Some Pegleg Smith References

aw11mr2

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I am going to focus on Thomas L. Smith in this thread. Several articles and books claim that another Pegleg Smith actually found the gold in southern California. It could be John O. Smith or another “Pegleg” Smith that roamed the desert between 1852 and the 1860s.

Over the years I have picked up these books at used book stores:
000 00aa Pegleg Smith books.jpg
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00aaa Desert Magazine group.jpg

Instead of looking for the above books, I recommend that you download copies of Desert Magazine, which was published from November 1937 to around June 1985. You can read several variations of the Pegleg Smith and other tales of lost black gold nuggets. Desert Magazine contains a wealth of information on Southern California history, geology, natural history, and early attractions, focusing on the Imperial County desert region and later expanding further afield.
000 00aab Desert Magazine History.jpg


If you want some background history of Desert Magazine, search for this newsletter.
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00aac Golden_Mirages1.jpg

Golden Mirages – The Story of the Lost Pegleg Mine, The Legendary Three Gold Buttes And Yarns of and by Those Who Know the Desert
Philip A. Bailey
The Macmillan Company, New York, 1948 (3rd printing)
Copyright 1940
Hardcover, xvii + maps + 353 pages

Golden Mirages (1940) includes many stories of lost treasures and folktales of the desert (primarily Imperial and San Diego countries). Although the Pegleg Smith story in Golden Mirages is referenced by most of the other authors, Mr. Bailey mistakenly combines the events of the gold discovery by George Yount during the 1826-27 trapping season with the Pegleg Smith alleged discovery of gold in the Imperial Valley area (possibly during the 1828-1829 trapping season). The book contains a bibliography and several simple maps.

If you want to see Philip A. Bailey’s research files, they are located at Arizona State University: Philip A. Bailey Archival Material 1906 – 1948. Forum member Pegleglooker stated that he has copies of 1,000 pages of Mr. Bailey’s research notes. He posted some of the pages in this forum but I cannot find the thread.
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00aad The_Lame_Captain1.jpg

The Lame Captain – The Life and Adventures of Pegleg Smith
Sardis W. Templeton
Westernlore Press, Los Angeles, Copyright 1965
Hardcover, 239 pages
LCC No. 65-21223

The Lame Captain (1965) contains the bibliography Thomas L. Smith. The author includes a short description of Pegleg’s lost gold in Southern California desert and refer readers to Golden Mirages for more detail. Based on his research, there is a haze of historical information regarding Pegleg Smith’s location between March 1828 (SW Wyoming) & Spring of 1829 (Taos, NM) and Spring of 1829 & Fall of 1829 (Taos, NM). It appears possible that Thomas L. “Pegleg” Smith did travel to Los Angeles, California in 1829. The book contains an extensive bibliography.
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00aaf Pegleg_Smith_Lost_Gold1.jpg

On the Trail of Peg Leg Smith’s Lost Gold
J. Wilson McKenney
Desert Press, Inc., Palm Desert, California, 1957
Copyright 1957
Softcover, 57 pages

J. Wilson McKenney was co-publisher of Desert Magazine with Randall Henderson, which started in November 1937. He served as business manager for 21 months, leaving in 1939. The author repeats or summarizes the Pegleg stories printed in Desert Magazine before 1957. The booklet does not contain a bibliography but identifies the month and year the story appeared in Desert Magazine. The booklet contains many photos that were published in Desert Magazine and the general search area map.

000 00h Desert Magazine November 1946 page 10.jpg
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00aag Lost_Desert_Gold1.jpg

Legendary and Geological History of Lost Desert Gold
Ralph L. Caine
GEDCO Publishing Co., Third edition
Copyright 1951
Softcover, 71 pages

Part 1 contains various stories of lost gold in the Imperial Valley. In Part 2, the author attempts to describe the geological processes that formed the Borrego Basin and his thoughts on the source of the Pegleg gold nuggets. The booklet contains a general area map and six maps showing his theory of “fault rift movement” of mountain blocks. If I understand his theory correctly, the major faults (San Andreas, San Jacinto, Clark, and Banner) become spreading basins at different times, moving mountain blocks, as sediment fills the riff between the block. The sediment is derived from weathering of the mountain blocks and mountains to the west. There doesn’t seem to be much lateral movements of the faults. Mr. Caine believes the gold is likely derived from weathering of the earth in the Julian mining district. The booklet does not contain a bibliography for the treasure tales or geologic interpretation.
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00aah Peglegs_Lost_Gold1.jpg

Pegleg’s Lost Gold
Jesse Rascoe (aka: Ed Bartholomew)
Frontier Book Co., Fort Davis, TX, 1973
Copyright 1973
Softcover, 101 pages

The author has a unique writing style, and I enjoyed the way he presents the information. He tries to reconcile most of the Pegleg stories and points out the variety of routes that Pegleg Smith might have taken across the Imperial Valley. The author mentions some of his sources in his narrative but does not include a bibliography.
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00aai Pegleg_to_date_n_beyond1.jpg

Pegleg, To Date – And Beyond
John Southworth
Self-Published, 1975
Copyright 1975
Softcover, 64 pages

John Southworth’s book basically summarized the lost “black gold nuggets” stories printed in Desert Magazine prior to 1975. The author spends time dissecting the story of the man that claimed to have discovered Pegleg’s gold and removed $314,650 worth of nuggets. Desert Magazine (March 1965) nicknamed him “The Man Who Found Peglegs Black Gold” and “Mr. Pegleg.” Mr. Southworth doesn’t believe Mr. Pegleg’s discovery claim but feels at least four other lost black gold stories are credible. He wrote an article for Desert Magazine (April 1965) describing one of the “verified” black gold nugget discoveries (on the eastern side of the Chocolate Mtn.). The author appears to have lived in Southern California (Burbank, CA), so I am surprised he did not mention whether he visited the Desert Magazine office to inspect the nuggets. He did put an ad in Desert Magazine asking Mr. Pegleg to sell him a gold nugget. There is a short bibliography (listing six books).
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00aaj New Light Shed on Pegleg Smith.jpg

New Light Shed on Mr. Pegleg Smith
Charles L. Camp
John Howell Books, San Francisco
200 copies printed
Softcover, 10 pages

New Light Shed on Mr. Pegleg Smith is different from the books noted above and not useful to Pegleg hunters. The author, Charles L. Camp (a historian), appears to be a member of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus (ECV). I think the point of his book is that we should acknowledge the accomplishments of Pegleg Smith as a mountain man and trapper. Writers should not try to clean up his image and celebrate his reputation as a scoundrel, alcoholic, horse thief, and liar.
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00ab Pegleg research.jpg

Some books that might provide some historical context or regional information.
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00ac Pegleg country geology.jpg

Some maps and geology related publications. There are also plenty of United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S) and older California Mines & Geology reports that cover San Diego and Imperial counties available for free download on the Internet. Mindat.org also is a valuable source of information of mining claims, geology, and mineral deposits.
 
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aw11mr2

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000 00ad Assorted books.jpg

Just about any “lost mines and buried treasure” publication pertaining to lost mine stories in the southwest includes a story on Pegleg Smith’s lost black gold nuggets. Unfortunately, these books will probably not help untangle the different versions of the story.
 

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