Dead Man's Cave
the winter of 1880 three prospectors – E.J. Oliver, S.J. Harkman and H.A.
Melton were prospecting two miles north of what would later become known
as Dead Man Camp. As they were working, the sky threatened an oncoming
blizzard and they quickly looked about for shelter.
Spying a small opening in a shear rock wall across the canyon, they made
their way through the opening, lighting several crude torches. Though the
passageway was narrow and less than four feet high, it opened up into a
large 20-foot long room.
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.
of these three prospectors was reported in both The Fairplay Flume
The Denver Post in 1880. To this day, the gold has never
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