Looking back: Slumach’s Gold revisited

Local historian Fred Braches shares results of ongoing research in a 70-page book.

The interest in the TV series The Curse of the Frozen Gold shows that the magnetic powers of the legendary placer in Pitt Lake country reputedly worth billions of dollars have not diminished.

On the screen, thousands of viewers can follow the trials and tribulations of a small and diverse band of explorers as they desperately try to find that long lost treasure.

I had the pleasure to be part of that team of friends, each playing himself. As described on the History Channel web site, I was the voice of reason, historian and meticulous researcher whose perspectives, although needed, were usually disagreed with.

That’s the story of my life.

The stunning landscape, the action and the suspense are enough to satisfy most viewers, but some may want to learn more about the legends around that fabulous gold we were unsuccessful in finding.

What is that legendary treasure? Why is its location not known? Who was Slumach and why was he hanged? Did he really find that mysterious placer that carries his name? Who were Jackson and Volcanic Brown? What is that ‘curse’ all about?

There is plenty of information on the Internet, but everyone interested in the stories of the famous Pitt Lake gold should read the delightful Canadian bestseller Slumach’s Gold: In Search of a Legend, written by Rick Antonson, Mary Trainer and Brian Antonson.

The book, republished in 2007, offers a smorgasbord of information, real or imagined, about the treasure and its legends, as well as its legendary discoverers and the stories of prospectors who have come and gone, some loosing their life searching for the elusive treasure.

Ten years have passed since the book was last published, and during that time my search for truth behind the legends has not stopped. I have now shared some of the result of my ongoing research in a 70-page book, Fact and Fiction: Slumach and the Lost Creek Mine.

Previous stories about the murder Slumach committed in 1890 were all based on the old newspaper stories, but at that time there were no journalist going out into the field to verify facts. So the news about the murder on the Pitt River depended on gossip and hearsay.

In my book, I have instead used legal records, which tell an entirely different sequence of events. It emerged that even the location at which the murder was committed and the weapon used were wrong in the newspapers.

As far as I can establish, the first mention of Slumach’s name in connection with the gold was made in a 1915 American newspaper article. There was no shred of evidence to confirm this story, but from there the legend was spun to ever more fantastic proportions.

With the Second World War came the outrageous gothic stories that had nothing to do with that poor Katzie man Slumach.

It is important to me as a historian to make sure that, besides the legends, the facts about this old man (Slumach was over 70 when he was hanged) are also known. That is why I wrote Fact and Fiction: Slumach and the Lost Creek Mine.

The book, offering new insight into the old legends, is for sale at Black Bond Books, or send an e-mail to books@whonnock.ca.

 

– By Fred Braches, a local historian who lives in Whonnock.

 

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