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Thread: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA (Photos Added)

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  1. #1
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    The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA (Photos Added)

    I really have to get on this later this evening. The mail just delivered about 2 pounds of opals that I have to cut, shape and polish. I didn't expect them 'til Monday. I would guess, when I'm finished with them, they should be worth about $35,000 retail. Got to have them ready to ship in a week, so please bear with me.

    The first of my personal experiences will be about an old recluse we called "Hermit Pete". I learned a lot from the old man. Unfortunately, he went to his just rewards in 1961, just a few months after I met and became friends with him. (Sometimes, a gallon jug of wine will get you more than money could ever do.)

  2. #2
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    I finally found my way back to this thread, and the first thing I see are the smilies waving and nodding. I almost felt the need to stand up and thank them for their congratulations, since I'm one of the proverbial "computer illiterates". So, it WAS an accomplishment for me.

    Anyway, last night, I had an after thought...."perhaps it would be better to start this off with an explaination of what started my interest in the Mariposa, CA area".

    So, the year was 1960 and I was freshly discharged from the USNavy, and working my first real job at Leach Electronics in Azuza, CA. (An areo space company.) I had a friend tell me of a place on the Merced river named Bagby, about half way between Mariposa and Coulterville. So, I purchased a 6" stovepipe, (underwater gold dredge,) out of the garage/shop of Mr. Keene, Sr. And, on the 4th of July week-end, made my first trip to Bagby. I camped at the mouth of the North Fork, and while dredging, found my first 3 pennyweight nugget.

    OUCH, I got bit by the "gold bug". Now, I realize about 50 years later, there's no cure for that fever.

    Anyway, about a month later, I was reading one of those infamous treasure magizines when I ran across a story and pictures about an interview with a scurrilous character by the moniker of "Bedrock Bill". The interview was conducted on Lynx Creek, in Arizona. There was a picture of a nice little nugget that Bill had "just panned" out. O.K., I'm on my way!!

    The following week-end, I went to work with my pickup loaded with camping equip. and dredge. At works end on Friday, I was on my way to Lynx Creek. I arrived at Lynx Creek well after dark and spent the balance of the night sleeping on the seat of my pickup.

    I woke up at the first light of morning, got out for a look around, (among other things.) (lol) Well son of a ......, the interview forgot to mention that by late July, the only water in Lynx Creek was a little "ground seepage" here and there, and by noon, even most of that was gone. Grrrrr!! Curses on that dang ol' Bedrock Bill!! (I'll explain THAT eventually.) So, I got back in my truck and headed back home. Didn't even get my feet wet.

    To be continued:...........


  3. #3
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    Halito My Friends,

    Since I have just recieved a pm from one of my friends who is anxious to read about my "exploits", please refer to my first post in this thread,

    I counted the opals I have to cut and polish, and it came to 248 pieces of opal. Wow!! That's a lot more than I expected the customer to send.

    I cut and polished about 40 of them yesterday and I was "worn to a frazzle" by the time I quit for the night. It will problably be a longer day today because I have a deadline to meet. I need to finish them by this coming week-end so that I can ship them next Monday. Darn it, I'll be so tired from this, all of my girl friends are going to have to wait for me to recover.

    Anybody out there need something to do?? I still have about 200 more opals to do!!

    Well, it's off to work I go. (Right after breakfast.)

    I haven't forgot the treasure stories, and WILL get back to them. Sorry about the delay, but the opals came in during what I thought was going to be a couple of "dead days".

  4. #4
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    Good morning All,
    Just a quick note to let you know that the Opals will be in the mail today, and if I'm not overly tired, (recuperating,) I'll start back on my little stories this evening. Thanks for your patience!!

    Love and Respect,

    Eagle Down

  5. #5
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    Okay, the Opals have been shipped and I'm rested up, and ready to continue giving away my secrets. (lol)

    So, here I am on the old Rt. 66, heading back to sunny California, to that
    little place I called home. I admit that I was pretty disappointed in driving
    all this distance with nothing to show for it.

    But then, you just never know.

    It was getting close to noon and I since had not eaten breakfast, when I saw a place ahead who’s sign advertised; GAS…..FOOD…..BEER…..SODA, I turned into the drive and parked in front of the old building.
    I guess you could say that it was the biggest place around, since it was the only place around . (lol)

    I went in and sat down at the counter, and ordered a hamburger, (all the way,) and a Pepsi. After about 5 minutes, the “waitress” sat my order in front of me, but before I could pick it up, an old man came in and sat down on the stool next to me. He asked: “Is that your pickup out there”. I replied: “Yes sir, is it in the way? I can move it”.

    “Nope” he said, I just noticed that new fangled dredge in the back and was curious”. “Tell me, did you ever find anything with it”?

    “Well yeah, a little”. And I pulled my pride and joy out of my pocket to
    show him. (Hey, it was the first nugget I ever found and I carried it with me every where.)

    He looked it over and said, “Well now, that’s a right purty nugget”. “I see
    you have California license plates, have you ever heard of a little town
    called Bagby”?
    “Yes sir”, I replied, “as a matter of fact, that’s where I found this nugget”.

    “Well I’ll be darned”, he said. “Do you know where the North
    Fork of the Merced River is”?

    By now, this was becoming (as Alice said) curiouser and curiouser!!
    I mean, how often are you in Arizona having someone ask you about
    a little burg that you are familiar with, but you thought no one else had
    ever heard of??

    I told him, “Why sure, I camp at the mouth of the North Fork. As a matter of fact, that’s where I found this nugget”. (By now, we were becoming like “long lost buddies”.) (lol)

    He asked if I would like to hear a little story, and I said “sure, I’d love to”.

    So, he started: “Well, back in the late teens and early twenties, I worked
    on the railroad that went through Bagby and on up to Yosemite Valley”.
    “We use to have Sundays off, and me and my partner took to hiking up
    the river and prospecting”. “Well, this one Sunday, we stopped at the
    North Fork to eat and rest up, and looking across the river, we saw what
    looked like an old trail on the side of the mountain”.

    “We decided to check it out, so we waded across the river and climbed up the side of the mountain about 150 ft. or so, and sure enough, it was an old trail.
    There was a rock wall about 3 or 4 foot high between the river and the mountain, and there was rusty spots in the solid rock of the mountain that looked like somebody had drilled and put in what we guessed must have been eye bolts to maybe run a rope through to hold on to while they cut out the mountain to make the trail”

    “We could see the trail went around the curve of the mountain and up into a gulch, so we followed the trail up into the gulch a couple hundred yards or so where it ended at the mouth of a tunnel”. “We decided to check it out, so we went into the tunnel. And about 10 ft. inside the entrance, we seen there was three muzzle loaders (rifles) with the stocks just about rotted off of them, leaning against the wall”.

    (As you might have guessed, by this time he had my total interest.)

    He went on to say, “We went back in as far as we could see, by the sunlight coming in through the portal, and there, right at the edge of the light, there was a stack of rotted canvas sacks, and we could see the gold that had poured out of some of them”.

    And this, I couldn’t hold back: “Wow, how much gold did you and your partner
    get”.

    “Nar a bit”. he replied, “There was three skeletons there too, and we warn’t messing 'round where there was any haints”!! (I’ll never forget that word, “haints”. [haunts].)

    “So what did you do”? I asked. “Well”, he replied, “The next Sunday, we went back to the tunnel with a dozen sticks of dynamite, and we blasted the portal shut so that nobody would disturb their resting place".

    In the next chapter, I go back to Bagby and the North Fork……..

    To be continued

  6. #6
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    I love your stories EagleDown.....keep them coming!
    The creeks are all cowards and run underground and whiskey is so scarce that you can’t use it to wet down dry jokes. –The Irish Lord 1897

  7. #7
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    Quote Originally Posted by auferret
    I love your stories EagleDown.....keep them coming!
    Thank you my friend. I'll continue posting as I have the time.

    Now, since someone might ask, I should say that I was a young, dumb kid, just barely into my twenties at that time, and it never occurred to me to ask where they set their charge off. Above, below, or beside the portal.

    There was also a part I forgot to put in the storie, (hey, I'm 74, what do you expect??)

    He told me that in the dim light, they could see "stringers" of gold and some nuggets running along the roof of the tunnel. That kind of cooled my ardor a little. I knew nothing about hard-rock mining, and couldn't even visualize that much gold. And admittedly, I really thought that he had taken his story into the realm of the "tall tale", created just for the "tenderfoot".

    Experience since then has taught me that not only is it possible, but even probable. (But, that's another story.)

  8. #8
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    Here I am, on my way home already and it's barely afternoon. Of course, after having lunch with my new "old friend", I had a lot to think about. And think I did!!

    At least for a few miles.

    I was kinda stewing about having wasted the weekend when it suddenly dawned on me; hey, I could go on up to Bagby, it would only be about 70 miles out of my way. I could check out his story Sunday morning and still make it home, get a little sleep and make it to work on time Monday morning. O.K., I'm off again.

    Some people would call me impulsive, I felt that I made quick rational decisions.

    I arrived at my old camping ground well after dark and spent another night on the seat of my pickup. Hell, I was getting so use to that seat, I didn't see the need for any camping gear.

    Up again at the break of dawn, I got out the Coleman stove and whipped up a pot of coffee while I waited for it to get light enough to see what awaited me on the other side of the Merced River.

    By the time I was into my third cup, I could start making out details on the mountain across from me. And sure enough, after looking a bit, I could make out what looked like an old trail, right where the old man said it was. There wasn't much of a wall left as far as I could see, but it was definately there.

    I should enterject here that since I keep talking about a "river", there are places in this "river" that after the spring runoff is over, (around the first week of August,) that you can litterally walk across by stepping from boulder to boulder, and not get your feet wet.

    Well, this was not one of those places.

    I did wade across in the most shallow part I could find and I still got my tush wet. I had to carry my Ruger single six, in its holster, above my head to keep my powder dry. (lol) The funny thing is, if I hadn't been so "rationally decisive", I could have come up a week later and only got wet up to my knees.

    I finally made it up to the "trail" and found the rusted spots in the cut out portion of the rock, just as he described it. By now, I was more and more inclined to believe what he had told me. With much slipping and sliding, (got to quit wearing cowboy boots when I'm out in the hills!!) I followed the "trail" around the curve of the mountain and up into the gulch. After a couple hundred yards, I stood staring at what appeared to be a major rock slide. I figured it had to be about 30 or 40 years old from the size of the live oaks growing on it. As some of you might know, live oak doesn't grow very fast. Especially in areas where there is little rainfall, like this area.

    Anyway, it didn't take me long to realize that there was absolutely no way that I was going to locate the portal of that tunnel, (if it even still existed,) amongst tons of broken shale. This would be a major undertaking, even with todays equipment. Plus, now, the BLM has taken control of all of the land in this part of California and would rather see all mining come to a halt.

    I was up in Mariposa about 7 months ago and made a trip down to Bagby to see what it looks like now. Yikes!! the old wooden bridge is long gone. Now there's a high, super concrete bridge spanning the river. But, the river is still down at its original level, and I could still see the foundations of the old buildings, and a couple of old car bodies half buried in the sand where the old road to Coulterville use to be.

    And that reminds me of another (potential) lost treasure that only I know about. Until I tell you.


  9. #9
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    I am going on vacation tonight. I'll be gone for about a week. I should be back on or about the 29th of this month, (June) Look for me then!!

    It's kind of strange, but I worked all of my life and never had a vacation, until I "retired".

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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    years ago when i wuz young my father pulled over on the side of the road on the way to El Portal. He saw a mine up the mountain and we went fur a look. We found a mine and an old shack. Looking around we heard screams above us and whoever it wuz he was throwing huge rocks down at us. After we ran away my dad told me it was a hermit. What a day.
    Mekong Mike likes this.

  11. #11
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    I don't know how long ago that was, but I can believe it. Old "Hermit Pete" use to pop a couple of caps over the heads of the Forestry Rangers if they stopped their vehicles across the river from his cabin.

    Those old guys living alone can get pretty cantankerous. Especially if they have a mine that's producing a little gold.

  12. #12
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    I just recieved a phone call from my prospecting buddy, it seems that our trip will be delayed 'til Thursday. So, in the morning, I'll come in and start another of my "private" lost treasure stories.

    Wanna know where there's some platinum on open land (open to mining?) All you need is a gold pan. And a little luck.

    See you in the morning.

  13. #13
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    Just tagging along, i love good stories. Keep 'em coming

    HH Charlie


  14. #14
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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    Well, sort of a busy day today, so I didn't have time this morning to continue. Sorry about that. I'm not really sure about the time sequence of this next one, but it was shortly after the finding of the rock/shale slide covering the tunnel. Actually it would be called an addit as there was no other entrance or exit. Just thought you might like to know that.

    I had gone to L.A. and traded Mr. Keene my 6" "stove pipe" underwater dredge for his newest designed dredge, the Keene 4" surface dredge.

    I went back Bagby for the weekend just to poke around, since my new dredge wouldn't be completed for me until the following week. I had heard of Coulterville, but had never been there, so I decided to drive on up and check it out. On the way, I could see down into a rather deep gulch on my right and since it looked interesting, I determined to check it out on my way back from Coulterville. I wish I had a metal detector back then, as Coulterville was almost a ghost town. Very few people were living there and I only recall one business open and that was basically a saloon and grill. I drove off of the hiway, down the "main street", to the end of pavement, then turned around and drove back out. I noticed several foundations where there were once cabins, but back then it was just bare ground. It wasn't hard to imagine a bustling little mining community complete with horses tied to the hitching post outside of the saloon. Maybe even gunshots coming from the saloon as an angry miner took on the traveling card shark.

    But then it all faded away as I turned back onto the "Golden Hiway", (U.S. 49,) and headed back down the hill to Bagby.

    A little trivia here; back in the days, hiway 49 was nicknamed the million dollar hiway, because, (they said,) every mile was laid over a million dollars worth of gold. Hey, they said it, not me!!

    Anyway, I remembered the gulch I had seen on the way up, and found a place to park without going off the road and down the hill, side ways. Then, I got out my big steel goldpan and the tool no prospector or metal detectorist should be without, the old U.S. Army latrine shovel.

    I walked across the hiway and slipped and slid down the side of the gulch to the bottom. Sure was glad I left the cowboy boots at home. I only wear good ol' brogans when I'm prospecting now.

    At the bottom, I realised that there was no running water, only small pools here and there. But, there was enough pan out some samples. So, I pulled out a clump of bunch grass and washed the roots off in the pan. Took about 5 minutes to pan it down to the heavies. Hmmm, this is weird, I can pan the "black sands" right off of this grayish stuff. I even notice a few micro flakes of gold on top of the gray material. I tried to swirl the materials around in the pan to see if there was any larger pieces of gold but this stupid gray stuff didn't want to move.

    Actually it was getting me just a little curious. So, using my knife blade, I scooped it out and put it in a vial. Then, I panned out the roots of a couple more clumps of bunch grass with the same results and put that in the vial too.

    Well, I was there looking for gold, and a place to dredge, and what I was getting was not what I was looking for, so I climbed back out of the gulch and continued my ride back down to Bagby.

    Sunday afternoon, as I was packing to head home, I put the vial gray stuff in an inner pocket of my pack, and to all intents and purposes, forgot about it.

    I'll have to jump forward in time about 4 years at this point so that you will understand why I am telling this story.

    The areospace industry had pretty much collapsed and I had been laid off. My brother-in-law had offered me a job in Florida (the state of my birth,) and I had returned home for the work.

    I had been back in FL for a couple of years and one day, I was going to take my wife and kids to the beach for the day. She needed something to pack stuff like paper plates, extra diapers, etc. so I remembered my old prospecting pack and got it out of the garage. While wiping it down and out, I noticed a lump in one of the inner pockets, unzipped it and found the vial that had about a half oz. of "that stupid gray stuff" still in it.

    The following Monday, I took it to work with me and during my lunch break, I took it down the street to a jewelry store where a friend of mine worked. I showed it to him, and he was as mystified as I was.

    He said that he had a friend who was a metallurgist and could have him check it out for me. I told him O.K., left it with him and returned to work.

    Jack called me the next morning, shortly after I got to work and said that his friend had checked the materials, and asked me to stop by the store during lunch. When I arrived, the first question he asked me was, "Where did you get this"?? When I said California, he lost a little of his obvious excitement. I asked why he wanted to know, and he replied that he was hoping it was somewhere close by, because it was almost pure platinum. Of course, platinum wasn't as near expensive as it is now, but he said that if I got that much out of 3 or 4 pans of materials, I could work it full time and be a rich man. Yeah, tell me this now, when I'm married with two toddlers and in Florida.

    It was several more years before I returned to CA, but not for platinum, I had bigger fish to fry.

    But, that's also another story.

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    Re: The Many Lost Treasures of Mariposa, CA

    brother back in da days of my father looking fur gold in coulterville upstream from the market dad found a 1 ounce rock. At that time it wuz $32 an ounce soooo dad didnt get much fur it . Beer, Dr. pepper, bread n lunch meat. it wuz sooo much fun
    Prospecting P. likes this.

 

 
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