Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Death of Judge Christison

Death of Judge Christison
He Succombs to Pneumonia on Monday Night
Sketch of a Notable Life
(Fairplay Flume February 9, 1882)

Judge Wilburn Christison passed from life into the unknown, about midnight on Monday, the 7th, and in his death the community mourns a pioneer in Colorado, a fearless advocate of justice and one who has, during a large portion of his life, been a faithful servant of the people. Whatever were his faults, his virtues so predominated that we have only good to write of him at this hour.

The Judge’s life was an eventful one, though he was but fifty-five at this time. It has been the pleasure of the writer to sit for hours at the time and listen to him discoursing on the many stirring events that marked the early history of the State, the transition period, when these western wilds were passing from a perfect wilderness to a state of semi-civilization. Those were the “times that tried men’s souls”, and brought out the mettle of the frontiersmen. The Judge was never boastful of the part he performed in working out these changes, but he always was interesting, and often eloquent in his description of scenes of danger and trial with which he had evidently been most intimate.

He was born in Jackson Co., Missouri, April 14, 1827 and Jackson Co. was then on the far frontier. Doubtless, his early education imbued him with a love of adventure, which could only be satisfied by following the Star of the Empire westward, or rather keeping the lead in the march, for we find that in 1856 he moved to Kansas. The history of that state, from that time till 1861, is too well known to need much mention. It was chaos struggling to find order and law warring against border ruffianism. By '60 the peace loving element had gained the ascendancy and Colorado was then causing a furore, on account of the gold discoveries. With a family of young children, the Judge and his faithful helpmate again joined the march, and 1861 found them located on Cash (also Cache) Creek, near the Arkansas, a then wild region, frequented more by Indians than any other people. The Judge practiced law, when there was opportunity, at Granite, the county seat of Lake County, mined, and opened a trading post with the Indians. His manner inspired confidence among the simple inhabitants of neighboring fastnesses, and he soon reckoned among his fast friends, old Colorow, Saguache, and other noted chiefs and braves. He served as County Judge of Lake County for one term and was re-elected, but resigned shortly after, having decided to remove to Fairplay in 1873. The same fall he was elected County Judge of Park County and served the people faithfully in that office for two terms. His mind was singularly bright and his judgment clear, during these years and he established a wide reputation for judicial acumen.

It was during these years that the Judge was connected with the exciting contest between two elements struggling for the supremacy in Lake County. He defended Elijah Gibbs, and secured his acquittal on a charge of murder, though Gibbs was know to have shot at least three men. Briefly summarized the facts were as follows: One night George Harrington, a storekeeper on Gas Creek, found that his house was on fire, and going out to quench it he was shot by some hid in the brush. There had been trouble between the two, and the neighbors were not slow to accuse Gibbs of the murder. A party started to lynch him, but he got wind of their coming and barricading his cabin, stood a siege in which he killed three of the vigilantes and wounded a fourth. The next day he gave himself up and was tried and, Judge Christison appearing for him, was acquitted. He left at once for Texas. Out of this affair grew a terribly bitter feud. The vigilantes were constantly warring upon all who had been Gibbs’ friends. Some terrible depredations were committed, and Judge Elias Dyer, who was then acting as District Judge, was shot dead in his chair in the court room at Granite, on account of an attempt of the court to punish this lawlessness. Incidently, it may be mentioned that all the leaders of this lawless element have since come to an evil end, as if an avenger were following them. William Nolan became crazy, Anderson Gerry drowned himself in a fit of desperation, James Moore was killed in a row at Trinidad, James Deeming went crazy and the frightful death of Charles Nichtrieb last fall is still fresh in the minds of our reader. All of these names will be familiar to those who know Judge Christison in pioneer days, and will serve to recall a thousand and one instance in which the deceased was an able and eloquent advocate of the right.

Judge Christison leaves a wife and eight children to mourn his untimely death. He leaves also a large circle of friends who will sympathize sincerely and deeply with them. The funeral service was performed at the house yesterday afternoon by Rev. H.J. Huston, in the presence of a large number of citizens. The members of Doric Lodge, A.F. & A.M. were present in a body to do the last service for a departed brother.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Cache Creek Gold Panning Experience

Gayle Gresham and Shirley Weilnau

After my first visit to Cache Creek in 2006, I began to dream about panning for gold in the same creek as my great-great-grandfather did in 1861. My dream came true this week after I discovered Shirley Weilnau's website, Hooked On Gold, while searching for Cache Creek info online. Shirley had her Twitter updates on her blog and, of course, I had to follow her. We began chatting and I told her of my desire to pan for gold at Cache Creek. Her reply, "Well, we'll be there tomorrow. Come on up!" Tomorrow didn't work for me, but Friday, September 11 did!

Shirley and her husband, Larry, welcomed John and I to the Cache Creek recreational mining area. They took us on a hike to show us some interesting sites, then it was time to get down to the nitty gritty. See my post "Gayle's Panning For Gold Video" to see how I learned to wash out the gravel. My wonderful husband took the pictures and video.
Once I'd washed the sand, gravel and rocks out of my pan, Shirley taught me how to separate the gold from the black sand. I tapped the top of the pan to "walk" the gold up to the top. I swirled the water in the pan a little to fan out the black sand. Then I began to swish water up and down to draw the black sand away from the gold. In the following picture (click it to enlarge it) you can see the black sand near the top of the pan. Just above it are three tiny particles of gold. Do you see them? My very first gold!

My first gold!

I washed about 6 pans of gold. There was gold in every pan but one. Shirley and Larry were so patient with teaching me how to pan. I learned to always keep the dirt covered with water as I pan, even when fanning the black dirt. And, Shirley told me that for a beginner I have a pretty good swish technique for washing away the black sand from the gold. Must be in my genes.

One pleasant surprise was a group of homeschoolers who were visiting that day to pan for gold. I asked if they'd like to hear Wilburn Christison's story and they graciously agreed. I love telling the story of the Cash Creek Miners to children. They especially like the part about Wilburn's children being the only white children in the camp and that they played with the Ute Indian children when they passed through.

Gayle, Shirley, and Larry

Now I am hooked on panning for gold. Ready to go buy a gold pan and a shovel! I knew any prospecting would be dangerous for me; after all, my great-great-grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my grandfather were all miners! And even though I didn't learn to pan for gold from my grandfather, I did learn from two former Colorado state champion gold panners. Thank you, Shirley and Larry, for making a dream come true.

Gayle's Gold Panning Video

This video was taken near the end of the day when I was getting better at working my pan. You experts out there will know I'm still not getting enough water in my pan, but hey, it's better than how I started out!

After Larry Weilnau shoveled out dirt from a spot away from the creek into a five-gallon bucket, he carried it to the creek. He also dug out two holes in the creek so we would have enough water for panning. The creek is low this time of the year, but Cache Creek has always had a problem with enough water flow. I put some dirt in the pan and began washing it.

In the video, you can see two different motions. With the first motion I vigorously agitate the pan side to side and slightly swirl it. This lets the heavier particles of gold settle to the bottom. Gold panning works because gold is 19 times heavier than water and will fall to the bottom of the pan. Next I swish the pan forward, washing out the lighter sand and rocks while the creases or "riffles" in the pan hold the heavier gold. I repeat this over and over until the pan of dirt decreases to a small amount of black sand.

More about the rest of the process in the next post...