The following is a folk-legend from my grandpa that heard the story from his mother. My grandpa grew up in the northwest United States and went into the Navy when he was 18. He is now 74 years old. I was told this story when asking about any possible stories that his family had when he was growing up, as he had lived an exciting life, doing many crazy things with his time. He now enjoys fishing and gold mining. I recorded him via phone call. This is a direct transcribed script of what was said in the story, with the various “umm’s” and “uhh’s” omitted.
“Oh I got a story for you. My mother was born in Butte, Montana. Her father, my grandad, when they listed his occupation they listed it as miner. He was a gold miner. And mom tells a story that he told her, some miners were up in the mountains, they were at a camp. It was like seeing the pictures on TV, you know like they do with gold towns? That’s where she was raised until she was about six or seven years old. And there was a creek that her dad, my grandad, that they were operating a sluice box on this creek, they were gold mining. And mom used to say that grandpa used to tell her a story about a girl that had lived there. The girls dad would tell her ‘go off and play, we’re working.’ Well there was another little stream that was near there, and that girl would go and play in the stream… this was in the summertime. And she looked down the stream and there were all these really pretty yellow rocks. So she gathered up all these yellow rocks and put them in her skirt, or whatever she was wearing. Went back to camp and she had a cigar box that she would keep all her precious momentos, in this cigar box. Well she took these yellow rocks and she put them in this cigar box. So one day, her dad was sitting down to eat dinner and he was like ‘oh I hit it big today’ and he pulls out of his pocket a few of these little yellow stones. And the girl was like ‘I got more than that sitting in the creek.’ And he says ‘what!’ So she went back to the cigar box and got these handful of yellow stones out and put them on the table and he about went berserk. And so he said ‘where’d you get these’ and she says ‘in the creek right there.’ So they went back to mine that creek and they found a lot of gold in that creek. Ya, and the only reason they mined it was because of what she found. And she was only like six years old.”
This legend about a girl finding gold in a creek that my grandpa told me was something that he thought to be true. He is a big gold miner himself, often just using pans or a sluice box. He taught my dad how to do it and now we sometimes go out to the Rogue River to look for gold with him. It didn’t surprise me that one of the folk-stories he was able to tell me was about gold mining. When trying to find other forms of this story I wasn’t able to find any about a young girl finding gold in the creek. I also don’t know what the creek or river is so that made it impossible to specify if it actually happened.
The story is also interesting to me because it probably originated sometime in the heart of the gold rush. I think that there may have been a bunch of other gold rush folk stories about people finding a ton of gold in creeks and rivers across the west coast. If I had to guess, I would say that this story my grandpa told me was more specific to the region his mom had been from, but there are many more to be heard around the west.