Guide to Gold and Buried Treasure: The Prospector's Golden Washtub

About an old prospector's million dollar golden washtub, history and search for this lost treasure.

OBSCURE CACHES: I

The Golden Washtub

An old prospector apparently hid a washtub half full of gold dust and nuggets worth over $1 million near Hill City, in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

How It Got There. In 1879, 2 prospectors named Shafer and Humphry picked out a claim in the Black Hills near Tigreville and began panning. They struck it rich, and worked the 20-acre claim for 2 years. One hole alone is said to have yielded 17 lbs. of gold, while another hole that was 16 by 16 in size yielded over a pound a day. They put all their dust and nuggets in a big old washtub, using a few pinches now and then to buy provisions. They agreed to split everything 50-50.

By the time that claim played out their washtub was full of gold, and Humphry decided to return to his wife and kids in Ohio. He took his half and did just that, but Shafer stayed on. A confirmed prospector, he staked out another claim farther down Newton Fork and worked it until the day he died.

Shafer had no known relatives, nor any friends. He spent his time alone working his claim, and didn't drink or use tobacco. He came into town only for provisions, and never gambled. Townspeople said that his fortune must have been hidden somewhere near his claim. All traces of his old cabin are gone, but old-timers remember seeing its rotting remains along the road to Deerfield. Not a single nugget has been turned up.

How to Get There. Hill City is in south-western South Dakota, about 30 mi. southwest of Rapid City, not far from Mount Rushmore. Ask old-timers or the local librarian where Shafer's cabin was, along Newton Fork.

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