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Real Diversity

"By Tre, Pol, or Pen ye may know most Cornishmen." This simple rhyme was known to nearly everyone in the mining camps of the Old West and probably to much of the general population in America during the 19th century. Treloar, Trevelyan, and Tremaine were especially common names on the mining frontier, as were Penrose, Penhall, and Pender. Less common but not unusual were Polglase, Polkinghorne, and Polmear. Cornishmen, one and all. In America, they became known as "Cousin Jacks." They all seemed to have a cousin Jack back home who would be just right for the latest job-opening in the mine. They were such skilled hard-rock miners that they demanded to work for a percentage of the profits rather than daily wages. Needing the expertise of the Cornishmen, the mine owners readily complied. Once the placer deposits had been exhausted and hard-rock mining commenced, it was time to bring in the Cornishmen. Camp after camp filled with Cousin Jacks until they represented more than ten percent of the population in most mining districts. In Crass Valley, in the heart of the California Mother Lode, they made up nearly 20 percent of the town's population.

Since prehistoric times, the Cornish—a Celtic people—have inhabited Cornwall, an 80-mile-long peninsula in southwestern Britain. A beautiful but rocky and rugged land where farming was difficult, Cornwall was blessed with a wealth of mineral resources. The Cornish...

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