Monday, December 2, 2013

Eilley Oram - The Lady of the Mansion

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
Last September Tamera Buzick, the curator of Bowers Mansion, contacted me after she read my first post about Eilley Oran. She asked if I would mind reposting the article with the correction of several facts. Tamera and I have worked together to put out a proper accounting of this remarkable lady's life.
As a young girl, Allison "Eilley" Oram realized she was destined for a life of success and riches. She knew it as she ran over the grassy moors and climbed the craggy ridges of her homeland in the Central Lowlands of Scotland. Eilley had a rare gift. She could see the future with the help of a glass sphere she called a peep-stone. Eilley, however, saw only a part of the things to come. Her crystal ball showed a vast fortune and a mansion, but it did not reveal the personal grief she would encounter.
Born with a special gift, Eilley could look into her peep stone and see the future. Peering into the mystical stone, she saw a vision of a green valley with a blue lake surrounded by large mountains. She knew this was the special place where her fame and fortune would be found.
Born in Scotland in 1826, Eilley was a high-spirited young woman who was filled with ambition and a burning desire to achieve fame and fortune. Unfortunately, Scotland, in the 1800s had little to offer. Eilley’s chance for adventure came when her first husband, Steven Hunter converted to Mormonism. She did not share his beliefs and never converted, but she did agree to travel with the hundreds of converts bound for America and the Great Salt Lake Valley. Soon after arriving, the Hunters parted ways.
She married again. Her second husband, Alexander Cowan took her farther west and nearer her vision when he agreed to move to a Mormon settlement in western Utah. Alexander was very ambitious. He was a hard worker and very faithful to the church. They quickly settled into their new home at Mormon Station (Genoa).
The following spring, the Mormon mission moved to Washoe Valley. It is here Eilley found the valley she had seen in her crystal ball when she was just a child. Eilley now envisioned a mansion with many rooms, gardens and flowing fountains. She also saw happy children. The Cowan’s purchased an existing ranch with a small dwelling house and coral. The only thing missing was money to build her prophecy.
They had stayed in Washoe Valley for two seasons when Brigham Young recalled the mission. Alexander left immediately with their wagons and livestock. Eilley saw pieces of gold, miners, and wagons in her peep-stone. She felt there was money to be made in western Utah and chose to stay behind.
Eilley moved to a mining camp called Johntown and opened a boardinghouse. She took in laundry as well as boarders. With the discovery of larger deposits of gold, she and the rest of the camp moved to a new town they named Gold Hill.
The boarding house flourished, but she was not getting rich. She began buying and selling mining claims, but that was not enough. One of the miners offered her his claim for an unpaid bill and Eilley accepted. The claim beside it belonged to Lemuel Sanford “Sandy” Bowers, a young teamster who had recently arrived in Gold Hill. They soon fell in love and joined their lives and their claims when they married.
They never took a honeymoon. They stayed at the mine and worked it. The black streaks of sand Eilley had seen in her peep-stone were silver and together their claims made them two of the richest mine owners in Gold Hill. Eilley now had the money to build her mansion in the valley on the land she had acquired from Alexander in the divorce settlement.
With illusions of grandeur, the couple went on a European shopping trip to fill the mansion. During the excursion, they came across a motherless child who they adopted as their own. When they returned, Little Persia Bowers completed Eilley’s vision of a happy home in the valley.
It was the happiest time in Eilley's life. She had everything she'd seen in the peep-stone. Unfortunately, her happiness didn't last. While Persia was still a young girl, Sandy moved back to Gold Hill to help save the failing mine. Lung disease took his life less than ten years after he struck it rich. He was 35 years old.
With the mine no longer a source of income, Eilley opened Bowers Mansion Resort. People came from far distances to swim in her pools, dance in her hall, and picnic under her shade trees. With Persia getting older, she went to Reno to go to school and live with friends. When only twelve, Persia became ill and died unexpectedly. Two years later, Eilley lost the mansion at public auction in order to pay her ever increasing debt. Eilley was left homeless.
After the losses of her beloved husband, daughter and her beautiful mansion, Eilley began spending more time with her peep stone and spirit friends. She wandered the area as the Washoe Seeress telling fortunes for small change. Eventually the visions in her peep-stone vanished, and in 1903, at the age of 77, she died poor and alone. Her remains were returned to her mansion where she was laid to rest under the tall pine trees that shade her mansion from the setting sun.
Attached is a photo of Eilley, provided as a courtesy from the Nevada Historical Society. The Bowers Mansion is located on old 395 between Reno and Carson City, Nevada. For more information visit the Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space web page.


  1. Very interesting, Paisley. I remember the first post and the peep stone. Nice to be reminded and have the update.

  2. I learned something! What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thanks Caroline. Tamara was so kind and understood I got the information from a faulty sight. We worked together to make it the way it should have been the first time out.

  4. Glad you stopped by today Karren. Eilley was such an interesting woman to learn about. :)

  5. Well Paisley, that just goes to show - one should never look into a peep stone.

    Thanks for the story.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  6. Waving, Patricia. I never, ever want to temp fate about anything ever! Not me! Thanks for visiting with us.


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