Forgotten Silver

Prospector traveling by mule

Franklin, CA is not unlike many such towns that appeared in the time of the Silverado mining boom. Its curbstone was a moderate one: worth perhaps $360,000 in total. Nonetheless, the town at peak population numbered at 50,000 or above. At a point when the curbstone had been tapped nearly dry, the town kept afloat by the prospecting of “blind leads,” the most notable event in town history occurred.

Wladyslaw Krusinski,a German of polish extraction, had been undertaking a survey of the local terrain for two weeks. As it was customary for miners to miss their projected date by several days, alarm was not raised until Krusinski’s burro, Good Fortune, arrived in town without him. The trappings on its back were askew and improperly fastened. It was noted that the saddle rode upside-down as if it had been mounted in a hurry.

Krusinski arrived in town three days later.

Written records are unclear at this point. Though much detail was embroidered into the account of Krusinski’s mule, the man’s overall state of physical, mental, even spiritual wellbeing went unremarked. The only comment on his status was the ambiguous remark that he had “caught some bad shade,” which could indicate anything from sunstroke to tuberculosis. Records indicate that he was given food and water at the town’s jail-cum-hospital and then, for all intents and purposes, forgotten.

A day later the town’s sole remaining newspaper, the Franklin Mint, ran a story about the “lost miner hoax,” expressing grudging admiration for the prankster who had gone so far as to implant records of Krusinski’s mining history in the town ledger. It pointed out the impossibility of Krusinski’s being put up in the jail as the town had never been large enough to require one. If all else failed, the editorial quipped, one could simply remember that there had never been a man by that description in town or else someone would remember meeting him.

The next day the paper ran a retraction, apologizing for a grave miscalculation. It had been running reports of independent mining companies numbering in the twenties, when the real estimate was under ten.

The next issue expressed puzzlement at recently discovered mockups of past issues, as the paper was no older than a day. It ran an introductory story, entitled “camp life,” extolling the virtues of the recently-founded camp. It listed the assets as: one chapel, one alehouse, and five independent mining companies. It also apologized for publishing a “patently false” staff list, as the real staff took up but a third of the printed roster.

This is the last issue of the Mint. These collected papers were wrapped around a silver ingot, stuffed in the saddlebag of a riderless mule. The mule also carried provisions that would support a single man for several days. The mule bore bit and bridle as if whoever packed it had every intention of journeying, but no rider was extant.

Franklin was assumed abandoned in the traditional fashion, no exploratory party was ever mounted. Later visitors(in 1906 and again in 1963) found the town untouched, with personal effects laid out as if set down in the middle of use. Unprocessed silver lay in slag heaps at the mill, the printing press with a story half laid out. Plans to designate the town as a tourism destination fell through due to lack of interest.

Local amateur historians claim the area the town inhabited was named “ghost silver” in the tongue of the Weekeaw tribe. There is no record of any such tribe ever existing.

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