"Too Much Work for Too Little Gold"

I'd like to take a short break from my series on visual prospecting clues and present the following. I think you'll find it interesting and appropriate to what we've been discussing lately.

Contrary to the stereotypical image, a few old time gold prospectors and miners were educated and, at the very least, much more literate than most of their counterparts. This may come as a shock to some of you, but it's true none the less.

Diary Entries

Feb. 16, 1904

Taking pen (pencil anyway) in hand for first time in some weeks. My poor 'mitts!'. Split and cracked from wielding pick and shovel on this ledge. On top of all else, have fallen woefully short at this location. What appeared promising amounted to only four ounces, so have not 'struck it rich' as the masses are wont to say. Must return to town for supplies soon. Think it best to strike out in new direction afterward. This area holds no interest any longer.

Feb. 25, 1904

Very cold last night. Awoke shivering and coated with fine dusting of hoar frost. Had a time getting the fire up and coffee boiling. Even Sarah (mule) was half frozen. Days are pleasantly warm though. Came across new prospect and signs are good. Found color in narrow canyon so may be vein or ledge nearby. Will prospect hillsides in the morn.

Feb. 26, 1904

Another damned humbug! Found float holding small specks of gold but vein was quite narrow. Whole mess pinched out a foot or two below ground. Might be good for a Carnegie or a Mellon, but not for small timers like me. Too much work for too little gold, as they say.

Mar. 5, 1904

Visited with Fred and William. Shared grub and part of a bottle. Their new claim appears very good...eye-catching amounts of free gold in the ore. Appeared William was not happy to see me now they are getting the gold. Fred invited me to help them in developing the mine. Thanked him but said no to his kind offer. Want no problems with William. He is unpredictable and a hard one to figure out. Would rather go it alone anyway...

Mar. 8, 1904

Made it to area Fred thought might hold good color. Came across many prospect holes but little else. Had to chase after Sarah for a bit...contrary on occasion but a hard worker. Drew water from spring higher up and came across old mine workings. No sign of good ground anywhere. Feeling altogether played out. Watched the stars overhead for a short while then turned in.

Mar. 15, 1904 

To town yesterday amid rumors of good strike to southwest. Great excitement all about. No sense prospecting that direction as most others already heading that way. A fool's errand? Feeling down on my luck so had a good meal at Hubbards which restored me. Those in the "know" offer grand ideas on the gold, but few are to be heeded. Most are drunkards, braggarts, and hangers on of the worst sort.

Mar. 21, 1904

Back to narrow canyon to work up a bit of placer and get something back in my poke. The gold is sparse and quite small and hard to get dry as it is. But without it cannot eat nor buy supplies. Worked like a dog for less than day wages. Disgusted and weary to the bone. Tomorrow will bag up float and carry it to water...then crush and pan.

Mar. 24, 1904

Found just enough float gold to keep me going a bit longer. Met stranger along lower trail who had a new kit. He asked about likely spots. Said if I knew I would already be there! Friendly enough but these types often end up in dire condition from the elements or lack of water. Cautioned him and went on my merry way.

Apr. 5, 1904

Days are warming considerably. Came across very good sign in area that most pass by. Some excitement late in day. Located outcrop full of iron stone and rotten quartz rustier than any I've seen. Took small sample and crushed it. Left long trail of fine gold in the pan! Tomorrow will tell the tale. Pray to God the good news holds up...

End of diary entries.

Just a taste of what it was like for some of these old timers. In my mind, it's not what's written that catches my imagination, but what was left unsaid between the lines.

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2013

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


  1. Our struggles are nothing new. Thanks Jim, I so enjoyed reading this.

  2. You're absolutely right Dan. Thanks for commenting, J.R.

  3. So many emotions hidden in those writings.....hope....anger....fear.....angst....relief. Don't know where you found them...but great post.

  4. Thank you for your very perceptive comments. I agree totally. Best, J.R.

  5. Only 4 ounces......I wish my luck was that "bad"!
    I love these old journals, they are like a window into the past, and someones life. I have kept one for many years, I only write down the interesting things.
    I hope someday someone will find it interesting. I wish more folks would do this. I have my Great Grandad's journal from the Alaska gold rush. He climbed the Chillcoot pass 45 times packing his and other people's gear over. He didn't find much gold, but became a hunter, selling meat to the mining camps instead. I think he made more money than the "average" gold miner did. It is well writen and one of my most prized possessions.

  6. Humping that gear up the Chilkoot Pass was no easy task. Many gave up on their quest for gold because of the hardships there. That journal is a real gem Gary. Hang on to it! Best, J.R.

  7. Don't leave us hanging! What happened? Did he find a good strike? Who was that masked miner?

  8. Hang in there my friend...I'll close this diary up soon. Best! J.R.


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