Like an aquatic Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler writes the type of fiction perfect to bring along on your next vacation (at least if you like thrillers).

If this sounds true to you, and you’re a fan of Lebanon history, you’ll definitely want to check out his 2007 book, The Navigator, written with Paul Kemprecos.

The Navigator was the seventh book published as part of the NUMA Files, which depict the action-packed agenda of the fictional National Underwater and Marine Agency (this also happens to be the name of Cussler’s real life non-profit). 

The plot of the book revolves around a search for the lost treasures of King Solomon, with a climax in northern Lebanon County’s St. Anthony’s Wilderness (more commonly known today locally as Stony Valley).

The area is today a state game land that’s main site is the geological wonder of Boxcar Rocks, but in the 1800’s the area was home to a few commercial operations as well as the Cold Springs Resort. Once a year, the Stony Valley Rail Trail is opened up for a drive thru.

Penn Live posted video of Gold Mine Road a few years ago, due to it being the site of more than a dozen crashes each year.

If you’ve taken that drive or otherwise gone up towards Stony Valley, you’ve likely run into Gold Mine Road, seen in this map.

Here’s where one of the main characters describes the NUMA version of Stony Valley’s history:

It was named after a missionary named Anthony Seyfert. The locals know it as Stony Valley. It’s quiet as the grave around here now, but in the 1800’s hundreds of men and boys toiled in the coal mines. Rail lines came into the village of Rausch Gap, and later served the Cold Springs Resort. Almost everyone left when the mines played out.

All that, by the way, is accurate. The area was named by Ludwig Von Zinzendorf, leader of the Moravian Church, who were sent to the area to ease tensions with local Indians by none other than Conrad Weiser.

What’s not historically valid is the Gold Stream Hotel, which the book plants in this area, in a lake off Gold Mine Road (perhaps the Evening Branch you can see in the map above)?

More broadly though: Was there a gold mine in Lebanon? The book raises the question, and we are glad to answer that, yes it’s very possible.

From an article syndicated by the Lebanon Daily News in 1883 titled “Happy Lebanon”:

“A hundred years ago a stranger from some large city made annual visits to the auriferous district, accompanied by Indians. He would spend a month or more in the mountains, when he left as silent and mysteriously as he came. Once when storm-bound in a farm house the refreshments of his convivial host loosened his tongue and reveal the existence of the gold mine he had so regularly visited. Soon after he was murdered by his Indian friends, since which time the locality of this venerable gold mine has been as unknown as the Philosopher’s stone. But now it has been rediscovered and the usual week’s excitement has resulted. Happy Lebanon!”

However, the paper’s readers may have had a short memory, because just eight years earlier, a letter to the editor had come in regarding a scheme at Gold Mine.

“This singular lady devised a scheme to lease the Sharp Mountain at Gold Mine, which land was supposed to abound in gold. The lady on this precarious took in a partner, Mr. Yellow Spring. Then the company embraced by the permission of the government, Gold Mine, Rausch Gap, Cold Spring, Oyster Point and Yellow Spring and then assumed the name, Big Indian Mining Company. She promised a return of 120 per cent. profit to all investments. The public enthusiasm was elevated so high that stock could not be got up fast enough, but the long, dark, stormy night was fast descending…”

People have long reported finding gold dust and flakes at mines in Lebanon County notably in Cornwall, where 67,000 ounces were recovered between 1908 to 1973. It’s conceivable that an earlier vein was tapped but not disclosed. But it seems more likely that the coal deposits in Sharp Mountain were conceived as “Black Gold”, and in fact there used to a be a coal shaker located at Gold Mine Station off the Schuylkill & Susquehanna, built to get coal out of this region.

So while we do not endorse going Clive Cussler and making your own expedition to St. Anthony’s Wilderness on the hunt for gold, we do recommend picking up the book for an enjoyable holiday read.


LebTown membership required to comment.

Already a member? Login here

Join the Conversation


Your email address will be kept private.