For the last eight years, I’ve been searching the rugged forest in southern British Columbia for two bars of gold stolen in 1896. At the age of 61, I took up the challenge to find the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney. The adventure cost me dearly; a great relationship, expenses I couldn’t afford, and took a toll on my health. Yet I couldn’t stop, especially after finding more than twenty pieces of hardware directly related to the theft.
I drove more than fifty thousand kilometers in all seasons to a forested area east of Osoyoos, BC. During my two hundred plus days hiking the rugged area, I reconnected with nature and learned the value of ‘forest bathing’. In my quiet manner of walking, I saw deer, elk and moose, a black wolf, a reddish-colored cougar and a coyote. I heard the spring mating call of the spruce grouse and western meadowlark. I watched the American Dipper dive into the cold creek for bugs. Western tiger swallowtails and Painted Ladies visited on warm summer days.
But I never forgot about the missing gold. My interest in BC’s significant gold history began when I briefly managed the Yale Museum and Historic Site in late 2009. Much of BC’s history centered around gold discoveries from the southern interior to the far north over several decades. Miners flooded in from around the world and legends were born.
As with most legends, the true facts often became muddied or lost altogether. As I began to investigate the missing gold, I decided to only trust the details of the British Columbia Provincial Police files. And from those records came the single clue that set me on the right path. Within two years, I uncovered the hard evidence directly connected to the theft. Those artifacts revealed how the thief carried out the robbery; he merely camped and waited on the only eastern route from the mine to the US rail head. When the mine operations ceased for the one-day, monthly cleanup, Mathew Roderick camped along the trail and let the shipment come to him. He chose a sharp bend on the mountain trail where the wagon had to slow. On August 16th, 1896, he stole 656.5 ounces of gold bullion.
Roderick must have been greatly surprised by the amount of gold from the cleanup. In fact, the Camp McKinney mine produced fifty percent more gold than the average BC mine at the time. The weight forced him to make a decision: he would have to hide the two larger bars in the forest and return at a future date to retrieve them. Unfortunately for him, he was followed on a dark night in October and shot dead in a bungled attempt to follow him and retrieve the stolen bullion.
Although I had reduced the search area from the immensity of the forest to the size of a tennis court, success still eluded me. Even two of the best metal detectors available today failed to search deep enough into the heavily compacted gravel bed of the canyon floor. My greatest difficulties were yet to come.
Most of this journey can be found at http://www.campmckinneygold.com.
In my previous blog I sent out an appeal for someone to join me in the challenge. Youth and brawn are needed to help conclude this exciting but slow motion adventure. I met a couple of individuals who seem to be just the right balance of smarts, age, and willingness. However winter descended too quickly and harshly for any development to take place this year. That’s not really a problem for me as I’ve been living in next-year country for nine years now anyways. So what’s one more… It just means Christmas won’t hold any big celebration this year, other than enjoying life in the age of Covid-19.
This isn’t the conclusion I expected. Yet here I am, admitting that I did not recover at least one of the two lost gold bars. And the exceptional high price of gold these days rubs salt into the wounds of defeat. My return to the area of this great adventure buoyed my spirits and enabled my emotions to absorb the silence and calming effect of the natural world. I needed that after the near constant bombardment of excess noise in the urban sprawl of my environment.
I feel the target is correct. The eight years of research and investigation still has me believing I know where at least one bar lies, within one cubic meter. My old body is the problem. At sixty-nine years of age, my ability to work with strength is gone. My lung function is good as the previous few years of walking several kilometers a day has proven. But while digging in ground the consistency of wet cement, my arms and hands ache and I rapidly run out of energy. I admit now that I am no longer a treasure hunter but a writer, one who wishes he were a younger man. Yet I can’t complain about the aging process as the alternative isn’t good. Still, this is not how I wanted the quest to end. “How I Almost Found the Lost Gold Bars of Camp McKinney…..”
Who wants to buy a treasure map? Highest bidder not necessarily accepted. This is a part of BC history and is not meant to be melted into scrap gold. Treasure, after all, is more valuable than scrap gold. After subtracting the smallest bar that evidence suggests had been sold by Roderick in 1896, roughly fifty pounds remains. One bar should weigh about twenty-five pounds and court evidence reveals the Cariboo-Amelia gold bullion, unrefined, ran about sixty-three percent give or take a fraction. That still gives close to sixteen pounds of pure gold at twelve troy ounces per pound for well over one hundred and eighty ounces. That’s for one bar about the size of an old vhs tape.
Perhaps I should’ve had my book ready to hit the market, composed a cryptic poem and let the public have a go at it. If Forest Fenn is remembered for anything in the history books, it should be that he encouraged others to embrace and enjoy the quest for gold. I assure you, despite my age, the adventure brought a lot of excitement into my life at a time when the the looming years of retirement had little to offer.
I hear Shirley Bassey singing the theme song for Goldfinger on the oldies station playing in the background. How appropriate. So dear reader, does anyone out there appreciate a good challenge?
These two years are identical on the calendar. I like that a lot. Seems like the perfect time to end this amazing adventure. I’ve been told that ending the story without recovering the gold would be alright. So many other elements have entered the story the reader might not be disappointed. But I would be. I didn’t start this adventure to write how I almost found the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney.
Mount Baldy had a record snowfall and now the runoff is threatening to cause flooding in some areas. Two years ago a heavy spring flow caused major changes along Rock Creek that hadn’t happened in years, maybe decades. Hopefully the melt won’t last too long and perhaps the force of the water will aid my search.
The planet alignments favour a conclusion this year in what is supposed to be one of the luckiest years of my life. I can’t wait to make that come true.
After more thought and review of my Kickstarter campaign, I have decided not to pursue that route for funding. Besides my small group of family and friends, I would have to pursue all the popular websites to reach out to the public. My very limited skills would take more time and effort than I have. My focus is to write the best story I am capable of and recover the gold bars. With luck, other options may occur.
I have decided to push ahead with a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the funds needed to finish this quest.
Please visit the address below to see my presentation.
Recent discoveries about my personal nature and the understanding of my psychic abilities have encouraged me to take a bigger step towards embracing and sharing these often mystifying experiences. The theme of the story is embracing the obsession of the lost gold bars while exploring my experiences involving psychic abilities I knew I had but never understood. This doesn’t change the story written to date but merely adds the content to this blog. The mysteries of spirituality and nature are an integral part of the story but weren’t as apparent to me when most of this blog had been written.
One great relationship lost due to my obsession
Two metal detectors bought and used
Three injuries including head trauma, scratched eye lens, torn hernia repair
Eight years involving the quest
Over thirty-five thousand dollars spent searching and writing a novel and screenplay
Twenty-six pieces found directly related to the robbery
Seventy-six trips to the forest
Eighty-four countries shown visited the blog
Close to fifty thousand kilometers driven in all seasons
Two visits to the archives allowed me to investigate a wealth of material for a future book. The first happened last October and the more recent trip in February.
Best of all, a senior on a tight, fixed income can travel from the lower mainland to downtown Victoria and back for less than eleven dollars. Seniors travel free on the ferries from Monday to Thursday, perfect for my needs. Public transportation worked well on both the mainland and the island although patience is required. I took food along and stayed at a great location just blocks from the museum. Hard to beat Airbnb in the off season.
In October I photographed correspondence between the BC Provincial Police and the Inspector Hussey in Victoria. My focus centered around the gold bar robbery and subsequent inquest from 1896 and 7. New information helped to clear up misinformation about the robbery and following events. Having used a straight pen and bottled ink as late as my grade four class, I was amazed at some of the beautiful handwriting in the days before ball and gel point pens. There is a sharp difference between the educated and less educated from the 1890’s. The shaky signatures revealed a man not used to handling a pen. My two grandfathers were such men. The Englishman had an education in a private boys school and came to Canada to farm the freedom of the prairies. The German from Odessa could only pen his name but he built barns that still stand and fiddled with the best of them. Education starts when you decide to listen.
The February trip included a few rare gems. I watched the last shift to work at the Camp McKinney mine on a 1966 tape. The fifty second clip goes all too fast but we see the cable man working in the wheelhouse, the last miners coming up and later the last ore car pulled up with the help of a 1950’s GMC truck. Rare good luck to see the clip and perhaps in the future I can share it with you. It appears on a video shot on the old Dewdney Trail. The tour of the trail showed a grave for one of the Royal Engineers, a fact I hadn’t seen listed on other sources. The fee to use the Dewdney was listed as one shilling or twelve pence per fifty pounds of freight. I also listened to part of an interview with an early resident named H H Stevens. He drove the stage from Penticton to Grandforks and back in 1897, a rough journey that took two days one way.
I took photos of mining affidavits from the 1890’s. The legal requirement dictated miners had to swear they did a minimum amount of work in their or someone else’s mine before the mining licence was issued or reissued. I’m well acquainted with Hugh Cameron’s name and connection to the camp. He made an oath several times but for uneducated miners I believe. Expenses were listed as well. Dynamite, always a necessity for hard-rock mining, varied from a low of thirty-sevens cents a pound to a high of forty-seven cents a pound with an average of forty.
My book for this adventure, now in its eighth year, continues to grow. But I am nearer to the end, closer to an exciting conclusion.