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Going for the Gold

October 2, 2002

Almanac Transcript

Going for the gold this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

Most Oklahomans are familiar with the Wichita Mountains in the southwest portion of the state. The area is rich with diverse flora and fauna and excellent opportunities to hike, climb and learn about regional native cultures. Earlier, however, the Wichitas held opportunities of a different sort.

The California gold rush of 1849 created a huge race to explore for gold and silver in not only California but other areas of the country as well. Indian Territory didn't escape the attention, and it was widely known that valuable ore existed in the Wichita Mountains. Government control of the area prevented miners from doing too much work in the mountain during much of the 19th century, but the gold and silver laden rock had attracted attention much earlier than that. Early Spanish and Mexican explorers noted the presence of ore in the region and began numerous mining operations. The first white explorers in the region, the Dragoon Expeditions of the early 19th century, noted finding mine shafts, smelting furnaces and the remains of Spanish-style structures scattered throughout the Wichita Mountains.

It was in this week of 1783 that letters were exchanged among Spanish explorers and authorities confirming the presence of a large quantity of gold and other valuable minerals in the Wichita mountain area. The Spanish wasted little time in exploiting their discovery, and later geologist surmised that the miners from Spain did a good job in cleaning out the majority of gold and silver deposits.

The thorough nature of Spanish mining, however, did little to deter later expeditions. Throughout the late 1800s and into the early twentieth century companies and corporations were formed to plunder the mountains for gold. Although gold was found, the quantity and quality of the deposits were such that there was little accumulation of wealth among the participants. Today the Wichita Mountains are protected from prospecting and mining, but for hundreds of years the mountains lured Native Americans, Europeans, and U.S. Citizens to try their luck at striking it rich in Oklahoma.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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