A tradition of this camp is the telling of the story of the gold mine of the thirteen gold crosses.

This story has been told in camp at each week's campfire for nearly as many years as the camp is old.

It is an interesting story because some of the parts seem to be based on fact, while most of it is fiction.

Many people have constantly said that this country up here is way out of the gold country, but in 1966, an article taken from the San Francisco Chronicle states that the largest gold nugget in the world came from Calaveras County. It was taken out of the Carson Hill mine and was known as the Carson Hill nugget. It was discovered un 1854, weighed 2,340 ounces, was over five feet long, and valued at that time at $77,220. Carson Hill is only about sixty miles from Camp Wolfeboro.

The story is set at the time of the 49er gold rush and this country was very wild and largely undeveloped with only a few towns in existence. Angels Camp, Altaville, San Andreas, and Murphys were small mining towns with very few women and filled with tough men used to living off the land and not used to any of the nice things of life. In such mining camps there was always a small group of disreputable men who had no intention of working, but instead, lived off of the money of others, men who were constantly alert to rob a drunk, gamble with and win money through crooked cards, etc.

Such a group were three men who arrived in San Andreas during these days. They were known as the "Hounds" and had been run out of the Barbary Coast in San Francisco by the Vigilantes. In those days the Barbary Coast was the toughest place on the Pacific Coast and to be run out of there meant that this gang must have been really tough. These men had worked through many mining towns on their way to San Andreas. On arriving, they asked around about men who had money or mining claims that seemed to be worth something.

One of the names mentioned by several of the miners was that of Angus MacPherson, a dour old Scotchman called Sandy, who had a claim somewhere up in the mountains. He came into town about every three months, had his gold assayed in the Wells Fargo Office, sent most of it to his mother in Santa Clara, keeping out enough to buy a couple of meals, room for the night, livery stable space for his burro, and supplies for himself and his burro for the next three months. He would then have a drink, get a good meal, and then turn in for the night. Early the next morning, he would be up, eat, pack his burro, and be on his way before sun-up.

A check of some of the old directories of Santa Clara in 1946 and 1947 showed that there was a Mrs. MacPherson living there during the years of this story, which could mean that Angus's mother did live there at that time, or could mean nothing as MacPherson was a rather common name at that time, but it is a coincidence that adds a show of fact to the story.

The hounds thought that this was just the man they were looking for, but were so busy fleecing miners out of their money and gambling that they missed Sandy the first time he came to town, but the time went fast until he showed up again in another three months.

The time finally arrived. Angus was seen coming into town and the Hounds started looking for him and found him just after he had turned his gold in to the Well Fargo to be sent to his mother and he had purchased his provisions for his next trip to his mine.

The men accosted him, said hello, and invited him to have a drink with them. Being a good scotchman, he could not refuse a free drink, so he went to the bar with them. After two or three drinks, he got talkative and told the men that he was well taken care of for his old age, he had sent a good deal of money to his mother to put in the bank for him, he had his good health, and a gold mine. With that, he decided that he had probably said too much so said good night and went to bed.

The Hounds took turns setting up waiting for him to take off in the morning and so, when Sandy showed up before sun-up to pack his burro, the man on watch woke his partners and they were ready to trail Sandy as he started up the trail.

Sandy started up into the hills taking a trail that was just a burro path, that is now our fine Ebbetts Pass Highway.

He traveled for about six days until he arrived at what we now call Big Meadows. The Hounds realized that they had lost him. They scouted around and that night saw a campfire down in the area now known as Sand Flat. They were sure it was Sandy so they slept that night at Big Meadows and in the morning started down the trail as fast as they could go. One of the men fell on the trail, just above 'Old Garbage Turn,' breaking his leg. The other two left him there and said they would be back as soon as possible and went down the trail. The man with the broken ankle was impatient to be doing something, so he fashioned a crutch from a tree branch and spent the day hobbling around the flat. The next morning he started walking back up the trail to where he broke his ankle, but about one hundred and fifty feet up the trail his ankle started hurting him, so he turned around to go back down to the flat when he saw it. There across Highland Creek was the cabin. The sun was shining on its tin roof and was shining on its windows. He saw smoke coming from the chimney. He knew that this was the miner's cabin and was very excited. He could hardly wait for his friends to come back so that he could tell them the news. That night he slept poorly because of his excitement. The next day he heard a gunshot from down in the valley and thought that his friends had shot the miner. Late that night, one of his buddies stumbled into camp and said that they had run into an ambush and that their partner had been shot and killed. He said also that he felt sure that they had shot the miner. He had been shot and with the both of them being injured, decided to stay where they were until they felt better. The man with the broken ankle told his buddy about the cabin and his buddy said "That is nothing. We discovered trail markers that we are sure will lead us to the mine." He said that part way down the trail, they started to notice gold crosses marked on the rocks along the trail. They counted twelve of them before they ran into the ambush and figured that the mine must be at the thirteenth cross. The two men also figured that the mine and the cabin seemed to be at about the same place.

It took some time for these two men to recover and the weather started to get cold. When they were ready to travel, they decided to go back to San Andreas and wait until the spring before they would come back and look for the mine. Like all men of their kind, they were always drunk, brawling, and telling everyone about their gold mine. That winter, they were both killed in a drunken brawl.

Many people had heard about the gold mine by then and many had hunted for it, but to our knowledge, no one has found it.

One of the known facts related to this story is that in the gold rush days, there was a bandit known as Joaquin Murietta, who considered him self the Robin Hood of the west, robbing the rich and giving to the poor, but, so far as we could learn, he seemed to be the only poor person he knew. In 3 one of the books written about this famous bandit, reference is made to the gold mine of the gold crosses in Calaveras County, and this is the only mention it makes. This would seem to give at least some fact to this story.

To get back to the crosses and the cabin, many years ago after my troop and I heard this story at this very campfire site, I took my troop up the road to just above to 'Old Garbage Turn' on what is now called 'Upper Bongos.' At about 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon, we could look across Highland and see the cabin as described by the bandit. When the sun is right and you can see the cabin, it sure looks real with the sun glinting off the roof and windows and with smoke curling from the chimneys. We tried to locate the cabin across Highland but were never successful.

The gold crosses were originally a dull gold color, but during the years they have faded out to a silver color. Through the years, many people have painted crosses on rocks adjoining the real ones with gold paint, but they have always faded out after a few years. Many ideas have been advanced on how the crosses were put into the rocks. The most plausible being that they were shot into the rocks with a shotgun. We have tried to get a test of the gold in the crosses, but with no success as it is hard to get a reaction from the acid on a vertical surface and next to impossible to chip any of the gold out of the rock.

The crosses are about twelve inches wide and about eighteen inches high and are single crosses. Up to about fifteen years ago, the crosses were gold. The strange thing that has happened through the years is that the rocks have grown a fine black moss over most of the surface, but no moss has ever grown on the crosses, making them stand out real well.

In 1945, two Scouts in camp discovered a gun wedged into the branches of a tree down on Highland. The gun was all rusty. The stock was gone and the barrel rusted off. They showed it to the Camp Director and the idea was proposed that this could have been Sandy MacPherson's gun that killed one of the bandits. The Scouts wanted to sell it to the Camp Director for five dollars, but he said it was too much, so they took it home with them. Later, the Camp Director realized that it would be a good addition to the story and went to see the boys in El Cerrito, but they had already sold the gun.

If you want to look for the crosses, the first one is less than a mile out of camp on the road to the top of the hill, just this side of jackass slide on the left side if the road as you leave camp, about fifteen feet from the road. The second cross is just in about in back of the first one on the trail to Highland Ford that takes off from the main road a little further up the hill. This cross is on the left side of the trail and is pretty hard to find now as the brush has grown up in front of the rock. There are numerous crosses down the Highland Ford Trail. There is a cross a First Water just as you enter First Water and the most interesting cross is a little below Lower Falls on a rock next to a giant Douglas Fir. On the rock next to the cross is the sign 1/4 M I.

Whether that means 1/4 mile to the mine or to the next cross, we don't know. There have been many lost gold mines, the Lost Dutchman being the most famous. It was discovered and then lost and found many times, and today is again a lost gold mine. Many millions of dollars have been taken from lost gold mines.

This may be a real gold mine, and if so, we hope one of you Scouts around the campfire tonight may be the one to find it, but until then, it's just a good story.

Related by Henry Blaylock around 1970.

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