No Mirage or "Will O' The Wisp"As you probably already know, many lost mine tales are simply that and nothing more. Usually these sorts of treasure legends contain just enough detail in them to trigger further interest, but upon closer examination (typically through good research) they invariably fold up like a cheap suit.
Gold Prospecting Books
However, the tale of lost gold and its associated waybill I am about to present to you is no mirage or "will 'o the wisp." The parties concerned were living, breathing people whose backgrounds can be researched and verified as can Charles Lampson's 8-pound "lump" of gold ore containing over $86,000 (about $4,300,000 at today's gold prices) in free-milling gold
An 8-Pound Mass of Gold in Quartz
Charles Lampson was a old-time prospector and hard-rock miner who was well-known in a number of Nevada mining camps, including Tonapah. In 1896 many would-be prospectors were trying their luck along the slopes of Monte Cristo Range west of Tonapah and Lampson was one of them.
Some months later Lampson turned up at Tonapah drawing excited crowds as he wielded his now famous 8-pound mass of gold in quartz. Most bystanders believed that Lampson had struck it rich in the Monte Cristos and he did little to dispel this assumption.
"Nuggets Strung Together by Golden Threads"
One of those bystanders was a young boy named Fred Gilbert whose father was a close friend of Charles Lampson. In later years Fred described Lampson's gold "lump:"
"It was composed primarily of gold in clear-to-milky quartz . The amount of gold far surpassed the rock and was in the form of nuggets strung together by golden threads. Have you ever seen head cheese? Well, that's what this looked like only it was filled with gold."
Lampson Lays Low
Every time Lampson attempted to head back west to locate the source of his rich "float," he was dogged by dozens of greedy people who alternately tried to sidle up to him in false friendship or who, instead, threatened him with violence. He decided to lay low for a while and let the insanity take its course and fizzle out, which it eventually did after some months had passed.
During this down time Lampson spent a great deal of time with the Gilbert family. The senior Gilbert and his two sons Fred and Logan became even closer to the old timer and a strong bond developed among them all.
One More Ace Up His Sleeve
At some point late in 1896 Charles Lampson departed the Gilberts and headed back west to try and relocate his rich float, and more importantly, its source. A few weeks later he returned to Tonapah discouraged and disconsolate. He had been unable to find any more of the immensely rich ore specimens, let alone their source.Gold Pans
Lampson decided that he'd had enough of prospecting. He was already past his prime and feeling the need to take life easy for a change, especially while he had the means to do so. After all, his 8-pound gold specimen had made him financially free for the long term.
Before he departed Tonapah and the Gilberts however, Lampson had one more ace up his sleeve. He decided to play that card by telling Mr. Gilbert and the two boys where he had found his gold, and it was near the unlikely spot of Crow Springs, not the Monte Cristos.
I'll have the conclusion of Lampson's Lost Gold for you in a subsequent post. Until then stay safe and good hunting!
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Colorado's Lost Jackson Diggings"
(c) J.R. 2010
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