Vanguards of the Frontier: A Social History of the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains from the Earliest White Contacts to the Coming of the Homemaker

By Everett Dick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
IN THE DIGGINGS

FOLLOWING the discovery of gold in Colorado, the bearded prospector with one animal to ride, and a second to carry his tent, blankets, frying-pan, coffee-pot, and grub, together with a pick, shovel, and gold-pan, patiently and laboriously searched every promising nook and cranny in the majestic Rocky Mountains for the precious yellow metal.

Some gold-hunters financed themselves and retained the entire profits of their ventures. Others were grub-staked by men of means, and the partnership thus formed returned equal shares to the prospector and his speculative backer.

Often the prospector went his way alone, but during a gold-rush frequently several went in company. They dug holes from three to fifteen feet deep here and there over the mountainsides, washed pans of gravel from the stream-beds, and with a geological eye noted the rock formations and the lay of strata and veins. All miners prospected more or less, but there were professional prospectors who, like boys in a huckleberry patch, were always hunting a better place.

When several went in company, a division of labor was arranged whereby certain members of the party hunted, and supplied game and fish for the group. A few excerpts from a Montana gold-hunter's diary gives a picture of his work:

May 15th: We follow the river to a creek and up the creek . . . about three miles we camp for the night. The creek looks well for Gold

May 16th: Will prospect and hunt today. Gold in every pan but in small quantities, not enough to pay; hunters came without meat; bread straight

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