Wednesday, 26 March 2008

A thousand pounds of gold

Brian Antonson, counted no less than 27 folks in attendance for his presentation yesterday evening for the Langley Historical Society. Brian harvested some good information. The most interesting one coming from a gentleman who claimed he talked with Shotwell's granddaughter, who told him that Shotwell and Harrington had taken out 1,000 pounds in gold but had lost it somehow on the way back to San Francisco...

Friday, 21 March 2008

The Ballad of Volcanic Brown

Click here to visit "Kettle Valley Brakemen" site and click here to listen to a sound sample of "The Ballad of Volcanic Brown."

Volcanic Brown's letters 28 May 1924

N.L. (Bill) Barlee's article "The Lost Mine of Pitt Lake," that first appeared in Canada West Magazine , winter 1970, includes what Barlee claimed is a "verbatim reprint" of a copy of the original Jackson letter. Barlee suggested that the copy was enclosed "in one of the letters [more than one?] from Brown which was dated May 28, 1924" and by that virtue "This is the only dated [by a 1924 postmark] and authenticated [by the fact that it came from Brown]copy in existence." Unfortunately Barlee choose to transcribe the "original copy" of the "Jackson letter" rather than showing a facsimile that could have added to his claim of authenticity.

Also in this article Barlee did include a facsimile fragment of one of Brown letters dated May 28, 1924, (shown above-click for enlargement) and added that "both the letters and the signature are bona fide." Why did Barlee not give us the entire content of the letter(s)? Judging by the fragment it would have enriched our knowledge of "Volcanic" Brown's exploits in the Pitt Lake area about which we know next to nothing. If he was not at liberty to reproduce the content in full, he did not say so. Nor do we know where Barlee found these letters or to whom they were addressed.

I would be very suprised if these Volcanic Brown letters ever existed

Note: Transcribing has perils. In his version of the "Jackson letter" Barlee writes 'Frisco Examr.,’ putting quotation marks on both sides of the newspapers name. C.V. Tench -- the first to refer to the paper writes 'Frisco Examr. using one quotation to mark the missing word "San" in San Fransisco.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

"A Speculative Investment."

Mr. Nick Roman--born in Chilliwack and now living in Florida--sent an image of a stock certificate of the Slumach Lost Creek Mine Ltd. he'd purchased back in 1952. He also sent copy of a letter from the Company, dated 20 November 1952, reporting negative results of the prospecting and geological work done. The engineers they hired had "failed to locate the Lost Mine or any indication [of]either a 'cache' of gold, a gold bearing vein or a placer deposit" on the claims of Slumach Lost Creek Mine Ltd. Click here to read Mr. Roman's comments and view the certificate and the letter. Mr. Roman does not remember having received "any further words" after that letter.

The Slumach Lost Creek Mine Ltd., incorporated in September, 1952, was the brainchild of a couple of journalists who wanted to raise money “to prove or disprove once and for all the legendary stories.” The company was closed down at the request of the Superintendent of Brokers in Victoria when "investigation showed no commercial ore." The shareholders did not get any return on what was advertised as "A Speculative Investment."

The Company not finding a trace of gold did not stop others to keep looking at other places.

For a look at the prospectus of the Slumach Lost Creek Mine Ltd. click here.

A Tall Tale

From Dynamite Stories, Judith Williams, Transmontanus-
New Star Books, Vancouver, 2003

p. 85 How stories like this grow, how nuggets of fact are found, rearranged, transposed and beaten into, well I could go on, but the story is pure gold. Combine a Native curse, Volcanic Brown and his buried jars of nuggets and his missing body ... and what we have ... is an archetype.... [A] boy’s adventure and the missing girls’ tragedy. Remember the teen-age girls? They never returned from their journeys with Slumach.
The constant is the tall tale, containing just enough verifiable elements to undermine disbelief, and how it moves through groups, is transformed and persists.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Barkerville Gold

From Bill Simpson:

I have a fragment that you may think is worthy of adding to the [Slumach's Gold] story. I am almost 83 years old and I grew up in Langley seeing, and being curious about, the newspaper articles regarding the many attempts to find the gold.

Sometime during the '70's I was hired to do a brief survey of a slag deposit at the site of the old smelter at Anyox, B.C. During the idle chatter on the flight in I mentioned that another attempt to find the "mine" was in the news. My new employer then identified himself as having previously been in a very senior position at the Department of Mines and added something to the effect that "they" had that tall tale figured out.

What makes his story plausible is the fact that the purity of placer gold can vary considerably depending on the source, and thus can be used to identify the source. He said that the gold that Slumach brought out from the Pitt area was "Barkerville gold" and that the Dept. of Mines was pretty sure that, somewhere north of Pitt Lake, he would travel east to the Fraser River. There he would waylay miners (probably many Chinese) coming down from the gold fields and dump their bodies in the river. When he had enough gold he would retrace his steps to the Pitt and thus complete the illusion that the gold came from the Pitt area.

This story sounds as good or better than any other I've heard, but who knows? The source sounded pretty sure of himself.

The premise of this account is that Slumach had gold to show, something not confirmed by any contemporary records. The provenance of the sample allegedly essayed by the Department of Mines is unknown and there is no evidence linking this sample with Slumach other than the words of the informant

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Slumach's Grave

I've heard it said that Slumach's body was buried at the Maple Ridge cemetery, but I doubt that is correct.

The oldest part of the Maple Ridge cemetery dates back to around 1865. In those early years, burials of First Nations people were not allowed here and it is unlikely that Council would have agreed to accomodated the hanged of New Westminster.

In the early 1900s the cemetery was extended to the east and the north. It is in this later, northern part where it is said, bodies of those executed in New Westminster were laid to rest until abolition of the death penalty in 1961. This in itself is an interesting story and worth investigating. But since Slumach died in 1891 before the extension of the cemetery he is not one of those buried there.

If he was not buried in Maple Ridge, where was he buried?

It is unlikely that Slumach's remains would have been returned to his people. I know of one similar case where the return of the body of a hanged young Maple Ridge man to the family was refused.

It is generally assumed that his remains would have been buried on the grounds of the provincial jail, later the T.J. Trapp Technical School,(now the site of John Robson Elementary at 120 Eighth Street) but it is, I think, more likely that he was buried somewhere in the "potters' field" at Eighth Street and Eighth Avenue in New Westminster (also known as the "Douglas Road" cemetery), now the site of New Westminster Secondary School. Here is where those who died in prison of natural causes, and whose bodies were not claimed by their family, were buried.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008


Slumach's Gold

alleged are tales
of old Slumach's hidden cache
somewhere in these hills