But hitting "paydirt”
would take him years. In the meantime, he married a woman named Molly
Hamilton of Belle Fourche on March 13, 1907 but the marriage was rocky
from the start. However, the two remained married for almost
twenty years before divorcing in 1928.
very next year Johnny made history when he allegedly found the large
gold nugget. Though almost immediately, locals said that the nugget
was actually a melted mass of gold that Perrett had stolen from a
neighboring miner, the nugget, if not brining Perrett riches, at least
brought him fame. The claim of it being a stolen melted mass has
never been substantiated.
Perrett sold the leg-shaped nugget, weighing in at 7 ¾ troy ounces, to W.E.
Adams for $250, who then turned around and put it on display at the
Adams Museum. Immediately, not only did the gold nugget become a
tourist attraction, but so did Potato Creek Johnny himself, as
visitors wanted to hear his stories.
As visitors came to
his cabin in the 1930’s and early 1940’s, Johnny would entertain them
with prospecting tales and stories of
while they watched him pan for gold. When asked about the nugget, he
would often reply, "I have been looking for the rest of the leg ever
since". Perrett also was involved in several community activities and
often took part in the local parades.
Potato Creek Johnny continued to "promote”
until the day he died at the age of 77 in February, 1943.
John Perrett was buried at the Mt. Moriah Cemetery alongside such
characters as Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, and Seth Bullock. As the funeral procession passed by the Adams Museum, its carillon
chimes tolled 77 times.
Today, Potato Creek Johnny's story and photos, as well as a replica of the original
nugget, can be seen at the Adams Museum in
. The original nugget is stored in a safe deposit box at the bank.
of America, updated July, 2015.