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Lost Mines of California
5 years ago

Prospector Goldpanning

A prospector gold panning.


Once gold was discovered and the California Gold Rush began, more than 500 camps, villages and towns sprang up almost overnight as some 80,000 prospectors poured into the Mother Lode country in 1849 alone. For more than a decade, the flood of people continued to come, arriving overland on the California Trail, by ship around Cape Horn, or through the Panama shortcut. In the beginning, the miners easily gathered the surface gold, scratching more than $10 million from the land in 1849. By 1853 the yield had peaked at more than $81 million before dropping in 1855 to $55 million.

 

Among these tens of thousands of prospectors and an almost equal amount of claims, tales of "lost mines" began almost immediately as pioneers were killed, sickened, or lost their way back to many of the rich ore finds in the mountains and deserts of the Golden State.

Whether these tales of lost mines are fact or fiction, their legends are still alive for hopeful prospectors of California.

     Please stay tuned for the next installment.....

5 years ago

California-bound wagon train, left the rest of the group and headed out on their own. Winding up in the Mono Lake region of northern California, one of the men would later describe the area as "the burnt country." While crossing the Sierra Nevada near the headwaters of the Owens River, they sat down to rest near a stream. Here, they noticed a curious looking rock ledge of red lava filled with what appeared to be pure lumps of gold "cemented" together, hence, the name.

 

The ledge was so loaded with the ore that one of the men didn't believe it to be real, laughing at the other as he pounded away about ten pounds of the ore to take with him. The believer drew a map to the location and the two continued their journey. Along the way, the disbeliever died and the gold-laden traveler tossed the majority of the samples. After crossing the mountains, he followed the San Joaquin River to the mining camp of Millerton, California. During his journey, the German had become ill and soon went to San Francisco for treatment. He was diagnosed and cared for by a Dr. Randall who told the man he was terminally ill with consumption (tuberculosis). With no money to pay the doctor and too ill to return to the treasure, he paid his caretaker with the ore, the map he had drawn, and provided him with a detailed description.

5 years ago

Mammoth Mountain, California

Mammoth Mountain, courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

Dr. Randall shared this knowledge with a few of his friends and together they arrived at old Monoville in the spring of 1861. Engaging additional men to help, Randall's group began to prospect on a quarter-section of land called Pumice Flat. Thought to have been some eight miles north of Mammoth Canyon, the 120 acres were near what became known as Whiteman's Camp.

Word spread quickly and before long miners flooded the area hunting for the gold laden red "cement." One story tells that two of Dr. Randall's party had in fact found the "Cement Mine," taking several thousand dollars from the ledge. Unfortunately, for those two men, the area was rife with the Owens Valley Indian War which began in 1861.

 

5 years ago

The Paiute Indians, who had heretofore been generally peaceful, balked at the large numbers of prospectors who had invaded their lands. The two miners who had allegedly found the lost ledge were killed by the Indians before they were able to tell of its location.

Though the "cement" outcropping was never found, the many prospectors who flooded the eastern Sierra region did find gold, resulting in the mining camps of Dogtown, Mammoth City, Lundy Canyon, Bodie, and many others.

The lost lode is said to lie somewhere in the dense woods near the Sierra Mountain headwaters of the San Joaquin River's middle fork.

 

5 years ago

Dutch Oven Mine of San Bernardino County

 

n 1894, Tom Scofield, a railroad worker, was surveying near the Clipper Mountains northwest of Essex, California when he decided to do a little exploring. When he was about three miles up the side of the mountain, he ran across an old abandoned stone house that appeared to have been built years previously.  Continuing along, he hiked approximately nine more miles when he came upon a spring. There, he followed a trail that led over the hill where he came upon a rock atop the peak that he described as being as big as a house. The large boulder was split in two and the trail continued straight through it. Beyond the passageway he stumbled into what appeared to be an old Spanish camp.

Clipper Mountains northwest of Essex, California


The Clipper Mountains are northwest of
Essex, California
5 years ago

Tom found himself standing on a high shelf, surrounded by high walls. Through other openings in the rock walls, he could see that the “shelf” was sitting high above the ground at about 500 feet. The only way in or out of the little flat was through the split rock. Scattered about the long deserted camp, Scofield found rusty mining tools, pots, pans, fragments of a bedroll, and an old iron Dutch oven.

Also on the shelf was a mine shaft, in which he found the skeletons of seven burrows. Next to the shaft was a mine dump that contained numerous stones still containing rich gold quartz. By the time he had finished exploring the campsite, he realized that it was too late to return to his base camp. Cold and hungry, he bedded down on the shelf planning to leave at daybreak. In the morning, as he was leaving, he tripped over the Dutch oven and out tumbled a mound of pure gold nuggets. Shocked, Tom gathered as many nuggets as he could carry and returned to his base camp. From there he caught a train to Los Angeles, where he spent the next two months in a drunken frenzy, gambling and living the high life. After squandering all the money he had received from the sale of the gold nuggets, Scofield found himself sober and completely broke. It would be two years before he was able to make his way back to the Clipper Mountains to search for the “Dutch Oven Mine.”  Try as he might, it seemed to him that everything had changed and he was completely unable to retrace his steps. Disillusioned, he finally gave up the search.
5 years ago

When Scofield was 84, he was interviewed by Walter H. Miller and George Haight in 1936. Living in an abandoned store in the Mojave Desert outside Danby, California, Scofield was at first hesitant to tell his story. After having been hounded for four decades by treasure hunters wanting more information about the mine, he had long tired of the story even though he continued to insist that it was true.

Today, the Dutch Oven Mine continues to be lost, or at least no one has ever claimed to have found it. The Clipper Mountains are located in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California. The range is found just south of Interstate 40 and the Clipper Valley, between the freeway and National Old Trails Highway, northwest of the small community of Essex. The range is home to at least three springs, as well as the Tom Reed Mine.

5 years ago

Gold Mining with a cradle

Using a cradle to find gold in 1883, courtesy

Library of Congress.


Goose Egg Mine of El Dorado County - As early as 1848, gold was found in the Mosquito Valley of El Dorado County, California. As more and more people found their way to the Gold Rush country, hundreds of mining camps sprung up all over the region. One that flourished was Newtown, some nine miles southeast of Placerville.

5 years ago
Established in 1852, Newtown was first settled by Swiss immigrants who spoke Italian and called the village “Sunny Italy.” Growing quickly, Newtown boasted a post office, several retail establishments and about 5,000 residents, with some claiming it was bigger than Placerville. Rich with placer gold, the Wells Fargo Express began serving Newton three times a week and passenger stage routes were added later.

Tales abounded of the easy gold to be found. On one occasion two large nuggets, one weighting 36 ounces and the other 42, were plucked from the South Fork of Webber Creek, one mile down stream from Newtown, in Pleasant Valley.
5 years ago

Into this midst of easy findings and quick fortunes came a young immigrant from Finland who went by the name of “Sailor Jack.” Though the naïve man knew absolutely nothing of gold mining, he was determined to make his fortune in the goldfields. No sooner had he come to town when several experienced miners, as a practical joke, convinced the newcomer to file a claim on a piece of land they knew to be worthless. But as fate will have it sometimes, the joke ended up being on the pranksters when Sailor Jack struck pay dirt on his claim and the mine became one of the richest in El Dorado County. Called the Sailor Jack Mine, it was also known as the Pinchgut Mine, the One Spot Mine, and the Pinchemtight Mine. In its early days the placer mine, located about 1 ½ miles north of Newtown, yielded about $40,000 worth of gold.

5 years ago

It was during these frenzied days of working the Sailor Jack Mine that one of the miners employed there found yet another rich discovery. In a location above the Sailor Jack, in an area called Goose Neck Ravine, the miner found several large gold nuggets. Upon returning, he shared his discovery with several other miners who thought that the nuggets might have come from the lead source of the Sailor Jack. Though the prospector, as well as several others, returned to the area time after time, they could never find the spot where the nuggets were picked up. From that time on, the site has been referred to as the Lost Goose Egg Mine.

Today, there is nothing left of Newtown except an old stone building and a cemetery near the intersection of Newtown Road and Fort Jim Road about eight miles southeast of Placerville. The Sailor Jack Mine was located about 1 ½ miles due north of Newtown near today's Webber Reservoir.

5 years ago

Gunsight Mine of Death Valley


 

The Panamint Range of Death Valley, California

The Panamint Range of Death Valley, California,

courtesy Library of Congress.


In 1849, a group of California bound emigrants were headed out of Utah with a 107 wagons led by Captain Jefferson Hunt. However, by November, the group disagreed on the most direct route to the gold fields. Some believed there was a much shorter route across the desert, rather than taking the well known route along  the Old Spanish Trail. Though Hunt warned them that they were “walking into the jaws of hell,” several members of the group parted near Enterprise, Utah, believing the shortcut would save them about 20 days of travel.

5 years ago

They would become known as the “Lost 49’ers,” nearly starve on their journey, discover silver, and give the valley its name.

 

The splinter group consisted of several smaller parties, who would also disagree on the best way to cross the vast desert. Before reaching White Sage Flat, the party split once again, with one group hiking over the Panamint Mountains and the other traveling along the floor of the valley.

5 years ago

The two parties met up again at White Sage Flat, where one Jim Martin displayed silver ore that he had found while crossing the mountains. Exhausted, starved, and dehydrated, the group had little interest in mineral riches, focusing only on survival. After four months of travel across the vast desert lands, the tattered emigrants finally stumbled into Mariposa happily crying, "Good-bye, Death Valley."

During the terrible journey the pioneers had killed their oxen for meat, burned their wagons, and were forced to walk most of the way on what had become a “shortcut to hell.” In the meantime, the party who had stayed with Captain Hunt’s group had already arrived in  California.

5 years ago

After settling in Jim Martin, who had lost the sight off his rifle during the journey, took the silver ore to a gunsmith who made it into a new gun sight. The story quickly spread, touching off one of the west’s great prospecting booms and the legend of the Lost Gunsight Mine.

One of the travelers, a Mr. Turner, who had been with Martin when he discovered the silver, decided to return to the desert in search of the silver. Failing to find it, he soon came upon a ranch belonging to Dr. E. Darwin French near Fort Tejon.  Telling the doctor the tale, French and Turner mounted a second expedition to search for the silver outcropping in September, 1850. They too were unsuccessful.

5 years ago

Though the “Lost Gunsite Mine” was never found, dozens of other prospectors were successful in finding hidden wealth in the Death Valley..


Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County, California



Siskiyou County, California, with Mount Shasta in the background, photo courtesy Welcome to California.

5 years ago

Humbug Creek Mine


 

In the mid 1850’s prospectors were roaming the mountains and creeks of Siskiyou County along the northern boundary of California in search of their fortunes. Gold had been found in Humbug Creek as early as May, 1851 but a group of disillusioned miners dubbed the place as “humbug” when they failed to find any of the precious metal. However, that did not stop other prospectors from looking and a few years later when another group hit pay dirt, hundreds of miners flooded into what would be called the Humbug Mining District. Soon, a mining camp was formed  along the banks of Humbug Creek called Humbug City.

5 years ago

It is near here that the Legend of the Lost Humbug Creek Mine began. When a man who was working for one of the Humbug District mines began to feel ill, he started to Yreka, some ten miles to the southeast to see a doctor. Shortly after coming upon the Deadwood Trail, he began to feel so ill that he lay down beneath a tree. As he looked around, spied a promising piece of quartz float and exploring further he found an entire outcropping. Suddenly felling better, he traveled some three or four miles back to his cabin, returning with a pick and shovel. He soon took out a sack full of gold that was estimated to have been worth $5,000 to $7,000. Excited to share the news, he soon traveled to Hawkinsville, where his parents and two brothers lived. Afterwards he returned to the site for more gold, when he began to feel sick once again. Leaving his pick and shovel, and covering the site with brush, he went to the county hospital where he died a week later.

Search as they might, his family was never able to find the site of their dead brother’s gold. The outcropping is said to be on the west side of the Humbug Mountains.

5 years ago

Kanaka Jack's Mine in Mother Lode Country

Long before the white settlers rushed into El Dorado County during California's Gold Rush days, natives of the Hawaiian Islands had arrived here in the early 1800’s. These islanders, known as Kanakas, first worked the ships engaged in the hide and tallow trade before forming permanent settlements at a number of places in the Golden State. In El Dorado County, they lived in Kenao Village, named for their chief, and farmed the surrounding land.

 

The Hawaiians were one of first settlers to establish a town in El Dorado County, farming the land and living quietly before gold was discovered. However, when gold was discovered, they too joined the many miners flooding the area, as well as selling their produce to miners in Coloma. Before long, the miners began to call the village, Kanaka Town.

 

5 years ago

One of the Islanders by the name of “Kanaka Jack” soon appeared in the village, working a mine along Irish Creek, not far from town. Known to have brought large amounts of gold out of what became known as the Kanaka Jack Mine, he never told anyone of its exact location. In 1912, the Hawaiian miner died at the county hospital.

 

Today treasure hunters continue to search for the lost Kanaka Mine in El Dorado County.

5 years ago

 

 

Striking it Rich gold panning.



Striking it rich, courtesy Library of Congress.



Water Fall Mine


In the 1850’s several men from “back east” had come to the Golden State in search of their fortunes. While prospecting in Shasta County in northern
California, they crossed the Sacramento River at Cow Creek about 2 ½ miles east of Fort Reading. From there, the prospectors followed another creek eastward for about thirty miles when they came upon a high waterfall. There, they found a rich gold deposit sitting above the waterfall. However, this was a dangerous time in the region as Indians, fed up with miners encroaching upon their lands, were often known to attack.  

This post was modified from its original form on 01 Sep, 10:00
5 years ago

Taking from the gold deposit what they could carry, the soon fled in fear of the natives. Returning to the Fort Reading, they asked for protection, but no troops could be spared. Soon, the men returned east from whence they came.


Years later, in the 1870’s, one of the men from this original group, along with his son-in-law, returned to the area in hopes of once again locating the waterfall. In Redding, he asked around about a creek with a high waterfall and was told there was one on Bear Creek near Inwood, some 25 miles to the southeast. The pair soon arrived in Inwood, telling their tale of the Lost Water Fall Mine and spending weeks exploring Bear Creek Canyon. However, after a long search, the two finally gave up and headed back east, never to be seen again.

5 years ago

John and Charles Ruggles came from a respected family in Tulare County, California. Handsome men, Charles attended college but John was seemingly a “roblem” from a young age. The boys' father had high hopes for Charles but little faith in John as he was already in trouble with the law, arrested and imprisoned for robbery, while still a very young man. However, about the time Charles graduated college, John was released from prison and began to corrupt his younger brother, who had never committed a crime.

 

He soon talked Charles into making his living the “easy way” by robbing a stagecoach. On May 14, 1892, the pair lay in wait for the Redding & Weaverville Stage just outside of Redding, California, intent upon taking a strong box filled with some $5,000 in gold coins.

 

Stagecoach with Guard.


Stagecoach with guard sitting on top.

5 years ago
As the stage headed east in the late afternoon on what is now Middle Creek Road, from Shasta to Redding, it was driven by John Boyce. Its only passenger was George Suhr, who was riding up front with the driver. However, the stage guard, who also acted as the stage messenger, Amos “Buck” Montgomery, was riding inside the coach. When the stage came to a sharp curve in the road it slowed and out of the trees stepped Charles Ruggles.  Wearing a long coat and a bandanna covering his face, he was pointing a shotgun at the driver. When he ordered Boyce to stop the stage and throw down the strong box, Boyce immediately complied, heaving the heavy box to the ground.

Almost simultaneously, a blast sounded from inside the coach as Montgomery fired his shotgun riddling Charles in the face and upper body with buckshot. As the bandit fell, he returned the fire, hitting both Boyce and Suyr in the legs.

5 years ago

Suddenly, John, who was hidden nearby, retaliated by firing shots into the stagecoach. He hit Montgomery who would die just hours later from his wounds.  Frightened by the blasts, the horses took off running, pulling the stage behind them.



John, believing that his brother was dying, grabbed the heavy strongbox, hid it nearby, and fled. As soon as the stage reached “civilization” to tell their tale, a posse was immediately formed who quickly found Charles. Though severely wounded, they took him to the Redding jail where he was his injuries were treated.

5 years ago

John made a clean getaway for a short time, winding up at his aunt’s house in Woodland. However, when she learned that he had robbed a stage and killed a man she kicked him out and reported him to the local sheriff. Six weeks after the robbery, on June 19th, John was arrested while sitting in a restaurant in Woodland. Returned to the Redding jail, John was surprised to find his brother very much alive and recovering from his wounds.


In an effort to save himself and his brother, John told the authorities that the stage guard, Montgomery, was in cahoots with them. He also revealed where he had hidden the gold, telling authorities that he had hidden it in Middle Creek. Attached to the strong box was a floating device that came within a foot of the top of the water that would help him in finding it later.

5 years ago

Both John and Charles were both handsome and charming and before long they drew the attention of the local ladies who began pamper them. Some brought cakes and fruits, others gave them flower bouquets, and allegedly, the pair even received offers of marriage.


 

This, of course, enraged the local men who were already upset over the killing of Montgomery. On the evening of July 24, 1892, a vigilante mob of some 40 men stormed the jail. The lone jailer, George Albro, could do nothing as the men blew open the safe that held the jail keys.

5 years ago

As the lynch mob forcibly took the pair from the jail, John Ruggles offered to divulge the location of the stolen loot if the mob would free his brother. "Spare Charley and I will tell you," John Ruggles was quoted as saying.


But the lynch mob wouldn’t hear of it, dragging the men to a tree next to the Redding Blacksmith shop at the northwest corner of  Shasta Street and the railroad tracks. John was 33 years old, Charles, just 22.

5 years ago

The next morning, Redding residents found the two bandits hanging by their necks. The bodies stayed there for three days as passengers on nearby trains viewed their gruesome remains.


 

In a local newspaper editorial, it said that justice had been fairly meted out and further:


 

It was a disagreeable job, but under the circumstances appeared to be necessary for the public good and is an example to the courts.

5 years ago
As to the stolen treasure, an express pouch was later found near Lower Springs with all the letters intact; however, the gold was never recovered. Middle Creek is about six miles west of Redding, California.


Middle Creek California



Middle Creek in Shasta County, California photo courtesy

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


5 years ago
Honey Valley Treasure

Honey Lake Valley, California


Honey Lake Valley today, courtesy Welcome to California


Henry Gordier, a French immigrant, was one of the lucky ones who made his fortune prospecting in the goldfields of California. By 1857 he had made enough money to give up the back-breaking work and bought land on Baxter Creek, north of Honey Lake. Located in what is now Lassen County, the acreage was just south of the east end of Bald Mountain.

 

Settling in, Gordier and a prospecting partner by the name of Isaac Coulthurst decided to buy a herd of cattle from a group of Mormons in Carson Valley who had decided to return to Salt Lake. Gordier took the majority of the cattle, planning on living the life of a rancher on his newly acquired land.


5 years ago

However, Gordier’s hard work and careful saving of his money was not going to pay off as he had hoped.


Nearby, in a cabin on Lassen Creek, lived two men by the names of John Mullen and Asa Snow. Both men had bad reputations with Snow having allegedly killed a man before coming to Honey Valley and Mullen, a suspected cattle rustler. If these two were not enough, along came William Combs Edwards, who had killed the postmaster, Mr. Snelling, in Merced County, California in the fall of 1857. With a $1500 reward offered for his capture, Edwards had fled to Genoa, Nevada where he had become acquainted with a man of means by the name of William B. Thorrington. Most often known as “Lucky Bill,” Thorrington was a "shady" gambler with a reputation not much better than the rest of the men.

5 years ago

After meeting “Lucky Bill,” Edwards hid out at the cabin of Mullen and Snow, working a placer mine nearby. In the spring of 1858, “Lucky Bill” Thorrington traveled to Honey Valley to visit the three men at the cabin on Lassen Creek. Learning of Gordier’s fine herd of cattle, “Lucky Bill” said he was going to see if he could buy some. However, he headed home without ever approaching Gordier. Shortly thereafter, Mullen and Edwards began to talk to Gordier about selling some of his cattle, but Gordier was not interested.


Despite his disinterest, by March, Asa Snow had moved into Gordier’s cabin and the Frenchman was gone.  The three men – Snow, Mullen and Edwards, told everyone that they had bought Gordier’s holdings, borrowing the money from “Lucky Bill,” and that Henry was on his way back to France.

5 years ago

Gordier was well liked by his neighbors, who thought it very strange that the Frenchman would leave so suddenly without having said a word. When a letter came from Gordier’s younger brother, who also lived in the states, he was informed that Henry had returned to France. But the brother knew this not to be true as his brother would never have returned to his homeland without coming to visit him first. This further raised the suspicions of the locals who decided that Mullen and Edwards should be questioned. However, when the pair heard of this, they immediately fled the valley.

 

 

 

The locals began to investigate and soon found a burned out fire with metal buttons in the ashes near the Susan River. Also nearby were signs of dried blood on the ground, as well as foot and hoof prints. They then searched the river, where they found Gordier’s body tied up in a sack and sunk to the bottom with a large rock.

5 years ago

Immediately, they questioned Snow, who continued to live in Gordier’s cabin. Though Snow refused to admit any guilt, he was taken prisoner. Soon, a trial was held and a verdict was reached that Gordier had been murdered by Mullen and Edwards, with Lucky Bill and Snow being accomplices. Snow, being the only one in custody, was immediately hanged from a pine tree on the north shore of Honey Lake and buried beneath that very same tree.



The locals then traveled to Genoa, Nevada where they found Edwards hiding out with Thorrington. On June 19, 1858, “Lucky Bill” was placed in a wagon beneath a scaffold with a noose around his neck. The team was then started, dragging the body from the wagon and Thorrington slowly choked to death. Edwards was returned to Honey Lake, where he was also hanged on June 23rd.

5 years ago

John Mullen eluded capture and was never seen again.


Afterwards, the locals began to search Gordier’s land, knowing that he had brought large amounts of money and gold nuggets. Supposing that it was buried somewhere near his cabin, no one claimed to have found any of Gordier’s hidden fortune.


However, some 19 years later, in November, 1877, when Gordier’s cabin was long gone, a woman named Mary L. Dunn found a large gold nugget near where the Frenchman's cabin once stood. The next day, she returned to the site with two men who found several smaller nuggets. Though they continued to search, those few nuggets were all that they found.

5 years ago

Today, the cache, estimated to be worth about $40,000 when Gordier was alive, is still thought to be buried in the area.

 


Bandit Hordes in California


Joaquin Murrieta, California bandit



Joaquin Murrieta, photo courtesy San Joaquin Valley

Library System, California Digital Archives


5 years ago

Joaquin Murrieta's Stolen Cache


 

Joaquin Murrieta was a legendary figure in California during its Gold Rush days of the 1850's. When he tried to make his living in mining, he faced racism and discrimination. Forced to turn to a life of crime, he was seen by some as as a Mexican patriot, resisting the white settlers' domination. Others saw him simply as a bandit Murrieta became the leader of a band called The Five Murrieta's, who were said to have been responsible for the majority of cattle rustling, robberies, and murders that were committed in the Mother Lode area of the Sierra Nevadas between 1850 and 1853. One of those robberies was a wagonload of gold that the Juoquins had stolen from the northern mines. However, when members of Murriets's gang were driving the load along the hills east of the old Carrizo Stage Station they were ambushed by Indians.

 



This post was modified from its original form on 19 Sep, 13:06
5 years ago

According to the tale, the gold, as well as other items taken from the gang, were hidden in an old burial cave under a projecting rock ledge. No doubt Murrieta would have soon gone after the lost loot, but he was killed by the California Rangers before he could retrieve the gold. The Old Carrizo Stage Station which once served the Butterfield Stage Station is located in the Anza Borrego Desert.

Another treasure that Murrieta said to have buried is thought to be located between Burney, California and Hatcher Pass. The $175,000 cache, said to be hidden not far from Highway 299, has never been found.

5 years ago

Yet another stolen Murrieta cache, worth some $200,000. is said to be buried somewhere between Susanville and Freedonyer Pass near today's Highway 36. 


Murrieta and his gang were often known to hid their stolen loot in the area of their robberies. On one occasion Murrieta and his right-hand man, Manual Garcia, known as "Three-Fingered Jack, robbed a stagecoach along the Feather River. The strongbox was said to have contained some 250 pounds of gold nuggets worth $140,000 at the time. Allegedly, the pair buried the strongbox in a on the banks of the Feather River in a canyon a few miles south of Paradise, California. According to Wells Fargo officials, the stolen gold has never been recovered.

5 years ago
Hidden Treasures Near Vallecito Station


Allegedly, a stage was traveling from El Paso, Texas to San Diego with a box of gold coins in the 1860’s. In addition to the driver, the stage also carried a guard to protect the money. However, when the stage reached Yuma, Arizona, the guard fell ill and the driver continued on without him. Somewhere in the area of Carrizo Wash, between the Fish and Coyote Mountains, the stage was held up by bandits, who killed the stage driver and fled with the box of gold. According to the tale, the outlaws buried the gold on the south slope of Fish Mountain but were unable to retrieve it because there were so many soldiers in the vicinity. The buried coins are said to remain there to this day.

5 years ago

In addition to this stolen cache and others said to be buried near the Vallecito Station, numerous lost gold mines are also said to be in the area including the Lost Bell Mine, The Lost Bill Williams Mine, and the Lost Squaw Mine.



Vallecito Station is now located in the Vallecito Regional Park in San Diego County.
5 years ago

Holden Dick's Stolen Loot


In March of 1881, a freight wagon carrying several hundred pounds of gold ore through Modoc County was stopped by a lone bandit. The ore from Nevada was destined for Sacramento and heavily guarded by three men. But, this did not stop the vicious outlaw. Immediately killing two of the three guards, he forced the stage to stop and the remaining guard and driver quickly surrendered.   Forcing them down from the stage, he ordered them to set out on foot in a southerly direction. In the meantime, he boarded the wagon, tied his horse to the back and drove north where he is said to have buried the loot on the western slope of the Warner Mountains.




Eagle Peak, California



Eagle Peak in the Warner Mountains of California, photo courtesy California Digital Archives.

5 years ago

The vicious crime went unsolved for years until a Pitt River Indian known as “Holden Dick” began to trade small amounts of gold ore in Susanville and Alturas. In between appearing in the saloons of mining camps, spending his money freely, the Indian would disappear into some of the most rugged sections of the South Warner Mountains, only to return again with a goodly supply of gold ore.



At first, the locals thought that the Indian was working a secret mine and when in the saloons, they would try, without success, to get the Indian to talk.  They also began to follow Holden, hoping to find the mine. On one occasion, when another miner named Samuel B. Shaw was badgering the Indian for the location of his gold, Holden got fed up and shot the man, wounding him fatally.

 

5 years ago

Holden Dick was soon arrested for Shaw’s murder and locked up in the Susanville jail. On January 23, 1886, four men stormed the jail and dragged the Indian into the street. Beating, whipping and torturing the man, he refused to tell the location of his hidden cache and was finally hanged at the blacksmith shop.



Somewhere along the line, the authorities figured out that the gold ore so freely bandied about by the Indian did not come from a mine, but rather, was the stolen loot taken from the freight wagon some five years previously.

5 years ago
After a little more “digging” the cache is believed to have been hidden in a cave where Holden Dick lived most of the time. The cave was located in one of the many canyons which extend from Eagle Peak on the western slope of the southern Warner Mountains. He was also said to have constructed a crude rock wall at the cave’s entrance, though today it would most assuredly be collapsed. It is most likely that the cave would be located in the lower elevations of the mountains since the Indian lived there year round.

Milton Sharp's Buried Loot

Milton Sharp

   Milton Sharp allegedly robbed more than 20

stagecoaches along the California and Nevada border.


5 years ago

Where there was gold, there were often as many Outlaws as their were honest prospectors – men who found it much easier to use a gun rather than a pick and shovel.


 

Such was the case of Milton Sharp who made his fortune by preying on the many gold and silver laden stages traveling from the Sierra foothills to Sacramento and Stockton in the late 1870’s. Thought to have robbed over 20 stages during his Outlaw career, Sharp made his first major mistake when he teamed up with an outl named W.C. "Bill" Jones, who went by the alias Frank Dow. Jones, who had served a stretch at San Quentin before meeting up with Sharp in Bodie, California, was a dangerous drunk.

 

5 years ago

Their first robbery could not be considered a monumental success as they took from the Wells Fargo Express only $88 and three watches from the passengers. But this did not stall their enthusiasm, as on their next robbery, they walked away with more than $15,000.


 


Ranging as far as Carson City, Nevada , Jones and Sharp robbed six stages in less than four months as the tales of their hold-ups marched across the pages of San Francisco papers. Adding great interest to the stories were Sharp's appearance and mannerisms. Not the typical outlaw, Sharp was well dressed and extremely courteous when ordering Wells Fargo guards to throw down the strongbox. Jones, on the other hand, was a full-bearded, beastly looking man, with a deep-pitched voice that frightened both guards and passengers alike. While Jones held the driver and guard at bay, Sharp would line up the passengers and apologetically announce "A thousand pardons for the inconvenience I have caused you, but you see these are the hazards of my profession. We must relieve you of your valuables."  He was such a gentleman that he sometimes even returned valuables to weeping females. Afterwards, he would make a gracious bow, “thanking” them for their kindness, before the pair would make a clean getaway.
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No one ever got hurt during these “olite” robberies, at least until the morning of September 5, 1880. Stopping the Wells Fargo Express traveling from Bodie, California to Carson City, Jones fired two shots, killing one of the stage horses. Mike Tovey, the stage guard, returned the fire, killing Dow, who was thought to have been drunk at the time. Sharo then continued with the robbery, leaving Dow’s lifeless body in the road and stage stranded by the dead horse still attached to the team.



Meanwhile, posters offering a $3,000 reward for Sharp began appearing all over California and Nevada which caused lawmen and bounty hunters alike, to aggressively trail the bandit.

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 Sharp was finally captured in San Francisco. Waiving extradition, the outlaw was taken back to Aurora, Nevada in chains. Charged with six robberies against Wells Fargo, a lynch mob gathered outside the jail night after night while Sharp awaited trial.  Sharp, who was known to bury his stolen hordes, was questioned intensely regarding their whereabouts, but Sharp refused to talk. In November, 1880 when a guard came to check on him, the man had vanished along with a 15 pound iron ball chained to his leg. Having worked a few bricks out of the jail wall, no one had seen him escape.

 


The award for his arrest was immediately increased to $5,000 and the posses were on him in full force. After being aggressively trailed for several weeks and tired, hungry, and cold, Sharp finally turned himself in to the Sheriff at Candelaria, Nevada. Sharp was then returned to Aurora, where he was convicted of five counts of robbery. When he refused to tell where the hidden loot was buried, an unsympathetic judge sentenced him to 20 years in the penitentiary.

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  Sharp was taken to the state prison in Carson City where he tried to escape several times within the first few months. Finally, he settled down to be a model prisoner and in 1881 attempted to get a pardon, without success. Continuing to look for ways to escape, he finally made it in 1889 and was not heard from in over four years.  He was again apprehended in Red Bluff, California, on October 3, 1893 and returned to prison.



Afterwards, he wrote a letter to Wells Fargo giving them a list of names and places where he had worked when he escaped. Believing that Sharp was rehabilitated, Wells Fargo recommended that Sharp' request for a pardon be granted. On July 10, 1894,  Sharp was released and led a law-abiding life for the rest of his life.

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Afterwards, tales began to fly that much of Sharp' ill-gotten loot remained where he had hidden it. In 1910, two brothers by the names of Gus and Will Hess were searching for  Sharp's hidden loot in the hills of Bodie and Lundy, where they found small amounts. It is estimated that 70 percent of the stolen gold has never been recovered and remains buried along the old stage roads around Aurora, Nevada and Bodie, California.



Stage Robbery



Historic Stage Robbery, courtesy Library of Congress


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Lake Merritt, California, from Adams Point, 1884

Lake Merritt from Adams Point, 1884, photo



 

Alameda County - With a posse on their tails in 1893, two Bandits allegedly buried a cache of stolen loot near a brick kiln at Adams Point on Lake Merritt.  When the Lawmen caught up with the Outlaws, one was killed and the other immediately arrested. The surviving outlaw died later died in prison. The ill-gotten treasure has never been found.

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Contra Costa County - Dr. John Marsh, a Californ pioneer who was sometimes referred to as California's first American doctor, was allegedly known to bury his money near his home nestled in the foothills of Mt. Diablo.




Marsh was murdered in 1856 while on his way home from Martinez, without ever telling anyone of the exact location of his hidden riches. The treasure tale today alleges that Marsh had hidden a cache of some $40,000 gold coins near his home or Marsh Creek, that bears his name. Currently plans are under way to develop the location into a California State Park.
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Another, even larger treasure is said to be buried along the beaches of the county. In 1901, the Selby Smelter at Vallejo Junction was busy refining ores that were shipped from a number of neighboring mining districts.   But, one employee by the name of John Winters, was “busy” at a different task -- that of removing gold bars, one at a time from the vault, and burying them on the beach near the water’s edge. Taking an estimated $283,000 in gold, Winters was finally caught and about $130,000 of the bars were recovered. However, more than $150,000 remained lost.



Humboldt County -


 
In July of 1928, the small post office at Willow Creek was robbed by two outlaws that escaped with some $2,800. According to the story, the bandits buried the loot in one of two places and never returned to retrieve it. The first version of its location tells of the stolen cache being buried near the Cedar Flat Bridge that crosses Trinity River about four miles upriver from Burnt Ranch. The second location has the loot hidden at some point up New River Canyon on the first ranch above the mouth of New River.
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Kingston, California, 1879

Kingston, California is gone today but was thriving in 1870,


photo courtesy California Digital Archives

 




Kings County - In 1873, the small town of Kingston, California was a stopping place on the Overland Stage route between Stockton and Visalia, California. In December of 1873, Tiburcio Vasquez and outlaw band made a bold raid, robbing the entire village and holding 39 men hostage. When an alarm was raised , the bandit dashed to their horses and began to flee. However, in the ensuing melee, three of the  outlaws were shot and killed and the man carrying the stolen loot was wounded. Unable to reach a horse, the injured bandit escaped on foot and made his way across the Kings River. Though the outlaw was pursued, neither he nor the loot could be found. Years later, a skeleton was discovered in the area and was thought to have been the injured bandit, but again the ill-gotten cache remained unrecovered.

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Marin County - Not all lost treasures of California are related to the Gold Rush . During the wild and wooly days of Prohibition, a German whiskey smuggler named Carl Hause was doing a brisk business. Hause's operations were located on Point Reyes Peninsula at the edge of Drake's Inlet just south of Inverness. The whiskey smuggler was said to have buried approximately $500,000 in gold-backed currency somewhere between Inverness and the old Heims Ranch. However, the liquor entrepreneur would not live to retrieve his ill-gotten gains as he was found shot to death in his car. The currency has never been found.



Modoc County - Though Modoc County was never known as prime mining country, a few treasure tales continue to be told in this region that is most known for its Indian lore and unparalleled scenic beauty.

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In the last years of the 19th century a sheepherder picked up a heavy rock on the west slope of the South Warner Mountains. Forgetting about it for months, he finally retrieved the stone and took it to an assayer. Imagine his shock when he was told that the heavy rock was almost pure gold. He soon found an Alturas banker, who grubstaked him and the sheepherder returned to the Warner Mountains. However, try though he might, he searched relentlessly and was never able to find the source of ore again.



Another fairly well authenticated story tells of an Oregon emigrant who picked up a similar piece of rock in the 1850’s in the area of Devil's Garden. Though no mineral deposits of any amount were ever found in the area, the legend of hidden ore persists.

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In the lava beds of northwest Modoc County a family was seeking refuge from a snowstorm some sixty years ago. While there, they said they found a rich copper vein in a crater of the rugged volcanic formations. Though Mr. Courtright and other prospectors returned to the area to search for the rich ore, it was never found.



During the 1860's an army scout by the name of Daniel Hoag was stationed at Fort Bidwell. While on a scouting trip into the Warner Mountains, in the area of Fandango Peak, he reportedly found a rich gold ledge. However, it was at this time that the area was in the midst of what is referred to as the Modoc Indian War. Hoag was killed in one of the battles before he was able to return to the site and the location of the ledge remains lost. Fort Bidwell, used from 1864 to 1892, is located on the Fort Bidwell Indian Reservation, where the officer's quarters continue to stand near the old post cemetery.

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Donner Lake, 1866,


 Donner Lake, 1866, courtesy Library of Congress.




Nevada County - Several tales continue about the Donner Party having buried their money during the time they were trapped during that terrible winter in 1846. One story tells that George Donner allegedly buried about $10,000 in gold somewhere near Alder Creek northeast of Truckee, California. Though the cache has never been "officially" located, many believe that it was dug up and stolen after Donner's death. Other members of the party are also said to have buried their savings in the area. This was supported when in May, 1891, a man named Edward Reynolds found a five-franc silver piece while fishing on the northeast corner of Donner Lake. A few days later, he and a friend returned to the site and found an entire sack of coins. The horde was believed to have been hidden by Elizabeth Graves.


 



5 years ago
San Luis Obispo County - There are numerous caves located through San Luis Obispo County that provided great cover for outlaws during California's Wild West days. Near Avila Beach, a group of bandits were said to have made one of these caves their hiding place where they hid much of there stolen cache. No additional information is available on the exact location of the cave.


Shasta County - Long ago, when a detachment of soldiers were transporting an Army payroll along the road between Redding and Weaverville, California, they were attacked by Indians. While the battle ranged, one soldier had the foresight to bury the gold and marked it by burying his rifle straight up in the ground. He then joined the rest of the soldiers in the frenzied battle.   Severely wounded, he was later rescued and taken to French Gulch where he told the story of the attack and buried payroll before he died. Though the army began an immediate search, they were unable to find the rifle or the hidden gold. Many years later, two deer hunters in the vicinity found the rifle and not knowing the story, removed it and took it with them. Today, French Gulch is a sleepy little village located about 10 miles east of Lewiston, California.
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Tehama County – Peter Lassen was a pioneer and land owner in California long before its Gold Rush days of 1849. Arriving in 1840, he was able to secure a 26,000-acre land grant in 1843. Located in the upper Sacramento Valley, Lassen hoped to develop his land into an empire and established the Rancho Los Bosquejo, or the "ranch of the wooded places" in 1845. In the years that followed, Lassen developed a trading post, a new settlement, vineyards, and farms to entice people to what he believed would be his new empire. However, when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, his workers and settlers abandoned him for the goldfields. Lassen’s fortunes would rise and fall over the next decade until he was murdered in 1859 while traveling to Virginia City, Nevada to prospect for silver. Afterwards, a legend began to grow that Lassen had buried thousands of dollars in gold near his home on the Rancho Los Bosquejo. Located at the confluence of Deer Creek and the Sacramento River, he was said to have hidden his gold coins in iron pots surrounding his property. Though Lassen had a lifetime of financial difficulties, the legend continues. The buried cache is thought to be in Deer Creek Canyon near Vina, California or somewhere along the Lassen Trail which follows Deer Creek.

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Some twenty years after Lassen's death, a miner named Obe Leininger found a gold-flecked ledge of gold in the same area. In order to find it again, he marked the spot by burying his pick in the trunk of a nearby tree. When he returned, however, he was unable to find the tree with the pick, though he searched the area diligently. Though he and others who had heard his tale continued to search the area for years afterwards, the gold ledge was never found again. The location of the ore was said to be to between the mouth of Calf Creek and the Potato Patch campground of the U.S. Forest Service, just beyond Deer Creek.
5 years ago
Trinity County -

 In the 1862, the sheriff of Trinity County was not only responsible for upholding the law, but was also tasked with collecting taxes. On one occasion as he was traveling through the area, his saddle bag was filled with about $1,000 in gold coins and $50 gold slugs. As the sheriff and his horse were cautiously crossing a stream, the horse stumbled and the saddlebag filled with gold was dropped and washed down the creek. Though the lawman made an immediate search of the area, he was unable to find the bag. Soon, the county offered a reward of $250 for the recovery of the saddle bag, but
but despite diligent search efforts, including damming up the creek, it was never found. In those early days of California, gold slugs were often minted by assayers and private mines. Today, in addition to their gold value, they have also become major collectible items, and if the treasure were to be found today, some estimate it could be worth as much as a million dollars. The creek was located near Weaverville, California.
5 years ago
Yuba County -


During
California's Gold Rush days, a prospector by the name of Bill Snyder was one of the lucky ones. Working a claim along on of the branches of Oregon Creek on a ridge behind Camptonville, he consistently brought out large quantities of gold. Just as the gold was almost exhausted, Snyder became seriously ill and knowing he needed medical attention, he buried his gold, estimated at $30,000, between 2 large pine trees in the flat area below his cabin. He then left his cabin to seek a doctor. Though the type of illness is unknown, it was evidently very serious, as he was unable to return home for over a year. Imagine his distress when he returned to the site to find his cabin and the two large pine trees gone, replaced by a sawmill that now stood in its place. Only stumps of trees remained and though he searched diligently i the area, he was never able to locate his buried gold. He later died in the county home and to this day the hidden cache has never been found.
5 years ago

Gold Mining with a cradle



Using a cradle to find gold in 1883, courtesy

Library of Congress.


California. As more and more people found their way to the Gold Rush country, hundreds of mining camps sprung up all over the region. One that flourished was Newtown, some nine miles southeast of Placerville.
5 years ago

Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County, California



Siskiyou County, California, with Mount Shasta in the background, photo courtesy Welcome to California


Humbug Creek Mine


 

In the mid 1850’s prospectors were roaming the mountains and creeks of Siskiyou County along the northern boundary of California in search of their fortunes. Gold had been found in Humbug Creek as early as May, 1851 but a group of disillusioned miners dubbed the place as “humbug” when they failed to find any of the precious metal. However, that did not stop other prospectors from looking and a few years later when another group hit pay dirt, hundreds of miners flooded into what would be called the Humbug Mining District. Soon, a mining camp was formed  along the banks of Humbug Creek called Humbug City.
5 years ago
It is near here that the Legend of the Lost Humbug Creek Mine began. When a man who was working for one of the Humbug District mines began to feel ill, he started to Yreka, some ten miles to the southeast to see a doctor. Shortly after coming upon the Deadwood Trail, he began to feel so ill that he lay down beneath a tree. As he looked around, spied a promising piece of quartz float and exploring further he found an entire outcropping. Suddenly felling better, he traveled some three or four miles back to his cabin, returning with a pick and shovel. He soon took out a sack full of gold that was estimated to have been worth $5,000 to $7,000. Excited to share the news, he soon traveled to Hawkinsville, where his parents and two brothers lived. Afterwards he returned to the site for more gold, when he began to feel sick once again. Leaving his pick and shovel, and covering the site with brush, he went to the county hospital where he died a week later.
5 years ago

Search as they might, his family was never able to find the site of their dead brother’s gold. The outcropping is said to be on the west side of the Humbug Mountains.



California's Gold Rush days, natives of the Hawaiian Islands had arrived here in the early 1800’s. These islanders, known as Kanakas, first worked the ships engaged in the hide and tallow trade before forming permanent settlements at a number of places in the Golden State. In El Dorado County, they lived in Kenao Village, named for their chief, and farmed the surrounding land.

 
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The Hawaiians were one of first settlers to establish a town in El Dorado County, farming the land and living quietly before gold was discovered. However, when gold was discovered, they too joined the many miners flooding the area, as well as selling their produce to miners in Coloma. Before long, the miners began to call the village, Kanaka Town.

 


One of the Islanders by the name of “Kanaka Jack” soon appeared in the village, working a mine along Irish Creek, not far from town. Known to have brought large amounts of gold out of what became known as the Kanaka Jack Mine, he never told anyone of its exact location. In 1912, the Hawaiian miner died at the county hospital.
5 years ago
Today treasure hunters continue to search for the lost Kanaka Mine in El Dorado County.

Striking it Rich gold panning.



Striking it rich, courtesy Library of Congress.



5 years ago

Water Fall Mine


In the 1850’s several men from “back east” had come to the Golden State in search of their fortunes. While prospecting in Shasta County in northern California, they crossed the Sacramento River at Cow Creek about 2 ½ miles east of Fort Reading. From there, the prospectors followed another creek eastward for about thirty miles when they came upon a high waterfall. There, they found a rich gold deposit sitting above the waterfall. However, this was a dangerous time in the region as Indians, fed up with miners encroaching upon their lands, were often known to attack. 


 

Taking from the gold deposit what they could carry, the soon fled in fear of the natives. Returning to the Fort Reading, they asked for protection, but no troops could be spared. Soon, the men returned east from whence they came.
5 years ago

Years later, in the 1870’s, one of the men from this original group, along with his son-in-law, returned to the area in hopes of once again locating the waterfall. In Redding, he asked around about a creek with a high waterfall and was told there was one on Bear Creek near Inwood, some 25 miles to the southeast. The pair soon arrived in Inwood, telling their tale of the Lost Water Fall Mine and spending weeks exploring Bear Creek Canyon. However, after a long search, the two finally gave up and headed back east, never to be seen again.


Locals speculated that the country surrounding Inwood in primarily made up of volcanic rock and thought it an unlikely site for gold to have been found. More likely, many believed that the gold might have been found on another waterfall on Clover Creek about three miles from Oak Run and 25 miles east of Redding.


Sacramento River in Shasta County, California


The Sacramento River in Shasta County, California,

courtesy Library of Congress.

 

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/CA-LostMines3.html

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