There might not be anything there.
The gold. The curse. The story that’s coaxed countless prospectors up the Pitt River to find the treasure they figure must be waiting at the top of the hill and the end of the story . . . well, it might be a myth.
But not all of it. There are facts mixed with the legend of Pitt Lake’s supposed lost gold mine.
It’s a story that has fascinated author and historian Brian Antonson since he was a boy listening to the yarn around the campfire.
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You can’t find the mine. And if you can find it you won’t get the gold. And if you somehow find the mine and you do get the gold, well, you won’t live to spend it.
There was a fella name of Slumach, you see. And around 1890 this Slumach would paddle down Pitt River with gold pieces the size of walnuts. More gold than that goose.
Slumach would turn up in New Westminster and, after getting good and acquainted with the earthly delights the town had to offer, he’d head on back the way he came. Up the river. Into the hills. Only he wouldn’t go back alone.
You see, some folks would get those monstrous green eyes and they’d trail ol’ Slumach back the way he came. Up the river. Into the hills. Back to the gold. Those folks never seemed to find their way back to town. Dead-end trails, if you catch my meaning.
It was around that time Slumach was put to death for murder. Standing on the gallows, he spoke the last words he’d ever speak.
“Nika memloose, mine memloose,” he said. Roughly translated from Chinook, it means: “When I die, the mine dies.”
That mine’s been cursed ever since. At least, that’s how the story goes.
There was a man named Slumach and he was convicted of murder and hung at B.C. jail in New Westminster in 1891.
However, none of the newspapers that covered his trial mentioned his gold, according to the book Slumach’s Gold: In Search of a Legend by Rick Antonson, Mary Trainer, and Brian Antonson.
Still, about a decade after Slumach’s death, the story of his gold seemed to spread enough to attract the attention of an Alaskan miner named W. Jackson who vowed to find the mine or die trying.
There’s some debate about just what Jackson found. However, he did live to tell his story – parts of it, anyway.
In a letter to a friend, Jackson – writing in infuriatingly vague prose – describes a place surrounded by ridges and mountains. It was there that he took out a small pan and found colours.
“And such colors they were. I knew then that I had struck it right at last,” he writes. On that spot, “the bedrock was yellow with gold.”
At this point in his life, Jackson is too sickly to risk another expedition. Instead, he advises his friend to go and seek the fortune that ill health denied him.
“I cannot give you any exact directions,” Jackson writes.
It’s at this point where truth and legend intertwine and become difficult to disentangle.
Historian Fred Braches contends the gold mine story was essentially a turn of the century ad campaign to boost tourism in the region. Discussing the story with CBC, Braches suggests the tale was created by Pitt Lake locals who wanted to draw prospectors to the area in order to create jobs for guides and outfitters.
In Slumach’s Gold, there is a brief account of one enterprising salesman who found an alternate route to gold. He offered treasure maps that promised to lead the greedy and gullible alike to Slumach’s gold. He charged $12.50 each and sold thousands of them.
On Wednesday night, Antonson is set to discuss the story and the history. Registration is required, but, unlike those maps, free.