Kiowa County Prospectors

It is generally conceded by historians that gold legends of this county were responsible for the influx of herd-rock miners who moved into the Wichitas around Cold Springs and started the Wildman era of gold mining prior to the time this country was opened to settlement. Gold hunters sneaking into the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache lands kept the army from Fort Sill busy chasing them out again. But, the lure of wealth kept them coming.


Believe it or not!! Part of the last great gold rush east of the Rocky Mountains happened right here in Kiowa County! One reason was the rumors that the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Lands held great mineral riches in the Wichita Mountains.

Headlines in Oklahoma Territory newspapers screamed; "THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS!" THE FUTURE MINERAL DISTRICT OF AMERICA", GOLD ASSAYS $360.00 PER TON AT WILDMAN", $2,000.00 A TON STRIKE AT MOUNTAIN PARK!" Over 5,000 miners and prospectors flocked to the Wichitas from all over this country and others.

The first mine established was Wildman, located at the head of Otter Creek, four miles southeast of the present town of Roosevelt. It became the overnight place for the lawless. Gambling, drinking and fighting went on day and night. Some of the more famous citizens of Wildman were "Nine Fingers",. "Scandelous John", Sam Bibe, Joe Johnson, Carle Zerkle, H. Foster who was a government claim jumper, Judge Fox, former probate judge from Canadian County, and Lee Sears.

Frank R. Wildman and Elisha Augustus Williams established the town on the Indian lands, before the Lands were opened for settlement. The year before, a detachment of troopers from Ft. Sill raided the camp, destroyed the miners' smelter and burned their shacks and tents. They then escorted the squatters to the Indian Lands line. The miners were ready to move back when the land was opened August 1, 1901.

This time the town grew and in a few weeks boasted about 500 population, with over 300 miners and prospectors, speculators, promoters, adventurers, women and children. Elisha Williams established a post office, S. D. Shaw put up a store selling everything from hardware and black powder to handkerchiefs. Mail was brought by buggy or horseback from Mountain View one day and from Navajo, TX by stage the next. Saloons and gambling houses dominated the main business area, two grocery stores, two blacksmith shops, a hardware store, café, drug store, four assayers offices, smelter, mining company offices and a two-story hotel called Hotel De Rastus. "Uncle" Joe Johnson built the hotel for $8,000.00. It had a saloon on the main floor and hotel rooms above.

There were always one or more doctors and a dentist. A two room school was built, taught by Miss Nell Muldowney, but no church. Any religious meetings were held at the school. The name Wildman, fit the wild west, hard shooting tough mining town, since it was boasted grizzled miners, unscrupulous gamblers and outlaws in it's population. Visiting cowboys and gamblers frequently became involved in shootings and most buildings bore the scars of these episodes.

Among the promoters were: Col. A. J. Meers, a prospector in the hills since 1886, now head of a Waco TX mining company; Professor E. M. Tucker, president of the David Crockett Mining Company and Gold Standard Mining Firm, as well as vice president of the Wildman Mining and Milling Co. Tucker had spent over 30 years in the Rocky Mountains and Old Mexico as an assayer and mining engineer. Also present was Judge E.E. Moulder, Fort Worth, President of the Wildman Mining Co.

When Ed Peckham and Charley Hunter, builders of the Bes Line Railroad, (now the Frisco) planned to build the railroad through Wildman, Elisha Williams and brother Bill stopped it. They planned to build their own railroad. The route would be 100 miles long, right of ways were being secured and on April 25, 1905, The Wildman Central and Wichita Railroad Company, with a capital of $2,000,000 was issued a charter by the territorial secretary. The incorporators of the railroad were George R. Ray of Wildman, F. R. Wildman of Blair, R. Burdue of Ft. Worth, E. A. Tucker of Dallas, E. A. Williams of Roosevelt and E. E. Moulder of Lawton.

The decision by the federal government favoring the homesteaders over the miners and the fact that the ore could not be marketed, the railroad was a short-lived proposition. Feelings ran high, The homesteaders felt the miners were continuing mining only to get more land that should be homesteads and the miners felt federal laws were favorable to them so they felt they had a perfect right to search for the minerals. Not surprisingly, shots were often exchanged. The federal decision and the fact the ore could not be marketed caused Wildman to be abandoned.


Wildman and Williams built the Gold Bell Cyanide Mill, which was one and one-half miles south and one fourth mile east of Wildman. They erected a 50-ton cyanide mill to process ore from the Gold Bell mine and other mines in the region. The ore was to be transported to the mill by a quarter mile overhead tramway. The high concrete steps and foundation of the water cooling tower are still visible on the west side of U.S. Highway 183, south of Roosevelt.

By Alvena Adams and K. A. McClure
Democrat Chief
Friday, August 6, 1976

(Exerpt from Ms. Adams and Mr. McClure's column)

Oct. 2, 1949 --- A gold lode waits for a prospector in the foothills of the Wichita Mountains.

Down a sandy Creek, a little north of Mountain Park, a sourdough can pan $44.00 worth if he works 17 hours. "Sure can", says George Read, tool dresser and miner, "but it's flour gold….fine as dust."

Read, a white-haired Mountain Park man who doesn't do much now except work on election boards and recall his mining days, can tell a story of earlier days when Mountain Park and Cold Springs pioneers had the gold fever. Some of the fever cooled when the old Gold Bell mine didn't pan out.

Somewhere around 1903, a promoter named Baker came to Mountain Park, recalls Billy Barnes, postmaster.

"Baker wore three gold bells on his lapel. He told folks the gold on those bells came from the Gold Bell mine he was working."

Barnes wasn't sure Baker was telling the truth, but he couldn't prove anything.

"I think Baker was sincere in thinking that if he had money to go ahead, he'd strike a rich vein out there but when the money ran out, he had to quit"

They did find some pay dirt at Gold Bell, continued the early day settler who has never been to Gold Bell….."reckon if it was off a couple hundred miles away, I'd have gone out to see it."

Baker interested men in paying $1,000.00 each for stock, says Henry Wilson, aged and ill now, too feeble to speak more than a few words at a time.

Wilson remembers how his own father, who lived across the road from the mine, lost a "lot of money" on the deal.

The only Mountain Park man who made money out of the mine was Art Ferguson, hardware merchant. Not out of the stock he bought…. That became worthless… but on the machinery he sold to Baker.

Ferguson didn't sell the heavy rock crushing machinery, but he did sell a carload of gasoline engines. And one of pipe, "yep", chuckled Ferguson, "as far as I'm concerned, they could start that mine up again."

Ferguson says there was ore there, but it didn't look like gold to him. "It was a bright white looking stuff, and it wasn't silver….way too heavy."

When Baker left, moving his machinery to New Mexico, he took along several large jars of the heavy white metal, says Ferguson, who recalls an uneasy moment when he was an interested onlooker at a business session at the Gold Bell Office.

"I called the company men to make an audit of the books and see," he laughed, "they came mighty close to throwing me out of there."


Some mine shafts were dug by hand reaching depths of 100 ft. or more. The migration of Prospectors brought stories of significant gold finds, but none were actually substantiated.

Many, old timers say, ended on a note like the one that blotted out the dreams of one eccentric bearded gold searcher who put down the famous "Turner" shaft on the edge of the Wichitas. With pick and shovel he cleared away the topsoil and went to digging, boasting he could see "millions" in gold because of his occult powers. When the shaft became so deep he could no longer shovel rock from the bottom, he rigged up a windlass and hired a young helper.

Finally, the miner set off a blast and went to sleep for the night waiting for the smoke to clear. The next morning the miner and the boy returned, and the old prospector descended into a bucket to clear away loose rock. He shouted "I've got it!" then became silent. It is said he was found sitting on loosened rock, his arms tightly hugging a huge rock, pressed against his chest. The old miner was dead.

Some say until this day it was the shock of discovery that killed him. But when his body and the "precious strike" were hoisted to the mouth of the shaft, the sunlight told what he found. Fools Gold.


Gold Bell wasn't the only mine in the Mountain Park area. Jim Shipman, an Alaskan sourdough, sank the shaft at the Hallet mine, located on the J. H. Leedy homestead northwest of Gold Bell and near Cold Springs.

The Hallett, like the Gold Bell, was started by men putting in $1,000.00 each. Shipman planned to sink the shaft, and if need be, burrow four miles underground to reach the vein. He hired several men to work for him. But, it didn't take that long. Shipman wanted to work the mine, but he didn't want to split with the shareholders and didn't have the money to buy them out.

They had a building over the shaft with a horse drawn hoist, a track leading out to the south down hill from which they dumped wastes, and a blacksmith shop. Some of the men lived in tents around the mine.

Two of the men working there were George and Green Reed. Green was the blacksmith and George was the powder man. There was no such thing as air tools so they used hand drills and large hammers. One man would hold the drill and another would strike it with a twelve pound sledge hammer. George supervised the placing of the holes. After they were drilled to proper depth, he would load the holes with blasting powder and set off the shot. They would then wait overnight to take out the rock so the gasses would be cleared .

At about 80 ft. they started a tunnel off to the west and some 1,000 ft. to where there was another fault running at a right angle with the fault the mine was located on. The engineer went in one morning and examined the face, then came out and boarded up the tunnel without clearing the waste out.

In the meantime, the main shaft, about six feet by eight feet timbered up with four by six walnut timbers laid flat with the corners interlocking, kept going down. At about 125 feet, another tunnel started parallel to the one above, about 40-50 feet lower. It was drilled to about the same point as the other, checked, then closed also.

At the 160 foot level, Shipman left on a trip, saying he would be back. He came back in about 10 days, not saying the where or why of the strip, and drilling continued on down to about 193 feet..

One Morning, Mr. Hallett, the engineer, and three or four men, rumored to be from Kansas City went down, telling the men to wait until they came out. They stayed until about noon, and when they came out, Shipman paid the men up to the end of the week, told them to wait further notice, leaving the impression they would be gone three or four weeks.

At Hallett, the miners waited because Shipman told them too, and because he said to not let anyone near the mine or permit a single chunk or slag to be carried away. He never returned.

The mine stood abandoned for about 5 years, then Mr. Leedy sold anything of value. There was a lot of discussion pro and con after it was abandoned as to whether anything was found. What had happened at the 160 foot level? Later, it was rumored that Shipman had gotten into trouble in Mexico and died in prison there..

The old mine is still there, a silent reminder of the dreams and optimism of the old time miners.

There appears to be no verifiable record of any gold or other precious mineral ever having been commercially processed and sold from Kiowa County. But the history of the men who tried to prove the mineral legends is known and recorded and who knows, they may have all missed the fabulous treasure of the Wichitas.

Compiled, composed from various sources, including the Kiowa County History book by Ethel Taylor

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