Sunday, March 2, 2014

Saddle Ridge Gold not connected to 1901 SF Mint Heist

Dear Readers,

The pictures below are provided by the "Saddle Ridge Hoard" discoverers via Kagin's, Inc.. The picture shows the decaying metal canisters filled with 1800s-era U.S. gold coins unearthed in California by two people who were out walking their dog.

If you look closely to the can on the right, you can see that the coins are different sizes.

Yup, the coins pictured above are an impressive site! I'm certain we've all heard the story by now about the Northern California couple out walking their dog on their Gold Country property. Yes, they simply stumbled across the modern-day bonanza: $10 million worth in rare, mint-condition gold coins, all buried in the shadow of an old tree.

Nearly all of the 1,427 coins, dating from 1847 to 1894, are in uncirculated, mint condition, said David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service of Santa Ana, which recently authenticated them. Although the face value of the gold pieces only adds up to about $27,000 - some of them are so rare that coin experts say they could fetch nearly $1 million each.

What makes their find particularly valuable, McCarthy said, is that almost all of the coins are in "near-perfect" condition. That means that whoever put them into the ground likely socked them away as soon as they were put into circulation. And because paper money was actually illegal in California until the 1870s, he added, "it's extremely rare to find any coins from before that of such high quality."

"It wasn't really until the 1880s that you start seeing coins struck in California that were kept in real high grades of preservation," he said.

Of course, there is always the chance that they never entered circulation? Yes, it could have been stolen loot from some bank which just received them from the U.S. Mint.

The Saddle Ridge coins, are said to be in $5, $10 and $20 denominations, mostly $20 gold double eagles. They were stored more or less in chronological order, McCarthy said, with the 1840s and 1850s pieces going into one canister until it was filed, then new coins going into the next one and the next one after that.

The dates and the method indicated that whoever put them there was using the ground as their personal bank and that they weren't swooped up all at once in a robbery. Although most of the coins were minted in San Francisco, one $5 gold piece came from as far away as Georgia.

The finder's property is in a sprawling hilly area of the California Gold Country and the coins were found along a path the couple had walked for years. On the day they found them last spring, the woman had bent over to examine an old rusty can that erosion had caused to pop slightly out of the ground.

"Don't be above bending over to check on a rusty can," he said she told him.

If you look close at the top left hand side of the can in the picture above, you can see the edge of a gold coin partially in the dirt but exposed because the can had deteriorated so bad. They are located on a section of the property the couple nicknamed Saddle Ridge, and Kagin is calling the find "The Saddle Ridge Hoard." He believes it could be the largest such discovery in U.S. history.

Reports said that one of the largest previous finds of gold coins was $1 million worth uncovered by construction workers in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1985. And  more than 400,000 silver dollars were found in the home of a Reno, Nevada, man who died in 1974 and were later sold intact for $7.3 million.

Gold coins and ingots said to be worth as much as $130 million were recovered in the 1980s from the wreck of the SS Central America. But then again, historians knew roughly where that gold was because the ship went down off the coast of North Carolina during a hurricane in 1857.

So how did $27,000 in the 1890s, which would be equal to well over $600,000 today, come to be buried there?

Well, believe it or not, there is a lot of buried treasure out there -- and California definitely has its share buried here and there still not found. Of course, there is the fact that bandits, or thieves, or bank or stagecoach robbers were killed by a posse before finding out when the loot was buried was a real possibility.

Fact is, it was not that unusual, during the chase with the posse right on their heels that bad men would bury the loot with the wishful thinking of coming back later to retrieve it. A bullet or a short drop and a sudden stop from a tall tree has made many a lost treasure.

We should also remember that back then people didn't trust banks. We have to remember that not until the 1930's when the FDIC was created and insured banks, and subsequently bank accounts, did a lot of people stop stashing away all their money in hiding spots like in a mattress or buried in a tin can out by the barn.

In fact, I know someone who buried over $20,000 in twenties, fifties, and hundreds, in tin cans in his back yard over by his horse pens. And yes, it was only known to him. No kidding! It's true! The only reason he dug it up was to buy a new Ford pickup that he wanted to get using cash.

Thankfully, my friend is still with us. But in the past, often folks died before retrieving their stored cash. When that happens, someone else might stumble upon it later - maybe many many years later - or it simply stays lost. As with this latest find, there are ways to figure out what happened.

Let's look at the big heists at the time and some bandits who may have been killed before revealing where they buried their loot!

When trying to tie the Saddle Ridge Treasure to the different robberies, we should first look at all of the "lost gold" in California after the date of the latest date of the coins.

In the case of Saddle Ridge, it is a $20 gold double eagle dated 1894. For me, my immediate thoughts went to outlaw Rattlesnake Dick. But for the life of me, I couldn't remember what period he was in.

You see, the outlaw Rattlesnake Dick did in fact bury $40,000 in gold bullion near an old mule train trail on the side of the Trinity River in 1856. It has never been recovered. The Rattlesnake Dick outlaw gang is also said to have buried $80,000 in gold coins in the area of Clear Creek, and $50,000 in gold dust and nuggets remains buried on the old Soda Creek Trail near Soda Springs.

In 1876, another gang of outlaws made off with $123,000 in gold bullion from a stagecoach. The bandits reportedly buried the treasure somewhere in the vicinity of Mytrletowne, about 8 miles east of Eureka. It was never recovered.

Loot from a September, 1890 stage holdup was buried in the vicinity of the robbery, a half mile off the road and about 6 miles out of Redding heading towards Centerville. A large cache of gold coins were taken from the strongbox as well as about $800 in passenger's valuables. None was ever recovered.

In 1892, while delivering a mine payroll of coins to the Great Western Quicksilver Mines over a steep road below the mine, the horses became frightened and backed the wagon over a steep grade, scattering money all over the hillside and canyon. Some of it was never recovered.

In 1892, John Ruggles and his brother Charles robbed a stagecoach in the Blue Cut. One of the men was wounded in the holdup and a guard on the stage killed.

The Ruggles Brothers robbed a stagecoach in 1892 of $50,000 in gold on the old stage route between Weaverville and Redding, the holdup taking place about 1 mile past Shasta. Charles, one of the brothers, was badly wounded in the holdup and left behind as John Ruggles rode off with the loot.

So yes, somewhere between Shasta and Woodland on a lonely 125 mile long trail, John Ruggles buried the $50,000 in gold. It has never been found. The two were captured by lawmen later and revealed that they had open the Wells Fargo strongbox to take out enough money to make their getaway. They buried the rest down the side of a gulch to a creek which paralleled the stage road to Redding on Red Bluff. After their confessions, the pair was lynched by an angry mob and the search was underway for the treasure cache.

It was never recovered and remains buried somewhere in the area of what is known today as "Ruggles Boys Gulch". Some sources place the value at $17,000 in gold bars while others claimed it contained between $25,000 and $75,000 in gold coins.

Bandits buried a cache of loot in 1893 at Adams Point on Lake Merritt. One of the bandits was killed and the other was arrested and sent to prison where he died. The cache has yet to be found.

In 1894, a worker at the San Francisco mint made off with 290 pounds of gold and buried it near Shelter Cover. He was captured and sent to prison for his crime, but refused to reveal the exact location of the loot. It was never found.

Also in 1894, $50,000 was stolen in a robbery of a Southern Pacific Overland Express robbery out of Sacramento. One half of this hoard was buried near Sheep Camp, a hobo jungle that was close to the city at the time of the robbery. It was yet to be recovered.

A miner named Mayberry took over $40,000 in gold from his claim at Bloody Run and buried it near his cabin. Robbers attempted to learn where his gold was buried and, when Mayberry refused to tell them where it was, they killed him. His gold has never been found.

In 1895, two outlaws stole $50,000 in gold coins from a Wells Fargo shipment in a Union Pacific Railroad train robbery and buried the cache in the area of a hobo jungle just outside Washington. A hobo named John Harmons witnessed the burial, dug it up and took $5,000 from the sacks, reburying the rest a short distance away. Harmons went on a long drinking spree and when he returned for more money, he was unable to relocate the burial site and the $45,000 was never recovered.

A man by the name of Hines lived in the area of Strawberry Valley area in the late 1800's. He is known to have accumulated about 30 pounds of gold from his prospecting trips which he buried somewhere in or near his house. Hines died in 1897 and his cache of gold was never found.

Between $18,000 and $22,000 in gold coins was buried by a Basque sheepherder about 7 miles from Loyalton, a short ways up Six Mile Canyon near a large, tall pine tree. The cache has never been found.

Buried in it, or nearby, is the life savings of an old man who died suddenly from food poisoning. The miner was known to have had several thousand dollars in coins and bills which was never found after his death.

"Big Jim" Fisher built a cabin in the late 1890's at the big bend of Canyon Creek, about 200 yards up the hillside. Fisher took on a mining partner, Frank Keenan, who built a cabin on the lower end of Keenan Ditch, and a third partner named Frank Howell who moved into a cabin at the mouth of Fisher Gulch.

The men worked the rich placer area and acquired many lard and tobacco cans full of gold nuggets which they hid at various spots around their respective cabins. They enlisted a blacksmith to construct 3 copper boxes, each 10 x 12 x 12 inches, and each man had his own chest.

Fisher buried his gold-filled chest in the blue slide below the ditch near his cabin. Keenan buried his box near his cabin in Butcher Gulch, near the end of the ditch. Howell's chest was buried in the rocks behind his cabin. Howell died of a rattlesnake bite a short time later and his chest of nuggets was never found.

Fisher and Keenan continued to work the rich creek for years afterwards and there is no record of these frugal partners ever having spent, or removing, their chests of gold. The two died of natural causes and their chest of gold were never recovered.

It's also believed that many smaller caches of gold remain hidden in the same area, about 20 miles northwest of Weaverville and just north of the Canyon Creek Bridge. Because Rattlesnake Dick, Big Jim Fisher and the many of the rest were either dead and only memories, or were never involved in the amount of the Saddle Ridge cache, we can actually rule out many of them when the Saddle Ridge Hoard was stashed away.

Here's another possibility where the Sandy Ridge coins may have come from. Then again, probably not?

The first thing that we should ask is if there were many big robberies after the minting of the latest coin which would be 1894? As we can see, there were certainly a few on the list above. Some were pretty big hauls during that time. But then again, none of those robberies fit the situation as we know it. 

So let's use some of the clues that we do have to help us to try to narrow down the "who" and "where" to at least a few reasonably choices. Remember, we have to understand that this is all pure speculation as we will probably never for fact know where the coins came from.

The first clue is that we can rule out any robbery before the new 1894 coins were minted. And as you can see from the dates of the robberies and such, that by itself scratched off quite a few of the lost treasures in California.

Second, the news reports about the Sandy Ridge Treasure said something which I'm sure most folks would find interesting. The news stated that the coins were all "uncirculated" and "almost perfect." One of the coins is said to be in better condition than the one of its kind which is on display at the Smithsonian Institute. So let's remember that they were all "uncirculated" to near-perfect gold coins.

Taking these things into consideration, one account fits the best as to where the Sandy Ridge Treasure came from. Could this be where the coins came from?

Is it from the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901?

Like me, many are going through California newspapers, the ones that were in print around the late 1800's and early 1900's, to try to find something that may be the answer.

What I found about the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901 was interesting, so let's take a look. As for my sources? Well, most of my information pertaining to the Saddle Ridge Hoard have come from what we have all been told on television and on multiple news outlets.

As for my knowledge of what was taken from the San Francisco Mint in 1901, it came from various articles including an article, Mint Robbery Is Unsolved, printed in The San Francisco Call on July 7th, 1901. The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper also had a small article on the robbery on September 28th, 1901 on Page 7. And yes, there was a note found in the Bulletin of The American Iron and Steel Association from 1901.

The latter was an industry newsletter published every two weeks by an organization now known as the American Iron and Steel Institute. It had these few lines on the August 10th, 1901 edition:

"The sum of $30,000 in gold coin has recently been stolen from the vault of the cashier of the San Francisco Mint. No trace has been found of the missing gold."

All of the sources that I found gave the some of $30,000. But the sum total of the coins found is said to only be $27,000. So this find may have been from another heist.

The newspapers all pointed to "an inside job," and to the San Francisco Mint's chief cashier Walter Dimmick. The San Francisco Call stated there were six sacks of $20 gold double eagle coins stolen from the San Francisco mint, and all employees at the mint were being questioned.

So no, there were no outlaws being pursued by a posse to such an extent that they decided to simply bury their loot and return for it later.

While it sounds like it would be a great Western with a posse chase and all, that's not how it went. Fact is the United States Secret Service was called in. No posse was involved because Mr. Dimmick quickly became the prime suspect.

After all, he was the last person to see the missing gold coins and had already been caught practicing how to forge the Superintendent’s name. And yes, Dimmick even tried to say that it was not a theft but "just an accounting error".

Walter Dimmick worked as a clerk at the San Francisco Mint between 1898 and 1901. While he began working at the mint in 1898, by 1901 he was trusted with the keys to the vaults. That is until an audit revealed a $30,000 shortage in gold coins. Six bags in all.

The U.S. Mint describes how the San Francisco Mint discovered that six bags of gold coins worth $30,000 had gone missing:

"Since Dimmick had already been caught learning to sign the Superintendent's name, forgery, taking money from the pay envelopes of other Mint employees, theft, and stealing other government funds in his care, a jury eventually found him guilty of stealing the $30,000 in gold double eagles and of two other charges.”

After a month-long trial, Walter Dimmick was convicted of stealing the coins and sentenced to nine years at the San Quentin prison in California. Walter Dimmick went to prison and the $20 gold double eagle coins were never found The coins that Dimmick stole were never found, leaving some to now wonder if the Saddle Ridge Hoard is the very same 1,500 coins that were stolen from the mint? So could this recent discovery be them?

Well, no, I don't think so. I really don't believe the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901 is linked to the Saddle Ridge Treasure.

To my way of thinking, there are too many inconsistencies here. First, the San Francisco Mint reported that all of the sacks of coins contained $20 double eagle gold coins.

This does not match all reports about the Saddle Ridge coins. All of the reports say the same thing in that there are $5, $10, and $20 gold coins. Yes, they are an assortment of different denominations than what was stolen from the San Francisco Mint in 1901.

Heck, even the San Francisco Mint confirmed that the 6 bags were in fact only $20 gold double eagles. So the fact that there are different denominations that were found in the Saddle Ridge find should in itself rule out the possibility that they are connected. 

Second, the San Francisco Mint was opened in 1854. That's seven years after the 1847 coin in the Saddle Ridge Treasure was minted.

Third, according to 1901 reports, Mr. Dimmick stole 1,500 coins.  But that's 73 dollar size coins more than the 1,427 that were discovered by the two folks out walking their dog.

Friends, if Dimmick did in fact take 73 gold double eagles, then why didn't he just take a single sack of the six sacks that went missing? Why just 73 coins? And how does anyone know he did take 73 coins in the first place? That's just speculation on the part of people trying to connect the two.

Fact is, no one can prove those coins from the Saddle Ridge discovery are the ones that Mr. Dimmick allegedly stole. And honestly, there is no proof that the Saddle Ridge Treasure ever had more than what was there when those two folks found it.

I read on article where the author said, "there is a similarity" when there is not one. Fact is, no one alive can prove that there was ever more than the 1,427 assorted denominations from whatever robbery they came from. And certainly, just the assorted denominations alone should rule out the possibility that the discovery came from the 1901 San Francisco Mint robbery.

No one can prove that there were 1,500 or 15,000, or that some bandit decided to take 73 for some reason. It's the same as with the amount, I've actually read where one author wrote, "$27,000 is close enough to $30,000 to be the same heist."

No, it's not. Even if every one of the supposed "missing 73" coins were $20 gold pieces, it still would not amount to the amount stolen in the 1901 San Francisco Mint robbery. Remember that the San Francisco Mint reported that the 6 bags were only $20 gold double eagles minted there. And, that they amounted to the sum of $30,000 in $20 gold pieces.
Since that is an undisputed fact of the Walter Dimmick case, then how could that $5 gold piece which was minted in Georgia be among those found in the Saddle Ridge Treasure if it were from the San Francisco Mint robbery?

Simple answer, if the Saddle Ridge Treasure is in fact connected to the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901, than that $5 gold piece minted in Georgia should not be there.

Sometimes it's as important to figure out what is missing when trying to figure out where something came from. For those who truly believe that the Saddle Ridge Hoard is tied to the San Francisco Mint robbery, ask yourself this: where are the missing $20 gold double eagles that were minted in San Francisco between 1898 and 1901? Why weren't they found if this discovery was part of the 1901 mint robbery?

Fact, just as there is not supposed to be $5 and $10 gold pieces among that supposedly stolen by Dimmick in the San Francisco Mint loot, there are things that should be found there but are not part of the Saddle Ridge discovery. The San Francisco Mint produced $20 gold double eagles well pass 1901 when it was robbed, so why isn't there any  $20 gold double eagles dated 1898, 1899, 1900 or 1901 among the Saddle Ridge Treasure?

There should be coins dated 1898 to 1901 in among the 6 bags of stolen coins from the San Francisco Mint in 1901 if that was what was found. Each sack of gold received by the cashier from the coiner bore a tag number. The tag showed the date of coinage, the weight of gold and the gross weight of contents, bag and lead seal. Coins minted from the San Francisco Mint for those years, 1898 to 1901, should have been among those found if they were indeed stolen in the 1901 Mint heist. But there were none.

I conclude they weren't there because the coins found by that couple are not connected to the 1901 San Francisco Mint heist. And honestly, for those people who have written to say that they mint could have had bags of assorted denominations? I have to ask, since when is it that a U.S. Mint, any U.S. Mint, mixes up its freshly minted coins with others from years gone by? Or as a matter of fact, mixes up denominations in their minting process?

That is not common practice, and at the time of the San Francisco Mint robbery, the mint issued a statement where they stated that 6 sacks of its "freshly minted coins were missing by persons unknown." That tells me, the coins found in the Saddle Ridge treasure should have all been of the year 1901. That is if they really came from the San Francisco Mint? But they weren't.

With all of the different robberies that I have listed earlier, it could have been just about any one of them that went missing during a hold up. While folks are trying to connect the new discovery of gold coins to the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901, I don't believe they are connected at all. That is other than by people wanting them to be connected.

I certainly don't believe that there is a connection between the Saddle Ridge Treasure and the missing 1,500 coins which are supposed to be $20 gold double eagles from the San Francisco Mint. That's just how I see it.

Tom Correa


  1. Very interesting. Tom, what are your resources for this history?

  2. Sounds like you may be part of the Saddle Ridge discovery, Tom. Perhaps you desire to divert attention? Okay with me, but I just added up a number of factors to arrive at this assumption.

  3. Part of the Saddle Ridge discovery? God, if that were only the case! Like others, I could use just one of those coins to get me out of debt and help me fund my horse rescue project.

    But as a part of full disclosure, back in the early 1980s, while attending College for my degree in Criminal Justice/ Administration of Justice, I did write three 20+ page term papers that meant a great deal to me: One paper was on the use of K-9s for a Patrol Procedures Class, the second was a report on the 1950 Boston Brinks Robbery for an Evidence Class, and the third was a long paper on the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901 for a Criminal Law Class.

    In those days, I worked a full-time job while going to college and many my off hours was spent at the Library looking into those two robberies. And yes, since one of my former Instructors was a retired FBI agent who was involved in the Boston investigation and himself studied the SF Mint heist, it was important that I got my facts close to being correct since he assigned them to me.

    The other part of full disclosure is that I once worked for Burns International Security as a Security Supervisor / Investigator. I remember my surprise when I found out that the founder of the company that I worked for actually helped to crack the case of the 1901 SF MInt heist.

    And no, I'm not trying to "divert attention" for some reason. I am amazed that so many people want to connect the discovery to the 1901 Mint heist when there are so many inconsistencies.

    I love a good "Who done it?" And yes, it's a shame that we don't really know what happened to Dimmick when he got out of prison. Did he return to Southern California? Probably not, since he was run out of Santa Barbara after being caught in a swindle there. It would be great to find out what ever happened to him. With resources like the Internet, one might find out what happened to him.

    Please drop me a line about the factors you arrived at when you made your assumption.

    Thanks for visiting,

    1. I have done a small amount of followup after Dimmick left prison. In the US Federal census Dimmick lived nearby:
      1910 Berkely, Alameda, California Working as an accountant, employed all year Dau Helen b Oregon
      1920 Berkely, Alameda, California Working as an accountant, Dau Helen age 32 teacher
      1930 Berkely, Alameda, California Working as an accountant, renting hone $42 month
      He was renting an inexpensive house and he died Dec 1930.
      His daughter Helen was a teacher and endowed the local teachers college with a small scholarship. I have found no obvious signs of wealth so far.

  4. As for my resources, old newspapers, especially The San Francisco Call, books on Old West crimes, and a lot of hours ferreting what is real and not on the Internet.

    I have found an will post all of the newpaper articles on the San Francisco Mint Robbery of 1901.

    There are a few very interesting things that the newpapers reported that aren't in some short article on the robbery -- things like Dimmick's briefcase which Dimmick swore he didn't have yet witnesses say he did, or the fact that the coins were all recently minted (1900 to 1901) coins, or that Dimmick had a criminal record from Southern California.

    Hope you enjoy reading out articles.

    Thanks for visiting,

  5. It was a very good post indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in my lunch time. Will surely come and visit this blog more often. Thanks for sharing.

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