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His own secret gold source in the Tehachapi Mountains

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi


October 12, 2019

Jon Hammond

Placer or surface gold collected from sluicing.

There was an old guy called Swede who used to show up every fall in Arvin, ragged and dirty. My aunt had a little three-room boarding house in Arvin. She was glad to rent him a room because he'd pay for four months in advance. The first thing he'd do is go buy a new pair of bib overalls and a new shirt, shoes and underwear and go take a bath. I had a service station in Arvin and he wandered in one day. He was getting old and I mentioned that I had to go to Tehachapi and he asked if he could bum a ride. When we got to the top of the hill on the old road (Woodford-Tehachapi Road) he said, "Stop this thing and I'll show you something."

I did and he pointed up into the mountains south of town and said, "Right up there is my gold mine." I said, "I didn't know you had a gold mine." He said, "How do you think I've lived all these years?" He said that it was in a steep canyon and it had a spring that ran pretty good most of the summer. He had made some V-boards with little riffles or cleats nailed in them, and he'd channel the water through those sluice boards and let it run all summer. In the fall he'd go up and harvest the gold, and dismantle the sluice boards and hide them in the bushes. He said in early spring he would go in there at night, take a can of beans and peaches and something for a meal or two, and set the thing up. It was a job. Then in the fall he would come back to Tehachapi and get a room at the Juanita Hotel and stay for two or three days until people got kinda use to seeing him, and then sneak back in and milk those riffle boards.

It was productive. He said he had a bank account in San Bernardino where he deposited his gold money. Everybody knew him around Arvin, but didn't know what he did. He didn't seem to have any job but he had money. Years later I asked a friend of mine who was a deer hunter if he had ever been in that canyon and seen any sign of people being there, and he said he had. He'd seen some old lumber, and thought that someone must have raised chickens because there were boards with little wooden cleats nailed across them, like a coop ladder or ramp that hens use to get up into nest boxes to lay eggs. I just smiled and said, "Yeah, they must have had some chickens up there."

Brad Krauter

Brad Krauter was the Ag inspector for Tehachapi for many years. He was knowledgeable, funny and wise with a delightful sense of humor.


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