Monday, July 2, 2012

An Old-Time Tale

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
There's a tale the old-timers used to tell in the sunbaked streets of old Tombstone -- the thrilling tale of Schieffelin's gold. Millions of people have read about him and seen the monument to him on the highway near Tombstone -- Ed Schieffelin.
Ed liked the excitement of being right up against the earth, trying to find her gold. He went into California first and then after a few years, to the Grand Canyon country. While there he joined some scouts who were fighting Apaches and ended up going with them into southern Arizona. He quit them to prospect in the Huachuca Mountains. He stayed in the vicinity of a camp of soldiers. When one of them asked him what he was looking for, he answered, "Oh, just stones."
"The only stone you'll ever get in this country will be a tombstone," the soldier said.
The first claim Ed staked out he named Tombstone, and from it the town took its name -- which also led the first newspaper of the town to be named Tombstone Epitaph.
The Tombstone claim did not prove to be very rich, nor did his next claim, the Graveyard. The Tough Nut made him rich in silver and gold. He and his brother and a third partner traded off part interest in the mine to moneyed men who put up a mill to refine the ore. In 1879 the mine was paying $50,000 a month. For a while, Ed Schieffelin hauled the bullion from his mine to Tucson, but got restless and went to prospecting again.
In 1880 he and his brother sold out for $600,000 -- $300,000 each -- and he went to prospecting farther off. When their third partner sold out for a real fortune later, he subtracted $300,000 for himself from the sum and divided the remainder equally between himself and the two Schieffelins.
In 1897 Ed bought a fine outfit in San Francisco: wagon, mules, tools, especially fine cooking utensils, and plenty of provisions and struck north. At Grants Pass, Oregon, he saw an eighteen-year-old boy named Charlie Williams working around a blacksmith shop and asked if wanted to go into the mountains. The boy was eager to go. Ed was happy he now had a helper. They stopped on Day Creek and camped in an abandoned cabin. Ed told Charlie they could go no farther in a wagon, but would make this place headquarters while he prospected in rough country. He told Charlie he could go off for a few days as he himself would be away from camp a while. Both left.
When Williams returned to the cabin, he found the dead body of Ed Schieffelin. Ed had apparently been sitting, breaking stones with a hammer when he died. The rocks were found to be very, very rich in gold. The camp seemed not to have been molested by anybody, but some of the new cooking utensils were missing. The theory developed that Ed had taken the utensils himself and made a kind of sub-camp near where he had struck the rich ore.
Prospectors hunted for the location from which Ed brought in samples. For a long time they hoped to find the missing cooking utensils as a marker. Any camp would have been made convenient to water. When no cooking utensils could be found, the prospectors searched everywhere for the gold, near the old cabin on Day Creek and far out from it. They never located the site. Its whereabouts died with Ed Schieffelin.
True West, October, 1958 issue -- written by J. Frank Dobie


  1. Fun story. And I like how it ended up in Oregon. ;) There are quite a few gold stories like that in this state. Where someone would find a "gold mine" but something happened to them and no one ever found it again.

  2. Thanks Paty. I live in gold country where the 49 gold rush happened. There are still miners around here, too.

  3. Great post, Paisley. I love lost mine stories. Sad that Ed didn't quit when he was ahead. He already had a fortune from the earlier mine sales. I guess for a miner the lure of gold is like the next mountain for a mountain man.

  4. I really think Ed's driving force was the excitement of discovery. I can't blame him as you can only do so much with money and then you need the thrill of something new.

  5. Hi Paisley,
    I love reading true, quirky stories like this. Louis L'Amour used to always have lost gold hunts in his books and I always thought I'd write one, but I haven't yet. Thanks for sharing.

  6. These kind of stories are fun, aren't they, Kathy. I think it gives you a better chance to get to know the people who spent their time dreaming of becoming rich.

  7. I love legends and tidbits about treasure still out there to find! We just drove through Holcomb Valley CA (SOUTHERN California's richest gold strike in the 1860's) and the Mother Lode has never been found. Yay.

  8. Can you imagine how much the Mother lode would be worth now, Tanya. I am surprised someone isn't looking for it.

    Thanks for stopping by.


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