Butler’s Lost Gold: a Fortune in Placer Nuggets (Conclusion)

(An African-American gold miner in the Motherlode Region, circa 1852.)

I now continue with this tale of lost gold from Ben Butler’s California Gold Rush “diggings” in Amador County.

Richer Than He Himself Had Imagined

Not long after Ben Butler “cashed out” his take of the placer gold he had garnered working with his former African-American comrades along Sutter Creek, he paid $500.00 for his own placer claim. According to legend, Butler’s claim was located along or near Sutter Creek, not all that far from the claim he had worked jointly with his other “pards” in the mines.

Butler’s claim was evidently richer than even he himself had imagined. Working by himself armed only with a shovel, miner’s pick, rocker box, and gold pan, Ben recovered over $50,000 in gold in less than a week (and remember, placer gold sold for $16.00-$20.00 a troy ounce at this time). On one spectacular day, Butler cleaned out a paystreak that brought him nearly $20,000!

Defending His Claim and His Gold

Although rich ground like this was not uncommon at the time in selected locations of the southern and northern mines of the Motherlode, Butler’s claim was exceptional for the Sutter Creek area. Soon, word got out about Butler’s success, and malignant forces began to align themselves against him to steal his “goods” one way or the other.

Gold Pans
Gold Concentrators

Facing threats from out-and out thieves and bandits as well as legal and business “interests,” Ben soon found himself spending most of his waking hours defending both his claim and his gold from the depredations of others. Exhausted and weakened by months of hard work and all this travail, Ben Butler contracted pneumonia and died, some say as a very wealthy man.

A King’s Ransom in Placer Gold

What happened to Ben’s claim is anyone’s guess. But what is known is that the frugal miner did deposit over $80,000 in a Sacramento bank at one point. Nearly $20,000 more in placer gold was found among his personal belongings after his death.

Gold Locations

It’s said that Ben Butler accumulated a total of nearly $250,000 (millions at today’s spot gold prices) in placer gold before he died and that he had carefully hidden the bulk of that somewhere on his claim “in a spot higher up that could not be washed out by floods.” If true, there is a king’s ransom in placer gold awaiting discovery somewhere near Sutter Creek in Amador County, California.

Obviously, much more research is needed to prove or disprove this lost gold legend. But track this trove down and you (and yours) will be on “Easy Street” for the rest of your natural life. Good hunting out there…

If you liked this post, you may want to read: “Butler’s Lost Gold: a Fortune in Placer Nuggets (Part 1)”


© Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2011

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. Two things I enjoy.... research and finding treasure. Sutter Creek is only a short drive from my house. Find the old claim, find the treasure! :)

  2. Go for it Phil! And kick me back a nugget or two from Butler's stash. Jim (J.R.)


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