Monday, May 2, 2011

Don't Cross That Bridge Without Checking Underneath It (Part 2)


(Simple 14-kt. wedding bands like this were common recoveries beneath Reno's Virginia Street Bridge.)

I now continue with the second post in this series:

“Divorce Capital of the World”

In the early summer of 1976 the Nevada Department of Fish and Game issued a dredging permit to Jerry Felesina, Walt Dulaney, and Darrell Garman. The boys donned wet suits, fired up their gold suction dredge, and began dredging the waters underneath and around downtown Reno’s famous Virginia Street Bridge.

Wolverine Boots

The boys were fixated on recovering the tens of thousands of coins that tourists had pitched from the bridge for decades while wishing for good luck. Once again, Jerry, Walt, and Darrell had not fully understood what awaited them underneath the Virginia Street Bridge…you see, Reno was also known as the “Divorce Capital of the World” and many a wedding ring had also been tossed off the bridge over the years.

Hitting the “Motherlode”

On their very first day of dredging, the boys recovered over 25 pounds of coins, including numerous U.S. silver type coins minted before 1965. Their haul included everything from silver dollars to lowly pennies minted when real metals were still used in American coinage.

Gold Dredges and Mining Gear

Gold also came their way that first day. The light bulbs began going off in their heads when this enterprising trio of erstwhile mining “pards” found over 40 gold rings in the their dredge’s sluice box in addition to the coins. Jerry, Walt, and Darrell had hit the “Motherlode” in downtown Reno without ever sitting down at a casino table or pulling the handle of a slot machine!

Gold Teeth and Valuable Coins

The boys continued to dredge all that summer, ultimately drawing large crowds of onlookers who yelled their encouragement and in some instances flung more coins (and a few wedding bands as well) into the water around the dredge. Although their daily take dwindled with each successive dredging season, Jerry, Walt, and Darrell continued to work the Truckee River beneath the Virginia Street Bridge for a number of subsequent years.


(Although this is an 1876 silver dime, it's a "Seated Liberty" similar to the Carson City Mint dime the boys recovered that was worth nearly $1,000.00.)


The three dredgers also found numerous historical artifacts in the Truckee including an old pistol and iron odds and ends from Reno’s early days. Aside from rings, their gold finds included old brooches, chains, crosses, and even gold teeth! One of the most valuable coins Jerry, Walt, and Darrell recovered was an 1873 Carson City (CC) Mint "Seated Liberty" silver dime valued at nearly a thousand dollars.

There's more coming so stay tuned. Good luck and good hunting!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Don't Cross That Bridge Without Checking Underneath It (Part 1)"



© Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2011

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


4 comments:

  1. Your Killing me! I should have thought of this..AAARRRGGGGGG

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  2. Now you know though Greg...you'll never look at bridges the same way I'll bet! Jim

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  3. Was there any natural Gold found?

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  4. Not to my knowledge Edin. But you asked a very good question. J.R.

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