BY PHIL PHILCOX

 

 

Within 100 miles as the crow flies, California offers both the highest pint in the lower 48 states –Mount Whitney at 14,449 — and the lowest spot on the continent — Badwater at Death Valley Monument Park at 282 feet below sea level. From its northern borders to its southern coastline, there are majestic mountains, rugged deserts, vibrant cosmopolitan cities, and virtually every diversion a vacationer needs. Its varied climate finds swimmers splashing in the Pacific Ocean in January while skiers slalom down snow-covered slopes only a few hundred miles away. Outdoor lovers can head for trails, camp- grounds and forests in the High Sierra while surfers and sunbathers will find long stretches of sandy beaches along the coast. The warm Mojave and Colorado deserts are a haven for those seeking relief from freezing weather elsewhere in the United States. With over a hundred cities each with populations of over 50,000 and the six largest cities boasting of populations between 200,000 and over two million, the cultural experiences are as varied as the outdoor experiences. The California Office of Tourism offers a variety of free vacationing material, including motoring guides and road maps, directories of hotels and campgrounds covering both the entire state and specific areas and booklets and brochures pointing out the key vacationing spots and what they have to offer; Write them at 1030 -13th St., Sacramento, CA 95814 (916-322-1396).

Twenty-Six Driving Tours is an interesting free 54-page book that lists the most scenic routes around the state with maps and information on sightsee- ing each area. This free book, combined with the directories of campgrounds, will provide all you need to decide where to go, how to get there and where to stay upon arrival.

The California State Park System consists of 270 parks, beaches, reserves and recreational areas. A guide to state parks is available for $2 from the Information Office of Department of State Parks, Box 2390, Sacramento CA 95811 (916-445-6477).

The Bureau of Land Management maintains 35 campgrounds around the state and they are listed, along with facilities, in two free booklets, Camping in California and Camping On Public Lands, available from the Bureau of Land Management, 2135 Butano Dr., Sacramento, CA 95825.

A guide to over 200 private camp- grounds is available for $2 from the California Travel Parks Association Information Service, 371 Idylwild Court, Redwood City, CA 94061, (415- 365-1144).

With over 5,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of streams and rivers and 1,200 miles of coastline, there’s ample opportunity to get involved in water sports while vacationing in the state. California’s northern coast is known for its rugged shores where the foothills of nearby mountains drop down to meet the pounding surf. In central California, rivers running through Gold Country merge in Sacramento, providing excellent boating, swimming and fishing conditions.

In all vacationing areas, the camping conditions are excellent, honed over years. Information on searching for gold on the Klamath River in the north state can be obtained from The New 49’ers, (530) 493-2012; house boating-afloat on Shasta Lake north of Redding, and rental sources can be obtained from the Shasta- Cascade Wonderland Association, Box 1900, Redding, CA 96001 (530-243- 2643).

California’s southern region has a sunny, Mediterranean climate with broad beaches and bustling cities offering a variety of attractions. San Diego offers swimming at local beaches, surfing and skin diving in summer and access to major attractions–Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and the Wild Animal Park. Whale-watching is popular in winter, from charter boats or lookout points.

Moving inland, the starkness of the desert is in marked contrast to the rest of the state. Consisting mainly of Death Valley and the Mojave Desert, it’s prettiest here during late fall when temperatures are pleasant and the ground’s alive with desert plants. In the heart of the desert lies the splendor of Palm Springs.

Orange County is the home of Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Lion Country Safari. Newport, Huntington and Laguna beaches are popular areas where daily cruises visit nearby Catalina Island.

Los Angeles proudly flaunts its heritage on Olvera Street–vendors sell Mexican handcrafts while people dance in the streets to Mariachi bands. Nearby Hollywood has tours of movie studios. Several good beaches are within an hour’s drive of downtown LA, including Santa Monica, with its carnival rides and boardwalk.

San Francisco is rich in the history of the Gold Rush Days when the town was a boisterous frontier port, and gateway to gold country.

The Lake Tahoe region is a year- round resort area, with camping and water activities during summer; ski and winter sports after November. Set amid towering peaks, Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

This year’s (1998’s) 150th Anniversary of California’s Gold Rush has sparked many special celebrations in the Mother Lode area all during summer months, culminating in the World Gold panning Championships, to be held at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, PO Box 265 (310 Back St.) Coloma, CA 95613 (530-622-3470). Teams and individuals from many other countries will be participating, and Governor Wilson has declared a celebration that will feature a great time for all visitors. If you haven’t made your plans to participate yet, now’s the time to do so!

 

 

BY STEPHEN SOWN

ENGLAND’S HUNT FOR THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE SPARKED THE FIRST GOLD RUSH — AND, POSSIBLY THE FIRST GOLD SCAM!

 

 

Chart of the north pole 1595“Chart of the North Pole, by Gerhard Mercato1; 1595, depicting lands which could not be accurately shown on a regular projection. It not only includes errors of the standard chart, but an imagined view of the North Pole based on Marco Polo’s writings of the 13th century.

When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne of England in 1558, she began a new age of northern exploration at a time when mariners were rewarded for daring, outrageous, risky and (possibly) illegal behavior. It was an age where, from a European point bf view, anything was possible–a whole New World had just been found. Surely a sea route to the Orient was possible.

Martin Frobisher was the quintessential, swashbuckling privateer of the Elizabethan age. He was also a well known pirate, sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth. Although arrested on at least four occasions on charges of high-sea piracy, he was only mildly chastised, as were other notorious English corsairs of the 16th century. Piracy was legal in England, provided it was directed against Spanish and Portuguese vessels. In fact, Elizabeth and many others in the court invested in the plundering expeditions of the bold entrepreneurs.

The discovery of the Northwest Passage offered glory, wealth, and prestige; it also offered cruel hardships, and perhaps death. Frobisher was definitely the man for the job–and Michael Lok knew it. Lok, a high-class promoter, gambler, entrepreneur and (perhaps) swindler provided both financial and political support for Frobisher’s scheme. To secure financial support, Lok went to great efforts to alter the public’s perception of Frobisher from a cunning pirrate into a romantic court gallant. He commissioned a portrait, and enlisted troubadours to compose ballads to praise his valiant exploits.

In 1576, Frobisher made the first of three historic voyages to “Frobisher’s traits” on Baffin Island. He sailed in two small vessels, approximately 25 tons each, and a small pinnacle too insignificant to be given a name. Only one of the ships, however, completed the Atlantic crossing without difficulty. Near the shores of Greenland, the smallest of the vessels, and her four men, floundered during a violent North Atlantic storm, and the sailors were sucked to their doom. A second vessel, unable to locate the others after the storm, returned to England claiming Frobisher had been drowned. But Frobisher’s flagship was not destroyed by the Atlantic storms.

Frobisher, who had vowed “to make a sacrifice unto Gold of his life rather than return home without the discovery of Cathay,” and eighteen surviving crew continued to search for the elusive Northwest Passage. They believed they had found it when they sailed into what is today known as Frobisher Bay. It was Frobisher’s belief that the land on his left as he sailed the “Straight” was the main continent of North America, while the land on his right was none other than Asia. Asia and North America had one important thing in common; mosquitoes. Frobisher was greatly irritated by these creatures, which were described as “a kind of small fly or knat that stingeth and offendeth so fiercely that the place where they bite shortly after swelleth and itcheth very sore.”

Frobisher also encountered foreign people while ashore on Baffin Island. George Bet commented on the Baffin Islanders: “these people are in nature very subtle and sharp-witted. They are ready to conceive our meaning by signs, and to make answer, well to be understood again. If they have not seen the thing whereof you ask them, they will cover their eyes with their hands, as if to say, it hath been hid from their sight. If they understand you not wherof you ask them, they will stop their ears. They will teach us the names of each thing in their language which we desire to learn, and are apt to learn anything of us. They delight in music above measure, and will keep time and stroke to any tune which you shall sing, both with their voice, hand and feet, and will sing the same tune aptly after you. They will row with our oars in our boats, and keep a true stroke with our mariners, and seem to take a great delight therein.”

Although the two peoples exchanged gifts and gestures of friendship, relations between them were not consistently harmonious. Five English sailors were either captured (or mutinied while ashore with the ship’s boat) and were never heard from again. In retribution for this perceived act of violence Frobisher lured one unfortunate Eskimo closer to the English ship by ringing a bell, and then “suddenly, by main force of strength, plucked both the man and his light boat out of the sea and into the ship in a trice.”

While being hauled aboard the ship the Inuit, who died shortly after reaching London, bit off his tongue and so was incapable of revealing the location of the five missing sailors.

Frobisher and his crew immediately departed the barren, rocky island for England with their captured “Strange man of Cathay.” They were cheerfully welcomed. Michael Lok paraded the man and his boat around London and the surrounding countryside.

Flowers and grass were some of the foreign plants proudly displayed. Most importantly, however, a small black stone was returned to England. This stone “glistened with a bright marquisette of gold” when held near to a fire.

Englishmen in a skirmish with Eskimos “Englishmen in a Skirmish with Eskimos” by John White, 1585-93

When an unscrupulous Italian assayer identified the substance as gold, the Northwest Passage was promptly forgotten and the Cathay Company was hastily formed–with the prime objective of mining the golden ore from Baffin Island. A second naval expedition was immediately outfitted and departed for “Asia” in 1577.

While digging for gold on Baffin Island, Frobisher and his crew were again involved in violent confrontations with the local people. John White, an artist who traveled with Frobisher, preserved for posterity one such battle at “Bloody Point” in Frobisher Bay. Six Inuit were shot dead and one English sailor was pierced with an arrow. Frobisher again attempted to locate his five lost seamen from the previous year and; failing, he left them a letter (written in English) audaciously threatening that “if they deliver you not, I will not leave a man alive in their Country.” Frobisher settled his vengeful urge with the kidnapping of a young Inuit family. Master Dionise Settle, chronographer of this expedition, reported that “the two women not being apt to escape as the men were, the one for her age, and the other being incombred with a young child, we tooke. The old wretch, whom divers of our Saylers supposed to be either a devil, or a witch, had her buskins plucked off, to see if she was cloven footed, and her rougly hew and deformity we let her go: the young woman and the child we brought away.” Both died quickly in England.

In the fall of the same year, Frobisher returned with 200 tons of black lumpy ore, the so-called “gold” of Frobisher’s Straits. The expedition received a jubilant welcome in London. Frobisher was awarded the lofty title of “High Admiral of Cathay.”

Frobisher again sailed for Baffin Island in 1578-before the true nature of the black ore could be determined. The “High Admiral” captained a flotilla of 15 ships, the largest to assemble in the North Atlantic until World War II. As well as attempting to gamer the golden nuggets of Baffin Island, the expedition had provisions for the first English colony in North America, and the first missionary, Reverend Mr. Wolfall. Wolfall’s objective was to convert what he believed to be the cruel and ignorant heathen of Asia to the enlightened doctrine of his own philosophy.

Unfortunately, a violent storm had the disastrous effect of grinding and pummeling the flotilla, sinking many of the supply ships before they reached Baffin Island. Although plans for the colony were postponed, the remaining vessels continued with the mining operation. Another staggering quantity of black ore was hauled back to England.

Reverend Mr. Wolfal1 was not so successful in his endeavors. He could find no heathens to convert due to their timidity, no doubt stemming from Frobisher’s treacherous and violent behavior during previous years. With plans for the colony abandoned, Wolfall returned to England with the remaining ships.

Disgrace awaited the haggard survivors of the voyage. During their absence, it was determined that absolutely no gold could be alchemized from any of the ore returned the previous year. The “Asian gold” was worthless. Michael Lok was in financial trouble. Not only had he lost his own investment in the Arctic scandal, but numerous creditors’ demanded repayment of their investments.

 

BY MICHAEL WARREN

 

 

Old-Map

The Oak of the Golden Dream sits beside a quiet stream in what is now known as Placerita Canyon. It was here that gold was first discovered in California, clinging to the roots of some wild onions dug up one March afternoon by Francisco Lopez, a local rancher. The year was 1842, six years before gold was found at Sutter’s Mill.

Lopez’ discovery sparked California’s first gold rush. Since then, thousands of miners have picked and panned the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles, some continuing to the present day. The years have worn away most evidence of this forgotten gold rush. But hidden high up in quiet canyons or on treacherous granite ridges, one can still find reminders of a time when hardy souls extracted a living from these mountains.

Placerita Canyon State Park, three miles east of Newhall, is where it all got started. The Oak of the Golden Dream, a twisted old California Live Oak, stands at the west-end of the park, north of the highway. Some old machinery and a small museum mark the site where early prospectors took $80,000 in gold out of this canyon (no panning is allowed anymore within the park boundaries). The small stream runs only a few months each year and was bone dry this past July, the fifth straight year of drought in the state.

Lack of water was a major obstacle for the placer miners of the 19th century. The Mexicans who did most of the mining in Placerita and nearby canyons used dry panning to winnow out the gold, but the process was not efficient. Even so, the placer gold soon gave out. By 1870 the streambeds yielded little to prospectors.

But soon they were locating the veins where the placers originated. Copper ore was discovered while surveying for a railroad to connect Los Angeles with the Mojave Desert in 1853; but at the time, it was not considered important. It was not until 1861 that miners went back after the copper – and then discovered, in the process, silver and gold.

Thus began the boom in Soledad Canyon. The town of Soledad, also known as Ravenna, quickly sprang to life. Then it died, then it revived again. By 1868, it had enough residents that a U.S. post office came to town. Through the lean years, the Mexican miners kept things going. They weren’t of the boom mentality that kept their Anglo counterparts hopping from one bonanza to the next.

The Soledad lode mines proved much more profitable than early placer operations. Mines such as the Governor, the Don, and the Red Rover boomed and busted for almost a century until they went dormant in the early 1950’s. When the Governor mine shut down in 1942, it had produced more than $1.5 million–making it the best-paying mine in Los Angeles County. Not much mining continues in the old Soledad District these days, but the sites have left a permanent mark on the hills.

Lu Anne Warren, author’s wife, standing in front of the entrance to the Monte Cristo Mine

: Lu Anne Warren, author's wife, standing in front of the entrance to the Monte Cristo Mine The Legendary Monte Cristo find in Placerita Canyon was not the first discovery of gold in California, either. It was simply the first documented claim. Rumors of gold circulated as far back as the late 1700’s. One legend surrounds the Lost Padres Mine, which was supposed to have been connected with Mission San Fernando. Vast amounts of gold were said to exist at Mill Creek.

The legend can’t be verified, but gold does exist high up in Big Tujunga Canyon near Mill Creek. A small gold rush hit this area in the late 1880’s, and some mining continues to this day. Some speculate that the Lost Padres Mine would later become known as the Monte Cristo, the best producer of the Big Tujunga mines.

The two-mile hike up to Monte Cristo mine from Monte Cristo Campground on Angeles Forest Highway takes you past the Black Crow mine (only the foundation of two buildings are left) and the Black Cargo–a small operation that is continuing today. About a half-mile beyond is the Monte Cristo, which has also been worked recently.

The Monte Cristo, which is not posted, looks like its tenants moved out just last week. Several abandoned houses sit in the junction of two creeks. Old machinery is strewn about, including an old rusted-out, bullet-riddled car. Little of it appears to date back to the mine’s peak years of 1923-1928. Fairly new-looking beer cans suggest the area is populated on the week-ends, if not worked occasionally.

The mine was first discovered by Mexicans and perhaps Indians before that. The first documented, full scale mining began around 1893 and was abandoned shortly thereafter. In 1895, Captain Elbridge Fuller took over the mine. Fuller seemed to have difficulty keeping partners. He either sold them out or drove them away. One of them was found dead with his head blown off. Fuller abandoned the mine after two decades.

Bur Fuller moved too soon, it seems; because the next owner turned the mine into a success. Fred Carlisle developed six tunnels and made $70,000 during 1927. But Carlisle too, saw the ore run low. The mine closed in 1942 by order of the War Production Board.

Close to Home: Probably the most accessible of the old mines, is the Dawn Mine, in Millard Canyon just above the Altadena. It’s a five-mile round trip hike, involving a lot of boulder hopping and stream crossings. A worthwhile hike even without a mine at the end, it takes you through a beautiful riparian woodland, a wonderful seclusion remarkable for its proximity to the city below.

Gold was found here in 1895 and the mine was worked into the early 1950’s. Like most of the mines of the San Gabriels, it was more ambitious than profitable. The main shaft, which ran 1,200 feet into the mountain, is still open (short assays can be found nearby on the canyon walls). Old machinery litters the canyon bottom, some of it crushed like aluminum cans between the boulders. The foundation of the miner’s cabin is located a quarter-mile below the mine. One of its owners built a trail up the canyon to connect with the Mount Lowe Railway, a marvelously-engineered railroad that ran from Altadena to Mt. Lowe in the early part of this century.

“The Dawn Mine followed the pattern of the great majority of mining ventures in the San Gabriels: initial promise, hard work, diminishing returns, and abandonment,” writes John w. Robinson, an expert on the San Gabriel Mountains.

For anyone still looking for gold in the San Gabriel Mountains, the most likely place to find it is in and around the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. The most profitable mining in the mountains was done here, and it’s still the best spot for recreational-scale mining.

Little is left of the placer operations here; but at one time, this canyon teemed with miners. The East Fork was the best-producing district of the San Gabriel Mountains. As much as $13 million in gold was recovered here. Once again, water was a major problem. But this time, it was the flood waters that periodically wiped out operations–one reason so little is left of the streambed operations.

The small town of Eldoradoville was wiped out in 1859. Eldoradoville was a tough little town of three stores and half a dozen saloons. One miner claimed he made more money by sluicing the sawdust from the floor of a local saloon, than by mining the canyon. The place was rebuilt after a flood and then prornptly destroyed again in 1862. There is a campground there now, a more conservative gamble against nature.

Hydraulic mining began in the canyon around 1871 and closed down in 1874 due to legal difficulties. Nevertheless, the energy and creativity invested into establishing hydraulic works, and the amount of gold extracted by it, was tremendous. The two major operators each extracted many thousands of dollars per month in gold by hosing down the canyon walls.

The East Fork saw a boom during the Great Depression. Eldoradoville became, “Hooverville,” a town of cardboard shacks populated by jobless men trying to make some money by gold panning. The town was washed away in a flood during 1938. Along with the town, all of the road was washed away except for a bridge that arches 250 feet above the East Fork Narrows. It’s called “The Bridge to Nowhere.”

Profitable lode mining was done on the rugged mountains above the East Fork, as well. The largest mine was the Big Horn. The spectacular mill remains in good shape. But recent exploration has begun again in the mine and the road is fenced, blocking any view of the mill.

The mine was discovered in 1895 by Charles Vincent who was hunting big-horn sheep. During its peak years of 1903-1906, $40,000 in gold was extracted–about $100,000 in all. Mining continued sporadically until the early 1940’s. Occasional exploratory work has been done since, .and the mine is currently owned by Centurion Gold Ltd.

The four mile round trip hike from Vincent Gap to the mine yields a terrific view of the East Fork watershed. Mt. Baldyand Iron Mountain fill the view to the southeast. Even the ridge that connects the peaks–some of the most rugged terrain in the San Gabriels was mined in the early part of this century .The Allison, the Baldora, the Gold Dollar, the Eagle and the Stanley-Miller are in this vicinity. Only the Allison is reasonably accessible, but even it requires one of the toughest hikes in the mountains. Not much gold was taken out of any of them the Allison extracted about $50,000 from the mountain. These high-altitude mines are monuments more of courage than business acumen.

There ~gold in the San Gabriel Mountains, but so far the hills have beaten back the prospectors. Until a new bonanza is discovered, California’s first gold rush remains only a colorful page in history.

For more information. The best resources available on historical mining in the San Gabriel Mountains are by John W. Robinson. See his books, Mines of the East Fork, Mines of the San Gabriels, and his trail guide Trails of the Angeles. Also check out Where to Find Gold in Southern California by James Klein

 

BY JAMES A. (JIM) WADDELL

 

classic hill Early in the 1850’s, Englishman John Titus came to the wild Klamath River area to mine for gold. He staked a mining claim along a small creek which would later bear his name. Titus Creek flowed down a long and high ridge southeast of Happy Camp, now called “Titus Ridge.” John Titus was my great-great grandfather.

Titus also mined gold from the rich gravel bars along the Klamath River and Indian Creek. In 1857, he and another miner friend decided to do more than “just be gold miners.” John Titus and James Camp purchased, from Richard Humphreys and Lewis Barnes, the buildings and the Klamath River Ferry at the mouth of Titus Creek. Ferry Point was the location where early miners used a horse-drawn ferry to cross the broad river. Humphreys was a full-time horse and mule packer, bringing freight and supplies to the gold mines from Trinidad and Crescent City. Humphreys also owned a store and other businesses in Crescent City.

Humphreys and Barnes had tried to operate a trading post at the mouth of Titus Creek, but neither had time enough to do so. Packing supplies and digging for gold took too much time! Titus and Camp saw this situation as an excellent business opportunity. They could make money by mining for gold themselves, besides selling food and equipment to the miners. This combination worked very well indeed. John Titus married my great-great grandmother Julia, a Karuk Indian lady, native to the Titus Creek area. (Julia’s name in Karuk language was Quamshu, meaning “Springtime.”) Titus and Camp worked hard at both mining and storekeeping. Their hard work made the business profitable.

Partners still; in 1865 Jim Camp and John Titus bought land and a corral from Martin Cuddihy, the new owner of the “American Hotel.” (This hotel is believed to have been built by Albert Doolittle, somewhere around 1860. Now known as the “Baker Hotel,” it still stands in downtown Happy Camp.) They built a large brick building and moved their store’s business from Ferry Point to Happy Camp. This store was named “J. Camp. Merchandise,” and advertised “Crockery, Glassware, Drugs, Hardware, and Cutlery.” Jim Camp’s brother, Heil Camp, worked as clerk and manager much of the time, thus giving Titus and Camp more time for other ventures. This building is also still standing in Happy Camp, California.hotel

Titus and Camp bought a sawmill from a party named Staples in the mid to late 1860s. The sawmill was on land now known as Curly Jack Campground, 1 1/2 miles south of Happy Camp. Logging with horses; sawing lumber with a water-powered sawmill; and then selling that lumber were profitable enterprises. Much lumber was needed for homes, barns, outbuildings, bridges, and miners’ ditch flumes. Separately, both Titus and Camp owned other mining claims near Happy Camp. As partners, they bought several adjoining claims from other miners, combined them into the “Classic Hill Mine,” and filed for mineral patent in 1872.

A government surveyor arrived to do the land survey required to file for patent. A U.S. Mineral Monument was set in a rock outcrop near Indian Creek. It was tied by “solar shot” to the nearest known survey corner; thirty miles away in Scott Valley! U.S.M.M.# 6 (United States Mineral Monument #6) was the “true-point-of-the-beginning” of and the southeast corner of the Classic Hill Mine survey.

Dutchman Benoni Swearingen, another of my great-great grandfathers, was Head-Chainman for the United States Government Surveyor. This interests me because around ten years previously, Benoni had traveled around Oregon chasing “Gold Strikes.” I have a copy of the handwritten letter he wrote earlier from Oregon City, Oregon, to his wife, my great-great grandmother Elizabeth; back home near Indian Town. He wrote of gold, all right, but also sickness, muddy living conditions, a shortage of food, and too many gold miners. He wrote that (if he survived the starving town and cold-water rheumatism,) he would rather be back home on Indian Creek, even if he were only making twenty-five cents a day!classic hill

The Classic Hill Mine proved to be extremely rich for Titus and Camp. It was only 1 1/2 miles from the homestead on Swearingen Gulch! It would have been even more convenient if he could have found gold here before he had spent time “wandering around in Oregon.” The Classic Hill Mine turned out to be one of the better known, rich, gold-producing mines in Siskiyou County!

Benoni and Elizabeth were married in Indian Town in 1856. This was a gold boom town, only one mile from Classic Hill. Indian Town residents outnumbered the population of Happy Camp for years. It had saloons, hotels, stores, butcher shops, bakeries, and even a bowling alley. Indian Town was located on the banks of Indian Creek, half way between the Swearingen Homestead and the Classic Hill Mine. It had gone from “Boom to Bust” before the rich Classic Hill Mine was located. Ambitious miners kept mining the gold-rich Indian Town gravels until they eventually tore down the entire town in order to get the gold out from underneath the town! Nothing but gravel and alders now remain at Indian Town. Classic Hill Mine is in the foothills of timbered ridges that rise north of Happy Camp and continue into the Siskiyou Mountains.historical happy camp This mine is located in geologic strata and soils closely related to those of Indian Town. Gold and gravel traveled downstream from Classic Hill to Indian Town over many millennia. Elevations in this area range from 1,800 feet at the foot of the Classic Hill, up to 7,310 feet at Preston Peak, “Master of the Coast Range.” The Siskiyou Mountain Range runs east and west, connecting the Cascade Range to the California Coast Range. Little Grayback Mountain connects to the west and Soda Mountain connects to the east.

Seven types of soil family-groups can be found within two miles of the Classic Hill. Three groups are derived primarily from Clalam soils of fractured metamorphic rock, including “Clalam and Deep Riverwash” along Indian Creek. Two types of soil materials are derived from Serpentinitic bedrock, and the other two soil types found near the Classic Hill Mine; “Holland Mixed Landslide” at the mine site, and “Holland-Clalam-Coboc” soils upslope of the Classic Hill Mine.

It is fascinating to consider how all of these very different types of soil have ended up so closely together after being uplifted by plate tectonics, worn down by weather, plowed by glaciers, and washed-about by raging waters.

Here is where John Titus and Jim Camp found truly large amounts of gold. Today, you can walk the mine (it’s privately owned; so you must get the owner’s permission to prospect it) and see gravelly, loam soils varying in color from brown to pink. You can still see outcrops of fractured metamorphic rock. Most important, you can find pockets of river-washed gravels that have been collected in holes and depressions of the terrain over millions of years. Many of these gravel traps collected gold along with the gravel.

Gold virtually filled some of these pockets, but “digging,” following the gold-rich gravel pockets, was a lot of work. Titus and Camp hired more men. Titus and Camp found $20,000 in gold nuggets in just one of these pockets. Gold was selling for around $15 per ounce back in about 1880. I don’t know for certain, but I remember Mom, Dad, and Grandpa Bab Titus talking about it. I heard prices that varied from $13 to $18 per ounce. At $15 per ounce; $20,000 is about 1,333 ounces of gold! Gold was so obvious and so easy to pick up in certain portions of these gravel pockets that guards were placed there day and night. All miners at the Classic Hill Mine were thoroughly searched as they left the diggings; including being searched for stolen nuggets hidden in shoes, socks, and hollow teeth!

A mule trail, or pack trail traveled directly across Classic Hill. Horace Gasquet (a packer and founding businessman of Crescent City, Gasquet, and Happy Camp) established this pack trail. It served Indian Town, Classic Hill Mine, and Happy Camp; traveling to Waldo, Oregon, via Big Meadows (now called Poker Flat,) and Little Grayback Mountain. From Waldo, a person could travel down the Illinois Valley to the Rogue and Applegate Rivers, and continue onward to Jacksonville. In the 1880’s Jacksonville was one of the largest and most well known gold boom-towns in the west.

This “Waldo Pack Trail” is the same one that was used to deliver beef cattle and hogs from the Bybee Ranch and others in the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. Cowboys would meet the miners at Big Meadows to exchange gold for food and animals. This same trail, winding through Siskiyou Mountain timber, was also used to deliver gold from Happy Camp and Indian Town to gold buyers in Oregon.

Jacksonville, I believe, is where Titus and Camp sold their largest pack-train load of gold. 4,200 ounces of gold, loaded on a pack train of horses and mules, guarded by wranglers armed with rifles and handguns, were packed out in one trip by my great-great grandpa and his partner to sell in Oregon! That’s over 300 pounds of Indian Creek’s Classic Hill Mine Gold Nuggets!

New 49’er mining property on Indian Creek just below the Classic Hill Mine

 

 

By Ronald D. Reeves

The squeaking of the old windlass above the well slowly awakened me from my sleep. As I sat up in the bed, I remembered that greasing the windlass was one of the chores Papa had given me to do the day before and I had carelessly forgotten. Boy, was Papa going to be mad! I hurriedly dressed and ran downstairs to help bring in the water that was being drawn from the well. I greeted Mama with a good morning kiss, grabbed hold of the pail of water she was carrying, and followed her across the yard to the kitchen. I was a small boy, the age of twelve years, and by the time I reached the kitchen, which was about twenty feet behind the house, I had already splashed much of the water out of the pail onto the ground and myself. “Gosh it was cold!”

When I reached the kitchen door I remembered to put a few dippers full of clean water in the wash pan by the door so we could wash our hands before breakfast. After placing the pail of water on a small table in the corner of the kitchen, Mama told me to go to the house and wake my younger brother and sister. Within the next hour the whole family was seated at the table for breakfast. As Papa was saying grace, I remembered it was Sunday and I had a full day to play and do as I wished. Sunday at our home always meant a day of rest, for Papa did not believe in working on the Lord’s day. As we were eating, Papa reminded me that I had not greased the windlass as I was told to do the day before. He said it must be done in the morning or I would certainly be punished. I promised I would not forget this time.

After breakfast Papa went to the barn to hitch up the horses to the wagon so we could all make the half-hour trip to church for Sunday services. I begged Mama to let me stay home from church because I had something I wished to do. It took a lot of pleading, and she finally agreed to let me stay home, but only if my brother and sister stayed and I would agree to watch after them. What I had planned was an exciting day of bow and arrow fishing in the creek down behind the house. This was one of my favorite pastimes, and with all the chores around the farm, Sunday’s were the only free time I had.

After Mama and Papa left for church, I gathered up my bow and arrow, my brother and sister, and off to the creek we ran. Little Meadow Creek, as it was called, was not a very big creek. The deepest part of it was only about two feet deep, with most of it only six to eight inches deep. We quietly slipped along the creek bank searching for fish to shoot with my bow and arrow. With my little brother, it was almost impossible to sneak up on a fish that was lying still in the shallow water of the creek. Twice he slipped from the edge of the creek bank into the water, making enough noise to scare the fish a mile away.

After hours of shooting at fish that always seemed to be moving and that I always missed, we finally came upon a big ole catfish lying real still on the bottom of the creek bed. This was one I was sure I would not miss. As I pulled back the arrow on my bow and took careful aim, my sister began hollering, “Shoot Conrad, Shoot!.” As she was shouting for me to shoot, she poked me in the back causing me to shoot before I was ready. As I watched, the arrow entered the water and slid across the back of the big ole catfish; he swam quickly away unharmed. I was so mad I felt like pushing her into the creek, but knew if I did she would tell Papa and he would give me the licking of my life.

I waded into the creek to get my arrow and as I reached down to get it I saw a large yellow rock laying to the side of where my arrow struck. I handed the arrow to my sister, reached back into the water, and grabbed hold of the strange looking rock. I was surprised that it was so heavy to be so small. It was about the size of one of my shoes, but it seemed to weigh as much as the pail of water I had carried earlier that morning.

Map Key

1. Garmon
2. Miners’ Houses
3. Structures, ca. 1905
4. Armstrong
5. Graham
6. Osborne
7. Bigger
8. Genet
9. Ervin
10. Timothy
11. Shaft with Extension Tunnel
12. Morgan
13. Enginehouse Shaft
14. Mill and Enginehouse
15. Powder House
16. Craton
17. Tunnel—Open 1934-1971
18. Linker
19. Hartsell
20. Arthur
21. Stables
22. Office
23. Shop

24. Office, Kelly Co.
25. Stamp Mill, 1895-1903
26. Eagle
27. Frederick
28. Tunnel III
29. Sider
30. Tunnel
31. Pigeon
32. Bird
33. Gilbert
34. Posselt
35. Tunnel I
36. Brown
37. Harrison
38. Tunnel II
39. Gold Mill, ca. 1848
40. Reed Mansion
41. Barn
42. Reed Cemetery
43. Jesse Cox – 1889

In the 1870s the ground between Little Meadow Creek and Yellow Branch was grown up with field pines of mine timber size. The ground east of Yellow Branch was heavily wooded with oak and pine.

Sources: August Partz map, 1854; map ca. 1870; Reed Mining Property map, 1923; Survey of Reed Gold Mine property, 1971; Deed of Conveyance, Armin Kelly from O. S. Kelly

Co.; reconnaissance of area, shafts, and tunnels.

 

My brother, sister, and I were all excited as we hurried back to the house carrying the strange yellow rock that I had found. As we neared the house, we saw Mama and Papa coming down the old roadbed in the wagon. We ran down to meet them shouting all the way about what we had found. Papa took the rock from my hands and commented on how heavy it was and how it was such a pretty bright yellow. As he handed the rock back to me, he said it must be some kind of metal, but didn’t know what kind it was. Papa said, “Come let’s go home,” so we climbed onto the back of the wagon and headed back to the house with my odd-looking rock beside me.

Later on, Papa took my rock with him to the nearby town of Concord where he visited the local silversmith to see if he might know what the rock was. The silversmith, knowing only about silver, couldn’t explain what the rock was and said it was probably worthless. When Papa returned from his trip he told us what the silversmith had told him and the rock was laid aside. This was the year 1799, and for the following three years my strange rock became a very useful item. It made a wonderful doorstop!

In 1802, Papa had to make a long trip to Fayetteville, North Carolina on business and along with him he carried the family doorstop. I guess Papa never was satisfied with what the silversmith had told him. There in Fayetteville a jeweler identified the rock as pure gold. Not knowing much about gold, or its value, Papa agreed to sell it to the jeweler. The price they settled on was three dollars and fifty cents. Later on, after arriving back home, Papa discovered he had been cheated. Word had reached him that the jeweler had sold the gold for much more than he had paid Papa, several thousand dollars more! With much anger, Papa traveled back to Fayetteville to confront the jeweler. I never was told exactly what happened, or what was said to the jeweler, but I do know that Papa returned with a whole lot of money.

Papa asked me to show him exactly where I found the gold nugget in the creek. When I showed Papa where I had found the nugget, we began to search for more. We found many more! In less than one hour, just by picking nuggets off the creek bottom, where the bedrock was shallow, Papa filled a quart jar. Later Papa and three friends, with the help of a few slaves, began working the creek together, finding many more nuggets ranging from pebble size, up to sixteen pounds.

In the year 1802, one of the slaves named Peter was digging in the edge of the bank beside the creek when he uncovered the largest nugget ever to be found on our farm. It weighed a whopping twenty-eight pounds. At the time, little did I know that by finding the strange yellow rock, I had created the first gold rush in America and It would also become one of North Carolina’s greatest moments in history.

As news spread of the discovery of gold on the John Reed farm, many of the farmers in thearea and nearby counties began searching their own creeks and streams for gold. Many were rewarded handsomely for their search and many new discoveries were made. At this time, no one knew exactly where the gold came from; all that was known was it could be found on the creek bottoms and along the edges of the creeks. This type of mining was called placer mining, and for many years was the only type of mining to be done.

In 1825, while panning in the creek that ran through his small farm in Stanley County, North Carolina, Tobias Barringer made a new and great discovery. As he was panning along his stream, finding a few flakes of gold and once in a while a small nugget, he came to a spot where the gold ran out completely. Confused about why this happened so suddenly, he noticed a bunch of white rock protruding from the creek bank right about where the gold ran out. Out of curiosity, he dug his pick into the mass of rock and was surprised when he uncovered a pocket of gold, most of it still imbedded in the white rock. On that day alone, he dug almost fifteen hundred pennyweights of gold from that one pocket This was the beginning of lode mining in North Carolina, new gold discoveries, and the opening of many new mines in the state.

It wasn’t until 1831 that the gold rich veins were discovered on the John Reed property. In 1896, the last big nugget was found on the Reed property by John Reed’s great grandson, Jake Shinn. The nugget weighed twenty-three pounds. Mining flourished in North Carolina for many years and made many men wealthier than they ever dreamed possible, but for many reasons it finally died out.

About all that is left of mining for gold in North Carolina is its history and the many old pits and shafts that dot the hillsides and the valleys of this great State. Once in a while one might see a lone prospector wading through the creeks with pan and shovel in hand still searching, hoping, and dreaming that he will be the next one to make a big gold strike in the state we love so much, NORTH CAROLINA.

In 1971, the State of North Carolina purchased the Reed property. It is now a state historical site. The State constructed a large museum which houses many relics and mining equipment from the Reed and other mines in the surrounding area. As one enters the museum, it seems as though one has traveled back into time to the days when gold mining was a big business in North Carolina. At the beginning, one will be shown a thirty minute film with actors playing out the discovery of gold at the Reed Mine, and the events of gold mining in the area. After a walk through the museum, seeing actual gold nuggets and gold ore found at the Reed Mine and other mines in the surrounding area, and looking over the type of equipment used in the early days of mining, one will be taken on a guided tour through the old tunnels andworkings of the mine. On these trails, one will see many more diggings and much of the old equipment used at the mine in those days. There is no cost to visit the Reed mine and for anyone visiting North Carolina and wanting to learn more about the history of gold mining in this state I highly recommend visiting the Reed Gold Mine.

To find out more information about the Reed Gold Mine, visit the Reed Gold Mine website.http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/sections/hs/reed/reed.htm

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