The history of Mt. Shasta is thick with adventurous tales of lost treasures and hidden mines, containing glowing
caches of golden wealth beyond imagining.
Gold miners make some of the most imaginative storytellers in the
Old West, but in all the annals of folklore spun by the fortune-seeking hoards who flocked to this region in the
1850’s, there’s at least one story that did in fact lead to a real treasure beyond all imagining, which probably tops
them all. . . .
This tale begins in Yreka, California, an early boomtown founded during the heydays of the gold rush era.
do much digging into the early legends of the Pacific Northwest, along with stories about Sasquatch and Mt.
Shasta’s Lemurian underground caverns full of gold, you’ll inevitably come across many tales of lost mines and
buried treasures containing unimaginable riches waiting to be discovered. One of the earliest and most oft-told
tales of this kind is the “Lost Cabin Mine”.
The legend of the “Lost Cabin Mine” is believed to have originated during the gold-rush era in Northern
California, but inevitably spread to other states, with various details changing with each re-telling.
of Crescent City, California, by some accounts, was due to some wandering prospector searching for the fabled
mine in vicinity of the tall redwoods along the northern Pacific coast. The following account comes from A.J.
Bledsoe, writing in 1855:
“In the very earliest days of mining excitement in California, a miner more adventurous than his fellows, armed
with his rifle and supplied with necessary mining implements, crossed the Coast Range and prospected in the
gulches and ravines of the foothills near the sea-shore.
One lucky day he ‘struck it rich.’ The rich earth yielded
its yellow treasures in abundance, and the solitary miner erected a cabin in the wilderness, with the sole thought
of amassing a fortune and returning to home and friends in the East. And there in the ‘forest primeval’ with giant
trees towering above him, the lonely gold-hunter toiled as if for life, day by day, for many weary months, adding
to his store of gold until it amounted to a fabulous sum.
The prowling Indians found his retreat at last, and
attacking him in overwhelming numbers left him senseless on the ground, apparently dead.
The treasure was too
well hidden to be easily found, and failing in their search for it, the savages set fire to the cabin, burning it to
When they had gone, the miner recovered consciousness, but not his reason--the light of his mind had
gone out, and left a flickering flame of disconnected thought.
Bereft of his reason, he wandered out of the forest
and into the home of civilization.
How he succeeded in finding his way back to his friends in the East the legend
But (so the story goes) he did succeed in reaching home and there, after a brief period, he died.
his death his reason returned to him, and calling his friends around him he told them the story of his hidden
treasure, describing minutely the locality of the cabin, and from the account he gave, it was evident that the lost
cabin was situated somewhere on the northern coast of California.”
For many a summer, prospectors tramped through the mountains and wilds of northern California hunting for
lost cabins or their ruins, following a trail of shadowy rumors from place to place. As time passed, the tales of
the lost cabin spread to other states and became more bizarre and fantastical; some say that the lost cabin was
guarded by the skeleton of a grizzly bear, or an angry Sasquatch, or the forlorn ghost of the old miner himself. . .
During the glory days of the gold-rush, one lucky and garrulous miner showed up in Yreka, California, with a
whole lotta’ gold which he squandered away in the town’s saloons over the long winters. This fellow had the
habit of swaggering into a saloon and tossing the bartender a piece of gold, hollering: “Set ‘em up for the
Naturally, he made a lot of thirsty friends in Yreka over the years, who took to calling him ‘Set ‘em up!’. Whatever
his real name was is lost to history.
The next spring, reportedly, Set-em-up would head out once again into the wilds, always alone, and return to
Yreka again in the fall with more loads of gold, where he kept the town’s population happily drunk with whiskey
all through the winter months.
For all his loose spending and drinking, Set-em-up never let himself get drunk enough to accidentally let slip the
exact location of his secret gold cache; but in a rare unguarded moment he did mention that his mine and cabin
was somewhere up in Southern Oregon, and not in the hills of northern California as many suspected.
After the winter thaw, Set-em-up packed up and headed north for the summer, as was his habit—and he was
never seen or heard of again.
Throughout the winter of 1853, the townfolk of Yreka suffered through a depressing shortfall of free whiskey
with the loss of their benefactor. Nobody knew what kind of tragedy might have befallen Set-em-up, but something
else was on their mind . . . somewhere out there was an abandoned mine containing untold wealth, just
waiting to be reclaimed.
One old miner said he’d been drinking with Set-em-up one night, and been told the general location where Setem-
up’s cabin might be found; and so in the spring of 1853 a group of miners packed up and set out to find it.
The miner’s search party got a little bigger at Table Rock City (now the site of Jacksonville, Oregon) because
some of the Yrekan boy’s got a little too drunk, and talked too much. Some of the Oregon miner’s decided they
were going to follow the Yrekans, whether they were invited or not. Unable to shake them, the Californian’s reluctantly
agreed to team up with other miner’s and pressed forward.
Well, the party never did find Set-em-up’s lost cabin, nor his mine. But they did find another treasure. On a hunting
expedition, combing through the mountains of southern Oregon in hopes of finding an animal to eat, one of
the Table Rock City prospectors, John Hillman, was riding a mule along a high ridge when the animal suddenly
lurched to a stop and would not budge. Hillman looked down and saw that the beast had come right to the rim of
a huge crater with a brilliant blue lake at its bottom.
“Not until my mule stopped within a few feet of the rim of Crater Lake did I look down,” Hillman later wrote,
“and if I had been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the edge to death and destruction.”
Image Credit: Crater Lake Institute - Prospector John W. Hillman of Table Rock City (Jacksonville)
was the first American of European descent to see Crater Lake, and he nearly fell into it. This image was made
later in Hillman’s life.
In that moment, John Hillman became the first person of European descent to lay eyes on what we now know as
The party’s provisions were depleted and the miner’s were getting weak with hunger, and there was nothing
more for them to do but journey back to Table Rock City. On the way back, they talked about the lake, debating
whether to call it “Mysterious Lake” or “Deep Blue Lake”.
Back in Table Rock City the other miners considered this a total bust. They didn’t care about some stupid lake;
they wanted Set-em-up’s gold, and that had not been found.
Also, the local Native Americans were restless and
— perhaps having heard some rumors of how their counterparts in northern California were being treated — increasingly
hostile. The miner’s of Table Rock City had other fortunes to chase after, and so Deep Blue Lake was
forgotten about until nine years later, when it was rediscovered by another party.
As for the Lost Cabin Gold Mine, well . . . there are people still out there looking for it today. So far as anyone
knows, it has never been found.
But then, if you found it . . . would you tell anyone?
Written by Dustin Naef - MessageToEagle.com Contributor
Source: (Sources: Hult, Ruby El. Lost Mines and Treasures of the Pacific Northwest. Portland: Binford, 1957;
Harmon, Rick. Crater Lake National Park: A History. Corvallis: OSU Press, 2002; craterlakeinstitute.com)
Note: My next article in this series should be of especial interest to Ghost Hunters, and relates some paranormal
legends about how some mysterious phenomenon would lead treasure-hunters to buried caches of gold and silver.
About the author: Dustin Naef has
been a student of ancient mysteries and the paranormal for as long as he can remember.
He has worked in screenwriting, graphic design and illustration, produced and designed video best-selling games, and is
currently involved in the production of a film documentary and book about the mysteries surrounding Mount Shasta, California.
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