By Mabel Plaskett

             Plaskett Ridge is a broad, open ridge running up from the south end of Pacific Valley toward the summit of the coast range where the Nacimiento road crosses it on the way to the coast road. It lies between Plaskett Creek on the north and Willow Creek on the south with side ridges running down on either side.

            There are at least a dozen mining claims in this area, some of them having produced many thousands of dollars’ worth of gold over the years before the price dropped so low that the output would not warrant the cost of operating the mines.

            Owners of these claims are careful to keep up the assessment work, necessary unless the claims are patented, hoping the day will come when it will be worthwhile to make it a full time occupation.

            The first mine on Plaskett Ridge was “The Western Star” discovered and worked by the older Plasketts, Reason and Marion. They dug out the ore with pick and s hovel and hauled it in large canvas sacks on sleds drawn by a stout mule to an arrastra built by Grandfather Plaskett (William Lucas, the patriarch of the clan) about 1885.

            AN ARRASTRA is a device built to grind the ore, a circular tank or box of wood are each made water tight with a center post. The ore was put in under a heavy rock which was attached to a shaft to be drug around by the power of a water wheel or by a blindfolded mule or donkey. This particular one was built above the old orchard (now part of the Plaskett Creek Campground) and was run by a water wheel in the creek above.

            “The Western Star” was abandoned after a few years and in 1911, a year of great mining activity on Plaskett Ridge, Alonzo Davis of Santa Maria, relocated the claim naming it “The Bull Frog.” He was married to Lucy Plaskett, daughter of Byron and Martha and with their family of three boys, lived several years on the ridge working the claim.

            The Bull Frog is ideally situated in a small clearing near a spring surrounded by live oaks. This is well up on the north side of the ridge about four miles from the coast road. The Davis boys, Lonnie, Alfred and Adrian come up from Santa Maria each year to do the assessment work.

            IN MAY, 1911 Dudley Plaskett, son of Byron, found several small nuggets of solid gold at the mouth of Plaskett Creek near the beach. Following the creek, he came to a large landslide on the steep north side of Plaskett Ridge exposing a large quantity of gold bearing quartz.

            Dudley located a claim calling it “The Ocean View.” His brothers Lawson and Ed located “The Lilac” and “The Blackberry” claims, all joining.

            The Plasketts went to San Francisco and bought a mill for processing the ore which was sent to the mint in San Francisco. They took out around $30,000 worth of ore and then leased the claims to various miners.

            Billy Cruickshank, Jim Trickle and John Bushnell all worked the mine. These were able, honest hardworking men who knew every phase of mining as that had been their life work.

            It is thought that close to $100,000 has actually been taken from these mines.

            UNFORTUNATELY one of the miners, Lawrence Cardoza of Mexico, turned out to be a “high grader” and after a successful run of the mill, absconded with the gold and was never again heard of. Finally the gold vein dwindled and work on the mines stopped except for intervals. These claims are patented and now are owned by the heirs of William E. Plaskett.

            Soon after the discovery of gold on the ridge, “The Hollyberry” claim was located on Plaskett Creek by Marion Plaskett, who did a great deal of work here. He also used an arrastra ran by water power, which can be seen to this day.

            This claim (also patented) is one mile above the Campground. Giant redwoods shade the ferns growing in profusion along the creek, which below the cabin flows through a narrow gorge of solid rock to fall in beautiful cascades into a pool 50 feet below. This is a truly lovely sight and a favorite spot on a warm day.

            “THE HOLLYBERRY”, after passing through several hands, is now owned by Laurence O. Anderson of North Hollywood. Seeing the place in 1940, he was fascinated by its beauty and in 1945 he bought the claim at public auction after the death of the owner.

            The Anderson’s, with family and friends, make frequent trips to this secluded hideaway to relax from the rigors of a busy life in the city.

            Just above the Davis mine is one owned by Tom Watson of Salinas. This mine shows good “color” as a showing of pay dirt is called by miners and Mr. Watson is doing extensive excavation work.

            John Bushnell located the “Queen Hattie” claims on the south side of the ridge around 1910 and these proved to be good prospects. Above the cabin is an incline shaft from which the ore was brought on a narrow sled to the arrastra, operated by a blindfolded mule going round in a circle.

            Below the Queen Hattie on the Dogvine was the “Green Gold Claim” also owned by John Bushnell. The story of the discovery of this claim is unique.

            WALTER DIXON, John’s stepson, while walking up the steep trail missed his step and in falling grasped a lilac bush which came out by its roots exposing a fine prospect of greenish colored ore. The Green Gold yielded a goodly sum, a great deal of it in nugget form.

            Just last year Fred Vaughn found a large nugget on Dogvine on the spot where Bushnells cabin had burned. Stewart Kindler later acquired the Bushnell mines in Dogvine. He takes care of the annual assessment work and plans to live there permanently in due time.

            Jerry Doyle and Bruce McCausland also own placer claims on Dogvine. Bruce recently found several gold nuggets on his claim. Dogvine is a tributary of Willow Creek running into it on the north.

            After John Bushnell, Fred Stalter, better known as “Hickey,” acquired the “Queen Hattie No. 1” and the old “Goodrich Mine”, which joined it. Ben Olsen of Monterey owns “Queen Hattie No. 2”.

            HICKEY WAS a colorful character. He worked with Queen Hattie and lived there raising chickens on the side. He made frequent trips to Monterey for feed and was known and loved by everyone between Gorda and Monterey. His sister Dell Dawson of Pacific Grove although in her 90’s spent the summers at the mine with Hickey until a short time before his death in October, 1958. He was found dead in his cabin on the Queen Hattie, and was mourned by one and all. Marty Hess, to whom Hickey had sold his “Goodrich Mine” in 1957 put up a memorial plaque for him on the ridge above the “Queen Hattie.”

            Later Hickey’s heirs sold the mine to Marty Hess. Marty Hess passed through this way in 1936 on his way to Los Angeles. A short time before he had seen a lady come in to the State Mining Bureau in San Francisco while he was talking with Henry Symons, a state mining engineer. She had a large piece of high grade rock which she said was Monterey gold.

            His interest aroused, Mr. Hess inquired about Los Burros mining activity on his way through. Other mining activities took his time, but he never lost interest and visited the Monterey coast as often as possible, believing someday to settle there.

            IN 1948 AND ’49 Marty Hess, a former student in the Nevada School of Mines worked for the state of Nevada as a mining instructor. He ran a traveling prospectors’ school for radioactive minerals, the first school of its kind in the United States. During this time he made many friends in the mining industry, among them Alfred Wouk of Skagway, Alaska, now a partner of Hess. Wouk frequently visits the mine.

            In 1957, Hess’ dream came true and he bought the “Goodrich Mine” from his friend “Hickey” Stalter. This mine lies in a hollow on the south side of Plaskett Ridge just below the crest of the hill.

            A large sycamore tree grows above the mine with a cold spring gushing out at its roots It is said that very rich ore is buried beneath the tree and some of those working the mine have been tempted to cut the sycamore to obtain the gold. This, Marty Hess declares, shall never be done.   

            This mine was discovered by a man named Goodrich hence its name. This was in the early mining days. Later a man named Lilly worked the mine and various others before Hickey Stalter got it. Years ago Frank Gilbert of Monterey (now dead) worked the mine and it was he who ran the long tunnel. He started down the draw out of sight and cut a tunnel 300 feet straight toward the Queen Hattie (adjoining but over the ridge) hoping to tap the rich ore of the Queen Hattie which at that time belonged to John Bushnell.

            JOHN BUSHNELL, however, was not asleep and when the tunnel reached the approximate line between the two claims the sheriff was called in and the work on the tunnel came to a stop.

            Now both claims are owned by Marty Hess, who with his wife, Concha, spends as much time as possible working them. They plan on making their permanent home here.

            Below the “Goodrich Mine” is the “Logwood Claim” located by Joe Logwood sometime in the 1890’s. This claim now belongs to Luneta Thelen of Gorda who also owns “The Blackbird”, “The Buzzard” and “The Crow” which she recently purchased from Fred Vaugh. These claims are situated below the “Queen Hattie” on the north side of Willow Creek. All of these claims show good prospects and the owners are conscientious about their assessment work.

            There are many abandoned claims on the ridge, among them “The Red Spider” located by William Plaskett in the early days. One sees as they wander over the hills, old “workings” of these abandoned mines, muted evidence of lost hopes and dreams. However, the “following of the rainbow” is the real thrill for he with the quest for adventure in his heart.

Mabel Plaskett
Author Mabel Plaskett

Mabel Sans Plaskett was born in Coralitas near Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz Mountain area of California. Her father Edward Robert Sans ran a saw mill near Pacific Valley, along the Nacimiento – Ferguson road to the coast at Highway One. It was there she met Edward Abbott Plaskett, her husband. Mabel wrote about the coast and the pioneers of the 19th and 20th Centuries.