Did the "Lost Pegleg Mine" ever exist?

Desertphile

Full Member
Feb 17, 2013
146
41
Primary Interest:
Prospecting
There is a spring in East Mojave Desert that Pegleg Smith named after his spouse or lady friend, and where he carved his name in a rock near-by. The location of the site can be researched by people who wish to spend the time and effort, which I did. After searching the area and the geology around the spring, it is clear that no gold was or is in the area that could be called a "mine:" at best there are some prospect holes, and some gold flakes, but nothing even remotely like a mine. I was disappointed, but not too much, that there is no gold at or near the spring.

Naturally I have read what I could about Smith and the stories about his gold mine. On a probability scale of from 0 to 1,000 regarding if he even had a gold mine like the stories describe, I would rate it a 32. I.e., the mine never existed.
 

gollum

Gold Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,707
7,360
Arizona Vagrant
Detector(s) used
Minelab SD2200D (Modded)/ Whites GMT 24k / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gold Bug II / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID / Falcon MD-20
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Desertphile,

The "Peg Leg" is not a mine. It has been referred to as a mine many many times over the years. The ONLY thing Thomas L. "PegLeg" Smith found was a hilltop covered in black coated rocks, a bunch of which turned out to be gold nuggets with some kind of black coating (from the description it is not Desert Varnish but black oxides formed in the approximately 10% copper in the black gold nuggets. He found them when climbing a hill to get a look over the top of a dust storm getting his bearings while leading a party from Yuma to Los Angeles. He searched for about twenty years before giving up and opening a small General Store near San Francisco.

The possibility of his story being true (to me) is very high. If he would have made it up, he would not have spent all those years tying to refind his wealth. I know of a couple of places where black covered gold nuggets have been found SouthEast of the Salton Sea.

If you want to read the best book on the subject, read "Golden Mirages" by Philip Bailey.

Best of luck - Mike
 

Oroblanco

Gold Member
Jan 21, 2005
7,833
9,743
DAKOTA TERRITORY
Detector(s) used
Tesoro Lobo Supertraq, (95%) Garrett Scorpion (5%)
Nice post Mike - and have to 'ditto' your statements. I would also point out that it actions speak louder than words; a man that had simply made up a story of a lost gold deposit, would never go hunting for it himself. Smith went searching repeatedly. The fact that he went searching for it himself, speaks volumes to me about whether it was real or not. Others reported seeing the black gold nuggets in Smith's possession, and there are several natural ways in which gold can become coated with something that blackens. I have to respectfully disagree with your classification Desertphile, of course it is just my opinion but I am 100% convinced that Pegleg Smith did find a rich gold deposit that he was then unable to relocate.

Please do continue, and ditto on the book recommendation as well.
Oroblanco

:coffee2: :coffee2: :coffee: oops almost forgot, beer for our amigo Gollum :occasion14: can't forget the beer!
 

Old Bookaroo

Silver Member
Dec 4, 2008
4,168
3,193
There is no doubt Golden Mirages is a classic! And it covers a good deal more than the Lost Peg-Leg. Properly it should be a "prospect," not a mine. Agreed.

"Jesse Rascoe" wrote a nice little pamphlet on the subject. I think the best biography of Peg-Leg is Templeton's The Lame Captain; The Life and Adventures of Pegleg Smith (1965). I've mentioned it before, but I think one of the most under-rated (or, at least, little known) sources is Ralph L. Caine's Legendary and Geological History of Lost Desert Gold (1951). It deserves a wider audience.

Probert lists almost 10 pages of references - the literature is vast. Or, at least, half-vast.

Good luck to all,

The Old Bookaroo
 

gollum

Gold Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,707
7,360
Arizona Vagrant
Detector(s) used
Minelab SD2200D (Modded)/ Whites GMT 24k / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gold Bug II / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID / Falcon MD-20
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
There is no doubt Golden Mirages is a classic! And it covers a good deal more than the Lost Peg-Leg. Properly it should be a "prospect," not a mine. Agreed.

"Jesse Rascoe" wrote a nice little pamphlet on the subject. I think the best biography of Peg-Leg is Templeton's The Lame Captain; The Life and Adventures of Pegleg Smith (1965). I've mentioned it before, but I think one of the most under-rated (or, at least, little known) sources is Ralph L. Caine's Legendary and Geological History of Lost Desert Gold (1951). It deserves a wider audience.

Probert lists almost 10 pages of references - the literature is vast. Or, at least, half-vast.

Good luck to all,

The Old Bookaroo

I hadn't heard of the second two books. THANKS! I just ordered both from Amazon.

Mike
 

Gold Maven

Bronze Member
Jul 4, 2012
2,252
2,033
Holmes County Ohio
Detector(s) used
Tesoro Lobo
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
I remember reading in an old issue of Desert magazine, where a photographer claimed to have found the small hill, and systematically cleaned it out. As proof he sent several nuggets to the Desert editor, Conrotto I think.

Of course it could have easily been a rouse to stop people from looking, I have no idea.:dontknow:

Great story, though.
 

gollum

Gold Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,707
7,360
Arizona Vagrant
Detector(s) used
Minelab SD2200D (Modded)/ Whites GMT 24k / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gold Bug II / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID / Falcon MD-20
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
I remember reading in an old issue of Desert magazine, where a photographer claimed to have found the small hill, and systematically cleaned it out. As proof he sent several nuggets to the Desert editor, Conrotto I think.

Of course it could have easily been a rouse to stop people from looking, I have no idea.:dontknow:

Great story, though.

Maven,

I have all the stories Desert did on The Lost Peg Leg. Pegleglooker (on TNet) interviewed someone that told him magazine sales had slowed down, and they made up the story to help sales. Who knows.

Mike
 

Old Bookaroo

Silver Member
Dec 4, 2008
4,168
3,193
gollum: I look forward to your review of Caine's book. It is a rare combination of scientific geology, legend and story, and experience on the ground. I'll say I don't know of another book quite like it.

There are a several fur trade histories with history and background on Pegleg - but Templeton's is the only complete biography I am aware other. Published, anyway. There is a good thesis that wasn't, to my knowledge, printed for the general public.

Good luck to all,

The Old Bookaroo
 

gollum

Gold Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,707
7,360
Arizona Vagrant
Detector(s) used
Minelab SD2200D (Modded)/ Whites GMT 24k / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gold Bug II / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID / Falcon MD-20
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Bookaroo,

Can't wait to read'em!

Mike
 

Shortfinger

Hero Member
Apr 7, 2015
569
2,474
Valley Center, CA/Yuma, AZ
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Mike, Oro, and Bookaroo, You are all, IMHO, absolutely correct regarding Pegleg's "mine".. There was never a Lost Peg-Leg “mine” as such. Every time it was “found”, it was just gold laying around on the ground. That is why I did not include either the mine sought by Adolph Ruth or the Hank Brandt mine in the spreadsheet I posted on the “Pegleg’s Black Gold Nuggets” thread of this sub forum. By the way, welcome back, Bookaroo. Your posts are always interesting and informative, and I, for one, am glad to see you are back.

Coffee, tea, beer, or the beverage of your choice?


:coffee2::coffee2::occasion14:???
 

Old Bookaroo

Silver Member
Dec 4, 2008
4,168
3,193
Shortfinger:

Thank you for your kind words. It has been a very warm welcome, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!

Yes, it's clearly a misuse of the word "mine." Unless you accept the old Western definition: "A hole in the ground with a liar standing next to it."

Good luck to all,

The Old Bookaroo
 

H-2 CHARLIE

Bronze Member
Dec 1, 2012
1,204
506
on the rocks - so cal county line
Detector(s) used
Gold bug pro / Whites coin master II
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
There have been first hand accounts claiming they have cleaned out the source of were black nuggets have been found .
This might be true , after all a placer patch is what it could have been .
 

gollum

Gold Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,707
7,360
Arizona Vagrant
Detector(s) used
Minelab SD2200D (Modded)/ Whites GMT 24k / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gold Bug II / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID / Falcon MD-20
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
SHORTFINGER,

Thanks for the kind words.

1. The mine sought by Adolph Ruth was the Lost Gonzalez Mine (or The Phantom Mine). It is real, but it is not the mine Gene Reynolds claimed in his book "Borrego 13". Gene's "Mine" is actually only a 25 foot deep prospect.

P1010505.JPG P1010509.JPG P1010512.JPG

2. The Hank Brandt Mine is a real mine that is likely somewhere on Fish Creek Mountain. Most stories put it in The Superstition Hills (just East of Fish Creek Mt), but I have been all over North-South-East-West of the Superstitions. Nothing even close to the description.

Mike
 

Shortfinger

Hero Member
Apr 7, 2015
569
2,474
Valley Center, CA/Yuma, AZ
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
SHORTFINGER,

Thanks for the kind words.

1. The mine sought by Adolph Ruth was the Lost Gonzalez Mine (or The Phantom Mine). It is real, but it is not the mine Gene Reynolds claimed in his book "Borrego 13". Gene's "Mine" is actually only a 25 foot deep prospect.

View attachment 1193087 View attachment 1193088 View attachment 1193089

2. The Hank Brandt Mine is a real mine that is likely somewhere on Fish Creek Mountain. Most stories put it in The Superstition Hills (just East of Fish Creek Mt), but I have been all over North-South-East-West of the Superstitions. Nothing even close to the description.

Mike

Mike,
The kind words are deserved. There are several people here on TNet that I always look for their posts, and you are one. Obviously very well read, and you have also been (and still are) ‘boots on the ground”. I think I may have seen that “prospect hole” once, but I stayed away, since there was someone already there at the time. Obviously, since I didn’t go there, I can’t say for sure. But maybe. I have spent some time in the Fish Creek area, but haven’t found anything of substance as yet (not that I would say anything if I had). Haven’t gotten to the Superstition Hills yet, but from what you have said, it looks like I may not have to, although it might be worth a look in that area as well, since the black gold nuggets seem to be pretty well scattered over the entire SoCal desert area, based on all of the reported findings. They could be in any number of washes in the area, although probably in small quantities.

JB
 

gollum

Gold Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,707
7,360
Arizona Vagrant
Detector(s) used
Minelab SD2200D (Modded)/ Whites GMT 24k / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gold Bug II / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID / Falcon MD-20
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Thanks JB,

Its at the farthest West Side Base of Borrego Mountain. You can actually see it from when you are driving on San Felipe Creek from HWY78 (if you know where to look):

P1010501.JPG

....and here with a bit of zoom:

P1010502.JPG

Nothing lost about that thing. It was somewhere not far to the right of the picture, that Adolph Ruth fell into an arroyo, broke his leg, and stayed there for three days before his son and search parties found him. The pins and screws they put in his leg are how they identified his skeleton in 1931.

Well, keep in mind that there are THREE TYPES of "Black Gold" Nuggets:

1. Black Oxide Coated from Copper

2. Desert Varnish Coated

3. Gold Nuggets in lava/cinder/pumice.

Mike
 

Shortfinger

Hero Member
Apr 7, 2015
569
2,474
Valley Center, CA/Yuma, AZ
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Thanks JB,

Its at the farthest West Side Base of Borrego Mountain. You can actually see it from when you are driving on San Felipe Creek from HWY78 (if you know where to look):

View attachment 1193279

....and here with a bit of zoom:

View attachment 1193280

Nothing lost about that thing. It was somewhere not far to the right of the picture, that Adolph Ruth fell into an arroyo, broke his leg, and stayed there for three days before his son and search parties found him. The pins and screws they put in his leg are how they identified his skeleton in 1931.

Well, keep in mind that there are THREE TYPES of "Black Gold" Nuggets:

1. Black Oxide Coated from Copper

2. Desert Varnish Coated

3. Gold Nuggets in lava/cinder/pumice.

Mike

Mike,
Thanks for the confirmation. That is the hole I saw. There were a couple of people standing around the area, so I didn't get too close. I may go check it out anyway, but at least I'll know what it is. Also, thanks for the added info about the black gold. I was aware of the desert varnish and the copper oxide, but I wasn't aware of the lava/cinder/pumice.

JB
 

gollum

Gold Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,707
7,360
Arizona Vagrant
Detector(s) used
Minelab SD2200D (Modded)/ Whites GMT 24k / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gold Bug II / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID / Falcon MD-20
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Yes. While there are three types, only #1 is authentic Peg Leg Black Gold!

Mike
 

Shortfinger

Hero Member
Apr 7, 2015
569
2,474
Valley Center, CA/Yuma, AZ
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Yes. While there are three types, only #1 is authentic Peg Leg Black Gold!

Mike

Well, that may be a little debatable, and I know you are always willing to debate. Using PegLegLookers classifications of the various Peglegs, the “Original” PegLeg’s gold was the copper oxide type, but it was found (probably) in the vicinity of the Virgin River near where it flowed into the Colorado. Nowhere near SoCal. “Warner” Smith’s gold seems to have been of the desert varnish type (see post # 160, Pegleg’s black Gold Nuggets thread), because he said “when I knocked a couple of em together, a coatin’ of varnish come off…” . “Yuma” Smith’s gold seems likely to have been from a “bust up”, with coarse gold found in “black quartz”, although, that could be somewhat debatable as well, as there are several overlapping tales here, most of which include black pebbles of unknown type. Crazy Ike’s nuggets may be either lava/cinder/pumice or desert varnish, although I would tend towards the lave/cinder/pumice type, since they were reportedly found near a volcanic cone. The nuggets found by John Mitchell (which may or may not be associated with one or more of the Peglegs) were desert varnish or perhaps type 3, lava/cinder/pumice as well. Mitchell’s nuggets were associated with brown hematites, which are mentioned in at least one other reported black nugget discovery, those found by the unknown mule driver near the Chocolate’s. Herman Hill’s nuggets were Copper Oxide type I have no doubt that all three types are, or were present in the SoCal area. With that being said, if I can find some (and that does seem possible, as it seems to be scattered across a very large area of SoCal, albeit in small quantities in most areas), I won’t care what type it is, or if it is associated with any of the Peglegs.
 

gollum

Gold Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,707
7,360
Arizona Vagrant
Detector(s) used
Minelab SD2200D (Modded)/ Whites GMT 24k / Fisher FX-3 / Fisher Gold Bug II / Fisher Gemini / Schiebel MIMID / Falcon MD-20
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
Well, that may be a little debatable, and I know you are always willing to debate. Using PegLegLookers classifications of the various Peglegs, the “Original” PegLeg’s gold was the copper oxide type, but it was found (probably) in the vicinity of the Virgin River near where it flowed into the Colorado. Nowhere near SoCal. “Warner” Smith’s gold seems to have been of the desert varnish type (see post # 160, Pegleg’s black Gold Nuggets thread), because he said “when I knocked a couple of em together, a coatin’ of varnish come off…” . “Yuma” Smith’s gold seems likely to have been from a “bust up”, with coarse gold found in “black quartz”, although, that could be somewhat debatable as well, as there are several overlapping tales here, most of which include black pebbles of unknown type. Crazy Ike’s nuggets may be either lava/cinder/pumice or desert varnish, although I would tend towards the lave/cinder/pumice type, since they were reportedly found near a volcanic cone. The nuggets found by John Mitchell (which may or may not be associated with one or more of the Peglegs) were desert varnish or perhaps type 3, lava/cinder/pumice as well. Mitchell’s nuggets were associated with brown hematites, which are mentioned in at least one other reported black nugget discovery, those found by the unknown mule driver near the Chocolate’s. Herman Hill’s nuggets were Copper Oxide type I have no doubt that all three types are, or were present in the SoCal area. With that being said, if I can find some (and that does seem possible, as it seems to be scattered across a very large area of SoCal, albeit in small quantities in most areas), I won’t care what type it is, or if it is associated with any of the Peglegs.

In that last line, we are in complete agreement. I don't give a crap if it is coarse gold layered in dogsh*t. I will gladly take gold in ANY form! Most of the black nugget stories place them under a few feet of blowsand, so much looking will have to be done with a good Pulse Induction Gold Machine. If you are looking for surface nuggets , or nugs within a few inches of the surface you could use any gold machine (or any metal detector for that matter).

I will share another little tidbit that I don't think a lot of people know. One of the nuggets from the Ocotillo Area was tested, and as I recall, it was 73% gold, with most of the rest being copper and silver. I think they said it was about .900 fine (about 18 karat). The black coating was from copper oxidizing.

Bookaroo,

The book "Legendary and Geological History of Lost Desert Gold" came in yesterday. I blasted through it last night. Except for the geological stuff, most of the stories were just rehashes of the same stories that have been around about that region forever. It was very good though. Some of the stories I hadn't seen in a long time, so I have to say I enjoyed it, and I will be keeping it. Thanks for the reference.

Mike
 
Last edited:

Top Member Reactions

Users who are viewing this thread

Latest Discussions

Top