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.”

Dead Men’s Gold Mine

Four murders and a lost gold mine! Dead Man’s Valley still holds the secret of the murders. The gold mine has been found. Late in 1933 word flashed that the missing mine had been found. Only a few months remained of the year. But the secret was out. By December 31 the Canadian government had registered approximately 100 claims.

The tributaries of the South Nahanni River in the Northwest territories, near the boundary of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory, are alive with prospectors who have answered the call of another placer gold field not so many hundred miles from where the great Yukon gold rush took place.

In February, 1909. word came to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, then the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, that two prospectors had been missing since the Summer of 1906. Relatives had hunted for them, had found their dead bodies, but had failed to find papers and gold which they were known to be carrying. The circumstances looked liked murder.

Will and Frank McLeod, born at Ford Liard in Northern British Columbia, had started out in 1905 to look for placer gold in the mountains north of their home, in what is still a remote part of Canada. They crossed through a wild country, unknown, unmapped, probably never before traveled by white man. They struck fast-flowing rivers with canyon walls. They traveled in waters where 15 miles a day was considered fast going by those who came after them. They made portages over mountains.

They pitched camp here and there and hunted with prospectors’ ax and spade. They went on till one day they found something. They built sluice boxes and hauled their gold pans out of their pack sacks. They built a shelter and worked day after day. They stored up nuggets, dust and gold flakes. Their treasure chest became bulkier and bulkier. Then, before the first snows were on them, they hid their find, hid their tools and started for home.

They kept a secret. Yes, they had picked up a little bit here and there, but nothing much inquiring friends were told. But next Spring Will and Frank McLeod started out, taking with them this time, a Scotch engineer named Weir.

In 1908 Charles McLeod, a brother of the two prospectors, found their bodies, wrapped up in blankets. No gold, maps, nothing was found near them, except a watch which hung on a tree. Charley burled his two brothers, and marked their grave. The Mounties started on the trail the following Spring. Corporal A. H. L. Mellor left Smith’s Landing on the Slave River, and set out across a region he had never traveled before to Fort Liard.

He had a hard trip, through swift rivers, white foaming mountain streams, but he made the South Nahanni River, and headed for the spot where the McLeod brothers had been reported buried. There on the opposite bank of the river he found a couple of prospectors, the vanguard of many to come in the following years. They were waiting for the river to go down a bit. It was July and the melting snows made travel on the river impossible. They knew nothing about the McLeod’s, except the grave which they had seen.

They found tools, sluice boxes and gold pans. But the spot was 75 miles distant from where the bodies of the brothers had been found. J. J. Byrne, mining man of Northern Ontario. Interested in mines in the Great Bear Lake area, became claim holder of the long lost mine. But many men were to hunt for that lost mine before Mr. Byrne’s men located it. And two more were to die in that remote country.

Mr. Byrne is an authority for the facts about these two additional deaths. He has delved deep into the secrets of Dead Man’s Valley. In an Interview in the Northern Miner, leading Canadian mining paper, he tells that some years after the McLeod’s disappeared, and after other prospectors had unsuccessfully looked for the mine, an old Klondike gold miner named Jorgenson crossed the mountains which divide the Yukon Territory from the Northwest Territories and prospected along the Nahanni River.

Jorgenson had evidently heard the McLeod story, and hunted near where the bodies had been found. He wandered somewhat afield. Near the junction of the Nahanni and Flat Rivers he found something. An Indian must have carried a message to his partner in the Klondike. He came to the Jorgenson camp as directed in the message. But of Jorgenson there was no trace. There was no mine, only some rich samples. His partner followed trails days old and finally found Jorgenson. He had been killed, his head severed from his body. The murderer, if there was one, has never been found.

Phil Powers, also hailing from the Klondike gold fields, took up the trail to the McLeod mine some years later. He also hit the Flat and Nahanni Rivers and worked up the Flat River. What he found has never been learned. But when he was missing for sometime, police are said to have found his body in the center of his burned down camp. Again murder, perhaps by Indians, perhaps by whites. Case unsolved. Powers was not far from where the McLeod’s had hidden their mine.

These are secrets of Dead Man’s Valley. Jack Hammell, one of the Dominion’s best known mining men, was responsible for the aerial armada that landed on the lakes of the Nahanni River region in 1928. He was looking for the McLeod workings. His planes flew in with food supplies for several years, with camping equipment, drums and drums of gasoline and oil, sectional canoes and prospectors.

He intended to fine-comb the country, Re-establishing caches so that his men could hunt continuously. He brought big business into the hunt for the lost mine. With the aerial armada went Charles McLeod, the brother who had found the bodies of Will and Frank. Charley knew the country, he had looked for that mine himself for many a year But now he could travel quicker and was better grubstaked.

The planes with Charley and geologists and prospectors searched from the air and from the ground. They spent 1928 and 1929 in that country. Hammell did not give up for several years after that. But the McLeod mine remained lost. The McLeod mine remained hidden
until 1933.

It is a vast country, that around the Nahanni River. Few Indians live there, and those that do are credited with superstitious beliefs. Stories are told of their cruelties and witchcraft practices. Some claim those stories have been circulated by them to keep the white man out. Perhaps that is one reason the secret of the McLeod’s was kept as long as it was. But the lure of gold is stronger. White men have gone, have failed to find what they went after, but now that the gold has been found, whites will rush in for some time to come, Indians or
no Indians, unmapped and unexplored country notwithstanding.

Now J. J. Byrne comes into the picture. Hammell and those who went before him failed. Byrne won because an old-timer from Fort Liard learned one day by accident that a priest who had been in that country many years had a map of the location of the diggings. Will McLeod Is said to have given the old priest the map. Why, no one knows. But the reverend father kept it all these years and never gave away its secret till 1932, when, 85years old, he came back to Fort Liard from a well-earned rest in France.

The old-timer who had heard that the priest had the map asked him for it. He must have known the priest very well. He was given the map. He went into the country with a partner, and airplane, pilot and mechanic. They searched carefully and long. The map was old and none too explicit. It was impossible to bring the plane down on the spot indicated by the map as the site of the find. More than 12 miles distant was the nearest place on the fast waters where a plane could make a landing and be assured of taking off again. The four men pitched camp and started out on foot.

Then, one day, one of them saw through the heavy carpet of leaves, twigs, dead trees which are found in this virgin territory, an age-blackened stump which could only have been made by a sharp ax. They were on the trail. Now more tree stumps, cut through by an ax, were seen. Then one of them spied the outline of a shelter, poles placed to hold a tent. They were nearer the lost mine.

The map showed the proximity of the mine. Some one saw a squared stake standing out of the ground. There were markings. The name McLeod could still be made out. That stake was a corner post on the McLeod claim. It did not take long to find the shelter in which the brothers lived. There they found some tools, sluice boxes, gold pans, and so on.

The modern prospectors, who had come to the old find by air, and the airmen stayed a few days. They did some work, they picked enough dust, flakes and nuggets to substantiate their claim, re-staked it, and flew out. That was in July of 1933. Since then the planes have been busy and the prospectors and geologists, have come in large numbers.

Treachery And Gold On The San Juan River

About 1777, give or take a few years, a Spanish trading schooner probed Vancouver Island’s southwestern coast, eventually sighting a large native village on a sandspit created by the Gordon River pouring into the sea. Earlier explorers had found Island Indians eager to trade prime furs for hardware, bric-a-brac and trinkets. A large settlement such as this would yield a profitable haul, reasoned the captain, and the Spaniards anchored in the harbor.

Trading went well the first few days, the friendly Nitinats happily bartering away rich pelts for cheap utensils and bolts of cloth. It was not until two seamen decided to go fishing in the mouth of the San Juan River across the bay, that the tragedy began to unfold.

The duo had not been angling for long before they excitedly dropped their lines to ‘‘fish” for something far more interesting. For the observant Spaniards had spotted tiny flecks of yellow in the swirling stream — gold.

Panning the gravel with a plate, they recovered several water-polished nuggets. Enough to warrant further investigation, for it did not take a geologist to realize the mother lode must be upstream. Rushing back to their ship, they breathlessly told the others. Within seconds, all except the wives of the captain and mate, who had accompanied the voyage, were gripped by gold fever. Furs were forgotten as the men cast lots to see who would remain aboard to guard the ship. Seven men packed their gear and headed to the San Juan to find their fortunes.

The Spaniards were no sooner out of sight when the Indians began casting hungry eyes on the sloop. Just a single man stood between them and more booty than they had ever dreamed of. Not to mention two fair ladies as slaves. To the Island’s original copper-skinned residents, tribal warfare was a way of life; treachery, murder and kidnapping were all in the day’s work.

Paddling out to the ship, several braves clambered aboard with plush furs, pretending to offer them in trade. The lone seaman must have been wary of his customers and kept his musket handy. But he could not watch all the jabbering, gesturing savages. The second he dropped his guard, a knife arched into his back. Stripping the body, the victorious warriors threw it overboard, seized the women and looted the ship.

They torched the vessel, burning to the waterline, and sank in a hissing cloud of steam. Overjoyed by their coup, the tribal chieftain lost no time in dispatching 40 of his finest after braves after the prospectors. It was 31 miles upriver, on the right hank of the San Juan’s left fork, the that the murderous expedition found its unsuspecting quarry three days later.

Hiding in the dense forest, they waited for dawn, then attacked with terrifying swiftness and efficiency. Seconds later, the deed was done, the Spaniards hacked to death. Few of the ill-fated prospectors knew what struck them. Ecstatic at their second success. the warriors decided to celebrate their victory on the spot. It was a fatal error.

Divine vengeance struck that afternoon in the form of a torrential downpour. For two days and nights it rained without pause. Almost instantly, the docile San Juan had became a torrent of rampaging brown water, sweeping away trees, boulders and anything else in its path.

Unable to cross, the braves fled downstream to the forks following the right branch to its source. Here it pinched off into a series of creeks which would he easier to ford. But while it had been raining in the lower country, it had snowed on the upper reaches of the river. A heavy, soggy blanket of snow one and half feet deep lay on the ground, making the travelling slow and tiresome. The days were mild with sharp frosts at night Unable to build a fire owing to everything being soaked, they suffered terribly from cold and frostbite.

The weary days dragged along, the party growing weaker all the time, dying from exposure or falling prey to roaming black wolves. Of the 40 warriors which had stalked the Spaniards up the San Juan, only 19 exhausted braves staggered back to camp, three long weeks later.

The two women, taken as wives by the chief, lived with the tribe for several years until a Spanish man-o’-war chanced upon the scene. A squad of armed marines affected the prisoners’ release. The ship then sailed away. But not without exacting a heavy toll for the Indians treachery. The Spaniards left several presents, in token reparation for the women. In so doing, whether by design or accident, they doomed the village almost to a soul; the gifts of bedding harbored a deadly smallpox virus. Weeks later, only four of more than 400 persons still lived. The village was abandoned and never reoccupied.

The San Juan was well known to the Spaniards in the early days, and evidence of their mining for gold on its banks are frequently found. They harbored their small ships at its mouth, from which they had a mule train leading to the headwaters. After the famous territorial dispute with Great Britain, which almost led to war, Spain formally withdrew from the Northwest in March, 1796, ending all official Spanish activity in this region.

Several years after the massacre, a New England trading ship visited the village which had since been established at the mouth of the San Juan. During a pause in business, a few seamen toured the encampment, fascinated by the native way of life. Some giggling children playing on the river bank aroused their curiosity. The naked youngsters were toying with “shiny yellow stones.” Gold nuggets.

The villagers offered the excited sailors a romantic tale. Many moons before, a Cowichan war party from the Duncan area had attacked the Nitinats. The marauders had captured much booty and many slaves, including the heroine of this legend. The young squaw determined to escape at first opportunity, but her greatest handicap was navigation, as she had no idea of the route back to her village. Finally came the day when she . overheard the Cowichans talking of her people.

She learned that the Cowichans had planned to travel overland and destroy, the San Juan village by travelling up the Cowichan River to the (Cowichan) lake, and then taking the first river entering the river entering the lake from the opposite direction in which the sun travelled during the day. This was apparently Robertson Creek. Waiting until early summer when wild berries were ripe, with some scraps of scrounged food in a tiny basket, which doubled as a fish trap, the courageous girl slipped away. Eventually she struggled out of the rain forest at the San Juan. Hurrying downstream, she was home.

After a joyous reunion, she told of her adventures. Then she produced a handful of “pretty stones.” She had broken them from a big yellow rock high up the San Juan, she said. She had pocketed them as playthings for the village children.

Possible confirmation of the Spanish massacre came some years later, when a young Victoria hunter found a rusting cutlass on the grassy eastern bank of Sooke River, 15 miles inland from the San Juan. To date, the pitted blade has not been identified. However, illustrations in reference books of the Victoria Public Library would indicate the weapon is of a type used by Spanish and British seamen during the latter years of the 18th century, the period of the massacre.

Boom Towns Or Golden Ghosts

Out in California the gold-mining towns of Grass Valley, Placerville, Nevada City, Jackson, Eldorado and Downieville, nestling in the High Sierras, do not have the riotous life and wealth that they knew during the latter half of the nineteenth century, when gold was still the State’s principal source of wealth. But since 1929 they have come a long way back toward their former glory. These towns, along with others in Nevada, Placer, Amador and Eldorado Counties, in California, and in the gold mining sections of Utah, South Dakota, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, are once more alive after years of drowning in semi-oblivion.

The old stagecoach does not swing along the dusty California trails, carrying miners, gamblers, fancy ladies and gold to Sacramento and San Francisco from the distant East and the nearer mountains, but new automobiles now swiftly skim the smooth highways where until recently there was only silence and tall trees. The rough amusements of earlier days—gambling, great drinking bouts, dance-hall carousing and frequent set-tos with knives and pistols—may be a part of the exciting past, but new motion picture theaters, lighted storefronts and bustling throngs of workers and their families now take the place of inactivity and despair.

Fabulous now seem the tales of the great fortunes dug from the hills east from San Francisco. Unbelievable are the stories of speculation, extravagance, riotous living. One person out of every 2,000 living in San Francisco a half century or so ago was a millionaire. The city’s population was then close to a quarter of a million, and each of its millionaires got his wealth from gold. Those were the days when Virginia Consolidated Mines paid out $1,000,000 in dividends each month—and kept it up for more than two years.

It is impossible to exaggerate the manner of life in those days. The citizenry of all the mining camps and the larger cities were adventurers, lured to the scene by the hopes of great wealth and an exciting existence. They gave no thought, for the most part, to the morrow. Great sums were wagered at cards or any other game of chance that came to hand. Small and large fortunes were won and lost speculating in gold stocks, gold mines, and anything else on which these hardy people might risk their wealth. Life was fast, exciting and uncertain.

Whole volumes have been written around the coaches that plied the California roads. Romantic tales have depicted the operations of the great mines and the workers. Ogden L. Mills, former Secretary of the Treasury, who had purchased some shares of the old Virginia & Truckee Railroad brought another flood of lurid reminiscences and attempts to determine what possible plans led Mr. Mills to make the acquisition. Built to take the untold wealth dug from the Comstock Lode down to Virginia City, the railroad—only 52 miles of winding track—was once the best known and most prosperous line in the world. The tales of its famous days seem unbelievable now. But there came a time when the greatest boom that this country has known was over—after $40,000,000, most of it silver, had been taken out of the ground.

Gold was still in the mountains, but it was less easy to get. There was no more of picking great fortunes from the ground, of lone workers becoming millionaires overnight. Those who sought the metal must take more trouble, put more into the enterprise. Elaborate and expensive equipment was necessary to operate many of the mines. Mining became an industry rather than an individualistic adventure. In some mines it turned out that the expense of obtaining the ore was greater than the price of the gold they produced. More fertile fields attracted the miners and mining capital. Imperceptibly, almost without anybody realizing it, the boom was over.

A few mines continued to operate, but their rate of production was greatly reduced. Where thousands of men had formerly been employed there were in some cases less than 100 men at work. Most of the mines were simply left as they had been when word came that operations were to be abandoned.

Towns that had sprung up about mines and in mining districts were left deserted. Buildings that had been built to house thousands had only a few, or none at all, to occupy them. Stores were active and thriving one day, the next they were tenantless, often with the merchandise left on the shelves. Dance halls that one night were thronged, on the following evening were deserted as darkness fell.

Throughout the length and breadth of the mining areas similar scenes were enacted. In those towns that were not left utterly uninhabited, the few poor creatures remaining were bewildered, hopeless. In the few towns where one or two mines still made some feeble attempt to operate, perhaps only a fourth of the houses would be inhabited. Of six streets that formerly were alive with stores, saloons and dance halls, a part of one now sufficed.

Thus for 30 years, more in some places and less in others, with varying degrees of solitude, there were these dreary, desolate, uninhabited towns throughout the High Sierras. A stranger, coming into the town over the rutted, unused road, might have found his heart gladdened by the sight of houses and the indications of human habitation, but the blindness of the windows, the quiet air of decay, the forbidding loneliness would have chilled him within and he would have ridden on in haste to put this ghost behind him.

Through the long Winters snow pressed heavily on the roofs of these ghost towns. It was piled high in the deserted streets. The soft sun of Spring melted the snow, dried the streets. The roofs sagged. The streets were washed bare of the smooth dirt. Great rocks stood out. And this was the hopeless picture of those ghost towns, with their vacant houses and stores.

The silver camps of the last century, had a history as glamorous as that of the gold-towns. Silver City in New Mexico, Leadville, Silver Cliff and Aspen in Colorado were the scenes of dramatic excitement around 1870. Silver City saw its first wild rush in 1870. For years it was a lively, wicked, exciting community, but the collapse of the silver market took away its glory. The other silver-producing States, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Arizona and California, all have their silver ghost towns, steeped in romantic tradition. It may be that the death of the gold ghost towns will seethe rise of silver ones. If so, the loss of the former may be mitigated a little. But there is sorrow in their passing, for this time it may be for always.

Billy Barker’s Name Lives On

It is believed Billy Barker came to Victoria as a seaman on one of the ships in 1858, a short, stocky, cheerful man with twinkling eyes and a bushy beard. Once onshore, he heard many stories of the gold strike on the Fraser River in the saloons. He may have even seen some of the gold in a miner’s poke.

Whatever it was, Billy soon succumbed to the lure and was on his way in the diggings to make his fortune. Whether he took a discharge or just deserted like many others, we don’t know. Not much is known about his next few years as the miners slowly worked their way northward up the river. In 1862 he appeared on William’s Creek, named after “Dutch Bill” Dietz, who found the creek by the simple action of falling into it on his back. Regaining his feet, Dutch Bill promptly grabbed his pan to wash out a sample of the gravel. To his surprise it washed out a dollar to the pan, so he and his friends promptly staked claims.

The creek did not seem overly rich until an enterprising miner dug through the layer of blue clay that was thought to be at bedrock and found a rich layer of gold-bearing gravel that panned out 50 ounces of gold in two days and later proved to be much richer.

By the time Billy Barker arrived on the scene in 1862 all the creek above the canyon was heavily staked, so he laid out a claim below the canyon, much to the merriment of. the other miners who “knowed there warn’t nuthin thar’.”

In spite of this, Billy and six companions registered their claims on Aug. 13, each holding 100 feet of the creek channel. They soon built a shaft house and a windlass and went to work, inching their way down through boulders and other debris of centuries of rain and flood.

It was hard working by the flickering light of candles with water dripping from the sides of the hole. Only one man at a time could work in the shaft and there was always the danger of a cave-in. They reached 20 feet, then 35 feet, which was deeper than any of the claims above the canyon.

Expenses were high. Flour was $250 a barrel and potatoes $90 a sack, while a pair of miner’s boots set a man back $50. Game was scarce, driven away by the unaccustomed presence of man. Not that anyone could spare the time to hunt. The storekeepers were reluctant to give Billy and his partners any credit, but he had this dream in which the number 52 kept on recurring, and so inch by inch they slogged on.

When it seemed they could go on no longer the great Judge Begbie arrived on his official rounds. Billy Barker appealed to him for help. Perhaps the judge knew him or perhaps he recognized a kindred spirit, for he decided to give them $100 each from a fund he had for assisting destitute miners to return to the coast without any gold. They were down to 50 feet and the men wanted to quit.

With renewed hope they went back to work, but yet again the money was exhausted and still no gold. Once again the men wanted to quit. Billy persuaded them to give it another day and went down the shaft himself. For some time he worked, digging and mucking out. Then his pick went through and, in the dim light of the flickering candles, he could see the glitter of gold. His delighted yells soon brought the others running as he loaded the bucket with riches. The depth was 52 feet.

Like wildfire the news spread through the diggings and there was a rush to stake new claims. The celebration lasted for three days and only stopped when the saloons ran out of liquid sustenance. Almost overnight Barkerville was born and, with its collection of cabins, saloons, stores, breweries and other buildings it became the largest community north of San Francisco and west of Chicago, as well as the gold capital of the world.

The Barker claim was not the richest on the creek, although it did produce some $600,000. At least, that was what was declared, for it is estimated that only about half of the gold dug out of the creeks was declared to the authorities.

Even so, it didn’t do Billy Barker very much good. He left the goldfields in 1863 for the bright lights of Victoria, where he met and married a widow from London named Elizabeth Collier. Always a generous and freehanded man, Billy soon spent his share of the fortune, ably assisted by his greedy and extravagant wife, who soon added unfaithfulness to her other pleasant traits.

Within three years all his money was gone. His wife, who didn’t like living in a backwoods town or men without money, was gone too. In fact, Billy Barker was so poor the citizens of his town raised a public subscription to pay his fare to Victoria.

Never again did Billy Barker find his pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow, and he wandered from job to job and from fame to obscurity, although he still maintained his cheerful smile until his death on July 11, 1891, at the Old Men’s Home in Victoria in his 74th year. His passing only merited a couple of lines in The Daily Colonist, but with the rebuilding of Barkerville as a living museum, his name will live on.

Lost Silver Bars Of Slocan

Deep in Slocan Lake there is a fortune in lost silver bars.

At its peak the silver-rich country around New Denver boasted population of 12,000 men directly involved in mining operations alone, plus citizens of other occupations. The CPR, with its sternwheeler and barge system, ferried the silver ore from the mine-head to the railhead, at Slocan City.

Romantic paddle-wheelers such as the S.S. Slocan shunted their unwieldy cargo. This system worked well enough until, during a storm, a railway car laden with silver ingots was lost over the side. As the winds buffeted the barge, the car, rolling with the motion of the waves, began to advance along its rails. At the edge of the barge it crashed through the guardrails and vanished into the dark waters.

Soundings indicated that the boxcar was resting on a steep slope in less than 100 feet of water. This, however, was subject to change should currents or salvage attempts dislodge the car from its perch. Prompted by fears that the bullion might slip deeper into the murky depths, the company had professional “hard-hat” divers survey the situation. These experts assured the railway company that recovery operations should be quite straightforward.

After several reconnaissance dives the salvors decided that, rather than risk losing the car, which was lying on its side, by trying to remove its cargo, it would be best to raise the boxcar and bullion intact. All went according to plan, the divers successfully rigging the car to a barge by cables. Then, at a signal, crewmen began winching in the cables. The winches steadily drew in the slack, slowly, the cables were coiled about their drums aboard the salvage barge. Finally, a swirling of green water indicated that the boxcar was just inches from the surface.

Back Camera

Moments later, as the salvors cheered, the bullion car broke the surface. Water and mud poured from its undercarriage as it swayed beneath the derrick. The victory cheers turned to cries of dismay when, as they were manoeuvring a second barge under the car, a cable, stretched to its breaking point, let go with a loud crack. The boxcar plunged onto the barge’s bow, ruptured, then vanished in a swirl of white foam. When divers again descended to the Slocan’s muddy bottom they reported that the boxcar, now broken in half, much of its cargo undoubtedly buried in the silt, had come to rest at a greater depth than before.

Not until 30 years after, during the Depression, did another diving firm, also from Vancouver, make a serious attempt to salvage the lost bullion. For the second time in three decades a diver, ungainly in hardhat, air hose and suit, clambered over the side of a barge and vanished beneath the lake’s cold surface.

Armed with explicit instructions as to the boxcar’s location, he found it with little difficulty, and apparently undisturbed. After gingerly exploring its ghostly remains the diver concluded that the silver, rather than having been split in two, remained intact, in one-half of the car.

His hunch proved correct when, groping through the silt, the diver felt a jumble of solid objects. Working blindly in the murk, he dragged one of the lumps from its location and secured it to a hawser. At his signal the invisible object glided upward. Minutes after, his surface crew jubilantly reported that it was a silver ingot.

Encouraged, the diver proceeded to remove one bar after another, relying upon his sense of touch to find the unseen treasure. Making his difficult task almost impossible was the overwhelming knowledge that the shattered freight car could roll at any moment. Even if he escaped being crushed he knew that his lifeline could not fail to be entangled or cut. If the car should decide to continue its descent along the sloping lake bottom, he knew, he was a dead man.

It was this unnerving threat which finally ended his venture. After recovering some two dozen ingots the salvors abandoned their attempt. The bulk of the silver bullion remained at the bottom of Slocan Lake. However, others had been encouraged by their successful effort and tried their hands at recovery. All failed, despite the use of modern and expensive equipment, the dismembered boxcar having moved, and the lake bottom shifted over the years.

Early in 1971 it was reported that an attempt was to be made by another Vancouver firm to salvage Slocan Lake’s lost bullion. Fifty two-year-old mining executive Alex Semeniuk was quoted in the Canadian Financial Journal as saying that he and several partners, calling themselves “Wilde-Ventures,” were preparing to dive on the boxcar. He said that the wreck’s position had been pinpointed by a man noted for his ability with a divining rod. Underwater photographs having confirmed the diviner’s ‘X’. Mr. Semeniuk and associates went so far as to buy a barge to act as a platform for salvage operations. But Slocan Lake continues to hold its silver treasure.

A second case of lost silver parallels the Slocan story. A Victoria newspaper reported: “When the murk of the spring runoff settles in Kootenay Lake, a Sidney-area skin-diver hopes to slip quietly into the water and locate a missing trainload of silver. “Peter (Trumpet) Thornton Trump, with three diving companions, will resume the search he gave up 10 years ago for several boxcars of ore that broke loose from a CPR train in 1921 and rolled into the lake.”

The Chilliwack-born graphic artist and diver said that the railway had lost many such freight cars over the years, their silver contents presenting a tempting target for salvors. Ten years earlier, he explained, a Victoria diver named Bill Hook had almost hit the jackpot in Kootenay Lake’s cold depths: “While we were diving for our wreck, Hook was diving for another one further up the lake. He found the boxcars after two years’ search, but apparently thought they were empty. Some other divers were watching him and after he left they brought in a tug and turned the boxcar over and found two bars of silver.”

His own initial attempt had been thwarted by shortage of adequate air equipment, Thornton-Trump said.

Today the beautiful country around Slocan Lake, its famous mines long closed down, has returned to life as an agricultural and residential region that is justly touted by its residents as one of the prettiest corners of the province. Its past, rich in mining lore, has not been forgotten. Neither has its tale of lost silver that was lost, found and lost again.

Bulldog Kelly’s Missing Loot

It was 24 miles south of Golden, where the Kootenay trail shouldered Kicking Horse River, on the chill morning of Nov. 27, 1884, that our strange tale of murder and lost treasure begins.

In the half-light at dawn, three horsemen picked their way, single file, through snowdrifts which covered the narrow, winding trail. Leading was a young man named Manvel Drainard, followed by well-known Montana liquor salesman Robert McGregor Baird. Popularly known as Harold Baird, the American was returning to Missoula, Montana, with his season’s receipts for Eddy, Hammond and Co. In his bulging pocket and saddlebag was $4,500 in gold and currency.

Bringing up the rear was his packer and guide, a half-breed named Harry.

The trio continued southward at a slow but steady gait, and as they navigated a wider stretch in the trail, tragedy struck. Baud was halfway across when, without warning, a shot punctured the stillness catching Baird square in the chest, spinning him, lifeless, from the saddle. Taken completely by surprise, Drainard snapped a frightened lookback, saw Baird hit the ground, then spurred his mount. Unarmed and totally unnerved, his only thought was to get beyond range. The terrified youth charged off down the trail, leaving hapless Harry with a corpse—and a hidden killer.

Glancing wildly about, Harry spotted the sniper just as he fired again. A solid wall of white-hot pain slammed the packer as the bullet tore into his hip almost knocking him from his saddle but, regaining his balance, the courageous half-breed jerked his rifle from its scabbard, levered a shell into the breech and fired, all in the same motion.

His shot whistled harmlessly into the trees as the killer snapped off a third round, which also missed. Before either could reload, Harry had closed in on the stranger. The frightened horses collided, squealing riders savagely jousting with empty rifles. His wound forgotten in the heat of battle, Harry leaped onto the murderer, both men crashing heavily to the ground. Then, despite his shattered hip, Harry grappled with his unknown antagonist for almost 15 minutes. But bleeding badly, he was unable to land a solid blow in the wild scuffle. Making the struggle even more one-sided was the fact his opponent proved to be of extraordinary strength and stamina. Finally, it was over. Overcome by loss of blood and shock. Harry slumped to the trail, unconscious. To make sure he would be no further trouble, the exhausted assassin delivered several fierce kicks to the fallen man’s head, then staggered to his horse to catch his breath.

When Harry came to, be was alone. Carefully easing himself to his feet, he surveyed the grim scene dizzily. It took several seconds before his reeling senses cleared enough for him to observe the killer’s handiwork. Baird lay in the mud where he had fallen, almost naked. The highwayman had methodically slashed open his clothing, even removing boots and socks. Nearby, Baird’s horse grazed quietly, freed of saddlebags for these too had been slashed apart and ransacked.

But Harry was not thinking of money as he clambered into the saddle and kneed the animal toward Kicking Horse, a booming construction camp of the building Canadian Pacific Railway. It was nightfall when the battered guide reached camp. He was almost unconscious, eyes and mouth swollen shut, teeth caked In dried blood. Somehow he managed to mumble details of Baird’s murder. As someone ran for medical assistance. Harry mustered his last surge of will power to describe the killer, then passed out.

In the meantime, Drainard, panic-stricken when the killer had started blazing away from the trees, had galloped several miles down the trail before reigning his lathered horse. For long minutes, the youth debated his course of action. Should he hurry to Golden for help or return to the others? He had no gun . . . and was probably too scared to use one anyway.

Drainard wheeled his horse about and galloped back to his companions, arriving minutes after Harry had begun his painful ride to Kicking Horse. Upon seeing that Baird was dead, and not knowing what had become of Harry, Drainard hurried to Golden with the news. At Kicking Horse, the manhunt was already under way, outraged miners and construction workers eagerly volunteering to join the posses being formed by Northwest Mounted and Provincial Police officers. The angry posses fanned out from Golden and Kicking Horse, combing every ravine. every creek-bed, every goat track that might offer an escape route to the murderer.

Details of the cold-blooded killing and Harry’s description of the slayer were distributed to all law enforcement agencies. The manhunt became even more active when the Montana firm which had employed Baird offered a reward of $1,000, to which the province added $250. Police had already put a name to the description: “Bulldog” Kelly, a loud, rough American of questionable employment who had been drifting about the Kootenays for about a year.

Police received a report that Bulldog was in Golden but a thorough search of the town and vicinity failed to yield a sign of the wanted man. Kootenay Gold Commissioner Vowel dispatched two more constables to assist the investigation at Kicking Horse.

Days later, the search had slowed to a frustrating crawl. It looked like Bulldog had made good his escape to the American side. Then, whether acting on a hunch or on information, one of the officers leading the investigation decided to have the Winnipeg-bound train searched. Firing off a telegram to a water stop ahead of the train, he asked the crew to check the passengers for Kelly, without, if possible, arousing his suspicions if he was aboard.

Ironically, among the passengers aboard were none other than Col. A. G, Irvine and a Col. McLeod of the NWMP. Colonels Irvine and McLeod decided it was good time to stretch their legs and separated. Irvine spotted him first. Dressed in the rough garb of a railway worker, the red-haired suspect was watching the vast prairie land sweep by his dust-streaked window. Irvine strolled through the car, seemingly preoccupied with his own thoughts, passed the stranger, then paused at the end of the car. This was Kelly, he was sure. Without glancing back, he decided to arrest him then and there, rather than wait for McLeod.

When Irvine turned, the man was gone. The alarmed officer strode to the door, yanked it open and stepped onto the platform between the cars. He almost collided with Kelly, who was leaning against the railing. Just as Irvine put out his hand to arrest him … the man leaped from the train. He was not injured, and the moment he regained his feet he ran for dear-life across the plains. Irvine instantly yanked the emergency cord, and the train screeched to a halt moments later. But of Kelly there was not a sign. Irvine had no choice but to return to the train and telegraph the news to all detachments from the next station.

Days, weeks … months passed, without another clue as to Kelly’s whereabouts. Baird had been buried almost eight months when provincial constable Jack Kirkup of Revelstoke found Kelly. Working on special orders from Victoria, with permission of Minnesota authorities, Kirkup finally traced the wily suspect to St. Paul. Once he had found Kelly, it was an easy matter to have him arrested by local marshals.

However, Mr. Kelly, It seems, was not just an ordinary desperado for he had important friends. And when they were through pulling strings and creating smokescreens, B.C. authorities were sorry they had ever heard of the leering Irishman. Despite the determined efforts of Deputy Attorney-General Paulus Aemilius Irving, assisted by Const. W. McNeill, provincial authorities were stalled at every turn by Kelly’s influential allies. It took seven bitter, aggravating months for the Canadians to even bring Kelly before Commissioner Spencer. Mr. Irving, used to the more straight forward, business-like ways of British justice, could not understand the Americans’ lack of co-operation and sympathy.

Commissioner Spencer ordered Kelly surrendered to the Canadians. Undaunted, Kelly’s lawyer, “Big Tim” Ryan caught the next train to Washington, D.C. to meet with Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard. Eight more months passed, Ryan’s deft manoeuvring stalling every move the Canadians made. Finally Washington gave action; the extradition order was quashed.

Then came the final disaster for B.C. Ryan returned from a second visit to Washington with a final decision—from President Grover Cleveland himself. It was a long story of backroom politics but apparently Ryan had told the president of Kelly’s past good work for the Minnesota Democratic Party. Not to mention the fact he was as Irish as “the Blarney Stone.”

At that time the Emerald Isle population of the U.S had a loud, strong voice election-wise. And they backed compatriot Kelly. They might not have been so loyal had they known he was born Edward Loughlin in Illinois! Whatever, Kelly was now a free man.

Six years later, Kelly was working as a brakeman on the North Pacific. As the freight slowed to enter Helena, Kelly ran along the cars to his post Suddenly. with a scream, he tripped and fell between two cars. When his comrades rushed back to him, he was alive but beyond help. Both legs had been crushed and he died hours later on the operating table. The end had come for Bulldog Kelly, one-time terror of the Kootenays.

And the $4,500? Just minutes before the accident, Kelly had been chatting with the train crew in the caboose. He had mentioned his retirement and this was to be his last trip. After Helena, he was heading to British Columbia. Seems he would come into some money there and he winked knowingly at the others. Which meant he must have cached the loot under a log or rock in the Kootenays six years before. And there it must be today, waiting for some lucky treasure hunter. But as the police had grimly noted when chasing Kelly back in 1884: It’s a big country, and rugged.

Cariboo Road Hold-Ups

When the Cariboo Road was built in the 1860’s to accommodate the thousands of men who streamed into the Cariboo in a mad scramble for gold, express companies sprang up to do a thriving business conveying goods to the miners and carrying their gold back to the coast.

The majority of miners and merchants entrusted their gold to Humphrey, Poole and Johnson’s, Barnard’s or Dietz and Nelson’s Express. Just how much gold was conveyed from the Cariboo to Yale en route to New Westminster by other public carriers is not known, but at one time Barnard’s Express alone carried out an average of $100,000 a week.

The total output from the Fraser and Cariboo mines amounted to more than $40 million. It is not surprising that there were a few stage coach robberies but what is remarkable is that there were not many more. Because of the continual threat of hold-ups and robberies with murder, Governor Douglas formed an armed escort in 1881. Members wore a uniform, were mounted and presented quite an imposing sight with their arms and bandoliers.

Under the command of Thomas Elwyn, the escort, numbering 12 strong, made its first trip from Lillooet to the coast in August, 1861. A mere $18,000 was carried on the first trip, for the miners wanted little to do with the escort since the government refused to guarantee against loss.

After the exercise of some diplomacy, Elwyn managed to get a consignment of gold dust valued at $30,000 for the second trip. The third trip saw another $10,000 taken down from Lillooet. The Government gold escort proved to be a costly experiment and the group was disbanded. The receipts in tolls on gold carried amounted to only $300 while the costs of the escorts amounted to $30,000!

In 1863 the gold escort was revived again with Elwyn again in command, this time with 15 men under him. The first trip was to William’s Creek and $40,000 in dust was taken down. Two more trips saw a total of $281,000 being conveyed at a cost of $60,000 with a revenue of $9,000. The scheme had been a complete fiasco and was never resuscitated.

This left all the business to the express companies who carried the bullion in massive steel boxes, guarded by a man armed with a Winchester rifle. That one man with a loaded rifle could protect a well-filled treasure box against a determined attack by robbers is difficult to believe, but oddly enough the first hold-upon the Cariboo Road did not occur until 1884.

The scene of the crime was near the 82-Milepost, 35 miles above Clinton. Ned Tate was the driver, a Chinese being the only passenger, when two highwaymen jumped Into the roadway and ordered him to hold up. The robbers secured the treasure box containing $4,000, got clear away and all efforts to trace them failed.

A few years later another unsolved stage robbery took place on the road between Soda Creek and Quesnel when two to three thousand dollars in gold was taken.

The biggest robbery in the history of the B.X. (B.C. Express) occurred in the early1890’s at the foot of Bridge Creek hill near the 98-Mile post. The driver, William Parker was carrying one passenger and a treasure chest containing $15,000 in gold dust and bars. The highwayman was an old man, thoroughly cool, who forced Parker to throw down the strong box and drive off without looking back. Immediately after the hold-up a heavy rain fell, obliterating all tracks. A reward was offered for the capture of the robber, but none earned it and it began to look as though the highwayman would get away with it.

Shortly after the theft, an old man named Rowlands appeared in Clinton and let it be known that he was a prospector, finally staking ground on Scotty’s Creek, 19 miles north of Ashcroft. He put in several primitive sluice boxes and employed a few Indians and Chinese. After some days, Rowlands gave out that he was making $100 to $200 a day. This news was soon bruited about and men rushed to the creek to stake claims.

It proved, however, that Rowlands was the only one lucky enough to strike pay-dirt and oddly made his clean-ups only when no one was around. This aroused the suspicions of two old-timers, Doc English and Johnny Wilson, who watched Rowlands and followed him when he set out for Ashchroft some days later. They reported their suspicions in the proper quarter, a warrant was issued by Isaac Lehman, J.P., and Chief Constable J. W. Burr arrested Rowlands as he boarded the train.

Nothing incriminating was found on him but he was tried and found guilty on wholly circumstantial evidence. Mr. Justice Walkem sentenced him to seven years in the penitentiary from which he escaped after serving two years, the reward offered for his capture was paid to English and Wilson.

In June, 1804, two stages were held up in a three week interval, the first of these robberies taking place June 7. Angus MacRae, carrying mail only was stopped between 150-Mile House and Quesnel Forks and ordered by an armed stranger to throw down the mail sacks. MacRae was instructed to drive on, which he did although wasting no time in raising the alarm, and the robber, Harry Brown, was captured on July 5 of that year.

The second outrage occurred on June 25, some 2 1/2 miles below 150-Mile House. As this hold-up followed so closely on the heels of the other, it was at first thought that one man had planned and staged both coups, but it soon developed that this was not the case. Ed Owens, the driver of the south-bound stage stopped for the night at the “150” where a man named Samuel Blankly also stopped. This latter implied that he would be a stage passenger at day break when the journey was resumed, but set out on foot ahead of the stagecoach, “to lighten the load,” as he explained.

He walked off at dawn and craftily selected a place suitable for a hold-up behind a tree on a little knoll at the roadside. As the stage went by Blankly leapt from his hiding place and ordered Owens to throw down the strongbox. The driver tried several ineffectual ploys to deter the bandit who was wearing a gunny sack with two eyeholes cut in it over his head.

The alarm was given at the first house arrived at and the resident constable and others hastened to the site of the robbery where they found the discarded gunny sack which Blankly had stolen from a man named Hamilton. Thus the police knew for whom to look and in due course Blankly was captured at Alkali Lake and taken to Clinton where he gave his name as Sam Slick. At his trial a few days later he was positively identified by Hamilton as the man who had stayed at his house on June 24 and who had stolen the gunny sack. Blankly was tried and sent to the penitentiary.

Robberies on the Cariboo Road were remarkably few considering the $40 million in gold that was brought down to the Coast by various agents. That the west was not lawless in the coaching days is evidence by the fact that few highwaymen got away with robbery.

The Last Totems

The silence is only broken by the croak of a raven or the high chittering cry of an eagle. Deer come to the water’s edge at dawn and an occasional bear passes through the dank grasses on its way to its retreat in the forest. The seasons come and go and with them the old decayed carvings gradually crumble and topple to the ground.

This is the land of the totem pole on the north coast and up the Nass and Skeena Rivers.

The old village sites are now almost lost in the encroaching rain forest growth that so quickly gains control once the human chain has been broken. Only the presence of a few gnarled fruit trees that cling tenaciously on amongst the cedars and spruce show that here once people lived busy and creative lives.

The deserted sites had curious but melodic names. Tian, Yaku, Gitwinsilk, Kuldo, Nahwitti, to name a few. Some poles still stand in villages that are occupied. Near Vancouver Island are Karlukwees and Mamalilaculla off Johnstone Strait. Kincome Inlet village, has a few poles. Up the Skeena are Kitwancool, Kitwanga, and Kispiox with groups of poles that have mostly now been restored to some degree.

The greatest collection of poles in the old days in sheer numbers and perhaps in beauty of design stood on the Queen Charlotte Islands. Only two sites here now have any number still in existence. The best and just about most remote village, in B.C. was Ninstints on Anthony Island near Cape Saint James. About 14 poles still stand but they are doomed as are all the others.

One by one they will totter and collapse with rot. They are too old now to be saved. A few carvings still stand at the deserted village of Skedarts.

Of the hundreds of poles that existed a century ago in Masset and Skidegate only one old pole still stands in the latter village. The rest either fell on their own accord or were removed to museums throughout the world early in this century.

But still the remaining few cling on in stately dignity overlooking the quiet waters. Because of their remoteness in many cases only the odd fisherman or anthropologist will get the opportunity to gaze on these graceful creations of another era. When the last of them finally falls we shall all have lost something most unique in our shrinking world.

Historic Yale

Certainly the town of Yale has changed over the years. Except for its cairn and provincial parks department signboards few visitors would stop to think that once Yale was a boomtown. Gateway to El Dorado.

One who well remembered the colorful community at the entrance to the Fraser Canyon in its heyday was David W. Higgins, pioneer journalist and adventurer who, like thousands of others, had joined in the mad rush to British Columbia in1858. Higgins, unlike most, did very little picking and panning for gold. After a short stint as an express clerk he returned to his profession of journalism.

In the spring of 1906 he returned to Yale, scene of his “early manhood’s adventures,” after an absence of almost 58 years. His visit was brief and poignant filled with memories of the hundreds of courageous and outrageous characters who had once walked the busy streets of Yale. But all of that had changed by 1906. What had been crowded thoroughfares were overgrown lanes. Homes and buildings had vanished or were falling down; a tiny lilac bush planted by a long-gone pioneer had grown to gigantic proportions and seeded its own jungle of aromatic bushes.

The Yale of 1906 was a far cry from the Yale of 1858, “the busiest and worst town in the colony.”

There were many God-fearing men and women, but there were many of the bad sort too who never attended church and sneered at those who did. Every other store was a gambling den with liquor attachments. Ruffians, fugitives from justice, deserters from the United States troops who strutted about in army overcoats which they had stolen when they deserted for the British Columbia gold mines, vigilance committee refugees who had been driven from San Francisco under sentences of life banishment, ex-convicts, pugilists, highwaymen, petty thieves, murderers and painted women, all were jumbled together in that town and were free to follow their sinful purposes so far as any restraint from the officers of the law were concerned.

Only a gold commissioner and two constables had been responsible for law and order in that mecca of thieves, with the result that justice was all but non-existent. A drunk without money and without friends, could count on awakening in a jail cell. “High class” criminals with money and friends could easily break jail or arrange to have witnesses bribed or threatened to keep their silence.

On one occasion a miner was shot down because he refused to pay for a drink of whisky. His murderer went into hiding. On the third night after the killing invitations were issued to a ball, which the gold commissioner and the two constables attended. All these men had associated themselves in the hope of tracking the murderer. While the ball was at its height the murderer emerged from his place of hiding and made off in a canoe. He was never caught.

But all that had occurred during the town’s youth. In 1906 Yale was little more than a clutter of shanties and ruins beside the river. As the aging journalist strolled along the quiet streets, his mind travelled back almost half a century and his heart ached for his friends and acquaintances of that halcyon day; most of them had gone from this sphere, and exist only as pictured memories of the past, to be recalled by the pen of the historian who strives to convey to people of the present day an Idea of the sorrows, the joys and temptations of the gold seekers who came here many years ago, and who have left an imperishable record on the towns, the rivers, the rocks and the hills of this province.

As Higgins stood, pondering the course of progress, a cheerful voice interrupted his reverie. Startled, he turned and saw a short, stocky man with a shovel on his shoulder. Before he could return the man’s greeting, the other exclaimed: “By Jove, I ought to know that face Ain’t your name Higgins?” When Higgins nodded, the other replied, “Well, my name is Ned Stout. Remember me?”

“Indeed I do. You were here in 1858, and afterward you went to the Cariboo and gave your name to a rich piece of mining ground. Stout’s Gulch was famous once.”

Grinned Stout: “Yes. I made a good bit of money out of it, but I did not keep it. It all went somehow, and after many years I have comeback to Old Yale to live and die. It is the prettiest and best place on earth anyhow.”

What most struck Higgins was Stout’s appearance — in almost half a century it seemed that he had not aged a day. Higgins thought the famous prospector must have been about 50 in I860, and wondered aloud if Stout had not found the fountain of youth, or if he had In fact died and been reborn. Neither, replied Stout with a chuckle. He was 86 (according to Higgins) and had “outlived all the early inhabitants except you and Bill Aldway there.”

As he spoke he pointed to an old man who, having heard that Higgins was In town, painfully hobbled up to shake hands. As the newspaperman shook his hand he thought back to the day when Bill Aldway and his brother Mose had been packers. Mose, he was Immediately told, had passed on; Bill, bent and broken, was merely awaiting the call.

“But,” said Aldway with a laugh, and with a trace of the old fire in his eyes, “I have had lots of fun; perhaps a lot more than I ought to have had, and I am paying for it now. I am a sick man and it is no wonder, for I am 79.”

“Ah! I remember,” interrupted Stout. “John Kurtz, Hugh Nelson and you, and Walter Gladwin and Old Man Kimball whom we used to call Goodness Gracious,’ and the Barry brothers and Frank Way, the greatest practical joker on the river, and Ben Bailey, who lived all one winter with his wife and children in a tent on the bar, and come out in the spring rosy and happy. Bailey said be had never passed a winter so comfortable and he and his wife and children had never a cold or headache the whole time . . .”

As Higgins listened, his mind trailed back 46 years, to the day when the men Stout had mentioned were living, breathing people; when Yale was In its glory; when the events mentioned were being enacted beside the Fraser. He was returned to the present by the painful thought that all but the three of them — Higgins, Stout and Aldway — were gone.

Everything had changed; everything but the overhanging mountains, the river, and Ned Stout. “There was as little change in the one as the other,” marvelled Higgins. “If anything the mountains and the river were the worse for the wear and tear, but the man — there wasn’t a new line on his face, a new furrow on his brow, a dim spot in his eye, a grey hair or bald spot on his head! “Surely, surely, I thought, he had drunk of the waters of eternal youth, for at 86 he is still a kid!”

He was still incredulous when the three parted. Aldway and Stout went on their way, Higgins continued his stroll through the old townsite. As he walked along the Yale Flat he mentally “peopled the spots where the various establishments stood in those days, and where the old and young, the grave and gay, the good and bad, consorted in common companionship.

“I picked out the site of Billy Ballou’s express office, Barry’s saloon, Oppenheimer’s warehouse and residence (the latter the handsomest in town). Bennett’s gambling house, where a youth was done to death for objecting to the way a sharper attempted to stack the cards on him, the door from which Foster fired when he shot Barney Rice for refusing to pay for a drink, the place where stood the tiny hall in which Rev. Ebenezer Robson, the pioneer Methodist minister, delivered his first sermon; the Hudson’s Bay Co. store over which Ovid Allard presided with profit to his company and satisfaction to his customers; the gambling house in which in 1858 Chief Justice Begbie held his first court, in a room where three nights before a man had been shot. . .

“All these scenes and events passed through my mind that day like a series of motion pictures on the stage. I could recall every face and in my mind’s eye could follow the men and women through their various careers until the grave closed over them. It is sad to think that of the busy multitude whom I knew at Yale 56 years ago only two remained on the scene to welcome the returning pioneer and run over with them the incidents pf the past.”

With a sigh he turned away from the scenes of early life with a feeling of deep regret and sorrow.” Then, with a theatrical flourish, he concluded: “As I bring down the curtain on the moving mind pictures and turn off the lights I return the films to the memory cells where they have long slumbered, and from whence they may never again emerge. As I “dismiss my audience I am tempted to exclaim with Tiny Tim, ‘God bless us all.’ “