Gold Hunters Dig for Lost Underground Empire of the Lizard People!

I thought it would be fun to explore the story of the “Lizard People,” which is to say the excavations on Fort Moore Hill in an unsuccessful search for gold. G. Warren Shufelt usually gets the credit for the enterprise, but his partners deserve equal attention. The Times reported that Rex. I. McCreery and Ray Martin provided an ancient parchment map showing the Lizard People’s underground empire, which allegedly stretched from the Central Library on 5th Street to the Southwest Museum, which you must admit is a lot of digging.Earlier Times clips report that Shufelt had been a mining engineer employed by a mine in Kingman, Ariz., so evidently he was legitimate. Unfortunately, The Times’ stories about the gold excavation are vague and conflicting about the origin of the map. Most stories say it belonged to McCreery and Martin, who presumably brought in Shufelt as a partner because he was a mining engineer. Our later story says Shufelt got the map from “Little Chief Greenleaf” alias L. Macklin.

Aug. 15, 1897: An early story about gold buried on Fort Moore Hill.

March 3, 1933: Gold hunters are excavating directly over the Broadway tunnel, a long-gone downtown landmark that was just north of the Hall of Justice.  Evidently they didn’t question why the crews digging the tunnel didn’t find anything.

March 4, 1933: Gold hunters consult their ancient map.

March 7, 1933: Onlookers apparently heckled the diggers.

March 9, 1933: They’re close!

March 27, 1933: The hunters are secretive about their map, attributing it to the Spanish rather than the Lizard People.

April 10, 1933: The Board of Supervisors allows digging to continue.

Sept. 7, 1933: Shufelt, McCreery and Martin have given up, but Alfred Scott comes forward to carry on the search.

Dec. 22, 1938: Times columnist Ed Ainsworth takes a look at various legends of lost California gold as engineer Roger J. Adams begins digging. According to The Times’ clips, a fair amount of dirt from Fort Moore Hill was used as fill during construction of Union Station. The job was done mostly by hand, with men using picks and shovels as a public works project to provide jobs during the Depression.

Photograph by R.L. Oliver / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 21, 1949: Demolition of the Broadway tunnel failed to reveal any buried gold.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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