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  1. #1
    Charter Member
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    Sharing the culture, history and adventure of the American Southwest.

    Jun 2006
    Banning, California
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    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Why Thomas L Smith was not THE pegleg Smith

    Hey gang,
    I have said for awhile that Thomas L Smith was not THE true pegleg, but because of his popularity at the time he gets mixed in within it. There is a thesis from a BYU student from back in the sixties with his take on the Thomas L side, and here is a glimpse into that thesis. It is also mimicked by Philip Bailey and his book Golden Mirages from the early 40's....

    Enjoy
    PLL

    A recent work on Thomas L. “Pegleg” Smith by a graduate student of history at Brigham Young University may cause a revision of opinion as to the location of one of the most famous and best-documented bonanzas of all, the Lost Pegleg Mine.
    More incredibly, the rich concentration of coal-black nuggets searched for in vain by Californians in the desert reaches of San Diego and Imperial Counties may be located on the floor of a tributary of the Virgin River in southern Nevada.
    Like other legendary bonanzas of the West, the Lost Pegleg Mine has accumulated a mass of literature. Books, magazine articles and newspaper accounts of this elusive treasure have been published with increasing frequency since the 1860’s. The publicity continues to this day, when a modern “Pegleg” claims to have removed more than $300,000 in nuggets from the site allegedly rediscovered in 1955. Although the find was made on the basis of research in the newspapers and government records of the 19th century in California, most of the bits of precious metal were said to have been recovered with the assistance of a metal detector.
    In the more than 140 years since the original discovery, the desert winds probably have carried several inches of sand over the mineralized outcrop, leaving only a few nuggets visible. The site of the modern find is described as being in the Salton Sea area of southern California. For this reason alone, this writer firmly believes that the location cannot be the one stumbled across by Pegleg Smith in 1827.
    Pegleg Smith has become so distorted by lengthy discussion that any factual data on his activities is difficult to extract from illusions and legends that surround him. His admirers, all of whom seem to feel sure that they have the key to unlock the 142-year-old mystery, dispute even his birthplace.
    In Robert Cleland's survey of the fur trade, “This Reckless Breed of Men,” Smith is described as one of the first hardy adventurers who crossed the Mississippi River to explore the rich fur trapping regions of the Rocky Mountains. He quickly became a leader of the mountain men and participated in the exploitation of the beaver streams that flowed through high mountain valleys from Canada to Mexico.
    Smith’s strength of character is well illustrated by the account of his self-amputation of a shattered foot after being wounded in an Indian fight near what was to become Yellowstone National Park. When none of his companions would agree to act as surgeon, Pegleg used his own skinning knife to remove the badly mangled member, then swore that he would outlive them all.
    By the late 1820’s, Smith had trapped most of the mountain west and was searching for untouched streams in Arizona and Utah. Beaver were plentiful in the Flagstaff area and Smith decided to take his catch into California. According to a study of Smith, “Golden Mirages,” by Philip A. Bailey, he came down Bill Williams Fork of the Colorado River to Yuma, Arizona, then across the deserts to San Diego( not true )
    During this hazardous trip a vicious sandstorm struck. All landmarks were rendered invisible and for three days Smith wandered until his water was gone. In that country, no water usually meant no life. Pegleg ascended the largest of three knolls in order to get above the swirling sand and get his bearings. From there he was able to see the peaks of the coastal ranges ( again not true ).
    Smith also saw quantities of black-crusted pebbles scattered about his feet. Picking up a few, he found them to be quite heavy. Curiosity caused him to put a few of them into his pockets before hurrying toward the mountains and safety. When he finally struggled into the California settlements, a few scratches of his skinning knife showed that the rocks were gold nuggets covered with a thin crust of iron or manganese. Since this occurred some 20 years before gold was discovered in the Sierra Nevada area, Smith decided that it must be an isolated case that was not worth investigating.
    We now skip two intervening decades to the Gold Rush of 1849. The possible significance of his earlier discovery then became apparent to Pegleg Smith. After spreading the account of his 22-year-old bonanza, he gathered a party of prospectors and attempted to relocate the site. They were unsuccessful—and this is the essence of most of the stories that have circulated concerning the Lost Pegleg Mine. In the light of new work on the subject, it may be seen that several significant details that were accepted earlier can now be disputed.
    Alfred G. Humphreys in his thesis, “The Expeditions, Trading and Life of Thomas L. (Pegleg) Smith,” states that Smith was on the banks of the Colorado River near Overton, Nevada, when another trapper found the nuggets. The details of this event were taken from research in California newspapers and official documents. According to Humphreys, Smith was a member of a trapping party headed by Ewing Young that worked the Colorado River for beaver in the spring of 1827. They reached the Mohave Indian villages near Needles, California, and soon precipitated trouble over the treatment of squaws. Fighting their way out of the rancheras, the party traveled northward along the Colorado toward the Virgin River, The Mohave warriors followed on their heels and attacked the party continually.
    Entering the valley between the Black and Cetbat ranges, the trappers decided that it would be better to stand and fight than to be killed piecemeal in the hit-and-run battles with the Indians. Smith suggested that they backtrack over their trail and ambush the Mohaves in the Black Mountains. The plan was adopted and the group quietly returned over their route, caught the Indians asleep after a feast on stolen horseflesh, and killed them in a short rifle and knife fight.
    Having eliminated Indian troubles, the party marched to the Colorado River near the junction of the Virgin. Several days were spent in trapping that portion of the valley when, late one afternoon, a trapper called Dutch George returned to camp with a handful of nuggets.
    Smith inspected the rough stones and mistakenly pronounced them to be native copper.
    This mistake makes the story all the more believable. In 1827, the only mine in production was the Santa Rita deposit in New Mexico. The Santa Rita mine produced copper from ore in the form found by Dutch George. Further, Pegleg Smith had visited the mine in 1825, just two years before this incident. Gold had not been discovered west of the Rockies at the time and its very existence in the region was doubted. Trappers often played practical jokes on tenderfeet by giving them iron pyrites and causing bad cases of gold fever, much to the amusement of those in on the joke.
    Pegleg proceeded to take the pieces of “copper” and make bullets of them for his rifle. The next day, he used them to kill a mountain sheep for the camp larder. Because the Colorado was not proving to be a productive source of beaver, Smith and a few others broke off from the main party and headed north along the Virgin Valley. Before leaving, they returned to the area where Dutch George had found the nuggets to gather material as a source of bar lead for their bullet molds. They afterward trapped north to Salt Lake Valley and promptly forgot about their potential El Do rado.
    The source of the above information comes from an interview with Smith published by Hutchings’ California Magazine in the February 1861 issue. This interview and an article, “Story of an Old Trapper,” that appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin of October 26, 1866, form the only known descriptions of the discovery of the Pegleg placer made by Pegleg himself. Bailey, in “Golden Mirages,” notes this story and says that the trappers’ camp was on the Nevada side of the Colorado River, about two miles east of the junction of the Virgin. Dutch George is said to have found the nuggets in a dry creek bed near the Colorado, again on the north side. According to this account, the attempt to find the site the next day was unsuccessful.
    Fur trade historians are sure that Ewing Young was on the Colorado River in 1827. If Pegleg Smith could quote so many details of this particular expedition correctly, then it is equally sure that he was a member of the party. Other descriptions of the 1827 trip can be found in Alson J. Smith’s “Men Against the Mountains,” and James Ohio Pattie described his rescue from the Papagoes by the group in his “Narrative.” We can thus be reasonably sure that this first fur-gathering trip along the Colorado River was made in 1827, and that Pegleg Smith was a member of the party.
    The next episode in the story takes place in the spring of 1854. By this time, Pegleg was aware of the possible importance of the strike in 1827. Also, the flush times in California were over. The best placer grounds had been worked and prospectors were moving out to locate new deposits. Smith gathered more than 60 men to return to the Virgin River to locate his bonanza. As he told the story repeatedly, the amount and size of the find grew larger.
    The expedition was formed in Los Angeles and details of its purpose were carried in an article in the Los Angeles Star of April 22, 1854. Pegleg had become a California notable in the years of his residence there and the story was reprinted in the San Francisco Alta California four days later. Among the details were descriptions of the men and the fact that they were heading for the Virgin River with three months’ supplies. Their route followed the Old Spanish Trail. Disagreements soon broke up the party, but Pegleg and nine others kept going. He later commented that “they wuz all a pack of cowards an' kept seein' Injuns an’ mountain lions an’ the Lord knows what beyond every rock, bush an’ creek.”
    However, they did get to the area near the mouth of the Virgin ( they DID NOT go to the desert area below Palm Springs ). Exactly what happened there is not known. Their search evidently was to no avail, since they were on the return trip by June 1, 1854. A day later they joined Capt. John C. Fremont and his party at Kingston Springs, located between Barstow, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.
    The Fremont diaries say, “While encamped on this spot, we met a party of gold seekers from Los Angeles. They had been down on the Colorado looking for gold, but were unsuccessful. They were under the command of a man with one leg, known as Pegleg Smith, a celebrated mountaineer. He is a weather-beaten chap and tells some improbable tales. They are on their way back and will travel with us; they comprise ten men all mounted on mules.”
    The party reached San Bernardino and dispersed on June 9, 1854. Because of the internal disputes and failure of the party to find the placer, Smith was discredited in mining circles and died a pauper in San Francisco in 1866.
    These, then, are the known contemporary records of Pegleg Smith and his lost bonanza. However, would be locaters of the deposit can easily get lost in the masses of misinformation that exist concerning the Lost Pegleg Mine. The serious researcher should start with the records shown here, then go on to the later geologic and topographic studies of the area done by the federal government and the State of Nevada. There is every reason to believe that such a deposit could exist in the area described by Smith. Gold veins and placers have been worked for more than a century in the immediate vicinity. Just south of Virgin Canyon lay the King Tut placers, in an area so remote that they were not discovered until the 1930’s.
    So, come on, you treasure hunters. The Lost Pegleg could be there—and any one of you could be the one to find it!

  2. #2
    um
    Nemo me impune lacesset

    Jan 2005
    DAKOTA TERRITORY
    Tesoro Lobo Supertraq, (95%) Garrett Scorpion (5%)
    5,710
    1632 times

    Re: Why Thomas L Smith was not THE pegleg Smith

    Tag post please ignore
    SUPPORT THE BEEF INDUSTRY - EAT BEEF
    "We must find a way, or we will make one."--Hannibal Barca

  3. #3
    Charter Member
    us
    Sharing the culture, history and adventure of the American Southwest.

    Jun 2006
    Banning, California
    ace 250
    1,790
    31 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Why Thomas L Smith was not THE pegleg Smith

    Hello Oro,
    Nice puppy !!! What did you name him? her ?

    PLL

  4. #4
    um
    Nemo me impune lacesset

    Jan 2005
    DAKOTA TERRITORY
    Tesoro Lobo Supertraq, (95%) Garrett Scorpion (5%)
    5,710
    1632 times

    Re: Why Thomas L Smith was not THE pegleg Smith

    HOLA amigo - she is "Angel" aka PSYCHO, though I think perhaps "Tasmanian Devil" might have been more appropriate. (heh heh ) I had ALMOST forgotten just how devilish Husky pups can be. I hope she and her sister Panda will turn out to be good prospecting dogs, and yes we are even looking at dog sleds again. They seem to have the muscle and willpower.

    Very interesting research amigo BTW, which is why I 'tagged' your thread!
    Oroblanco
    SUPPORT THE BEEF INDUSTRY - EAT BEEF
    "We must find a way, or we will make one."--Hannibal Barca

  5. #5
    Charter Member
    us
    Sharing the culture, history and adventure of the American Southwest.

    Jun 2006
    Banning, California
    ace 250
    1,790
    31 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Why Thomas L Smith was not THE pegleg Smith

    Hi Oro,
    I have some other stuff that's a bit interesting and i have something else for you.... I'll send you a PM over the next couple days... BTW nice pups, and I'm not surprised you are looking for a sled. After all you don't live in Florida LOL!!!!! And with this economy you might need some " reliable " transportation < snicker >......

    PLL

 

 

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