Recently myself and a couple other friends embarked on creating a simple gold prospecting camp in northern Michigan. While highly unlikely it is not impossible to find gold in Michigan. However, the shiny, heavy metal had really little to do with it all.
Research was done to pick a “location” and “time” in history. British Columbia was picked as there was a gold rush not long after the American Civil War. A mining company called the Sheephead Mining Company was picked as who hired us. The friend really leading this did a lot of research and recreated paperwork for the company. This included items like our mining rights, pay receipts, and more. Saturday after supper we were even paid for a week of our efforts. Some of our equipment was marked as made by Kwong Lee & Co., which he found was a supplier of import goods in that area. A wonderful touch!
|Found by Robert Cook|
|One of the items purchased from Kwong Lee & Company. Photo by J. Bevard|
I took on the primary role of camp cook. I wanted to stick with items that we could have had access to by purchasing from a store before pushing forward to our claim. Friday’s supper consisted of salt pork, desiccated vegetables, and dumplings made into a soup. The morning meal was bacon and fry biscuits made from Patent Flour (more on that in a later post) and coffee, instead of water, along with some canned peaches. Down to the riverbank and into the water we went. We dug, panned, and ran dirt through the sluice box. The sluice box took some time to figure out a good technique that seemed to work. After time panning and sluicing for gold we returned for a simple lunch of hominy, hardbread, and coffee. Simple but filled the void to head back to the riverbank.
|One of our meal on the fire. Photo by J. Bevard|
We had a system in place that seemed to be working. We found various interesting geological items in the dirt we were panning but no gold. A lot of fossils were found in the larger rocks. These finds made me think about what this area must have looked like so long ago before these organisms shadows were embedded in rock.
The later afternoon we returned to our humble camp to dry out. We knew some rain and possible storms were on the way. We wanted to do what we could to dry out, eat, and clean up before it arrived. We put together a simple drying rack for our socks and drove branches into the ground for boot drying racks. Dinner was started after relaxing in the little sun we saw over two days. The left over bacon grease in the skillet had a two potatoes and salt port added to start to fry. A can of tomatoes with pepper was added to simmer. As that reduced down and cooked the potato slices I started on a dessert. Left over peaches was diced up with flour, patent flour, and little sugar mixed into dough. This was rolled into balls and tossed into boiling water for a simple pudding. The tomato dish turned out very well even if it was a bit salty! The skillet was just about emptied out eating “family style” out of the pan to save on needing to clean dishes. The puddings came out of the water with a can of condensed milk cracked open and drizzled on top.
The evening of nice weather came to a close with us sitting next to the river as the sun slipped behind the trees enjoying each other’s company. We received our company pay and not long after the rain started to fall driving us into our shared quarters, a wall tent. After the initial downpour we built up the fire and kept the tent doors open. We passed sometime with a small bottle of whiskey going around through the evening. Our pay was put into a pool for a chuck-a-luck game. Matchsticks became betting chips with the last man standing with chips won the pot. Being the dealer and a participant provide ample opportunity to bring the came into my favor but resisted the temptation. That cost me most of my weeks pay!
|View into our quarters. Photo by R. Huck|
The rain continued through much of the evening and into the night. At first we thought the night would never pass in that tent as it was still so early. With good company, including a frog that found its way in, before we knew it the time was slipping past 10pm as we slipped under the blankets.
I was up early, before dawn, to get a fire going and coffee. Once the fire was going and the coffee pot hanging over it the blankets called back to me. With another hour of sleep achieved the sun was now just coming up. I heard turkeys gobbling away not far away. Tossing the covers aside, I caught a glimpse of the sunrise before pouring a warm cup of coffee and starting on breakfast. This morning was a repeat of the previous mornings meal.
Once the meal was done it was time for modern reality to retake hold in our minds and actions. Camp was broken down and packed away. While gold was not found this time around we had a wonderful relaxing time back in history. I look forward to the next time the Sheephead Mining Company needs some prospecting done!