TALE OF THE DAY
Lost Cities Of The Old West
By James Mccoy
From Page 27
May, 1998 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 1998 Lost Treasure, Inc. All rights reserved.
Lost cities are scattered all across the Old West. In most cases, little remains of such places other than a few weed-filled foundations, or mere outlines in rotting wood of places were homes and businesses once stood. On occasion, youll find no more than a few cement slabs.
Such is the case with Midland, California, a former company-owned mining town where all that remain are dozens of cement slabs and several rows of foundation stones punctuated with a chimney to mark where a large, two-room bunkhouse once stood, along with a railroad to nowhere.
Today, only the wind remains in residence at Midland. Detector users exploring the townsite can find coins, jewelry and various keepsakes lost by miners and their families after a lifetime of living and hard work. The town was razed to the ground after U.S. Gypsum closed down the mines in the 1960's.
After the Gold Rush of 1849, miners and speculators fanned out across the country eastward from California to find silver near Virginia City and, later, at Belmont, Nevada, in the 1860's. Gold was found, too, in places like La Paz, Vulture City and Harquahala, Ariz. Prospectors and miners attracted merchants, saloon keepers, clergymen, lawmakers and lawbreakers bringing civilization to the territories of the West.
Today, little remains of such communities. In fact, other than a few tourist attractions such as Virginia City, Nevada, or Columbia, California, most such communities are completely deserted theyre ghost towns. But ghost towns with standing buildings are rare. Even more rare are ghost towns from this century with standing structures. This centurys ghost towns were, in most cases, company-owned towns, such as Midland, or Swansea, Arizona, that were razed to save on property taxes when the ore dwindled. Theyre cities lost to time and seldom visited. Yet, many harbor treasures such as money caches, lost coins and jewelry.
The coinshooter shouldnt overlook the possibilities of finding old coins, both rare and not so rare, in and around company townsites. If you decide to explore 20th century ghosts, go armed with a metal detector (use just enough discrimination to reject nails), a sieve, a handlens, a small gardeners spade and a screwdriver. You should search among the ruins of lost cities and in the surrounding area for treasures once valued by miners and their families, such as coins, tokens, watches and much more. Be sure to dig all targets. In the process, youll uncover pieces of history.
Where do you go to find lost cities? Believe it or not, youll find maps, books and booklets describing the locations of ghost towns and old mining camps at your local library or for sale at bookstores and rockshops.
One such booklet, Robert Johnsons Southwestern Ghost Town Atlas, provides a wealth of information for the coinshooter whos searching for lost cities or modern-day ghost towns. For example, Johnsons book reveals the location of Gold Hill, Utah, which is located southwest of Salt Lake City. Gold Hill was a gold mining community where gold was first mined in 1892. Later, during both World Wars, tungsten and arsenic were mined at Gold Hill. The town was abandoned sometime after 1950. Today, abandoned stores stand beside a disused railroad depot awaiting the coinshooter.
Another nearby lost city, Mercur, Utah, was a huge mining operation. Giant tailing piles and an abandoned railroad attest to the fact that this was once a thriving company-owned town of 12,000 in 1912. The Consolidated Mercur Gold Mines Company developed a process to mill ores that were thought to be intractable and built a huge company town. In 1913, Mercur was abandoned.
Midland, Mercur and Gold Hill are modern-day, 20th century ghost towns. However, in the case of Midland, instead of leaving behind standing remains, this once prosperous company-owned community was razed by its owners to avoid injury lawsuits and property taxes. These towns and those mentioned below are what I call lost cities. Theyre forever lost to the winds of time in many cases, their structures torn down and hauled away, never to be seen again.
One group of company-owned towns, all of which derived their source of wealth from the mines of Tintic Mountain, are much favored by rockhounds for the mineral and ore specimens obtained on nearby mine dumps. The towns are all located near Eureka, Utah. The Tintic Mines came close to being Americas second Comstock Lode as $363 million were produced from more than 60 mines operating in the area starting in 1869. Ten-ton car loads of ore valued at $10,000 each were still leaving Tintic in 1914. Today, little remains other than a handful of ghost towns with names such as Silver City, Dividend, Mammoth, Eureka, and Diamond City, and a large number of abandoned mines.
If youre looking for a classic lost city, one with Roman-like stone ruins and columns, try Marble, Colorado. Marble is located some 129 miles by roundabout road from Grand Junction. The quarries furnished the marble used for the Lincoln Memorial, and a 55-ton block of marble for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was taken from Marble. When the price of marble fell after 1917, production dwindled. Finally, in 1941, a cloudburst washed away most of the town. Today, all that remain are Roman-like ruins that look ever so much like a movie set for a lost civilization.
Another type of lost city is the one not completely abandoned; in fact, it may be a thriving tourist ghost town. Such is the case with the 20th century mining town of Oatman, Arizona, well-known to movie buffs, Route 66 fans and ghost town aficionados alike. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel along Main Street, which was once part of Americas Main Street, Route 66. Towering above the old hotel is a monolith known as the Elephants Tooth, a huge outcropping of quartz rock that served as a guidepost to prospectors and was used as a backdrop for the many motion pictures that were filmed in the area.
Oatmans beginnings started with the Vivian Mine, which was discovered in 1902 and continued well into the 1930's when the Tom Reed Mine shut down. Coinshooters should keep in mind, whats important is not whether or not a town is completely ghosted, rather, there must be nearby ruins to explore in order to find lost coins and other valuables. The nearby town of Gold Road is completely ghosted, its ruins more than a mile long. The town was razed in 1949 to save taxes.
Finally, another lost city, Randsburg, can be found surrounded by abandoned gold mines on the high desert south of Johannesburg, California. Although not completely ghosted, Randsburgs many old stores, pool halls and saloons are emptied of all but pack rats, snakes and spiders. Randsburg is a town that survived much of the 20th century. Today, only a few small mines are in operation. There are scattered ruins in the region and parts of the town itself, with its many abandoned buildings, streets and mines, are ideal locations for the dedicated coinshooter.
Coinshooting in and around lost cities can be highly rewarding. Although you should search the streets, the entrances to public buildings, such as schools, saloons and post offices, for lost coins, dont overlook searching for money caches. Use your searchcoil to scan window and door frames in old buildings, search walls and floors for hidden loot and along ceilings. Be sure to set your discrimination to reject nails. Finally, be a good citizen and dont tear down any old structures in your search. Youll want to leave the lost cities so that future generations can discover them for themselves.
Garrett, Charles. Modern Metal Detectors, Ram Books, Dallas, Texas, 1991.
Johnson, Robert. Southwestern Ghost Town Atlas, Cy Johnson and Son, Susanville, Calif., Third Edition, 1971.
Varney, Philip. Arizona Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, Arizona Highways Book, 1994.