DISCOVERY - The Richest Acre On Earth
Some Confederate soldiers captured in the Civil War were told: go to prison, or go out west. Pomp Dennis and Washington Baker went west, steaming up the Missouri River to Montana Territory. Forming a partnership with three others, their discovery in a small creek was named Confederate Gulch, and led to the richest acre on earth. More
In 1864, Pomp Dennis and Washington Baker, Confederate soldiers are captured. They are told they have a choice to make; either go to prison, or make a solemn promise they will not pick up arms against the Union again, placed on a steamer on its way out west.They and other prisoners elected to go west. They heard there was gold to be found in the newly formed Montana Territory. The boat captain asked Pomp and Washington to stand guard while the crew loaded firewood for the boiler, letting them use one of the newer rifles available.
Twelve weeks later, the two men reached Fort Benton. Here they purchased prospecting equipment and supplies, and at their first camp, met a grizzly looking fellow Confederate named, Wooly Johnson, who had knowledge of the goldfields. They formed a partnership and once entering the mountains, traveled along the east side of the Missouri River. Testing all streams they crossed, they finally found one that produced some color and made camp where the creek entered the mountains. Two days later, Jack Thompson and Alex Craig rode into camp, having traveled up the Yellowstone River and over the divide. They formed a friendship and while all were panning for gold, Indians raided their camp. The men fled further up the creek with gold pans in hand, where they formed up and waited for the an attack. No Indians followed and while Pomp snuck back to their camp for a look, Washington found a few small nuggets in the creek. Excited, the men prospected a few days, found decent gold, named it Confederate Gulch and called their discovery Diamond City, where they would build cabins. They sent Pomp and Jack to Helena, the Last Chance Gulch gold fields, to obtain supplies, file their claims, and recruit a knowledgeable man to set up the mining laws. When they left with a couple of pack horses, thirty hopeful miners tagged behind. Laws were soon determined and the five discoverers got first draws on the claims.
Miners worked up until the ground froze. Most left for Helena or Virginia City for the winter, to return in the spring. Pomp, Washington, Wooly, and Jack each made themselves a small cabin, and another trip to Helena brought back two small potbelly stoves, axes, and supplies. Nearly fifty miners stayed through the winter and a few worked their claim underground, saving material to pan in the spring. When the ground had thawed, three hundred miners and business men arrived. Small pieces of gold was found in the overburden material, and nuggets near bedrock. Thompson’s claim had the best result of the five by mid- summer, and nearly a thousand people were scattered for ten miles up and down the gulch. Diamond City grew: stores, saloons, gambling and dance halls, lined each side of the narrow street. Thieves and crooks found their way to the area, causing problems.
Alex and Pomp sold their claims the following summer. Pomp took a job as pony express rider. At the mouth of Montana Gulch, one man made a huge discovery digging down to bedrock to find large nuggets. Others quickly bought up claims alongside. Soon, Mr. Shinneman and Friedrichs were finding large amounts of gold on the Bar. At cleanup, flumes were often found to have gold by the hundred weight, and others observed nail kegs of gold. A couple of workers were getting nearly $1,000 per pan. The main reason they did well was due to a four and half mile long ditch from Boulder Creek, crossing the gulch with piping. Carl and William Shinneman were ready to take their four hundred pounds of gold and return to Germany, and did so by way of the Missouri River with a good plan to fool the thieves along the Missouri.
Newspapers started calling the Montana Gulch area, ‘The Richest Acre on Earth’, and it was estimated that $6,000,000 in gold, at $18 an ounce, was mined from the Montana Bar.