1963 Closure of Camp McKinney Gold Mine

Video by Frank Fleming with permission from Royal BC Museum AAAA2467

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Rock Creek Canyon 2021

More than two million acres burned in the summer heat and drought. I kept watch on the BC wildfire map and appreciated that my ten year search area remained untouched. In late September, I rented a large SUV and smiled my way to the canyon. Once a year has proven to be a difficult scenario but appreciated all the more. I had been too long away from the silence of the forest.

At seventy years of age, my tired body has seen enough medical improvements to keep me active. Daily exercise and a good diet help too. This year I had artificial lenses inserted into my eyeballs and the forest has never looked so good. At night I could gaze up at the stars shining on my presence without having to reach for glasses. The tradeoff is I now need glasses just to check the time on my phone but I couldn’t be happier with the current state of my vision.

During one of my evening meals before sundown, I boiled up a bag of ichiban noodles and added a can of smoked sardines. After a tiring day, this had to be considered a good meal. Standing at the stove, I had just shovelled a fourth spoonful into my mouth when a death beetle flew in and dropped his inch-long carcass into my pot. The burying beetle features the unmistakable orange belly band. I had seen them often on the prairies working to bury a dead rodent or sparrow but here in my evening meal; unthinkable.

He moved quickly over my food as the heat may have been a surprise for his sensory receivers. I reacted quickly and we sparred for a few seconds before I flicked the intruder onto the forest floor. Several spoonfuls were shared with my guest in case his excitement caused him to release any body excrement. We continued our meal in silence like a couple who have been together too long with nothing further to say. I suspect the devious insect, Nicrophorus spp., used its amazing receptors to detect the dead sardines and pounced. Like the tick from several years ago that followed my body heat, we underestimate the animal world and their amazing adaptations to their world.

Winter and the spring melt left marks in the area that denied my travel to the usual spot. I had to remain in a more public area. On my second day, I returned to Camp SUV to find a couple waiting, scoped rifles over their shoulders. I thought of the movie Deliverance before relaxing and hearing their tale of woe. They tried to skirt Little Fish Lake and slid into the water. Could I give hubby a lift to a friends in hopes of hiring a rescue? The beginning rainshower meant I could. The lady decided she would return to the truck with her rifle, purse puppy in a pink carryall, and a few joints. Her comfies were shredded as if a cougar had narrowly missed removing her flesh. I cannot pretend to understand her world. But she was enjoying the outdoors and that can only be seen as a good thing. They were able to secure rescue and I returned to the silence of the forest.

At the creek, the low flow of late summer on a dry year allowed the water to gurgle over and around rocks of all sizes and shapes. The proverbial babbling brook sounded like voices from a distance. The unusual sound tricks our brain into thinking it’s something familiar, like voices. I heard it several years ago and my first exposure to it was interesting. I wonder how the effect played on the miners who were in that area in 1858 and beyond. 

I did not find the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney on trip number seventy-eight. Of course, I had once again hoped to, wanted to, and worked hard to try and make it happen. Being in that same search area helped to bring me a sense of closure although it’s not the preferred ending for a treasure hunt. Yet the decade of my search has been nothing short of exciting as I stayed optimistic while experiencing nature and learning about spirituality. I’ll continue writing and editing in hopes of developing a story worthy of your reading time.

And that faint, distant voice you might hear in Rock Creek Canyon during the late summer or fall? It just might be the voices of miners long gone and forgotten who want to tell you their story. 

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Details

The age of the internet has given so many ways of learning the smallest details that add to a story. Newspapers from New York City, of which there are a few, Deadwood in South Dakota, and Seattle have helped me to build a solid timeline of Mathew Roderick’s life and movements. Mary’s too.

Librairies are a great source of knowledge and the people working there know how to find answers to unusual questions. The Royal BC Museum Archives have also been a great source of records with access given to the BCPP records. The records contained correspondance to and from many detachments as well as court room documents.

During the trial of Joseph Keane for the shooting death of Roderick, Simon Dillabaugh, a Washington State resident, had worked with Roderick underground at the Cariboo-Amelia mine. Dillabaugh listened to Roderick’s plan for pulling off a heist so often that he threatened to ask the foreman for a new working partner. He had also seen Roderick’s Bowie knife, Colt pistol, and full-stock Winchester rifle when Roderick stayed in the company bunkhouse. Later Roderick moved to the Lynch cabin for more secrecy.

Dillabaugh also stated under oath that Roderick had a jeweller prepared to buy any gold he could provide “no questions asked.” But he could only remember that the name had the word silver in it. By 1896, the number of jewellers in Seattle had doubled to thirty-six. I asked a Seattle librarian if there was a way to check the names of city jewellers at that time. Yes there was.

The probable buyer of the small bar of gold Roderick sold after the heist was Afiel Silverstein. Competition likely forced Silverstein to buy gold the cheapest way possible. Dillabaugh added that Roderick even had a retired judge prepared to swear to an alibi for him if needed. Wish I had that name. It’s possible a glass of whiskey and a game of cards provided many sources for Roderick’s needs including the keys that opened the office of the Cariboo-Amelia.

A writer never knows where a good story might lead. For me, the internet has been a blessing. For others, it has convinced them to suck on a tube of animal dewormer instead of trusting a validated medical injection. Please shut the internet off for a while and take a walk in nature. The life you save might be your own.

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1892 Corliss Steam Engine

The engine shown is very similar to the sixty horsepower Corliss that ran the machinery at Camp McKinney. The engine and equipment were brought in from the defunct Rainbow Mine at Wannacut Lake in Washingron State. The equipment was fully functional at the Cariboo-Amelia by April 24, 1894. The Corliss would have to be at least two years older than the example shown given the logistics of shipping to the northwest and operating for a time at the Rainbow Mine. Corliss was a very efficient and trouble free unit and newspaper articles concerning the Cariboo-Amelia state few problems occurred.

The video is courtesy of the New England Wireless and Steam Museum in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Visit their website at newsm.org to see their interesting collection.

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Persistant Errors

When a story such as one about the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney lives on and gets retold, so do the errors. Many writers have enjoyed retelling how James Monaghan cleverly forgot to sign his cheque written for import taxes on the machinery imported from the defunct Rainbow Mine. The reader is left to believe the honorable businessman did what he could to make the mine increase output. There is no written evidence of that happening.

He didn’t need to do so. Monaghan planned ahead. Moving the machinery on rugged trails in winter snow required forethought. With thorough business planning, he asked customs officer Theodore Kruger to telegraph the Deputy Minister of Customs in Ottawa and ask if payments could be made. His request was granted. Monaghan’s strong Christian beliefs would not have allowed him to practice deception. My years of research only found one time when Monaghan was sued by another party over the price of shares when the company formed. And he wisely stated that it was the company who was being sued, not him personally. Monaghan had a lengthy career in business and left this world with few regrets.

But good stories, even when baseless, are hard to overcome. The internet is proof enough.

Information courtesy of Kara Burton, manager of the Osoyoos Museum

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Ximen Mining Corp., Vancouver buys Camp McKinney claims

There is something about the red star that concerns me. Over the last century it has come to represent a communist regime. Perhaps a gold star or simple X would be more appropriate in a country where freedom reigns and is respected.

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Ximen Mining Corp. buys Camp McKinney claims

From the company’s website

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Ximen Mining Corp. of Vancouver buys up Camp McKinney claims

The above map and info are from the company’s website. Should we be selling off our history?

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Research Bonus

Several years ago, I visited the Royal BC Museum Archives to harvest the valuable information regarding the trial of Joseph Keane. Mathew Roderick was killed by Keane as he was returning to recover the two gold bars he stashed in the forest at the time of the robbery in August of 1896. The shooting occurred in late October and the trial, in part due to pressure from Mary Roderick’s legal team in Seattle, took place the following June in Vernon.

The testimonies of all involved in the trial proved to be a veritable gold mine of information for easy recovery. That single source became one of the best allowing for facts to be confirmed or rejected. But errors still happened. The most glaring one to me was the use of wrong numbers in the total amount of gold stolen. Figures listed by the police did not equal what the mine officials stated had been stolen.

While in the archives I checked other sources of information that included letters between Police Chief Hussey in Victoria and William McMynn in Midway. Besides hand written letters in graceful script, the police also used coded telegraph messages for sensitive information. Police forces in Canada and the US used Barnard’s Universal Criminal Cipher Code. Banking and shipping used similar codes for secrecy.

The information uncovered included Frank Fleming’s 1963 recording of the rugged Dewdney Trail. Many portions still existed one hundred years after construction although mountain weather and improved highways absorbed much. The video shows a long abandonded cabin and also the grave of one of the Royal Engineers who died during construction.

Best of all for my purposes, Fleming had captured the last shift at the Cariboo-Amelia mine where the last ore car came into the light of day seven decades later. Had Fleming merely stumbled upon the scene at Camp McKinney or did he plan the entire video recording around the event? No matter, I appreciated the opportunity to be able to post it here. You just never know what little gems might be available when researching such a great facility as the Royal.

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Treasure and Ownership

Good treasure hunts start in the library and end in the courtroom. In between are days of reality in the great outdoors, frustration, realization and hopefully success.

Over my decade search for the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney, the question of ownership has come up often. The first consideration for a treasure hunter is to know that BC has many ‘no dig zones’, culturally sensitive areas that cannot be ignored.

Finders are not keepers in Canada. The law deals with each situation according to the facts that affect the case. In the case of stolen property, including gold bars from 1896, the province is the rightful owner. However, I have learned through the BC Law Courts library that if the finder can prove the province had no plans to find the object themselves, the finder then has a better claim to the property.

Finding the gold bars is only the beginning of the next step. And it’s worth following due to the potential value of gold bullion from the historic camp. They are items of historical value and need to be turned over to the government for that very reason. But the finder would have a claim to at least a portion of the treasure that might be considerable. The roughly fifty pounds of gold bullion are sixty-two percent pure according to James Monaghan’s personal diaries in the Museum of the NorthWest in Spokane, Washington. That could potentially be thirty pounds of pure gold at twelve troy ounces to the pound. Let’s say that comes to about three hundred and fifty troy ounces. Multiply that number by todays gold value and join the club of hopeful adventurers. And why not? Beats scratching lottery tickets at the mall.

Mathew Roderick’s spirit relayed to me that the bars are cursed so searchers should bear that in mind. Above all, do not expect to turn over a rock or old tree trunk and find the bars waiting for you. Not going to happen. They won’t be found with an expensive metal detector either due to the high percentage of volcanic, iron rich rock in the area. GPR won’t help either.

Ten years of research, planning, and searching have taught me some hard lessons. I believe the intervening one hundred and twenty-five years have seperated the bars. One is over here, and the other is over there. But the X may be difficult to see. Two hundred plus days and nights have proven these details to me. Others may have opinions but this is my reality. The book is shaping up and I hope to include as many color pictures as possible. No gray scale allowed. Nothing worse than a good treasure story with poor quality photos.

Well hell, I suddenly wish I was camping in the forest.

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