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Lost Mines of California - Page 2

Old West Prints & Wanted Posters

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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.

 

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.

 

 

Gold Mining with a cradle

Using a cradle to find gold in 1883

 

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.

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.

Gunsight Mine of Death Valley

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.

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

 

 

 

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley Sand Dunes.

This image is available for photographic prints HERE.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

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

 

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