Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association
7/22/2011 6:59 PM
LDMA key to future of prospecting
Tom Massie recalls how Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association got its name
By BRAD JONES
GPAA Editor / Content Director
There are many tales about how the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association got its name. Many assume, it has something to do with the famous Lost Dutchman Mine, but both Tom and Perry Massie know the real story.
“I remember being a little kid. I musta been nine or 10,” Tom began.
As the tale goes, George “the Buzzard” Massie had a close relationship with his father-in-law, Pete Kuipers.
“You see, my grandpa traveled around with my dad doing seminars,” Tom said.
“They were just sittin’ around one day just BS-ing and my dad said something about the Lost Dutchman. He was referring to Pete because Pete was a Dutchman and he was ‘lost”
Kuipers had been recognized for bravery during the World War II in Nazi occupied Holland.
“He came to the United States after the war. He had gotten an invitation from (President Harry) Truman because of his heroics in the war to come to the States,” Tom said.
“He was kind of a character himself and my dad used to say to him ‘You are a lost Dutchman, and we’re going to name it Lost Dutchman’s.’ ”
“There’s the Lost Dutchman’s Mine which is a famous mine that a lot of people know about, but I think in his heart he really named it after his father-in-law, Pete, and he was ‘lost.’ ” Massie said with a chuckle, adding that exactly why his father called Pete the Lost Dutchman remains a mystery that no one will ever know for sure, because it was an inside joke.
“It was between them,” Massie said.
Ironically, what started out in jest has grown to become one of the world’s most prominent — and prestigious — mining clubs around. Today, the LDMA boasts thousands of members nationwide and in Canada.
Mining their own business
George Massie’s vision was to create mining camps owned by miners — the rights to the land and the minerals, so that members could prospect in peace — without being bothered by the outside world.
“The Lost Dutchman’s was born out of the GPAA,” Massie said.
The camp itself, was anything but a joke and its members were dead serious about preserving the mining heritage — not a museum, but as an active, living mining camp full of gold prospectors.
“There were a few of them back in the day — these were old time, lifetime GPAA members — and they had their eye on this deeded piece of property. They knew there was really good gold there, but it was an expensive piece of property to buy,” Tom said.
“They kinda got together and said ‘OK, we’re gonna pool our money and we’ll buy it. Then we’ll dredge it and go get gold.’ ”
But, when word got out in California about the first LDMA camp at Italian Bar, the news spread like wildfire to other GPAA members in other states.
“They bought Italian Bar and they were just going to limit it to Italian Bar, but then there were 20 other lifetime members who wanted to get involved.”
The founding LDMA members decided to allow the newcomers to buy in.
“They didn’t feel right shutting them out,” Tom said.
“It was $1500 and they used the proceeds to buy the second camp, which was Stanton and so on and so on down the road.”
Looking back to the first couple of outings at Italian Bar, Tom remembers hearing some grumbling from skeptics.
“Some people said ‘There’s no gold here. There’s no gold here,’ ” he said with a laugh.
“Since then, I’ve known thousands of ounces of gold have come off that property. It has been a real good gold producer,” Tom said.
Before the LDMA bought Stanton, a long-forgotten mining town tucked away in the mountains, it was little more than a dust bowl and dilapidated ghost town, Tom Massie recalled.
“I remember the first time I flew out there with my dad. We went out there in a Jeep. The place looked nothing like it does today. It was just tumbleweeds and the buildings were in disrepair. The adobe building was decaying,” he said.
“Without the vision of my dad to buy the place, Stanton would be lost,” he said.
Since then, the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association has helped to preserve the Old West ghost town, unlike two others in the area — Weaver and Octave — that were left to rot, Massie said.
“It would look like Weaver does today. If you go over and you look for Weaver all you see is where the adobe buildings have decayed back into the mud. There are a few old rock foundations, but it’s really hard to see where that town once was. And, Stanton was heading in that same direction,” he said,
“Coming in there and preserving those buildings and putting a roof over the top of the adobe building saved it from the weather and really preserved history in that town.”
Mining first, camping second
Even to this day, some people still get confused about what the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association is all about, and what it stands for, Massie pointed out.
“Some people refer to it as a camping club, but it’s not. It’s a mining club,” Massie said. “We don’t go to camp on our properties. We go to mine. We are camping, but it’s an end destination.”
The fight for land rights
Is the fight against the staggering burden of government over-regulation and heavy restrictions on small-scale mining a battle that can be won?
“It’s a constant fight,” said Massie, adding that fighting for the right to prospect on public lands is a battle worth fighting and a war that can still be won.
“I’d like to think so,” he said.
The future of prospecting
With more and more government restrictions on public lands and on mining in the West, Massie sees the LDMA camps as the strongest hold that miners can have on the land — outright owning it.
“I see as more and more regulations and things are put upon people, this is our best hold on the land,” he said.
While the focus has always been more in the West, because of public lands, millions of acres of land have been “locked up” and prospecting banned in many areas, Massie said.
“On the East Coast, there’s not much public land, so with the land being in the West a trend over the years of more land being locked up and land being set aside, Lost Dutchman’s is kind of a entity ...
Massie said he’s committed to keeping the LDMA camps open for the long haul.
“We steadily make improvements to the camps, some of them we have to and some of them we want to, depending on what regulations we have.”
He pointed out that on a regular claim, miners must share the land with off-roaders, fisherman, hunters and all types of outdoorsmen, which most miners are more than happy to do. The true beauty of the Lost Dutchman’s camps lies in their exclusivity.
“To be able to foster the spirit of the prospector and the miner. I think this is our last vestige and Lost Dutchman’s is holding on to that spirit of its members and introducing people to that spirit,” he said.
“At the Lost Dutchman’s camps, it’s always a fun thing to sit around the campfire in the evening time with members from all over the place and talk prospecting and swap stories. It’s a lot better than sittin’ around watching TV. You’re under the stars and the sky and meeting new people and old friends sitting around the fire talkin’. It’s just the whole thing of being prospectors in a mining camp.”
“Each one of the Lost Dutchman’s camps has its own appeal — different places and different ways of gettin’ gold,” he said.
“It’s a unique organization.”
Then and now
While the mining camps of the ’49ers have changed from tents and shacks to modern camping trailers and self-contained RVs, the feeling of independence and freedom remains strong, Massie said.
“I think some of the creature comforts have changed, but I think that spirit — that freedom the American way of life is still there.”
Honor, trust among prospectors
Massie said there is an unspoken honor and trust among prospectors at LDMA camps.
“I don’t know if you can put a finger on it, but if I pull into a Lost Dutchman’s Camp and I see somebody coming in and maybe they’re totin’ a gun, there is that freedom; there is that trust. You know... they’re like me,” he said.
“In L.A., they’d be callin’ the cops,” Massie said. “It’s that spirit, that freedom and it’s hard to put your finger on it.”
How does the GPAA differ from the LDMA?
The main difference between the GPAA and the LDMA is deeded land.
“A mining claim is different from fee titled land. When you have a claim, you have the right to mine those minerals. You can’t run off birdwatchers, you can’t put up a ‘No Trespassing’ sign ... It’s still public land? If somebody is four-wheelin’ through there or enjoying the scenery, as long as they aren’t interfering with your mining operation, you don’t have the right to run ’em off — and vice-versa.”
“If you’re running a club, that claim can be pulled because you don’t have title to the land,” he said.
“When you have title to the land, like your house, that’s the best hold you can have on it. There’s no other mining operation out there with that much fee titled land,” Massie said.
“There are millions of dollars in those pieces of property held in Lost Dutchman’s name. They are all fee-title, so there is a larger asset and they’re more expensive, so its built for the long run. Lost Dutchman’s is built to be around for a long time. So, when you become a member, it gives you a good feeling. If you’re a lifetime member, it’s gonna be around for your lifetime,” he said.
“If it’s just on a lease or on a mining claim, you don’t know what’s going to happen with those in the future,” he said. “That’s our best hold — deeded ground and all Lost Dutchman’s property is deeded ground.”
For example, when they have closed the national forest that surrounds the LDMA Italian Bar camp in California because of dry conditions and high fire risk, the U.S. Forest Service could not prevent LDMA members from accessing the Italian Bar property.
Even though Italian Bar is totally encircled by a national forest, the government could not prevent LDMA members from entering the camp, Massie said.
“They couldn’t close off the deeded land. So, there’s been times when the gates were locked, but the only people who could go in there were Lost Dutchman’s members. The rest of the public can’t go in there, but Lost Dutchman’s members can go in there.”
The GPAA Outings
“The only time GPAA members can stay at the LDMA camps is during outings and the LDMA lets the GPAA hold outings at the camps,” Massie said.
“The outings are good for LDMA. It’s a source of new membership and it’s the way the LDMA wants to bring in new members because if you come to one of the camps and you are there at an outing and you see the kinds of people that are there at the camp and you enjoy it, those are the people that we want... We don’t want people who are just looking for a place to store their motor home,” he said.
“We want somebody who is actively involved as a member.”
Who are LDMA members?
“They are salt of the earth people. Like I said before, you have that like interest. They are usually more grounded and they come from all walks of life,” Massie said.
“The fever — gold fever — inflicts all kinds of people. It’s not so much greed. Just dig for little while and the greed leaves you in short order,” Massie said.
“You have people with big huge, half-a-million-dollar motor homes and you have people in a Volkswagen with a tent. We are all members. We’re all together and we’re only interested in the color yellow,” he said.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie. All kinds of people get into the club and they make lifelong friends,” he said.
“There’s an independence — not having someone standing over your shoulder. If you go to a regular campground, you’re going to have someone tellin’ you ‘No campfires’ by your place and there’s a lot of rules. The GPAA and LDMA camp rules are more common sense stuff — so just more freedom.”