Frank "Shorty" Harris (1856-1934) - One of the best-known and revered
Valley, Frank Harris was born on July 21, 1856 in
Rhode Island, but was orphaned when he was just seven years old. In the
late 1870's, he rode the rails west to seek his fortune in mining. He
spent a lot of time in several mining camps including
Arizona, in the mines of Idaho before making his way to
Valley. Standing just five feet, four inches tall, he soon took on
the nickname of "Shorty," and quickly earned a reputation that he could
"smell gold." Known throughout the region for having found several
good claims, he never worked or developed them. Instead, he spent a lot of
time talking and drinking in saloons rather than doing the hard labor of
mining. Known for his wild exaggerations and tall tales, most of his
stories made him out to be a hero, but, in spite of this, he was
Shorty Harris was responsible for
some of the region's most
famous gold strikes.
In the summer of 1904, Harris partnered
with a man named Ernest "Ed" Cross and on August 9th, they discovered
the Bullfrog Mining District.
According to the tale, as the two were preparing to head out for the
day, Ed was cooking breakfast when one of Shorty's mules took off.
Chasing after the mule, he stubbed his toe on a rock and fell down. As
he was getting up, he looked around before letting out a yell: "There
it is, the strike of the century! Forget the breakfast Eddie, let’s
get ta Goldfield
and get this assayed!" Incredibly, the ore samples came back to
be worth $3,000 per ton and Shorty wasted no time going to the
to celebrate. While Shorty is on a binge for almost a week, Ed was
working on lining up a sale for the mining rights. Unfortunately, Shorty would come out on the "short-end" of this great find as while
he was "celebrating," he gambled away his share for $1,000 and a mule to a man named J.W. McGaliard.
His partner Cross, however, joined
with McGaliard and formed the Original Bullfrog Mine. Later,
his share for $25,000 and he and his wife bought a big ranch in
Shorty continued to search for the all
elusive glittering gold and in the fall of 1904, he hustled another
grubstake from Leonard McGarry, the
Bullfrog postmaster. He and a man
named George Pegot then headed for the Panamint Mountains in December.
There, they found free gold pockets on the north side of Hunter
Mountain. Shorty rushed the sacks of gold to be assayed at
Coming in at $250 a ton, the find began the rush of the Gold Belt
Spring Mining District. However, Shorty drank through most of the
rush, not profiting from his find.
The next year, he obtained another
grubstake and partnered with Jean Pierre "Pete" Aguereberry, who had
just been swindled out of Echo Canyon by Chet Leavitt. The pair soon
headed to Ballarat,
California, taking the trail across the valley
floor and heading up Blackwater Canyon to Wildrose Spring. Along the
way, Aguereberry spotted flecks of gold in a rock and they both soon
staked out several claims, with Pete talking the north half, which he
called Eureka and Shorty claiming the south half, calling it
Providence. The town of
Harrisburg is soon founded and Shorty's two
grubstakers hustled him off to San Francisco to find backers for the
Cashier Gold Mining Company. This time, Shorty didn't gamble away his
interest and ended up with 50,000 shares of stock and $10,000 in cash.
Shorty continued to prospect for the rest of his life, though he never
had a mine he could call his own. At the age of 78, having been ill
for a time, he died in 1934 at his cabin at Big Pine, California.
Before he died he had requested to be buried at the “bottom of
Valley,” beside an old friend named