By Dave McCracken

The old-timers would construct diversions out in the active river to direct the water’s flow around where they wanted to dig.

Dave Mack

 

When looking at these single, stand-alone rock piles along our mining properties, it is important to understand what they are. Most of them were not formed off the backside of some massive gold recovery systems. In other words, they are not actually “tailings.” The huge single piles, as we see them on some of our mining properties, were mostly associated with large, mechanized derricks. These were used to drag buckets of material and boulders out of large hand-excavations that were being dug out in the river – or sometimes in the bars alongside the river.

The old-timers would construct diversions (called “wing dams”) out in the active river to direct the water’s flow around where they wanted to dig. Then they would roll and shovel streambed material into a large bucket or sling down in their excavations and use the derrick (often powered by a steam winch) to drag the material out of their way and into huge piles alongside their active excavations. They did this to get themselves down to the deeper pay-layers, just like we do these days. In other words, the material you see in these piles consists of the overburden and big rocks that the old-timers dragged out of their holes so that they could gain access to the richer pay-layers that were present deeper in the streambed.

Most often, the material you see in these big piles on the banks was never processed for gold-content. This explains why some of our members are already starting to recover gold out of the huge piles on one of our new claims. It also explains why some of our members have been doing so well processing the huge piles along other sections of the Klamath River.

Here are a few important things to understand about the huge piles:

1) Wherever you see them, you know the old-timers were working very rich ground. Because, even though a mechanized derrick was used to drag the material into a pile, it was all hand-work that placed the material into the buckets in the first place. Take a look at the size of those piles! They represent an enormous amount of organized physical effort! That labor had to be paid for. Mining companies paid for labor to perform that much work only because they were getting a return on their investment!

2) When you see more than a single huge rock pile in proximity, you know that the labor was paying off. Miners do not make repeated blunders in proximity. This new claim at K-2A has lots of huge piles. The whole Gottville mining district has them!

3) Since the rock piles did not wash away in the major flood events which occurred since they were made, we can look at the piles to get a good idea where the old-timers mined the claim. Looking at the piles, it looks to me like most of the property has yet to be mined. There will be serious, original (virgin) gold deposits present there. This is the reason we have been quietly, patiently waiting for our opportunity to buy the property.

4) We must keep in mind that there was zero flood control (dams) on the Klamath River at the time when these rock piles were created. This means that all of the work to create the diversions (wing dams) and dig the excavations had to occur likely between the months of July through October. The first big rain in the fall would have put an end to the entire investment for that particular season. Following winter storm events will have completely buried the excavations. This means there was a short life span on each excavation where you see the rock piles.

5) It is likely, in many cases, that more time and effort was invested into getting an excavation down to the pay-dirt, than the time and effort invested into working the rich material.

6) No question, whatever was remaining of exposed pay-dirt had to be abandoned once the first flood event of the rainy season arrived. While it is likely that some mining companies returned to the same places during the following year, I’m certain that many did not. The fact that you don’t see continuous piles up along the whole river is evidence that much of the area remains un-mined. Good thing the old-timers did not have access to modern suction dredges or the whole claim would have been mined out!

7) Since a mechanized derrick could drag material from a long distance away, the height of the pile is not a read on how deep the streambed material is in the river. But you can look at the size of the piles to get a reasonable idea how big the excavation was in the river or on the bar.

8) To some degree, you can expect that a lot of the material you will find at the top of these rock piles will be from the places closest to the pay-layers which the old-timers were working. Add 60+ years of natural weathering (heavy rains), and you can find some nice gold concentrations in some of these piles. Otto Gaither showed me quite a stash of gold that he and some of his friends were mining out of one of their secret rock piles on the river several years ago. The gold was so good that I actually went to look at the pile. They were getting their gold right out of the top!

9) A wing dam was usually constructed on top of original (virgin) streambed and positioned to keep the water flowing on one side so they could excavate the material on the other side. I have seen or heard of it many times that all you have to do is mine under, and to the other side, of a wing dam to get at the very material which the old-timers were mining. My personal best day on the Klamath River (24 ounces of beautiful nuggets) was where Eric Bosch and I went just to the other side of a wing dam out in the river. We would have found a lot more gold that day, but we were too excited to work! That’s a true story! The wing dam was placed right adjacent to a huge rock pile like the ones on this new claim; a rock pile which was producing really well for several guys using high-bankers to recover gold out of the piles…

10) By now, everybody ought to know what hard-packed streambed is. This is compacted gravel and rocks which is laid down in layers during major flood events. Nearly all the high-grade gold we are going to find in the river or on the bars is going to be associated with hard-pack. I cannot overstress the importance that you need to know what hard-pack is. If you don’t, I strongly urge you to read my books and/or attend our scheduled weekend mining projects. There is a learning curve to prospecting for high-grade gold. The sooner you get through it, the sooner you will be pleased with your results. We are here to help. But it is up to you to make use of the services which we provide to help all members.

 

Story by Marcy Stumpf/Foley

Photos by Norm Frain

 

Rustic cabinAs I finished the last of the dinner dishes under my tarp “roof,” I looked out over our mining camp, nestled in the bottom of a steep, narrow, forested canyon. Camped in tents along the bank of our sparkling clear creek, we seemed very small in the miles of wilderness that surrounded us. We were three families, eleven people in all, with children ranging from five years to 21, and this was our first summer together as partners in a mining claim. Wet suits were drying on the clothesline, and the final clean-up of the day’s gold was done, as we all hurried to finish the last of our chores. The other women also washed dishes, the children joked and teased as they returned with fallen wood for our campfire, and the men finished minor equipment repairs and refilled solar shower bags and water buckets for the next day’s use. The sun was leaving our canyon, taking its warmth. “Our” blue heron was making his evening flight down our canyon as we gathered around our campfire.

We looked forward to this part of each day, but today a shout of, “Hello, the camp!” brought our stragglers hurrying, for visitors to our remote camp were a special treat. It was a fellow miner from upstream on his way out of the canyon to visit family and get supplies. He joined us for awhile. He had been coming to this area since he was a boy, with his father, and still returned for a portion of each summer.

All mining areas are rich in history, and this area was well-documented by a local historian. We often went over portions of his book at our campfires. Signs of the past were plentiful all around us. In the creek, still in place in front of our camp, were two huge logs, the base of a long-ago dam. From that point down, up on the mountainside, remains of a wooden flume, which now provided us with a trail the length of our claim. It was a welcome alternative to the long-hike down the middle of the creek through our narrow canyon, crossing deep pools or scrambling over bedrock and huge boulders.

Old bootsWe continuously dredged-up reminders of former miners-square nails and mule shoes, hand-forged picks and other tools, and even old coins. Dimes from 1839, 1848 and 1849 and a “large” cent from 1832, all caused as much excitement as the gold nuggets we were finding.

On this evening, our visitor told us a story that intrigued us all. It was of an old mine just over the mountain. It was worked and guarded by an old hermit for many years, who had disappeared about 10 years before, after a shoot-out with law enforcement officers.

Our visitor told of a three-story cabin still standing, and a lot of equipment around; since the only way in or out of the valley was to hike over a mountain. He said he had been shown an old photo of a huge steam engine suspended on a cable as it was being taken across our canyon, 1,000 feet or more in the air. Downstream a short way, he pointed out the spot it had been taken across. According to him, the huge engine was still there.

After he left, we excitedly made plans to hike over the mountain on our next day-off from dredging; and in the meantime, we checked our book for information. It seemed the steam engine was brought in 1901 to power a lumber mill for wood to rebuild and repair our flume. Wow, that flume crossed the mountains for eleven miles to provide water to hydraulic mine a rich area. There were even several photos in the book that were taken long ago.

Wheel barrowOur day finally arrived, and we were all up early, packing lunches and donning packs while the air was still crisp and dew sparkled around us on the plants. The sun was just rising over the mountain as we forded our creek and started up the mountain on the other side. It was a steep climb, and we paused often to admire the beautiful patches of wildflowers and pick raspberries.

Soon, a shout from those ahead brought us up the last steep ascent, where we struck the trail our visitor told us of. It went around the top of the mountain at this point. We were shaded by the forest now-much welcomed after our steep climb. We were now on a narrow trail just wide enough for a mule. It was carpeted thickly with pine needles and leaves, and well-worn from many years of use.

When we reached the other side, the mountain was very steep, but the trail had a series of switchbacks which made the descent relatively easy. As we neared the bottom, we saw the first sign indicating that we were in the right place. Here were faint, but unmistakable, remains of the chute used to transport logs from the top of the mountain to the bottom. This was shown in one of the photos in our book.

We didn’t pause for long, because we could hear the creek and knew we were almost there. The trail ended at the creek. We crossed the creek, passing through the trees lining the bank to see if we could pick up the trail, again.

Once through, we stopped in astonishment. Immediately before us rose the rear of a tall narrow cabin. Its weathered boards grew moss, and its smokestack stuck out at a crazy angle. It dominated a large meadow. We saw several other cabins-all in various stages of falling down-and trails branching off in all directions.

This was definitely the scene from our book; but the whole area was denuded of trees in the photo. Except the meadow was now covered in forest, making it difficult to recognize. At that moment, we felt as though we were stepping from a time machine into the past, into a scene frozen in time, undisturbed.

As we circled the cabin and approached the front, we found a crude sluice leaning against a tree and a large old grinding wheel from a blacksmith’s shop, laying broken were it fell from its stand as the wood rotted and could no longer hold it. An old wheelbarrow, ore cars and a narrow gauge track which had come from Germany were all visible.

However, before investigating the rest, we wanted to see what was inside the cabin. The door stood wide open, but we called, “Hello” into the interior several times. Receiving no answer, we finally stepped up inside onto the worn, wooden floor and waited for our eyes to adjust to the gloom.

Once we could see, we found ourselves in the single room which made up the entire ground floor. The room was dominated by an immense, fancy wood cook stove. How we wished that stove could talk, and what stories we imagined it could tell! It had obviously been well cared for; and even with its heavy coating of dust, it retained an air of dignity.

The rest of the room in contrast, had crude, handmade furniture–a large table, benches and stools, and crates and powder boxes tacked to the walls to hold supplies. The only bright color in the room came from old cork-top bottles of amber, blue and green placed on a window ledge to catch the sunlight. A stairway tilted against one wall proved to be pretty sturdy; so we slowly ascended it, one at a time. This room had been a bedroom, and we were once again surprised by what we found. Sunlight, filtering through the dusty window, lay across a narrow iron bedstead covered with an old, worn wool blanket.

Old shackAs we looked around, sunlight streamed through large cracks between the wall-boards. How cold it must have been when the winter winds and snow came whistling through!

There were two more narrow beds of the same type with only ancient, lumpy ticking mattresses covering the sadly-sagging springs. The end of a peach crate with a once-bright label was propped on a wall ledge, now dull and faded. A coat, looking as if it would disintegrate if touched, was hanging on a nail in the wall next to one of the beds. This room had an air of sadness about it, and we touched nothing. Soon, we filed back down the tilted stairway and went out into the sunlight.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the area. We found one path that led past a whole row of small cabins, each one collapsed, with many square nails laying about, with the doors and windows laying where they’d fallen. The trees were very thick here, many grew inside the cabin walls.
Following a narrow gauge track, it was found to end at the entrance to a tunnel which was completely filled in with dirt and boulders. There were several ore cars about the area.

Harder to find was the steam engine, but it was found just where it had been in the photograph, and a search through the thick trees and underbrush disclosed its building collapsed around it. We found signs of other buildings, some of which had burned, others we knew not what had happened. It was definitely a bustling little community at one time. We also found some signs of more recent inhabitants of the area, but no signs of any trash at all. They, too, seemed to have left everything undisturbed. They also must have felt that this was a very special place.

Ore cartAll too soon, it grew late and we had to cross back over the mountain and return home. We vowed we would return, but we only had two weeks left on the claim and we did not make it back. However, we planned to make the journey again the next summer.

When we returned that next summer, we had a visit from the couple who bought the claim. It was then that we discovered it had been destroyed by fire just one month after our visit. It was speculated that a hunter took refuge there during a snow-storm, and lit the old stove, then fell asleep. He burned in the fire also. We were saddened by the loss of life and of the cabin. It was a special piece of history that can never be replaced.

Although we took nothing with us but photographs, nothing was needed. We had our memories of it, and always will. It gave us a special feeling to leave it as we found it, and the fact that it burned did nothing to diminish that feeling.

We feel very privileged and special to have had our chance to step back in time and gain a special closeness and insight into what it must have been like to live there so long ago. We feel our children, especially, had an experience that few of their generation will ever have.

I didn’t ever go back, and don’t intend to. As long as I don’t, the cabin still stands there, waiting.

 

 

By Richard W. O’Donnell

 

Old engraving of gold miners.

Do you know what they used to call underground miners? “Underground Savages!”

What was an “Irish baby buggy?” It was a slang expression for a wheelbarrow.

A “Cackler” is what they called a miner who let others do the heavy work.

“Johnny Newcome” was a novice miner.

Don’t forget the “Little Red Wagon.” That’s what those traveling toilets they had at some mines were nicknamed in the old days.

Modem miners, no doubt, have their own slang; but the language used by miners years ago was very interesting. And fun, too!

A “Nipper” was a boy who ran errands for miners. A “Shoofly” was a transverse passage in a mine.

Miners were also known as “Muckmen.”

How about “Red?” That’s what they used to call gold. Why? It’s a bit of a mystery.

“Blue?” That’s what they often called silver? Once again, you figure it out.

As for “Sparkle,” well, that’s an easy one. That’s what they used to call diamonds.

Who was “Quinine Jimmy?” That’s another name for the doctor on duty at a mining camp. He was also known as “Old Pills.”

Windy shot” is an explosion “that fails to break the coal.”

“Tick hole” is a small hole or cavity in a rock. So was “Vug.”

A “Tool nipper” was another name for a youngster who worked in the mines.

List of historical Alaska gold strikes. “Sourdough” was a miner who came south from Canada seeking to make his fortune in America. Most of the “Sourdoughs” returned home with empty pockets.

“Stomachlobber” was what they called the camp cook. He was also called “Sizzler” and “The gut burglar.”

“Strawberries” is what miners once called beans. “Sow bosom” was bacon. “Belly wash” was the term for non-a1cholic refreshments. Coffee was “Blackjack” or “Blackstrap.”

To “break one’s pick” was to become discouraged, and quite a few miners did.

“Ground hog” was a small hand-truck used to push ore cars inside mines. They were also called “Barney,” “Larry,” “Bullfrog” and “Mule.”

Let’s have a quiz now. Some common examples of old mining slang follow. See how many you recognize:

1. Glory hole; 2. Muck; 3. Nosebag; 4. Powder monkey; 5. Slave markets; 6. Aladdin’s lamp; 7. The picklock that never fails; 8. Buzzard dollar.

Answers: 1. A mine that is loaded; 2. To work with a shovel; 3. Lunch Break, usually inside a mine; 4. A miner who knows how to use dynamite; 5. Where miners are hired; 6. To find gold; 7. Gold; 8. A silver dollar

Last but not least: What is a “Boar’s nest?” That’s a mining camp where women are not allowed.

 

The following article has been reprinted from the NEW YORK DAILY TRIBUNE, Saturday’s Evening Edition, December 9, 1848.

MORE ABOUT THE GOLD

 

 

Gold Rush Prospectors

“Photo Courtesy of Siskiyou County Historical Museum”

The JOURNAL OF COMMERCE publishes a spirited letter from California, dated Monterey, August 29, 1848. We copy a few curious particulars:

At present the people are running over the country and picking it out of the earth here and there, just as a thousand hogs, let loose in a forest, would root up ground nuts. Some get eight or ten ounces a day, and the least active one or two. They make the most who employ the wild Indians to hunt it for them. There is one man who has sixty Indians in his employ; his profits are a dollar a minute. The wild Indians know nothing of its value, and wonder what the pale faces want to do with it; they will give an ounce of it for the same weight of coined silver, or a thimbleful of glass beads, or a glass of grog. And white men themselves often give an ounce of it, which is worth at our mint $18 or more, for a bottle of brandy, a bottle of soda powders, or a plug of tobacco.

As to the quality which the diggers get, take a few facts as evidence. I know seven men who worked seven weeks and two on Feather River; they employed on an average fifty Indians, and got out in these seven weeks and two days, 275 pounds of pure gold. I know the men and have seen the gold, and I know what they state to be a fact so stick a pin there. I know ten other men who worked ten days in company, employed no Indians, and averaged in these ten days $1,500 each; so stick another pin there. I know another man who got out of a basin in a rock, not larger than a wash bowl, two and one-half pounds of gold in fifteen minutes; so stick another pin there! Not one of these statements would I believe, did I not know the men personally, and know them to be plain matter of fact men-men who open a vein of gold just as coolly as you would a potato hill.

 

LOOKING BACK

NEWS FROM THE GOLD REGION (1849)

The following excerpt has been reprinted from THE WEEKLY HERALD,
New York, Saturday, January 19, 1849. This article had been submitted
to THE WEEKLY HERALD by a newspaper in the Sandwich Islands.

 

(From the Sandwich Island News, August 5, 1848) A friend has furnished us with the following extract from a letter dated San Francisco, May 27,1848:

“Everybody here has got the ‘gold fever.’ The greatest gold mine in the world has lately been discovered near Sutter’s, on the Feather River, and the excitement consequent thereon is immense. The town of San Francisco is deserted; where but a fortnight ago was a busy population of 800, is now seen naught but empty streets; not more than twenty men are left–all, all have gone ‘up to the gold mines.’ The mechanic has left his job half finished, the teamster has turned out his cattle, the grog seller has closed his blinds, the gambler has at last found an excitement greater than cards, all the public houses are closed, and landlords, boarders and barkeepers have gone–the schoolmaster has gone, so has the minister, the lawyer and the constable; situations worth $2,000 a year have been thrown up; male and female, infants and grandfathers, the cradle and the crutches have gone; hardly a soul remains but the poor soldiers, and the officer expects to see them desert in a body and go too. It is unparalleled in the history of the world–an extent of country 60 miles long, and God knows how much more, which has (yet been unexplored) has been found completely filled with gold in pure particles, from the minute to the size of a filbert, of which a single person can pick up with a shovel and pickaxe from $5 to $150 a day. Incredible as it seems, ’tis true. A cook’s wages are $20 to $40 a day; every one being too greedy to stop long enough to cook. One man found so much that he became crazy, and now goes about crying, “I am rich, I am rich.” I know the fellow myself. Another man in seven weeks picked so much that he came away perfectly satisfied, saying “I have got all I want; I can go to the States now, and live comfortable the rest of my days.” There is a chance for every white man now in the country to make a fortune. Pickaxes are $8, and shovels $16 each.

What a sensation this will create throughout the world! For reasons best known to themselves, the two newspapers here have but very little to say about the gold mine. The proprietor of the STAR, Mr. Brannan, who is one of the head men amongst the Mormons, has taken possession of a large space of the gold country, and with his Mormons and two small cannons, swears that not a man shall work on their ground. I expect both printing offices will be closed this week. You may expect to hear of some trouble yet in that gold country. The Mormons, who are nearly all here or at the Salt Lake, will attempt by force to hold the newly found riches to themselves.

 

 

LOOKING BACK

NEWS FROM THE GOLD REGION (1848)

The following excerpt has been reprinted from THE NEW YORK DAILY TRIBUNE,
Evening Edition, December 12, 1848

 

 

NEW YORK DAILY TRIBUNE Vol. VIII, No. 211, Evening Edition December 12, 1848

BUSINESS IN CALIFORNIA

The BOSTON COURIER publishes the following letter, received by a merchant in that city from his correspondent at San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO, August 20, 1848–The wonderful developments of the gold region in California, and the flocking of all classes of people to gather it, have deranged all the calculations of the hide and tallow voyagers. The rancheros having all left their farms and their regular occupations, there will be no killing of cattle this year around this Bay, nor upon the whole length of the coast. The Tasso has just arrived from leeward, and has collected only 50 hides at all the different ports on her passage up.

On arriving here, ships are left without crews in twenty-four hours. Whalers’ men desert, even from full ships, and if a sailor is induced to remain on board a vessel, it is at from $40 to $50 per month. I have some hundred hides ready for me in different parts of the Bay, but cannot go for them without men, and the expenses would consume all the collection. In fact, you can hardly conceive all present state of affairs in California. A cook, for instance, gets from $100 to $150 a month, and Kanakers $75 per month, to go in launches.

How long this state of things may last it is impossible to foresee, but it is not probable that men can be obtained at justifiable wages by ships, so long as they can go to the mines and realize $16 per day, and this I am satisfied they can do for a long time to come. I have been twice to the mining region, and am satisfied of the fact that the gold is inexhaustible. The whole chain of the Sierra Nevada or Snowy Mountains of California, seems to abound with the mineral.

There has, no doubt, been collected within the last months $1,500,000 at $16 to the ounce, which is the price allowed for it at the stores. Merchants from Chili and Peru have been purchasing it at $14 to the ounce; and now owing to the scarcity of specie, it can be had at $10 per ounce. It is now very sickly at the mines, and I dare not return there again.

 

 

NEWS FROM THE GOLD REGION (1850)

The following excerpt has been reprinted from THE DEMOCRAT in Bangor, Maine, September 10, 1850.

 

THE DEMOCRAT
Vol. 13, No. 33
Bangor, Maine, Tuesday Sept. 10, 1850

FROM CALIFORNIA!
ARRIVAL OF THREE STEAMERS

The Empire City arrived at New York on Thursday. She brings $1,000,000 in gold.–The Georgia had $1,500,000, and the Cherokee has $1,000,000 more.
The Panama arrived at Panama from San Francisco on the 21st. She brings TWO MILLION THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS in gold dust, and about 240 passengers. The Panama left Acapulco the 16th–On the 17th the Cholera broke out among the passengers and some 50 died.
The Dust and Coin on Freight is $756,000–Dust and Coin in the hands of the Passengers is $400,000.

ANARCHY IN THE MINES

We are in the state of transition from bad to worse. The miners are up in arms, irritated beyond endurance, and there is a universal sentiment of hatred against foreigners. At the Mormon Gulch resolutions have been passed to drive all Mexicans from the mines; they have received notice to quit in 15 days, or they will be expelled by force.
A physician and his companion were attacked in their tent near Sonora, by two Mexicans, who attempted to cut the throats of the Americans.–Both of the latter were wounded; but neither fatally. An alarm was given by one of them, and the two assassins were pursued and captured.–Their trial, condemnation, and execution will be summary; no doubt the whole business of their existence has ere this been brought to a conclusion.

MINING INTELLIGENCE

The news from the mines is exceeding good, the yields of gold are daily increasing as the waters recede. Extensive dams and trenches have been made in several parts for the purpose of turning the streams. An anticipation shared in by most of the miners is that when the waters subside there will be found an abundance of dust.
Murphy’s Diggings–A company of seven men have taken out, in one spot, in the above named location, in less than seven weeks, $15,000 in gold dust. This is their net proceeds, clear of expenses.
Another company of six took out, in the same diggings, last week, forty-two pounds of dust. The company is working fifty four feet beneath the surface.
The great points of concentration are the Mercedes, Tuolumne, and Stanislaus. Encouraging accounts have reached us from the Calaveras.–There is no lack of provisions and the health of the whole district is excellent.
In one portion of the mines, a party of Mexicans working under Americans, have perched themselves on a piece of table land, existing on the top of a mountain, and here, secreted from the eyes of the tax collector, they are making a pile.
The Sacramentonians boast now and then of a ten or twenty pound lump. At Murphy’s a miner has in his possession a lump weighing ninety-three pounds, of which it has been ascertained at least one-half is pure gold. Two thousand four hundred “holes” are registered at Murphy’s as preemption claims. Those not present at the first of August to answer in the matter of preemptions, forfeit their claims.
Mercedes–A lucky hombre, on the head waters of the Mercedes, has extracted a lump weighing eighty-three pounds, nearly all pure gold.
San Antonio–At this point, which was deserted last winter, five men have been taking out, on an average, seven ounces each for the past eleven days.
The report is favorable from all the mining region south; and the yield is undoubtedly greater than at any previous season. If the troubles which agitate our district were only at an end, which we feel assured soon will be, the San Joaquin district would rapidly distance any other section of the State.

 

 

By ROY F. Mayo

Can you imagine finding a slab of gold so large you have to chop it with an ax to make it small enough to move? Or a chunk of quartz so filled with gold that a hammer blow shatters the quartz, but the gold has to be cut from the vein? How about a ton of gold in a small surface cut?

In these days when some of us have to be satisfied with finding a few flakes of gold, it is hard to believe such finds were actually made. It is even harder to believe that these finds were made practically in our own backyards!

We hear of huge nugget finds in Australia, deep mines in South Africa, fantastic mines in South America and other exotic places. Most of us will never have the opportunity to visit these far away places. But maybe we can explore some of the places where fantastic finds have been made in our own area.

All of our mining areas have their own special stories. Gold rushes to many areas were started by the mere rumor of a fantastic find. Many of these rumors proved false, but resulted in some of the lost mine stories that are now a part of our folklore.

The early miners were primarily placer miners. Most were inexperienced; very few even knew what natural gold looked like! Placer gold was easy to recover and identify. As the miners gained experience, many began looking for the source of the placer gold.

It was found that the trace of gold could be followed upstream to the point where it stopped. Then by searching the hillsides above the stream, the lode source could sometimes be found. Some of these lodes were developed into valuable mines.

Each mining area has a distinctive type of gold. Gold, in its natural form, is never found in a pure state. Other metals are always alloyed with the gold. The purity of the gold is determined by the percentage of other metals in the alloy.

Each mining area also has distinctive sizes and shapes of gold particles. Some areas are noted for the size of the nuggets produced; other areas produce only microscopic particles of gold. The type of gold in the area determines the method of searching for it.

All placer gold originated in a lode vein. If large nuggets were found in the stream placers, they sometimes led to fabulous lodes. The early miners discovered many valuable lode mines and pockets by following the placer leads.

Southwest Oregon is noted for pocket mines. Most of these were located by following the placer leads to the source. As a vein of gold weathers and wears away over the centuries, gold will spill down the hill or mountainside, spreading in a V-shaped pattern as it migrates down to the nearest stream. Some pockets produced only a few ounces of gold. Others, such as the famous Gold Hill Pocket, produced up to a ton of gold.

Some miners specialized in pocket hunting. They developed an inverted V method of searching for pockets. When the placer lead stopped in the stream, they started digging test holes on the hillsides. As the rows of test holes progressed uphill, the inverted V pattern was established by the holes which produced gold. The pocket of gold was found at the point of the inverted V.

Some pocket hunters worked on the theory that pockets always occurred in groups of three. When the surface pocket was worked out and the vein pinched off, they kept digging and sometimes were able to strike a second and third pocket.

The first lode mine in Oregon State was a pocket mine. It was called the Hicks Lead. This small pocket produced $1,000 in two hours. It was later sold to a group of miners who built the first arrastra in Oregon State.

The fabulous Gold Hill Pocket was discovered in 1857 near the top of a small 2,000 foot-high mountain. This pocket was a fissure-vein four to five feet wide and fifteen feet deep. The outcropping rock was literally tied together with gold. It was almost impossible to tear it apart with a sledge hammer. At least $700,000 was recovered from a very small area. With gold valued at $20.67 per ounce at that time, this works out to over $14 million at today’s gold price. Gold Hill is a landmark along the 1-5 Freeway two miles from the city of Gold Hill.

The Steamboat Pocket was discovered in 1860 near the headwaters of the Applegate River. Over several year’s time, it produced over $350,000. Compared to these two, other Oregon pockets seem minor. However, each was a fabulous find in its own right. At the time of their discovery, many of these pockets were made in extremely isolated areas.

One of Oregon’s most famous pockets, the Briggs Pocket, may have been the re- discovery of a lost mine. During the Indian uprising in 1855, two men on their way to join the fighting found an outcropping of quartz. They each broke off a chunk, which was later sold for $100. They were never able to relocate their find. Almost a half century later, in 1904, an 18-year-old hunter, Roy Briggs, relocated the lost mine. This small pocket produced gold in slabs one inch thick and two to three feet long. A total of at least $50,000 was recovered from the vein 12 to 14 inches wide, 12 feet long and 7 feet deep. Reporters for the Rogue River Courier described the Briggs tent as having “gold in sacks, in cans, in bottles, in the mortar, in the gold pans, in tin cups and cooking utensils, everywhere”. This discovery was actually made in Thompson Creek near the Oregon-California border.

Several large nuggets have been found in Oregon’s placer mines. A 204-ounce whopper was found in 1859 on East Fork Althouse Creek. Buck Creek produced the famous 80.4 ounce Armstrong nugget. A 34-ounce nugget was found in Brimstone Gulch.

In the early mining days, and even extending well into this century, gold had no special specimen value. An outstanding nugget would be tossed into the melting pot along with the common gold. Most of our record-size nuggets have been lost as a result of this practice.

Miner John Dodge took a mighty swing at the shale bedrock at his mine near the Yuba River, and stuck his pick in the gigantic Downieville nugget, which may have been even larger than the Calaveras nugget. When the monstrous heart-shaped nugget was pried from its resting place, it was weighed on a make-shift scale. A plank was balanced, then the huge chunk of gold was placed on one end. Small rocks were then placed on the other end until it balanced, then the small rocks were weighed. The pile of small rocks weighed 227 pounds. Then the nugget was chopped into three pieces to make it small enough to carry. Each piece was later sold for approximately $17,000.

Have all the big nuggets and slabs of gold been found? I don’t think so. Several very interesting discoveries have been made in recent years. A California deer hunter tripped over a rock. When he picked the rock up, he found he was holding a fist-sized gold nugget.

A Colorado miner noticed a rock by the road as he drove to work each day. When he stopped for a closer look, he found a piece of float weighing several hundred pounds. It was loaded with visible gold and is now in a Colorado Museum.

Our chances of finding a large nugget or a massive slab of gold may actually be better today than ever before. New improved diving and dredging techniques now allow us to explore and work many areas of virgin ground. Underwater placers, never before accessible, can now be worked with ease. As just one example of many, the nuggets shown is this article were just-recently dredged out of the Klamath River by Dave McCracken on claims managed by The New 49’ers Prospecting Association.

The development of new and improved electronic prospecting instruments may now enable us to locate deeply hidden veins. These deeper penetrating instruments may be able to locate nuggets the earlier miners missed by inches in ancient river channels.

We now have many opportunities never before dreamed of. I am getting a serious case of gold fever just writing this. I’ll see you up in the hills. Good luck.

About the Author: Roy F. Mayo was born a few years before the great depression of the 1930’s. His early life was spent in Western Oklahoma and Texas. He served in the US Army during WWIl, and has lived in Washington state since 1955. Having been a small-scale gold miner for more than 40 years, he has searched for gold in most of the western mining states. Roy has stated that he found gold in many places, but his richest reward has been the pleasure of exploring many historic places with his family.

Roy started his writing career quite by accident in the early 1970’s. While searching an area in Idaho where a group of Chinese miners had been murdered, the local librarian encouraged him to write the story for reference material in the library. This later became his first book, GOLD AND STRYCHNINE. Now a world-renowned author, he has eight published books and is presently working on guide books showing gold locations in several of the Western states. These will be in the same format as his books, WASHINGTON STATE GOLD MINES and GOLD MINES OF SOUTHWEST OREGON.

 

 

BY JAMES A. WADDELL

In the summer of 1850 the “Klamath River Indian Tribes” witnessed first-hand the ferocity of early American “Gold Fever.” White men soon came into the mountain forests of this winding river. At least three groups of prospectors ventured through Yurok and Hupa Indian lands into the territory of the Karuk people. Stories of hundreds of gold diggers coming into other valleys of California had come to the Klamath River Indians from Indian tribes like the Pomo, Wintun, and the Wiyot. Gold hungry men were coming into their territories. “White men like the rivers! White men dig up rocks,” said these peaceful Indians, bewildered by such behavior.

One group of early miners, approximately eighteen men, traveled the millennia-old foot-trails of the Karuk people, up to a place of broad gravel bars and exposed bedrock two miles upstream from Clear Creek. For thousands of years the Karuk Indians lived along the river on similar “flat” campgrounds, ancient gold-bearing deposits of river gravel!

The Karuk were a peaceful people. They believed that a great and peaceful race of white people lived here before the Karuk Tribe came to the Klamath River. They were uncertain of what they should do with regard to these white men. Were they the peaceful white people returning? Unfortunately, they would soon learn otherwise.

Some white prospectors took advantage of the Karuks. They used them for trail guides and as teachers of survival skills. Prospectors had a rough time living on only the meat that they hunted or the food they’d packed with them. The Karuk Indians utilized salmon, deer, and elk as their primary meat sources. They also gathered and used more than two hundred species of plants. Nutritious acorns of the tan oak and other oak species formed a large part of their diet. The Karuks used nearly as many plants and herbs for medicinal and spiritual purposes.

At times of peace and acquaintance, the two cultures learned many new things from each other. During times of conflict, powerful guns of the white men won most battles. Arrows and flint-knives had little chance against the power of guns. Revolvers like the .44 caliber Walker Colt and the .36 caliber Texas Colt gave the miners firepower. “Long-rifles,” like the .50 caliber Hawken, gave the owner the capability of killing a human, or a deer, at a range of 200 yards. The original 49’ers carried rifles, 5 and 6 shot revolvers, Derringers, pepperboxes, knives; or some such assortment. Outlaw miners in boomtowns were actually more of a danger than the so-called “wretched” Indians.

Good amounts of gold were first found at a campsite now known as Wingate bar. Digging produced much gold! Trouble came quickly. Two miners were killed by the Karuks at Wingate Bar, just north of the large Karuk village of Inaam, (Clear Creek). To avenge the killings, the white men formed a battle group. In a raid at first morning light, they killed all the Karuks present. Only a few got away. All the Karuk wood-plank homes were burned. Sporadic fighting went on for perhaps several weeks, with repeated attacks on the white men. These attacks finally caused the prospectors to pack their animals and head back down-river. They forded the river and climbed out of the river canyon, crossed the rugged terrain of the south Marble Mountains. It is believed that they took this route to avoid the large Karuk villages at the mouths of Ti Creek, Salmon River, and Camp Creek. There were seven villages at the mouth of the Salmon River. It was the “Center of the World” for the Karuk Tribe. They ended up in the Salmon River canyon, making winters’ camp at Brazill Flat (named after the great-great grandparents of the author.) This was at Forks of Salmon; land of the Konimihu Shasta Indians.

The second party of prospectors braving the wild country and tough Indians kept to the west and north sides of the Klamath River. Their travels took them along steep ridges and into scores of forested tributary watersheds of the Klamath River. (It must be understood that the forest was much more open then than now. White people began the suppressing of wildfires in the early decades of this century. The Karuk people allowed forest fires to burn, even setting fire to areas that were getting too brushy. This burning allowed new sprouts of grasses and shrubs to grow, made travel better, made hunting easier, and made spotting an enemy before he got too close more probable.)

This second party was headed for the Scott River. However, they must have traveled either through Seiad Low Gap into Horse Creek, or went up Johnny O’Neil Ridge and down Hamburg Gulch. They missed the mouth of the Scott River. They traveled up the Klamath River as far as the mouth of the Shasta River, in Shasta Indian territory. It’s believed that they wintered in the area soon to be called Thompson’s Dry Diggin’s; now known as Yreka. Gold was found there, but the land was dry; a high desert land. Gold was found in the ancient mixed soils of the valley bottom, including the roots of the bunch grass.

The third party searching for gold in these mountains in 1850 included the man now known to have made the biggest gold discovery in the Klamath Mountain Province, John Scott. It is still uncertain exactly what route they took before finally ending up at Scott’s discovery site of nuggets at Scott Bar. (The largest nugget found in later years, found by Wade & Lindsey, was “five inches long, three inches wide, and weighed 16 pounds!) It has been reported that this band of miners came inland from the port town of Trinidad in California. In the next several years, we know that supplies were brought to Scott’s Bar by way of Trinidad, Blackburn’s Ferry (Cappell Creek,) and the wind-swept summits of the Marble Mountains. Later supplies were brought by pack trail (named the Kelsey Trail after one of the mule packers) from Crescent City over the mountains of the South Fork of the Smith River, Bear Peak, and the northern Marble Mountains.

In 1851, the prospectors who had wintered near the Forks of Salmon, at Brazill Flat, lived through the winter pretty well. However, in the early months of spring they were surprised to see other eager and gold-hungry miners scurry into the Salmon River country. The new group crossed the Salmon Mountains before winter was really over. Spring snowstorms made life miserable for these hasty prospectors! As they waited for warm weather, they ended up eating all the stores of the miners already there. This was called “Starvation Times” in the Salmon River!

By July of 1851, the group of prospectors that retreated from Wingate Bar, led by Captains McDermitt and Thompkins, (owners of Blackburn’s Ferry), moved from the Salmon River back up the Klamath River. They found very large amounts of gold in the gravel at the mouth of Indian Creek. They’d survived the mountainous trails, the river fording, battles with the Karuk Indians, and “Starvation Times.” Now they had good food, warm weather, and lots of gold nuggets! This gold-rich location, and easy living circumstance, was named a “Happy Camp!

 

 

BY ANDY BAGLEY

 

The definition of the word a prospect is to look, to search, to explore and discover

The history of the bow and arrow dates back over 25,000 years, as well as man’s use of the horse as a riding and pack animal. How much further back does the history of mining and prospecting date? No one can answer this question for sure.

The first written account of a prospecting party was done in glyph form by a captain of Egyptian infantry, where a party of some fifty men were embarking on a journey to the present-day land named Iran. This was five centuries before Christ. Though reduced in numbers by the end of their journey, they brought back gold.

The Pre-Inca civilization in the land we now call Peru was deserted for some reason about 20,000 years ago. They not only could prospect and mine gold and silver, they could plate gold upon objects!

Welcome to an ancient fraternity – gold mining!

Well then, we have evidence that man has been looking and discovering for one whale of a long time. Surely he has looked at every square inch of the earth’s surface for the sources of silver, gold, platinum and, up until recently, lead! – and has found every possible source of these metals and mined them all out, right?

Umm, I don’t quite know how to write this any other way than to report that the answer is no. That is, he may have looked at many of the sources, found some of them to be sure, and then wandered back to what he knew of as civilization. . . and then couldn’t find the place again. Or, he caught a fever and died or got shot in an argument over politics and couldn’t recover from the subsequent wounds. There are many instances where the discovery was made and the “natives” interrupted the process of removal and enforced strict “immigration regulations” by force of arms and left no survivors.

In 1803, Lewis and Clark found the Nez Indians riding Spanish saddles and armed with Spanish muskets. When asked where they obtained them, they replied that it was “only ten days ride to the trading facility.” No such facility has ever been found within the 400-mile area so described. Outside that boundary, in present day British Columbia, remains of a Spanish Fort including stone foundations were discovered by the first Anglo-Saxons penetrating the area in 1862. Pictographs on the rocks showed Spanish horsemen with their distinctive scalloped helmets riding horses with captive Indians being towed by chains and harassed by huge dogs. Ah, Spanish colonizers! Famed in song and story for their wonderful “humanity.”

Arrastras, ancient devices to crush stone and free valuable metals, have been found all over the West, from Washington State to Texas. Pre-Roman in origin, they have been used throughout the world to crush ore. They mark spots where ore was carried for handling.

They would also mark the spots where nearby mines had been worked in the distant past.

There is hardly a spot on earth larger than a ten dollar bill that does not have tales of lost mines and buried treasure connected with it. And one could spend three or four lifetimes just investigating the ones in his own neighborhood, unless he sharpened his investigative wits and began looking for hard evidence alone.

An arrastra had a circular stone floor/ foundation. It was fitted stone; good cement was not invented until the late years of the last century. Some did, however; use pigeon’s blood and ground calceous rock, but it was a formula not widely known.

In the center of the floor you would find a hole that accommodated the pivot that the stone-drags rotated upon. If the area had seen much use, the floor would be worn quite smooth with grooves worn into it as well. Some had gutters along the sides to collect the amalgam. When the stone had been ground, mercury was mixed in by hand to seize the gold or silver. The powdered stone was then washed or blown away and the mercury decanted into containers for transport to a refinery.

Arrastras can be found all over the Southwest, the Northwest as far back as Minnesota, and following the western edge of the Mississippi River. The Spaniards had hundreds of years to explore the region, and they really did, all the way into present-day Canada.

A very famous lost mine of Spanish work lies within the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. It was re-discovered as late as 1949! The two men who discovered it had a slight falling out over the division of spoils, and one man was shot to death in a gun duel. They brought out actual bars of gold from a vast hoard that had been buried and hidden from view since the late 1600’s, when the Indians in New Mexico rose up and murdered everyone of Spanish-type and ran survivors back into Mexico.

Wherever they could, the Spanish would hide their mines before leaving, having every intention of returning. In many cases, they were killed before they could return, and the Indians would pull the place apart so that no one would know where the mine was located. The Spaniards were kept out for a hundred years, and many of their operating mines were never again located.

Some mines have actually been re-discovered! King Solomon’s mines were found again in 1983 by a helicopter survey-group in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula, hidden from all but aerial view. The slave barracks walls are yet standing after two thousand years! One could almost write a tone poem on the irony of that piece of data; the most durable of all structures – the slave barracks, complete with bronze chains, waiting for more occupants down through the millennia.

Another lost mine that may have been found is the famed Tillamook gold mine of the 1820’s through the 1840’s. Trading posts in McMinnville and Forest Grove in the Oregon Territory used to be visited by Indians that traded raw gold for the articles they wanted. They would never tell anyone where they obtained the gold, and efforts to follow them to its source were all defeated. On her deathbed, one Indian lady told her paramour the general location, and he spent the rest of his life searching for it.

One day in 1984, a man contacted me and asked me some burning questions about the mine, which I answered to the best of my knowledge. I gave him this advice: “Don’t waste much time searching for lost mines or buried treasure, son, it ain’t worth the effort.”

He gave me an odd look and began emptying a pocket of ancient coins, the copper closures of an old pocket-purse, and showed me photographs (Polaroids) of a very rusted musket barrel, and some bones that looked very much like a human skeleton, and views down into a very steep canyon with a waterfall and the entrance to what could be a mine adit or a cave. Then he showed me a sample of rotten quartz with gold rattling around in it, loose! The coins were all pre-1843. The musket barrel was from an old Hall Carbine, Army issue for the cavalry in the 1840’s.

He reported that in the opening of the “cave” as he called it, there were old timbers bracing the entrance that gave off a funny smell. It was evidently an adit, from the description. The last time I saw the man, he was driving down the street in a brand new $40,000 pick-up truck and looking like a Prince of the Realm!

An old friend of mine told me the reason almost all of my own efforts in the field of treasure hunting and looking for old mines had amounted to zilch was because of my lack of proper research.

He would happily spend two years researching a locality before he ever loaded his truck up for the trip to it. It must be true, as the only real find I have made myself was in his company on a trip to a ghost town in Utah. He knew the name of every prominent citizen that had lived there. He knew the precise location of every likely target to search. In order of importance, he always searched the assayer’s office and home first. The Sheriff’s office came second, and then the Mayor’s office and home. Next came the Red Light District, as those girls were very busy!

Why the assayer, of all people? They were the biggest uncaught felons in the territory! They would call in a mine owner and demand several burlap bags of ore to test in a “cross-sectional analysis.” After obtaining these bags, they would take what was needed from each bag, assay it, and refine the remainder and keep it for themselves. They would then give over the results of the assays to the mine-owner, charge him three dollars for each assay, and hide the remainder for a rainy day.

How much ore is needed for an assay? About five ounces, no more.

After searching the assay office in this ghost town, we found nothing. It was 108 degrees in the shade, and the only shade was up against the bank behind the stone foundations of the site. I staggered over and leaned up against the dirt. I had not turned off my metal detector, and it gave a loud signal! Hidden in the bank were 52 boneash, half-pint testing cups with about an ounce of melted gold, under glaze, stacked one within the other. How come the assayer had never returned to claim his stash? He was a millionaire, many times over and possibly couldn’t be bothered with a mere 52 plus ounces of gold!

In one Idaho ghost town, this same person found six unopened crates of 1879 Springfield rifles, hidden in the foundations of an assayer’s house. And downtown, in the hollow walls of his establishment, he found four large gold-pan sized ingots of gold and three of silver that had been melted down from ore. The assayer apparently used a steel gold pan as a mold, so the resulting slug would fit into the wall without notice. Each of these ingots weighed over sixty pounds.

What does all this mean? One thing for sure, our ancestors were a busy lot, full of enterprise and hard work!

Mines and treasures have been discovered, lost again, forgotten about and re- discovered down through the ages. It is certainly not a new thing in earth’s history! Nor is the violence that often accompanies such discoveries.

The most sane advice ever given to me about that facet of mining/treasure hunting was, “After you have made a good sized discovery, proven it out, and know that it is real (and not just a hope), go to your favorite tailor and have him sew a strong zipper on your upper and lower lips. Then, keep it zipped SHUT!”