California is the number one state in its quantity and variety of buried and sunken treasures, lost mines, and artifact and relic sites. It is hard to imagine the untold wealth that awaits the treasure hunter in California. Good hunting!
When the diamond fields of America are mentioned, most people think of the well-known fields in Arkansas and North Carolina but overlook California entirely.
Diamonds have been found in California in widely separated areas and over a long period. The California State Division of Mines says diamonds were found in that state shortly after placer mining began in 1849. Good diamonds were found in the Mother Lode area’s gold washings, though the discovery did not create widespread interest.
There is a story of a “river of gold” in California. Found in late 1890-1891, Earl Dorr’s underground river of gold is believed by prospectors who knew Dorr to be the richest deposit of gold in the world. This natural Fort Knox was blasted shut after Dorr discovered it, and when he went to stake a claim, he found that it belonged to someone else.
The cave has been explored recently, and the “Spelunkers” reported finding the passage deep inside the cave where Dorr had blasted shut the only opening to this natural vault and burned his name on the rocks with his carbide lamp. This lost river of gold in a cavern is believed to be somewhere along the California-Arizona border.
The most publicized sunken treasure on the west coast is that of the BROTHER JONATHAN. A large ship in her day, the side-wheeler was loaded with 700 tons of freight (including 300 barrels of whiskey), 192 passengers, 54 crew members, and a reported $800,000 to more than $1,000,000 in gold coins and bullion when she sailed from San Francisco on July 28, 1865, bound for Portland, Oregon, and Victoria, British Columbia.
Pushed along by gentle seas, she covered half the distance in good time.
On July 30, fighting heavy seas and high winds that developed overnight, the captain headed the BROTHER JONATHAN shoreward as she neared Crescent City. Here he was to stop to place a chest of over $200,000 ashore in gold coins for the pay of federal troops in the area.
However, coastal currents pulled the vessel off course, and a sudden cloudburst darkened the sky. Lurching wildly, the BROTHER JONATHAN scraped her bottom on a submerged rock, opening a gash in her hull below the water line. Overloaded, the vessel went to the bottom in a reported 12 minutes. All but 19 of the 246 persons aboard perished.
Where does the treasure wreck lie? It’s almost certainly on one of the rocks off St. George Reef. There seems to be no evidence that her hull was ever located.
The chief ore of mercury (quicksilver) is cinnabar, or mercury sulfide (HgS). Low-grade deposits are often deceiving because a thin crust of the bright red mineral gives a false appearance of richness. Impure cinnabar may be dark red, almost black.
Cinnabar forms near hot springs and is found near the earth’s surface in areas of recent volcanic rocks. The most extensive occurrence in the world is at Almaden, Spain. Another large one is in Idria, Italy. Named for these ancient localities are the important California mines at New Almaden and New Idria.
The mercury produced at New Almaden made tremendous gold production possible during the California gold rush immediately after 1848.
In 1849 a group of emigrants bound for the California gold fields thought they were taking a shortcut to Mother Lode country. Instead, they wound up too far west to turn back. They rushed on, hoping Los Angeles was not far away. There came a time, however, when they could go no further in their wagons, so they burned them.
They then hiked through Jayhawker Canyon, passed the future site of the Journigan Mill, and finally arrived at Harrisburg Flats. The group camped here, near good feed for their animals and snow which they melted for water.
Gold and silver became worthless, for it only weighed the emigrants down as they struggled to find water and a way out of the valley. One group member buried $3,000 in gold coins at the camp near Harrisburg Flats. Silver miners in the group discovered high-grade silver ore in the area but passed it up, as the search for water was more important.
After many hardships, the group finally reached Los Angeles and, from there, made it to the gold fields. There is no record that any of them ever attempted to recover the treasure left behind, although others have tried it many times.
The cache could still be near the old campsite. With an estimated value of over $150,000 on today’s collector market, the cache is a nugget no treasure hunter can afford to overlook.
Somewhere along the winding course of New River in northern California is reputed to be the now hidden entrance to a booty-laden cave. The U.S. Cavalry troopers originally hid the entrance for a different purpose than to frustrate today’s treasure hunters. All the time, they were sealing off an escape route used by marauding Indians in the region.
This cave entrance had escaped notice for years before the Army’s explosive charges collapsed it. The reason can be best appreciated by viewing the rugged nature of the country wherein it lies. Even today, few roads lead into the region.
Originally there were two entrances to this legendary cave. The only one now remaining is near the base of a rocky ledge overlooking U.S. Highway 299, 30 miles west of Weaverville. Known today as Del-Loma Cave, its underground length is estimated at almost 28 miles.
During the mid-1850s, gold miners were plagued by hostile Indians living in the area. By carrying away the miners’ possessions, including their hard-won gold, the Indians hoped to force the unwelcome white men to leave.
Time after time, the Indians made forays into isolated camps, killing some miners, wounding others, and then vanishing with sacks of gold and armfuls of supplies and guns. Everyone knew the Indians could not carry such loads very far, but where the stolen goods were cached could not be determined.
Finally, after many such raids had suffered, the miners got a detachment of soldiers assigned for protection.
When the next attack occurred, the soldiers were soon hot on the Indians’ trail. But the elusive trail always disappeared near a ledge known to be used as a lookout by the hostile natives. Searching near this ledge, the soldiers found an opening that led into an extensive cavern.
If an Indian rear guard waited somewhere within, none of the soldiers cared to venture very far into the cave. Guards were posted outside, but no Indians ever came out.
Then a miner showed up at the soldiers’ main camp. He told the officer in charge that an Indian he had befriended earlier had just told him the cave had another entrance on New River.
When another attack occurred sometime later, the officer immediately sent a small cavalry contingent to the New River cave. They blasted the entrance shut.
At the same time, the remaining troopers trailed the booty-laden Indians to the cave’s main entrance. There they encamped, hoping to starve the raiders out. Two weeks went by, at which time a smaller guard was posted. But again, no Indians ever appeared. The Indians trapped within the cave preferred starvation to the white man’s justice.
So far as the miners were concerned, the matter was settled. Their stolen equipment, valuable as it was, could be replaced. As for the gold – well, in those days, it was much easier to wash nuggets out of adjacent creeks than to attempt to recover them from an unexplored cavern.
In 1948, Charles Erftenbeck heard the legendary story of Del-Loma Cave’s loss to plunder. Of course, that interested him. He gained the interest of some friends, and together they began the first real exploration of Del-Loma Cave.
Once inside, they found an opening that only the slightly-built Erftenbeck could squeeze through. It opened into a large chamber that appeared to extend for miles.
Erftenbeck’s companions awaited his return anxiously, aware that rescue would be almost impossible should an accident befall him. Erftenbeck himself was reluctant to continue very far by himself. Soon he wiggled back through the tight opening-but he emerged smiling, for clutched in his hands were two very old cap-and-ball pistols.
The exciting find was made a short distance inside the larger chamber. It seemed to confirm the story of booty-laden Indians having used the cave’s passage as a hiding place and escape route.
Erftenbeck decided to enlarge the last crawlway so a trusted companion or two could accompany him into the cave’s inner recesses.
One day while occupied, he noticed a peculiar smell. Tracing the odor to a nearby rivulet which ran into the cave from somewhere outside, he found someone had poured a large quantity of gasoline into the stream. Fortunately, he used an electric light instead of his carbide lamp. Its flame would have ignited the gasoline fumes within such an enclosed space.
Erftenbeck was shaken at the prospect of someone stooping to murder to keep him from exploring the cave completely. Still, he refused to be intimidated and went back again in 1950. This time he discovered that the narrow crawl-way had been dynamited shut.
He blamed this and the earlier attempt on his life on local Indians whose ancestors, he was convinced, were entombed somewhere deep inside the cavern. Erftenbeck now had no recourse but to abandon his search and let the Indians have their cave.
To reach Del-Loma Cave, drive 30 miles west of Weaverille to the Del-Loma Resort. The gray limestone ledge the Indians once used can be seen high on a mountainside across the highway opposite the resort.
Someday, someone may find the cave’s other entrance on New River, 12 miles distant, exposed again by the gradual erosion. Inside should be easy access to much booty.
A heavy contributor to the sunken wealth off the southern California coast was the Spanish treasure galleon SAN PEDRO, loaded with over $4,000,000 in gold, silver bullion, and Spanish coins when she went down.
By the late 1500s, the truce between Spain and the Netherlands was deteriorating into war. There were reports of Dutch ships raiding Spanish coastal colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The SAN PEDRO lumbered toward Panama in this atmosphere of distrust and terror.
Her cargo was to be unloaded there and shipped overland to the Atlantic coast, where another galleon would transport the treasure to Spain. However, the SAN PEDRO never arrived in Panama.
While still a week’s sailing from Panama, a lookout spotted a Dutch man-of-war on the horizon. The SAN PEDRO’s captain turned the ship about and struck northward, hoping the Dutchman wouldn’t follow him into uncharted northern waters.
By the third day of the chase, the Dutchman was far behind and out of sight. Nevertheless, the Spanish captain figured his enemy would lie in wait to the south, so he held the SAN PEDRO on her northward course.
As the Spaniards sailed further up the coast, they were caught in a summer squall. The captain quickly lost his bearings and sense of direction. The ship floundered about in the choppy water until July 4, 1598, when she grounded on the reefs off Arrow Point on Santa Catalina Island, just off the California coast. She quickly sank with her treasure in 84 feet of water.
Despite the stormy seas, most of the crew managed to swim to shore and were rescued by other Spanish tradesmen.
Four years later, Francisco Pedilla was commissioned to salvage the SAN PEDRO’s treasure. The waters proved too treacherous for his ill-equipped divers. Over 20 men drowned, including his only son.
Francisco abandoned his salvage attempt. In the years that followed, the Spaniards were under considerable pressure from Dutch warships, and thoughts of the SAN PEDRO’s treasure quickly dwindled. The treasure has never been found.
Jedidiah Strong Smith did what almost any frontiersman would have done to keep his hide and gold from falling into the hands of screaming redskins. He cached his gold in the nearest river, which happened to be the Colorado River, hoping he’d survive and be able to return later.
Smith survived by a hair’s breadth but never retrieved his cache. His trove, valued at $10,000 in 1828, but worth many times that amount today, is still exactly where he left it.
Smith was one of the frontier’s foremost explorers and trail blazers. When he rode out of Independence leading a few loaded pack horses, everyone hooted and jeered at him. Across his saddle, he carried a bow and a sheath of arrows instead of a rifle. But Smith claimed a bow was far more accurate than a rifle at the same range.
By 1827, Smith’s adventures carried him to California, and he cut new trails. While in California, and before reaching the Mohave Desert, Smith and his men are known to have found gold, the entire amount is unknown, but Smith’s share was $10,000.
Smith and his small party had no trouble until they entered the Mohave Desert. But the Indians spotted them then and planned to massacre them and capture their pack train. When Smith and his men made camp, Indians appeared from nowhere, apparently wishing to sell food to the white men. The whites bought some food, not knowing it would comprise the last meal for many of them.
After eating, with the Indians still looking on, the white men began building rafts to take them across the Colorado River. That afternoon Smith’s party divided, as one group left on a raft. It was now that the Indians attacked.
Smith soon realized his party was at a great disadvantage. He watched helplessly as his men fell one by one, hit by Indian arrows. Smith swore the Indians would never get his gold, even if they killed all his men. He ordered it buried by the Colorado River.
When the Indians regrouped, Smith and others fled, escaping with their lives. When darkness came, the survivors built another raft and crossed the river. On foot, they made their way to a settlement and eventually returned to the east.
Smith left behind a letter telling of his Colorado River trove. Years before, he had written, “Rather than that the villains who had so deeply injured me should reap any benefits from it, I had the whole buried beside the river.”
Young “Rattlesnake Dick” Barter conceived robbing a caravan of miners carrying bullion south from the gold mines near Eureka. This was the first of several major crimes to be executed by him, and for that purpose, he gathered together a gang of six other men.
Five men, headed by a trusted lieutenant, were to hold up and tie the mule drivers and guards. The other two, one of whom was “Rattlesnake Dick,” were to steal a few mules near Auburn and return to the scene of the holdup, a lonely spot on the side of Trinity Mountain.
It was necessary to substitute new mules to carry the heavy gold bullion because the express company’s animals all wore identifying brands.
The robbery was accomplished, and the thieves made their way to a prearranged rendezvous a short distance from the scene. But a hitch developed in the plans. “Rattlesnake Dick” and his companion failed to return with the new mules because the two had been caught stealing the beasts and reposing in the Auburn jail.
The four members of the bandit gang-one having been killed by the temporary leader during an argument shortly after the robbery-waited at the secret location for two days. Meanwhile, the mule skinners and guards had escaped their bonds, and the gang knew they dared not tarry any longer, waiting for “Rattlesnake Dick’s” return.
Then, they decided they could not carry only half the stolen gold and would be forced to bury the remains. They planned, of course, to return for it.
A short time later, they arrived safely at a thieves’ favorite hangout, the Mountaineer House, between Folsom and Auburn. Here they left the $40,000 in gold they had been able to carry with them and continued to Auburn, hoping to discover what had happened to their leader, his companion, and the promised mules.
But before they got to Auburn, a Wells Fargo posse met them, and in the ensuing gun battle, the temporary leader, who had buried the gold and who alone knew the exact location, was killed. No record of this cache being found has been learned.
When gold was discovered in California, it was virtually an unsettled country. Nobody produced coins for the miners, so they bought their supplies with raw gold. What few coins there were, were hoarded or gobbled up.
Part of this problem was somewhat relieved by using foreign coin when it was available. Although it didn’t always balance in value, the convenience made up the difference on anything less than a 25-cent profit to the dollar. So, several shipments arrived before a mint was established where raw gold could be exchanged for coins.
Assayers produced slugs made of gold, and the value stamped on each to pinch-hit for the coin. Business establishments also had slugs made with their names stamped across the face, while some issued “script.” Collectors pay outlandish prices for some of the rare items.
Although many caches of raw gold have been located, it was harder to keep than coin. Occasionally a cache will be located where raw gold and foreign coins are hidden in the same container.
Later, when our mints took care of the coin problem, there was still considerable foreign coin. Some were cached or exchanged for American gold coins, while others found their way into the land bank at a certain corner of a cabin, waiting for a lucky treasure hunter.
Pedro Hausenberger (his first name was Pierre) returned to San Diego from a trip to an assay office one day in 1853 and excitedly announced, “I’ve found it! Now I’m going to be a rich man!” Without further explanation and accompanied by his occasional prospecting partner, Jesus Moreno, Hausenberger hurried to his diggings on the newly-created border between California and Baja California.
Here the two men mined a quantity of the rock ore and packed it in five old sacks made of hides. While they were loading the heavy sacks on mules for the trip to San Diego, one of the sacks fell and broke open. As they had no other sacks, Moreno patched it together with a piece of hide.
In San Diego, the sacks were placed aboard a Pacific Mail Steamship bound for San Francisco.
Hausenberger accompanied the shipment while Moreno stayed behind in San Diego. In San Francisco, Hausenberger left the ore in the care of the ship’s purser while he went ashore to make arrangements for its transfer to a smelter. When Hausenberger stepped ashore in San Francisco, he disappeared. He never returned to the ship and was never seen again.
When the vessel was about to depart San Francisco, the purser turned the five sacks of ore over to Mr. Bray, one of the steamship line’s suppliers. Bray agreed to keep the sacks, unaware of their contents until Hausenberger returned to claim them. After several months, Bray decided to dispose of the heavy sacks.
He opened one of them and allowed people to carry away what appeared to him to be a pile of worthless rocks. The other four sacks he dumped into the bay beneath the pilings on which his place was built.
In 1862, nearly ten years later, a San Francisco man named Johnson noted samples of valuable ore in a common rock display cabinet.
He acquired the samples and had them assayed. They ran $22,000 to the ton, and Johnson set out to find the place of their origin. His search finally led him to Bray, who told of dumping the “worthless rocks” into the bay. In the meantime, the bay under Bray’s shop had been filled in, but Johnson secured permission to excavate the site. At a depth of five feet, he found the four sacks of ore.
Johnson traced the ore to San Diego and started a search for Jesus Moreno, who had drifted away from San Diego. When he was finally located in San Pasqual, Moreno hired Johnson as a guide and took him to many of Hausenberger’s prospect holes around the border.
None of the ore taken from any of these assayed near the value of the samples recovered in San Francisco. Several prominent San Diego pioneers joined the search, but Pedro Hausenberger’s fabulous lost mine was never found.
Julian is a small farming center in Southern California, with the old Santa Ysabel Mission located just off the highway that leads out of town. During the early 1800s, Julian was a boom town for the Spaniards, being an important way station in addition to the site of the mission.
During the early 1800s, Spanish priests fled Mexico due to a revolution, traveling northward into California. When the fleeing padres reached Santa Ysabel Mission, a hasty conference was held, and it was decided that the treasures they had brought with them from Mexico should be buried.
The exact nature and value of the hoard are unknown, but its total worth is believed to be substantial.
After the treasure had been buried in the mission’s vicinity, the priests continued their flight toward the coast of California. The few survivors eventually boarded ships back to Mexico.
When preparations were later made to return for the buried treasure, these plans were nullified by edicts that forced the priests to leave the country altogether.
Today, Santa Ysabel Mission near Julian is in the hands of a group that serves the religious needs of Indians in the area. If permission to search the area can be obtained, the Santa Ysabel Mission area might prove rewarding.
In 1874, two prospectors thought there must be a large fault somewhere in the American River. If they were right and could find it, there should be enough gold trapped in it to last them a lifetime. So they began prospecting for a fault.
Sure enough, one was located near the town of Auburn, California. The water was too high and fast to work the gravel in the fault, so they built a wing dam and diverted some of the water.
Two other men were hired to help build the dam, but progress was slow. Each time they figured they had the structure solid enough to divert the water, it would collapse before proper bracing could be installed.
After several weeks of fruitlessly trying to divert the water, the two prospectors moved on.
They later told the story of the fault’s being near Auburn but never returned to look for the rich gravel bed.
The only other clue to the location was that on the opposite side of the river was a sheer cliff that precluded doing any work on that side of the river. Still, there is no doubt that the American River had a tremendous amount of gold and recovered from it. With modern equipment, this rich deposit might be recovered.
The cooks at work at the plush resort hotel glanced up just in time to see an elderly, barefooted man creep furtively out a back door. He carried a small knapsack over one shoulder as he stopped at a tool shed and picked up a pick and shovel. With these in hand, he headed up a path toward a large grove of pine trees.
A half-hour later, a young woman entered the kitchen and asked if anyone had seen her husband. Reluctantly, they told her what had happened. She left and walked up the path, hoping to catch up to him.
About a quarter mile up the trail, she saw her husband. He was about to bury a metal box in a deep hole near the base of a large pine tree. At that moment, the old man looked up and saw his wife standing there, watching. Flying into a rage, he chased her back down the trail, threatening her with the shovel.
The man returned to the hotel sometime later, still angry at having been seen. He told his wife that before he died, he would draw a map showing where his money was buried. She could dig it up and be the richest woman in the land, but until then, no one would know where it was cached.
After her husband left on a business trip that afternoon, the wife returned to the pine grove. The hole was still there, but it was empty. Her husband had buried his money in a different place after he had chased her off.
The man’s name was Bernard MacFadden, owner of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel, then a health resort. His wife’s name was Johnnie Lee MacFadden. The plush old resort is located a few miles north of San Bernardino, California, in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.
No one knows how much money MacFadden buried, but he was a multi-millionaire who distrusted banks.
The Arrowhead Springs Hotel and its adjoining 1,735 acres have changed hands many times since MacFadden died. He never drew his promised treasure map. Today, the old hotel is a beautifully maintained retreat owned by the Campus Crusade for Christ. MacFadden’s treasure is still there.
Russian Springs was a favorite picnic spot for residents of San Diego during the early 1900s. But even then, there was no sign of a spring at the site. Only the name indicates that the Russian sealers dug a well here around 1800 to water their ships.
In the early 1800s, while the well was still usable, Captain Brown put in at Russian Springs for fresh water. The name of his ship and its business in Spanish waters has been forgotten. What is remembered is that the captain was a nervous man who lived in constant fear of an attack by pirates or the Spaniards.
While anchored at Russian Springs, the captain had his ship’s money, $50,000 in gold coins, taken ashore and buried near the spring. He hoped to return later and recover it; why he never returned is not known.
Perhaps the Spaniards objected to his ship’s presence, making it uncomfortable for him. At any rate, Brown decided to return to New England. But while homeward bound, his ship was lost off Cape Hope.
Only one seaman of the crew escaped drowning.
He made his way to Boston, Mass., where he told Captain Brown’s family what had happened to the ship and treasure. The sailor did not help bury the money, so he did not know where it was. He only knew it was buried near Russian Springs.
The treasure, as far as is known, has never been found.
The exact location of Russian Springs is not known today. It was at the southwest corner of San Diego Bay, at the base of what is known as the Silver Strand. The closest that it can be pinpointed is to say it is in the area where Highway 75 swings north from the cliffs of Coronado Heights on the bayside of the highway.
Reports of black gold found in the California desert have risen for over a hundred years. Possibly some people found this strange colored gold in the same area, but others have picked it up several miles apart.
Each time the gold was discovered, it was due to its “heft,” or extremely heavy weight. Finding black gold in nugget form is just something most people would never expect.
No one knows how many people have found this strange gold, but enough proof exists that several people have found black gold over the past one hundred years is true.
In his book LOST MINES AND HIDDEN TREASURES, Leland Lovelace places it south of Barstow, California, and Yuma, Arizona.
Winter is the best time to search the desert. Wet weather is seldom a problem, and sandstorms are common during the windy season in the spring. The black gold reports cover a large area, and many lost veins of rich ore are located within the same confines.
Among the early settlers of the Sacramento Valley in the mid-1860s was Daniel Hoag, who had homesteaded over the Coleman Valley in northeastern California. When the military post was established in 1865, Dan Hoag was engaged as a scout and guide at Camp Bidwell.
In this capacity, he indulged his passion for prospecting as he roamed the countryside hunting for hostile Indian signs.
While he was on one of these scouting trips, Dan discovered a rich gold ledge somewhere in the mountains that overlooked the army post. By all accounts, the gold specimens the scout brought were rich in color and content.
All who saw Dan’s nuggets went wild. But the Indians were then a real menace, the soldiers were too few, and thus no one dared to go hunting for Dan’s gold ledge at that time.
One clue that has persisted in this region for over a century is Dan Hoag’s claim that “From where I found this one, I could see the flag a-flyin’ on the post flagpole on a clear day!” Other than this statement, Dan never divulged much about the whereabouts of his gold strike.
Sometimes he was hopefully followed at a distance, but Dan was too smart to be caught unaware. On other occasions, Dan returned from scouting trips over the Nevada line to the east of Surprise Valley with his saddlebags stuffed with glinting silver ore. Dan would grin and mutter to all queries, “Oh, I found ’em about a day’s ride from here.”
But Dan’s shining yellow metal caught and held the desperately envious eyes of his frustrated associates. Silver did not have the same lure, but a gold strike such as Dan’s could make many men rich!
One day in May 1868, Army Scout Dan Hoag came galloping into camp with news that he had seen hostile Indian signs beyond the hills northeast of the post. Soon the cavalry mustered and went cantering out of the fort and into the hills on the trail of the red hostiles.
Leading the unit out, Dan Hoag leaned from the saddle as he passed two of his cronies. “When we git back, boys,” he said confidentially, “I’m a-going to show you where I found my gold, just like I promised. There’s a whole ledge of it-plenty for the three of us. But remember, we don’t want anyone else in on it.”
As the column rode through the stirrup-high sagebrush of Coleman Valley, an unexpected shot rang out. Dan Hoag was shot in the back of the head and tumbled off his horse. He was dead when he hit the ground.
Dan was buried in the soldier’s cemetery above the post. For years afterward, men searched for the old scout’s gold and silver mine, but without success.
This story, over $200,000 cached on San Antonio’s Creek, happened during the fabulous California Gold Rush of the 19th Century. A Negro miner called Buster worked a placer claim in Calaveras County, California, just east of Mokelumne Hill. The claim was known throughout Mother Lode as “Nigger Hill.” With the claim playing out, the Negro loaded his pack mules with all his wealth and supplies and headed for greener pastures.
One day he stopped at the Cuneo General Store, which stood on the north shore of San Antonio’s Creek, near the mining camp of Calaveras. He asked the storekeeper to weigh some leather bags that he said were filled with placer gold and wanted an estimation of their value. The bags weighed 135 pounds and were pure placer gold, as he had said.
For fear that someone might follow, the sly old Negro waited at the store until nightfall. He then cached his gold hear a cabin he had built, where it has eluded treasure hunters for over one hundred years.
Buster died after being tortured by two men who did not get the gold because they were hanged immediately when they were caught beating the old Negro.
One summer night in the 1880s, a stagecoach with a strongbox chained to the driver’s seat stopped for a rest at the state station near Robber’s Roost at Freeman Junction. Thunder rumbled through the mountains as the passengers napped. Suddenly, a fifteen-foot wall of water surged down the wash, pushing boulders in its path, and crashed down on the state station. Only one man from the entire party survived the flood.
A swamper had taken refuge in a shelter near the corral, and the neighing of horses woke him. When he saw what was happening, he barely had time to grab a tin can that held around $300, his only savings. The rushing torrent of water caught him and threw him against some rocks.
He clambered out of the path of the wall of water pouring down the wash, but his fortune of $300 was lost in flood, along with the strongbox containing $25,000 in gold.
The iron-bound strongbox and the swamper’s savings have never been found. A rusted pistol, French binoculars, and parts of the stage were reportedly found there in 1928.
Freeman Junction is located at the intersection of California State Highway 14 and 178, 12 miles from Ridgecrest, California.
Johnny Lang died with his boots on and, with a fortune in his pockets, declared old timers around Joshua Tree, California. Johnny didn’t die in a gunfight but rather in a snowstorm. He was found in 1926 in his sleeping bag, with the gold still in his pockets.
Johnny Lang hid a wealth of gold somewhere in the area, but he took the secret of his hidden cache with him when he died. Lang entered a partnership with a man named Ryan in the 1890s. They developed a mine on the south side of a mountain now called Ryan’s Mountain.
The mine was very productive, and the pair decided to operate two shifts. Lang took the night shift, and Ryan’s brother took the day shift.
It wasn’t long before Ryan realized that the day shift produced much more gold than the night shift. The two brothers decided Lang was stealing gold and caching it. They bought his interest in the mine and ordered him off the property.
Lang kept his pilfered gold hidden for years. Then, in 1917, he decided to start using it. His prospecting since selling his interest in the Lost Horse Mine had produced nothing.
Twice a year between 1917 and 1926, Lang showed up at the Bill Keys Mine with almost $1,000 worth of gold. The amount never varied, and he made exactly two trips a year.
On one of Lang’s winter trips to the cache for his semiannual supply, he had a terrible cold but went in a raging snowstorm anyway. He reached the cache and was returning to the Keys Mine when he became too weak to go on. He was later found dead in his sleeping bag.
Lang’s caches are still hidden. It is assumed that there were several. Each cache should be worth about $5,000 on today’s market. Since Lang sneaked out with a bucket of gold each night he mined, he must have buried the treasure within walking distance of the mine. The Lost Horse Mine is about seven miles from Salton View Road.
During the Spanish reign in early California, a raiding Argentine pirate plagued the missions along El Camino Real. Following an attack on Mission San Diego and the theft of precious church treasures, the padre at Mission San Juan Capistrano heard that his church was next on the pirate schedule.
With the help of a servant, the padre gathered all the valuable church possessions into a large chest which they buried somewhere on the Rancho Mission Miejo. Its key was hung on a nearby tree to mark the site.
The padre decided to leave the treasure hidden as a safeguard against all bandits, and the secret of its location died with him and his devoted servant.
Years later, a cowboy rounding up stray cattle found the key but did not know its significance. It was passed from generation to generation to its present owner, Charles Carillo, who uncovered the story of the buried riches but was never able to find the treasure. The treasure is believed to be hidden in Upper Travuco Canyon.
California is considered to be the number one state in different treasure sites. There is something for everyone involved in the treasure-hunting hobby in California.