Gold Mining In San Francisco

Fancy any one working a goldmine in San Francisco for over fifteen years and no one but the miners knowing anything about it. Yet that is what has been done by two men near Ingleside. The mine is on the Sutro property. What success the miners had, how much they made, nobody knows but themselves and one of the men was supposedly on his deathbed, the other disappeared when his partner fell ill and the fact of the mine became generally known.

Mooneyville-by-the-Sea and half a dozen other mining excitements and treasure-hunting booms have struck the ocean beach slope of the city, but through them all and unknown to all their promoters these two experienced miners have been delving sedulously away on their secret mine. There is no question that they found gold, a man does not stick to a task for over seventeen years without something to repay him. And these two miners paid their living expenses all this while. Once while blasting they injured a Spring Valley water main and were assessed $8000 damages by the court, which they promptly paid. Again, it is well known among their intimate acquaintances that they made many big losings at the race track, and they were known as “spenders” at several of the resorts in that locality.

Yet all the while to nearby and inquisitive neighbors these two miners appeared to be simply hermits. They assumed the garb of poverty, snarled like wild beasts at any curious trespassers and drove off interlopers with clubs. They would not permit anyone to put a foot on the place under any circumstances.

Nelson H. Shoots, the elder man and the original finder of the mine, was taken seriously ill. His partner, James Demott, tried in vain to patch up his health with the scant medicine supply in the cupboard. Shoots grew worse and Demott was obliged to summon outside assistance to save his sinking partner, so he sent a message to the City and County Hospital. Shoots was taken there at once in the ambulance and then it was discovered that he was dangerously ill with heart trouble.

Immediately afterward his partner, Demott, disappeared, whether temporarily or for good is not known. With him is the mystery of the mine that has been worked for over seventeen years in San Francisco, for Shoots tells all sorts of stories about it. Sometimes he says he worked there the seventeen years for nothing; at other times he declares there is plenty of gold there, and laughs knowingly and adds, “but you’ve got to know where to find it.”

To add to the mystery it is well known that Nelson Shoots was a pioneer miner of the State, and a man of great experience in secret methods of handling ores. That mining operations were extensively carried on by Shoots and Demott there can be no doubt. Their work shows for itself. At least 300 feet of shafts have been sunk, one of them being about 125 feet deep. The tunnels and drifts will easily aggregate over 1400 feet. A good deal of the work is timbered, but most of it is simply the rock walls. The timber that is in is battered and worn as if it had done duty in one shaft and then been taken out and made to do duty in another. No ore has been hauled from the dumps for milling, at least there is no sign of such traffic. In what shape the gold was obtained only the two miners know.

Briefly, Shoots’ story was to the effect that he was born in Kentucky. Having been married twice he came from his native State to California during the gold excitement and made one or two fortunes, which he lost. One day he was out hunting along the Cliff House beach, where he struck a patch of black sand. He thought it looked as if it might contain gold, and he had some of it assayed. The returns showed that he had stumbled on a pocket of the precious metal. That solitary pocket yielded him a fortune. He then began prospecting along the ocean beach, but with poor success.

It then hit him that the gold must coming from the hills beyond, and he began prospecting back until he struck his mine. Then he built a house and made himself a home, where he lived until his sickness compelled his removal to the County Hospital.

It was thought that Shoots and his partner were simply a couple of cranks who chose that method of living. And when it became known that the men were working a gold mine many of the neighbors thought it a good joke and were inclined to do a little chaffing.

Of course those who held to the idea that both Shoots and his partner had made money out of the mine by digging gold and selling it had different opinions as to how the precious metal was obtained. No one entertained for even a moment the idea that the gold was extracted by any of the well known and tried processes. All were of the opinion that it was a secret held by the two men.

The belief entertained by most of Shoots’ old neighbors and friends was that some sort of chemical process was made used. These held to the theory that the two men, being old miners, had discovered how to select small pieces of rock that contained a high percentage of gold. They then “worked” these by their secret method and either extracted the gold entirely or else reduced it to such small bulk that it could be taken to a refinery without attracting the attention that a wagonload of ore would.

This is not without the bounds of possibility. In fact, it is highly probable and fully in accord with the statement of old man Shoots: “There is lots of gold there, but you have to know how to”

Did he know how to find it, and will anybody else ever know how to find it, are questions the neighbors are eagerly asking. One of the oldest residents of the vicinity, who has known of Shoots ever since he came to live out near Ingleside, is fully convinced that the two men took comfortable sums of gold out of their mine. “But,” said this man, “they didn’t get the gold in the usual way. It’s my opinion that they found the gold in a certain kind of rock and in small nuggets. In this way they could take out quite good sized piles and nobody would ever be the wiser.

“My reason for believing this,” continued the man after a pause, “is because I have known of similar cases. I used to mine myself, a good many years ago. This was when I was digging along the Sacramento. A young fellow came into our camp and went to work in an old shaft and took out considerable metal. Nobody could ever tell how he did it. Dozens of us went into his mine and looked around, and even prospected there a little when he was away, but couldn’t find any gold. Nobody ever could but him and he always found plenty.”

But the mine, with its machinery, timbers, etc., is all there. Can any one find gold there in good paying quantities as Shoots had done for seventeen years? Shoots says there is plenty there, but that “you’ve got to know how to find it.”

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