Before we begin our old western story about lost treasures and Oregon outlaws, let’s set the record straight with the gold rush facts. The California Gold Rush had strong roots in Oregon, with the Oregon trail delivering 49er’s to California, Ashland’s mining supply routes and Sumpter’s gold mines.
By 1849, the Oregon gold rush was well under way with Oregon Trail pioneers putting down roots. Folks from as far away as the east coast were making their way to Oregon to prospect for gold. However, by this time, all the likely spots for finding gold were claimed and prospecting in spots where gold was not yet discovered was risky, as gold might never be found, and backbreaking hard work was certain.
Folks wanted to make a killing in the gold fields had two choices, work hard and take risk or just steal gold from others.
One group of Oregon outlaws were The Triskett Gang, a group of gunmen comprised of brothers Jack and Henry Triskett and three other gunmen, Fred Cooper, Miles Hearn and Chris Slover had a strong anti-work ethic. They chose to let others mine the gold and then they stole it.
After committing several robberies in California, the Triskett gang was galloping from California to Oregon trying to escape a posse of very angry men. They finally arrived in a booming town of several thousand citizens called Sailors’ Diggins.
This town of thousands existed at a time when the entire population of Oregon numbered only about 10,000. Today Sailor’s Diggins is a ghost town known as Waldo near Cave Junction, Oregon.
The gang arrived there on a hot August 1852. Though the town was nothing more than an overgrown mining camp (because the hills around town were loaded with gold) it had a substantial portion of Oregon’s population residing there. Even the Triskett gang realized that this was not the best place to hide from the group that was tracking them.
However, before they would put their minds to continuing their escape they decided to stop at a saloon and exchange some stolen gold for liquid gold – whiskey, tequila and the like.
Once they were well past the legal limit of alcohol blood content, they made their way outside of the saloon and onto the street. It was then that Fred Cooper snapped. His motives are unknown to this day, but he pulled his pistol and without uttering a single word gun downed a fellow just walking down the street.
The mob mentality affected the entire Triskett gang. Instead of grabbing Cooper and making a run for it, they joined him in gunning down other town’s people. Stopping only to rape two women who were unfortunately out on the street.
The men from town, working their digs in the hills, heard the shots and knew that there was trouble. They headed back to confront whatever dangers were lurking in their streets.
Meantime, the severity of their situation finally occurred to the Triskett gang. They decided to get out of town. But first they made one more stop, the assay office, where they stole about $75,000 worth of gold. Gold worth that much weighed about 250 pounds and would hinder their escape. But the Triskett gang could not pass up the opportunity.
As the Triskett gang left town, the miners began to arrive to the sickening sight of 17 dead and still bleeding bodies of wives, children and men too old to be mining. Quickly they formed a posse and took off after the gang of gunmen. One of the townspeople saw the gang leaving and told the posse which way to go.
The gang was stunned by the quickness of the pursuit, and rather than be subject to a long and inevitably deadly pursuit by the posse decided to pull up and make a stand at a hilltop just outside of O’Brien. A vicious firefight occurred and at the end of it four of the Triskett gang were dead and the last member was fatally wounded and would die shortly after capture.
Funny thing though, the gold was not there. To this day it has not been found, or if it was found, the finder kept his good fortune a secret. Some think the gold is still somewhere in the hills around O’Brien while others say if the Triskett’s were smart (and there is no historical proof they were) they would have hidden it the moment they realized they were being chased. If so, then the gold can be anywhere in the wooded areas between Waldo and O’Brien.
Today, there are still those hunting for the hidden gold. Most concentrate their search in the hills were the Triskett’s and their gang fought it out with the miners. It has never been found.
Topics on this page: Old Western Story, Oregon Outlaws, Gold Rush Facts, Oregon Gold Rush