Henry Gordier, a French immigrant, was one of the lucky ones who made his fortune prospecting in the goldfields of California. By 1857 he had made enough money to give up the back-breaking work and bought land on Baxter Creek, north of Honey Lake. Located in what is now Lassen County, the acreage was just south of the east end of Bald Mountain.
Settling in, Gordier and a prospecting partner by the name of Isaac Coulthurst decided to buy a herd of cattle from a group of Mormons in Carson Valley who had decided to return to Salt Lake. Gordier took the majority of the cattle, planning on living the life of a rancher on his newly acquired land.
However, Gordier’s hard work and careful saving of his money was not going to pay off as he had hoped.
Nearby, in a cabin on Lassen Creek, lived two men by the names of John Mullen and Asa Snow. Both men had bad reputations with Snow having allegedly killed a man before coming to Honey Valley and Mullen, a suspected cattle rustler. If these two were not enough, along came William Combs Edwards, who had killed the postmaster, Mr. Snelling, in Merced County, California in the fall of 1857. With a $1500 reward offered for his capture, Edwards had fled to Genoa, Nevada where he had become acquainted with a man of means by the name of William B. Thorrington. Most often known as “Lucky Bill,” Thorrington was a “shady” gambler with a reputation not much better than the rest of the men.
After meeting “Lucky Bill,” Edwards hid out at the cabin of Mullen and Snow, working a placer mine nearby. In the spring of 1858, “Lucky Bill” Thorrington traveled to Honey Valley to visit the three men at the cabin on Lassen Creek. Learning of Gordier’s fine herd of cattle, “Lucky Bill” said he was going to see if he could buy some. However, he headed home without ever approaching Gordier. Shortly thereafter, Mullen and Edwards began to talk to Gordier about selling some of his cattle, but Gordier was not interested.
Despite his disinterest, by March, Asa Snow had moved into Gordier’s cabin and the Frenchman was gone. The three men – Snow, Mullen and Edwards, told everyone that they had bought Gordier’s holdings, borrowing the money from “Lucky Bill,” and that Henry was on his way back to France.
Gordier was well liked by his neighbors, who thought it very strange that the Frenchman would leave so suddenly without having said a word. When a letter came from Gordier’s younger brother, who also lived in the states, he was informed that Henry had returned to France. But the brother knew this not to be true as his brother would never have returned to his homeland without coming to visit him first. This further raised the suspicions of the locals who decided that Mullen and Edwards should be questioned. However, when the pair heard of this, they immediately fled the valley.
The locals began to investigate and soon found a burned out fire with metal buttons in the ashes near the Susan River. Also nearby were signs of dried blood on the ground, as well as foot and hoof prints. They then searched the river, where they found Gordier’s body tied up in a sack and sunk to the bottom with a large rock.
Immediately, they questioned Snow, who continued to live in Gordier’s cabin. Though Snow refused to admit any guilt, he was taken prisoner. Soon, a trial was held and a verdict was reached that Gordier had been murdered by Mullen and Edwards, with Lucky Bill and Snow being accomplices. Snow, being the only one in custody, was immediately hanged from a pine tree on the north shore of Honey Lake and buried beneath that very same tree.
The locals then traveled to Genoa, Nevada where they found Edwards hiding out with Thorrington. On June 19, 1858, “Lucky Bill” was placed in a wagon beneath a scaffold with a noose around his neck. The team was then started, dragging the body from the wagon and Thorrington slowly choked to death. Edwards was returned to Honey Lake, where he was also hanged on June 23rd.
John Mullen eluded capture and was never seen again.
Afterwards, the locals began to search Gordier’s land, knowing that he had brought large amounts of money and gold nuggets. Supposing that it was buried somewhere near his cabin, no one claimed to have found any of Gordier’s hidden fortune.
However, some 19 years later, in November, 1877, when Gordier’s cabin was long gone, a woman named Mary L. Dunn found a large gold nugget near where the Frenchman’s cabin once stood. The next day, she returned to the site with two men who found several smaller nuggets. Though they continued to search, those few nuggets were all that they found.
Today, the cache, estimated to be worth about $40,000 when Gordier was alive, is still thought to be buried in the area.