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Gold in Hurricane Gulch

By Larry Clinton

Back in July of 1896, the San Francisco Call reported on the discovery of gold in a Sausalito creek.  As you can imagine, such a find created quite a stir. Here are excerpts from the article and subsequent reports:

Sergeant John Hayes is a State employee at the head of a little squad of policemen who look after the interests of the Board of Harbor Commissioners. He lives over in Sausalito at the head of Hurricane Gulch, named that way on account of the wind that sweeps down through it at all times, even when the remainder of Sausalito is calm and sweltering…

Back of his residence… is the bed of a creek… Last Sunday the policeman and some of his friends discussed mining and miners, topics quite familiar to Hayes, who was a miner in days long past in the environs of Pike’s Peak…It was all very interesting until the climax came. The dirt was all washed out of the pan, and there, in the residue were four little bright yellow specks… There was plenty of black sand, almost an infallible indication of good pay dirt, and some fine gold flakes were gathered in. But most of the gold was found on an adjoining piece of property… belonging to a man named Miller. So it was decided that before the news of the gold find was made known that particular piece of property must be bought up.

The property is triangular in shape and the major part of it is on a 45-degree fall to the creek and is valueless. Still, Miller was willing to sell the whole thing for $250, so Hayes says.

The day set for the purchase was yesterday, when an ill-advised newspaper was inconsiderate enough to publish the fact that there had been gold discovered in Hurricane Gulch, back of the Hayes cottage…

Miller read The Call yesterday morning, and when Hayes and his partners, Messrs. Root, Gilfett and Bloomer, who were all interested in the venture, ran Miller down and offered him the $250, that gentleman smiled and asked for a week’s time in which to think over the matter.

“He’ll want all prices for it now!” exclaimed Hayes, when seen yesterday afternoon by a Call reporter.

“That article should never have been published until I got hold of the property, and I’d show you how gold is panned out.”

Years ago there was considerable mining done north of Hurricane Gulch, but it never paid sufficiently to warrant extensive working… so it is comparatively a virgin field…

Two days later, the plot thickened when the Call reported:

Sgt. Hayes does not intend to let this discovery remain undeveloped.  He already has mapped out a scheme to form a mining company, the members of which own property along the banks of the stream.

“I do not want to be a bug, and I am willing to give my neighbors a chance,” said he enthusiastically yesterday, the fire of positive assurance and enthusiasm shining in his eyes…

“If I can form a company of my neighbors, each man putting up so much, and when the mine has been thoroughly worked each man taking his dividend, minus the expenses, which I do not believe will aggregate more than $2500, I will tell you, sir, each man of that twenty will not be obligated to work any more for a living…

“I shall see Mr. Miller to-night and make a fair proposition to him. I was the first to discover gold on this property, therefore I believe I have a miner’s lien on it.” 

The gold fever first taken by Sergeant Hayes in his own home has spread with wonderful rapidity. Yesterday morning, on an early boat to Sausalito, three men on horseback, having at their saddles picks, pans and blankets, took passage, according to Sergeant Mahoney, for Hurricane Gulch to stake out claims there, and later in the afternoon three of the regulation canvas-topped wagons that years ago traversed the plains drawn toward that loadstone, Pike’s Peak, were carried across on the Sausalito, destined for the newly discovered gold field in the gulch.

One month later, gold fever seemed to be subsiding:

Sergeant Jack Hayes…will soon close his bargain and purchase the land adjoining his… “Just before the rainy season begins,” said he yesterday, “I shall build a dam and sluice on my land and work the soil of the creek bed below for all it is worth. I know what I am talking about and I know I will find enough of the metal in the river bottom there at least to remunerate me and I believe to give me a comfortable sum in the bank.”

Mysteriously, there are no further newspaper reports of the mining operation, and the City of Sausalito has no record that a claim was ever filed. The County Recorder’s office has records of mining claims and grant deeds dating back to 1850, but  when I went there to check out this story, the records for the 1890s were missing.  So, was this a mini-bonanza for Sgt. Hayes, an attempted land grab, or perhaps an investment scam?  If we turn up any further information, we’ll put it in a subsequent column.



“House of the Bay-Window,” the residence of Sergeant Jack Hayes, who claimed to have discovered gold in the gulch just to the left of the tank.

San Francisco Call woodcut courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society



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