The Meteor property is situated on the northwesterly slope of the divide between Lemon and Springer creeks, 8 kilometres east of Slocan. Access to the property from the Slocan highway is via the Lemon Creek and Chapleau Creek roads. It is located at the 7,000 foot elevation at the head of Tobin Creek, a northerly- flowing tributary of Springer Creek, 5 miles east of the south end of Slocan Lake.
The showing was discovered and staked in 1895. J.A. Finch & associates optioned the property in 1896 and several carloads of high-grade ore were shipped the following year. Three claims, the Cultus, Ottawa No. 5, and Meteor were Crown-granted to Finch & associates in 1899. The vein was apparently not found in the lower adit and work ceased in about 1900. Lessees carried out intermittent exploration and development during the period 1905 to 1917. J.C. Buchanan acquired the property in 1919 and began driving No. 6 level adit; he continued the project in 1922 and 1923. Lessees worked the property in 1928 and intermittently from 1932 to 1940. Some ore shipments were made under the name Meteor Mining Company, which may have been an American incorporation. In the early 1930’s the owners of the property were reported to be E. Murphy and M.S. Mayfield. Development work to that date comprised 6 adits, of which the three lower ones totalled over 1,400 feet of drifts and crosscuts.
Cultus Explorations Ltd. was incorporated in May 1963 to acquire the above Crown-grants, and the Deadwood claim No. 6 level was rehabilitated for 800 feet and stoping and underground diamond drilling carried out. A 50 ton-per-day mill, installed near No. 6 adit, was put into operation in 1964. Drifting, crosscutting and raising during the year totalled 405 feet. The mine closed in November 1964. Lessees carried out some underground exploration work in 1967 and 1970.
Total production from the Meteor mine is 2,659 tonnes of ore yielding 4,724,994 grams of silver, 13,177 grams of gold and a small amount of lead and zinc.
In 1858, gold drew thousands of prospectors to British Columbia, up the Fraser Canyon and throughout the Interior. In 1898, it was also the lure of gold that enticed prospectors into another part of the province: the North Coast. This was rugged and isolated land. Although it took days of travel north of Prince Rupert to enter this rumoured place of gold, the North Coast was not unknown to Westerners. The salmon runs of the Nass River had already drawn cannery operators. At least three canneries were in production at the time a large party of 64 prospectors from Seattle trekked even further north to explore up the Portland Canal and into the Bear River valley. The men never reached gold, but they did reportt observations of copper and silver.
The first mining claims were staked the same year near the mouth of the Bear River, and word of possible riches spread. The Northwestern Mining District, as the area later became known, was host to a variety of metals, but two were dominant. One mineralized zone was high in silver. (It was here. that the well-known Premier Mine would operate, producing over one billion grams of silver.) A second zone was rich in copper.
By 1908, the rip-roaring mining town of Stewart was established at the head of the Portland Canal on the Alaska border. Several other communities sprang up at the head of the canal, including Alice Arm and nearby Silver City. But what quickly emerged as the regional centre was the company town of Anyox, located in the zone where copper was dominant. Built by the Granby Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, it would become home to more than 3,000 residents before closing its history as a ghost town.
William Collinson, George Rudge and H. B. Fluein from Port Simpson were the first to stake the Anyox area, in 1898, at Hidden Creek near Goose Bay (later renamed Granby Bay).
The Granby Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company was British Columbia’s largest copper producer. Its smelter at Grand Forks, one of the most efficient processors of low-grade copper ore in the world, was fed by the Interior’s productive Phoenix mines. Knowing, however, these mines were not going to last forever, the company began to look for alternatives. After an extensive search throughout BC, Washington State and the rest of Western Canada. the company, in1910, decided their best prospect was the North Coast, and acquired the Hidden Creek ore deposit.
Between 1914 and 1936, the Granby Consolidated Mining And Smelting Company mined 23,941,500 tons of copper ore which produced 708,880,800 pounds of copper, 6,633,ooo ounces of silver, and 121,300 ounces of gold.
In its early days, Granby was fortunate. While blasting an island from the entrance to Granby Bay, the workers had discovered a gold seam worth $3 million, which largely paid for the smelter. .As well, while laying sewers for the town site, workers located the type of special blue clay used to line the furnaces so it no longer had to be shipped in from the eastern United States.
But not everything continued as smoothly. There were labour disputes in1916; the company blamed the strikes on foreign agitators and enemy aliens. Then in the early 1930’s, the low price of copper led to wage reductions, the backlash of a bitter strike involving the provincial police and a violent confrontation. With continuing low prices and the cancellation of a contract to sell copper concentrate to Japan, the Granby Board of Directors decided to close the operation in 1906. The site was sold to Cominco (owners of the Trail Smelter) which retains it still. The old slag piles are being mined as an abrasive.
As for Anyox, the town was abandoned following its closure in 1942, a fire sweeping through the area destroyed the last homes. Today, concrete rubble and the story of those who lived and worked there are the last remnants of its history.
The Jack Wade Dredge is located at Milepost 86, Taylor Highway.
This was a stacker type dredge with two flumes. It had 32 buckets of 4 1/2 cu. ft. capacity. It had a 150 horsepower boiler which powered four steam engines. The trommel screen is 22′ long with four sections. Two flumes led from the end of the trommel. A perforated pipe along the top and inside of the trommel carried water through to wash the gravel.
In 1907, it was freighted up the Fortymile from Dawson, where it was worked at Walker Fork at Twelve mile Creek. In 1909, it was moved to Uhler Creek where it was known as the Mulvane Dredge. In 1914, it was shut down. Then, in 1935, it was bought by American Mining Co. of Boston and moved to it’s present location, where the hull and bucket-line were replaced.
In 1940, it was sold to Wade Creek Dredging. A year later it was converted to diesel, and later that year was shut down permanently. Soon after, it was robbed for parts and now lies abandoned and deteriorating.
One of the first bucket-line dredges in the Fortymile mining district, this dredge worked longer than any other. The remains sit on what is considered by many as the richest creek in the district. The dredge would run ten days, 24 hours a day, then the sluice boxes would be cleaned. The best clean-up was about $30,000.
One of the stranger sights greeting visitors traveling along the Yukon River between Eagle and Circle is a steel behemoth called the Washington Creek Steam Tractor, Best Manufacturing Company, Inc. Traction Engine. Perched near the edge of the river, the machine with its hefty steel-clad boiler and menacing spiked wheels seems like a monster from another age. And, in a sense, it is. The 13′ high hulk represents the age of coal and an era when gold was not enough to sustain the Klondike-Alaska Gold Rush—the steamboats carrying stampeders needed energy.
In 1897 and 1898 when gold-seekers swarmed north to the Klondike, nearly 100 paddlewheel steamboats plied the Yukon River carrying people and supplies to Canada and to gold camps on the American side of the border. Each vessel burned large amounts of firewood or a mixture of wood and coal from British Columbia. Ship captains bought the coal near the mouth of the river at St. Michael for $15 a ton. Meanwhile, woodchoppers stashed thousands of cords of wood at key points along the river. Carrying enough coal for a 3,000-mile roundtrip was difficult and consequently convenient stands of timber on the upper Yukon were soon depleted.
Recognizing that a fortune could be made in supplying coal to the steamboats, a prospector named Napoleon Bonapart LaBrie discovered promising quantities in 1897 along a Yukon River tributary called Washington Creek. After forming the Alaska Coal and Coke Company, LaBrie began extracting coal from tunnels about 12 miles inland. Soon, a second group arrived to sink their own tunnels and began transporting coal to the river by dogsled. The work was difficult and dangerous, and it seemed unlikely the coal miners could keep costs low enough to meet the price of imported coal.
Quality was another problem with the Washington Creek deposits. Initial reports indicated that the coal was “the equal of any coal found in the world,” and early tests in steamboat engines seemed to support this conclusion. However, a more sober assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed that the coal was “soft” or sub-bituminous, meaning that in steam boilers it produced too much ash, not enough power, and too much of a glass-like build-up called “clinker.” In addition, the soft coal was prone to “slacking,” the process of drying and fragmenting that made it more likely to spontaneously combust in storage.
During the gold rush, the north country became for many a field of dreams, and the coal miners at Washington Creek would not be discouraged. The Alaska Coal and Coke Company’s grand plans included using a train to carry coal to the banks of the Yukon and convincing the Valdez &Yukon Railroad to make Washington Creek the terminus of a trans-Alaska railway (neither happened). By 1905 the company had imported a 110-horsepower steam tractor, also called a “traction engine,” built by the Best Manufacturing Company in San Leandro, California. Patented in 1890 by a California grain farmer and inventor named Daniel Best, the steam tractor was originally designed to replace teams of draft horses in agricultural fields, but it soon became popular in the timber and mining industries as a means of transporting heavy loads.
At Washington Creek, the machine was supposed to pull a string of five cargo sleds carrying 10tons of coal each from the coal mine to the bank of the Yukon during the winter. The coal would then be stockpiled until summer when it could be sold to passing steamboats. However, the enterprise was already doomed.
Not only was the quality of the coal insufficient, but the market for coal along the Yukon River was drying up as steamboats converted to oil power and their numbers dropped from 100 to fewer than twenty-five. It is unknown if the steam tractor ever hauled coal sleds or how well it functioned, but within a year the mine was shut down, and the tractor was left to rust.
In later decades, the abandoned mine served as a hardware store for resourceful locals. During the 1930’s a miner and trapper named George Beck removed the tractor’s water tank and transported it by dogsled down the river to serve as a rain barrel, and spokes from the 8′ high wheels were sawed away. It is not known where the cab or the smoke stack ended up. Today the old steam tractor serves as a reminder of the fever-pitch of the gold rush, the entrepreneurial spirit of the stampeders, and the challenges faced by anyone trying to pry profits from the North’s frozen soils.
The HB / Garnet mine was the 3rd highest producing metal mines in BC history next to the Sullivan & Jersey-Emerald Mines and is the 2nd highest Zinc producer with over 600 million pounds of Zinc.
The H.B. Mine and concentrator is situated on the North side of the Sheep Creek valley some six miles south-east of the village of Salmo, B.C. in the Nelson Mining District. Access to the property is by way of a 2 1/2 mile long, gravel road off Highway 3, three and a half miles south of Salmo.
The property was originally staked by Horton and Benson, and was purchased by Cominco in 1927. Intermittent work was carried out until 1946. Later an extensive diamond drilling program was undertaken followed by underground exploration.
With sufficient ore outlined, construction of a 1,200 ton-a-day concentrator was started in April of 1952 and completed in the spring of 1953. Due to unfavourable metal prices, operations did not commence until May, 1955 and was suspended in October 1966. Production was resumed at the mine in February 1973.
David Minerals Ltd. by an agreement dated May 8, 1981 purchased the mine, mill and adjacent properties from Cominco Ltd. for $750,000; a 20 acre parcel was subsequently sold to Gold belt Mines Inc. for a mill site. Renovation of the H.B. mill was carried out to prepare a flotation circuit to custom mill gold-bearing sulphide ores, and a second circuit to treat molybdenite-gold ore from the company’s Rossland properties. The gold circuit was put into operation on ore from the Gold Belt property in December 1981.
The HB mine produced a total of 6,656,101 tonnes of ore in 29 years between 1912 and 1978. Recovered from this ore were 29,425,521 grams of silver, 49,511,536 kilograms of lead, 260,431,646 kilograms of zinc, 2,019,586 kilograms of cadmium, 105,412 kilograms of copper and 6,159 grams of gold. Measured and indicated reserves published December 31, 1978 by Canadian Pacific Limited were given as approximately 36,287 tonnes grading 0.1 per cent lead and 4.1 per cent zinc.
The former Rambler mine is located in the Rambler Creek basin, a southern tributary to McGuigan Creek, and was one of the more consistent producers from the Slocan mining district. It was first operated by the Rambler-Cariboo Consolidated Gold and Silver Mines Ltd. and was opened up by three crosscut tunnels, connecting with levels about 30 metres apart.
In 1899, it was taken over by the Rambler-Cariboo Mines Ltd. Prior to 1904 development work and mining were confined to the upper eight levels, the lower five of which were connected with each other and with No. 3 adit level by a shaft 460 feet deep. A crosscut 4,500 feet long was driven from the valley of McGuigan creek 520 feet below No. 8 level. This level, No. 14, was subsequently connected by a raise with No. 8 level, and Nos. 9, 10 and 12 intermediate levels run above it. In 1921 the company suspended operations.
During the following years the property was worked intermittently by leasers. In 1947 the property was acquired by B.C. Slocan-Rambler Mines (1947) Ltd. and about 4,500 feet of diamond drilling completed. Tailings from the former Rambler mine at the confluence of McGuigan Creek with Seaton Creek were owned by the Sheep Creek Gold Mines Ltd. and optioned to Kootenay Belle Gold Mines Limited in 1950. Some of these tailings were shipped and processed at the Whitewater mill in 1950 and 1951.
The former Rambler mine produced continuously for 34 years from 1895 to 1935, then intermittently to 1951. During its mine life a total of 189,421 tonnes of ore was mined from which 108,959,934 grams silver, 839 grams gold, 327 kilograms copper, 10,527,871 kilograms lead and 2,654,696 kilograms zinc were recovered.
In the community of Holberg a resident can get seasick just by watching his neighbor’s house wallowing around during a storm. Built entirely on rafts and linked together with cables and boardwalks, Holberg was the world’s largest floating logging camp, comprising some 80 buildings and a population of more than 300. It’s located on an inlet about 25 miles from the northern tip of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia.
The camp once was located partly afloat and partly ashore about 40 miles from its present site. But when that area was logged out in 1942, the shore installations were put on rafts and the whole works floated down to its present spot. Shortages of material and labor then made it simpler to keep all the buildings afloat, and they’ve stayed that way ever since. Besides, there was no room to build on shore, for the great hemlock and cedar forest crowded right down to the water’s edge.
Most of the residents were single loggers, but one section of the camp was a string of 17 houses for married residents. Formerly plain bunkhouses, they were enlarged and decorated to form neat bungalows with room for children. All the houses had hot and cold running water; electricity and modern conveniences with the exception of a telephone. Housewives with a yen to garden would fill boxes and tubs with soil carried from shore and plant flowers and vegetables, and the kids could fish from their front porches.
With 90 feet of salt water at their door step, a misstep often meant an icy dunking. For this reason, children below the age of 7 had to wear life preservers when outdoors. With an 8-foot tide, the houses rise gently up and down 16 feet a day, but after a while the residents don’t even notice it. Stiff beams lashed to the shore kept the camp from floating away, but boats were needed to get to shore, and a passenger-freighter brought in supplies for the settlement once a week.
Victoria was wide open in the years surrounding the turn of the century. There was always a bar at your elbow, the Brown Jug, the Grotto, Garrick’s and the Retreat. Drinks were two for 25 cents and there was always someone ready to stand a treat. No jiggers on the bottle in those days, just call for your brand and the bottle was placed on the bar in front of you — you poured what you wanted, one finger, two, half a glassful.
If three went In, why you all bought a drink each and one for the bartender, and any decent bartender always reciprocated. That was the great part of life in those days, the bars. The Pacific Northwest experienced five gold rushes in the period from 1840 to 1890 and three of these occurred in British Columbia and the Yukon, on the Fraser River, in the Cariboo and in the Klondike.
The era of the gold rushes saw the wilderness that is now British Columbia change from a fur trader’s paradise into an area sprinkled with numerous settlements, small towns and a few cities. It is hard to exaggerate the acceleration these gold rushes gave to our growth and economy. Imagine Fort Victoria In 1858, a town of around 2,000 inhabitants, suddenly flooded with 10,000 California prospectors, scrambling ashore, in Esquimault, overwhelming our rather sleepy populace with their excitement and dreams of Eldorado.
Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle became the jumping off spots for these starry-eyed fortune hunters, the place to get their outfit and supplies, the last chance to whoop it up on the way to the diggings and a place to stop over and show off new found riches, or to drown sorrow on the way back. The main streets of the cities became one continuous row of merchants of booze, wholesale by the barrel or retail, by the bottle or glass.
In 1862, with only 2,500 permanent residents, Victoria had about 21 saloons; by 1900 with 20,000 residents the number of saloons had grown to 83. With so many bars at hand, you would wonder at the popularity of the bootlegger with his ever-ready, still spouting forth “tangle leg,” or “snake head,” the latter generously laced with kerosene. However, there was always the illegal sale to the Indians, and to that ever present segment of society who delight in shady dealings and getting a bargain to boot.
All the men drank, regardless of class, and while ladies were not permitted in bars, it was “genteel” to slip out a quiet brandy to the coach where she sat waiting. In fact, there may have been more drinking among women than we think. To quote the Victorian Home Journal, in 1893; “Drunkeness among women is increasing to an alarming degree, and the habit is not confined to low and middleclass.”
The decision to throw Victoria wide open to reap the benefits of the second-hand gold was made in the latter part of the 19th century, probably by the city fathers. The plan worked admirably and as long as the northern bonanza continued our own little gold mine kept producing. Thousands of visitors, all needing accommodation, food, drink and entertainment, clothing, miner’s equipment and transportation, landed at our wharves — a captive market both coming and going.
The saloons abounded, offering every type of entertainment you could want, gambling, keno, craps, chuck-a-luck, roulette and of course a multitude of “ladies of the evening.” Beer was sold in wagons in Bastion Square, regardless of the fact there were 14 saloons on Johnson between Wharf and Government.
There were one or two memorable entertainment palaces, such as the famous Savoy, run by Black Jack McDonnell and the California Saloon, run by the feisty, tassle-hatted Andy Bechtel. The Savoy, located on Government, between Yates and Johnson, a first class music hall and our only burlesque house boasted standing room only on opening night. The raised, private boxes along the sides of the theatre, even had curtains up to keep them really secluded.
There were girls onstage, skits and jokes as raw as the patrons could take, with bouncers on hand to throw out the drunks who got rowdy. The California, on the corner of Johnson and Waddington Alley, was memorable because of its most notorious employee, the original Annie Rooney, a transvestite, who played the piano in the bar, between pints that is. Her fame as a piano player faded long before her reputation as having served six months in the United States Navy before her sex was discovered.
The most notable thing about a saloon was usually its stink, which wafted out into the street, almost felling you as you walked by. It was a musty odor, damp and clammy, an odor compounded of sawdust, tobacco juice, malt, metal polish and whisky. Of course the fast style of living was bound to rub off on some of the more impressionable local types and when a few of the young bloods of Victoria got into trouble over gambling debts, things were not quite so rosy.
Drunkenness and crime of all types Increased to an alarming degree and stealing from the local firms to cover gambling losses was not uncommon. Yes, Victoria had indeed become a wide open city. With the petering out of the Klondike gold supply in the1890’s, activity in the town suddenly slowed down. The turn-of-the-century property boom ended at the same time the young men began to leave in droves for the First World War. The Ban the Bar crusade closed forever the swinging doors of the saloons, and along with them the many flimsy doors in the overblown hotel business. Two years of bone-dry prohibition finally put the finishing touches on closing the city, legally, that is.
We did, however, have one more brief but colorful chapter during the two-year dry period, before we began to completely rollup the sidewalks. Rum-running by our American neighbors to the south, was the order of the day. Victoria’s coastline lent itself well to such activities. Smuggler’s Cove, on Ten Mile Point earned the name any one of dozens of busy small bays could have claimed.
Our turn to repay our neighbors to the south, soon came and lasted during the 13years of their prohibition. Our ships full of booze would leave the inner harbor, properly clearing customs, sail south and anchor the legal 12 miles off the American coast. The rum-runners would load up, usually under cover of darkness and return to the United States to sell their bootleg liquor at whatever price the thirsty traffic would bear. Millions were made in this same era which skyrocketed the infamous Mafia to fortune in the east.
So you can see, if Victoria is rolling up her streets at eight, it isn’t that there are stodgy, far from it; they are just taking a well earned rest!
From Shawnigan Lake Village via Renfrew Road, it is eight miles to Burnt Bridge on the Koksilah River, and from there to the lost Silver Mine is another seven miles. But even the half-dozen or so old-timer hunters who survive and knew this place in its palmy hunting days would be nonplussed to find the mine, for the trees have been cut down and hauled away, the forest littered with debris and criss-crossed with roads; and the Old Sliver Mine trail obliterated.
The Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway was being constructed in that wonderful year of 1885. There was one stretch along the south bank of the Koksilah River that was particularly troublesome. The route chosen by the surveyors followed the gentle curves of the river, but ran along the top of a shale bluff that stood over 40 feet above the stream bed.
For months the gangs of Chinese laborers picked at the shale while local settlers and their horse teams earned a few dollars by scooping up the loose rock and spreading it out in the roadbed leading into Cowichan Valley. Bill Irvine was on the survey gang, and when the day’s work was done he spent the long summer evenings prospecting. When his tin plate had been mopped clean he would take a rusty gold pan out of his bed roll and pan the gravel bars of the Koksilah River.
He didn’t have far to go. Standing at the edge of the right of way Irvine could look down a few yards into the placid Koksilah, where there might be undiscovered gold deposits to line the pockets of a young man dependent on $2.26 per day from the firm of Bell, Larkin and Paterson, which had contracted to build the E and N Railway.
That particular stretch of the river is now known as Bright Angel Park. Only a few summer evenings were required to convince Bill Irvine that this part of Koksilah River was barren. Thereafter he went futher afield, until one evening when darkness was closing in he clawed his way along the river bank and almost fell into an opening. It was almost dark outside, black as coal inside. Irvine felt around and touched walls of chiseled stone and smelled the still air of age-old decay. At that time all he knew was that he had found something and that within 24 hours he would know what it was.
The next day seemed to be longer than most, but it finally ended. Local teamsters unhitched their sweating horses and jangled down the grade to Cowichan. The Chinese laborers trudged off to their flimsy shelters and filled their bowls with hot rice. Bill Irvine impatiently gulped down his bacon and beans and headed into the wilderness. This time he took a coal oil lantern and a block of wooden matches waxed into a waterproof block.
Plenty of daylight remained when Irvine arrived at the tunnel entrance. The opening was small, not much bigger than the burrow of an animal. He fired up the lantern and crawled once more into the tunnel. Within a few feet he could stand upright and look around. The tunnel was square-cut and the tools that had carved out this opening were scattered around his feet. These were strange looking implements, and obviously they were very old because the handles had turned to dust. At the end of the tunnel was a broad seam of ore, pearl grey in color, that Bill believed was silver.
Shortly thereafter the railway job came to an end. Bill Irvine married and became the father of a son. Times were hard and he often dreamed of his silver mine until the year 1898 brought another dream. The Klondike gold rash attracted many restless individuals in the search for gold, and Bill Irvine was a natural victim. He simply exchanged a dram of a lost silver mine for the prospect of unlimited gold, but he found no treasure and found his way back to Victoria poorer than when he left.
Ten years later, according to the Cowichan Leader of May, 1908, Bill Irvine arrived in Duncan accompanied by his son, then a young man, and told the reporter that he was going to find and stake a lost silver mine on the Koksilah River and become wealthy.
However, when Irvine attempted to find the mine, he noticed the the country changed, and landslides along the river bank had likely hidden the mines entrance. Yet, in trying to relate the lost mine story to reality a problem emerges. According to Bill Irvine’s tale the tools he found showed the effects of at least a century of decay. Who, then mined silver in the Koksilah Valley prior to 1785? The Spanish explorers, as far as we know merely skirted the edge of this unknown land.
Perhaps another race pre-dated -the Spaniards. A Nitinat Indian legend tells of alien men who came over the sea to enslave the Nit-Nat people and force them to work on the building of ships. At night the Indians were imprisoned in cages until one of them found a way to open the door from the inside. He then unlocked the other cages and the entire work-force exterminated the master race. The legend relates that one ship put out to sea and its crew escaped the massacre.
Unfinished vessels were burned and none of their kind ever returned to our shores. This is only a legend, placed in the vague “long ago,” but legends are said to be based on fact. On the east coast of Vancouver Island and closer to Koksilah is the puzzle of the gigantic fig trees growing on Shingle Point of Valdes Island. Its age is estimated variously between 200 and 300 years, it has astonished countless boaters who have “discovered” it while cruising the Gulf Islands.
In 1960, newspapers carried the story of a man who took a short-cut in failing light and stumbled down a flight of steps into a cavern in the Sooke hills. Foul weather and poor visibility ruined an all-out modem effort to re-discover the cavern, but a lingering doubt was germinated. Do we really know what happened all those years ago. Who chiseled out the steps into a cave within a few miles of Victoria and for what purpose? Could this activity be related to Bill Irvine’s discovery on the Koksilah?
In the immediate area where Bill Irvine toiled to make a rail-bed the bedrock is shale or puddingstone, which geologists call conglomerate. This is the residue of an ancient seabed, without much prospect of mineral wealth. Further upstream on the Koksilah, more than 10 miles away a volcanic formation is thrust to the surface. This cooled lava may conceal a fortune in silver such as Irvine described.
A local oldster speculates that Irvine junior was directed to go through the motions of probing the hopeless areas of sandstone and shale while Irvine senior ranged southward to examine the real location of the lost mine without being observed. Whatever the facts of this mystery, it appears that there is little chance the lost silver mine will ever be discovered.
In the heart of one of the mining districts of Australia, within a stone’s throw of where the “Welcome” nugget, a lump of gold as big as a foot ball, was found, surrounded by the smokestacks of quartz mills, lies the gold of Australia.
There is no doubt about Australia’s production of enormous gold nuggets The greatest of them was found shortly after the discovery of gold, away back in the 1850’s. It had long been known that there was gold in Australia, but it was not until 1854 when Hargraves, an Australian, who had visited California, announced that there was gold here in paying quantities. The first of it was discovered in a water hole In New South Wales, and a month later it was shown that every creek for seventy miles had gold. Later on the placer mines were opened up at Ballarat and from them came some enormous nuggets.
One of the first nuggets weighed 101 pounds, another 98 pounds and the “Welcome” 184 pounds 9 ounces. The “Welcome” nugget measured twenty inches in length, twelve inches in breadth, and seven inches in thickness. It was sold in Melbourne for $50,000. Five months after it was discovered another nugget was dug up and sold for $20,000, and later on came the “Welcome Stranger,” which weighed 189 pounds. So far California has the record of producing the largest nugget. It weighed 195 pounds and was taken out of a mine in Calaveras county. The “Welcome” nugget was found at a depth of 150 feet, but most of others are nearer to the surface.
Altogether $350,000,000 worth of has been taken from the earth about Ballarat, and it is estimated that out of this the state of Victoria alone the production has been $1,250,000,000.
Bendigo has produced about 22 million ounces of gold. Miners worked an 8 hour shift and were paid $12.50 per week, and most mines ran both a day and night shift. A steady growth is going on in Australia’s gold production. Every state increasing its production and new mines are being discovered in all parts of the country. Some of largest mines are in Queensland and western Australia, in places where gold was not known to exist.
The gold extends over an area of than 600,000 square miles. You can take dirt from the road at any point along a thousand miles, wash it and find color. The main trouble is the lack of water. Large fanning mills are used to blow the sand away, and as the gold is heavier it drops to the bottom. There is no doubt that fine gold is lost with the blowing sand.
The Ballarat of today is not like that of a hundred years ago. Gone are the the rows upon rows of tents. The streets are wide and paved and has all the amenities of any modern city. Ballarat is surrounded by a rich pastoral and agricultural region. It is seventy five miles by rail to Melbourne and on the main road from Melbourne to Adelaide.