Treasure Hunting an Gold Prospecting in Oklahoma
Oklahoma may not be primed and ready for a gold rush, but these prospectors say the hills near Turner Falls have gold deposits from the days when glaciers cut through the landscape and left the gold behind.
Contact: Gold Prospectors Association of America 800-551-9707 national office for local prospecting club chapter info.
Sooner State GOLD
Since Coronado's explorations for the Seven Cities of Cibola in the 1500s, gold has been sought after in Oklahoma. The Wichita mountains in SW Oklahoma are filled with tales of lost treasure and small fortunes being made. Even in the 1700s, Mexican miners, following earlier explorer's footsteps, still traveled from Santa Fe to mine an area known as Devil's Canyon next to Soldier's Peak. During the height of the Indian Wars in the 1870s, cavalry troopers from Fort Sill had more problems with illegal miners trying to get in to the state than they probably ever did with Native Americans fighting just to keep their land.
A placer deposit is a concentration of a natural material that has accumulated in unconsolidated sediments of a stream bed, beach, or residual deposit. Gold derived by weathering or other process from lode deposits is likely to accumulate in placer deposits because of its weight and resistance to corrosion. In addition, its characteristically sun-yellow color makes it easily and quickly recognizable even in very small quantities.
The gold pan or miner's pan is a shallow sheet-iron vessel with sloping sides and flat bottom used to wash gold-bearing gravel or other material containing heavy minerals. The process of washing material in a pan, referred to as "panning," is the simplest, most commonly used, and least expensive method for a prospector to separate gold from the silt, sand, and gravel of the stream deposits. It is a tedious, back-breaking job and only with practice does one become proficient in the operation. Thankfully, technology finally caught up with our gold fever and brought us metal detectors!
Placer gold can still be found in numerous creeks in Comanche, Greer, Jackson, Kiowa, and Tillman Counties. Here are some of the better known locations:
Headwaters of Otter Creek (Tillman and Jackson Counties) North Fork of the Red River (Greer and Jackson Counties) Middle Otter Creek (4 mi SE of Roosevelt in Kiowa County) RELICS, COINS, & JEWELRY
Oklahoma has a rich history of early settlements and Civil War era forts - the perfect combination for an energetic relic hunter! Here's a few more ideas to get you started:
Schools and College Campuses Parks / Playgrounds / Picnic Areas Foundations, Wells, and Cellar Holes of Old Churches or Houses Downtown Construction Sites Swimming Holes, Beaches, and Natural Springs Camp Grounds, Boy Scout Camps, WPA Camps, and Mining Camps Sports Facilities Ghost Towns Rodeo Arenas, Riding Stables, and Race Tracks Old Fair and Carnival Locations Old Town Dumpsites LOST TREASURE
As in other areas of the US, there are several tales of lost treasure in Oklahoma concerning caches buried for safety. In many of these stories, people either died or forgot where they buried the stash. Contributing factors include:
1. Federal laws making possession of gold illegal in the early 1900s
2. Distrust of banks during the Great Depression.
Half a bushel of silver coins hidden by bandits on Holsum Valley road, Le Flore County, has never been found. An outlaw's treasure on Boggy Creek near Boswell, Choctaw County, awaits a lucky searcher. Treasure from California emigrants, is supposedly hidden on Fish Creek near the old Edwards Post south of Holdenville, Hughes County. An Army paymaster's cache may be hidden at Twin Mounds near Jennings, Pawnee County. Similarly, an Army payroll was hidden at Cache, Comanche County, to prevent capture by Indians. These excerpts are a sampling from American Coin Treasures and Hoards
GOLD. Beginning with the earliest European exploration of Oklahoma, mineral wealth, particularly gold, held a special interest. As early as 1765 Spanish mining activity existed in the Wichita Mountains in the southwestern portion of the state. But folklore recounts gold mines in McCurtain County of southeastern Oklahoma, as well as in the area east of present Grand Lake, and even in the Arbuckle Mountains in the south-central part of the state. Tales of buried Spanish gold abound, ranging in location from the Great Salt Plains in the western part of the state to the forks of the North and South Canadian rivers near Eufaula. Even Jesse James reputedly buried some of his stolen gold at various spots within the state. Through the romantic haze of all those golden dreams, the only area of proven gold production lies in the Wichita Mountains. Beginning around 1890 prospectors found abandoned Spanish mine workings and evidence of considerable gold, silver, and copper mineralization in the Wichita Mountains area. By 1895 a full-fledged gold rush was underway in that region, which lay in the restricted area of the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Indian Reservation. The U.S. Army and the reservation Indian police fought a losing battle to keep these interlopers out between then and 1901, when the reservation was opened to general settlement. Between 1901 and around 1910 a massive amount of gold prospecting occurred, with over two thousand mining claims filed and a dozen or more small smelters built. Mine shafts ranged from a few feet in depth to over two hundred feet beneath the surface, and reported ore values fluctuated wildly from less than a dollar to more than six hundred dollars per ton, with estimated processing costs ranging around five dollars per ton. Thousands of prospectors entered the Wichitas, and a number of towns, including Wildman, Meers, Golden Pass, Craterville, Oreana, Hollis, and Doris, sprang up. Granite, with its access to the railroad, served as the main distribution point for men and material. Despite all the time, money, and labor put into it, gold mining in the Wichitas was doomed to failure. Only isolated pockets of ore had high assay values, and the overall value of the ore per ton did not warrant large-scale production. Further, the surface veins proved to be of small size and quickly pinched out at shallow depths. In its 1916 report on the state’s natural resources, the Oklahoma Geological Survey noted that "much prospecting has been done in Oklahoma for gold and silver. The search has been carried on for years, and up to the present time not enough has been found to be of any economic value." It went on to say that "many people have been induced to invest in stock selling schemes and fake prospects without any returns on their money." Since the publication of that 1916 report on gold mining in Oklahoma, little has occurred to change its conclusions. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 2 April 1939. B. L. Phipps, "Lost Gold Mines of Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 7 (September 1929). C. W. Shannon, Handbook on the Natural Resources of Oklahoma (Norman: Oklahoma Geological Survey, 1916). Tulsa (Oklahoma) Democrat, 28 September 1900 and 5 October 1900. Steve Wilson, "Dauntless Gold Seekers of the Wichitas," in Drill Bits, Picks, and Shovels: A History of Mineral Resources in Oklahoma, ed. John W. Morris (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1982).
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