During the Great Depression many people were out of work, banks failed, people lost
their homes and there was not much of a way to make money let alone feed themselves.
But there were some who had the foresight to realize that they could make a least
a little money to feed their families by digging some of God’s natural wealth from
the earth. My favorite prospecting related book is called “Bacon and Bean from a
Gold Pan” - This is an awesome true story about a husband and wife who lived during
the Great Depression and around the year 1935 they decided that living in the city
and waiting in bread lines for measly handouts from the government wasn’t the life
for them. He remembered how his dad took him to the mountains of the Mother Lode
region to pan for gold as a child and decided that was the way to live. So they left
to the hills to try and survive that way! This book is filled with real life adventures
that is absolutely fascinating! I’m actually reading it again right now! It’s not
an easy book to find and it’s a little pricey but worth every penny! You’ll also
learn more about true prospecting than what you’ll read in most prospecting books
that are out there!
During the Great Depression, 25% of Americans had no job and many had to take severe
pay cuts. It is estimated that 40% of Americans faced extreme hardship during this
time. Word got out that there were jobs in California, as well as land to be bought,
so many people headed west. When they arrived, they discovered that the opposite
was true, further deepening their despair. However, some of the more enterprising
individuals and families went to the mountains and deserts to try their hand at gold
Gold Prospectors Dreams Of Riches
Gold prospecting and dreams of riches go hand in hand. The Great Depression of 1929
heralded in an era where men would head into the outback, the great unknown, to chase
the yellow metal. Gold fever has changed many people and many landscapes. There is
nothing like a period of economic turmoil to send men into the hills seeking an answer
to prayer, and large lump of gold, to solve all their problems.
The current economic crash has once again sent gold prices sky rocketing and a new
wave of prospectors are heading into the hills. The new prospectors are a little
better equipped than the old time prospectors, and the spread of civilization combined
with the advances of travel mean that the journey is not as harsh. Once, the wave
of hopeful prospectors was enough to significantly change the local demographics.
In these remote areas the influx of prospectors created make-shift cities over night.
In fact, in New Zealand these gold mining communities that sprang up would become
the largest city in the country. When rumors of gold rushes further afield spread
around town the population would migrate to the new gold town - changing the location
of the largest city in the country.
Gold rushes today tend not have quite the same impact because it is possible to travel
hundreds of miles in a few hours to reach a prospecting area for the weekend. Most
of the rich claims are bought up by large companies and big equipment needing fewer
workers is used to harvest the gold.
However, in them thar hills there are still individual prospectors working away on
small claims and chancing their luck in rivers to make a few extra dollars. And even
today there are nuggets being found and lives are being changed by the windfall.
If you aren't prepared to work for your money then you are better of looking elsewhere.
Even equipped with the latest technology, like metal detectors, many hours can be
spent and many miles covered before any great rewards are found. But for those diligent
few who persist it is possible to generate an income from their prospecting. Which
in today's environment where jobs are scarce it is a viable alternative.
The other advantage of gold mining over a regular job is the fun factor. There is
still something romantic about being out there in the wilds pitting yourself against
nature to bring home the bacon. And just like those who line up to buy lottery each
week, there is always that chance that the next nugget you find will be the big one.
The once in a life time find that will set you and your family up for the rest of
People who have never tried panning for gold will not understand, but those who have
will still remember the thrill of the first time they discovered the yellow glint
in their pan for the first time. Even prospectors who have been doing it for years
will tell you they don't loose the excitement of seeing the gold slowly emerge from
the sand in the bottom of their pan.
Gold Prospecting in the 21st Century
Gold, the 49ers got it all right? Actually, the miners during the Great Depression
got more gold than the 49ers, tens of thousands of out of work men, and sometimes
their wives and children took to the mountains, valleys, and deserts in search of
gold. They were not looking to get rich quick like the 49ers, but to survive until
the Depression was over. They became proficient gold prospectors because they had
to so they could survive, no gold no food.
Today most prospectors are recreational, that is they do it for fun, not as a full
time job. Not to say there are no full time prospectors, there are thousands of successful
prospectors whose income comes mainly from the gold they find, and still others who
get a goodly portion of their yearly income from gold.
From 1833 to 1932 gold stayed around $20.65 to $20.72 an ounce, in 1934 it went to
$38.69 an ounce, almost doubling. Then by 1972 the price went up almost 50% to over
$58. 1980 saw gold briefly pass $820 an ounce after the goernment legalized private
ownership of gold again, by 1999 gold had slid back in price to around $255.00 ounce.
After that low, gold has steadily climbed to $783.50 where it is today as I write
Is gold really worth that much more than $255.00 in 1999 or $58.00 an ounce in 1972?
No, as the government prints more and more money, and our money loses more and more
of its value, gold goes up in value as our paper money gets worth less and less,
plus the fact that like oil, most of the easy to find gold has been found and mined,
so as demand for gold worldwide goes up, and supplies are going down, this also puts
upward pressure on the price of gold. It has been predicted by international bankers
that the price of gold may reach $2000 to $3000 an ounce within the next ten years.
The Fed can print as much money as it wants but there is no way to create gold, it
has to be mined, and every year we produce less and less gold.
Also the environmental (green) movements are playing havoc with gold miners and prospectors
all over our country. This adds greatly to the production costs of gold, most gold
today comes from underground hard rock mines, where gold ores ( rock containing gold
and other metals ) are taken from deep underground and crushed so gold values can
be retrieved from them. Most gold mined today contains less than 1/2 oz. of gold
per ton of ore mined and processed.
Between the 49ers and the miners of the depression era most of the easy gold ore
was found and mined. This was called lode gold. The recreational prospectors of today
mostly look for placer gold, gold which has been freed from the rocks that held it
for millions of years. This is a process called weathering, a process nature uses
to tear down mountains and fill in valleys. In the fall cracks in the rocks fill
with water and freeze during winter, freezing water expands and cracks the rock which
breaks away and tumbles down the mountain when the snow melts. As it tumbles down
the mountain it hits other rocks and breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces, releasing
gold contained in it in the process. The gold and gold bearing rocks are then washed
into rivers and streams, during periodic flooding of the river, massive amounts of
rocks are washed downstream and are ground into smaller and smaller pieces releasing
most of the rest of the gold in the rocks.
Now the free gold ( called placer gold ) works its way to the bottom of the stream.
It does this because it is approximately eighteen times as heavy as water, and six
times as heavy as rocks. Because it is so heavy, gold slowly works its way to the
bottom of the stream, mostly during major floods, and when it hits bedrock (the solid
rock under everything) it can go no farther down. Now it slowly slides along the
bedrock during major floods, until it slides into a crack in the rock or a depression
and gets caught and can go no farther downstream. This is where the modern prospector
comes in, we look for the places in the bottom of the river or stream where gold
has gotten trapped. Even though the oldtimers got a lot of gold ( it had thousands
of years to get concentrated in the rivers and streams ) every year more gold washes
down from the mountain sides and into streams and rivers. So although we will never
find gold in the amounts the oldtimers did, gold is worth 38 times what is was then.
The Great Depression sparked an increase in gold mining in what later became the
Mojave National Preserve. The Depression caused an increase in the price of gold,
and labor expenses were low. These factors, combined with another key ingredient,
described by one author as "men not having much else to do," caused a surge of gold
mining activity in the area. The Colosseum Mine, discovered as early as 1880 but
never mined comprehensively, began substantial production in 1929, and the Telegraph
Mine, first located in 1930, produced $100,000 in gold between 1932 and 1938. Mining
in the river and streams wasn’t the only method used for gold extraction - in the
desert, the miners would use a Drywasher to separate the gold from the gravel as
there is not much water in the desert. These machines work only when the dirt is
The East Fork San Gabriel River also saw a boom during the Great Depression. Eldoradoville
became, “Hooverville,” a town of cardboard shacks populated by jobless men trying
to make some money by gold panning. The town was washed away in a flood during 1938.
Along with the town, all of the road was washed away except for a bridge that arches
250 feet above the East Fork Narrows. It’s called “The Bridge to Nowhere.”
Profitable lode mining was done on the rugged mountains above the East Fork, as well.
The largest mine was the Big Horn. The spectacular mill remains in good shape.
During the 'Great Depression' the Federal Government actually conducted classes on
'gold panning' to help the 'out-of-work' public get any kind of income. I was reading
of a fellow miner’s wife’s Father and brother who did just that, they survived the
depression by small scale mining!
Many cities in California actually thrived with business during the Depression because
of gold. Cities like Grass Valley who had an increase in production from it’s Empire-Star
Mines. Gold is attributed to feeding many families during this extremely tough period.
In San Bernardino County, the advent of Great Depression of the 1930's and an increase
in the price of gold by nearly $15 an ounce, many small operators reactivated old
mines. The region around Barstow, Vanderbilt, Stedman and Dale were the principal
centers of mining activity until World War II.
Mystery in Arizona - The Lost Dutchman Gold mine
A skull discovered on December 10th, 1931 sparked unsurpassed controversy during
the great depression. That skull was of none other than Adolph Ruth. Ruth had entered
the Superstition Mountain range in Arizona, camping at Willow Springs, on June 14th,
1931, his quest being that of hidden treasure. He carried with him a map and directions
to the mine, cave, or cache. He never left those mountains. A search for his body
commenced when he failed to return two weeks after having been escorted to his camp
site. In December of that year, an expedition headed by the Arizona Republic newspaper
discovered Ruth’s skull some 6 miles from his camp site. Tex Barkley, a local rancher
whose cattle grazed the range, stated that Ruth had not been in his camp for more
than 24 hours. The rest of his remains were found three quarters of a mile away from
his skull in January of 1932. Adolph Ruth’s map was not found on his person, but
his pistol was still fully loaded. The map would be found at a later date.
Oregon Trails: Jacksonville mining during the Great Depression
JACKSONVILLE, Ore. - When the Great Depression hit, even people who did not at first
lose their savings often lost their jobs.
To put food on the table, many people in Southern Oregon turned to mining to provide
some income from the bits of gold they could recover from old mines, creeks and rivers.
However, some Jacksonville residents took it a step further and started digging up
their backyards and tunneling under streets and buildings.
"Most of them took out quite a tunnel, and drove in quite a tunnel. And they they
would, if the ground was loose, they timbered it up. Down there where Rasmussen's
filling station is, that's all on timbers. There's just a few pillars, a few dirt
pillars in there, and the rest of it's on 'stoves', they called it. If it was a wide
pay streak, it got taken out, regardless of how much ground it was," said Harold
Reed in a 1980 interview.
"I wrote to the state of Oregon to find out if anybody could keep them from mining
underneath the streets. They wrote back and said that there's no way to enjoin them
at all. Said the old mining laws was still on the books and you couldn't change it.
So they could mine under the street as long as they didn't come up to the surface,"
Former Jacksonville Mayor Wesley Hartman said in a 1980 interview.
Many of the mines went under neighbors' homes and streets, even hitting an old flooded
Chinese mine that forced the miners to flee for their lives. Reed says there was
one miner, Blackie Wilson, who worked alone and earned the nickname "gopher".
"He never dug a hole any bigger than what he could just crawl into. And he just followed
the paystreak. And if it turned, the pay streak turned off, he did too. And some
of his holes was about three feet high, just high enough for you to crawl in and
drag the dirt out. But they called him the 'gopher'," Reed said.
Most of the mines were one or two man operations. But some employed a few other miners,
and paid about $2.50 a day. That was enough to buy beans, bacon, potatoes and other
staple food products.
"Nobody got very rich. They just about had to, every time they had a cleanup, they'd
go up and pay up the grocery bill. That's just about exactly what it amounted to,"
"Well, it helped them to live. It was the difference between bacon and beans, and
not having any. And those who made a dollar a day, I'm quite sure that they had bacon
with their beans, and if they made less sometimes, they didn't have the bacon," said
Aaron Rhoten, in a 1980 interview.
"We did help one another. We knew who was in need, and we gathered around," said
Lois Reinking in a 1980 interview.
"If a family was a needy family, why people would pitch in and take them in some
spuds or beans or something to eat. But nobody really went hungry," Reed said.
It's been 75 or 80 years since the Great Depression, when most of the under street
mining was done around Jacksonville. City fathers have since enacted ordinances to
prohibit that kind of activity, but every once in a while something falls down in
a hole that has long been forgotten since the days of the Depression.
This is what happens when people trust government rather than God. Could it happen
again? You better believe it! And worse!
GOLDMINER’S OUTPOST 8011 PIONEER BLVD., WHITTIER, CA 90606 USA 1-800-594-3318