Stories of lost gold mines have always been popular among prospectors and treasure hunters. It is often believed that an undiscovered motherlode is just waiting for some treasure hunter to find it using modern technology. Lost mines often recall tales like that of Lost Dutchman’s Mine, coded maps and the wild west. New England is the last place anyone would expect find a gold mine. But surprisingly the northeastern states did have a short-lived boom in prospecting and gold mining. So far, over 20 lost and forgotten gold mines have been found in New England (excluding all the places known for placer gold).

With the stratospheric price of gold and popularity of the reality television show, Gold Rush, the interest in gold prospecting in New England has skyrocketed.  Forgotten mines and minor gold rushes in the northeast are a terrific topic to explore. Since there are so many mines and location to discuss, they can’t all fit in one article.  So, over the next year, look for a series of articles, each one spotlighting one of the six New England states, beginning with in Rhode Island. This southern New England state is known for its history, beaches, and food –not gold mines.  Surprisingly the biggest little state still keeps a few secrets in the form of prospects and mines.

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I’m often asked how we uncover these interesting places and history in New England. Often, I will stress the worth of libraries and lots of reading, but forget to mention the immense value of just talking to people. Many of our greatest discoveries come from a conversation with a friendly person we meet in our travels.

In fall of 2012, I was once again reminded that chatting with friends and family around you can also pay off. I was told that my father in-law Richard Gallo had a story about a long-forgotten cave in Cranston Rhode Island.  Though I found it hard to believe I could have missed something like this, I was intrigued.

When I met with Richard, I immediately asked where the cave was located. Expecting to hear that it lay on a lonely hill in the western extremes of Cranston, I was surprised by what in his story revealed.

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Many know of the Dighton Rock. Another popular rock with a rune inscription is called the Narragansett Rock or Pojac Point Rock. It is the second most commonly spoken of landmark in Rhode Island concerning the possible pre-colonial visit by Vikings. The most popular landmark in Rhode Island that is claimed to have been built by Vikings is the Newport tower. What many do not know is that there are many other rocks in Rhode Island that are believed to also have runes inscriptions. Though most are hoaxes, Indian or colonial markings, or just natural features, they are interesting curios of Rhode Island culture and history.

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Clay Perry included many things in his books that would only be considered caves by the most generous definition. There were also some entries he referred to as artificial caves. These were man-made stone tunnels and chambers that can be found scattered across New England. Though he had and entire chapter that covered some that he found most interesting, there is one in Goshen, Massachusetts that will only be found in the index as a counterfeiter’s cave.

In late 2015, I had the chance to visit and explore this counterfeiter’s cave with My friends Jim, Michael , Tristen and Zack. I had known of the tunnel for over 25 years and had always wanted to explore it. I found the available descriptions and illustrations to be accurate. The tunnels branching off in two directions did appear odd, but the corbel construction is something I have seen in other colonial tunnels in New England. Their appearance greatly resembles old Roman culverts that can still be found in England. If it weren’t for the hardpan in which they are seated, I might suspect they were to divert or transport water over a property.

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All over New England are stone chambers of all different shapes and sizes. Clay Perry referred to them as artificial caves, and dedicated a chapter to some he speculated were created by Irish monks around 1000 AD.

In East Thompson, Connecticut there is one known as the Hermit Cave. It is a corbelled dome chamber built into a low natural mound. It has a small crawl-in opening two feet high and wide with a three-foot-long passage. The passage slopes slightly to an oval chamber 6 feet, 8 inches high and 7 feet, 6 inches wide. The rear of the chamber to the entrance measures 11 feet, 6 inches long. This small chamber is an amazing work of dry masonry.

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pine-groveI’ve often thought of Connecticut as the Devil’s State. You can find his name attached to more features, places and landmarks than anywhere else in New England. Even Long Island Sound was referred to as the Devil’s Belt.  Because of this, I was not surprised to stumble on the mention of a cave called “The Devil’s Cave,” in Connecticut. I had seen it mentioned in a 1908 article about a spiritualist camp that lies near a cove along the coast. I won’t deny that the cave’s name is what caught my interest.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that this cave has been in many publications in my library. It’s mentioned in a list of lost Connecticut caves as Devil’s Den Caves. Many other authors briefly mentioned it as Indian Cave. The one thing they all seemed to all have in common was the lack of knowledge about its exact location. Some spoke of it as if it were a secret that only locals were aware of.

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In Cumbria, England, is Eden Valley, a quiet part of the UK with its traditional towns and pubs, beautiful hamlets and sandstone villages, some dating back to Viking times. A few miles north of the historic town of Penrith, is a small village called Little Salkeld. On the west side of the village is the Eden River. It was known to the Romans as the Itoun. This name derives from the Celtic word ituna, meaning water, or rushing. It winds its way north toward Carlisle.

The largest house in the village is the manor in Little Salkeld, confirmed by King Edward I. It is said to be the original home of the Salkeld family of landowners and Salkeld Hall built in the 16th century. The village has a vicarage with no church and Little Salkeld Watermill that was built in 1745 and is still operating. Little Salkeld is also known for Long Meg and Her Daughters, a Bronze Age stone circle consisting of 51 stones (of which 27 remain upright). The tallest stone is 3.7 meters high and stands outside the circle. It is made of local red sandstone, carved with a spiral, a cup and ring mark, and concentric circles. Poet William Wordsworth deemed them to be the country’s most notable relics after Stonehenge.

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dragons holeA few weeks ago I got to sit down with Patrick Austin and talk about some of the stories, folklore and places in Strange Rhode Island that I’ve found most fascinating. During the interviews, I shared some new stories and new details about places I’ve ventured, along with tips on how to get start as an explorer.

Please head over and check out WPRO’s CuRIous PODcasts

Currently posted are our talks about:

The Shipwreck H.F. Payton 

The Dark Swamp’s Resident Monster ‘IT’

Dragon’s Hole

The Haunted Mortar

If there are any of our previous adventures you’d like to hear more about in future talks with Patrick, please let us know.

~Michael

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Queen's FortIn Rhode Island there is a rocky hill known as Queen’s Fort. It was an Indian fort that was occupied by Narragansett Indians that survived the battle in the Great Swamp, and chose not to leave RI. It lives on a hill covered with glacial erratics. With that natural feature alone, this was a fantastic place for a fort. Somewhere hidden in this rugged landscape is a cave know as Queen Quaiapens Chamber.

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The Stern

The Stern

On January 1st, Richard and I fabricated a special rigging for the GoPro using PVC and a rail mount. The new mount would allow us to secure the camera over the side of the kayak, and position it facing in any direction using the two universal joints.

With the new camera mount, we went for a second visit to the remains of the 1873 British bark Bessie Rogers on Saturday. With the camera attached to the kayak, facing down and set to take photos every seconds, I paddled over to the wreck.

I broke up the area into four lanes. Once a lane was completed, since the camera was mounted on the starboard side, I turned around and repeated the lane. The entire wreck took about a half hour or more to cover. In the end we collected over 2000 photos

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