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New Leads From A Lost Ledge

By Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff

I have searched through bookstores, swap meets, and garage sales to find maps, magazines, and books that had anything to do with gold or lost treasure. Many times when I get a lead I can now go to my own library and research to my hearts' content.

While I was at a local prospecting shop I overheard someone mention "The Indian Squaws' Lost Ledge." The missing ledge of gold is said to be lost somewhere in Fish Canyon and that wasn't far from where we were in Azusa.

After hearing of the lost ledge of gold I headed home to see what I could dig up on the story. A treasure hunter has got to have a detectives' blood running through his veins. When a story is heard, true or not, we should always check out all leads and follow them up. Most of all though be prepared for anything.

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A great reference book by Thomas Probert helped pull the leads together.

The story takes place near Azusa, California, at the mouth of the beautiful San Gabriel river. This is Southern California's gold country. Gold has been mined here since the mid 1850's according to the newspapers of the time, but there are also stories of Indians possessing gold jewelry in this area prior to the opening of the San Gabriel Mission in 1771. Fish Canyon is just two miles off the Foothill Freeway just west of Azusa.

In a great reference book called "Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of the West" by Thomas Probert, I found my first lead. It was an article in Pioneer West Magazine printed in July of 1970. Somewhere in the garage were old copies of True West, Real West, and much to my delight, Pioneer West. With this lead and two others I found later, I was now armed with the treasure story.

The story goes like this. In the entrance to Fish Canyon sometime around the year 1880 an Indian squaw tended her herd of sheep. During the course of the day a mountain lion attacked one of the sheep. In the scuffle most of the other sheep took off up the canyon in all directions. She spent most of the day rounding up the rest of the herd. While looking for the sheep she came upon an outcropping of rock that sparkled with gold. The squaw broke off some of the gold-filled quartz rock and put it in her pocket. A few days later the Indian woman was in the nearby town of Monrovia and sold the chunks to a jewelry dealer there who was amazed to see such fine "jewelry rock" as it is known. The woman brought gold-bearing quartz to the dealer many times, but for as many times as he would ask the whereabouts of the ledge, the Indian woman would refuse to divulge any details. She would only say it was in Fish Canyon.

Well, to me it was worth at least a look see, so I grabbed my pack and hammer and headed down the freeway to the Irwindale exit and then turned north on the first street that headed towards the canyon. At the end of the road a locked gate belonging to a rock and gravel company greeted me. I got out of my truck and walked up to the gate. A guard came from behind the brush and asked if he could help me. I explained I wanted to prospect in the canyon. The guard smiled and produced a form for me to sign, which released the rock company from any responsibility while I hiked half a mile through their property to the start of the National Forest. I thanked him and set out on my hunt. Once through the quarry I was amazed to see such beauty only a few miles from the freeway. The canyon had been blocked since the rock company got its permit in 1956. Little has been said about Fish Canyon and thanks to the blocked entrance it has seen very few visitors. My hopes soared. Perhaps there was a chance I could find the lost ledge!

The trail rises up from the creek bed 50 feet or so and winds along the contours of the west slope of the canyon. On your left are sheer cliffs rising up and on your right a good tumble through rock, Spanish Daggers, and alder trees on down to the creek. All along the trail I'm eyeing the rock formations and the offshoot canyons for the Indian woman's ledge.

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This beautiful twisted live oak led to cabin site discovery.

Suddenly I find myself in an area that just doesn't fit with the rest of the picture. There were beautiful twisted live oaks, flowers that didn't seem natural here, and cacti that were planted in rows. There were also pines that normally grew in higher elevations. I went through some of the brush taking my chances with the poison oak until I broke into a clearing that had in the center of it a handrail that extended for a length of nearly eight feet. As I approached the Iron rail I could see flagstone steps lying next to it. The handrail led up to the foundation of a cabin. Further investigating led to other foundations, fireplaces, and even a few wells that were covered over with flagstone and the overgrowth of at least forty years. I counted over twelve sites and it looked like more could be on the other side of the creek. I found some old rusted kitchen utensils and a few metal bed frames typical of the forty's period.

Though I was very pleased with my find I continued on my search for the lost ledge. Further up the trail I spotted an outcropping of quartz with a small hole just to the right of it. It was up on the canyon side above me and surrounded by a gnarly looking cactus patch. Was this the "Lost Squaws Ledge?" It didn't appear to be lost to me, just hard to get to. I had to check it out. This wily spot took nearly an hour of fumbling around in the brush to figure out how to get to it. Finally after scrambling up a few boulders and across a small wash, I practically fell into another cabin site. This one was really hidden well. A chimney rose up eight feet from the ruins. Behind the site a small trail less then a foot wide meandered through the cactus up to the mine. It was a quartz outcropping that had been tunneled into a depth of only four feet. Hardly worth the fifteen or so jabs I received on the way up to it. I dug in the loose dirt on the floor and found some lead from hunters' bullets and a button from a military jacket. It didn't appear to be very old however. I chiseled off some quartz chunks that I could check out later.

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Fish Canyon Falls

Soon I was back on the trail. It switched back higher up in the canyon and then finally drops to the creek again about two miles in. The trail then crossed the creek and rose high above the east slope, somewhat dizzying in spots. Within a short distance around a turn there came into view a shaded amphitheater with two deep green pools and there rising above them in a step like fashion was an eighty five foot waterfall! It was spectacular! This was an extremely beautiful, and lush area. What a great place to hike to, have a picnic, and take a dip in one of the pools. Later in one of my reference books I found a photo of people doing just that taken in the early fifties.

After enjoying a leisurely lunch at the falls I headed back the three miles to civilization. I didn't find "The Indian Squaws Lost Ledge" that day but I did find some new leads to check out at a later date. The cabin sites would be a good place to work with a metal detector as would around the falls where people would swim. I also think the wells may hold some old bottles and there must be a dumpsite close by to discover.

In general I had a great day that I surely won't forget. I hope to get back soon to check out my new leads and try again for the lost ledge.


SOURCE DOCUMENTATION

1. James Klien, Where To Find Gold In Southern California, Ward Ritchie Press, 1975.
2. Thomas Probert, Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of the West, University of California Press, 1977
3. Thomas Penfield, A Guide to Treasure in California, True Treasure publications, 1972.
4. Pioneer West, July 1970, 10 True Tales of Buried Treasure, Gerry Fleming.
5. Jake Brouwer, a personal experience that occurred in Azusa, California in 1993.

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