who came over on the Mayflower.[2] Anderson was a respected doctor and surgeon and built a good life for himself in Troy Township, Richland County, Ohio. The couple had 5 children: Alfred Galen (b. 1844), William (b. 1847), Mary (b. 1849), Olive San Louie (b. 1852) , and Abby (b. 1857).[3] When the Civil War began, Dr. Anderson enlisted and was made captain of Company C of the 64th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. His son, Alfred, enlisted alongside his father. A short time later, on November 27, 1861, Anderson was appointed Assistant Surgeon and Robert C. Brown took over command of Company C. Alfred would also be promoted to Hospital Steward on March 13, 1863.[4]

Dr. Anderson would die in Iowa on April 30, 1869 and his body would be returned to Mansfield to be interred in Mansfield Cemetery.[5] That same year, his daughter, Olive, would graduate from Mansfield High School. At commencement Olive, or Louie, read an essay titled Being a Woman, What Shall I Do?[6] The words and reaction to her essay are unknown. The only mention in the Mansfield Herald notes all the essays were “good, and worthy of notice.”[7] However, the title and her actions after high school indicate that she would not allow her future to be defined by her gender. Two years later, Olive would enroll in the University of Michigan.

In January of 1870, the university allowed its first female student, Madelon Stockwell. The following fall of 1871, 33 more women were admitted. Olive was one of the 13 women enrolled in the Department of Science, Literature, and Arts. She would graduate in 1875 and be the only woman to speak at commencement that year.[8] The next year she would make news again along with four other women. The group would set out to hike from Santa Barbara, California to the Gaviota Pass, causing the men to shake their heads and the old ladies to hold up their hands in horror. They would hire a “quiet, gray-haired teamster” to assist them on their journey.[9] The group collected over 40 birds on the 2 day expedition. “Jo,” as Olive was called by her friends, most likely named after Josephine “Jo” March from Little Women, shot the birds while the other skinned them and prepared them for stuffing.[13]

Olive San Louie Anderson

Olive would spend the next 10 years teaching in California, briefly at Santa Barbara College and later in San Rafael, California. It was during this time in California that she wrote her book titled An American Girl, and Her Four Years in a Boys’ College in 1878. The autobiographical work of fiction chronicles her experience at the University of Michigan. The book was published under the pen name SOLA, and anagram of her initials. The book also looks at “women’s struggles for higher education, courtship customs, and contemporary views of liberal religion and the women’s rights movement.”[10]

Miss Anderson had a promising and successful life ahead of her and was regarded as one of “the most interesting and intellectual women that ever blessed“ her community. She had planned to travel in the hopes of honing her writing and teaching skills and, in 1882, helped in opening the San Rafael Institute, a boarding school for girls, where she served as principal. Unfortunately, tragedy struck on June 5, 1886 when Anderson drowned in the Sacramento River at Rio Vista California. While on a yachting excursion with the Art League of San Francisco, a few of the members decided to go for a swim. Miss Anderson, along with a 12-year-old girl, swam down the river a short distance, staying close to the bank. Suddenly the other in the party heard a scream and turned to see Anderson going under. Every effort was made to rescue her, but the third time she sank she could not be found. After her body was recovered it was discovered there was a 20 foot deep hole which created an eddy which pulled her under. She was only 5 feet from the bank.[11]

After Olive’s death, her mother and sister, Abby, who had been living with her in California, moved to Topeka, Kansas, where Abby’s brother, William, was living. While there, Abby would carry on her sister’s spirit and become editor of a weekly newspaper titled “Equity.” The paper was devoted to solutions to the “social, economical and political problems of the day” and was said to not be “conducted on partisan lines.”[12] William died on August 29, 1896, in Kansas, and is buried in Topeka Cemetery. His mother, Alice, died on January 23, 1901. Her body was sent back to Mansfield to be buried next to her husband. Abby continued to live in Topeka, dying on November 26, 1915. She is buried in Topeka cemetery. Alfred Galen, who was living in Merrick County, Nebraska, died on May 17, 1909. It is unknown what happened to their sister Mary.


  1. Ohio, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016.
  2. Baughman, A. J. A Centennial Biographical History of Richland and Ashland Counties (1901). P. 520-523.
  3. Year: 1860; Census Place: Troy, Richland, Ohio; Page: 262; Family History Library Film: 805029
  4. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion (1887). P. 443-444.
  5. Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio). 06 May 1869, p. 3.
  6. Mansfield High School Commencement (1869). Retrieved from
  7. Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio), 17 June 1869, p. 3.
  8. Olive San Louie Anderson,
  9. Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio), 20 July 1876, p. 3.
  10. Olive San Louie Anderson,
  11. Marin Journal (San Rafael, Ca), Vol 26, No 14, 17 June 1886, p. 3.
  12. Bellville Messenger (Bellville, Ohio) 01 February 1901, p. 8.
  13. Pacific Rural Press (San Francisco, Ca), Vol 12, No 4, 22 July 1876, p 62.

H.L. Reed arrives in Mansfield

In an earlier post, we looked at the early life of Horace Lafayette Reed before his arrival in Mansfield.  At the end of the Civil War, Captain H. L. Reed made his way to Mansfield and began working with his older brother, John Henry Reed.  J. H. Reed, a few years earlier, had taken over the popular business of Sturges & Pritchard, dealers in books, stationery, and wallpaper.  It didn’t take long for the business to be known as J. H. Reed & Brother and, in 1868, the total sales for the business were $92,724.64.  In 1872 the business began operating on the corner of Main and North Park Streets on a site purchased from the Sturges Family.  The business suffered for some reason and an ad in the Mansfield Herald on September 3, 1874, shows the business was taken over by C. N. Pendleton.  J. H. Reed stayed in Mansfield for a few more years before heading out to Nebraska and eventually Riverside, California, where he planted oranges and became instrumental in the citrus industry.  John Henry Reed died in Riverside, California on February 20, 1920.

Page 3 of Mansfield Herald,published in Mansfield, Ohio on Wednesday, May 25th, 1864

Mansfield Herald, Wednesday, May 25th, 1864, p. 3


John Henry Reed

Captain H. L. Reed wasn’t discouraged and, in 1875, went into business with John B. Ink and Pinkey Lewis, opening Reed, Ink, and Lewis.  The business did well and, in 1879, posted sales of $74,580.  On January 3, 1884, it was reported in the Mansfield Herald that Pinkey Lewis was retiring from the firm.  John Ink stayed on for another 10 years, leaving in 1894.  After this, the firm became known as H. L. Reed and Company and Reed took on a new partner, his son-in-law, James L. Lauck.  The store continued to be successful and on February 7, 1903, The H. L. Reed Company was incorporated, with Reed serving as both president and treasurer and Lauck serving as secretary and assistant treasurer.  Henry Goetz, who had started with the firm in 1880 when he was 14 years old, was named the manager of the new company.  By this time Reed was suffering greatly from his Civil War wounds, one leg had been amputated and he was confined to a wheelchair.  His health began to fail and on September 17, 1915, Captain Horace Lafayette Reed died.

P-25 Horace reed portrait

Horace Lafayette Reed

Reed was not only a well-respected businessman but, according to his obituary, a senior deacon of the First Congregational Church.  He was especially interested in the Sunday School at the Mayflower Congregational Church, which he attended and aided in all possible ways.  He was the first president of the Mansfield Chamber of Commerce, a member of the executive committee of the Mansfield Savings Bank, and had a life membership in the Loyal Legion of the G. A. R., which was one of his most prized possessions.  The store would survive for another 78 years until on Monday, April 19, 1993, Reed’s Department store closed its doors for the last time.

Reeds google

In Douglas Cook’s book Reeds… A Tale of the American Spirit, he reprints a poem by an anonymous author which was written and circulated at the time of H. L. Reed’s death titled “Our Gallant Captain’s Final Muster Out.”

Another of our Boys in Blue has crossed the great divide,
He’d served his country all these years ‘till arms were laid aside.
He smiling answered Lincoln’s call “Three hundred thousand more”
And as smilingly the Saviour’s calling from the Other Shore.

A Christian, sunbeam Captain in life’s battle every day
Scattering helpful sunshine all along the weary way
The poor man’s stay and comfort, the mourner’s soothing friend,
Thinking still of others to his own life’s peaceful end.

His battles were not ended with our peace declared,
He kept God’s armor buckled on all his conquest shared,
The soldier boy is going home with no more foes to rout,
And the angels smiled this morning at his final muster out.

The march through death’s dark valley had no terror for his soul.
For he knew the Christ was with him, clear to the shining goal,
Green pastures all before him with heaven all about
And God’s smile answering his own at his final muster out.

The Remarkable Life and Tragic Death of Dr. R. Harvey Reed.

Robert Harvey Reed was born on October 8, 1851 in Dalton, Ohio, a village about 13 miles east of Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio.  According to Robert G. Patterson, at an early age Reed was taken into the home of his uncle, Robert H. Reed, who raised and educated him.  It was his uncle’s second wife, Eliza, who became a mother figure to him.  R. Harvey attended Union High School at Dalton.  Sometime between the age of 17 and 18 Reed began teaching school; he earned $20 a month.  Around this time, thanks to the money from teaching and other odd jobs, he started attending Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio.[1]

Library Document Station_3

Robert Harvey Reed, age 16 or 17, from Patterson’s Robert Harvey Reed.

In 1873, at the age of 22, Reed began studying medicine under Dr. Wormer of Alliance, Ohio.  Reed returned home to Dalton and continued to study medicine with Dr. David Y. Roebuck.  Against the wishes of his foster-father, Reed entered medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1874.  After his first class, Reed was selected by the faculty to be resident physician at Mission Hospital in Philadelphia and graduated with honors on March 10, 1876.

After graduation Dr. Reed briefly work as a surgeon for the Delaware Copper Mining Company at Lake Superior, Keweenaw County, Michigan.  While there he also was asked to botanize and report on the flora of Keweenaw Point Michigan, which appeared in the “Forestry Report” published by the U. S. government.   On June 20, 1876, Reed came home to marry Miss Melissa A. Stinson of Dalton, Ohio.  In 1877 Reed returned to Ohio, where the next twenty years of his work would take place.


The Daily Shield, 11 NOV 1880

Reed first began working in West Salem, Ohio with Dr. C. C. Stouffer, who was also a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.  He worked there for 3 years before moving to Mansfield, Ohio in November of 1880.  Dr. Reed’s first ad appeared in The Mansfield Herald on December 30, 1880 and his office was located on N. Park St. for about two years, until he moved to West Third where he had his office next to his residence.


The Daily Shield, 30 DEC 1880

During his time in Mansfield, Dr. Reed was an active member in the Mansfield Lyceum and Reading Union.  It was here that many of his papers were read on sanitation and public health.  Reed would become a pioneer in this field with papers like “The Sanitary condition of Mansfield,” which suggested the establishment of a board of health in the city, and “Sewers and Sewerage,” which discussed the best sewage system adaptable to Mansfield.  It was also in Mansfield where Dr. Reed received his first public office when he was appointed physician to the Richland County Children’s Home on June 30, 1883. Dr. Reed was also involved in the creation of the Richland County Sanitary Association and the Mansfield Board of Health; he served as health officer from 1887 until he left the city in 1894.

Also while in Mansfield, Dr. Reed contracted an infection that remained with him for the rest of his life.  During an operation, Dr. Reed was pricked by a needle and despite several treatments and operations, including many for his life-long friend the famous surgeon Nicholas Senn of Chicago, the infection never cleared up.

Library Document Station_4

Dr. Reed about 1892, from Patterson’s Robert Harvey Reed.

Later Dr. Reed helped with the establishment of the Ohio Medical University in Columbus, Ohio.  “Chartered in 1890, Ohio Medical University opened in 1892 to teach the medical and collateral professions.  It originally offered schools of medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy.  For a short time OMU had a school of midwifery.“  In 1892 Reed was appointed to the Chair in the Theory and Practice of Surgery and Clinical Surgery.  He traveled between Mansfield and Columbus for two years before moving to Columbus to teach surgery and serve as chief of the surgical staff of the Protestant Hospital. “In 1907 Ohio Medical University merged with its Columbus competitor–Starling Medical College.  In 1914 the Starling-Ohio Medical school accepted an offer to become the medical department of Ohio State University.“[2]


Ohio Medical University

In 1897 Dr. Reed accepted positions in Rock Springs, Wyoming where he worked for the next ten years.  On January 1, 1907 due to failing health, Dr. Reed resigned his position with the Union Pacific Railroad and moved further west to Los Angeles.  By the end of the month, Dr. Reed was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  According to his obituary in a Rock Springs Miner from February 9, 1907: “at half past twelve o’clock Wednesday afternoon [January 30, 1907], Dr. Reed was left alone in his apartments for a short time. During this brief period he secured a revolver and placing it to his right temple, fired one fatal shot. The report of the shot attracted the attention of the hotel attaches who immediately entered the room, and found his body stretched on the floor, with life extinct. Near his right hand was lying the revolver with which the tragedy was committed.”[3]

Library Document Station_6

Dr. Reed about 1902, from Patterson’s Robert Harvey Reed.

According The Mansfield Daily Shield, The Los Angeles Times reported that “the man of mystery, who was never seen outside of his hotel room at the Lankersham Hotel, killed himself there yesterday, blowing out his brains with a big .44 caliber revolver.”  They continued to say that “having lost his position, his family and friends through drink, he lay in bed in his room, in charge of his valet, drinking in joyless, helpless, abandonment to the end.”  The night clerk on duty reported the grisly scene: “the body was half turned on one side, and the entire top of the skull was gone – smashed to pulp.  Each of the four walls of the room was splattered with blood and brains. A piece of the skull had been buried to the celling with such force that it broke the plaster and remained imbedded there.  The large revolver lay nestled in the hollow of one of the arms.”[4]


Lankersham Hotel abt. 1907, from the USC Digital Library

Though alcohol may have been the immediate cause of Dr. Reed’s suicide, others claim that his mental health had been deteriorating for years.  According The Daily Shield, Dr. Reed “had written a number of very queer letters to former Mansfield friends which clearly indicated that his mind was wrecked.”  In the same article it was reported that due to the infection Dr. Reed and contracted years ago, he had become addicted to cocaine.  It was due to these addictions and loss of mental faculties that his wife felt compelled to leave him about a year before his death.[5]

Diseases and addiction destroyed a brilliant mind; Dr. R Harvey Reed was at the top of his profession.  He was a pioneer in sanitary conditions in Ohio and during his time in Mansfield and made many great improvements to the city.  Dr. Reed led a remarkable life that should not be overshadowed by his grisly death.


[1] Patterson, R. G., (1935). Robert Harvey Reed: A Sanitary Pioneer in Ohio. The Ohio Public Health Association.
[2] Ohio Medical University, America’s Lost colleges, Retrieved from
[3] Rock Springs Miner, February 02, 1907
[4] The Mansfield Dailey Shield, February 07, 1907.
[5] The Mansfield Dailey Shield, February 02, 1907.