PAGE 4 This page is dedicated to the World's Greatest Optimist - the DESERT PROSPECTOR
Harry Oliver's DESERT RAT SCRAP BOOK
Sidewalks of Silver
..John Hilton, the son-of-a-gun, has just taken out an option to dig Treasure on an Almada Rancho, in SONORA, MEXICO. So from the SONORA SKETCH BOOK (page 80) I quote:
The story is more than a legend. It happened! The founder of the present Almada family, in Alamns, [sic] was ready for the wedding of his oldest daughter. A sudden rain had wet the streets and, though the sun was shining again, the bride-to-be complained that she would wet her lovely shoes, walking across to the church. Her father called the servants and, with a grand gesture, told them to lay a path of silver bars across the street so the wedding parade could get to the church dry-shod. It wasn't a planned display of wealth, merely a spontaneous gesture that could have happened no place else but Alamos.
Your editor thinks the Treasue ought to be there. John wrote the book. John says Charles Dickerson of Padua Hills Theater (DID FIND IT) he wrote and produced a play based on this one paragraph.
More about Pegleg Smith
Your Editor is happy to print this letter from W.T. Russell of Grass Valley, California.
I have been particularly interested in your Peg Leg Smith stories. I have been reading everything I could get hold of about Peg Leg for the past sixty years. I am an old broken down prospector, born on the Mother Lode, El Dorado County in 1875. Spent the most of my life here. I never knew Peg Leg, he passed away a little before my time. But I did know his son Joe, and his grand children, played, danced and worked with the grand children 50-60 years ago, all dead now I think. I tried to get in contact with one that was supposed to be living near Los Angeles, a few years ago but failed.
Peg Leg Smith drifted to El Dorodo county in the early days of the Gold Rush. Took part in an Indian War in El Dorado Co., in 1852. He finally settled down on a small ravine in the north side of El Dorado Co., a branch of Beer Creek. The ravine goes by the name of Peg Leg to this day. He died there in the early '60's and was buried in an unmarked grave at American flat, [sic] El Dorado Co., a few miles from where he had been living. He left a crude map of the lost mine, that he had drawn, his son Joe, thinking it of no value, burned it. In after years he regreted it. Then he would remark, "If I only had that may [sic] today I could get $1000 for it."
His son Joe was born at Taos, New Mexico, some time in the 1830's. I think his mother was either a Crow Indian or a Mexican. He died in El Dorado Co. sometime in the late 1890's.
I have always had faith in the existence of the mine. If I were 20 years younger, I would not hesitate to spend a few months looking for it. I can see nothing unlikely about it. It was simply a rich pocket that eroded and was scattered on the hill side, it often happens.
And as to the gold being black that was because the gold had been beded in manganese. Some time after Peg Leg stumbled on it, it was covered up by one of your sand storms. It has been covered and uncovered several times no doubt.
The Indian was lucky enough to happen along when it was uncovered.
ALL THE TIME BROKE
The scene was set in a gambling hall in Tonopah. Each night, seated at the same table of chance, is a Chinaman and each night a Salvation Army lass makes her rounds, seeking donations for the cause. Each night also, the sectarian approaches the Oriental and in a soft voice, asks, "Will you give a gift for Jesus Christ?"
The Chinaman was a good gambler and was usually winning, so when the damsel requested money the man from China would nonchalantly toss her a five dollar gold piece.
One night, however, the Chinaman's luck had abandoned him and he weas in a surly mood. As usual the Salvation miss entered. She made the rounds of all the tables, and finally came to the table of the Oriental. Again in her soft voice she asked, "Will you give a gift for Jesus Christ?"
The Chinaman gave a disgusted look and blurted, "Wat's a molla that Jee Clie alla time bloke?"
—Excerpts from Chas. Lockwood's Scrapbook
CALICO GHOST TOWN
13 Miles East of Barstow
Calico in the 1880's was the largest silver mining Camp in the southwest. Almost obliterated by time, it is now being restored by Knott's Berry Farm. An ideal outing for the rockhound, and camping groups.
THE JAMES BOYS LOOT
From J. FRANK DOBIE'S
The best book about any American outlaw that has been written, "The Rise and Fall of Jesse James," by Robertus Love, has a great deal in it about Frank James, but it has not one word about the two million dollar loot he helped buty in the Wichitas and then could not find. To get that incident in the history of the famous Missouri brothers one must go to Pete Givers.
Just how and where the James gang came by ther $2,000,000 is not quite clear. Some say they took it from a Mexican transport crossing Oklahoma on the way to Saint Louis; others say that it was an accumulation from various bank and train robberies. The James gang robbed not to live; they lived to rob, and they robbed on a magnificent scale. Anyway, they stored $2,000,000 in the earth somewhere along the old road between Fort Sill and the Keeche Hills to the northeast, intending to leave it there until peaceful days should come in which to spend it.
The peaceful days never came. After having been hunted for nearly twenty years, "poor Jesse" was laid in his grave, as the ballad runs, by a "dirty little coward" named Bob Ford. All his companions but Frank were in their graves too or behind bars. Frank was still on the dodge. But Frank "came in," gave himself up, was tried, and acquitted.
Thereupon, as the Wichitas have the history, he set out to recover the long buried loot. He had left the region a hunting ground for Indians; he found it homesteaded, fenced, plowed. He could not locate the spot. He knew that it was alongside the old Western Cattle Trail leading to Dodge City; he knew in a general way where it was; but despite his tenacious memory and eagle eye, the bit of earth concealing $2,000,000 looked no different from ten thousand other pieces of earth.
Frank James bought a little farm so that he might have a strategic base from which to search. He would ride daily from his farm to Cache Creek over the piece of trail he once traversed at the head of the most daring band of robbers known to American history. He always covered the distance at a flying gallop, hoping that when he got th the scene of the secreted treasure the doors of memory would flash open. But daily the doors of memory remained locked. Riding thus, he wore out six horses before he galloped away from the Wichitas forever.
Thus the treasures of the Wichitas unfold themselves in legend. There is a great government treasure lost to view in the sands and waters of Cache Creek. There is the treasure of Cut Throat Gap — a name that was not bestowed without reason.
Many people on hearing that diamonds have been found in meteorites, imagine that the meteorites are sought as a source of gems. However, no diamond of gem quality has ever been found in any meteorite. Though comparatively numerous in the Barringer meteorite, the diamonds so far discovered have all been of the carbonado variety which consists of microscopic crystals embedded in a matrix of graphite carbon. They are very unattractive in appearance; but are so hard that they scratch carborundum and readily cut grooves in grinding stones made of that material They have no value.
H.H. Nininger, Flagstaff, Ariz.
A Great Collection of Relics
A Faithful Reproduction of a Composite Old West Ghost Town
OPEN DAILY 12 NOON to 9 P.M. — COME AND HAVE FUN AND A GOOD DINNER
KNOTT'S BERRY FARM
BUENA PARK, CALIF.
22 MILES SOUTHEAST
OF LOS ANGELES
from OLD FORT OLIVER
Thousand Palms, California
Come in. This is old Fort Oliver — home of this paper — stronghold of the secessionists — tabernacle of the Desert Liars Club and exploitation headquarters for the West's most colorful ghost, Pegleg Smith. Here on this old desk is my Peg Leg Scrap Book. For 35 years I have gathered items about the old rascal, many of the stories I have garnished a bit, as I gave them again to the press. But with others I have been able to coax the old Ghost over to the spot that I picked for his monument in Borrego (Desert Ghost Herding, Blackie calls it.)
Twenty years ago, I planted 60 weathered wooden peg legs in likely spots to keep the famous Peg Leg Smith Lost Gold Legend on the front pages of the newspapers of the Southwest. (Most of them were found, and the Newspapers loved it.)
Today Peg Leg Smith is the best known Ghost in the West. Phillip A. Bailey's book "Golden Mirage" (1948) tells many stories of Peg Leg Smith for you that would know all the tales, but I have picked for this packet one of the oldest printings I could find. Here is George Wharton James in his "The Colorado Desert" (in two volumes 1906) quoting from the Los Angeles Herald of a much earlier date. It's best you start with the story as it was 60 years ago.
"This is the puzzling question which has caused many a fortune hunter to search the desert. Somewhere near three buttes that rise from the burning sands the gold lies easy of access. Wealth waits for the man who can find the spot where seventy years ago a party of weary and thirsty trappers camped over night.
"The story of the lost mine has been told many times, but it has remained for one who is interested in the older West, to sift the facts, and this is the first authentic story ever pieced together;
T'was in the Year of 1836...
"In the year 1836 a man named Smith, and known as "Pegleg" Smith because he had lost one of his natural legs, with a party of trappers came from St. Louis to the head of the Colorado River. They followed down that stream to the mouth of the Gila River and then struck of across the desert. From Yuma their course was in a southwesterly direction, across a wide stretch of desert, utterly devoid of vegetation, and with no sign of water or life of any kind. They traveled for three days toward some low hills, but as they pressed on they appeared to recede and be always about the same distance from them, At nightfall on the fourth day, however, they made their camp at the very base of the southernmost of the hills.
"In the dim, fading light they could faintly discern the tops of three small buttes to the northward, toward which a deep canyon led. They were nearly out of water, so one of their number was sent to explore the canyon to see if by any chance a spring of water was there.
"Before long he had climbed to the top of one of the buttes, but had not found a drop of moisture. While at the top of the hill, however, he discovered many loose pieces of black metal, with here and there pieces of some metal showing on the surface of them. He gathered several of the pieces, having the impression that the yellow metal was copper in its native state.
"The trappers camped at the base of the hill that night, and in the morning, by the clear light, they described a high mountain to the northwest. Their supply of water was almost gone, and they felt that their only hope was in reaching this high mountain before what remained of the water had been entirely consumed and they perished from thirst on the burning sands of the desert. The man who had picked up the pieces of black metal on the hilltop gave no thought to them, and the one thought was to reach the mountainside and find water.
"That night they came to the mountain, which all day had seemed just a short way off, and found a spring of cool, clear water. They were saved, and they thought of little else. The mountain was named 'Smith Mountain,' in honor of Pegleg, who was the first to discover it, and it bears that name to-day.
"At Temecula, where the trappers first stopped, they were told the pieces of black metal found on the three buttes were gold, but the proof was not conclusive until they reached San Bernadino and submitted their find to an expert. Even then they did not realize the immensity of their discovery. It must be remembered that this was before 'the days of old, the days of gold, the days of '49.
Golden Days of '49 . . .
"After the discovery of gold in California and the rush of adventurers from all over the world to the new Eldorado, Smith began to consider. Eventually he became imbued with the idea he had made a great discovery, and he went to San Francisco where he organized an expedition to seek for the three buttes in Southern California where fabulous wealth was hidden. Fully equipped for a long stay on the desert the expedition left Los Angeles and started in a southeasterly direction for Smith Mountain where he last water was to be had, but before reaching the springs some Indians who had been brought along to pack the supplies decamped quietly in the night-time with all the provisions and most of the camp equipment, and the expedition was forced to turn back.
Pegleg Smith, disheartened by the catastrophe, left his followers in San Bernadino, and nothing was ever heard from him again, so far as history tells. Whether he again attempted to locate the three hills of gold and lost his life on the burning sands, or whether he abandoned the quest and left the country for good, is not known.
"From this time on the story of Pegleg and his discovery began to spread and to assume fantastic forms. Every one who related it told it differently. However, there were those who knew and appreciated the real facts regarding thre find and who never gave uo the idea of some day making a journey across the desert in search of the gold they knew must be there.
"The next authentic piece of history concerning the Pegleg has to do with an Indian employed on the ranch of Governor Downey, which is known as Warner's Ranch, and stretches from the foothills below Smith Mountain to the desert on the south. This Indian was wont to steal away from the ranch on many occasions when he would be fully equipped for a long journey and sometimes on his return he would display a quantity of gold. It was in the form of black metal, generously sprinkled with free gold, and readily passed for currency at the country store.
"The Indian was never very particular whether he got the full value of his nuggets or not. He often remarked he knew where there was plenty more. It was known that he used to enter the desert by way of the San Felipe Canyon, which would take him in the very direction of the three buttes, described by Pegleg Smith and his comrades after their first trip over this region, when the discovery was made.
When Downey Was Governor ...
"All the circumstances eventually came to the ears of Governor Downey, and he went to the ranch for the purpose of interviewing the Indian, but before he reached there the Indian had gone away to Anaheim and there he was killed in a quarrel over a game of cards. Governor Downey closely questioned the squaw of the Indian and succeeded in getting her to describe as best she could the route taken by her brave on his mysterious journeys to the desert. She said that the Indian got his last supply of water at the foot of Smith Mountain at the identical spring where Pegleg and his comrades found water after leaving the three buttes on the morning of their discovery. She said that he always left Smith Mountain at daybreak and traveled toward the sun and at about three o'clock in the afternoon he would come to the place where 'mucho, mucho gold' was to be had.
"Since that time it is hard to separate the reliable stories of Pegleg's discoveries from the unauthenticated ones and the purely imaginative ones. In 1860 a man named McGuire organized a party of six in San Francisco to go to the Pegleg mine. He claimed to have been there, and showed a number of very valuable gold nuggets to substantiate his assertions. He had certificates of deposits on a San Francisco bank showing that he had plenty of money, and said he had obtained them by depositing nuggets like those he carried. The six adventurers went through the San Felipe Canyon on to the desert, and that was the last ever seen of them. Their bleached bones clearly told the story of the fate of that expedition.
Lost Prospector's Black Nuggets ...
"Fifteen years after this a prospector, in making his way from Arizona to California, wandered far from his way, and became lost on the desert. After he had traveled about for two days he saw, away off in the distance, some low-lying hills, and made his way to the foot of them. In search of water to quench his terrible thirst, he entered a little canyon, and made his way through it to the very top of the little buttes. Here he found a number of black nuggets, and believed that they were gold, but water was more precious to him than gold at that time, and he descended to the desert again and finally crawled on to the foot of Smith Mountain, where he, too, found the little spring of life-giving water.
"As soon as he was able to travel, this man came to Los Angeles to organize a company to go with him back to the desert, but the hardships he had undergone had been too much for him, and he fell ill. When he learned that he was going to die he confided to Dr. De Courcey, his physician, the particulars of his discovery, and placed in his hands two thousand dollars' worth of gold nuggets, which were those he had picked up during the few months [sic] he stayed on the top of the little butte.
"After the death of the miner, Dr. De Councey spent some time on the desert attempting to locate the vast treasure, but he did not succeed, and finally, he, too, died.
"At Flowing Wells, on the edge of the Colorado Desert, the Southern Pacific road has a station, and the agent of the road here some time ago reported tha an Indian squaw came to his place one day and showed a quantity of gold nuggets. She guarded them jealously, knowing well their value, but would not talk freely nor tell where she found them, but would point to the direction of Smith Mountain, in line with which would be the three low hills mentioned by Pegleg Smith. This reticence on the part of Indians on this coast is general among them, for they were told by the Jesuit priests, that the Great Spirit would punish them if they ever showed a white man where there was gold located.
"Only three months ago a man came across from the Banning side of the desert to a point about twelve miles above Yuma, and stopped at a mill near the river to obtain water and rest. He told the engineers at the mill that he saw many queer things on his trip, and took from his pocket a handful of black nuggets which he said he thought might be lead by the weight, but concluded they were iron pyrites and laid them down. After he went away the mill man picked up one of the nuggets and with a file removed the coating. Then he discovered it was pure gold. He started in pursuit of the man, overtook him and learned from him that he picked up the nuggets in a gulch where the wind and the sand had driven him for shelter, and where he remained all night. He said that there were carloads of that stuff there. The black coating over the gold obscured from him the value of the find as it had from many others both on the desert and in the Klondike country.
"The nuggets which this man picked up were just like those which Pegleg Smith's comrades found, just like those the Indian brought to Warner's Ranch, and just like those which McGuire brought to San Francisco. G.W.J. 1906
WEST STILL WILD
— from the pages of Harry Carr's great book, The West Is Still Wild, Houghton Mifflin Co., New York. A line and a sketch.
The line from Chapter XXV El Dorado "La Golondrina" was drowned out by "Oh, Susanna.."
This is the story of the hottest sport of the Mother Lode country. He, too, lived in Columbia. He came ambling into the gold country one day in the fifties. He had an air of sang-froid and a permanent aversion to work.
One day, coming back from a drunken party he stumbled over a rock. It proved to be one of the largest nuggets ever found in the Mother Lode. Eventually he dug eighty thousand dollars out of the claim he staked. When he got the assay report, Nate hired a brass band and gave a one-man parade. Then he marched into Long 8om's [sic] Bar at Columbia and paid for a drink with a twenty-dollar gold piece — no change expected. He never stopped paying twenty-dollar gold pieces for drinks. That was his standard price.
Some of his friends tired to get him to save his money; but Nate replied that he was now about to satisfy his life's ambition, which was to own a fast horse, a fast woman, and a fighting dog. He had a buggy made to order with red wheels; bought a high-stepping horse and a harness mounted with solid gold; married a pretty Mexican girl from the Gulch; and sent East for the ugliest bulldog ever seen in California.
All the bar-keepers waxed rich on Nate's twenty-dollar gold pieces before his money gave out. His pay streak pinched out. Then Nate went the rounds of the saloons trying to borrow money off the bar-keepers he had enriched. They fumbled — as they had always fumbled with his change.
His bulldog and horse disappeared. In the end, he and his little Mexican girl went hungry. But Nate never lost his elegance or his INSOUCIANCE. One day the little Mexican girl managed to dig up seventy-five cents and sent Nate to the market to buy some much-needed meat. He came back without the meat. He had spent the money to buy a live owl from an Indian. He said it was a cute little owl; and anyway, he had always wanted an owl.
One night they found Nate lying dead on the trail. His whiskey heart had suddenly given out.
The little Mexican girl went insane.
FURTHERANCE AND COMFORT OF LIFE IN
Shack, Shanty & Cabin
Tender Your Aid, You Rats, Send in Your Stuff
Not Approved by Good Housekeeping
In building a shack, put your open fireplace in the corner, — so's when you burn long logs, the logs will lay along the wall and you won't stumble over them — saves a lot of woodcutting. —Your Editor.
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Never put pepper on any kind of meat before cooking. Always pepper just before serving, to avoid having the spice become burned and distasteful —From Bill Magee's Western Barbeque Cookbook. Fond as he is of hot sauce, Bill Magee advises to "lay off" all sauces for fine-flavored meat like venison.
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You can get a purty fair idea of a woman's disposition from the way she scrapes out a pan. — (How did that woman get into this column?) but no matter.
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The modern idea of roughing it is to have no radio in the shanty.
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If your shack is in the desert and you pack in your water — put in two Tamarisk sticks, water them with waste water, running it through a keg of ashes and you have yourself trees.
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Was reading in an old, old cookbook: "When toast is burned, do not scrape with a knife — rub across a grater." Your editor has got a better idea of what to do with it!
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Remember you can't fall out of bed if you sleep on your face.
Old Captain Catnip Ashby, says — "The prospectors over near Quartzite ain't mining much gold, but they are getting good television reception."
Wine In The Desert
Somewhere under "The Algodones" fascinating sand dunes (20 miles west of Yuma, Arizona) near Gordon's well. "Yes, it's true." Under the dunes is a freight wagon filled with the finest champagne from France.
One of the most amusing of the desert tales is that of the freight wagon loaded with champagnes, bound for the tables of the dons in the pueblos of San Diego and Los Angeles. Crossing the sand dunes, the freighters were struck by a violent sand storm. As the flying sand settled about the wagon, the drivers cut loose their mules and rode on them before the storm and to safety. Returning later, they found only a sea of dunes where the wagon should have been, and never since has the cargo of champagne been seen.
Magistrate: "So you claim the defendant hit you with malice . . . and aforethought?"
Plaintiff: "No, your Honor — it's no good trying to make me contradict myself. I said he hit me with the shovel, and that's right!"
If you fold this paper again, long way, it makes it just right for killing cockroaches or vinegaroons.
Smart as a Mule
Geo. A. Stingle
After searching for a week for a lost mule the owner offered the town half-wit two bits if he could find him. In about an hour the dope came in leading the mule. When asked how he found him so quickly he replied — "I just thot [sic] where I'd go if I was a mule and I went there and there he was.
Big Game Hunters from the land of tired air
From page 197 Matt Weinstock's Book, My L.A.
If you have read Matt's book you will enjoy reading this again. If you have not read Matt's book get one and read this agin, [sic] and hundreds more like it. —Your Editor.
A few reporters were sitting in a small cafe, watching a cockroach track up a lemon meringue pie, speculating whether is would spell out Pepsi-Cola, as the skywriter does. A stranger sitting three stools away broke into their research. "Hey, Al, there he is again," he called to the proprietor. "Is it all right if I take a try at him?" Al said it was ok, he'd been trying to trap the so-and-so all day. The stranger pulled out a .25 automatic, took aim, and blasted at a large rat visible in the doorway to the kitchen. He missed, swore, replaced the gat, and resumed sipping his coffee. The newsmen almost fell off their stools.
We are eagerly waiting for Matt's new book, "My So. Cal."
TEXANS Report Finding Lost Dutchman Mine
The famed Lost Dutchman mine, reputed to be located somewhere in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, has been "found" again according to a statement given to the Houston, Texas, Chronicle by one of the locators.
According to legend the mine was worked originally by members of the Peralta family of Mexico, After considerable gold had been taken from the rich deposit, the Apache Indians, resentful of the intrusion in their territory, attacked the mining party and massacred all but one of the workmen.
At a late date a German, Jacob Walz, reported that he had discovered the old Peralta workings, and exhibited rich gold ore to prove his claim. He never revealed its location.
Most recent claimants to rediscovery of the old workings are Robert C. Drury and O.T. Haning, a mining engineer. They say they have located a 200-foot shaft about 20 miles from Casa Grande. It had been covered with mesquite. An old hand-made ladder leads into the mine. They assert they found gold in the ore at the bottom of the shaft, and believe that eventually they will locate a cache of arrastre-milled ore said to have been buried at the time of the Apache attack.
The only way to know anything about a lost mine is to go to just one man. If you go to two, what you know is reduced by half. Got to three and you don't know anything.
Gasoline and Oil
Open the Year 'Round