from the Overland Monthly, Vol. 23, No. 137, May 1894

By Kate P. Sieghold

One of many variations on the "Lost Mine" theme in early accounts of the Santa Lucia Mountains region, this rather delightful piece of fiction is notable for its depiction of famous local character Rocky Beasely (see David Rogers' "History of the Caves Ranch" in the Fall 1999 issue of the Double Cone Quarterly, and also "Over the Santa Lucia" by Mary L. White in this issue of Double Cone Register) and his "Old West" speech, as well as for its mention of the mysterious Lost Valley.

Kate P. Sieghold, née Price, was the author of Old Mission Tales (John J. Newbegin, 1915), and The churches of forty-nine: A tradition (1895). Biographical details are few: Born in Michigan in 1857, she came to California at an unknown date and married Salinas jeweller Christian Sieghold, an immigrant from Germany. They had a daughter, Janett, born in 1885, and a son, Christian, was born in 1889.


A short distance from the coast and running parallel to it, in central California, are the Santa Lucia Mountains; an "enchanted country," for it would seem the spirits hover about them, guarding most jealously the secret of their fabled treasure. Gold and silver exists in their fastnesses, for the early Franciscan monks learned the location of mines from the Carmel Indians, and profited largely by them.

Stories of a lost mine are rife in this half mystical region, and prospectors are still searching in the canions and gulches of the chain. In early days the Indians brought into the mission towns gold dust and nuggets, as offerings to the Church, and barter at the stores. To this day stockmen often ride excitedly into Salinas with pieces of rich quartz and small lumps of virgin gold they have accidentally found.

A few years ago two hunters were pushing their way through the brush. They were searching for Lost Valley, that bourne of all hunters and prospectors in the Santa Lucia; but which, in this generation at least, the foot of white man has never trod. This valley was plainly visible to them when the sky was pink with dawn, but they had found no trail leading into it, nor had any that attempted ever discovered its gateway.

The difficulties of traversing these mountains were well known. There were great rents in the rocky sides, made by storms and earthquakes, where wrecks of giant pine trees lay covered with the debris of the forest. If they found a foothold on the almost perpendicular side there was danger of causing a whole avalanche of rocks, shrubs, logs, and young pine trees.

At a little opening in the brush they came suddenly upon two men sitting on a log, with a paper spread out before them. They did not appear surprised at the intruders, but arose and courteously lifted their hats.

"Buenas dias, señores," said one of the strangers. Then in English, "What game?"

The hunters told them they had not shot anything yet, as they were more in search of a way into a hitherto inaccessible valley than in pursuit of game.

One of the señors — for Spaniards they were — turned to his companion, and held a rapid conversation in Spanish, then smilingly said to the hunters: —

"We too are searching for a spot which has so far eluded us. Perhaps you may be able to help us. You see this parchment? It is a map of these mountains, bequeathed to us by our uncle, a priest who forty years ago labored in the Mission below. When the government no longer permitted their patriarchal rule he returned to Spain, and when he died a few years ago he charged us to come to this country, and told us that with the aid of this map we would find a rich gold mine, whose existence was well known to both Indians and priests. We have wandered over these mountains for weeks, and have found nothing to indicate that this is the place, except its position from the ruined church in the valley. Look, señors, where these three crosses are in red ink, there are supposed to stand three tall pine trees, a certain distance from which the mine is to be found."

Handing the map to the hunters, he said: "Have you ever heard of gold being found in these mountains?"

The older hunter smiled grimly, as he scanned the map closely; while the other explained to the Spaniards that his companion was an experienced mountaineer and an expert woodman, who had spent the last twenty years in this region, but the ravages of the elements and the growth of the pines changed the face of the country every few years, so that it would be difficult to locate any place from a map of forty years ago. He also explained that he spent several weeks here each summer hunting and fishing with a party of friends, with this man, who was known as "Old Rocky," for a guide. They had just arrived the day before, and were on their way to see if the storms of the preceding winter had not made a path in the forest among the rocks by which they could penetrate "Lost Valley."

As Old Rocky handed back the map he shook his grizzled head.

"Wall, strangers, ye come a mighty long ways to be disappointed. There's heaps o' folks in this kentry who has spent most a lifetime prowlin' over these hills lookin' fur that thar Lost Mine. Yes, everybody knows there's gold about here, and this is about the color of it," taking out of his pocket a small piece of rock with a bright vein of gold running through it, and handing it to the Spaniards. "I picked that up last year somewhar around here; but law! I've got heaps of jist sich stuff in my cabin, and I've scratched in every gulch and old water-bed in the whole region, and I can't find no ledge nor mine. I git disgusted sometimes, and think I'll light out and let prospectin' alone, when I'll find another rich specimen, and then I'm in fur huntin' agin fur that thar mine. It's around here somewhar, but whar, whar?" And he looked sadly around.

To the inquiry if there were any Indians living who would be likely to know, he said: —

"Yes, there's old Silvaria, she knows fast enough, but she's crazy as a loon, — has been for twenty years. Ye see, she and her two sons lived in these mountains, and them two greasers would come inter town with gold, — lots of it. Folks was wild to find whar they got it, but they was smart and kept the secret. After a while two Portugee sailors took to watchin' and doggin' on 'em, and I guess they got mad,'cause they could n't find out nothin'; fur one day them greasers was found dead, hangin' to a tree. They had a paper pinned onto 'em sayin' as they was hoss thieves. Shucks! They had no use fur hosses; that was too thin. Couldn't prove nothin' agin the sailors, though. Old Silvaria, their mother, found 'em hangin' and went loony from that time. She wanders around the fields and about the town, but won't come nigh the mountains. I can interjuce you to her, but she won't tell nothin', — she's crazy.

"There used to be an old Injun around here named Jacinto. We called him Jack fur short. He used to come inter town with pitch pine to sell to the women folks fur kindlin'. He always had his pockets full of quartz and dust, but he did n't know the value of it: he would give a whole handful fur a drink of whisky. Nobody couldn't git nothin' out of him as to whar he got it, and when they tried to foller him, he'd manage to git clear on 'em somehow. One day that Injun come in a store whar some on us was sittin', and he had about fifty dollars' wuth. He showed it to the storekeeper, and grunted out, — 'How much wuth?'

"The feller was half wild. He said, —

"'Jack, ye can have anything in my store ye want.'

"Old Jack pinted to a pick-ax, a pair of boots, and whisky.

"We all worked hard over that Injin, tryin' to git him to tell whar he found it, but all we could git out of him was 'Mañana, mañana!' Ye know, Injins don't talk much. We just made up our minds not to let old Jack out of our sight agin; and fur days we took turns watchin' him, and waitin' fur him to start up the mountins. He hung around town fur a whole week. I guess he suspicioned we was watchin' him, but one day he started. We dodged along behind him fur about four hours' hard climb, when he turned 'round and said to us: —

"'Got to go back; no got plenty baccy; no got plenty whisky; heap rattlesnake up there, — need plenty whisky.'

"The old rascal must have knowed we was follerin' him all the time; so we all come down inter town agin, the most disgusted set of fellers ye ever did see. Jack he hung around town till dark and got roarin' drunk. We let up watchin' him, knowin' he would n't go agin till next day any way. In the night his hut burned up, and the next day we raked his bones out of the ashes. So nobody never found out nothin' by him. And old Silvaria is the only one left."

The Spaniards joined camp with the two hunters, and during their stay in the mountains hunted and fished with them, proving pleasant and agreeable companions. When they broke camp and left the mountains, as they rode into town, some Spanish girls approached them, and begged for money with which to bury and pay for mass and candles for old Silvaria. She had been found dead in a field that morning.

So died the last Carmel Indian, and the secret of the "Lost Mine" was buried with her.

Every summer prospectors, geologists, and miners, haunt the Santa Lucia Mountains: every winter the storms beat and crash among them, and in the spring the foothills clothe themselves with many-colored garments of wild flowers. But the spell of the enchantment remains unbroken; the true Prince is yet to come.

Kate P. Sieghold.