their torches around, Oliver found the first of five skeletons
scattered around the dusty, dark cavern. While exploring the
cavern, they found several tight passageways extending into the gloom
of the mountain. Choosing one, they followed the tunnel deeper into
the mountain until it too, opened up into a large vault-like chamber.
Shining their torches around, Melton noticed shelves on the western
wall that had been carved into the stone. Bringing his
torch closer, he saw several odd-looking stones stacked on one of the
shelves and picking one up, he was surprised at its heavy weight. When he and his partners scrutinized it more carefully, they were
astounded to discover that the stone was actually a crude bar of gold!
After the threat of snow had passed, the
three excited men gathered up five of the bars and headed over the
pass to Silvercliff, in the Wet Mountain Valley. Immediately,
they had the bars assayed, which proved to be worth $900 apiece. Becoming instant celebrities in Silver Cliff, the men were questioned
by all whom they encountered about the source of the gold bars, but
all three men steadfastly refused to divulge the location, making
plans to return to Dead Man's Cave in the spring.
In the early spring, they made their way
back to Dead Man Cave. They thought the cave would be easy to find
again but when they returned, there were many places that looked like
the area in which the cave had been found. Over the years, they
frequently returned to the area but they never again found the cave.
The story of these
three prospectors was reported in both The Fairplay Flume and
The Denver Post in 1880. To this day, the gold has
never been found.
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