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The Faux-Victorian house was built in King County, Seattle in 1892. Matt and Mary probably bought the home that same year due to rapid growth in the city’s population. The photo, taken by the city for tax purposes, is from 1937 and shows the house still retaining all the decor meant to mimic the Victorian style. A later photo from 1956 shows all those decorative pieces removed, the ravages of the winter rains had taken a toll. At some point, a large addition was made, doubling the home’s interior floor space. Though very unrecognizable today, the home still stands. The address changed soon after the build to 427 – 25th Avenue South.
After a decade in the Dakota Territories, the house must’ve felt like heaven with fireplaces on both floors and an indoor privy. But tragedy followed the couple. Floyd Mathew Roderick was born in early January of ’96 but died from infant cholera on August 7th that year. Mary wrote a letter to Matt at the camp telling him of their loss. I have little doubt the news urged Matt to pull off the robbery he had spoken of for months. Less than ninety days after Floyd’s passing, Matt was killed near Camp McKinney, BC in a botched attempt to follow him and recover the stolen gold hidden in the forest. Mary suffered a breakdown and for several years, the children were cared for by others. Raymond died of diptheria before he was a teenager. Only Trophy Leona survived to a senior age and cared for her mother, never marrying. They shared the same apartment roughly two miles north of the house, as listed in a Federal census.
Trophy Leona Roderick did not go to the Klondike as some suspect. Newspaper accounts of a Trophy Roderick can be found in period newspapers but she had a differnt middle name. To further confuse research, she attended school in Washington State and can be found in news items relating to her good school marks. Our Mary and Trophy Leona Roderick never left King County, Seattle. Mary recovered and went on to become the first female federal court bailiff, court room number eight. She often worked near Judge Brady W Gay, the one-time lawyer who guided Mary through the months following Matt’s death. The legal team urged the BC government to conduct a full and proper inquiry into the shooting death which was done. The BC Provincial Police also had suspicions about Joseph P Keane and wanted to thoroughly investigate all that happened. The inquest details have been a great revelation of facts concerning the movements of the key players in 1896. Trophy Leona became a stenographer and operated a very complex adding machine, the comptometer, that looks like an old adding machine on steroids.
Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Archives, Seattle
Near the end of June, I will be seventy years old. I would complain except not everyone gets to reach the milestone. It’s with very mixed emotions that I continue to grow ever older. For me, the worst part of ageing is how the days, months and years continue to pass ever faster. At present, that’s a plus as I will seemingly get to summer much quicker. I miss the forest adventure even though I live it almost daily as I continue to write and edit. But nothing beats being on site where Mathew Roderick hid his accessories and two gold bars.
I have enjoyed some of my best sleep in the solitude of the forest. If I were lucky enough to wake, a million stars lit the night sky in a display enjoyed by our ancestors for thousands of years. The beauty of the heavens is my biggest loss from country living, well, that and silence. We get accustomed to noise pollution, all pollution too easily. But the transit to electric powered vehicles should be a great step especially where large cities don’t have the needed pollution controls on all vehicles..
Imagine a city where cars, truck, busses, even Harleys, are electric. The sounds of tires on ashphalt and music might be the few causes of noise. But as much as the scenario is great, where will the source for all the power be from? While windmills and solar panels will be a great part, will nuclear energy have to expand? I am unable to understand how a power source such as nuclear reactors are used when a byproduct includes waste that we are unable to deal with. Burying waste deep underground to ease our fears doesn’t seem right. Is that our legacy for future generations?
My apologies for skipping from the beauty of the night sky to the horrors of the age. I have been too long from the mental reset given by nature. I stand in my imaginary support group and admit that I suffer from nature deficet disorder. Some benefit is gained from the city greenspaces but it’s not the same with the endless sound of traffic and the occasional siren included.
Hurry summer, please.
This is a great time to be writing a memoir; hell it’s a good time to be writing anything. The memoir portion is relatively easy as I have lived the story and kept detailed records through it all. After telling my backstory to set the stage, I alternate chapters with the storyline from the 1800s to bring the main characters to life for the reader. Through that process, I have realized how similar we are even more than a century later.
All the modern tools are at my disposal. Research is easier now than ever before although I do still write the occasional letter to a source for some material. The internet is an incredible resource, especially with access to pre-1900 newspapers. In those bygone days, reporters were desperate for news to print, or at least seem to be on occasion. That has helped me to trace the characters’ actions and piece together much of their stories. Once in a while, a minor detail sparks a further investigation that yields more details. People have surprised me with their assistance as well. Libraries are always a great source and again the internet allows for quick and easy contact.
On the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Mathew Roderick by mine employee Joe Keane near Camp McKinney, the Calgary Herald ran a story. The writer reported that Matt’s brother John ambushed Joe Keane on the same trail and shot him dead off his horse. When I first read the report, I thought there was a good angle for a writer to appreciate and expand on. But my investigation found Joe Keane continued to work in the mining industry in Idaho for years after. I found John still living in South Dakota and seemingly not hiding from the law.
Another headline grabbed my attention when I read that Roderick had shot and killed his mother in New York City. Our Roderick did hail from NYC but this was a different one. Apparently a Mr. Roderick was argueing with a drunk on the street. The interaction escalated to the point of Roderick drawing a pistol to shoot the offender dead. But mom stepped in to stop the fight and did so, by taking the bullet. She died on the scene. That could have added some drama but alas it was of no use to me.
And that is also the problem with the internet; it’s too easy to get side-tracked and lose one’s direction. I had to drop my tv cable for the very same reason; too much interesting material to watch. My tv is limited to library movies and documentaries and minor internet browsing. There are simply not enough hours in the day even with a pandemic keeping me inside.
But life is what we make it. There is a great story about the gold bar theft and I will do my best to make it an enjoyable read. And leave the fiction out.
10 trips resulted in 6,230 kilometers (3871 miles) driven; $11,142.00 spent in 2012
19 trips resulted in 10,462 kilometers (6500 miles) driven; $2897.53 spent in 2013
20 trips resulted in 11,960 kilometers (7431 miles) driven; $6472.22 spent in 2014
10 trips resulted in 6160 kilometers (3828 miles) driven; $6815.13 spent in 2015
7 trips resulted in 7040 kilometers (4374 miles) driven; $3175.52 spent in 2016
7 trips resulted in 5298 kilometers (3292 miles) driven; $2642.45 spent in 2017
2 trips resulted in 1723 kilometers (1071 miles) driven; $2278.62 in 2018
1 trip resulted in 865 kilometers (537 miles) driven; $1186.91 spent in 2019
1 trip resulted in 880 kilometeres (547 miles) driven; $1108.98 spent in 2020
77 trips became 50,618 kms or 31,451 miles driven; $37,719.36 expenses from office supplies to vehicle rentals
I see no reason to stop searching without having the prize. What will 2021 bring 125 years after the robbery and death of Mathew Roderick?
Some say life is like a roll of toilet paper… the closer we get to the end, the quicker it goes. At sixty-nine years of age, I’m spiralling towards the end at a fair clip. If I’m lucky, family genetics and our great BC medical care might drag my carcass across the ninety year line. Hopefully, unless I can’t walk or talk, see or hear anything, then a different outcome might arise.
Not only has covid continued to cause havoc around the world, but some days my healthy body, depending what lump of life you compare me to, doesn’t feel at its best. I still walk an average of three kilometers a day to keep burning all the calories I consume, and feel good doing so. Even up numerous flights of stairs. But more and more, my trusty old hands give me trouble. And I love writing cursive so that’s a concern for me. Still, as long as I can walk and as long as I know who I am or why I walked into the other room, life has to be considered good.
My writing stalled dramatically when I battled the unseen forces of corruption on my laptops. I inadvertently spread the problem from one to the other and often my misunderstanding of how the technology works compounded the issue. However, I kept my old guy cool, and have learned from my errors. I’m back writing and looking forward to building a story that most might enjoy reading. Found a writing app to help me craft as good as I can and a fair price on a new Chromebook. No outside corruption allowed.
I miss the remote forest a great deal. Can hardly wait to return. And the nightly star display. And silence, absolute silence. Maybe a distant raven telling a story. The rapid vibration of humminbird wings as a Rufous checks out my red bandana. I grew up in the country, if indeed I grew up at all, and need more open spaces and nature in my life. But for now, I appreciate living in close proximity to my children and grandchildren. And health care. Yet I know I will search again for lost gold in the rugged forest.
Years ago I read a quote saying gold waits for the right person to find it. I say, if you believe it, you can make it happen. As I enter my tenth year of this incredible adventure, I look forward to the only conclusion I ever thought possible, a successful one.
While operating a small, mixed irrigated farm in southern Alberta, I noticed this small miracle. The four birds only roosted in that manner for that one night. Similar accounts have been recorded over the years, something unlikely to happen in an industrial setting.
In my previous blog I sent out an appeal for someone to join me to help conclude the search. Youth and brawn are needed to help conclude this exciting but slow motion adventure. I met a couple of individuals who seem to be just the right balance of smarts, age, and willingness. However winter descended too quickly and harshly for any development to take place this year. That’s not really a problem for me as I’ve been living in next-year country for nine years now anyways. So what’s one more… It just means Christmas won’t hold any big celebration this year, other than enjoying life in the age of Covid-19.
2021 marks the 125th year since Mathew Roderick stole the Camp McKinney gold bars. And died in a bungled attempt to retrieve them. Over the last several years I learned much from the Royal BC Archives in Victoria, some from the BCPP files and some from the inquest transcrpits. Helpful staff in Spokane and Seattle Public Libraries added lesser but interesting details. One is a picture of the Roderick house built in Seattle in 1894 as photographed in 1937. And a library staffer in Spokane discovered James Monaghan enjoyed his wealth obtained from BC gold by buying two touring autos. Looks like time to go digging for more pictures and keep writing.
This isn’t the conclusion I expected. Yet here I am, admitting that I did not recover at least one of the two lost gold bars. And the exceptional high price of gold these days rubs salt into the wounds of defeat. My return to the area of this great adventure buoyed my spirits and enabled my emotions to absorb the silence and calming effect of the natural world. I needed that after the near constant bombardment of excess noise in the sprawl of my urban environment.
I feel the target is correct. The eight years of research and investigation still has me believing I know where at least one bar lies, within approximately one cubic meter, two at most. My old body is the problem. At sixty-nine years of age, my ability to work with strength is gone. My lung function is good as the previous few years of walking several kilometers a day has proven. But while digging in ground the consistency of wet cement, my arms and hands ache and I rapidly run out of energy. I admit now that I am no longer a treasure hunter but a writer, one who wishes he were a younger man. Yet I can’t complain about the aging process as the alternative isn’t good.
Who wants to buy a treasure map? Highest bidder not necessarily accepted. This is a part of BC history and is not meant to be melted into scrap gold. Treasure, after all, is more valuable than scrap gold. After subtracting the smallest bar that evidence suggests had been sold by Roderick in 1896, roughly fifty pounds remains. One bar should weigh roughly twenty-five pounds and court evidence reveals the Cariboo-Amelia gold bullion, unrefined, ran at sixty-three percent purity, give or take a fraction. That still gives close to sixteen pounds of pure gold at twelve troy ounces per pound for well over one hundred and eighty ounces. That’s for one bar about the size of an old VHS tape.
Perhaps I should’ve had my book ready to hit the market, composed a cryptic poem and let the public have a go at it. If Forest Fenn is remembered for anything in the history books, it should be that he encouraged others to embrace and enjoy the quest for gold. I assure you, despite my age, the adventure brought a lot of excitement optimism into my life at a time when the the looming years of retirement had little to offer. Living in an eight year, positive frame of mind helped me endure the years of physical change. I can still hear the words of James P. Delgado of Sea Hunters fame telling me to get up off that couch and go live an adventure. Now if I can put the adventure into the proper words, I can share my passion with others.
And beware, fellow treasure hunters, the gold bars, like many treasures, is said to carry a curse. Take care and know that no good treasure hunt is ever easy.