Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kanaka Jack's Lost Placer Mine


(El Dorado County, California.)

Although many people don't realize it, in the 1840s many native Hawaiians arrived in the Motherlode Region of California. The Hawaiian Islanders were commonly known as kanakas ("can-ack-ahs") and one of the most famous of these was nicknamed "Kanaka Jack."

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Like many of his compatriots, Kanaka Jack had arrived in California before the Gold Rush to work in the burgeoning farming and tallow industries. When it became apparent that the placer gold deposits initially discovered by James Marshall at Coloma were far more extensive and rich than anyone had dreamed, Kanaka Jack headed for the Sierra Nevada foothills near present day Placerville in El Dorado County.

Not many months had passed before Kanaka Jack began showing up at one of the suttler's stores in Coloma to sell large amounts of placer gold. How much gold? On at least one occasion at least 20 troy pounds of nuggets and coarse flakes! When queried about the lack of fine gold in his "goods," Kanaka Jack just smiled and simply said, "No little gold at my mine."

Even after the height of the gold recoveries in the region, Kanaka Jack would periodically arrive at Coloma or the newly formed Hangtown (now Placerville) with large quantities of gold taken from his hidden placer mine. Over time the locals determined that Kanaka Jack's rich placer diggings were located somewhere in the vicinity of Irish Creek, but the exact location remained a mystery.

Kanaka Jack died in 1912 without ever revealing to anyone the location of his rich placer mine in the Sierra foothills outside Placerville. Many prospectors, placer miners, and treasure hunters have tried to locate Kanaka Jack's fabulously rich diggings over the years, but to my knowledge no one has come forward to say that they were the lucky finders.

There is a measure of substance to this tale of lost placer gold ground since Kanaka Jack was a real person whose name comes up over and over again in various accounts of the California Gold Rush. Did Kanaka Jack work out his mine or is there still a stretch of rich placer ground in El Dorado County awaiting discovery? No one knows for certain but this treasure tale deserves further research.

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Try researching early accounts of the Hangtown (Placerville) and Coloma areas, as well as some of these early mining communities in El Dorado County: Camp Sacramento, El Dorado, Georgetown, Grizzly Flats, Mosquito, Mt. Auburn, Pilot Hill, Rescue, and Strawberry, to name but a few. That should get you started.

Good hunting!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "A Fortune in Lost Klondike Gold"

(c) J.R. 2009

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com