Aaron had been working a permission with his first detector for a while and decided it was time to purchase a more versatile detector. After purchasing a new Equinox 800 form Kellyco, he decided to start fresh on the property and go back over everything. The permission owner’s family had owned the property since the mid-1800s when they immigrated to America from Sweden.
He had been collecting things found on the property to make a birthday gift for the owner since everything found at some point belonged to one of his ancestors. On Aaron’s first hunt with his Equinox, he found something that had been talked about in the property owner’s family for over a century.
While detecting where the first home on the property had stood Aaron had a signal that he thought to be a penny. Upon digging, he discovered it wasn’t a penny but a larger coin. After some research, he discovered it to be a Swedish 5 ore copper coin from 1857.
The property owner says he always heard about the coin as a child. The coin served as a reminder and keepsake of his great-great-grandfather’s homeland and was a prized possession of his. The coin had been lost when the home burnt down in the late 1800s and had been buried for 130 years. It will be included in the birthday gift to the homeowner.
Treasure Find: 130 Years of Buried Family History originally appeared on kellycodetectors.com.
America has the California Gold Rush. It’s equivalent in Canada is the Klondike Gold Rush. All told, this brought 100,000 prospectors into the region, which was not sunny California, but the frozen tundra of the Canadian Yukon over the course of three years between 1896 and 1899, with the bulk coming in 1897 and 1898.
Gold was first found in the Yukon by miners who had been working the region on August 16, 1896. Word quickly spread to Seattle and San Francisco, leading to the massive stampede of prospectors who arrived the next year. And while many arrived, this was not the free-for-all that many of the other gold rushes were due to the cold and remote location of the find. The Canadian government required that men arrive with at least a year’s supply of food to prevent mass starvation.
By 1898, the rush was largely over, not because the area had necessarily played out, but because the media had lost interest and was now focused on the Nome Gold Rush in Alaska. Many of the men who panned for gold in Alaska got their start working the goldfields of the Yukon.
Before the Gold Rush
In the second half of the 19th Century, however, more enterprising American prospectors began to flood the region. They made arrangements with the local Tlingit and Tagish tribes, finally arriving at the Yukon Valley around 1870. It was here that they encountered the Hän, who, as mentioned above, we’re aware of the gold deposits but did not place any value on gold and also did not know the extent of the gold deposits that they were sitting on.
The Prospector’s Prospector: Ed Schieffelin
It was in 1883 that Ed Schieffelin, a prospector and Indian scout who had cut his teeth prospecting for silver in the Arizona Territory found gold deposits in a reconnoiter along the Yukon River. In 1886, he discovered large deposits of gold during a trip up the Fortymile River. As a result of this trip, he founded Fortymile City, one of the boomtowns of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Schieffelin was known as a restless and casual figure, who kept his long hair and beard for most of his years on this earth, even after Tombstone silver made him a millionaire. He rarely stayed still and moved from one boomtown to another in search of the massive continental belt of gold running through North America. He was convinced that in Yukon that he had found this, however, he didn’t last long — the cold of the region and the difficulties that it presented in prospecting had him searching for greener pastures in short order. His next stop was Alaska, which had the predictable effect of having him leave the north entirely. He eventually died prospecting in Oregon and was buried with his pick, his shovel, and his canteen outside of Tombstone.
Several hundred miners had arrived in advance of the gold rush proper in the late 1880s. This led to the birth of mining camps on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. One boom town that sprung up in the early years before the rush was Circle City, founded in 1893. This was known at the time as “the Paris of Alaska” with a mighty 1,200 inhabitants, but lots of saloons, theaters, libraries, schools, and opera houses for the miners and their families. By 1896, Circle City was a ghost town as all the miners had left for the more remote parts of the Yukon in search of that Klondike gold.
The Discovery Claim
Discovery Claim is the name for the place on Bonanza Creek where the Klondike Gold Rush began. This is in an area lying approximately 10 miles south-southeast of Dawson City, a remote little Canadian town of about 1,300 people. The site itself is now a National Historic Site that you can go visit this day.
Unlike many other gold rushes, we know exactly when the Klondike Gold Rush began. It began with the discovery of gold on August 16, 1896, by American prospector George Carmack and his wife Kate who was of Tagish Indian extraction. They discovered gold while stopping for a rest during a long trip up the river. One of the troops, which also included Kate’s brother and their nephew, spotted something shiny in the water. Carmack claimed that he found it, but this is disputed by some historians, who believe it was his brother-in-law or even his wife who gave up the claim fearful that the Canadian government would not recognize the claim of an Indian.
All told four claims came out of this: The law at the time allowed Carmack to establish a second claim because he was the first person to discover gold in the region. The other two claims went to his brother-in-law and nephew.
Orphaned at the age of 11, Carmack was a Marine Corps veteran who was serving in Alaska aboard the USS Wachusett’s when he deserted in 1882 to go care for his sick sister in California. He came back to Alaska in 1885 in search of his fortunes in fishing, trapping, and trading, the common activities of those in the region at the time.
Carmack was generally disliked by the other prospectors in the area because of his closeness to the local native tribes, which eventually led to his marriage to Shaw Tláa (which means “gumboot mother”), who was known as “Kate.” They nicknamed him “Squaw Man” after the marriage but also referred to him as “Lyin’ George” due to his tendency toward exaggeration. The village of Carmacks, Yukon is named after him to this day, the site of his discovery of a large coal deposit.
The discovery of gold made Carmack a very wealthy man. He and Kate moved to Modesto, California after they struck it rich.
In 1900, Carmack abandoned Kate and married Marguerite P. Laimee in Olympia, Washington. They later moved to Seattle, where his new wife invested his money wisely in real estate, mostly office buildings, hotels, and apartment buildings. His investments made his fortune continue to grow, but he never gave up his passion for gold hunting. He even did a little prospecting in California as a fat old man in the the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. He died in 1922 at the age of 61 while working a claim.
Mount Carmack, along the Alaska-Canada border, is also named after him.
Rabbit Creek Becomes Bonanza Creek
The creek that Carmack and company were navigating was known as Rabbit Creek, but quickly came to be known as Bonanza Creek. By the end of August, the entirety of the creek’s banks was claimed by prospectors looking to get their share of the massive amounts of gold that were believed to be in the region. Additional gold was found up a tributary creek which was dubbed Eldorado Creek.
The claims which were made by the initial prospectors in the region quickly became a source of speculation. Claims were made, then bought and sold and traded among potential prospectors and land speculators looking to increase their wealth either through finding gold on the claim or by flipping it to another land investor or prospector. It was around this time that Circle City cleared out, but those who arrived at this time by dog sled found that most of the best claims were already taken.
Beyond Circle City, the news of the gold rush did not reach much of the outside world. This is because once the rivers of the area froze, travel to the outside world was virtually impossible. The stampede into the region began in the summer of the next year.
Stampede: The Klondike Gold Rush Begins in Earnest
The stampede kicked off the Klondike Gold Rush proper in July of 1897. All told, 100,000 people tried to get into the region, but it was only about 30,000 to 40,000 who made it all the way to the prospecting country.
On July 15, 1897, a ship arrived in San Francisco, with one arriving from Seattle two days later. These had huge amounts of gold (the equivalent of $1 billion in 2020 dollars) on them and work quickly spread throughout the two cities, with men picking up stakes and heading off to the Great White North in search of a fortune in gold. The prospectors were joined by those looking to make coin off of the prospectors, including traders, photographers, and newspaper writers.
The news of a massive gold discovery came at exactly the right time. The United States was in the middle of an economic depression that saw gold prices spike as paper money became less valuable and was being hoarded by Americans. The Panic of 1893 and the Panic of 1896 dramatically damaged the labor market. This meant that there was both a thirst for gold and a ready and waiting labor pool of men willing to take off to remote regions of Canada in search of their fortune.
The prospectors were overwhelmingly American or recent arrivals to America — between 60 and 80 percent. Few of them had any experience in mining, with most of the new arrivals being salesmen and clerks. Among their number was John McGraw, the former governor of Washington, and William D. Wood, who was the current Mayor of Seattle and abandoned his post to go hunt for Yukon gold. It generally costs $1,000 ($27,000 in today’s money) to even get to the region.
Supplies were difficult to get to the region, which made them both scarce and expensive. Savvy marketers added the name “Klondike” in front of just about any supply one might need, to imply that it was specially designed for those working in the region. Some examples of high prices include salt (which reached parity with gold), nails ($28 per pound or $784 in today’s dollars), butter ($5 per can or about $140 today), and eggs ($3, equivalent to $84 today). Scurvy was common in the camps.
Rich prospectors were not prevented from spending big on food, drink, and entertainment. It was expected that rich prospectors would go through a $60 bottle of champagne in a single night, equivalent to $1,660 today. Dice pots often started at $1,000 ($28,000) and poker pots at $5,000 ($140,000). Prosperous prospector Jimmy McMahon once spent $28,000 ($784,000) in a single night.
Unlike many gold rushes, the Klondike Gold Rush is known for a preponderance of law and order, with the Northwest Mounted Police keeping the local population in line.
The region was 92 percent male, with less than one percent of all women in the area working a claim.
The End of the Klondike Gold Rush
The Klondike Gold Rush began to taper off in the summer of 1898 when many prospectors, unable to make any money, started leaving the region. Casual work wages fell dramatically because there was a glut of labor in the region. The average laborer made about $100 per month, equivalent to $2,700 today. The attention of the newspapers turned from the Klondike region and it’s gold to the Spanish-American War, which kicked off on April 21, 1898.
When gold was found in other, neighboring regions (primarily Nome), the area largely emptied of everyone seeking fortune, leaving only those who had already made it, either through the gold itself or by selling goods that the prospectors couldn’t do without.
Discovery Day is still a holiday in the Yukon to this day, celebrated on the third Monday in August.
The Klondike Gold Rush originally appeared on kellycodetectors.com.
If any of you are getting stir crazy with winter and all you can think about is getting back out come spring to find the gold then check out this good documentary on The Oregon Trail's counterpart, The Bozeman Trail, and the gold rushes of Montana. It's pretty good.
By Gold Catcher
Just went on a hunting trip close to the large hydraulic mine field in North Columbia, CA (Motherlode). About 2 miles into my hunting-hike I encountered cops with ATV's who were searching for a dead body after homicide. I was advised that this area is generally not safe for hikers/prospectors and that it should be avoided due to the presence of an extremely violent drug cartel in the woods. One of the deputies even told me that whenever he has to go in this area he has his gun out. Great! I hiked back to the car with Olympic speed and will never go back there. What a shame though, beautiful tertiary gravel from the ancient Yuba channel all over the place. What a world we are living in! Coordinates (to avoid!): 39.354626°, -120.992273° and general area. Just thought to pass this along.
It’s no surprise to anyone who knows anything about history that gold was a big draw for colonists coming to the New World. One of the earliest gold rushes that brought people across the ocean and attracted the attention of major world powers was the Brazilian Gold Rush.
At this time Brazil was an integral part of the Portuguese Empire. Back in 1690 when the Brazilian Gold Rush kicked off, Portugal was not a small nation almost surrounded by Spain, but a major world power in possession of one of the largest empires in the world. This is largely thanks to their early efforts at overseas exploration that predate even the Columbian Contact between the Old World and the New. Indeed, the Portuguese had been colonizing parts of Africa for the better part of a century before Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic.
The Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral first arrived in Brazil in 1500 intending to simply use the land as a trading post, but not to actually create any kind of permanent settlement or society there. Of course, other factors were luring the Portuguese to the region: The allure of adventure on new and untamed lands — and the women who were there. Native women often greeted explorers in a manner that would seem excessive during the hedonistic days of 1970s rock. The final result was that the Brazilian Gold Rush became the biggest in recorded history.
The Portuguese colonization of Brazil is very intimately tied to the Brazilian Gold Rush, especially the beginning. It was the Bandeirantes (a term that literally translates as “flag carriers”) who discovered rich deposits of gold in the mountains of Minas Gerais.
Who Were the Bandeirantes?
The Bandeirantes were something between the Spanish Conquistadors and the cowboys of the United States. They were men who sought to make their fortune in the New World by hook or by crook. Oftentimes this meant through adventuring, treasure hunting, or slaving. They were so-called because as they went on their adventures through the undiscovered country they would plant the Portuguese flag, claiming the land for the mother country. Like the American cowboys, they were largely responsible for the westward expansion of the country, going well past the Tordesillas Line, which Pope Julius declared as the dividing line between the Portuguese and Castilian New World in 1494.
The Bandeirantes are an interesting group of people sociologically. They hailed almost entirely from the São Paulo region of Brazil, which at that time was known as the Captaincy of São Vicente before changing its name to the Captaincy of São Paulo in 1709. They were descendants of some of the earliest Portuguese settlers in Brazil, however, they were very commonly of mixed blood between Europeans and Native Brazilians. This racial admixture is called “mameluco,” a term roughly equivalent to the Spanish mestizo. For their part, the Bandeirantes largely adopted many of the indigenous ways, which made it easier for them to survive in the often hostile and unforgiving interior of this strange new world.
In addition to claiming the land for the Portuguese Crown, the Bandeirantes’ main charge was to find and enslave the local native population. However silver, diamonds, and, of course, gold quickly became a much more lucrative adventure in the New World. Thus, their efforts shifted away from humans to minerals. They are largely responsible both for the large territory that is a part of Brazil today, but also almost single-handedly responsible for the discovery of mineral wealth in the vast country. The Captaincy of São Vicente transformed into the Viceroyalty of Brazil, more or less coterminous with the modern-day Republic of Brazil, largely thanks to their efforts. While they were certainly engaged in the unsavory practice of slavery, the Bandeirantes continue to enjoy a revered status in Brazilian history to this day.
A Massive Influx Into São Paulo
The population influx of the Brazilian Gold Rush absolutely dwarfs nearly every other gold rush in history. All told, almost one million souls flooded the country in search of fortune — 400,000 Portuguese and 500,000 African slaves went into the region to hunt for gold. Sugar plantations, previously a massive source of revenue for the Portuguese Crown, were abandoned so in favor of the gold mines in the southeastern part of the country. By 1725, half of the population of Brazil was living in the gold mining region of the country.
This also significantly impacted the population of the mother country. The Portuguese court at Lisbon was forced to restrict emigration to the colonies due to the massive outflux of people from Europe to the New World. What’s more, the Brazilian gold rush is distinguished from other, similar gold rushes, by the fact that much of the mining was being done by both African and indigenous slaves rather than free European labor.
The result was over 800 metric tons of gold pulled out of the region and that’s just the official tally. There was also illegal mining going on and other black-market forces that were finding more gold than they were reporting to the crown back in Lisbon, thousands of miles and an ocean away. Other gold was simply used for ornamentation locally on churches and other institutions.
While the region eventually took on the name the Captaincy of São Paulo, this was not the largest city in Brazil at the time. The largest city was Ouro Preto with 40,000 people by 1730 and a few decades later, 80,000. For context, this was twice the size of New York City at the time, while São Paulo had a mere 8,000 residents.
What’s more, the Portuguese were quickly outfoxed by their allies — and rivals — the British. The Portuguese wanted to ship as much of the gold they were mining back to the mother country and were deeply concerned about every last nugget that wasn’t making it back. To that end, they set up a massive bureaucracy to oversee the production of gold in Brazil. Unfortunately, it was also a very inefficient and often corrupt bureaucracy, so it might have caused more problems than it solved.
All told, the court in Lisbon demanded that fully 20 percent of all gold mined be sent directly to them, a massive tax that probably encouraged a lot of “off the books” mining allowing the miners to keep more of the spoils from the mines.
The Second Wave: The Cuiaba Gold Rush
The first wave of the Brazilian Gold Rush might be termed the São Paolo Gold Rush due to it being centered in that Captaincy. However, there was a second wave of the Brazilian Gold Rush that was centered around the Cuiaba River, a little over 850 miles from the site of the first wave. At the time this was terra incognita and the second wave of the Brazilian Gold Rush helped to expand the borders of Brazil all the way to the frontier of what is now Bolivia.
Three men are generally credited with kicking off this second wave of the Brazilian Gold Rush: Pascoal Moreira Cabral Leme, Antonio Pires de Campos, and Miguel Sutil. However, we know very little about their lives other than that they were Portuguese adventurers who discovered gold in the area around the Cuiaba River. Over 7,000 men, including 2,600 slaves poured into the region quickly, and soon there were over 10,000 pounds of gold being produced by the region every month.
It was mostly to be for naught from the perspective of the Portuguese crown. First, there was the baked-in cost of transporting massive amounts of extremely heavy gold across an ocean. The overland journey out of the region to the coast took between five and seven months on its own. Then there was the unfortunate surprise upon opening the chests and finding lead inside. The perpetrators of this crime were never uncovered and the gold reserves in this area quickly played out making it almost entirely a bust from the perspective of the Portuguese monarch — but what a heist for whoever actually got that gold.
By the year 1737, there were only seven white men and a handful of slaves working in the region.
A Look at a Portuguese Gold Convoy
It goes without saying that transporting heavy goods in the 18th Century was nothing like transporting heavy goods today. Before the industrial revolution, the primary sources of energy were fire and muscle. This muscle might have been animal or human, but it was bound by all of the constraints that muscle is bound to. Having all the gold in the world doesn’t matter at all if you can’t move it to somewhere it can be spent or otherwise used, so this is significant in understanding the Brazilian Gold Rush, which largely took place before the invention of the steam engine.
The overland route was just about a hundred miles. This doesn’t sound like a lot by modern standards. It’s barely a “trip” and more of just a “long drive.” However, in addition to not having access to the internal combustion machine, the Portuguese gold train also had to contend with mosquitos (which were a deadly threat, not a minor nuisance, due to malaria and other diseases) as well as hostile natives.
The entire 1720 convoy was wiped out, but no one knows why. The 1725 convoy saw only two survivors after it was attacked by a canoe-based native tribe known as the Payaguá. In 1728, another convoy was attacked, this time to liberate a band of Paraesi captives who were being transported back as slaves. The 1730 convoy saw 400 people killed by hostile natives who also took nearly 2,000 pounds of gold, which they promptly threw in the river with no idea as to its true value. They kept about 300 pounds of the gold, which they traded to some Spaniards they encountered later. One Spaniard was able to trade a simple tin plate for five pounds of gold.
In 1733, a convoy attack left three survivors. This was the first attack that prompted a punitive counterattack from the Portuguese. To that end, they sent a force of 842 men to destroy a village of Payaguá Indians the next year. A similar attack in 1735 left another four alive.
Once the gold stopped flowing from the region the attacks on the Portuguese stopped. Instead, the Payaguá went back to feuding with their fellow Indians, the Guayacuru or Mbayá, who preferred horses to canoes.
The Aftermath of the Brazilian Gold Rush
The Brazilian Gold Rush was over almost as quickly as it began. Once the gold ran out, the entire Brazilian economy entered a very long period of stagnation. By the year 1807, gold had entirely ceased to be a source of revenue for the Portuguese crown.
There is still a great deal of gold to be found in the Amazon region of the nation, however, gold mining in and around the Amazon is strictly forbidden under Brazilian law. Illicit trade in Brazilian gold continues despite this ban, but the penalties are high. These miners come from all walks of life, unlike those who rushed to make their fortunes during the Brazilian Gold Rush.
The Brazilian Gold Rush is instructive in terms of how quickly even the largest reserves of gold in the world can be tapped out in a short period of time. We might not live in the days where easy fortunes can be made on all four corners of the globe, but there is still plenty of gold in the earth for those lucky or bold enough to find it. What’s more, we have means to both find and extract the gold from the earth that is far more than what was available to the Portuguese during the Brazilian Gold Rush.
Where will you find your fortune?
The Brazilian Gold Rush: Gold Mining in Brazil originally appeared on kellycodetectors.com.
Fans of the television series Deadwood will be somewhat familiar with the Black Hills Gold Rush. It is this gold rush that forms the background of the television series. Indeed, it is one of the more transformative events in American history, despite being somewhat lesser-known.
There were rumors of gold in the Black Hills region in the early years of the 19th Century. Sioux Indians were rumored to have been mining gold in the region as early as 1860. However, there was one small thing preventing Americans from mining gold in the region: the Treaty of Fort Laramie, which recognized the land as belonging to the Sioux.
There is another point of law that is relevant to the Black Hills Gold Rush: The General Mining Act of 1872. This allows Americans to mine for minerals anywhere on federal land. The problem, for American prospectors, is that none of the land in the Black Hills was federal land — it belonged to the Sioux.
Americans Find Gold on Indian Land
In 1874, a deposit was found near present-day Custer, South Dakota. However, these were small deposits. Larger ones were found in November 1875. It was in 1876 that prospectors began to flood the region in violation of the treaty with the Sioux. To make matters worse, this wasn’t just any land to the Sioux — the Black Hills were considered sacred.
The first significant arrivals to the region were a force of 1,000 men led by George Armstrong Custer. They were investigating claims of gold in the region which, again, was in violation of the treaty. Small amounts were found, but the troop kept scouting, looking for larger deposits. The South Dakota towns of Hill City, Sheridan, and Pactola were founded by this detachment. Gold flakes were found along the way, but nothing that seemed to justify the expedition.
It was in the Northern Black Hills that paydirt was finally struck. This is the area of Deadwood and Whitewood Creeks. When the prospectors first arrived on the scene, gold was being scooped out by the spadeful with virtually no effort at all. The easily found gold is something known as “placer gold.” This had eroded for larger, harder deposits.
All of the land was quickly claimed, but thousands more settled the region hoping to find their fortune in gold nonetheless. All told, over 10 percent of the gold mined in the next 125 years was found in the initial Deadwood bonanza.
How the Black Hills Gold Rush Changed American History
More than just economically, the Black Hills Gold Rush changed the makeup of the United States of America. A large section of the country that had been given to the Sioux was annexed to the United States. While it’s likely that this would have happened eventually anyway — it did everywhere else — the Black Hills Gold Rush provided an incentive for it to happen earlier.
It also made economic dynasties in the United States. For example, fans of Deadwood know that George Hearst is one of the primary antagonists of the series. He, in fact, was part of a consortium of developers who were instrumental in developing and expanding the Homestake Mine.
The Homestake Mine is an excellent way of conceptualizing the entire Black Hills Gold Rush. Discovered by Fred and Moses Manuel, Alex Engh, and Hank Harney in April 1876, these prospectors sold the claim to George Hearst, Lloyd Tevis, and James Ben Ali Haggin for the price of $70,000 in 1877. When the mine was discovered the land legally belonged to the Lakota Nation under the Treaty of Fort Laramie.
Of course, native treaties with the United States were always subject to the whims and vagaries of the United States government and this one was no exception to that rule. It was the desire of the United States to control the gold in the region that sparked off the Great Sioux War, sometimes known as the Black Hills War. This was the last major military operation against the native population of North America by the United States government.
The Great Sioux War
Many people know of the Battle of Little Bighorn, General George Custer, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull. These are all firmly in the American lexicon as parts of our national mythos. But few know that they relate to the massive infusion of gold that came out of the Black Hills Gold Rush.
It is worth noting — as it often is — that the land that was being occupied by the Sioux at the time of the Great Sioux War was land that had previously belonged to other Indian tribes. In this case, it was the Kiowa, who were pushed out by the Sioux and their allies the Cheyenne and Arapaho. The resources the native tribes sought were not gold, but the rich buffalo hunting grounds that lay in the region.
For their part, the Cheyenne were one of the most centralized tribal groups on the Great Plains. This is ironic, considering that there were so many different American and European names for them, that the United States military were unaware that they were a single cohesive group for quite some time. It was the Northern Cheyenne who began attacks against white men in the area, but the United States government would not provide any protection — only select government officials had the right to be there. The United States was not going to use its military might to stop interlopers and glory hunters from getting killed by the rightful inhabitants of the region.
At least not yet.
The Black Hills Expedition AKA The Custer Expedition
The Black Hills Expedition, also known as the Custer Expedition, was dispatched by the federal government in 1874. This was where significant amounts of gold were discovered and before the detachment had even returned to Fort Abraham Lincoln, news had spread across the nation of the gold. What’s more, the Lakota Indians in the region could see the writing on the wall and were taking on a defensive posture.
Just before the Black Hills Gold Rush began, there was the Panic of 1873. This began what was then known as the Great Depression, but what is now known as the Long Depression. Both individual prospectors and organized groups were moving into the region in violation of the Treaty of Fort Laramie.
It was easy enough to evade the United States Army detachments that were nominally patrolling the region and the Army did evict miners where it was able to do so. But without drones and other high-tech equipment to monitor the situation, the Army was at a disadvantage. Spotted Tail, Red Cloud, and Lone Horn headed a Sioux delegation to Washington, D.C. to convince President Ulysses S. Grant to enforce the treaty and stop the flow of miners. The government responded by offering $25,000 for the land and offering to relocate the Indians to Indian Country, in present-day Oklahoma.
The breakdown in negotiations was thanks to two main factors: First, a lot of bad blood between the Americans and the native tribes thanks to a slew of broken treaties. Second, the sacred nature of the Black Hills to the Indians. There had also been other encroachments into territories ostensibly belonging to the Sioux, generally by railroad interests. By 1876 the situation had broken out into total war. On February 28, 1877, the land was annexed by the victorious United States government.
The Homestake Mine: An American Treasure Trove
The Homestake Mine was so laden with gold that it was mined until 2002. It was the largest and deepest mine ever found in North America. All told, there were 40 million troy ounces of gold mined out of the Homestake Mine during its lifetime.
George Hearst took active control of the Homestake Mine when he arrived in Deadwood in October 1877. With the arrival of Hearst, the mine became a much more industrial operation. He hauled in mining equipment from Sidney, Nebraska, which is 273 miles away.
Arthur De Wint Foote was brought in as an engineer. He himself is an excellent example of the pioneer spirit of the age. In 1873, he left Connecticut and set out for California in search of excitement, adventure, and, above all, gainful employment. He bounced around a number of jobs there in the railroads and civil engineering projects. In 1876, he went back east to get married to American author and illustrator Mary Hallock Foote, an important contemporary documentarian of the American West. It was after his marriage that he moved his new family to the town of Deadwood to oversee the Homestake Mine for George Hearst. After this, he headed south to Leaden, Colorado to oversee a silver mine there. Indeed, any story of American mining and gold prospecting during the time period will likely find Foote popping up.
In 1879, the mine went public with shares being listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were listed until 2001, making it one of the longest listed stocks in the history of the exchange.
Those who have watched Deadwood know that Hearst is alleged to have used means fair and foul to grow and consolidate the mining in and around Homestake. Of course, the television series is fictional, but there is some truth to his villainous portrayal on the show. Some claims were purchased, others were poached in court. In one instance, a Hearst employee killed a prospector who refused to sell his claim. The man was acquitted in court after all of the witnesses disappeared. An anti-Hearst newspaperman was attacked on the street.
For his part, Hearst feared for his own safety and drafted a letter to his partners asking them to provide for his family in the event that he was bushwhacked. However, in three years Hearst left a very rich man, having consolidated most of the mining in the region under his control — a grand total of 30 acres of claims under his belt. By 1900, the Homestake Mine had expanded to include 300 claims sitting on 2000 acres. Mules and horses were finally replaced with fully operated machine equipment by the 1920s. All gold was shipped to the Denver mint.
The gold ore at the mine wasn’t actually very good. It didn’t even yield an ounce of pure gold for every ton of ore mined. The reason the mine was such a bonanza was because of the size of the discovery, not because of its quality. The size made the low quality of the ore, not a problem. In addition to the gold, the mine produced 9 million troy ounces of silver. A combination of the aforementioned poor ore quality, low gold prices, and high production costs put the mine out of business in 2001, another American icon lost to the changing times and changing markets.
The mine is now run by the National Science Foundation. It was planned to be used as a deep underground research mine. Maintenance of the mine cost a quarter-million dollars every day, so it was quickly shut down as a deal to transfer ownership became mired in the weeds. It was finally selected by the National Science Foundation for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) in 2007. In June 2009 the University of California Berkeley announced that it would begin to operate the mine for research on neutrinos and dark matter particles.
A somewhat obscure problem in nuclear physics was discovered at the mine in the 1960s, the solar neutrino problem. The problem itself is a little above our pay grade but the important part is that it came out of an experiment performed at the mine and was not resolved until 2002. Those with a mind for theoretical physics will know this as the Homestake experiment.
While not cutting the imposing and impressive posture of Mount Rushmore, which sits in the Black Hills, the Homestake Mine is arguably a more important part of American history. After all, a monument is simply an engineering project, whereas the Homestake Mine carved a Mount Rushmore-sized place into the social fabric of America through the jobs and the gold that it provided. It will continue to be a source of American historical developments as a place for our nation’s top scientists to conduct experiments.
The Black Hills Gold Rush originally appeared on kellycodetectors.com