Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coulterville, California and Chinese Gold

If you like ghost towns and caches of treasure then this may be the ticket for you. Of course, you need to be in California too!

Back in 1850 a little mining town by the name of Coulterville was established in Mariposa County, California by George Coulter. Coulterville sits in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on Highway 49 south of Sonora. The “town” was already populated by Chinese and Mexicans when George came along but nobody really bothered to name the town. George saw his chance and there you have it, Coulterville.

Coulterville had over 5000 people living in it during it’s hay-day and about 1000 of those were Chinese. Almost all of the people were miners looking for that big strike. There were several buildings in the town, some of which still stand to this day. Coulterville, although considered a ghost town in some books, is still populated with about 1700 people but the town is unincorporated.

When the mining town was booming there was a Chinese storekeeper by the name of Wah Cheng who acted as a storehouse for his fellow countrymen, storing their raw gold in an iron box until it could be shipped out. Wah Cheng did this several times until a greedy Mexican decided he wanted to find gold the easy way. At the time of his death Wah Cheng had approximately $75,000 in gold stored in his iron box and he refused to give up the location of the gold before dying. It is thought the iron box filled with gold is still hidden somewhere near where his store stood in Coulterville. Maybe even in the store?

I should mention that there is another story that actually puts Wah Cheng’s store in a nearby ghost town known as “Dogtown" so a little research may be needed on this one. In case you are wondering, the unlucky Mexican who tried to steal the gold was caught very shortly after killing Wah Cheng and he was hanged in the town by some very angry miners.

How about frog gold, would you look for a French treasure? There used to be an old mill on Maxwell Creek just south of Coulterville, CA where a Frenchman is thought to have buried “a fortune in gold nuggets” that he accumulated working a placer site near the mill. The frog had his good luck and bad. It seems he was lucky enough to find and recover a large quantity of gold nuggets but just as he was planning to return to France with his fortune he was crushed to death at the mill by a runaway timber. His stash of gold nuggets has never been reported found.

If this isn’t enough to get you wanting to swing a detector around the area there are stories of a treasure hunter named Frank Fish who made several recoveries in the area. One of these recoveries was supposed to be a box of Chinese jewelry and $1,700 in gold coins. He also recovered a glass jar in the floor of one of the old buildings in Coulterville which contained $1,500 in gold dust and nuggets. And these are 1950’s prices!

Don’t even get me started on the outlaw activity in this area! OK, you can get me started but it will have to wait for a second article.

Speaking of outlaws, it's April 15th, have you filed your taxes yet?

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