Gold.From the earliest period of history gold has had a strange fascination for the human race. To secure the yellow metal men have undergone all sorts of hardships. The lure of gold led Coronado (q. v.) to undertake an expedition into the wilds of North America in search of the wealthy province of Quivira. Since that time rumors of gold in what is now the State of Kansas have been repeatedly circulated. Du Pratz's map of Louisiana, published in 1757, has marked at the mouth of the Little Arkansas river "A Gold Mine." It may be, however, that this marking was due to a tradition that years before a party from New Mexico, while going down the Arkansas river in boats, was attacked at this point by Indians and all the members killed but one, who succeeded in making his escape after burying a large amount of money and treasure. In 1836 Jesse Chisholm guided a party to the place to search for this buried wealth, and other searching parties made investigations, but without success.
William B. Parsons and O. B. Gunn both published in 1859 accounts of the gold mines in western Kansas. Parsons tells of a party being made up at Lawrence to go to the mines under command of J. H. Turney. These mines are in the vicinity of Pike's peak and have produced a large amount of gold, but they are now in the State of Colorado.
The Kansas City Journal of June 17, 1859, in giving an account of a trip down the Kansas river by the steamer Gus Linn, says: "Mr. Budd informs us that while the boat was aground near Topeka, some of the deck hands washed several particles of gold from the sand in the bed of the river. No claims have yet been sold, but it is really said that there is to be a daily express started from Leavenworth next week to the new diggings. The gold is a fact."
If the Leavenworth express was started, or if any systematic effort was ever made to develop gold mines at Topeka, no account of the occurrence has been preserved. The Kansas City Star of Feb. 25, 1896, published another report of mines having been found in Kansas. It says: "Gold has been found at Hollenberg, Kan., and is said to assay $16 to $20 to the ton. It is found in the sand and near a large creek. Hollenberg is a German settlement in northeastern Kansas on the Grand Island road. According to the traditions of the country, gold was found in that locality by emigrants traveling to the far West in '42 and later. The excitement is increasing and people are coming into the little town in crowds from all directions."
But again the gold seekers were doomed to disappointment and the crowds departed almost as quickly as they came, leaving Hollenberg to pursue "the even tenor of its way" as a quiet little village of Washington county.
About the time of the Hollenberg discovery, C. K. Holliday, hearing reports of tin along the upper course of the Smoky Hill river, sent a man to investigate. No tin was found, but an ore bearing a low percentage of zinc was discovered. A shaft was sunk to the depth of some 200 feet, and in experimenting with the shale a metal was found that bore a strong resemblance to gold. In the spring of 1902 a company was formed at Topeka for the purpose of making more extended investigations. Prof. Ernest Fahrig of the Philadelphia commercial museum was employed to come to Kansas and examine the shale. Samples assayed by him showed about $3 to the ton. Machinery was brought from Philadelphia and a special mill was erected at Topeka for the reduction of the ore. Another company established a mill at Smoky Hill, and a number of well known Topeka citizens invested in Trego and Ellis county lands. Among them were John R. Mulvane, C. K. Holliday, W. A. L. Thompson and Judge Frank Doster. For a time the press was filled with accounts of the development of the "Trego shales." Prof. Haworth of the state university and Prof. Waldemar Lindgren of the United States geological survey were skeptical as to the metal's being gold, and thorough tests demonstrated that their skepticism was founded on scientific facts. The Trego gold, while having the color, was lacking in specific gravity. When its true character became known the project of developing mines was abandoned, as the amount of zinc contained in the shale was so low that it could not be mined with profit.
Hazelrigg's History of Kansas (p. 252) tells of the establishment of a gold and silver refinery at Pittsburg in 1891, and also states that during the next four years several were started, the largest being located at Argentine. The statement is further made that in the four years one of these concerns refined 9,600,000 ounces of silver, and the author adds: "With an abundance of ore near, and possibly in this state, this work promises to become an important industry."
The prediction was not fulfilled, however. The smelters at Argentime and Pittsburg were built to refine ores from Mexico, Colorado and Utah, and not with the hope of finding gold, silver or other valuable ores in Kansas. They were established upon the theory that the smelter should be near the center of manufacturing and transportationa theory that was soon found to be false. The duty on fluxing ores from Mexico, and the impracticability of placing the smelter so far from the mines, caused the abandonment of the enterprise and resulted in the dismantling of the smelter at Argentine, which was one of the largest in the United States.
With some people, the hope of finding gold in Kansas may linger, but with a large majority of her citizens the belief prevails that the real gold mines of the state are in her corn, wheat and alfalfa fields.Pages 761-763 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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