There are many legends on the West Coast of lost treasure, mines, and caches of precious metal. They are entertaining and spark our adult imagination the same way fantasy novels did when we were kids. I have to admit that I am fascinated with theses stories and the lure of stumbling upon a huge reserve of gold is hard to ignore. The closer to home the legends are the more tantalizing they become. One pervasive legend is the legend of Slumach’s lost gold mine. I have been part of two expeditions to find this mine in 2012 and 2014.
On the West coast this legend is well known. Books have been written about this legend so I’m not going to regurgitate the whole story here, this is about my own search for the treasure. I first read of the story in a book called “Lost Bonanzas of Western Canada”. There was a description of the legend and stories of historic attempts to find the mine. Another great book on the subject is “Slumach’s Gold: In Search of a Legend“. There is lots of info online as well.
The legend states that in the late 1800s a Coquitlam native named Slumach would occasionally come into New Westminster with a bag full of gold nuggets. He would blow the wealth on liquor and brothels and eventually return to his cabin on Pitt Lake. Slumach allegedly would never tell the location of his mine to anyone. In 1890 Slumach was found guilty of the murder of man named Louis Bee and hanged a year later for the crime. There is a lot of debate around the circumstances of the murder, it may have been self defence but that is irrelevant as far as the gold is concerned. It is said that prior to being hanged Slumach put a curse on the mine in the Chinook language “Nika memloose, mine memloose”. When translated into english the curse means “No man who finds the gold will live long enough to bring it out.”
There are all sorts of ideas about the facts surrounding Slumach’s trial, his life and so on. The truth is there isn’t much recorded history about the guy. Some say he took women up the mine to cook for him and murdered them to hide the location. Others believe their is no mine at all and he got his gold from robbing other miners in the area. None of that really matters as far as finding a rich gold deposit in the mountains North of Pitt Lake.
There are other characters in the ongoing story that hold much more compelling evidence. Not least of which is a prospector known only as “Jackson”. He left a letter vaguely describing the location of a creek rich with nuggets. Apparently Jackson found a very rich gold bearing stream somewhere North of Pitt Lake. He carried as much gold with him out and buried the rest due to the weight under a tent shaped rock. Jackson seemingly wrote the letter from his death bed in San Fransisco unable to return to claim his gold. Here is the text of the Jackson letter:
It will come to you as a surprise after all these years to hear from me for no doubt you have long since forgotten me. But you will remember the old man you so kindly grub staked with money and provisions at Guytos. Since then I have prospected with the varied success that usually goes with the life of a prospector.
In 1901 I went to B.C. and it is of this trip I want to tell, and hope you will gain by it untold thousands for your kindness to me. I heard you went broke like most everyone else at Guytos but had lost all trace of you since then except that you had gone to Washington. Well, I made a great discovery in New Westminster but after coming out for supplies and tools was taken down with a severe attack of rheumatism that ever since has left me almost bedfast until a short time ago, when I recovered sufficiently as though to make the trip again.
I made up my mind to hunt you up and take you with me. In hunting over a Seattle directory I found your name and address and concluded to come to Seattle and talk the matter over with you. A few days after arriving here from my little place in the hills, I was suddenly stricken down again and the Doctors say that I will never recover and may drop off any time for my heart is badly affected. So I will tell you of my trip and what I found and direct you to the best I can to find it. It is too great to be lost to the world and I know with you it will be in good hands.
Well, I arrived in Vancouver about the first of July and hired a couple of natives to take me to the headwaters of the ____ then dismissing the natives I struck out in the mountains, and they are rough ones. I prospected up beyond the lake but found nothing of importance. But the formation looked all right. I concluded to prospect back towards ____ Lake. I kept well up on the mountains but was often compelled to make long trips down before crossing could be found on the deep canyons.
I had been out about two months and found myself running short of grub. I lived mostly on fresh meat for one can’t carry much of a pack in those hills. Found a few very promising ledges and some color in the little creeks, but nothing I cared to stay with. I had almost made up my mind to light out the next day. I climbed to the top of a sharp ridge and looked down into a little canyon or valley about one mile and a half or two miles long, but what struck me as singular, it appeared to have no outlet for the little creek that flowed at the bottom. Afterwards I found the creek entered a ______ and is lost.
After some difficulty I found my way down to the creek. The water was almost white. The formation for the most had been slate and granite but there I found a kind of schist and slate formation. Now comes the interesting part. I had only a small prospecting pan, but I found colors at once right on the surface and such colors they were. I knew then I had struck it rich at last.
In going up stream I came to a place where the bedrock was bare and there you can hardly believe me, but the bedrock was yellow with gold. In a few days I gathered thousands and there were thousands more in sight. Some of the nuggets were as big as walnuts and there were many chunks carrying quartz. After sizing up carefully I saw that there were millions stowed away in the little cracks. On account of the weight I buried part of the gold at the foot of a large tent shaped rock facing the creek. You can’t miss it. There is a mark cut out in it. Taking with me what I supposed to be about $10,000 proved to be over $8,000. After three days of extreme hard traveling it would not be over 2 days of good going but the way was rough and I was not feeling well. I arrived at the lake and while resting there at the Indian Camp was taken sick and have never since been able to return and now I fear I never shall. I am alone in the world. No relations, no one to look to me for anything.
Of course I have never spoken of this find during all this time for fear of it being discovered. It has caused me many anxious hours but the place is so well guarded by surrounding ridges that it should not be found for many years unless someone knew its being there.
Oh, how I wish I could go with you and show you to the wonderful place for I find I can’t give any exact directions and it may take you a year or more to find it but don’t give it up. Keep at it and you will not fail and you will be repaid beyond your wildest dreams.
I believe any further directions only tend to confuse so I will only suggest further that you go alone or at least take one or two Indians to pack food and no one need to know but you were going on a hunting trip until you find the place and get everything fixed up to suit yourself.
When you find it, and I am sure you will, should you care to see me advertize in the “Frisco Examiner” and if I am living I will either come and see you or let you know where to find me but once more I say to you don’t fail to look this great property up and don’t give up till you find it. I am very sorry I can’t give you more definite instructions. Of course I expected to have gone back long since. I have drawn a rough sketch that will help you. Success and happiness.
Not much else is known about Jackson. There is another character called Volcanic Brown also known as R.A or “Doc” Brown. Unlike the previous two Volcanic was well known in BC in the early 1900s. Volcanic was a respected healer and prospector with many successes. There is even a ghost town from a mine that was discovered by Brown that is called Volcanic City. He discovered the large scale Copper Mountain mine outside of Princeton that is still operating today. Volcanic Brown is said to have gained a copy of the Jackson letter and started looking for the lost mine in the late 1920s. He would go each summer and stay out there for several months. In 1928 he got frostbite and amputated one of his toes and continued to hike out. I can tell you after hiking this area myself I would not have come back after that.
Volcanic Brown would check in at the small logging community of Alvin at the head of Pitt Lake at the end of his season. In 1931 he did not check in and soon after a search party went out looking for him. The search party trekked over the Stave glacier in November to find Volcanic (no small feat in itself). They didn’t find the man but they are said to have found a collapsible pup tent, some cooking utensils, a double barreled shotgun, a notebook containing herbal remedies, and a glass jar containing eleven ounces of course gold. The gold is said to have contained traces of quartz and was believed to have been hammered out of a solid vein. The rescue attempt was well recorded, it even made the newspaper. So Volcanic Brown definitely found some nice gold out there. His last camp was found in the valley at the beginning of the Stave river near Upper Stave Lake. My expeditions were in a similar area.
The final character is Stu Brown, no relation to Volcanic. For me the Stu Brown story is what made the Slumach legend believable. Brown had several science degrees and was a world war two air force veteran. He apparently used stereoscopic air photos to identify the area described in Jackson’s letter. The area that he identified was inside Garibaldi provincial park. Stu Brown wrote numerous letters to the government asking for permission to claim the site and extract the gold. He was unsuccessful in persuading them to allow him to mine, he even sent a letter to Teck mining corporation.
Stu described a 100′ high natural rock dam blocking a stream where water shoots out of a hole in the dam. He described a pool at the base of the dam that is ankle deep in gold. Stu was never able to give accurate directions to the spot however.
In 2012 I embarked on our first expedition to Terrarosa lake which is at the foot of the Terrarosa glacier and near the Stave glacier. We did some gold panning and sampling in the area of interest. This area was selected because it is near Volcanic’s last camp and vague clues that Stu Brown gave out seemed to fit in this area. The geology of the area is very favourable for epithermal gold as well with a huge fault passing through from Glacier lake marking the boundary between two geological units. In 2014 we reached a lower area in the valley between the Stave and Terrarosa Glaciers. 2012 took us 8 days and 2014 took 9 days of unsupported backpacking and rock climbing in very rugged terrain. My next post will describe the details of the expeditions.
Check out part two here: