THE BONEPICKER PROJECT ~ On Location in the USA ~
Notes from Spring 2015
White Pine County in east/central Nevada.
It was here that many Cariboo miners traveled in 1869 in search of their fortunes after they had lost everything during the catastrophic Barkerville fire in September of 1868.
These mountains were full of silver and gold and miners flocked to this region from all over, including the Colony of British Columbia.
Richard and I followed the trails of some of these Cariboo miners and entrepreneurs. The search began at Elko, Nevada.
In this land of casinos, there is not much left of historic architecture for us to get the feel of the region in the 19th century. However, the local museum was a wonderful find.
This lead us to Toni Mendive, the curator, who set before us all kinds of research materials for us to pore over, including old newspapers, historical articles, magazines, quarterlies, etc.
We began with a list of 64 names, which Richard had already identified from an issue of the BC Colonist newspaper from 1869. We knew that men like the Oppenheimer brothers, Billy Ballou and Frank Laumeister, for example, had made their way to Elko looking for opportunities. It was a thrill for me to see the names of these men listed in the ads from The Elko Independent’s very first edition of June 19th, 1869.
Findings at the museum lead us out of town to the remnants of the old stagecoach route from Elko to Hamilton, a mining town in the White Pine Mountains. Here we found evidence of another Cariboo personality, William Culverwell, who had recently “skedaddled” out of Barkerville to avoid paying his debts. Newspapers report that Culverwell was driving the stage from Elko to Hamilton during the period of 1869 through 1870.
Many disillusioned miners from BC were heading to Elko by train from the west coast and then heading off either on foot or by stage after news of the strikes hit. Word of the riches coming out of the White Pine Mountains in 1869 fueled all of them with hope that they might recoup the losses they had sustained in the Cariboo goldfields. Today, a portion of the historic Hamilton Stage Road is being carved into lots as part of a housing development.
Armed with maps, lunches and plenty of fuel, Richard and I made our way up into the White Pine Mountains in search of Hamilton, 8000 feet above sea level and the site of a rich strike of silver in 1869. We began filming our principal photography of the BONEPICKER PROJECT here in late February, 2015.
The ruins of Hamilton today. It is a desolate, cold, forbidding landscape, particularly in winter....We also found the old cemetery: a cold and lonely place to be laid to rest, to be sure.
Back down the mountain, Richard shot some “B roll” video, the shots which are so integral to knitting principal shooting elements together into a unified whole.
I had never been on camera in a documentary capacity, so this was new territory for me. Thanks to Richard for insisting that we purchase this bright red jacket for me to wear for the sequences. He was right. The colour “pops” against the drab, yet subtle beauty of the high desert landscape of Nevada.
Following the trail of Cariboo miners farther south along present day Highway 93, south of Ely, NV.
As we traveled this route in the comfort of our truck and travel trailer, I couldn’t help but wonder about the hardships and privations which early gold seekers went through in order to reach this inhospitable land: bitter cold in the winter, searing heat in the summer, though the landscape had an austere, unique beauty.
Richard and I found evidence of a few Cariboo miners who traveled here for its rich gold/silver strike in 1872.
We traced the location of an early settlement called Panaca Flats (south of Pioche), where the famous BC “miners’ angel”, Nellie Cashman, had a roadhouse during the 1870s. There is nothing on the landscape to mark the town site, but it was still fascinating to imagine a community here in these lonely, bleak mountains.
The town of Caliente, NV was the next stop on our route to uncovering the story of Cariboo miner, William Culverwell. We traced him here, to a town, which used to be named for his ranch: Culverwell Ranch. In later years, the town was renamed Caliente, in reference to the hot springs which were in the area.
These grasslands used to be part of Culverwell’s property in the 19th century. The family still has descendents living in the community today. Richard and I were fortunate in being able to meet with them and discuss their ancestors. They had no knowledge of their great uncle’s gold seeking past in the Cariboo Mountains of BC.
The old stone shed above was in use by William and his brother, Charles, when they first settled here in the 1870s. The old farm machinery is going to dust on property which used to be part of the Culverwell’s ranch.
More from the BONEPICKER research and film project in the next installment!