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Thread: "Pegleg Was A Liar" - The Pegleg Smith Chronicles, Continued

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  1. #1
    Charter Member
    um
    Dec 2008
    3,599
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    "Pegleg Was A Liar" - The Pegleg Smith Chronicles, Continued

    PEGLEG IS A BLOOMING LIAR.
    His Mine Proved a Myth by Returned Prospectors.

    Ex-Sheriff Aguirre and a Party Return from a Fruitless Search.

    All Peg-leg's Old Landmarks Found and the Place Where the Mine Ought to Be,
    But No Gold Was to Be Found There.

    If the historical Pegleg mine had ever existed, Ed. Marcellus and his companion would probably have found it, but Mr. Mellus says there never was such a mine and states moreover that the imaginative Mr. Pegleg was a blamed old liar.

    Ex-Deputy Sheriff Mellus, who has so rudely torn away the veil of romance which has surrounded the lost El Dorado for over 30 years, has been a crank on the subject since he was 16, 18 years ago. Just 10 years back he made his first search for lost gold, taking the Hidden Springs as his object point. According to reliable information this hidden spring was in the locality of the mine and was necessary on account of the lack of water in the desert. With the aid of an Indian, who was informed that Mellus was hunting mountain sheep, the spring was found, in a little oasis covering about a quarter of an acre of territory. Satisfied with this result, Mellus returned to Los Angeles with the determination in resuming his search on the first opportunity. But funds were not plentiful and he never had that opportunity until last February, when Judge Brunson offered to grubstake him and his companions in their hunt for the long lost mine. On the 17th of February last Mellus, in company with his Cousin, F. O. Mellus, ex-Sheriff Martin Aguirre and a well-known prospector, Michael Kirby, started out with four horses and eight burros for the Colorado desert. They made for a little valley known as the "Vallecitos," intending to make that their headquarters. The journey was a long and rough one. Their progress was barred with the almost impenetrable jungles of cacti and prickly mescal plants through which the treasure seekers had to hew their way. The season was the rainy one, and the travelers often rode day and night through the pouring rain without finding shelter or dwelling of any kind. At last they reached the little valley and made their camp before commencing their march across the desert. After a short rest the burros were reladen and a start made for the three buttes, which old Pegleg had described as being the locality in which he found the shining gold in heaps. Taking warning from the fate of the numerous prospectors who bad lost their lives in the search, Mellus first saw to their water supply. Eight barrels, containing eleven gallons apiece, were packed on the burros, and the journey was begun. Some miles out the party overtook a female spiritualist medium in company with three Americans. The medium stated that she knew where the treasure lay and that she was going to the exact spot but she rather dispelled the illusion by asking Mellus and his companions in what direction the hidden spring lay. She did not receive a satisfactory answer. Mellus advised her to consult the spirits, and also warned her against undertaking the journey without water, drawing a graphic picture of death from thirst, which latter effort so scared the spiritualistic party that they incontinently turned tail and made for home.

    Not knowing exactly how long it would be before they reached the spring, the party determined to husband their water supply and for four days the unfortunate burros plodded along in the burning sand without a drop of water. At the best of times a burro is a sulky animal, and by the time the water was reached the beasts of burden were hot in both senses of the word. They were led to the stream with their four days' thirst on them, but in vain, the burros were dead sulky and would only look at the refreshing liquid and snort, and it was not until they thought they had evinced their sense of injustice that they would condescend to wet their lips.

    From this spring, which is so carefully concealed by nature that a man may be parching with thirst within 50 feet of it and not discover its existence, they made their way to the three historical buttes, along which, old Pegleg had stated, lay the gold. They were reached, and wasting no time the party commenced their search. Days and days were passed in fruitless hunting. There were no signs of gold. All of Pegleg's landmarks were found, all was there except the precious metal. The only approach to it, was a decomposed ledge running northwest and southeast. The ledge was honey-combed throughout, and the prospectors dug to depth of twenty feet, but when the dirt came to be washed, not even a color could be found. All that remained were small garnets none larger than a pin's head. The whole country for two miles around was thoroughly examined and at last the disgusted treasure seekers packed up and made their way back over the desert. Speaking to reporter yesterday, Mr. Mellurs [sic] said:

    "I want to say for the benefit of future prospectors that there is and can be no such place as the Pegleg mine. I have looked up old Pegleg's record, and judging from the evidence of his friends and acquaintances, the old man was a blamed old liar. He has been the cause of many a good man losing his life, and I want to say right here, that he was a fakir [sic] of the first water

    "The only foundation I can find for the story is that years ago, miners in going to Fort Yuma used to take the old Butterfield route, which leads in the direction of the supposed Pegleg mine. The Cahuilla Indians used to make a practice of ambushing these miners and robbing them of their gold duet. "I know for a fact that 17 miners were shot down at one time. The Indians, afraid to bring back this dust at one time, used to bury it in the desert, and account for their possession of it, by stating they had found a wonderful mine, the locality of which of course they would not describe. In my opinion this is the source of the story of the wonderful Pegleg mine. Old Pegleg drew on his imagination, which was a good one. Why, he said he got lost and woke up one morning to find glittering lumps of gold all round him. Why, the durned old ------ ------ ------ ----------" and in a disgusted tone of voice Mr. Mellus called for a drink.

    Los Angeles Herald, 18 May 1893 (Volume 40, Number 37)


    Good luck to all,

    ~The Old Bookaroo
    Oroblanco and Crow like this.

  2. #2
    pw
    Apr 2003
    New Mexico
    BS
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    This type of extremely well-known lost mine legend is why I tend to be much more interested in the little-known, more obscure stories that survived the mineral rush days of the late 18th and early 20th centuries. The more obscure tales are every bit as compelling and much, much less likely to be as majorly corrupted as the iconic ones have become. Jogged by a discussion on another TN thread, I recently re-read Golden Treasures of the San Juan, by Cornelius, which contains some great stories about the mining camps in SW Colorado. These are locally known stories that have become legendary in a limited region - unlike the Pegleg story that has become almost mythical throughout the entire west.

    We know Smith was renowned as a liar, drunk, braggart, horse-thief and irreconcilable BS-er. This forms a pretty fine mesh through which his story needs to be filtered. My guess is that, if there's any truth to Smith's story (or Adams' lost diggings yarn too, as another example), he vastly exaggerated his find to inflate his reputation - it's easier to get free drinks that way. As time went by, who knows what he'd say next? Maybe Pegleg did show some gold nuggets to folks. If so, I wonder if the nuggets in his possession weren't the same ones allegedly given to him by George Yount in the 1820's. Yount's discovery was reported in Hutchings California Magazine, (Feb. 1861, Pg 331) and supposedly was made in a dry arroyo off the Colorado River, two miles upstream from the mouth of the Virgin River.
    Last edited by Springfield; Nov 20, 2013 at 01:28 PM.
    ​Adios, amigos - it's been interesting.







  3. #3
    fm
    Raggedy old Crow

    Jan 2005
    In a tax haven some where
    ONES THAT GO BEEP! :-)
    1,754
    3539 times
    Growing old disgrace fully as possible.
    I could also imagine there was quite few peg legs that spun a yarn or two.

    Its hard today for amputees to make living. Imagine back in those days. You were virtually considered unemployable and life would of been tough for many men left in this situation. Perhaps a yarn punters were willing to listen to for a price to drown your sorrows. Became convenient by many people?

    Crow
    Last edited by Crow; Nov 24, 2013 at 07:52 PM. Reason: spelling

  4. #4
    pw
    Apr 2003
    New Mexico
    BS
    2,850
    1285 times
    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    I could also imagine there was quite few peg legs that spun a yarn or two.

    Its hard today for amputees to make living. Imagine back in those days. You were virtually considered unemployable and life would of been tough for many men left in this situation. Perhaps a yarn punters were willing to listen to for a price to drown your sorrows. Became convenient by many people?

    Crow
    I certainly agree with what you've said, but if you look at Smith's life following his amputation, you'll see that he accomplished much more than most of his two-legged colleagues. If he fell into sorrow drowning, I imagine a lot of it came in his later years. All this aside, the bottom line is that the facts behind the 'Lost Pegleg' story seem to have always been obscured, and as the story grew into a legend, the truth slipped further away. It's like watching the Hollywood version of a great book.
    ​Adios, amigos - it's been interesting.







  5. #5
    um
    Nemo me impune lacesset

    Jan 2005
    DAKOTA TERRITORY
    Tesoro Lobo Supertraq, (95%) Garrett Scorpion (5%)
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    While there is little doubt that Pegleg Smith was a known liar, there are other accounts of having found black-crusted gold nuggets. John D. Mitchell said that he found some on somewhat similar type terrain while hunting for a meteorite, south of the Chuckwalla mountains but did not realize they were gold until years later. There is also the story of Crazy Ike, and his location seems to be in the same general area where Mitchell went.

    I suspect that Smith was telling the truth about finding the black-crusted gold nuggets, which tormented him for the rest of his life as he did not really know where he had found them. Somewhere between the Colorado river and Los Angeles - quite a lot of territory to hunt.

    Good luck and good hunting amigos, I hope you find the treasures that you seek. Please do continue!
    Oroblanco
    SUPPORT THE BEEF INDUSTRY - EAT BEEF
    "We must find a way, or we will make one."--Hannibal Barca

  6. #6
    us
    Fortune Favors the BOLD, while Karma Favors the Wise!

    Jan 2006
    Arizona Vagrant
    Modded SD2000 / White's Goldmaster 4B / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID
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    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Which Pegleg are you talking about? There were a few. Some more baldfaced than others.

    Booky,

    I know you have a fairly extensive library. I don't like to assume, but anybody that seriously enters any thread about PegLeg Smith's Black Gold Nuggets MUST have Philip A. Bailey's "GOLDEN MIRAGES". That book is the "must have" for anybody seriously researching black gold nuggets. They exist without question. I personally know the "approximate" locations of five different finds (none on top of the middle of three bluffs). Because of promises made, I can't share a lot more than that. There are three pictures that exist (that I know of) of the elusive black coated gold nuggets:

    The first, I believe is a fake. It is in George Mroczkowski's (pronounced merch-kowski) Book "Professional Treasure Hunter" June 1979 Ram Books. If you look carefully, you will see black spraypaint on the wrist in the picture. HAHAHA Real gold nuggets spray painted black.

    http://imageshack.com/a/img178/2664/gmbknug1ld7.jpg

    These last two, are I believe, pictures of the black gold nuggets given to Desert Magazine:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    These pics are kind of rare, and I debated about including them, but I have no agreements precluding me from sharing them, so there ya go!

    Best - Mike
    My Motto: "KEEP AT IT!"

    ............... ALWAYS REMEMBER: When you make a typo, the errorists win...................Aloha Snackbar!

    Check out 1ORO1.COM

  7. #7
    fm
    Raggedy old Crow

    Jan 2005
    In a tax haven some where
    ONES THAT GO BEEP! :-)
    1,754
    3539 times
    Growing old disgrace fully as possible.
    Hello Gollum

    Thanks for sharing the pictures. I must confess I have never seen anything like that before.

    Crow

  8. #8
    fm
    Raggedy old Crow

    Jan 2005
    In a tax haven some where
    ONES THAT GO BEEP! :-)
    1,754
    3539 times
    Growing old disgrace fully as possible.
    Hello All

    You Might like this early article on him if it is the right Peg leg Smith of Course? Sacramento Daily union, Volume 14, 12th March 1858. Article "Peg leg Smith A Short sketch of his life"
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Crow
    Oroblanco likes this.

  9. #9
    pw
    Apr 2003
    New Mexico
    BS
    2,850
    1285 times
    Quote Originally Posted by gollum View Post
    ...These last two, are I believe, pictures of the black gold nuggets given to Desert Magazine: ...
    Thanks for posting the photos. Those are nice nuggets, but unless my display is wacky, they seem to be roughly golden in color, for the most part, with some sort of darkened deposits in a few of their creases. They look like, well ... gold nuggets. My understanding was that the 'Pegleg nuggets' were all black on the outside, such as the spray-painted photo shows. Were the 'genuine' nuggets in the photos cleaned? Interestingly, these nuggets seem to match the description of Yount's nuggets allegedly recovered near the Virgin River mouth back in the 1820's - which seemed more copper-like to him and were given to Thomas L. Smith the trapper.


    Oroblanco likes this.
    ​Adios, amigos - it's been interesting.







  10. #10
    us
    Fortune Favors the BOLD, while Karma Favors the Wise!

    Jan 2006
    Arizona Vagrant
    Modded SD2000 / White's Goldmaster 4B / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID
    6,235
    5681 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    They were supposed to have been donated to Desert Mag and subsequently cleaned up. No idea why, other than to show they were really gold under the black. There may be more pics of them in a black state, but I don't have them. Those two pics are all I have found of those particular nuggets.

    Mike
    My Motto: "KEEP AT IT!"

    ............... ALWAYS REMEMBER: When you make a typo, the errorists win...................Aloha Snackbar!

    Check out 1ORO1.COM

  11. #11
    mx
    Nov 2004
    Alamos,Sonora,Mexico
    14,603
    11713 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Gully, did you read my post on the shallow vally / dry lake on the US / Mexican border between San Luis Colorado & Sonoyta where black nuggets of gold covered with a Manganese black sheen and desert varnish. were found, then lost ??

    Don Jose de La Mancha
    "I exist to live, not live to exist"

  12. #12
    pw
    Apr 2003
    New Mexico
    BS
    2,850
    1285 times
    Quote Originally Posted by gollum View Post
    ... black gold nuggets. They exist without question. I personally know the "approximate" locations of five different finds (none on top of the middle of three bluffs). Because of promises made, I can't share a lot more than that...
    Yes, they're known about, and there's no reason to assume they haven't been found, possibly in several places. There's probably more out there. Below is an explanation of what the black nuggets are - from Gold Milling: Principles and Practice, by Charles George Wanford Lock.

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    Oroblanco likes this.
    ​Adios, amigos - it's been interesting.







  13. #13

    Aug 2013
    457
    1334 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Hello Springfeild and others

    Thank you for the great information posted. I am not a treasure hunter but more of a historian and archivist and I always appreciate people who take time to post information on these interesting topics with references as it makes visiting this sit all worthwhile and educational. I only wish some of my peers would get out of their ivory towers and be prepared to look at whats being posted in forums.

    Corp
    Oroblanco and gollum like this.

  14. #14
    Charter Member
    um
    Dec 2008
    3,599
    1950 times
    gollum:

    Great photos! Thank you for posting them.

    I've had several copies of Bailey's book for a number of years (including the third printing which Dr. John Reed concluded was a "bootleg" edition) but (I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit) I just got around to reading. That's one of the three or four main problems with too many books!

    It is fascinating on several levels and I'd consider it absolutely essential for anyone interested in the Lost Pegleg, Lost Ship of the Desert, any lost mine or buried treasure in the deserts of Southern California, or anyone just interested in the story of prospecting in the American West.

    I cannot recommend it too highly.

    I would also suggest looking at KvonM's Encyclopedia of Buried Treasure Hunting: "Lost Pegleg Sequel" (pg. 43).

    Finally, just for fun, I'll mention Ralph L. Caine's Legendary and Geological History of Lost Desert Gold (Palm Desert, CA: 1951). It's an usual combination of geological knowledge and lost mine lore. This hasn't gotten the attention I think it deserves.

    Good luck to all,

    ~ The Old Bookaroo
    Oroblanco likes this.

  15. #15
    pw
    Apr 2003
    New Mexico
    BS
    2,850
    1285 times
    Quote Originally Posted by Old Bookaroo View Post
    gollum:

    Great photos! Thank you for posting them.

    I've had several copies of Bailey's book for a number of years (including the third printing which Dr. John Reed concluded was a "bootleg" edition) but (I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit) I just got around to reading. That's one of the three or four main problems with too many books!

    It is fascinating on several levels and I'd consider it absolutely essential for anyone interested in the Lost Pegleg, Lost Ship of the Desert, any lost mine or buried treasure in the deserts of Southern California, or anyone just interested in the story of prospecting in the American West.

    I cannot recommend it too highly. ...
    Well, based on your recommendation, OB, I obtained a copy of the Bailey book - it arrived yesterday. I'm looking forward to reading it. Just when I was commited to trying to reduce my library, I've gone the opposite direction - again. I also got The Lost Gold Mine of Juan Mondragon, which looks quite fascinating. And Lost Treasures And Old Mines, A New Mexico Federal Writers Project Book. My bookcases are full and stacked sideways on top of the ones stacked upright. What's wrong with me?
    ​Adios, amigos - it's been interesting.







 

 
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