Found a Nugget Digging a Grave

This story is the first of many that I will be publishing here that have to do with the old west and gold mining around the 49er era. They are all unique in the fact that, even though they are printed here in their original form, no credit can be given to the original authors due to the source where they were found.

I was living in an active gold camp along the Stanislaus River outside of Columbia California in 2013 when I found these stories in a book in a store. When I ask the price of the book I was told since it was a 2nd printing from 1897 it wasn’t for sale but I was invited to read it and copy some of the contents.

I spent a lot of time at the store every week when I made my usual trip to town for supplies. Since most of the stories are fairly short I was able to copy almost the entire book and I believe it is time to share them in a different format for everyone to enjoy.

Now on to the first story on the list.

“Found A Nugget Digging A Grave”

In a manner very reminiscent of the old western movie “Paint Your Wagon” – this great find was made when digging a grave. This is an exciting story connected with the finding of the Oliver Martin nugget, one of the largest ever found in California, which sold for $22,700, after it had earned $10,000 from exhibition in various parts of the country (the value would make the weight very nearly 1100 ounces of gold).

Although a young man, Oliver Martin was little better than a tramp. He spent his time in doing odd jobs and drinking whiskey around the mining camps of Yuba, Tuolumne, El Dorado and Calaveras counties. He didn’t even own a pan, much less a rocker or long torn. One of his close companions was John Fowler, who was equally shiftless and dissipated.

One night in November, 1854, the two were on their way from Benton’s bar over the Grizzly Mountains to Camp Corona, the spot made famous in literature by Bret Harte. The fall rains had begun, and the streams were running high. On the night of the 7th, almost stupid with drink, the two sought refuge in a deserted miner’s hut.

During the night a heavy rain, peculiar to the mountain ranges, set in. The water fell in torrents, and came pouring down the precipitous mountain sides. The narrow canyon where Martin and Fowler lay asleep and drunk was soon filled with the rushing waters, which threatened to sweep away the old shack of a building in which they were resting. They were awakened by the water pouring into the cabin, and sought to escape by climbing the steep sides of the canon.

Both men were swept back into the flood and were carried down the stream in the darkness. Martin was washed into a clump of live oaks, and managed to lodge, clinging to the branches until morning, but his friend Fowler was not so lucky and had drowned.

The next day, November 8th, toward noon, when the waters had subsided, Martin secured a pick and shovel, and started to bury his dead companion. He selected a sandy spot at the base of the cliff, and had not dug down two feet when he came upon the nugget.

He made several tests before he could convince himself that it was really gold. The chunk was bigger than a bull’s head, and far too heavy for Martin to carry by himself. He hurried to Camp Corona to secure help. He had some difficulty in persuading anyone to go with him. At last one of the miners consented, but carefully made the statement that he was going to help bury Fowler, and not to carry nuggets, as he, like others in the camp, placed no confidence in Martin’s story.

The chunk weighed eighty pounds and required the combined efforts of Oliver and his assistant to get it to the camp. Before starting back to camp, both men staked claims, Martin, of course, claiming the spot where he had unearthed the big nugget.

As soon as the news of the great find spread, miners flocked in by hundreds, but although the stream was carefully prospected for miles, nothing of any great value was found. Martin considered that his find and the peculiar circumstances attending it was an act of Providence, and he never touched intoxicants thereafter.

With the money he got from the sale of his nugget he went to mining in a business-like manner. Later he was attracted to Yucatan, where he made over half a million in quartz mining. He died in New Orleans a few years ago, leaving a fortune of over a million dollars.

 

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Another New Family

As I traveled around the country in 2013 during the first year of Oro Expeditions I spent a lot of time living in a tent. It was easy to do this because of my membership in a popular gold prospecting and mining club known as the Gold Prospectors Association of America.

 

We joined the GPAA in 2009 while I was still driving a truck around the country for a living. Being on the road all the time made it easy to visit quite a few leases and properties owned by them and I took advantage of this almost every weekend while trucking.

 

It only took a couple visits to some of GPAA’s eastern spots for me to realize that gold miners and rock hounds have a lot in common with over the road truck drivers. They both live outside the norms of modern society and most live a solitary life with occasional “get-togethers” with “like-minded” individuals who share their passion.

 

Turns out I traded one “family” for another one when I retired from trucking.

 

I have been to and lived in quite a few gold camps around the country due to the fact that we joined multiple groups and clubs since 2013 in order to have plenty of places to go to prospect and mine.

 

In 2014 and 15 my wife Paula and I lived, full time, in various camps in the eleven western states and we replaced driving a truck with pulling a small box  trailer which we used to haul motorcycles for profit.

 

The trailer also served as our RV when we wanted to be in gold camp. We had a queen sized air bed along with a really cool kitchen setup for Paula. With a big tarp propped up on the side of the trailer it made for a very comfortable camp.

 

This year we took the next step with GPAA and joined the sister company known as Lost Dutchman Mining Association or LDMA for short.

It is actually the original club that was formed in the 60’s by the founder, George Massie.

 

We belong to and pay dues with 3 other gold prospecting clubs around the country but the LDMA is the biggest and best when it comes to that “family feeling”.

 

As a warm up for what should be a great season for Oro Expeditions we traveled south to North Carolina last week for our first visit to one of the LDMA camps. Vein Mountain LDMA is located in the central part of the state and sits on the western edge of the “quartz belt” that runs the entire length of the east coast.

 

We found out how special it is to be members of this huge club by spending a week on the property where we were treated like royalty by the caretakers, Brian and Vonda Yoder. A big THANK YOU to them and the other members in camp for a fantastic time. We are looking forward to returning in the fall.

 

My point with this post is that for 30 years I was part of the trucking industry which used to be like being part of a family. We kept to ourselves and spent most of our time in the company of other drivers and truckers due to the fact that we were always on the road.

Since retiring from the industry in February of 2013 that is the one thing I will always miss. The comradery of a family of truckers.

 

Today, after 4 years of struggling to make something out of Oro Expeditions, we have “ARRIVED” due to joining up with our newest family known as LDMA and all the great people associated with the company.

 

We are looking forward to our next trip which will be to the great state of Oregon to a place known as Blue Bucket. While there we will be participating in our first group event with LDMA along with having front row seats to the EPIC Solar Eclipse that will take place during the event.

Most exciting is the fact that the camp is almost dead center on the center line within the “Path of Totality” so our experience should be extraordinary to say the least.

 

Take a few minutes to surf over to http://www.goldprospectors.org/ and check out all the benefits of being a member of our gold mining family.

The best part is you get to keep ALL the gold you find. 😉

 

More Later…

Oro Expedition 17… What’s Up This Year

Outpost Stumble DownThe temperature is rising a little more every day as we get ready to welcome the month of May. Here in winter quarters in western Maryland the process takes a week or two longer than the rest of the state due to the change in elevation but the local forecast is calling for 70’s and occasional rain for the next week.

I have had quite a few people inquire about the plans for Oro Expeditions for the 2017 season so I figured it was time to share that which Paula Cas and I have been talking about all winter but first I want to take a few minutes to explain the recent past and the lack of an Expedition last year.

It was a cold day in October of 2015 that we returned to Maryland after spending two months in central Nevada where we had been invited to work a private hard rock claim. We had only been back for a few weeks when I did some serious damage to my back and neck. It was the beginning of a very painful time but also a most revealing time because after many troubles in the past with my back this was the time when I decided to find out just how bad it was.

Three MRI’s and three x-rays later, it was clear how much damage a lifetime of driving truck along with two major traumatic events had done to my back and neck. To top it off I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, stenosis, and a total of five bad disk in my back and neck. Thanks to all of that I have been placed into a “pain management” program which means I will be on some pretty heavy duty pain medication for the rest of my life. 1381175_10202182253375206_839364771_n

Some would say “Oh no what a bummer.” but not me. The fact is I have a limited number of productive mining seasons left so I will be making the most of every one of them and that begins today. This is where the plans for 2017 will pick up where 2015 left off.

It was August of 2015 in northern California where I met a man named Dave. He had an offer for me that on one hand was almost too good to be true but on the other hand seemed very doable to me at the time.

After a chance meeting at our camp on the Klamath River, the offer was made for us to purchase a package deal that included a hover craft and 4 very exclusive gold claims on a large well known river in Alaska. Dave made it clear to us that he wanted Oro Expeditions to have this deal because he had done his research on me and the company and admired the way I had started the whole thing. Along with how quickly became a fairly successful gold miner.

I have spent a lot of time since August of 2015 putting together a lucrative investment package known as “Oro Expedition Alaska Extreme”. During the winter and early spring of 2016 I had high hopes of that season being the one that would see the Expedition in “The Land of The Midnight Sun” suction dredging a large river with millions of dollars in gold in it but the medical problems would not permit it.

When I realized it was time to get to the bottom things with my back and neck, I also realized the 2016 season would be a bust due to the recuperating process taking an unknown amount of time.

So now we jump ahead to the present, and things are really looking up for a slightly limited season this year that will include a return to many of the western locations we visited in 2015 along with the possibilities of taking the Expedition north of the Canadian border. That is the outline for the year and now for some of the details we have figured out to get things rolling in that direction.

Along with some destinations I visited in 2013 on the first Expedition like north Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and Alabama we are planning to make a trip to the northeast and the shiny yellow metal of New Hampshire and western Maine. This trip will probably take place later in the year before the cold weather moves in.

A trip to the eleven western states will include visits to many of the locations we were at in 2015. Places like southwest Oregon, Happy Camp California, central Nevada and multiple locations in Arizona are all included on the list.

One new location will be added to the list when we head to Arkansas for clear quartz and maybe even a side trip to the Crater of Diamonds State park. I hear the likelihood of scoring a sizable diamond has increased in the past few years so it has been added to the list as well.

That is an outline of how the 2017 season is shaping up, and if my back and neck cooperate, there is a good chance this is the year Oro Expeditions makes it to the Yukon and Alaska.

Regardless of whether or not we make it north, there will be a lot of mining and rock-hounding to be done here in the lower forty eight. So, stay tuned to our social media sites, especially to the official  Oro Expeditions Website.  Changes and updates will be ongoing so be sure to bookmark the site so you can check on our progress.

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