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The deserts of the American southwest have long been the discussion of lost mines and buried treasures. For hundreds of years, man has scoured the desert floor searching for any signs of the countless tales of lost riches. Some have claimed to have found the elusive treasures but only to be lost again, while others grew old or died trying. None the less, the legends live on as they are passed down from generation to generation. Maybe you will be the lucky one...

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Glory Hole Days In Randsburg

By James E. Mulkey

From page 25 of the February 1998 issue of Lost Treasure magazine.
Copyright ©1998 Lost Treasure, Inc.

If you're like most folks, at one time or another, you've probably traveled along U.S. Highway 395 through the Mohave Desert. Chances are, you drove through Red Mountain and Johannesburg without giving much thought to stopping. That's too bad because Randsburg, which is located a couple of miles southwest of Joburg is one of the better ghost towns in the West. The area is also known for its rich placer deposits - a real bonanza for detectorists!

Randsburg sports a number of false-front buildings, including: an old, tin-roofed, white-washed church; an old-time barber shop, complete with a hand-painted barber pole, and a service station with a glass-topped gas pump that must be hand-cranked during use. Although a certain charm remains, most of the town's original buildings were destroyed by repeated fires. The next time you're passing through Joburg, stop and explore nearby Randsburg. You'll be glad you did!

Today, you can still find gold in the region around Randsburg; specifically, in Last Chance Canyon, Goler Gulch and Benson Gulches and at Summit Diggings.

Goler Gulch, which is located on the north side of Garlock Road just east of the ghost town of Garlock, is a rather extensive area that has seen some rather rich placer strikes in the past. Benson Gulch is located on the south side of Garlock Road right across the street from Goler Gulch. The Lost Goler Mine is said to be located somewhere in the region.

The placer deposits found along Goler and Benson Gulches, reached by driving four miles north from Joburg on Highway 395 and taking Garlock Road west, were discovered in 1893, in Goler Wash, which is located in the El Paso Mountains. The deposits are due to secondary enrichment from the erosion of an ancient river channel that runs alternately along the top and below the ground. Rich "glory holes" and vein gold deposits have also been found in Goler and Benson Gulches, the latter having exhibited the richest deposits. You should use your metal detector to scan tailing piles, bedrock as exposed in washes and to search for nugget patches on hillsides and hilltops.

Last Chance Canyon is located a few miles west of Goler Gulch. Drive west past Garlock, turn north (right) on Mesquite Canyon Road (which is a dirt road located immediately west of Garlock) and take this road to Last Chance Canyon Road. A four-wheel drive vehicle is strongly recommended if you intend to explore Last Chance Canyon.

You should prospect all side canyons, including Boulder and Bonanza Gulches. Last Chance Canyon Road winds around through the hills and washes of the El Paso Mountains and eventually turns south toward Redrock-Randsburg Road. Camping is permitted throughout the region. Again, use your detector to scan old workings along ancient riverbeds, on hillsides and hilltops and at dry washer tailing and header piles.

Quite possibly, of all the placer deposits in the Randsburg-Joburg region, Summit Diggings is the most popular. It's been visited by such well-known nugget-shooters as Chet Long and Pieter Heydelaar. A word of caution: Summit Diggings is riddled with what's known as "coyote holes," which are shallow tunnels and crawl-holes made by men searching for gold in years past. It was here that Chet Long witnessed a cave-in killing one of two brothers who had crawled back into a coyote hole with a detector to hunt for nuggets that may have been overlooked by old-timers.

Summit Diggings, also referred to as Poorman's Diggings in years past because of the fine gold found here, has produced more than its share of nuggets, too. You need not own a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach Summit Diggings as a motor home will have no trouble reaching the diggings, which are located adjacent to Highway 395 north of Joburg on the east side of the highway. It's a rather extensive area best reached by taking the first dirt road to the right after you cross the railroad on Highway 395 (right across from Garlock Road). Follow this road a short distance to the first of 100s of diggings which are found along both sides of the road.

The Gold Prospector's Association of America has a number of claims in the region, including to in Last Chance Canyon, two along Iron Canyon near Sand Gulch, and one along Fiddler Gulch. For a small annual fee, you can join this organization and are allowed to dig on their claims at no additional charge (P.O. Box 891509, Temecula, CA 92589).

Although gold was first discovered at Goler Gulch in 1893, the really Big Strike came at Randsburg in 1895, on Rand Mountain. The mine was named the Yellow Aster Mine and produced some of the richest gold ore ever found in the West until it closed in 1918. Fortunately, when the Yellow Aster Mine closed, tungsten was discovered at nearby Atolia and, when the tungsten ran out, silver was discovered at Red Mountain, the site of the world famous Kelly Mine.

Randsburg may have been a boom town, but it was also a company town. The wealth of the Yellow Aster Mine was too great to allow the kind of lawlessness that had flourished in either Ballarat of Bodie. Randsburg was kept real peaceful by its law enforcement officers. No tin-horns, rowdies, nor law breakers were allowed!

The discovery of Randsburg's Yellow Aster Mine was typical for a western mining town: three poor, tired and dirty men had been dry washing at Summit Diggings without much luck when they decided to call it quits. Yet, for one reason or another, they decided to make one last try at finding their pot of gold.The area they picked for their final attempt was in the unnamed mountains south of Summit Diggings, now known as the Rand Mountains. One of the trio had seen a little "color" the year before at a spot on Rand Mountain. The threesome headed south and spent the night at what is now Randsburg.

At dawn, on April 25, 1895, the men were perched high on the slope of what was soon to be known around the world as "Rand Mountain," when they hit a rich pocket of paydirt, a Glory Hole. The men had found a true bonanza! As they say, the rest was history! But that's not the end of the story. It was a woman who saved the day.

The history of mining in the West is filled with examples of poor miners finding a rich body of ore only to lose it to others. Not so with the discoverers of the Yellow Aster Mine. When one of the trio's wives, Dr. Rose Burcham, who was a general practitioner, learned of her husband's discovery, she closed her medical practice and moved to Randsburg. She organized the entire mining operation, urged the men not to sell out to eastern venture capitalists and became the operation's chief cook, bookkeeper and secretary while the three men worked the mine. Rose was used to having her way in a man's world and convinced the three partners to "hang-on" to their mine. A good thing, too, as the Yellow Aster was to produce more than $12,000,000 for its discoverers!

-- James E. Mulkey