How New Westminster could be the key to solving this legend
He was hanged for a murder in New West. Now a team of four are searching for Slumach’s lost gold mine
It’s a mystery that has eluded searchers for more than 100 years, but one team could be close to solving it.
The legend of Slumach’s gold has been tested time and again, with a variety of prospectors hoping to find the motherlode. No one has done it, but one team thinks it could be successful.
The show Deadman’s Curse chronicles four explorers who hope to solve the long-standing myth. Prospector Kru Williams and Indigenous explorer Taylor Starr each hope to solve the mystery for their own reasons: Williams is searching for gold, while Starr—Slumach’s great niece—wants to fill in the gaps in her family history.
New Westminster is part of the story, since it’s where Slumach was hanged.
“New Westminster is one of the oldest cities, obviously, in British Columbia, so anything that happened in the past is going to have to come through there. And so did Slumach. And that’s where the legend began,” says Williams. “That’s where the curse actually begins.”
Slumach was convicted of killing a man named Louis Bee at Pitt River. It’s thought that Slumach killed Bee to protect his mine. On the day of Slumach’s hanging—Jan. 16, 1891—Slumach called from the gallows, cursing anyone who chose to look for his gold.
There’s one scene in the show’s first episode that is pivotal to finding some answers to the mystery. Starr was worried she wouldn’t be able to find what she was looking for because of the way history has often been tracked—through a white lens.
“I was really concerned, just from previous lookings, from the internet, and different newspapers, I was like, ‘Is there really anything that is…from my ancestors? From Katzie [First Nation]?’”
Local historian Fred Braches agrees with Starr’s assertions when she goes to visit him in the first episode. Braches is the author of Searching for Pitt Lake Gold: Facts and Fantasy in the Legend of Slumach.
“One of the things you have to take care of, [is] that you don’t believe the newspapers at the time. Journalists, they didn’t go there, they didn’t talk to the people. They heard rumours, and that’s all what that was. Do not trust anything which is published,” Branches says to Starr while she is visiting his home in Maple Ridge.
“There is the real Slumach, and there is the fantasy Slumach,” Branches says in a confessional. “This is created by the newspapers.”
While the team knows Slumach is a real person, and that he would often visit New Westminster, there are tales of the man flaunting his wealth, and in the form of gold nuggets—some as big as acorns.
“I think now is the best time for anybody to become a prospector, the way the markets are shifting!” Williams jokingly tells New West Anchor. “For me, it started back [when I was in] the States, I mean, who doesn’t like finding gold? And I mean, the moment you actually realize that in the dirt lies a precious metal that you can exchange for money? And once you start finding it, you get addicted to it. You want more.”
It’s why Williams says the four are so reliant on one another to solve the mystery: between Williams, Starr, Starr’s father Don Froese, and mountaineer Adam Palmer, looking at the legend from as many angles as possible will hopefully close the case.
“I think this is the best expedition for looking for the truth, solving the legend, and actually finding the gold…we all have our strengths and the most beautiful thing is we’ve grown together,” says Williams.
“[My father] and I, we know the land, the animals, we know the trees and the rocks, so we can proceed to tread carefully, so as not to destroy it,” adds Starr.
So, do they find the gold? You’ll have to tune in to find out.
You can catch Deadman’s Curse on The History channel. You can also watch the show live and on demand on StackTV and through the Global TV app.