GOLD HILL, Ore.– When Earl Moore of Gold Hill died in 1981, he was 84 years old with more knowledge about the Indian lifestyle and experience than many natives and most non-Indians of his generation. In 1902 Moore moved as an 8-year old child with his family to a ranch on Sprague River, where he quickly made friends with the Klamaths and Modocs. His grandson, Steve Mapel says, “the Klamaths and Modocs were kind of amused by and became quick friends with this young white kid because he kept asking questions, y’know, because he didn’t have any inhibitions.”
Mapel tells us that as Moore grew up he took the knowledge he gained among local natives as a child and used that to find and recover not just arrowheads here and there, but whole caches of artifacts. Mapel says, “into later years when he would go up into the mountains he would look at potential campsites and things and say, ‘no, it doesn’t face the right direction.’ or, ‘no there’s no water’, or the rising of the sun was a very important thing in Indian culture. But then there were times that he just knew! He would walk out in the middle of a wide open high mountain glade, dig down three feet, and there would be a cache!”
In the eastern Oregon desert he would spend days clearing rats nests and debris from a rocky overhang or lava cave to find what others had overlooked, or were afraid to go for. Rattlesnakes were always a concern. In 1977 he published a book, “Silent Arrows”, in which he described many of his expeditions from the coast to the Cascades and in between. He even offered tips for conducting effective searches for Native American relics. “The professional archeologists kinda poo-pooed what he was doing, but in reality he would spend days recovering something like that”…speaking of a quiver with the arrows still inside…”and then carefully preserving it, spraying it with shellac or whatever it took to keep things from disintegrating in his hands.”
Mapel went with his grandfather to one of the biggest finds, known as the “Monarch cache”, near the Rogue-Umpqua divide. He says, “it was life-changing. He was totally focused. But he would think. You know, you could see him thinking about, ok where are we gonna dig? As if he was communicating at a level that I wasn’t even part of.”
When Earl Moore retired he moved out of Gold Hill and settled on a little piece of property along the Rogue River south of town, near where Kane creek comes in. It just happened to be the historic Gold Hill site, a rich area of Indian artifacts. And in a little building next to his house he established a small museum. Whatever became of that museum collection of some 20,000 artifacts still remains something of a mystery.
Several years after Moore’s death in 1981 his children offered his massive collection to the new natural history museum in Ashland. But when they claimed a tax deduction, Federal officials started efforts to repatriate parts of the collection to local tribes. Officials with the Cow Creek and Klamath tribes acknowledge receiving artifacts they say they will eventually include in displays, possibly at their casinos. But what became of that which is not associated with those tribes is still something of a mystery. Steve Mapel laments that that’s not what his grandfather wanted to become of his life’s work, having it broken up into separate parts.