The other day we went to keystone to the Big Thunder Gold Mine. we did a tour and filed a claim for gold panning. In 1874 General George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills, to map it out, at that time it was part of a large Indian Reservation. In the creeks they found gold, Actually placer gold or flakes. Soon, thousands upon thousands of people arrived to strike it rich. Soon after that little towns like Keystone, Lead, Deadwood and Hill city sprang up. While placer gold was found, not enough of it was found to make you rich, so mining into the hills was done, hundreds and hundreds of mines were dug. Enough Gold was found to keep going. Two German immigrants, named WB Krupp, and JA Engles, who already were working full time in a gold mine, decided to file a claim and try it themselves. They name it Gold Hills Lode, and began in 1882. They were not rich so they had to use hand tools to dig there mine, namely a two foot long rod with a point on the end ,and a ten pound hammer. After work they worked there mine for four hours a day. One two foot deep hole was done in a four hour night. Eight holes were needed so they could fill it with dynamite and were ready to blast. The blast took out a two foot deep by six feet high area. Then it took them two nights to clean the rock out. In a month they went five feet into the hill. Along the way then bought a sheet of iron six foot by four foot. They propped it up before they blasted, this contained the debris, so it could be removed easier. To the locals this sounded like thunder, thus the name Big Thunder. They did this month after month year after year, never really finding anything. After twenty eight years, they finally got a air driven drill and made more headway. Thirty five years later with little to show for it, they found an area with pockets of Gold, which amounted to four or five ounces. The bad part was that they soon figured it out they were on someone else’ claim. So they grabbed the gold, sold the mine and were never seen again. In all they got into the mountain 680 feet. It was a neat tour and learned a lot.

Interesting fact about Gold Fever, it was not because of the excitement of gold digging, it was an actual disease, although they did not know it at the time. When miners found ore that contained gold they filled there carts and transported them to the mill, where a machine would pulverize the rock it all would slide down the copper table and the gold would stick to the bottom, WHY, it was coated with Mercury. It would be picked up, then over to the assayers office, who also handled the gold, then weighed and put in the strong box to be transported to a large bank. Everyone handled the gold, soon after they would start to get excited , anxious and then go somewhat insane. hence the term Gold Fever. Below is a picture of the pulverizer.

After the tour we filed a gold claim, which is just paying money for a pan. you get a quick lesson on gold panning, then you go the the panning area which is large trays filled with creek bed material. You scoop some into your pan and start panning for Gold. It was a lot of fun, stayed four hours, and found a good many placer (flakes) of gold. So we both can say We found Gold in them there hills. EUREKA

Also in Keystone was a company that does chain saw carvings, it was really neat, some amazing carvings.


  1. What a great souvenir from your gold expedition. Those carvings are amazing and massive. So impressive that people can have a chuck of wood and have the vision and skill to creat such masterpieces.

  2. Bill McHenry

    We have seen a similar pulverizer at a visitors center outside of Baker City Oregon. Now that two of you both have some gold flakes is it enough to pay for this years travels? Looks like you two are having a good time exploring the wild west

    1. Sandy

      Love that ape carving, but my favorite is the bears on the rope. Creative artists for sure. Keep on having fun! We’re enjoying your travels.

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