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The Gold Cañon Placer Mining Colony

On the 19th of August, three days after Allen Grosh's hopeful letter was written, Hosea struck a pick accidentally into his foot just below the ankle, making a deep and painful wound. There was no physician in the cañon camps, and it was with difficulty that a few simple lotions were obtained to poultice the wound. In spite of his brother's unremitting care and the kindly attentions of the good-hearted miners in the neighborhood he became very ill. Gangrene set in, and on the 2d of September he died.

The loss of his brother was a crushing affliction to Allen; yet he bore even this trial with noble resignation. On the 7th of September he wrote to his father of Hosea's accident, illness, death, and burial in the remote Utah cañon: “In the first burst of my sorrow I complained bitterly," he continued, " of the dispensation which deprived me of what I held most dear of all the world, and I thought it most hard that he should be called away just as we had fair hopes of realizing what we had labored for so hard for so many years. But when I reflected how well an upright life had prepared him for the next, and what a debt of gratitude I owed to God in blessing me for so many years with so dear a companion, I became calm and bowed my head in resignation.

'O, Father, thy will, not mine, be done.' Our happy faith in the perfection of God's wisdom and goodness will be your consolation as this cloud passes over your head, for well I know your heart is full of the great hope which caused Paul to shout in triumph, ‘o death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory!"

On September 11th he wrote again: "I feel very lonely and miss Hosea very much – so much that at times I am strongly tempted to abandon everything and leave the country forever, cowardly as such a course would be. But I shall go on; it is my duty, and I cannot bear to give anything up until I bring it to a conclusion. By Hosea's death you fall heir to his share in the enterprise. We have, so far, four veins. Three of them promise much."

After writing this letter he set to work unremittingly to pay off the debt incurred by Hosea's sickness and burial. By the middle of November he had paid all creditors and was ready to cross the Sierras, as he had intended to do before the first snows fell. The death of his brother had so delayed his preparations that he was obliged to attempt the passage too late in the season for safety; but he was most anxious to leave a place associated with a grief so recent and so bitter, and he felt more deeply than ever the necessity of interesting capital in developing his ledge locations.

Accordingly he set out with one companion, a young prospector from Canada, Richard M. Bucke, to cross the mountains into California on the 20th of November.

The miseries of that terrible passage are told with the simple minuteness of a daily record by his companion. The two adventurers reached Lake Tahoe, near the head of the Truckee River, only to be overtaken by a storm which obliterated the trail, buried the surrounding mountains under deep snow-drifts, and hemmed them in by their solitary camp-fire in Squaw Valley as within the walls of a prison.

Their provisions were exhausted. To turn back appeared as difficult and dangerous as to press on. After fruitless attempts to follow the trail, they killed the donkey which they had led with them, as he could not struggle through the snow, took as much of his flesh as they could carry, and set out by the most practicable course across the range. They climbed from point to point, always waist-deep in snow, dragging themselves up by bushes and jutting rocks, struggling on desperately until they reached the summit.

The day was clear (November 29th), but the wind blew so fiercely and coldly in their faces on the top of the bare ridge that they were nearly benumbed before they could gain shelter under the trees on the western slope. Their matches were wet and spoiled in Squaw Valley. After repeated trials they lighted a fire by a flash of powder from their gun and warmed themselves. But a second storm broke over them. The snow was so soft that they could not use the rude snow-shoes which they had made, and they could not follow the trail along the ridge in the face of the keen wind.

In the midst of the storm they lost their way completely, for they could not see two hundred yards before them. Their gun was wet and rusty and could not be fired, so that for the sake of the needful warmth they burrowed holes in the snow, and thus passed the night of the 2d of December. Their scanty load of donkey flesh was eaten, and want of sleep and food was beginning to weaken them; yet they pushed on until they reached the Middle Fork of the American River.

They followed the course of this stream as closely as was practicable, but could find no inhabited cabins or muddy creeks showing signs of miners at work. On the 5th of December they did not feel hungry, but had a "horrible sinking feeling in the region of the stomach," which Dr. Bucke remembered vividly twenty-three years later. He was the strongest of the two, but “Allen," as he writes, "was the least inclined to give up." He proposed on this day, the 5th, “to lie down and die. Allen would not listen to me, but said ‘no, we will keep going as long as we can. That night, the 6th of December, we made our bed in silence and lay down."

The boy Bucke had strange visions. Perishing from hunger, he dreamed of feasting on quail and all manner of delicacies. In the morning the two men were hardly able to crawl along. "We went almost as much on our bands and knees as on our feet." Hope was dead, but they were resolved to drag themselves on while they could move hand or foot. They were not afraid to die, but they could not bear the thought of loved ones at home waiting vainly for their return and brooding over the horrors of their clouded fate.

This, unselfish remembrance nerved their weak limbs as they crept side by side through the snow. From daybreak till noon they had crawled less than a mile and their eyes were closing from overmastering faintness, when they heard the bark of a dog and saw a thin wreath of smoke in the air.

They were rescued, but too late, for their feet were badly frozen and they could neither eat nor sleep. Allen Grosh died on the twelfth day after reaching the mining camp – the Last Chance. Only a few months before he had written his father: "Hosea and I had lived so much together, with and for each other, that it was our earnest desire that we might pass out of the world as we had passed through it - hand in hand." This wish, at least, was granted. United in life, in death they were not divided.

One of Bucke's feet was rudely amputated at the ankle joint and a portion of the other was also cut off. He reached the hospitable door of Alpheus Bull, in San Francisco, hobbling on his bandaged stumps, and by Mr. Bull's assistance he was carried to his home in Canada, from whence, on recovering health, he went to Europe to pursue studies in medicine.

He had seen the course of one of the veins at Gold Cañon and a button of silver from an assay made by the Grosh brothers, but knew little definitely of the location or extent of their discoveries. George Brown, the only man who had any accurate information in regard to the ledges which they had located, had been murdered, and the papers of Allen Grosh, in which his claims were defined and recorded, had been thrown away with everything else, except a few handfuls of meat, when the desperate men were struggling to pass the summit of the range, and lay buried many feet under the sierran snow.

Mrs. L. M. Dettenrieder declares positively that Allen Grosh pointed out to her, as she stood by his cabin, the general location of one of his ledges on the eastern slope of the largest mountain of the range at the head of Gold Cañon, on the day when she brought to him the news of his friend Brown's death.

If her testimony is accepted, and her character has never been impeached, the Grosh brothers died on the very threshold of fortune; but she could not identify the ledge, and, on learning of the death of the brothers, all thought of prosecuting the work further was abandoned. Their years of patient and intelligent search were therefore fruitless, and it was left for a lazy, drunken prospector to stumble upon the prize for which the brothers had striven.

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