Skookum Joe Andersons Journal
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  1. #1

    Oct 2016
    1190 times
    Researching Treasure Stories Author

    Skookum Joe Andersons Journal

    Skookum Joe Andersons Journal
    Skookum recorded his journey in his diary. Bozeman to Nye, Nye to Red lodge, Red Lodge to Cooke City, and Cooke City to Billings. Mentions getting a letter from Bud McDonnell who could be his partner in Billings, who was to later learn the source of the gold if the heart attack didn’t kill Skookum first.
    He mentioned being trailed and on July 3rd, 1895 was panning and some men came along so he quit panning as if he had nothing, claimed he did not want them to see the gold! On July 5th, several prospectors hang around him again. On July 17th, he mentions a note from O’Donnell and the next day’s entry is get to Billings. It appears McDonnell/O’Donnell are the same person. He was sick when he got to Billings and told O’Donnell it was the richest strike in Montana and would draw a map in the morning. The next day he was found dead in his chair next to the wood stove.
    Where ever he was on July 3rd, 1895, that seems to be the location of his discovery.
    Later I will add more to these new treasure stories.

  2. #2

    Oct 2016
    1190 times
    Researching Treasure Stories Author
    Here is a more fuller version:
    Skookum Joe Anderson’s Lost Lode - We need to start our look into the report of a rich lost ledge by Skookum Joe Anderson from the end of the story: his death. Some sources say Skookum Joe was a half breed. But, the book “Names on the Face of Montana” has an interesting piece about Skookum Joe Anderson. This book says he was not a half breed; he had only lived with Chinook Indians. His parents were actually Norwegian Canadian. While searching the internet, I came across his obituary, which reads:
    Sudden Death of One of the Eastern Montana Pioneers.
    Billings, Mont., March 30, 1897 - Joseph R. Anderson, better known to all old timers as "Skookum Joe," died in this city today of heart failure. Deceased came to Montana in 1863 and followed prospecting, hunting and trapping. He was the original discoverer of the famous Spotted Horse mine at Malden and still owns a third interest in the War Eagle in the same vicinity. He has been residing of late at Columbus but came to Billings about two months ago for medical treatment. He was 54 years old and was born at Paris, Ontario. He was found dead in a chair this morning and appeared to have been putting on his shoes. He was one of the best known characters in eastern Montana, having come to the Yellowstone valley among the very first whites.
    Butte Weekly Miner, Butte, MT 1 Apr 1897
    Anderson, Joseph R. "Skookum Joe" d. 1897, posted in Montana Death Record, July 23, 2008, by Linda Horton.

    When his body was found in a sleeping room in Billings, he had his journal. Skookum recorded his journeys in this diary. His journey from Bozeman to Nye; Nye to Red Lodge; Red Lodge to Cooke City; Cooke City to Billings, started the mystery of where the lost ledge was. Joe mentions getting a letter from Bud McDonnell who was his partner in Billings, and/ the person who would have later learned the source of the gold if the heart attack hadn’t killed Skookum Joe first.
    In Joe’s journal, he mentioned being trailed. On July 3rd, 1895, while Skookum was panning for gold, some men came along. Joe quit panning and acted as if he had found nothing, because, as he claimed in his diary, he did not want them to see all the gold!
    On July 5th, several prospectors once again arrived to hang around him. On July 17th, he mentions a note from O’Donnell. (It appears Bud McDonnell and O’Donnell are the same person.) The next day’s entry is “get to Billings.” Skookum Joe Anderson was sick.
    Later, when he saw his partner, O’Donnell, Joe told him that he had come to Billings from the richest strike in Montana. On March 29, 1897, Skookum Joe told O’Donnell that he would draw a map in the morning. The next day Joe was found dead in his chair next to the wood stove. Wherever he had been on July 3rd, 1895, seems to be the location of his discovery. With his death, the location of his last big strike went to the grave with him. Some claim the last journal entry reads as follows, “Believe I found the main lode, location just 3 miles above….” It was shortly after this that Skookum Joe Anderson suffered the fatal heart attack. It is said that he intended to tell his friend where the rich lode was located and draw a map to the site. But fate had other plans.
    An article I found in the Butte Weekly Miner, Butte, MT, dated April 1, 1897, states:
    What has some believing that Skookum had found a rich gold lode were details from his diary. His entry for August 26, 1894 mentioned obtaining gold that day and his belief that the “highlode” is the center of the deposit. The next year he mentioned a “new born hope” and rich prospects. There was supposedly a fellow named Davidson who appeared in the diary as following Skookum and his fear of claim jumping. He mentioned that, to foil claim jumpers, he covered all evidence of his work. More entries are about others in the area of his work, it sounds a bit as if a phobia was haunting him to the point almost of a mental illness. A friend named McDonnell or O’Donnell told him by message to go to Billings. Once he arrived in town he told his friend he had the richest thing in Montana, but not feeling well would draw the map in the morning. Of course, he died that very night, and to this day whatever Skookum had found has never been found by others. He was found dead in his chair next to the stove in a boarding house in Billings.
    Butte Weekly Miner, Butte, MT 1 Apr 1897.
    Some have their doubts that Anderson actually found a rich gold mine, claiming that he obtained his gold ore from as far away as Boulder or Jardine and it was this ore that he brought to what should be called “Old Nye” (not to be confused with present day Nye, Montana). Maybe the reason some thought he never made a major discovery is because the region around Nye was contested as being on the Crow Reservation and that Nye had to be abandoned until the border of the reservation was clearly established to end the dispute and in order to attract investors’ money to develop the region.
    Could Skookum have been secretive about just where he obtained his gold? If one reads into what purportedly was in his diary, that answer could be a very definite yes! According to the diary, he believed he was being followed by a man whom he feared was intending to jump his claim. Skookum even wrote that he covered all evidence of his work. This could easily explain why it has never been found since.
    If we look at the past achievements of Skookum Joe Anderson, we can see that he was experienced at prospecting for gold. One might even read into his achievements and surmise that he had a need to make a major discovery, possibly in order to save face from his selling a mine known as the Spotted Horse near Maiden, Montana. The Spotted Horse Mine was discovered by Skookum and another partner. He had made other strikes in this area as far back as 1880. In 1881, a town called Andersonville was named after him, but it was short lived due to better strikes made elsewhere, such as the War Eagle, Black Bull, and Alpine mines which were the reason Andersonville was abandoned. Folks moved closer to the better producing mines, and eventually the town of Maiden came into being.
    The Spotted Horse mine was sold by Skookum for reportedly $5,000. Imagine selling this mine and later learning that the new owner Perry McAdow made a million dollars from it! Perry later sold the mine as well; and the next owner went broke. McAdow bought it back and made another million dollars from what was once owned by Skookum! The Spotted Horse went on to either make or break various owners. It could have been McAdow’s making $2 million off his old mine that sparked Skookum’s need to make a major discovery in order to save face. So, questions remain: Did Skookum Joe Anderson find another mother lode, or did he fake his discovery? Could he have been mentally unstable in his later life as suggested by some? Until someone comes across a major gold discovery in a remote area where Skookum once prospected, we will never know for sure. But, if such a find is made, how could one prove it was Skookum’s?
    An area where some believe his find could lay is the region around Old Nye, Montana. Skookum’s diary claims he prospected this region as early as 1870, but thought that it was within the boundaries of the Crow Reservation. In 1882, the area was found to be outside of reservation limits, so prospectors returned to search for mineral wealth; they staked claims and built cabins.
    However, shortly afterwards, legality of the location was again in question. The legality of the region was contested by the agent who handled the Crow Reservation and it became an off and on affair for a few years until a survey proved the actual boundary line. The boundary disputes, combined with poor assay results, caused searching for gold here to halt once more.
    Another possible clue to where Skookum prospected was mentioned in an old article dated March 8, 1884, by a William Hamilton who mentioned that he “worked the region 14 years ago with Skookum” and that his claims were west of the Reservation boundary. Another known partner of Skookum’s in this region was Jack Nye, for whom the mining camp of Nye was named. Nye claimed that Skookum’s mines drew interest from investors from Billings. In January, 1887, Anderson sold out for $3000 according to some sources.
    It would seem that Skookum was finished in this region, but his diary indicates otherwise. The entry for July 17, 1888 by Joe states, “went to Nye to visit Bill Hamilton and others. It is the most dead town I ever saw.” My guess is Skookum had more than visiting in mind and very likely spent some time prospecting; after all, it was his nature.
    With his years mostly accounted for as being spent in the Nye region after his premature sale of the Spotted Horse Mine, I believe the area of Old Nye to be the most likely location where Skookum Joe Anderson could have made a major discovery. Still, some have their doubts. All that remains as a guide is the unfinished diary. Had he lived longer would he have admitted that there never was a new discovery? It’s been well over a hundred years since Anderson sat down next to the stove and penned his last entry. With such a vast area mentioned in his journal, and because some of the locations within the region did produce gold, it is possible that he found something. But, the size of the area described and scant details in Skookum Joe Anderson’s diary, precludes me from adding a map to this story like I have for other lost treasure stories in the book. But, despite there being no map included, this is one of the treasure stories of Montana and cannot be left out of the book in order to compile as complete a listing as possible.



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