Total Pageviews

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lost Mines at Austerlitz. New York

Bash Bish Falls just south of Austerlitz

There are reports of a lost mine or two in Austerlitz, New York in Columbia County located in the high peaks of the Taconics.  According to reports the mine wasn’t profitable because there were only a few streaks of yellow gold to be found in the massive quartz.  Geologically this makes sense because the author has seen a lot of this quartz as float in the streams of Columbia County in the past.  There are also outcrops of the same quartz veins to be found throughout the county especially on the New York Thruway, the Berkshire Spur (I-90) and Rt. 22 in several places especially in Petersburg, New York.

According to the story Oscar Beckwith who had been born in the area around 1810 who had traveled extensively in the American West returned home at the age of 67.  Soon, Beckwith found traces of gold on his property he sought financial backing from a resident of the county named Simon Vandercook by making him a partner.  This new partnership didn’t work out to well and they soon took to quarrelling until in 1882 Beckwith solved the problem by murdering Vandercook.  This was a particularly grisly murder that also included cannibalism in Beckwith’s attempts to hide the murder.  He ate Vandercook’s liver after frying it in a frying pan.  He then cut the body up and prepared it for pickling in a barrel of salt brine, and the charred remains of Vandercook’s skull were found inside the kitchen stove..

He then disappeared for six years following the murder thus escaping justice, but he was eventually found and brought to justice.  Beckwith soon confessed to his crime where he described bludgeoning and stabbing Vandercook then started eating him to hide the evidence, after his trial Beckwith was sentenced to death by hanging in the courtyard of the county jail in Hudson because his crime had been so gruesome. 

While he was being held for hanging he told his jailers about finding a second vein of gold that was vastly richer then the first that he discovered just before murdering Vandercook.  Although they tried his jailers could never get him to reveal where the second vein of gold was.  Beckwith was hanged between heaven and earth on a cold, bleak morning in March 1888.  Shortly after he was hanged the famous Blizzard of 1888 struck that completely obliterated any traces of his old cabin along with any traces of his gold find.

Did Beckwith and Vandercook find another mine?  It was this discovery that may have prompted him to murder Vandercook driven by greed.  It was this murder that lends some truth to the story that they had found a new vein of gold that Beckwith wanted all by himself.

1 comment:

  1. Great tale, John! Too bad I wasn't around that area, I would be looking for it!