Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Golden Buckshot

There have been tales of treasure in southwestern Oklahoma ever since it was known as Louisianna.  Explorers and miners have been searching to find this treasure throughout the years.   During the time it was Indian Territory some soldiers stationed at Fort Sill complained that they had more trouble keeping prospectors out of Oklahoma than they did fighting the Indians.  There were apparently strong rumors of gold deposits in the area where we drove south out of Roosevelt along Middle Otter Creek.  When the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache territory opened up for settlement in 1901 prospectors rushed here.  According to the site goldfeverprospecting.com thousands of claims were filed and multiple shafts and smelters were constructed during the first decade of Oklahoma Territory.  It turned out only a very few pockets of ore had high assay values, however,  and the prospects for riches quickly faded.

Gold Belle Mining and Milling Company was a cyanide processing mill built to process the miners' ore from the nearby prospectors' town of Wildman.  Today only remnants of the foundation exist just west of where we traveled on U.S. Highway 183.

Gold Belle Mine and Milling Co. marker (courtesy blackiron_1 photostream)

Frank Wildman, one of the partners that formed Gold Belle Mine, was also the namesake for the nearby mining town of Wildman that sprang up at the Territory's opening.  There were almost 500 people living in Wildman which had a hotel, saloons, a hardware store, grocers, a cafe and other offices, ..... but no church.  E. Taylor (rebelcherokee.labdiva.com) sites newspaper reports that tell of a man showing up in the neighboring community of Mountain Park at about this time wearing a gold pin shaped like bells.  He claimed they came from the Gold Bell mine he was working and was offering to sell shares of stock.   The sign that is now standing at the mill site says the owners salted the mine by blowing gold dust into the walls with a muzzle loaded shotgun.  They then sold shares of stock in the mine for a dollar a share netting them about $270,000.  The newspaper cited on E. Taylor's post also shows the quote of one man from the area who recalled that the only man who made money out of the mine was the hardware store merchant who had sold all the machinery to the miners!  The Gold Bell mine was abandoned in 1910 and the town of Wildman has since disappeared.



3 comments:

Joanna Jenkins said...

Blowing gold dust into the walls should have been a deal breaker ;-)

Thanks for the info, I learned something new. jj

Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

Cyanide making sounds like an extremely dangerous job.

Of course there were scammers back then. Them and cockroaches are still here.

Rob From Amersfoort said...

The town of Wildman was described as ‘a wild west, hard shooting, tough mining town made up of grizzled miners and unscrupulous gamblers with a liberal seasoning of bandits’. It was said that 'the first diggings developed in Wildman was the graveyard’.

I’m surprised this was still going on at the start of the 20th century. I’m also surprised how many ghost towns there are in Oklahoma