The Pegleg is the greatest of all the mines which, having once disclosed their richness to man, have faded from his ken. It is in no sense a myth, like so many similar subjects of mining camp lore. There is an enormously rich deposit of gold somewhere in the fiery desolation of those southern mountains; gold from it has purchased articles of use or pleasure; some of its product has passed into the coin of the country. Its existence is proved by evidence that would be received in any court. Its history is a series of tragedies.
Most of the lost mines, real or chimerical, have a history of the same sort, particularly in that strange, sinister country where the deserts are beneath the level of the sea, and the rotten crust of the earth lets the unwary traveler down into a lye strong enough to eat shoe leather; where the mountains pierce the sky, but have not enough soil on their slopes to give a hold to the hardiest of desert shrubs.
Some of these lost mines have been rediscovered, beyond a doubt. About two years ago Isaac Newton Fowler, a Brooklyn man, while hunting in Chihuahua, Mexico, with a former inspector of Texas Rangers named Singleton, found an old tunnel, the mouth of which had been walled up at some remote time. There was the usual local tradition of a lost mine which had been worked by the Spaniards early in the century, and which had been abandoned by them in consequence of the hostility of the Apaches. There does appear to have been a mine known as La Tiopa, trace of which had been lost; and the discoverers of the walled up tunnel decided this was it. The mine is now a paying one, but is hardly the Arabian Nights dream of tunnel walls alight with gold and ore so rich that a bishop's punch bowl was hammered from a single lump. For so tradition describes La Tiopa in the old Spanish days.
A still richer find was that of a prospector on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande near Fort Hancock, Texas. An old dump had been there so long that nobody knew who had taken the rock out. This prospector made an assay on the stuff, and found it moderately rich. He interested capitalists, and they reopened the old workings.
Most fascinating of all these stories of treasure is the history of White's Cement mine, which divides the interest of Rocky Mountain prospectors with the Lost Cabin. White was an old California gold seeker who came to Colorado with the prestige of having found numerous paying claims. He prospected alone, but indulged himself in the luxury of a half breed Indian camp attendant. One day in 1858, he came into Horse Head Gulch to buy supplies. He took a number of odd specimens to a German assayer in the camp and learned that they carried a thousand ounces—fifteen thousand dollars—to the ton. Of course a discovery of such magnitude could not be kept secret. White's specimens were apparently white clay, very hard, and speckled over with bits of gold. When the lumps were broken, it was apparent that the gold ran all through.
The list of these phantom claims is interminable; their stories bear a certain family resemblance, but each one has an individuality some feature that makes it interesting apart from the rest. There is the the Lee mine, a rival of the Pegleg in its own country. But the Lee was a real mine, not merely a deposit of nuggets seen once and then lost. The Lee's location is on-file among the archives of San Bernardino County, its whereabouts described generally, as is the custom in the absence of a survey.
Thirty years ago a miner named Lee located the claim. He hired a man to help him, built a windlass, and sunk a shaft. He also put up an arrastre to reduce his quartz, and at intervals came to San Bernardino to sell the dust and to purchase tools, powder, and provisions. It must have been a pretty good mine, and at various times capitalists, notably Governor Waterman