Finding A Huge Nugget While Digging A Grave......

In a manner very reminiscent of the old western movie “Paint Your Wagon” – this great find was made when digging a grave. This is an exciting story connected with the finding of the Oliver Martin nugget, one of the largest ever found in California, which sold for $22,700, after it had earned $10,000 from exhibition in various parts of the country (the value would make the weight very nearly 1100 ounces of gold). Although a young man, Oliver Martin was little better than a tramp. He spent his time in doing odd jobs and drinking whiskey around the mining camps of Yuba, Tuolumne, El Dorado and Calaveras counties. He didn't even own a pan, much less a rocker or long torn. One of his close companions was John Fowler, who was equally shiftless and dissipated.

One night in November, 1854, the two were on their way from Benton's bar over the Grizzly Mountains to Camp Corona, the spot made famous in literature by Bret Harte. The fall rains had begun, and the streams were running high. On the night of the 7th, almost stupid with drink, the two sought refuge in a deserted miner's hut. During the night a heavy rain, peculiar to the mountain ranges, set in. The water fell in torrents, and came pouring down the precipitous mountain sides. The narrow canon where Martin and Fowler lay asleep and drunk was soon filled with the rushing waters, which threatened to sweep away the old shack of a building in which they were resting. They were awakened by the water pouring into the cabin, and sought to escape by climbing the steep sides of the canon. Both men were swept back into the flood and were carried down the stream in the darkness. Martin was washed into a clump of live oaks, and managed to lodge, clinging to the branches until morning, but his friend Fowler was not so lucky and had drowned.



The next day, November 8th, toward noon, when the waters had subsided, Martin secured a pick and shovel, and started to bury his dead companion. He selected a sandy spot at the base of the cliff, and had not dug down two feet when he came upon the nugget. He made several tests before he could convince himself that it was really gold. The chunk was bigger than a bull's head, and far too heavy for Martin to carry by himself. He hurried to Camp Corona to secure help. He had some difficulty in persuading anyone to go with him. At last one of the miners consented, but carefully made the statement that he was going to help bury Fowler, and not to carry nuggets, as he, like others in the camp, placed no confidence in Martin's story.

The chunk weighed eighty pounds and required the combined efforts of Oliver and his assistant to get it to the camp. Before starting back to camp, both men staked claims, Martin, of course, claiming the spot where he had unearthed the big nugget. As soon as the news of the great find spread, miners flocked in by hundreds, but although the stream was carefully prospected for miles, nothing of any great value was found. Martin considered that his find and the peculiar circumstances attending it was an act of Providence, and he never touched intoxicants thereafter. With the money he got from the sale of his nugget he went to mining in a business-like manner. Later he was attracted to Yucatan, where he made over half a million in quartz mining. He died in New Orleans a few years ago, leaving a fortune of over a million dollars.

Finding A Huge Nugget While Washing Your Clothes….
To a poor California Indian belongs the credit one of the largest nugget finds in all California. The scene of this discovery was a spot that had been gone over time and again by experienced prospectors and miners. In 1861, a firm of inexperienced young men had been induced to invest in a big placer claim in Nevada County. These men were newly arrived on the goldfields from St. Louis with very limited experience . Old miners laughed in their sleeves when they heard of the deal. The claim had never yielded more than a few "colors", “indications” and "promises," and they regarded it as a moribund proposition, which would likely cost the St. Louis men a considerable loss.

But the new firm took hold with all the energy of young blood and abiding faith in their judgment and fortune. Sluices were built and the hunt for gold instituted with great vigor. Among the employees was the young half-breed Indian. One evening when the men had gone to their tents for supper, he went down to the creek to wash his overalls. The sluice and creek were so dirty that he could not see clearly beneath the surface.



After spreading his overalls on the sluice boards to dry, the Indian's eyes were attracted by a big yellow rock in the muddy stream. He got down into the water and rolled the rock over several times. He had never seen gold in any other form than tiny flakes or bits the size of pin heads, and it never occurred to him that gold could be found in any such mass as that he was rolling in the stream. He concluded that he had discovered some new kind of rock and went to his tent to sleep in peace.

Next morning when he returned for his overalls he examined the curious rock again. There was something about it he could neither understand nor define, and so he called the foreman over to inspect it. The trained eye of the experienced miner at once recognized the precious nugget, and the camp went crazy over the find. As the story spread, hundreds of men came long distances just to feast their eyes on the gigantic lump of gold and to poise it in their hands. It weighed 65 pounds and filled a peck measure. The firm sold the nugget to the Adams Express Company for $17,400, and presented each of their employees in the camp with $100, giving the Indian $300 extra for his luck in making the find. The claim was afterwards worked over carefully, but while it yielded a moderate amount of dust, no other nugget larger than a pea was found, which is another proof of the famous old miner's axiom that "gold is where you find it."


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