Clampers seek Raymond’s lost whiskey
R-C Alpine Bureau
“Long-lost whiskey kegs buried in a mine tunnel?!” Ears perk up, and heads turn at the very idea. That sentence alone can make images flash through your mind of rough and tumble early gold-diggers, drinking as much as they could hold, and then, not wanting to lose their choicest elixirs when they had to move away, hiding them in this clever fashion.
This “Lost Whiskey” is the compelling subject of the newest monument built by the Snowshoe Thompson Chapter of E Clampus Vitus. They have placed the installation at the Alpine County Museum up on the hill in Markleeville in such a way that the peak and age-old townsite, though distant, is visible in the mountainous backdrop.
According to Peter Browning in Place Names of the Sierra Nevada, the Whitney Survey named Raymond Peak in 1865 for Rossiter W. Raymond, a U.S. mineral examiner and commissioner of mining statistics in the Treasury Department. Raymond surveyed and wrote reports on the mines in Alpine County. Theron Reed’s 1864 map of the Silver Mountain Mining District shows the “Raymond District” and the settlement of “Raymond.”
The text on the plaque reports that the Raymond Mining District was in operation for a very short time (1863-69). It was located along Krumm Creek just as it entered Pleasant Valley, about four miles north of Silver Mountain, and four miles southwest of Markleeville as the crow flies. Raymond boasted a drug store and saloon, but was just a small mining hamlet with the homes built of shakes, bark, and brush.
Quoting the remarkable tale reported on the plaque: “Legend says that when the town closed (likely as miners departed for better diggins’) the owners of the Raymond Saloon hid their liquor bottles and whiskey kegs in a nearby mine tunnel for their eventual return, then caved in the mouth of the tunnel.
For almost 150 years people have searched for the lost whiskey of Raymond. Some never found the town, and some located a few bottles, but no one has ever found the buried treasure. When asked about the whiskey in 1976, pioneer-historian Harry Hawkins commented, “it sure would be aged!”
The “Clampers,” as they are known, are an ancient and honorable fraternal society, dedicated to the preservation and study of the history of the American West. Their irreverent style has always included celebration, and they can be defined as both a “drinking and historical society.”
Since the Snowshoe Chapter’s inception in 1956, the “clampers” have placed 12 plaques in Alpine County honoring people and places of significance. The first was at Snowshoe Thompson’s homesite in Diamond Valley. They consider that location of such importance that it was rededicated in the 1980s.
Other plaques in Alpine include Silver Mountain City on Highway 4, Centerville at Centerville Flat, and the Snowshoe Thompson Shaft marked at the summit of Carson Pass in the parking area. The Alpine Hotel, Old Webster School, Markleeville General Store, Hangman’s Bridge, Jacob Markley, and the Old Log Jail installations are all in Markleeville proper.
For a listing of the historical plaques they have dedicated in our broader geographical area, you can go to their website at sst-ecv.com. The Alpine County Museum can be reached at 530-694-2317.
As the brethren of E Clampus Vitus would say as they raise their glass in a toast “Satisfactory!”