Buried Treasures in North America Breyfogle's Lost Mine

About buried treasure in North America, history of Breyfogle's Lost Mine, account of previous searches and location in California.


Breyfogle's Lost Mine

In the West, people often call wild-goose chasing "breyfogling," after a man named Breyfogle (whose first name was either Charles or Jacob). This solid citizen, once a California county official, became so obsessed with his fruitless search for a lost mine that he said, "I shall come back a rich man or leave my bones in Death Valley."

How It Was Discovered: Somewhere in California's Panamint Mountains is a hidden ledge of pink quartz, dazzlingly laced with free silver and perhaps gold, assayed in the 1860s at $6,000 a ton. It was originally discovered in 1852 by three prospectors named Farley, Towne, and Cadwallader on a trip from Utah to California. They took some samples but were more concerned with the problem of staying alive in that inhospitable country than with the idea of getting rich. Back in comfortable Los Angeles, they talked about their find, and promoters-intensely interested in the prospectors' rich ore samples-backed an assay which showed them to be 85% silver. Farley headed a party of men sent out to search for the ledge. Not far from their destination, he got into a quarrel with another member of the group, who shot him through the heart. The party, minus its leader, returned to Los Angeles. The promoters then sent Towne off with another group of miners, but he up and died on the way. Meanwhile, the last of the three prospectors, Cadwallader, was in Mexico on a grand binge. A scout located him, but he died, probably of acute alcoholism, before he could give directions for reaching the ridge.

Previous Searches: In 1855, a certain Lieutenant Bailey, who had a silver-tongued snake-oil charm, said he had rediscovered the ledge and proceeded to sell $75,000 worth of subscriptions for the prospective mining of it. He told a group of people who put money into the venture and wanted to mine the ledge personally that he would meet them at Owen's Lake and take them to the bonanza. They waited at the lake, but he never showed up.

Desert rat David Buel came back discouraged after an 1855 search during which he was attacked by Indians, lost all his mules, and suffered badly from heat and thirst. He had also failed to find the mine.

In 1864 or 1865, depending on who's telling the story, Breyfogle started his epic search. While camped at Stovepipe Wells, an alkali water hole in Death Valley, he and the rest of his group were attacked by Paiute Indians. Only Breyfogle escaped. In his wanderings eastward in the desolate country near the Funeral Mountains, he found gold in a patch of green mesquite; it may or may not have been the original mine. At any rate, according to one story, he was clubbed by Indians and after that could not remember exactly where the mine was located. He kept searching for it. On one trip, when his party ran out of water and supplies, members of the group tried to get him to return to a fort 100 mi. away. He refused and stayed in Death Valley, searching on his own, living on frogs and lizards; he finally made it back, claiming he had found the ledge. But again he was unable to relocate it in a subsequent search.

How to Get There: To reach the Panamint Mountains, take Route 190 into Death Valley from U.S. 395 in California, or U.S. 95 (via Route 58) in Nevada. The ledge is in the woods, not far from Folly's Pass and Daylight Springs. By now it is probably covered by dirt and underbrush.

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