Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Old Spanish Mines

By Kristy McCaffrey

Long before the westward expansion of the United States, the Spanish were present. Markings on a canyon wall in central Utah consisting of a cross symbol bear the date ‘1667’. Hieroglyphics and pictographs originally thought to be placed by Native Americans are actually markers along the Spanish Trail, which led from Mexico to the Uinta Mountains (in Utah) and beyond. This trail was the main link between Mexican and Spanish outposts, and it’s posited that they were religious outposts. The Spanish presence lasted well into the 1800’s, when packs of Mexicans were reportedly leaving the Uinta Mountains laden with gold.

The Uinta Mountains of Utah.

Until the 1800’s, the tales of the Spanish gold mines were the subject of Native American history, with few white men knowing of the mines. The Spaniards used the Native Americans as slave labor, and after many years of oppression it’s believed that they revolted and killed most of their Spanish captors. Supposedly the Native Americans returned the gold bullion to the earth and sealed it in the very mines from which it had come.

Thomas Rhoades

Thomas Rhoades, a close assistant to Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, was one of the first white men to fully understand the implications of the Spanish mines. Young had become a religious mentor to a Ute Indian named Chief Walkara, who spoke of a secret cache of gold in the Uinta Mountains. The chief agreed to give the gold to the church, and Rhoades was selected to transport it to Salt Lake City.

Unfortunately, the Indians refused to remove the gold, believing it to be cursed. But it was easy for Rhoades to transport since it was already mined and left in bullion form. His first trip was said to have lasted two weeks, yielding more than sixty pounds of pure gold. For several years, Rhoades continued to transfer gold until, in 1887, he discovered additional mines located off Indian ground. This spurred interest in the lost Spanish gold mines, since it appeared there wasn’t just one mine to be found but many.

Searching for the mines could be deadly. In the early years, stories circulated of prospectors being shot and killed, often by Native Americans protecting the sacred mines. Even as recently as 1990 there have been reports of modern-day prospectors being fired upon as a warning by Native Americans who protect the land near historic mining operations.

Old-timers in the Uinta Mountains have claimed there are seven mines lined with pure gold that supplied the Aztecs, serving as the basis for the seven golden cities of Cibola sought by early Spanish explorers.

In ROSEMARY, Book 11 of the Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series, Rosemary goes in search of the fabled Floriana mine in the wilderness of the Utah Territory in 1884. While The Floriana is a fictitious mine, I based it on tales of the time.

Rosemary Brennan is recovering from the loss of her husband five months prior in a devastating mine accident that took the lives of nearly all the men in Wildcat Ridge. The mine owner, Mortimer Crane, has given the widows an ultimatum—find husbands or he will evict them from their homes and businesses. Desperate to keep the assay office that her deceased husband had managed, she heads into the hills in search of an old Spanish mine called The Floriana in the hope she can lay claim to a bonanza of gold.

Ex-U.S. Deputy Marshal Miles McGinty arrives in Wildcat Ridge to pay his respects to Jack Brennan’s widow. He and Jack had a history, and Miles is heartsick over the loss of the young man he had come to think of as a brother. When he learns of Rosemary’s problems with the piggish Crane, he will do anything to help her—even offering marriage. But when it becomes clear that Crane knew of Jack’s criminal past and was blackmailing him over it, Miles must decide whether to tell Rosemary the truth, because doing so may drive her away. And to his surprise, Miles has fallen in love with his new wife.

A sweet romance set in 1884 Utah Territory.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Review: Tailspin by Sandra Brown

By Kristy McCaffrey

This is the first book I've read by the very prolific Sandra Brown, and I'm looking forward to exploring more of her backlist. Be sure to jump over to her website to learn more about this lovely author.

Sandra Brown
(It's also available at all other major book sites)

Rye Mallett is a Freight Dog, a pilot who will fly in tenuous circumstances. He’s contracted to deliver a black box to a Dr. Lambert under terrible weather conditions. When he ultimately crashes, through no fault of his own, he quickly becomes embroiled in a race against time. Dr. Brynn O’Neal is after the same box, and Rye’s fate quickly becomes entangled with hers. He also falls hard for her. The entire novel takes place in a 48-hour period, but you’ll feel as if you’ve known these characters far longer. The tension is acute, the romance hot, and the stakes of the highest order—I couldn’t put it down.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Fire Assaying Process

By Kristy McCaffrey

The fire assay method is used to determine the precious metal content of a mining sample and has been in use for thousands of years.

Assaying is the process of determining the quantity of any particular metal in an ore or alloy, especially the determination of the quantity of gold or silver.

Initially, the sample must be reduced to a powder in order to be tested. The powder is referred to as “pulp” and the scales to weigh it are called “pulp scales”. The assayer begins by running the sample through a crusher. After the initial crushing, the sample is put into a “buck board” for further pulverization under a muller that rubs the material into a finer state with a sliding motion. Harder samples are made finer using a device called a “rocker” that uses a heavier weight upon the sample being pulverized. Assayers doing a smaller volume of work might use an iron mortar and pestle, although it requires considerably more effort.

As this process unfolds, the assayer divides the sample into smaller and smaller portions until the correct sample size is achieved. After pulverization, the sample must be run through sieves of appropriate size. Any material that doesn’t pass through must be further ground down until the entire sample will pass through the sieve.

The resulting material must be carefully mixed and then stored in a container. The contents should not be shaken as this could cause the materials to begin stratifying according to their masses and it could upset the accuracy of the process.

Selected portions of the sample are placed into a scorifier, a dish that can sustain the heat of the assayer’s oven. Along with a sample of litharge (a form of lead), various chemicals are included that will help in allowing the metals to separate from the slag. The mixture is roasted in the assayer’s oven until the melted slag completely covers the lead bead that forms in the scorifier.

The sample is then poured into a cone-shaped mold, allowing the metal to form at the apex and the slag at the bottom. The metal part, or lead button, is detached from the slag and hammered into a cube with no sharp corners. The button is then melted again in a cupel, which is made of a material called bone ash. During this process, lead and other impurities are both oxidized and driven into the material of the cupel itself. A good cupel is capable of absorbing its own weight in litharge. The metal in the cupel melts, becomes smaller, and forms into a bead. The composition of this bead should be gold and silver. This bead is weighed.

The next step is called “parting”. The bead is flattened, placed in a porcelain capsule and treated with a solution of water and nitric acid. Once the reaction begins, the capsule is warmed. Silver in the bead forms a solution of silver nitrate that is carefully washed away until only gold, if any, remains. This is gently dried in the capsule and removed.

The final sample of gold is weighed, unless it’s too small, in which case it is described as a “trace” or “color”. From the weight of this bead, the assayer will calculate the gold and silver ore value per ton of ore.

In ROSEMARY, Book 11 of the Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series, Rosemary is determined to keep the assay office open after the death of her husband, along with most of the men in town, in a mining accident.


Rosemary Brennan struggles with grief along with the other widows of Wildcat Ridge after a devastating mine accident takes the life of her husband, Jack, and many others. Forced to find a new husband or be evicted from her home by the unscrupulous mine owner, Mortimer Crane, Rosemary finds unexpected help from Jack’s friend, Miles McGinty, an ex-U.S. Deputy Marshal. Together, they’ll uncover Crane’s deceit that involved her first husband. But McGinty knows more than he’s saying, and Rosemary isn’t certain she can trust another man so soon after losing Jack. More importantly, does she dare open her heart to him?


In the following excerpt, Rosemary has gone into the hills in search of an old Spanish mine called The Floriana but has become lost. She stumbles across the path of two unsavory prospectors, Hector and Alvin. It’s here that she meets our hero, McGinty.

Excerpt from Rosemary
Two men rolled in the dirt, locked together like battling bull elk. Another horse stood vigil, minus its rider, who must be the man currently fighting Hector on her behalf. For a split second, she thought it might have been Priscilla’s husband, Braxton, but the man grunting and, unfortunately, losing ground to the likes of Hector, was a stranger to her.

Friend or foe, she couldn’t let Hector win.

“Freeze or I’ll shoot,” she said loudly.

Both men stopped and looked at her.

“Who are you?” she demanded of the stranger.

“McGinty,” he wheezed past the chokehold Hector had on him.

McGinty? That sounded familiar.

“Let him go, Hector,” she demanded, “before I drag you to the marshal and have you locked up.”

A wicked grin spread across Hector’s face. “How you gonna do that? You’re as lost as a whore in church.”

Rosemary inhaled sharply. “You’re a despicable human being, and if you don’t release Mr. McGinty right now, I’ll shoot your foot off.”

Hector chuckled and gripped his arm tighter around McGinty’s neck. The stranger’s face was starting to turn purple.

Rosemary cocked the gun and closed her right eye to line up the sight with her left the way she had practiced with Jack. Without hesitation she fired, the kick from the weapon knocking her backwards with a scream. As she scrambled to her feet, Hector was howling, but Mr. McGinty had managed to free himself.

Alvin ran toward them with a lopsided gait, huffing and sweating. He might be young, but he acted like an old man.

Mr. McGinty grabbed a shotgun from his horse and aimed the firearm at the two prospectors.

“She shot me!” Hector wailed.

Rosemary remained where she was, a terrible trembling overcoming her. Good Lord, I did shoot him.

Alvin bent down to examine his friend’s leg, wheezing as he spoke. “Now, Hector, she barely grazed you.”

“She shot my foot off!”

Alvin shook his head, his mouth buried in the mop of whiskers that hung from his chin. “Nope. The bullet’s in the ground, not yer foot. She made a hole in your trousers, that’s all. I see a tiny speck of blood, but I’m not sure since you’re a mite filthy.”

“Grab her!” Hector insisted. “We’ll take her to Wildcat Ridge and have her arrested.”

“I don’t think so,” Mr. McGinty finally chimed in. “You were chasing her. What did you plan to do when you caught her?”

Hector’s expression turned incredulous. “Who the blazes are you? And how do you know she’s not my wife? Or somethin’?”

Mr. McGinty looked at her and the full brunt of his attention stilled her breath. Before she turned purple herself, she gulped air into her lungs. He was tall and strong and … how on earth did the likes of Hector best this man?

“Are you his wife?” he asked. “Or somethin’?”

Copyright © 2019 K. McCaffrey LLC

Don't miss all the books in The Widows of Wildcat Series
Sweet Historical Western Stories
1884 Utah Territory

Visit the series page here.

Connect with Kristy