Along with the thousands of ghost towns scattered throughout the United States,

there are legends, stories, and hints of lost treasure.

Welcome to GHOST TOWN USA's Lost Treasure Legends!


One caveat:  PLEASE read and adhere to the Ghost Towners’ Code of Ethics..

This code of ethics also applies to treasure hunting in general. 





The Lost Gunsight Lode

Inyo County, CA


Gary B. Speck



            It was a snowy New Year's Day in 1850 and a party of Motherlode-bound emigrants were camped in an area west of Death Valley at a place called White Sage Flat.  They had originally been part of a 107 wagon group lead by Captain Jefferson Hunt.  This group of Fortyniners differed in opinion on the most direct route to in the gold fields, so on November 1, 1849  they left Captain Hunt's large group somewhere near Mountain Meadows, Utah.  This splinter group consisted of several smaller parties...the Jayhawkers (from Illinois),  the Georgia-Mississippi party (led by Captain Towne and Jim Martin), the Bennett-Arcane party,  the Brier and the Wade families.

            The Towne-Martin group had separated from the rest of the emigrants and hiked directly up and over the Panamints, wandering for several days before finding White Sage Flat, and establishing a camp.  The Jayhawkers and Briers left the Bennett-Arcane and Wade parties, and two days after leaving Poison Springs on the floor of Death Valley, they arrived at White Sage Flat, the day after the Towne-Martin group arrived.  When they arrived, they found Captain Towne carving a new gunsight for his rifle – out of pure native silver.  Some of the members of Towne's group had been miners in Georgia, and knew what silver looked like.  They showed the Jayhawkers some silver ore and explained that there was a lot more covering the top of a mesa just below the camp.

            Due to the life and death situation the group was in, having nearly exhausted all their food and water, they were more interested in survival, than in silver mining.  A month later, the nearly starved emigrants stumbled into Mariposa, at the southern end of the gold country.  Here they started a new life, most fading into obscurity.  But the memories of that rich silver remained.  As the years went by, the telling and retelling of the horrors of the Death Valley Fortyniners and their lost silver ore created a legend that refused to die.

            Near Fort Tejon, Dr. E. Darwin French , a New York doctor had established a ranch.  He originally arrived in California  with Captain Kearny's 1st Dragoons in 1846.  It was at his ranch that the next chapter in the saga of the Lost Gunsight Mine would begin.


            Shortly after the scattered and decimated emigrant groups had arrived in the gold country, one of the Towne group members, a Mr. Turner returned to search for the silver, but failed.  He ended up at Dr. French's ranch, and in September 1850 mounted a second expedition to search for the lost silver outcropping.  He took Dr. French with  him.  They poked and prodded and eventually ran across the remains of cattle bones and old campfires.  Unfortunately their supplies were running low, so they had to return to Dr. French's ranch.

            A number of other prospecting parties returned to the area also to search for the Lost Gunsight lode, but none were successful. 

            To actually be fair, there are several versions of the story.  Numerous claims by members of the various parties differ as to who actually found the silver.  The general where and when is not disputed, but the finder is.


But no matter who found it, and under what circumstances, the fact remains that the original discovery, and the several half-hearted attempts to locate it in 1850 were the key that eventually opened up the desert region for prospecting a mere decade later in 1860. 




Ghost Town USA and Gary B. Speck Publications endorse the mission, purpose and goals of the FMDAC and support the rights of metal detectorists, treasure hunters and relic hunters to responsibly enjoy their hobbies as long as they abide by the “Treasure Hunters Code of Ethics,” AND our own Ghost Towner's Code of Ethics. This support DOES NOT either imply, endorse or condone violations of that code of ethics, nor does it give permission for anyone to damage or destroy historical sites; violate any local, state or federal laws; trespass or infringe on the legal rights of landowners.




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FIRST POSTED: February 07, 2004

LAST UPDATED: December 17, 2007



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