James Richmond's
California Story

The Wet Ravine Camp

My next story will be of my experience in Wet Ravine Camp. It was between Allegheny and Forrest City. In my wanderings I had arrived there and had struck a job, that I thought was pretty good pay. It was a job of mining. I will give you a description of the place and you will be able to understand better what befell me there.

We first went down an inclined plane four hundred and fifty feet. A good railroad took us down, a forty horse power engine let us up and down with ropes. There were two tracks, one for the water car and one for the men. At the foot of this plane was a sink hole which was excavated to catch the waste water which will always collect more or less in underground mining. The water car was made with a valve. When it struck water it filled; as the car began to accent the pressure of the water would close the valve and make it water tight. A large rope was attached to the car and then to a windlass which was worked by an engine. a carman attended it. Sometimes he would let it go down too fast. Then it would jump the tracks s it reached the bottom and we fellows would have to get down in the water and get it on the track once more. There was a wire running from the engine down on which we did out talking by ringing bells. One bell sent up a load of dirt, two bells a man on a car, three bells back up etc. If any one wished to go up in a hurry one ring would take him up right lively. The car would be loaded with dirt, a man would get on in front, hitch on a line, stand on that and steady himself by the car and up he would go faster than Jack ever went up the historical beanstalk. Visitors were always sent down in a platform car.

This plane was about eight foot wide and five or six feet in height. From this we ran a horizontal plane eight hundred feet slightly inclined just enough to bring down what water accumulated. from this plane we went up eight feet by ladder. Here we were running another eight foot plane. I was at work on that alone. I had gone in about one hundred feet and was about ready to lay out track and have the other men begin on the breastworks each side of the main tunnel. Ten men on a side would come in and take out the dirt on each side which was all brought to the main tunnel and loaded on the car, run back to the ladder dumped on another car and from there carried up to the outer world. The pay dirt which was taken from what came out of the bed of a stream was carefully saved for washing. the rest of the dirt had no sign of gold in it and was dumped down the ravine.

The dirt I took out when starting in alone on the main tunnel I had to draw back by hand in a box to the ladder until we could lay the track. There is a great mystery about those underground regions in California. The dry beds of rivers are plainly traced underground. The pebbles are as smoothly washed as those we find on our lake shores today. In fact there are said to be underground rivers today in full blast. The Humbolt for instance in quite a river yet it disappears going down into itís underground recesses as though itís waters were not. One time we came across a pine log embedded in the earth over one thousand feet below the surface of the earth. Part of it was petrified and part seemed like quite sound wood.

We of course worked by candlelight. I remember setting my candle down beside me. I seemed to find a hard steak of rock ahead of me and gave my pick an extra hard fling, when a small stream of water spurted out in my face. I remember thinking I had tapped a small stream of water and had better get out of there before long. I had gathered up my candle and pick to retreat in good order. But I was spared all further trouble the whole space of the end of the tunnel seemed to fly out. The force of the deluge knocked me senseless I suppose, for the next thing I know I was most exquisite torture and suffering that ever any person has ever experienced. Half a dozen of my comrades were working over me. Could I have stopped them by any means I would have done it. But what could I do? I couldnít even tell of the torture I was enduring. So I was rolled, rubbed. spatted and rolled again until the water supply inside me was exhausted. Could I have kicked, struck or bitten them I would have done so. Anything to have compelled them to let me alone. But I was as helpless as a drowned rat in their hands. When I could speak and ordered them to leave me alone they paid no attention to my orders save to pour a little more brandy down my throat which was about as disagreeable as pumping the water out. the drowning I remember nothing about but the reinstating I shall never forget.

The men tell me I had mashed out to the ladder and had a death grip on it. They had to take a handspike and pry my hands off. They saw the water coming down and though they had better look me up. By the time they had found me and had gotten me up to the outside the breath was pretty well out of me. I wish they had let it go. It will never go easier. The next week I was on the retired list. When I did get back the water was the water was all out of the water basin, I had tapped and as it had not yet been disturbed I could explore it at my leisure.

I found the basin quite a curiosity. The water had been carried up to the outer world by car and for once saw daylight. I would like to know just how many ages that had been sealed there in the bosom of mother earth. How I wished I could have known what mighty convulsions of nature had buried that river, lapping up itís waters and sealing up that water proof basin. It was some fifty feet across and twelve feet high. The sides were of a substance like melted lava. In the bottom of the basin we found lots of gold, some encrusted in the cement and a good deal in what had been the pebbly bottom of the creek. But I wouldnít care to tap another, even should it be gold lined.