The largest single blaze to ever burn on the Colville National Forest started August 4th of 1929 from a berry pickerís campfire near Dollar Mt, south of Sherman Pass Highway not far from Old Kettle Falls. In Old Kettle folks remember needing to hose down their roofs at night to keep the embers from starting the roof on fire. Fields burned as far away as Chewelah. People say that the fire was caused by a lightning strike and started as a small blaze in the Gold Creek Basin. Gold Creek is a miner stream that flows into Sheep Creek a tributary of the Columbia. At that time a crew of twenty-five men from Rossland, British Columbia and 4 Americans were sent to help put the fire out. Most of the men were Doukhobors.(members of a Russian Orthodox church)
Hoping to stop the fire from spreading east the fire fighters set a fire break but the fire jumped the fireguard that the men had built and the menís camp was engulfed in flames. The firefighters ran for their lives. When they re-grouped, they only counted 27 men. A roll call revealed that the missing men were two Doukhobors. It was late and the crew assumed the worst and considering the hazardous conditions their compatriots had no choice but wait until early morning and send out a search party. Meanwhile exhausted and barely ahead of the flames this two Doukhobors, spotted an open slide area with no vegetation. They climbed to the middle and hunkered down for the night as the fire raged around them. The next morning as they picked their way down to the bottom of the slide, they spotted a vein of high-grade galena. They broke off two big pieces with their fire axe and took it with them for further assay back in Trail B.C. Surprising everyone joining the crew and showing them there great discovery . After the fire was finely put out in September they all returned to Rossland.
In the spring of 1930, the two returned with a couple of geologists. The rocks they found on the rock slide that saved their life turned out to assay at over 1,000 ounces of silver a ton - bonanza ore! Confident that they could easily locate the rock slide and the rich ledge of galena, the ecstatic discoverers, accompanied by the geologists, headed north into the valley of Big Sheep Creek. They picked their way through the charred remains of the Dollar Mt fire looking for the ledge of silver ore. But it was a far different Gold Creek valley that it had been a summer before. The fire had devastated the basin. The two Doukhobors still convinced that they could find the rock slide picked their way through the burn, but they failed to find it on that trip and on 4 more trips after that.
Of that initial suppression crew of twenty-nine men three of them are still living and each recalls in detail that day of great joy seen their friends alive caring with them their great discovery. Ray Wiley, who carried the water into the crew during that fire and saw the ore back in 1929, is convinced like so many others that the ledge is still there. Wiley is now a well known prospector that still lives on his ranch in Rattlesnake creek, just south of Gold creek basin and has made a number of trips into the basin looking for the rich ledge of galena.
So the legend of the Lost Doukhobors Ledge began. Since then many prospectors have searched Gold Creek Basin for the lost Doukhobor Ledge .For over seven decades all attempts to find the silver ledge have failed.
Old cabin near Gold Creek. Same area as the Lost Doukhobor Ledge.