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.
Despite the covid-19 issues facing every walk of life these days, I have been lucky to benefit from the talents of researchers at Washington State libraries and the Puget Sound Regional Archives.
I knew that James Monaghan enjoyed his wealth and bought an automobile. A Spokane Public Library researcher discovered that Monaghan purchased a sixty horsepower Peerless touring car made in Cleveland, Ohio in 1909 through a local dealer. Monaghan loved the automobile so much he bought another in 1913, a thirty horsepower Chalmers touring car. Both were considered top luxury cars for the time. Chalmers later became part of Maxwell auto out of Detroit and was said to be one of the best all round touring cars of the day. All Monaghan needed were better roads to drive on.
The Puget Sound Regional Archives graciously provided me with a report on the house originally owned by Matt and Mary Roderick including photos of the home taken in 1937 and 1956. The couple bought the house new in 1892 and enjoyed six hundred square feet of living downstairs with the same upstairs. Their recent arrival from frontier life in South Dakota along with their two children must have had them feeling blessed with indoor plumbing and easy access to public transportation.
But the shooting death of Mathew Roderick in BC in late 1896 changed everything for Mary. She eventually sold her beautiful home and moved to the Lane Apartments (old location) two miles north. The enterprising woman became the first female bailiff in King County in 1911. As late as 1935, she was still employed in the role and helped to deal with many high profile trials. Interestingly, the judge who swore Mary in was none other than Wilson R. Gay, the former lawyer who helped Mary settle Matt’s estate in 1897.
These details might seem minor to the main story of the robbery and death of Roderick but it helps us to see the bigger picture and perhaps understand their motivations. It reveals how the economy affected their lives and forced them into situations never considered.
Last year I only had the chance to visit the target area once. Another year on and I am missing that special place big time. When I’m in nature, fully immersed in nature, I’m a child. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, no corona virus or racist rhetoric, no self-centered president who hasn’t a clue about anything beyond his own image. Thankfully, New West has beautiful parks and green spaces where one can still commune with nature and let the stress of the world fade away.
But Nature has a problem with us, mankind. We are a virus infecting the natural course of events that the earth has developed over billions of years. Billions. If you have read James Lovelock, then you know how interconnected the earth is and how it has the ability to adjust, slowly, but adapt and bring about change. As we continue to turn this once Garden of Eden into a cesspool of plastic, oil and nuclear waste, the earth has no other choice. The current pandemic is another in a horrific list of major death events to control the population. I suspect that until we clean up the untold messes we have made around the world, Nature will do her damnedest to rid herself of us.
As we continue to battle the corvid-19 problem to the best of our ability, remember that the earth sees us as a virus. And unfortunately, the global populations of Indigenous Peoples are affected the most and yet were a part of nature. They blended in perfect harmony with Nature while the rest of us decided the earth was to be harvested for our own purposes. By not blending into Nature, we have inadvertently set ourselves up to be removed as a serious illness the earth can ill afford to ignore.
See what happens when I can’t get back to the rugged beauty of Nature or hug my family? I get cranky and write the words none want to read. But we do need to consider the long-term outcome….
Writing is an interesting art. At times I struggle for the proper words but other times the words flow and the writing occasionally surprises me. I’ve written most of the nonfiction portion of the story that covers from 2012 to the present. Every year will be followed by a fictional account of the principal players who were active in the story before, during and after the gold robbery.
The research options available today are great for uncovering facts and details that add so much to the story. Newspapers alone have greatly benefited me, especially from small towns. Being starved for news in a remote area meant gossip, or unsubstantiated facts, made it to print as well. Some papers even reported who arrived or departed on the stagecoach or train and who stayed at which hotel. The facts I’ve learned have allowed me to build a better, more accurate story and bring the characters alive for the reader. With luck, the talents of a few great librarians might add more.
After years of writing a manuscript detailing my adventure, I chose a competent editor in Vancouver to read my work. Her thoughtful and intelligent guidance surprised and pleased me. The encouragement offered has further ignited my writing passion and I have returned to the original style I wrote some years ago.
Mathew Roderick and I have much in common. My last partner, a wonderful woman, has much in common with Mary Roderick. And with a little imagination, my daughter Haley could have much in common with Roderick’s daughter Trophy Leona.
Now, to clear up a few program glitches and get on with it. Let the winter rains fall…
My new working title. Recently I learned that a lifetime of unusual experiences has me categorized as a highly sensitive person (HSP). Others refer to us as Empaths. Something between eight and twenty percent of the population fall into this category. It’s a gratifying experience to have your traits or characteristics understood and even embraced. For me, this is similar to when I learned about my social anxiety, a mental illness only recognized around 1980. While its certainly mental, I never thought of it as an illness but more of a condition. No matter. I’ve dealt with it and am a better person for it, depending on who you ask. When I started to realize my difficulties with social anxiety, I revealed my concerns to a doctor. His response was simply for me to not worry about it. Thanks. I get a sudden onset of brain fog and that’s not the advice I needed. Perhaps more importantly, how does one with social anxiety not worry about it? After decades of worry, I developed a huge hiatel hernia in my stomach. The painful experience was eventually dealt with by a talented surgeon. These experiences have been apart of the quest for stolen gold bars.
Discovering that I am an Empath has allowed for another round of education but the modern age has made it much easier than in the 1980’s. Except now I find there are over-lapping traits with both those considered to be Healers and Pagans or Wicca’s. This interesting situation also carries a variety of experiences involved in my story. Suddenly I realize how my mental and spiritual experiences need to be a bigger part of the story. If the search for stolen gold doesn’t interest you, perhaps my journey into the realm of mental health and spirituality will attract the reader, an agent, or a publisher.
My attempt to run a MeetUp group for Empaths didn’t fare well although I did meet some interesting people. But after four meetings and paying over one hundred and twenty dollars, I gave up. Seemed to me that many people liked to join groups but few attended. And distractions are not what I need when a sharp writing focus is more important.
Vinegar, when used properly, can be a great cleaner for the long term effects of a wet forest-canyon floor on metal. Decades ago, I learned a hard lesson when using vinegar to clean a set of rare, vintage motorcycle spokes. In the hectic pace of my agricultural and fatherly pursuits, I forgot about them for a month. I had set them aside where young children couldn’t get into a serious situation so when I finally remembered, they were no more. Spoke mush. Ever the lucky fool, I had a second set to fall back on.
The cleaning of my precious treasure trove revealed that Mathew Roderick’s enameled tin cup had a trace of blue on the finger loop. The wheel barrow frame had a coat of black paint much of which still looks good for the age and conditions. The small hatchet has a dark colour along the edge that I’m thinking might have been from a tempering process. And the two handles for the felling saw cleaned up appreciably well releasing accumulated rust, rocks and sand. One piece still held the hardwood handle – how’s that for a test on the quality of hardwood for a handle? With the debris removed I could also see how the handles were held in place. A small pin had been driven through the metal frame into the wood.
While the mining shovel had little enough rust covering the stamped lettering, the mining pick fared worse over the years and initially no stamped lettering could be found. But with the rust cleaned off, the name OLIVER was revealed. I’m guessing there was a foundry somewhere with that name.
In places where there had been no paint, the metal began to rust quickly after the cleaning. I developed a method of saturating the pieces with WD-40, that wonderful protective product familiar to many. Most of the pieces absorbed a lot of the protective coating over several days. Rubbing away the excess showed the method worked well. They are all in better condition than they were after being buried for 123 years.