Amber is formed from the resin secreted from pine trees. Over millions of years this gummy substance was compacted by the pressure of later deposits of gravel, sand, and other sedimentary materials that settled on top of it. It was turned into solid lumps, which were eventually dislodged and transported by geological activity to alluvial deposits on river banks and seashores.
A precious gemstone, amber is used to make earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and many other types of ornamental objects. Some amber contains the perfectly preserved remains of frogs, insects, or lizards that became stuck while the amber was still liquid. These fossils provide valuable information about life on Earth millions of years ago.
Amber has been known for thousands of years. Its English name is derived from anbar, the Arabic word for ambergris. Ancient Romans believed that amber would encourage those who wore it, so it was given to gladiators before battle. Other ancient people that amber would protect unborn babies and ward off fire. Amber is only slightly denser than water and will therefore sometimes float. When it is rubbed, amber develops a charge of electricity, and this can be seen in the way it collects dust.
Small grains of amber have been reported from lignite beds on the south bank of the Quesnel River. Transparent to translucent amber in shades of yellow, brown, green and black is associated with the lignite deposits at the Coalmont Collieries at Coalmont. Nodules are found in shaly sandstone along the Peace River Canyon, and sizable nodules off the Pacific coast on Graham Island of the Queen Charlottes. Other possible sources include Hat Creek and the Nechako River.
Old mining sites are rich spots for the prospector, offering the possibilities of rich gold ore and more. When prospecting old mine sites it is important to keep safety in mind at all times. Never enter too far into old mine shafts. Not only do they have the possibility of collapse, but poisonous gases also linger in them.
It is from the tailings piles that great mineral, gold, and lapidary finds are likely to be made. The materials comprising the tailings come from deep within the mine and give you a “bird’s-eye” view of what is deep inside without having to enter the mine. Commonly, such items as crystals and semiprecious material can be found among the tailings, and if you are lucky, a nice specimen of gold ore. This is where you’re metal detector will come in handy. For all areas, bring your gold pan and a canteen full of water. Many of these areas do not have water and the water from your canteen can be used over and over.
Hunting through mine dumps is always entertaining and rewarding. Many unique finds such as rail spikes, iron spheres from old ball mills, old tins, and glass pharmaceutical bottles. A metal detector can be used to search for coins or gold caches and hidden gold pokes around building foundations. If building walls and chimneys are intact, pass your detector over the walls as well. Old time prospectors liked to hide their gold pokes in the walls of their cabin or behind loose stones in their hearths and chimneys.
A portable black light is another useful tool. The ultraviolet light will reveal the blue-white glow of scheelite, or the blue-green glow of calcite. Be sure to take along your camera. The old mine workings and their surrounding natural vistas provide interesting and memorable photographic opportunities. Bring along a canvas bag. You can carry your rock hammer, geology pick, chisels, etc. in it and it makes for a great way to carry your samples.
With winter approaching, it is a great time to do your research. A side trip to an old mine site can add a new dimension to your prospecting. Remember that caution and attention for both young and old alike will ensure your trip is fun and rewarding. Keep your eyes to the ground and your mind open, and you never know what wonderful and valuable treasures you may find.
Prospectors who search only for gold, especially placer gold, are likely to walk over a great deal more treasure than they find. Limiting prospecting to one type of exploration can be an expensive and time-consuming enterprise that may leave the searcher thoroughly frustrated at the end of the hunt.
Gold and gemstones have a lot in common. Both are much heavier than sand and gravels and will settle out together in the same running water pools and will usually be found together on bedrock. Diversifying your equipment to recover more than one type of treasure is an important aspect of the prospectors arsenal. Any time you decide to work a particular area for one type of treasure, you might just as well get all the goodies it holds. Many prospectors merely scratch the surface in their efforts, find nothing, and become completely disheartened with the entire operation.
Recognizing rock and mineral associations and understanding regional geology is important. The successful prospector must not only focus on regional geology, but also on surrounding host rocks, mineral and rock associations & geological environments. Much of Canada is underlain by a stable continental core known as a Craton. Cratons consist of older continental cores referred to as Archons (rocks greater than 2.5 billion years old), Protons consisting of Early Proterozoic age basement rocks (1.8 to 2.5 billion years) and Tectons (Late Proterozoic basement rocks, 1.8 to about 600 million years old).
So what does all this mean? Well, using geological reasoning, a Canadian group headed to the Northwest Territories of Canada and after considerable time, discovered diamond-rich kimberlite at Lac de Gras that now is marked by one of the largest diamond mining facilities in the world.
A metal detector should be an integral part of your arsenal. Not only can you detect for gold nuggets, but you also find other trace minerals such as silver, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, etc. And let’s not forget the other hidden treasure. Don’t forget, the old-timers didn’t have garbage pickup. So they dug a hole and buried all their cans, trash, and bottles into the hole. When the hole was full, they covered it and dug another one. The old cans may be corroded but the bottles are highly collectible.
In addition, there is always the possibility of finding loose coins, or even a pot of gold or coins that these old-timers buried. Many of them distrusted banks and buried their valuables. Look for signs of old sites of habitation, such as house foundations, post poles, water wells, and old tailings piles. It is also possible to find old Indian artifacts, many of which were made out of copper, although there have been finds of gold.
There are times the treasure spirits are not inclined to favor us in one area, but will shower us with goodies in another. It’s well to be prepared and diversification may help you to reap greater benefits from your prospecting. One thing is for sure. You’ll find it a great deal more interesting!
The first and greatest western gold rush began in 1848, and expanded worldwide, in 1849. James Marshall discovered placer gold while building a water-powered sawmill for John Sutter at Coloma, California. The rush spread along the Mother Lode on the west side of the Sierra Nevada. As placer mining in California, which depended upon the individual prospector, faded and evolved into industrial hydraulic and underground hard rock mining, the individual prospectors and miners fanned out across the mountain west beyond the Great Plains and began to fi nd new bonanzas.
The next gold rush was to the Fraser River in western Canada in the late 1850s. Another rush focused on the new mining camp of Virginia City, Nevada, on the Comstock Lode. Having found gold there, miners soon discovered a rich deposit of silver as well, and the Comstock region produced both minerals throughout its history. Concurrently came a rush to the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado in 1858 and 1859. Mining camps such as Central City, Georgetown, Leadville and others boomed, as did the supply center called Denver. Miners often turned from gold to silver, lead, and other minerals, depending on what riches they found in the underground veins that were worth refining. It became common for mines to produce a number of metals. Another rush, this one to the mountains of Montana, came in 1862. As in Colorado, the mining boom soon spread to many other camps, eventually encompassing the discovery of rich deposits of copper.
The Civil War interrupted the progress of western mining during the 1860s, but once the war ended, mining rushes took place to Silverton, Red Mountain, Eureka, Lake City and Rico in Colorado, to the Coeur d’Alene region in Idaho, the South Pass region in Wyoming, and to mining camps in the Black Hills of South Dakota, such as Deadwood and Lead. New hard rock mining camps sprang up in arid Nevada, such as Austin, Pioche, and Ely, and across the border in California, Bodie, Cerro Gordo and Panamint. As the Apache Wars faded, mining camps populated Arizona and New Mexico Territories, and there the development of copper deposits soon took center stage around Bisbee, Morenci, Clifton, and Jerome, as they soon would in Montana and Utah.
The 1890s brought a new phase of gold rushes to Creede and the Cripple Creek district in Colorado, and late in the decade, to the Klondike Mines around Dawson in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The century ended with a rush to the gold-bearing beach sands of Nome in the Alaska Territory.
Typically these mines evolved from the individual gold miner seeking placer gold in the creeks and rivers, into hunting the quartz veins in the hills from which the rivers had washed out their flakes and nuggets of gold. But “quartz” mining required a great amount of labor in digging tunnels and shafts, and then expensive machinery such as hoists, stamp mills, and crushers to separate the gold from the rock. Such mining required capital that the original discoverers of such lodes typically did not have, so often they sold their claims for a pittance to the entrepreneurs and bankers who had the capital needed to further exploit the claims. Thus mining soon evolved into a corporate, industrial enterprise. Then too, as mining spread geographically throughout the west, it expanded also to exploit other valuable minerals, notably lead and copper, but also borates, nitrates, tungsten, manganese, aluminum, and eventually uranium.
At the foot of the Chilkoot Trail, Dyea was established several centuries ago as a summer camp by the Tlingit. These Chilkoots built the trail over the mountains to facilitate trade with Yukon and Alaska interior First Nations tribes. Dyea and Taiya are really the same word (Deiyaa) in the Tlingit language, meaning “to pack.”
The Tlingit’s camp on the Taiya saw its first visitors after the United States purchased Alaska in 1867. The U.S. Navy had exerted control in the area and convinced the Tlingit to allow others over the Chilkoot Pass. George Holt was the first documented white man to cross it in 1874, and Alaska Natives began a commercial packing operation a few years later. Westerners John J. Healy and Edgar Wilson established a trading post on the site in 1884.
Dyea had a post office by 1896, the year Tagish trader and frequent Dyea visitor Skookum Jim discovered the Klondike gold 600 miles from here. Nearly a year later, in July 1897, the first ships of stampeders arrived, and a city of 10,000 went up at the edge of a long tidal flat, connected by two mile-long wharves to the ships in the inlet.
During its year-long heyday, Dyea boasted 150 businesses, including 19 freighting companies , 48 hotels, 47 restaurants, seven real estate agents, and two newspapers. Taverns outnumbered churches 39 to 1.
But as quickly as it boomed, Dyea suddenly dwindled and almost disappeared. Two events played into its doom: an avalanche on the Chilkoot Trail in April 1898 that killed more than 60 stampeders, and the start of construction of the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad out of Skagway in May of that year. Dyea had boasted its own tramline and a future railroad of its own, but in 1899 the WP&YR owners bought it and shut it down. Business owners from Dyea flocked to Skagway, taking many of their buildings with them, and by 1900 the city of 10,000 was a mere village again of 250.
Three years later, there were just six people living in the Dyea valley.
However, Dyea did not go away. Original homesteaders Emil Klatt and William Matthews lived and worked there, and Harriet Pullen ran a dairy farm in the valley for her hotel in Skagway for many years. A few braved the Chilkoot Trail, even scouting it for a film in the 1920s. But what was left of the old gold rush buildings gradually crumbled into busted foundations by the middle of the century.
Dyea became a destination again after the valley was connected by an eight-mile-long coastal road from Skagway in 1947. It became a favorite recreation area for local residents, and a few more residents built cabins there.
In the late 1970s, much of the Taiya River valley was absorbed into the Dyea-Chilkoot Unit of the new Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The historic trail was restored, as were some of the trails through the woods where the Dyea townsite once stood.
Today visitors can take a walking tour through the old townsite and to the Slide Cemetery, where many of the 1898 avalanche victims were buried. There also are a limited number of commercial tours operating in the valley, but for the most part Dyea is there for the independent traveler to explore and photograph.
One of my favorite tales of Cripple Creek is about a man by the name of Winfield Scott Stratton. On July 4th, 1891, Winfield Scott Stratton located the Independence Claim, named in honor of the date, on the southern slope of Battle Mountain not far from where the City of Victor would soon be established. On the same day, Stratton also staked a claim for his nearby Washington Mine.
Stratton labored for months but was not very successful. Discouraged, he decided to lease his holdings to another miner, L.M. Pearlman, in 1893. On his last day underground in the Independence mine, he decided to take one last walk through the mine before relinquishing control. To Stratton’s amazement, he came upon a rich vein of ore in an abandoned section of the mine. He knew the lessee would take over the mine the next day, so he buried his discovery and kept it quiet for a month. Pearlman worked the mine for a month without finding Stratton’s hidden gold vein. Lucky for Stratton, Pearlman remained unaware of the gold vein and decided to relinquish his option to buy the Independence.
Independence Head Frame
Although other gold strikes were made in the Cripple Creek area before Stratton’s, his is considered to be the one that put Victor and the Mining District on the map. Stratton’s near-miss is just one of the true stories of the area. In 1894, Winfield Scott Stratton became the first millionaire to come out of the district.
Stratton was very secretive about his mining operations, never allowing visitors and discouraging his men from discussing their jobs outside of work. He limited production to $2,000 to $4,000 a day, considering the gold in the ground to be his insured bank.
The City Of Victor
In 1899 Stratton sold his Independence Mine, with the help of Verner Z. Reed, for $11 million in stock options to the Venture Corporation, a London based company for which he continued to sit on the Board of Directors. The new company was incorporated in England in 1899 as the “Stratton’s Independence, Limited”.
As with most mines in the district, numerous owners including the Ventures Company, the Portland Gold Mining Company, and the United Gold Mines Company held the property. The mine operated until 1938.
The Independence Mine had at least 17 miles of underground workings and reached a depth of 1,440 feet. The Independence was the third ranked mine in gold production in the District. The Independence produced $28,000,000 worth of gold most of which was valued at $20.67 per ounce or over 1,350,000 ounces of gold. At todays prices, that would translate to a staggering $2.43 billion.
Winfried Scott Stratton passed away September 14, 1902. His wealth was estimated between $15,000,000 and $50,000,000.
Though Carmi is technically a ghost town, its memory is kept alive to residents and passersby who view this village sign depicting their rich history located on Hwy. 33 at the junction of Dale Avenue. Carmi is located on the west side of West Kettle River and the Carmi Mine emerged as a silver mining camp in the early 1900’s.
Carmi got its start when a wandering prospector by the name of James Dale, who was working his way up the West Fork of the Kettle River, came across a showing of quartz diorite on the south side of the river. Prospecting the area, he found gold bearing chalcopyrite on the surface. He staked the outcrop and named it “The Carmi,” after his hometown of Carmi, Illinois.
By 1899 the Carmi Mine was shipping ore to the Greenwood smelter, nearly 50 miles to the east. It continued producing in 1900 with more than an ounce of gold andfour ounces of silver to the ton. In short time, a collection of shacks grew up around the mine. In 1900 Mr. Dale sold the Carmi claim to London, England, interests who carried out operations under the name Carmi Mining Company. By 1910, Carmi boasted a hotel, several stores, and more than twenty houses. A western extension of the main vein had been developed on a claim called “The Butcher Boy”.
The veins in the mines were unpredictable, showing both high and then low values, but seldom profitable for any length of time. The mine passed through a series of owners from the English syndicate, to American interests, and then Canadian companies, all convinced they could turn a huge profit. A stamp mill was built, and the town slowly grew, establishing a business district, a post office, a school, and a population of around 200. The Kettle Valley Railway tracks ran nearly through the centre of the town.
Despite the belief of James Dale and Robert Kerr of the mines potential, Carmi never quite made it. The ore bodies of nearby Cranberry Ridge never matched those of Wallace mountain, so Carmi was gradually replaced by Beaverdell , the mining town at the base of that mountain, as the major mining camp in that area.
Carmi Train Station
The town limped along into the 1930’s, hoping for the big strike that never came, and by the 1960’s Carmi virtually ceased to exist as mining activities ground to a halt. Today, old Carmi is a ghost camp. The abandoned workings of the mines still scar the slopes of Cranberry Ridge.
The old hotel, once owned by “Trapper” Smith continues to command the view of the town, along with the dozen or more buildings that still stand. From 1901 to 1940, 5,270 tons of ore were shipped from the Carmi property. From this ore 2,827 ounces of gold, 8,989 ounces of silver, 7,009 pounds of lead, and 16,101 pounds of zinc were recovered.
The first documented discovery of gold in America occurred in 1799, some 50 years before the California gold rush began. The owner of North Carolina’s first mine was a German immigrant who, strange as it may seem, preferred farming to working his rich mine.
John Reed’s original name was Johannes Riedt, Ried, or Rieth. He was born on April 14, 1759, in the province of Hessen Cassel in west-central Germany. As a teenager, Rieth joined or was drafted into the Hessian militia from nearby Appenfeld. In 1776, Frederick II of Hessen Cassel mobilized Rieth’s unit and shipped it to America to help his brother-in-law, George III of Britain, in his war with the American colonies. Rieth was probably a replacement recruit who reached America in 1778.
Rieth deserted on June 21, 1782, from a post “outside of Savannah.” Rieth and several other Hessians made their way to rural Dutch Buffalo Creek in eastern Mecklenburg—now Cabarrus County. Decades earlier, some of the Germans who had traveled down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania settled there. Most lived in crude log houses on modest farms. In 1782, Rieth married Sarah Kiser. They had nine children—four sons and five daughters. With the help of his brother brother-in-law Frederick Kiser, Rieth acquired 330 acres by 1800. Sometime thereafter he changed his name to John Reed.
Little is known of Reed’s personal life and qualities. He signed papers with an X, so historians have assumed that he was illiterate. Unlike most German immigrants, he was not a member of a Lutheran church. Perhaps Reed and his family attended church with his neighbor, Rev. James Love, a Baptist preacher. Love became Reed’s partner in mining. Reed’s obituary later called him a Christian and a friend of the poor. To local historians he was “honest but unlearned,” “a rather primitive character, but a good liver in his way and a respected citizen.” In 1799 he was forty years old.
That year the accidental discovery of gold on his property changed his future. One Sunday his son, 12 year-old Conrad went bow-and-arrow fishing with his siblings in Little Meadow Creek on the family farm. He retrieved “a yellow substance shining in the water.” The heavy, wedge-shaped rock was the size of a small flatiron and weighed about 17 pounds.
Conrad showed the rock to his father, who set it aside as a doorstop. So far as we know, Reed tried only one time in three years to find out what the rock was made of. He asked a jeweler in Concord to identify the rock, but the latter was unable to do so. In 1802 a jeweler in Fayetteville, whom Reed visited on a marketing trip, fluxed the metal into a bar of gold. When the craftsman offered to buy it, Reed asked for $3.50, a week’s wages. The merchant was quite willing to fleece his unwary customer.
Reed later discovered his error and supposedly recovered about $1,000 from the jeweler. In 1803, Reed took three friends—Frederick Kiser, Reverend Love, and landowner Martin Phifer Jr.—into partnership. In late summer, after crops were planted and the stream had nearly dried up, each of the three supplied equipment and two slaves to dig for gold in Reed’s creek. The partners planned an equal division of returns. That first season, Peter, an African American owned by Love, unearthed a 28-pound nugget.
Gold enabled intelligent but uneducated Reed to become one of the wealthiest men in his part of the state. Reed invested in land and slaves but otherwise lived modestly. He forbade destructive mining on land he cultivated, and ultimately bought over 2,000 acres, nearly half of which he had retained at his death. He purchased three African Americans—Dinah, Charity, and Sam—in 1804. Reed later owned as many as 17 slaves.
The outside world had learned of the mine by 1803. Apparently Peter’s nugget was shipped to the United States mint in Philadelphia. In one year, miners at the Reed found five nuggets weighing up to nine pounds each, as well as gold in dust and fine particles. The four partners reportedly garnered over $14,000 (approximately $936,000 today) in six weeks. In 1804, $11,000 in Cabarrus gold reached the mint. A few periodicals mentioned the mine, and word reached Washington, Philadelphia, and New York. Other farmers found gold, but Reed’s creek remained the nation’s principal gold mine. Soon workers there had gathered the larger nuggets and began panning for smaller, more numerous, particles. An apparatus called a “rocker” superseded the pan for washing gravel in the area. Both devices used the high specific gravity of gold (19 times as heavy as water) to isolate the metal. A typical rocker was a box, a half-barrel, or half of a hollow log. After adding auriferous gravel and water to the device, the miner rocked it to wash away lighter material.
By 1824, haphazard digging at the Reed had yielded $100,000 in gold. Yet Reed’s creek mine remained a simple operation. Reed farmed and collected royalties while relatives, slaves, and partners mined. Before 1826 gold found in pieces exceeding one pound reached a total of 84 pounds. Shortly, people estimated the total yield at $200,000. Little Meadow was probably the state’s most dug-over creek. While larger mines had steam power and professional underground miners, Reed continued a close family operation, choosing not to disrupt his lifestyle with outside workers, values, technology, and perhaps capital.
John Reed never allowed his farm to become a big mining operation like the Rudisill and St. Catherine’s mines in Charlotte. The first shaft dug underground at the Reed Gold Mine was opened in 1831, several years after miners in Charlotte had been following gold through quartz veins into the earth.
In 1831 underground work began at the Reed. Isaac Craton, Reed’s grandson, dug the first pit on Upper Hill and found a vein yielding five dollars per bushel of ore. The amateurs made considerable underground progress while continuing creek (placer)mining. Miners, many of whom were relatives of Reed, deepened pits into shafts. The family probably utilized both African American and local white labor. There were four or five shafts up to 90 feet deep on Upper Hill and probably others on Lower Hill, which at one point supposedly produced four pounds of gold daily.
In the late 1820s and early 1830s, when miners at the Rudisill used ore-crushing equipment that processed nearly 3,000 pounds of ore a day, many miners at the Reed still relied on primitive methods of surface mining. Heavy machinery wasn’t brought to the Reed until the 1850s, after John Reed’s death in 1845.
John Reed had plenty of chances to expand his mining operations, though. But he was strict: neither his partners nor his sons and sons-in-law were allowed to mine in any areas where he cultivated crops. Apparently the old farmer wanted to stay a farmer first, and a miner second.
n 1826, when Reed was 67 years old, he had an interesting, foreign visitor. Matthew Thomas, a mining engineer and speculator from Cornwall, England, offered Reed a ninety-nine year lease for gold mining activity – with a fair percentage of profits to go to the old German. Reed turned Thomas down.
In late 1894, Oliver and Warren Kelly, along with Dr. Justin Lisle, visited Reed Gold Mine, on a shopping expedition. All three were looking for a gold mine to buy, and buy they did. On January 10, 1895, they purchased Reed Gold Mine.
In 1899, Warren bought Dr. Lisle’s share of the Reed and sent his eldest son, Armin, to be the next superintendent, but very little gold was produced.
Almost 23 years later, the Kelly family hired Frank Cox to reopen the mine and work several veins on the surface of Upper Hill. To no avail. Little was found and operations ceased once again. In 1935 the Kellys allowed anyone to pan freely along the creek, as long as any large nuggets were reported to the family and profits shared.
In 1971, after owning the mine for three-quarters of a century, the Kelly family donated their historic mining acreage and sold the remaining portion of their property to the state of North Carolina. Reed Gold Mine became a state historic site in 1976, and continues to be the only underground gold mine open to the public in North Carolina.
According to legend, there are fabulous riches in silver and gold to be found somewhere near the old Tumacacori mission in southern Arizona.
From 1508 to 1648 the mine belonged to Tumacacori. There is a tradition among the Indians living in the vicinity of the mission that the mine was discovered by them in the year 1508 and that it was being worked by them for its rich surface ores when the Spaniards landed their ships on the coast of Mexico in 1519, and that in 1540 Spaniards accompanying Coronado in quest of the golden treasures of the Seven Cities of Cibola, found the Indians in possession of the fabulously rich mine.
The Spaniards confiscated the mine and built a mission of their own near the Indian temple. The mine was called the Virgin Guadalupe after their patron saint.
The Indians called their village Tumacacori. The village and Indian temple were located about 25 miles northwest of the present ruins of the Tumacacori mission which was built in 1698 on the west bank of the Santa Cruz river. The lower mission is located near the San Cayetano mountain and is often referred to by the Indians as Tumacacori de San Cayetano, in order to distinguish it from the upper mission which was located on the southern slopes of the Cerrita mountains and in a very rich mining district.
The Lost Guadalupe has been sought persistently for many years in the vicinity of the lower mission by prospectors and adventurers who evidently were not aware of the fact that there were two Tumacacori missions.
Extensive ruins on the southern slopes of the Cerritas, and old cave workings in the vicinity indicate beyond a doubt that considerable mining operations were carried on there by the Indians and later by the Spaniards. Just why the mine was closed and abandoned in 1648 is unknown, but it is presumed to have been raided by the Indians in one of the numerous uprisings that occurred about then.
A considerable amount of treasure has, at different times, been found in and around the lower mission. This treasure consists of candlesticks, silver crosses, and considerable bullion which was supposed to have been left by the Franciscan fathers when they abandoned the mission in 1823 because of the Mexican revolution and the accompanying Indian raids.
However, the great treasure that has been so persistently sought by Mexicans and Americans alike for more than 100 years, is undoubtedly located in the vicinity of the upper and earlier mission, which according to tradition was built and destroyed sometime between the years 1540 and 1648. The mine is said to have been abandoned and the mountain peaks shot down over the mouth of the tunnel to conceal the rich ore and the vast treasure that had accumulated during the long years that the mine was worked by the Indians and later by the Spanish invaders.
Hopefully, somebody will soon discover the secrets to the Lost Guadalupe and reveal her vast treasure.