Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dutch Oven Mine of San Bernardino County

In 1894, Tom Scofield, a railroad worker, was surveying near the Clipper Mountains northwest of Essex, California when he decided to do a little exploring. When he was about three miles up the side of the mountain, he ran across an old abandoned stone house that appeared to have been built years previously.  Continuing along, he hiked approximately nine more miles when he came upon a spring. There, he followed a trail that led over the hill where he came upon a rock atop the peak that he described as being as big as a house. The large boulder was split in two and the trail continued straight through it. Beyond the passageway he stumbled into what appeared to be an old Spanish camp.

Clipper Mountains northwest of Essex, California
The Clipper Mountains are northwest of Essex, California
Tom found himself standing on a high shelf, surrounded by high walls. Through other openings in the rock walls, he could see that the "shelf” was sitting high above the ground at about 500 feet. The only way in or out of the little flat was through the split rock. Scattered about the long deserted camp, Scofield found rusty mining tools, pots, pans, fragments of a bedroll, and an old iron Dutch oven.
Also on the shelf was a mine shaft, in which he found the skeletons of seven burrows. Next to the shaft was a mine dump that contained numerous stones still containing rich gold quartz. By the time he had finished exploring the campsite, he realized that it was too late to return to his base camp. Cold and hungry, he bedded down on the shelf planning to leave at daybreak. In the morning, as he was leaving, he tripped over the Dutch oven and out tumbled a mound of pure gold nuggets. Shocked, Tom gathered as many nuggets as he could carry and returned to his base camp. From there he caught a train to Los Angeles, where he spent the next two months in a drunken frenzy, gambling and living the high life. After squandering all the money he had received from the sale of the gold nuggets, Scofield found himself sober and completely broke. It would be two years before he was able to make his way back to the Clipper Mountains to search for the "Dutch Oven Mine.”  Try as he might, it seemed to him that everything had changed and he was completely unable to retrace his steps. Disillusioned, he finally gave up the search.
When Scofield was 84, he was interviewed by Walter H. Miller and George Haight in 1936. Living in an abandoned store in the Mojave Desert outside Danby, California, Scofield was at first hesitant to tell his story. After having been hounded for four decades by treasure hunters wanting more information about the mine, he had long tired of the story even though he continued to insist that it was true.
Today, the Dutch Oven Mine continues to be lost, or at least no one has ever claimed to have found it.The Clipper Mountains are located in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California. The range is found just south of Interstate 40 and the Clipper Valley, between the freeway and National Old Trails Highway, northwest of the small community of Essex. The range is home to at least three springs, as well as the Tom Reed Mine.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated November, 2009.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The New Geocache Craze

I see there is a new adventure sport emerging. It is called Geocaching. Geocaching is a real world game that consists of people hiding caches, then others go to find it. Hide and seek for adults basically. There are some sites that offer prizes for finding caches. One asks that you trade a found cache for another one. It is becoming quite a trend.

Now forgive me for being naive - but if you are going to burn gas and energy looking for treasure - why wouldn't it be REAL treasures that you search out? There is so much actual bonified treasure out there to be found - old coins, pioneer artifacts, Indian artifacts, actual lost mines and long buried treasures from yesteryear, and this is not to even mention gem minerals. The attraction of hunting for planted "caches" just escapes me somehow.

Rockhound State Park about nine miles southeast of
Deming, New Mexico.  Photo courtesy Texas Campgrounds
There are ghost towns all over, and in those ghost towns are many lost items just waiting for the fortunate hunter to dig up and bring back to the world. Of course, this is just whole towns. Anyone hiking in areas previously trod by early gold rush era prospectors or pioneers is bound to stumble across lost homesteads at some time or other. Where ever parties of pioneers, wagon trains, or stagecoaches came through, there rests the possibility of real treasures. Pioneers were known to often bury treasures when they were being pursued by those who might steal it, or when the load became too cumbersome to be able to travel with it. I'm sure these people meant to recover these treasures at a later date, but for reasons ranging from untimely death to just lost directions, many of these caches remain buried and waiting for recovery to this day.

What about lost mines? No one yet has found the Lost Dutchman mine, now you want a real thrill, be the first to dig that one up. That is only one mine lost in the archives of history waiting to be retrieved. The Lost Cement Gold Mine still remains lost near the head of the middle fork of the San Joaquin river and the Lost Soldier Mine somewhere in Arizona near the Gila River bend has thus far managed to elude hunters. This is only a couple of mentions out of scores, possibly hundreds, of lost mines just waiting for rediscovery. Pirates and Bandits were well known to bury treasures as well. No report has been made of the Lake George or South Mountain treasures in Colorado having been found yet. Florida itself is not much more than a grand treasure cache, with hundreds of caches having been dug up that were left by pirates, explorers, and people fleeing battles, and who knows how many left to discover - and that is on land. For the adventuresome scuba diver, the gulf is an explorers paradise, hiding wrecks of ships toren on reefs, lost in storms, or sunk in battles.

The South Western portion of the US abounds with treasure stories of lost Indian treasures, caches stolen by invading Spaniards and buried to be lost later, and stagecoach and train robberies that resulted in burial of treasures. While some of these stories can be chocked up to legend, historical evidence exists to support many.

So maybe the fact with the Geocache game is the competition and involvement with others. Real treasure hunting does not necessarily negate these factors. Many a treasure hunt that I have seen revolves around shared research and information, as well as teams of hunters who report back to each other about progresses and failures. Some are undertaken with the spirit of sharing a cache, while others involve shared information but the actual discovery is pretty much a finders-keepers, winner-take-all proposition.

 So simply speaking - while Geocaching sounds like an entertaining way to spend a weekend - for me "ain't nothing like the real thing, baby."

©2005 Sally Taylor

Friday, December 10, 2010

Outlaw Roy Gardner's Loot

In the early 1900s train robber and gunrunner, Roy Gardner, began his career of thievery inArizona and California. On April 16, 1920 the curly-headed young man stole $78,000 in cash and securities from a mail truck in San Diego, California. Though it was a smooth job, the outlaw was arrested just three days later. Soon his name would become as well known to the lawmen of California as Jesse James.
Sentenced to 25 years in McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary near Tacoma, Washington, Gardner vowed to never serve the sentence, even though no one had successfully escaped this high security prison. On June 5, 1920, Gardner was on his way to Washington to serve his sentence, but when he and two other prisoners were being returned from the diner to their compartment, the outlaws attacked the guards and escaped.
On May 19, 1921, Gardner boarded the mail car of a Southern Pacific train, tied up the clerk and fled the train in Roseville,California, with $187,000 in cash and securities.
Two days Gardner was arrested again while playing a game of cards in a Roseville,California pool-hall. Attempting to reduce his long sentence, he offered to lead the lawmen to the money. However, he must have changed his mind when, after leading the officers on a wild goose chase of the surrounding hills, he announced, "I guess I have forgotten where I buried that money."

Gardner was given an additional twenty-five years at McNeill's Island and on June 10, Deputy Marshals Mulhall and Rinckell set out from San Francisco with their prisoner. Gardner again vowed that he would not serve the sentence and the very next night just before the train was nearing the Portland, he managed to escape once again. 
However, he was soon recaptured when an alert hotel proprietor in Centralia, Washington alerted the law.
This time a heavily ironed Gardner traveled once again to Tacoma, Washington , on June 17, 1921. Four miles long and two miles wide, McNeil's Island, surrounded by an expanse of icy water and swift tidal currents, would make escape impossible -- no one had ever managed it before.

However, on the afternoon of Labor Day, September 5,1921, as Gardner watched a baseball game between two prison teams, he would once again make an escape. Sitting between to fellow prisoners by the names of Lawardus Bogart and Everett Impyn, Gardner suddenly said "Now," when a batter sent a ball far out into center field. As the guards in the towers had their eyes on the ball and the runners, the three men crawled through a hole in the fence and were on the other side before they were spotted.

Making for a nearby pasture where they could shelter behind the livestock, bullets began to kick at their feet before they could reach the herd. Continuing to dash across the field toward timber, Impyn was shot dead. When Gardner had almost reached the timber, a bullet tore through his left leg and he went down. At almost the same time he saw Bogart fall, waving weakly for him to go on.
Within ten minutes after the break prison launches carrying guards scoured the beaches and confiscated every boat on the shoreline. As Gardner hid in the timber darkness came and went and at daybreak he was still at liberty.

Warden Maloney believed there was no way that Gardner could have escaped the island, but as two more days passed, and not a single trace of the Gardner could be found, he began to think differently.

Two more weeks passed and the authorities had to admit the Gardner had probably gotten off the Island. Nothing more was heard from Gardner until November 3, 1921, when a lone bandit held up the Southern Pacific train at Maricopa, Arizona. Though nothing was taken, the mail clerk thought it was Gardner.
On November 15, Gardner attempted to hold up a mail train in Phoenix, Arizona, but the mail clerk was a powerful man and fought back. The gun discharged but no one was hit.
This time there would be no escape. Another twenty-five years were added to Gardner's sentence and he was taken toLeavenworth (Kansas) Federal Penitentiary but was later moved to the Atlanta Federal Prison. While there he attempted yet another escape, but this one was unsuccessful and he paid for it with twenty months in solitary confinement.

When he came out of the "hole" he was crazy and ended up spending time in St. Elizabeth Hospital for the Insane, at Washington, D. C., but was later removed to Alcatraz to complete his sentence.

Gardner made several futile appeals for clemency, but was not released until 1939. He ended his own life in a small hotel room in San Francisco, explaining that men who served more than five years in prison were doomed and that he was old and tired.

Thus ended a criminal career and somewhere, an estimated $250,000 of his loot still remains hidden. Gardner had neither the time nor the opportunity to spend is ill gotten wealth, nor partners to share it with.

Legend has it that he hid some $16,000 in gold coins in the cone of an extinct volcano near FlagstaffArizona before he was captured during a train robbery in 1921. But, where is the rest? CaliforniaWashington? Or somewhere in between?

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February, 2010.

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