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Lost Gold At The Dead Man's Mine

MAY 15 1936
Last night John and me sat around a campfire drinking whiskey and talking about many things. John retired to his tent after telling me stories of the great war and getting his fill of spirit. I sat and looked at the stars for a time when all of a sudden there was gun fire. This was way up the mountain at quite a distance, maybe a mile or so. It went on for a good ten minutes. John had heard it and came out of his tent. It eventually quieted and we both retired for the night.
We took turns at digging and panning samples but there was still no color. I finished up before dark and fixed my supper at the stove. Hash and beans and my beloved Irish whiskey.
TO BE CONTINUED .................
MAY 16 1936

I talked with John at breakfast about the prospect of bringing in a third person to the claim. The digging is getting more difficult and as I plan to get much deeper I will require a person to help both in digging and gravel removal. I may also need to cut some timbers to support the walls of the trench work. I have a brother Jacob who works on a farm. He can come out to the claim for a month or two or maybe longer. In order to be fair in all regards John and me will pay Jacob in a small gold percentage equally divided between the two of us. I will personally promise Jacob a wage if no gold is found. John agreed to this new plan and I contacted Jacob today. He will be here in a few days.
This afternoon I worked at widening the trench to six feet and panning gravels at the site. There is little color but my plan is to work towards the first hole but at a deeper level. I am hoping to hit a rich gravel deposit in the deeper depth of gravels. For now all I can do is take my turn at the dig with John taking his turn as well. Removing the gravels is taking more time now and the work is slow. Once Jacob arrives the two of us will dig and timber the trench walls where needed as well as bring out buckets of pay. John will watch our camp and work the tom. I think this is a solid plan for our future.
TO BE CONTINUED ................
MAY 17 1936

Last night I heard the loud screeching of several bobcats close to camp. They eventually moved on. In the morning we talked with a prospector who was hiking along the creek and he stopped by our camp. He seemed like a good fellow and all packed up with gear and dreaming of a strike. He said his name was Will. We told him of our experiences with the riff raff and rag tags as well as the gunfire from the previous night and warned him to be on alert. Will said he was hiking up the mountain and testing gravels near the creeks hoping to stake a claim. We wished him good luck as he hiked up the mountain. It seems to me there are a number of prospectors all looking to make their fortune in these hard times. This is a cut throat business and we have learned to watch our backs. There may be desperados all over these Sierra Nevada mountains.
John and me took our turns at working the trench and panning gravels. We are working at lengthening now and not getting any deeper as I am worried about collapse without timbers to support walls where needed. The gravels seem stable enough for now but when Jacob arrives we will cut and buck trees. The day passes with only the sound of the pick and shovel striking against the rock and gravels of the old channel. Once again a day goes by with no gold.
TO BE CONTINUED .....................
MAY 18 1936
Last night John and me sat out by the outside cook stove warming hash and beans. We stayed out awhile and ended up deep in the cups. We talked of gold and riches. At some point I thought I heard something stir in the woods outside of camp. John said it might be a bear as we had been cooking but at a good distance from camp where we slept. We had the rifles as always. John always had his Colt in his holster as well. It got quiet again for a while but then we heard the crack of a branch. Then there was a call out to us from someone. Whoever it was said they were coming into camp. There were a few lanterns and four men walked in.
John jumped up with his rifle and asked them what they were up to. I stood up with my rifle as well. The one in front said they were heading back down the mountain to the road below and were going into town. They had been on a mining trip but the prospects were few and far between. He said they had gotten a little gold but barely enough to cover the bacon and beans. He asked us how we were fairing.
I asked him what made him think we were prospecting for gold? He said he's seen the tom in the creek. Then he asked where our camp was. John told him we weren't having any luck at all and where our camp was located was none of his affair. I didn't like the look of any of this and I was getting real uneasy. This crew had us outnumbered and seemed to be feeling out our situation.
I said the rest of our crew was tented up in camp not far off and that John and me were finishing up supper. I saw a couple of their crew carrying a rifle and a shotgun. John asked them why they were traveling at night up in these mountains. The crew leader said it had been a rough outing and they were in a hurry to get back to town. Also, he said, it was cooler for hiking at night. He said they had good lanterns.
John told them we had heard gunfire higher up the mountain a few nights back. The crew leader said he hadn't heard anything but maybe it was someone shooting a bear or lion in camp. We could have pushed it but didn't and they moved on down the creek. I told John we needed to get back to camp and we would have to sit watch all night not knowing if their story was true. So we took our turns on watch without further incident.
In the morning we took our turns at the diggings expanding the length of the trench. Tomorrow I will be going into town to get supplies and pick up my brother who will arrive by bus. Then I plan to turn the digging up a notch and try to get back into gold gravels. Lately there seems to be more and more prospectors roaming the creeks and mountains as the weather improves. We will need to be very careful out here.

TO BE CONTINUED ........................
MAY 19 1936
Today I went into town and met up with my brother Jacob and took him out to the claims. When I arrived I saw John talking to the law. Jacob and me walked over to see what was what. John said we better hear this. The deputy said they had a report of a prospector getting killed up on the mountain the other day. They had found him shot in his camp. His partner had escaped and reported the incident. There were four men and he gave a description. We told the deputy what we had heard and about what time of night and about the four men who had hiked down the mountain and our encounter with them. The deputy said that fit the description and time of the murder. The prospectors camp was robbed along with the gold they had. He took our names and thanked us for the information. Then he looked at us and said to be careful out here, it wasn't safe. And if we had any problems let him know. We said we would but John and me had already decided to handle things ourselves.
Jacob looked at me with wide eyes as if thinking what he got himself into out here. I had told him about our problems with the hooligans but this was another step up in danger. I told him that if he wanted to go home he could but he declined and said he would stick with us. I was glad for that for sure as we needed him. I introduced him to John and we sat in camp for an hour and ate some bacon and beans and helped Jacob set up his tent and went to work.
By now it was mid afternoon so John watched camp while Jacob and me went up to dig. I explained what was what and we set about dropping and bucking trees with the crosscut saw for support timbers in the trench. We took a good amount of timber over to the diggings before dusk and called it a day.
The three of us sat around camp after supper and drank some good whiskey Jacob had brought. We decided to take watch shifts at camp from now on. Any unwelcome trespasser would be dealt with in a hard manner.
TO BE CONTINUED ...............
MAY 20 1936

This morning Jacob and I went up and started digging the trench in a descending angle towards my first hole. I had got a good drop going at the start of the trench which was about 10 feet deep. At the angle I plan to use I could get down to 30 feet before I hit the first hole. We'll use the timber to set vertical and cross supports from here. That should keep the trench from collapsing in. Some of the areas are good hard gravels and won't need support but anything that looks loose or soft will get timbered. I think we can walk the buckets out for a while but at some point we might need to rope them out with a hand winch.
The first thing we did in the morning was get 20 buckets down to John to get the tom back in action. He was grateful for that. I think the gold might be weak but we will see what the weigh gives us. Jacob is a hell of a hand and loves to work the pick. I'll tell you that's fine by me and my back. He's a young buck still and has seen just a little color in the pan here and now has the fever already. It is mighty nice having my brother here beside me up in these lonely mountains.
The sound of the pick and the shovel working the gravels rang through the mountain today. Jacob and myself hauled out a total of 75 buckets which wasn't a bad day considering the dense gravel and rock we had to work. All three of us finished the wash and did a weigh under a lantern light. It held some promise. We made 2 ounces and I thought Jacob would dance himself straight into the creek he was so happy. I think the weigh shows the best gold is going to be deeper but I have no idea where the country rock will lie. That fault is like a treasure hunt.
It was darn good to see some gold once again. We fixed a good supper of canned beef and beans and hot water corn bread and I broke out a bottle of Irish.

TO BE CONTINUED ....................
MAY 21 1936

Last night I got woke up by the midnight screachers as I call them. Most likely bobcat that come down the creek at night. Jacob and I went up and dug out 20 buckets and got them down to John. Then we went on top the ground at the dig and started removing some top gravels between the trench and my first hole. I am panning some of this as it's removed and there are traces of color even at the higher areas so we are taking that down to John. It might not be much but there is some gold there. The digging is a lot easier up higher and Jacob and I made good work of it removing 190 buckets in total. My hope was the volume of gravels would make up for what we lacked in quality pay. John couldn't keep up so we will know sometime tomorrow if we got a day's pay out of it. We have a good hole started and will keep going down to about ten ft before we start working the trench towards it. My plan is to work away at the bottom when the trench gets there to meet up and let the gravels slowly collapse into the trench and either walk the buckets out using the ramp or rope them out.
We are all three of us curious as to what this new dig will bring us. My best guess is there are rich gravels lower than the kettle in hole one. It will take quite a while to get all this dug out and I am gambling all our efforts on a good pay off at the end.

TO BE CONTINUED .....................
MAY 22 1936

Just before breakfast I spotted a man moving down the mountain at a good pace. When he got close I saw it was Will, the prospector who was heading up the mountain the other day. He came running over to where we were cooking. I asked him what was the big hurry and he said he'd been run off by four men. They had taken his gear and roughed him up a bit. They told him if he didn't git they would leave him tied to a tree. I told Will that was bad luck but he's lucky to be alive. I told him what the deputy had told me about someone up there getting murdered.
Will said he was going to walk back into town and go back home - he was quitting the prospecting idea. I told him to hang on a minute and me and John and Jacob had a hub bub. We agreed we could use a fourth man. I told Will and he was mighty excited for the offer. He would bunk with Jacob in his tent and I sent both of them into town in the truck to outfit Will with what he needed. Will was happy to work for a small percent of any gold we got from that day on.
While they were gone John and I talked about all this. John said that those four guys are bad news. We agreed that if they came into camp we would probably have to fight them. We finished up the wash and weigh and only got an ounce out of all that work. I went back up and worked the dig site while John worked around camp.
When Jacob and Will got back we decided to take the rest of the day off and talk with Will a bit. Now we had four to take turns on watch. We all drank some whiskey that night and dreamed about a big strike. We didn't tell Will about what we had got so far.

TO BE CONTINUED ...................
MAY 23 1936

We had a good talk with Will last night and he seems like a good man. He is like us, ready to work hard for his gold. When Jacob and Will were in town there was talk at the supply store about robbers and killers roaming the mountains around here. Jacob said that one guy was saying that the man murdered out here put up a fight against the robbers. We explained to Will that he would be expected to fight with us and protect his gold if there was trouble. He readily agreed. I am fairly certain that the four men we ran into at camp were the robbers. They are probably looking for easy prey and were sizing us up. I am worried about a surprise attack if they are still around. I'm figuring they have a camp set up somewhere very remote and come out at times looking for prospectors who they know are well equipped and most likely have some gold. Will is armed once again. The hooligans had stolen his rifle and I helped him buy a new one when he was in town. I told him to keep it close at all times.
We can now have two crews. Will and John at the tom and me and Jacob at the dig. Me and Jacob can dig and haul the last of the gravels down to the tom at dusk. John and Will can finish the wash and weighs by the next morning. That gives me time to get more gravels down the next morning as they finish the panning. It will be a more efficient system with no weighting for gravels to wash like before. This is well worth having Will on the crew. It will also help to divide the watch with four men. We are only watching camp at night as there is nothing being left at the dig at night and it would be hard for robbers to get much at this time as the gravels are so poor. If we hit a strike I will change that plan.
We dug more top gravel today and made good speed as well with 205 buckets in all. We will see what the weigh brings tomorrow. When we get deeper in the pay we will start developing the trench work again. It is all hard work for sure.

TO BE CONTINUED .......................
MAY 24 1936

Jacob and me broke for lunch and went down to camp to eat and get the weigh numbers. They were still not what we had at the kettle by far with one and one half ounces. That is still a good day's work by any standard and the ground at the fault is producing steady gold. Will seemed quite happy with his cut and like the rest of us is hoping for more. The weather has gotten hot during the day and I am working to remove more of the top layer of gravels above what will be the southern end of the trench. I have had to add two holes in my belt as I am working off weight with the heavy labor but it is the most satisfying work I have ever done. Everyone is concentrated on the job at hand and we all get along in pursuing a common goal which is gold.
Me and Jacob work at a steady pace and have found that an easy pace works best for a long day. We start the dig at just an hour after daybreak and end our day an hour before dark. The gravels are still not too hard to dig except for the rounded rock which is beginning to show at four feet in the depth. The rock that will fit in the bucket is hauled to the tom and anything larger that can be cleaned of attached gravel is done over the bucket so we get any gold that clings. That is the slow and heavy work as the rock encountered begins to get bigger. There is much loose gravel as well and that is the easy and fast work. It is going to get much slower as we deepen the cuts and have to haul out the buckets. My hope is that when we get deep the gold will be there in promiscuous amounts. The gold at the upper levels has been mostly very fine and just paying good day wages to us. Today we filled 180 buckets.
We all ended the day down at camp after another good day and no hooligans. John brought up the idea of a couple of us going up the mountain to look for any camps. I told him I'd rather spend my day digging for gold. I heard the law went on an excursion up the mountain but had no luck finding them. If they are smart they have left this area.

TO BE CONTINUED ..................
MAY 25 1936

Jacob woke me up after midnight last night. John was up and Will was at the edge of camp. He was on watch and woke up John and Jacob. He said there was something moving on our side of the creek just outside of camp. He thought he saw someone north of camp. We all had our rifles ready. I told Jacob and Will to stay put and keep a look out while John and me went out to have a look see. We split off about 100 feet apart and snuck up the east side of the creek keeping low. We got up to the north a ways and John hollered OVER THERE. I didn't see anything and ran over to where he was standing. John said he saw three or four men running up to the north. We took off on the run. Then we stopped and I could hear branches moving and breaking 100 feet or so ahead of us. I told John they must have seen us. Not wanting to get drawn into a trap at night we decided to head back down to camp.
Then we heard the crack of a rifle. Someone up there had shot at us. We couldn't see a thing. There was a half moon but they were well hidden. We scooted back to camp and told Will and Jacob what happened. John wanted to go back up and look for them but it was too dangerous and I talked him out of it. I think they were sneaking in on our camp to jump us when Will spotted them. All four of us fired a volley up in that direction just for the hell of it and it was all quiet after that. We sat around watching for an hour and then John took watch and the rest of us retired.
In the morning at breakfast John was stirred up good. He said we had cut throats on the mountain and he would kill them if he found them. No one else said too much but we all knew we could get jumped at any time. I calmed John down and said we just need to keep watch like we are doing and we'll be alright. I'm sure they know by now that we were getting gold. They also know we will fight.
So after breakfast we all went back to work. I think I worked harder than I ever have that day. Maybe it was to calm my nerves. We continued to dig the top gravels and made 205 buckets. Out of yesterday's 180 buckets we got two ounces. The gravels continue to be rich. We sat around for a while after dark drinking whiskey and then I took first watch.

TO BE CONTINUED ...................
MAY 26 1936

We only got one half ounce out of the 205 buckets from yesterday's dig. We are all somewhat disappointed in the weigh but we will keep going deeper. More gold must still be in this area. Jacob and me are getting the top of the trench hollowed out. The digging is not too bad. We had a black bear cross just north of our dig area this morning. He was a big one but paid us no mind.
When we took the first load of gravels down to the creek John was still going on about heading up the mountain to look for the hooligans, I told him I didn't think it was safe and if we did find them what would he do? He said he would make them talk by any means needed and get the stolen goods back. I think we are better served by keeping the mine running and standing our watch at night. Anyone trying to rob us will be hard pressed to get our supplies or gold. They know we are armed and will fight. We need to work every day to get as much gold as we can before the creek slows. John seemed to listen to what I had to say.
We removed 175 buckets of gravel by the end of the day. We got slowed towards the end by some large rock we moved with the bar. That can sometimes indicate a strike. I did a few pans in the tub by the dig but only saw a bit of color so we will see tomorrow when the tom is worked. Jacob is sore all over. His body is adjusting to the constant digging and lifting. We work at a steady but sure pace and are relentless in our effort. There has been no trouble with trespassers today.

TO BE CONTINUED .................
MAY 27 1936

All was quiet last night. Today's gold weigh was light. Almost no gold again. I sent Will up higher on the fault to take buckets for samples. Will is young but a good prospector. I think it is a good idea to test some higher gravels at various levels. He was not successful in finding color. I am worried that by late June our creek will slow and that will be the end for the tom. Working a cradle then will be very slow compared to the tom. Or maybe we can get a pump. For that reason I have decided to move Will up to the dig site so we can get deeper in the trench at a faster pace. If there is a big strike left here I will find it. Jacob and me dug 160 buckets. We will see what we found by tomorrow morning when the panning is done.

TO BE CONTINUED ..............
MAY 28 1936

This morning we did a gold weigh of 2 ounces. We are all heartened to be back into the gold.We left John to work the tom while the three of us went at the digging. We all are working the top of the trench going deeper into the pay. The round rock is becoming more plentiful. In the early afternoon I saw John walking up the mine road. What now I thought. He said the law was down at camp and wanting to talk with us. We all four jumped in the truck with some loaded buckets and drove down to the creek. There were two deputies waiting.
The deputies told us they had several strong arm robberies in town this week. One man had been jumped late at night when he came out of the tavern. He was beaten and his money stolen. He said it was a gang of thugs that matched the description of the four rag tags we had dealt with and had robbed Will. They wanted to know if we had seen them on the mountain. The deputies thought they might have a camp set up somewhere remote and also be driving a stolen truck from town. I looked at John and back at the deputies. I told them we hadn't seen anyone. Of course this was a lie but John and me feel bringing in the law dogs would only complicate and slow the mining work, especially if we got involved in court proceedings or something like that. We have a period of time we must use wisely and getting dragged into legal proceedings would not serve our purpose. The deputies said to keep an eye out for the band of hooligans and report anything to them. I said sure, we will do that and gave John a wink. If we ever catch them they will be far worse off than anything the law will do to them.
After our conference with the law dogs was done we went back to work. The gravels were getting better looking again. By day's end we had taken 240 buckets to the tom. I didn't say anything to the others but I had panned a few samples during the day and saw some good color and the gravel looked to hold promise. I will be curious to get the results of the weigh tomorrow. We will take our turns on watch tonight as usual.

TO BE CONTINUED .................
MAY 29 1936

We are back in the money. The weigh produced 4 ounces. This is extremely rich gravel once again. I think it will only get better. The gold has become concentrated in this area as I believe it lies directly under an ancient waterfall where it somehow packed up. I have heard of areas like this but they are rare. The crew is motivated. Will and Jacob are almost out of control with the fever. I want to keep everyone on an even keel.
John once again worked the tom alone while the three of us dug gravel. We encountered some loose areas below the river rock and then encountered country rock. This was in a five foot area. I panned a few samples in the tub and the pans were heavy with color. Large pieces along with chunk and fine. Some of it was the size of a nickel or half an Eagle. I called Will and Jacob over to have a look see. We stood there in amazement. I told them I would take the load of buckets down to John and show him the pan. I jumped in the truck cradling the pan like a new born baby. When I showed John he gave out a holler that they must have heard in town. I left the pan at the tom and told John to pick out the big pieces and put them in a jar and we'd weigh them by themselves.
We seemed to have hit an area of raised or lifted country rock on the fault. The deposit on top is not overly deep so I don't know how much we can get. That will depend on the diameter of the lift. There's several feet of rich pay on top of it.
For the day we removed 70 buckets of this rich gravel along with another 180 buckets of top gravels from the other end of the trench. John is washing the gravels separately so we can see how rich the ground is near country. Tomorrow I will see if the lifted area continues further or if we have it all dug in that spot. John will have it all finished up early tomorrow morning. I am going to leave Will with him for help and also safety now. I don't want to have John alone at the creek. Tomorrow Jacob and me will resume the shovel work by ourselves again. Tonight I am opening a new bottle of whiskey for the crew.

TO BE CONTINUED .....................
MAY 30 1936

The finish of the panning was done early morning. Jacob and me came down to see the weigh. The gravels near the upper level produced an ounce from the 180 buckets. What we all waited for was the 70 buckets from the raised country rock. There was 5 ounces in the pan. We are all happy miners.Then there was the jar with the pieces of gold. They weighed out at 2 ounces bringing yesterday's dig total to 8 ounces. Jacob and me went back up to explore the raised country area and dug to the north working the ground with a vengeance. We dropped off the raised area and the facing fell away under our shovels. The gravels were loose. We were at a depth of about 10 feet and getting lower between the two holes. The trench we had started is becoming more of a pit now, At least that's how it seems. We are tight to the hill facing at our east that rises from 60 feet and up to 80 feet in places along this area. Although the digging is a bit easy the depth is dropping and we will have to haul out the buckets by winch soon. We are still able to walk them out on a steep grade at this point. I have no idea how deep this drop goes. We are now below the raised country by several feet as we dig away. I did some pans at the tub with poor results so I think we will need to get deeper in the drop. My hope is this is a huge kettle in the old river channel under the waterfall where the fault line broke everything up.
We hauled 235 buckets down to John and Will today. It was a good day's work. The creek is still flowing with plentiful water and we are hopeful for more gold in the pan tomorrow.

TO BE CONTINUED ....................