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Lost Mines of California - Page 2

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Gunsight Mine of Death Valley


Bad Water Basin, Death Valley, CaliforniaIn 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 '49ers,” 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.


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.



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.


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.




Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County, CaliforniaSuddenly 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.



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.


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.



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 ˝ 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.


Striking it Rich gold panning.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.


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.




© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated November, 2015.




Also See:

Bandit Hordes in California

Desert Steamers in Death Valley

Honey Valley Treasure

Lost Treasures of Northern California

Milton Sharp's Buried Loot

Rattlesnake Dick's Stolen Loot

Ruggles Brothers Loot in Middle Creek

More California Treasures Just Waiting To Be Found  


Sacramento River in Shasta County, California

The Sacramento River in Shasta County, California.


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