Part 194: Tom Moses’ Trips – Breckenridge 1884, first half of third part
The Palette & Chisel, Vol. V, No. 4, April 1928. Tom Moses’ Trips, Breckenridge, Col. Continued
“The town characters began to climb up to our camp about eight o’clock, wanting to know all about us, where we came from is interesting to them. Chicago was a “tough burg” from what they had heard. They could not understand why we had come all the way to paint picture of barren piles of rock. They were kind enough to not class us with “regular tenderfoot.” They couldn’t resist telling us of the ferocious wild animals that we would hear prowling around our camp after midnight. All we would have to do was fire a shot, and the town marshal would come to our assistance. We were good listeners, and when they departed I could see by their actions they were satisfied the stories had all sunk in. We knew enough to keep our small camp lantern burning, and we slept pretty well, as we were rather tired. We heard no animals so our arsenal was not called upon for action. We missed nothing.
As I was the fat one in my party I had more grooves in my back and arms, from the so-called pine twigs that composed our springs, than anyone in the party. As the sun kissed the snow peaks above us, we were supplied with cold water in the numerous small streams near our camp. We enjoyed the toilet making, as a cold dash and rough towel got our blood into good circulation. An early breakfast was enjoyed by everyone; our boiled ham was fine. We were instructed not to leave any money or tobacco outside of the tent.
Maratta and I started for French Gulch to make our first sketch. We found some very good motifs. After a lot of hard climbing, we ran across a placer mine outfit and found it interesting. The miners were just “cleaning up.” Their hard-earned gold looked good to us. The method is very simple. A long box, about three feet wide, twenty feet long and about two feet deep, is built of heavy timber, and round blocks, similar to our cedar paving blocks, are planted in the bottom which is water-tight, and a partition is built at the lower end about the height of the blocs.
Quicksilver is placed between the blocks on the bottom of the box. The gold-bearing sand is shoveled into the box, or further up the valley into the lower flum, which is fed by the water that has been harnessed in a sluice and turned into this box. As the water usually has a heavy fall, it rushes over the blocks, washing the dirt and sand across them out of the box. The quicksilver attracts the small particles of gold which drop between the blocks to the bottom, and remain there until the “clean-up” day, which happens twice a month. Some little excitement when clean up day arrives, for it is hard to tell whether there is a hundred or a thousand dollars worth of gold between the blocks, which all have to be removed before removing the sand and gold. In the refuse, or “tailings” of a gold mine, that miners will not work, a Chinaman can work over and get fully two or three dollars a day. The white man will not waste his time for such a small amount.”
(Second half of the third part to be continued tomorrow)
Historical note about French Gulch: Gold was discovered in French Gulch in 1860 by French Pete. This valley proved to be wildly rich in gold, silver, lead and zinc. You can still see the remains of many mines in this area, as well as the rounded rock piles left by dredge boats. In the White River National Forest, there is a 4.3-mile trail to French Gulch that starts at an elevation of 10,315 and ends 12,055 feet. On the trail, Mt. Guyot will come into view as the road traverses Humbug Hill. You will pass several privately owned cabins, then continue southeast on a pleasant rolling run with a spectacular view of Bald Mountain. The trails pass through Breckenridge’s fabled Golden Horseshoe, one of Colorado’s most fertile mining regions. Here is the link for information about the French Gulch hiking trail: http://fdrd.org/files/3014/0561/2197/French_Gulch.pdf