Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Lost Gold Ledge

 The Lost Gold Ledge
Unknown Gold ProspectorWhen the great gold strikes in Goldfield, Tonopah and Rawhide began to draw thousands of people to the Nevadadesert, they also drew a prospector named Tim Cody. Setting up a base camp at Stewart Springs about 15 miles from Goldyke, Cody quickly began to prospect the area. 
Before long, he was running low on supplies and decided to make a trip to Goldyke on an overcast winter’s morning. On foot, he began to make the long journey when a storm began to brew. In the blustery storm, he was soon lost and found shelter in an abandoned mine shaft. 
Spending the night in the mine, he arose to find the storm gone and the skies clear blue.  He began to climb a nearby ridge to get his bearings before continuing his journey to Goldyke. Along the way he found a rich gold vein in a quartz outcropping. Picking up some samples, Cody continued his climb to the top.
At the summit, he could clearly see Paradise Peak and Rawhide Peak to the northwest.  Making his way back down to continue his trip to Goldyke, he was soon lost again, but after some difficulty he finally made his way to the settlement. After re-supplying, he returned to his base camp and tried several times to relocate the gold laden quartz vein.
However his continued searches proved fruitless and finally he moved on.  However, three men showed up in 1949 with a map that Cody had supposedly drawn for them. The three scoured the area looking for the lost ledge, but they too, were unable to find the rich vein of gold.

Today, the legend continues. The lost ledge is said to be somewhere in the hills south of Gabbs. Perhaps, you will be the lucky prospector to find it again.

Joining the thousands of "49ers” rushing intoCalifornia were brothers, Charles and Joshua Breyfogle. Hailing from Lockhart, New York, the pair headed west with a train of saddle and draft horses and two wagons in the spring of 1849. They soon teamed up with other pioneers inColumbusOhio and continued their long journey to the California goldfields.

After many trials and tribulations through theIndian ridden plains, steep mountains, and harsh desert, they finally reached Sacramento on August, 14, 1849.

About a month later the Breyfogles began searching for their fortunes in the promising areas of Butte Creek and the Chico River. Having no success, they had moved on to the YubaRiver, some 12 miles above the California gold rush tent city of Marysville, in January, 1850. 

Nye County, Nevada
Many believe the lost Breyfogle Mine is in Nye County, Nevada.
Again disappointed, they moved upstream a month later to Goodhues, where they began to work on a new claim. This time their efforts paid off, as they began to find gold in the river bottom and along the banks above the river.

By December, 1850, Charles Breyfogle returned to New York with some $20,000, leaving his brother Joshua to work the claim. A year later, Charles returned to California, settling in Oakland where he was elected county assessor in 1854 and treasurer in 1859.  When he couldn’t account for $6,500 in county funds, he was thrown in jail. Though he was soon exonerated and released, he evidently had had his fill of politics and decided to return to prospecting.

Following the new silver strike in Nevada, he went to Virginia City where the buzz was all  about the new finds near Austin, Nevada in 1862. More stories were circulating about gold in the Big Smoky Valley and seeing opportunity, Breyfogle opened a real estate office in a hotel at the mining camp of Geneva. Unfortunately, by the time Charles arrived the Geneva veins were already dwindling and he was once again looking for opportunities.

In 1863, he heard three men at the hotel discussing a crude map. Sure that they were discussing the legendary Lost Gunsight Mine of 
Death Valley, he decided to follow them when they left the next day. Trailing them across Nevada, he caught up with them between Tonopah and Goldfield, where he was surprised to find that the men were not looking for the lost Gunsight lode, but rather were on their way to Texas to join the Confederate army. The men were on their way to join a wagon train on the Los Angelestrail and Breyfogle decided to ride with them for a couple of days.

Three days later, the men were encamped south of Ash Meadows in the Mohave Desert’sAmargosa River Valley. Laying his bedroll out apart from the others, he awoke in the middle of the night to see Indians attacking the other three men. Grabbing his bedroll and boot, he fled in the darkness.

Without provisions or weapons he wandered in the desert for several days until he finally found a spring. Resting there, he found gold in a deposit of quartz and took with him several samples, vying to return if he could ever find his way out of the desert. Heading south, he eventually came upon wagon tracks which he followed to Stump Spring in thePahrump Valley, in Nevada's eastern Mohave desert.

Deciding to wait at the spring for a wagon train to show up, he was instead found byIndians first. Taking him captive, they worked him as a slave for months. Finally a Mormon wagon train came upon the Indian village and freed him with a ransom. Taking him to a ranch at Manse Spring in southern Nevada he was cared for by the wife’s owner, Mrs. Yount. Grateful, he told the family about his gold discovery, showing them the samples he had held onto.

After Breyfogle had fully recovered he settled in AustinNevada, where he would organize search parties for the next 26 years. Concentrating on the region northeast of Death Valley, the men would search in vain, never finding that lost outcropping. But Breyfogle never stopped looking, becoming so obsessed with the search that he once said, "I shall come back a rich man or leave my bones in Death Valley." 

Through the years, many theorized as to where Breyfogle had found the gold, believing it to be located near 
Las Vegas, Salt Spring, or Daylight Pass. However, many believed that the very same rich quartz that Charles had discovered ended up becoming the Johnnie Mine, north of Pahrump, Nevada. The rich lodes of the Johnnie District were first discovered in 1891 by a man named George Montgomery who was searching for the famous Lost Breyfogle Mine. Yet others believe the mine to be in California in the Armargosa River Valley. Though the vast majority believe that Breyfogle’s find was in the Johnnie Mining District, not all researchers and hobbyists are convinced, as they continue to search for Breyfogle’s lost gold.

Armagosa River Valley
Many researchers and hobbyists believe the Lost Breyfogle Mine to yet unfound in the Armagosa River Valley ofCalifornia, photo courtesy
 University of California - Santa Barbara Department of Geography

The Johnnie District is in Nye County, in southwestern Nevada. On the north end of the Pahrump Valley, most of the placer activity was conducted in the washes below the Congress Mine, but also to the northeast of Johnnie on the west slope of the Spring Mountains, and other surrounding areas. To get there, travel south from Las Vegas on Interstate 15 to the junction of State Route 16, then follow northwest past Pahrump for approximately 70 miles to reach the Johnnie District. Here, mines and placers can be seen on both sides of the highway and on the slopes of Mount Schader and Montgomery.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of Americaupdated October, 2010.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CALIFORNIA LEGENDS Rattlesnake Dick's Stolen Loot

Richard Barter, also known as Rattlesnake Dick and Dick Woods, was born in Quebec, Canada, the son of a British officer around 1833. Though little is known of his early history, he was said to have been a reckless sort of boy

During California’s Gold Rush days, he migrated there in 1850, accompanied by an older brother and an old man who was some sort of relative. Settling in at Rattlesnake Bar, a small mining camp in Placer County, the brother and other man soon returned to Canada. But, Dick remained at the camp, working for other miners and doing a little prospecting on his own.

However, Barter was unsuccessful in his quest for gold and soon decided to turn to a life of crime. He began with rustling horses but was as unsuccessful at that as he was at finding gold. In no time, he was arrested and sent to prison for two years.

When he was released he formed a gang made up of  brothers, Cyrus and George Skinner, along with several others. In 1856, Barter learned from a drunken mining engineer that large gold shipments were being sent down Trinity Mountain from the Yreka and Klamath River Mines.

Barter sent George Skinner and three others to intercept the gold shipment, which was packed on mules. George and the other bandits stopped the mule train outside of Nevada City, California holding guns on the muleskinners. Meekly the men turned over $80,600 in gold bullion to Skinner and his men, without a shot being fired.

The bandits then made off with the shipment to keep a rendezvous at Folsom with Barterand Cy Skinner. However, George Skinner found it next to impossible to take the heavy gold shipment down the mountain passes without fresh mules. Soon, he split up the gold shipment burying half of it in the mountains.

Making their way to Auburn, the outlaws were soon intercepted by a Wells Fargo posse and gunfight ensued. In the melee, George Skinner was killed and his confederates fled. The lawmen recovered $40,600 of the stolen loot and though they searched diligently, they failed to find the remaining $40,000.

In the meantime, Rattlesnake Dick and Cy Skinner weren’t at the rendezvous point in Folsom, as they had just been jailed for stealing mules. When they were released, Barterimmediately sought out George Skinner to obtain his share of the gold shipment, only to find that Skinner had been killed. Cy Skinner and Barter spent the next several weeks trying to find the buried gold before they finally gave up.

Both men soon went back to robbing stagecoaches but their luck soon ran out. On July 11, 1859, Sheriff J. Boggs trapped Barter and Skinner in a mountain pass near Auburn,California. Boggs fired a shot right into the heart of Rattlesnake Dick, killing him instantly.Skinner was wounded, but lived to be taken into custody and given a long prison sentence.

The treasure has never been recovered and is said to be somewhere on the slope of Trinity Mountain, said to have been buried about 12 miles south of the hold up point.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated October, 2010

Yreka Mine, 1860

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The California Trail - Rush to Gold

California Trail map
California Trail courtesy National Park Service

"If we never see each other again, do the best you can, God will take care of us." 

- Patty Reed of the Donner-Reed Party 1846

The California Trail carried over 250,000 gold-seekers and farmers to the gold fields and rich farmlands of the Golden State during the 1840s and 1850s, the greatest mass migration in American history. The general route began at various jumping off points along the Missouri River and stretched to various points in California, Oregon, and the SierraNevada. The specific route that emigrants and forty-niners used depended on their starting point in Missouri, their final destination in California, the condition of their wagons and livestock, and yearly changes in water and forage along the different routes. The trail passes through the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho,Utah, Nevada, Oregon, and California.

Before the trail was blazed, the Great Basin region had only been partially explored during the days of Spanish and Mexican rule. However, that changed in 1832 when Benjamin Bonneville, a United States Army officer, requested a leave of absence to pursue an expedition to the west. The expedition was financed by John Jacob Astor, a rival of the Hudson Bay company. While Bonneville was exploring the Snake River in Wyoming, he sent a party of men under Joseph Walker to explore the Great Salt Lake and find an overland route to California.
Early settlers began to use the trail in the 1840's, the first of which was John Bidwell, who led the 1841 Bidwell-Bartleson Party. In 1842, a member of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party returned to Missouri on the Humboldt River Route. Among them was a man named Joseph Chiles, who would lead another party to California in 1843 and play an important part in the subsequent opening of more segments of the California Trail. Throughout the 1840's settlers would develop short cuts on the route to California. One such short cut, called the Hastings Route, ran south of the main route. This "new" route would spell the death of many of those in the infamous Donner Party.
Donner Lake Encampment
Lithograph of Donner Party encampment at Donner Lake
 by C.W. Burton, courtesy California Digital Library.

The main branch of the trail across the Great Plains generally followed the same path as the Oregon and Mormon Trails, but extended to California from various points in southern Wyoming and Idaho. The trail followed the Missouri River before crossing the great plains of Nebraska along the Platte and North Platte Rivers to present-day Wyoming. It then followed the Sweetwater River across Wyoming, then northwest along the Snake River to Fort Hall in present-day southeastern Idaho. Fort Hall was the Hudson Bay Company's post on the Snake River. From here, the primary route followed the Snake River south to American Falls, past Massacre Rocks, and Register Rock to cross the Raft River. After the crossing of the river, the trail split with theOregon Trail, with the California bound emigrants turning south through the Raft River Valley to the City of Rocks.The trail then climbed through the Pinnacle and Granite Passes, before dropping down to Goose Creek and meandering south through the northwest corner of Utah and into Nevada. At the headwaters of the Humboldt River in present-day northwesternNevada the California Trail followed the north bank of the Humboldt River southwest through present day Elko, Nevada and the narrow Carlin Canyon, where, during periods of high water, the route was almost impassable.
West of Carlin, the California Trail climbed Emigrant Pass, descending into Emigrant Canyon to rejoin the Humboldt River at Gravelly Ford. Here, the route divided to follow the north and south sides of the river, before rejoining at Humboldt Bar. Various routes branched out across the Sierra Nevada, as the emigrants made there way to various destinations in California.

Early emigrants once called the California Trail an elephant, due to the difficult journey. If you wanted to get to California in pre-railroad times, you were guaranteed an arduous trek. California emigrants faced the greatest challenges of all the pioneer emigrants of the mid-19th century. In addition to the Rockies, these emigrants faced the barren deserts of Nevada and the imposing SierraNevada Range.

"I think that I may without vanity affirm
that I have seen the elephant."

- Louisa Clapp

The travelers of the California Trail often quipped that if you had "seen the elephant," then you had hit some hard traveling.

When gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California, the trickle of emigrants became a flood as thousands of prospectors and families made their way to the Golden State in hopes of finding their fortunes. According to some statistics, over 70,000 emigrants used the California Trail in 1849 and 1850 alone.

In the two decades of the 1840's and 1850's, the California Trailcarried over 250,000 gold-seekers and farmers to the state's gold fields and rich farmlands. It was the greatest mass migration in American history.

Eventually, the portions of the railroad followed parts of the California Trail and as the automobile was introduced and began to be used by the masses, highways replaced the trail. Today, U.S. Highways 40 and 80 follow the path of the California Trail.

The California Trail system, which now includes approximately 5,665 miles of trails, was developed over a period of years. Numerous cutoffs and alternate routes were tried along theCalifornia Trail to see which was the "best" in terms of terrain, length and sufficient water and grass for livestock.

City of Rock in southern Idaho
City of Rocks in southern Idaho courtesy
National Park Service

California Trail in Nevada, approaching the Sierra Nevada
California Trail in Nevada, approaching the Sierra
Nevada, courtesy National Park Service.

Time to get your spring season equipment try looking at 
Today, more than 1,000 miles of trail ruts and traces can still be seen in the vast undeveloped lands between Casper, Wyoming and the West Coast, reminders of the sacrifices, struggles, and triumphs of early American travelers and settlers. About 2,171 miles of this system cross public lands, where most of the physical evidence that still exists today is located, including the names of emigrants written with axle grease on the rocks at theCity of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho. More than 300 historic sites along the trail will eventually be available for public use and interpretation.
© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June, 2010.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Sand Creek Massacre Great Places for metal detectors!!!

Sand Creek Massacre

Painting of the attack on Sand Creek, courtesy the Colorado Historical Society

The Sand Creek Massacre, occurring on November 29, 1864, was one of the most infamous incidents of the Indian Wars. Initially reported in the press as a victory against a bravely fought defense by the Cheyenne, later eyewitness testimony conflicted with these reports, resulting in a military and two Congressional investigations into the events.
Starting in the 1850’s, the gold and silver rush in the Rocky Mountains brought thousands of white settlers into the mountains and the surrounding foothills. Dislocating and angering the Cheyennes and Arapahos who lived on the land, the Pike's Peak Gold Rush in 1858 brought the tension to a boiling point.

Washington, December 20, 1864

"The affair at Fort Lyon, Colorado, in which Colonel Chivington destroyed a large Indian village, and all its inhabitants, is to be made the subject of congressional investigation. Letters received from high officals in Colorado say that the Indians were killed after surrendering, and that a large proportion of them were women and children."
The Indians soon began to attack wagon trains, mining camps and stagecoach lines, a practice that increased during the Civil War, when the number of soldiers in the area was greatly decreased. Soon, this led to what became known as the Colorado War of 1864-1865.
As the violence between the Native Americans and the miners continued to increase, territorial governor John Evans sent a Voluntary Militia commander by the name of Colonel John Chivington to quiet the Indians. Chivington, though once a member of the clergy, his compassion did not extend to the Indians and his desires to extinguish them all was well known.
In the spring of 1864, while the Civil War raged in the east, Chivington launched a campaign of violence against the Cheyenne and their allies, his troops attacking any and all Indiansand razing their villages. The Cheyenne, joined by neighboring ArapahoSiouxComanche, and Kiowa in both Colorado and Kansas, went on the defensive warpath.
Soon, Evans and Chivington reinforced their militia, raising the Third Colorado Cavalry of short-term volunteers who referred to themselves as the "Hundred Dazers." After a summer of scattered small raids and clashes, the Cheyennes and Arapahos were ready for peace, and as a result, the Indian representatives met with Evans and Chivington at Camp Weld outside of Denver on September 28, 1864. Though no treaties were signed, the Indiansbelieved that by reporting and camping near army posts, they would be declaring peace and accepting sanctuary. 
However on the day of the "peace talks” Chivington received a telegram from General Samuel Curtis (his superior officer) informing him that "I want no peace till the Indians suffer more...No peace must be made without my directions."
Unaware of Curtis's telegram, Black Kettle and some 550 Cheyennes and Arapahos, having made their peace, traveled south to set up camp on Sand Creek under the promised protection of Fort Lyon. Those who remained opposed to the agreement headed North to join the Sioux.
Knowing that the Indians had surrendered, Chivington led his 700 troops, many of them drinking heavily, to Sand Creek and positioned them, along with their four howitzers, around the Indian village. The ever trusting Black Kettle raised both an American and a white flag of peace over his tepee.

However, Chivington ignored the symbol of peace and surrender, raising his arm for attack. An easy victory at hand, cannons and rifles began to pound upon the camp as the Indians scattered in panic. The frenzied soldiers began to charge, hunting down men, women, and children, shooting them unmercifully. A few warriors managed to fight back allowing some members of the camp to escape across the stream.
One man, Silas Soule, a Massachusetts abolitionist, refused to follow Colonel Chivington's orders. He did not allow his cavalry company to fire into the crowd.
The troops kept up their indiscriminate assault for most of the day, during which numerous atrocities were committed. One lieutenant was said to have killed and scalped three women and five children who had surrendered and were screaming for mercy. Finally breaking off their attack they returned to the camp killing all the wounded they could find before mutilating and scalping the dead, including pregnant women, children and babies. They then plundered the teepees and divided up theIndians' horse herd before leaving
When the attack was over, as many as 150 Indians lay dead, most of which were old men, women and children. In the meantime, the cavalry lost only 9 or ten men, with about three dozen wounded. Black Kettle and his wife followed the others up the stream bed, his wife being shot in the back and left for dead.
Black Kettle's wife, although shot nine times, somehow managed to survived the attack. The survivors, over half of whom were wounded, sought refuge in the camp of the Cheyenne Dog Warriors (who had remained opposed to the peace treaty) at Smokey Hill River. Many of the Indians joined the Dog Soldiers, deciding there could be no successful negotiations with the white men and were waging war against them. Indeed, the Sand Creek Massacre is cited as a critical cause of the Little Big Horn battle, as many Cheyenne warriors simply devoted their lives to war against the US.
The Colorado volunteers returned to Denver, exhibiting their scalps, to receive a hero's welcome. Initially the battle was reported in the press as a victory against a bravely-fought defense by the Cheyenne. Within weeks, however, eyewitnesses came forward offering conflicting testimony, leading to a military investigation and two Congressional investigations into the events. Silas Soule was eager to testify against Chivington. However, after he testified, Soule was murdered by Charles W. Squires, believed to have been ordered by Chivington.
As the details came out, the US public was shocked by the brutality of the massacre. The congressional investigation subsequently determined the crime to be a "sedulously and carefully planed massacre." When asked at the military inquiry why children had been killed, one of the soldiers quoted Chivington as saying, "nits make lice." Though Chivington was denounced in the investigation and forced to resign, neither he nor anyone else was ever brought to justice for the massacre.
While the Sand Creek Massacre outraged easterners, it seemed to please many people in Colorado Territory. Chivington later appeared on a Denver stage where he regaled delighted audiences with his war stories and displayed 100 Indian scalps, including the pubic hairs of women.
As word of the massacre spread among the Indians of the southern and northern plains, their resolve to resist white encroachment stiffened. An avenging wildfire swept the land and peace returned only after a quarter of a century.
Through the years, the area of the Sand Creek Massacre has continued to be visited and commemorated. An aging John Chivington returned to the area in 1887, and in 1908 Veterans of the Colorado Regiments planned a reunion at the site. In August of 1950 the Colorado Historical Society assisted local residents and the Eads and Lamar Chambers of Commerce in placing a marker atop the bluff at the Dawson South Bend. Sand Creek descendants remain active in tribal communities inMontanaOklahoma, and Wyoming – and Council Representatives continue to work alongside the National Park Service.  
The massacre site was authorized as a National Historic site on August, 2, 2005. However, it will not be established until theNational Park Service acquires enough land to provide for the preservation, commemoration, and interpretation of the Sand Creek Massacre and is not yet open to the public.

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

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Colorado 81036 

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Camp Weld meeting
Black Kettle (seated center) and other Cheyenne chiefs conclude successful peace talks with Major Edward W. Wynkoop (kneeling with hat) at Fort Weld, Colorado, in September 1864. Based on the promises made at this meeting, Black Kettle led his band back to the Sand Creek reservation, where they were massacred in late November. Photo courtesy National Archives.

Native American Vintage PhotographsNative American Photo Prints  - Vintage photographs of famous chiefs, heroes, and Indian life in the 19th century.

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