Though Copper Creek Missouri is a fictional town, the mysterious rumors of a lost copper mine which lured George Mason there have some basis in fact. During the mid nineteenth century a miner named Joseph Slater lived in a cabin near the Current River in Jacks Fork, Missouri. Over a span of three to four years, he sold raft-loads of high grade copper ore in New Orleans amounting to a sum of more than $50,000.
Speculation over the location of his copper source made Slater fear the secret of his mine would fall into unfriendly hands. In an attempt to protect his interests, Slater filed a false mining claim on a tract two miles away from the actual shaft. Believing the subterfuge would distract claim jumpers, he continued to work his mine until a government survey revealed the claim he had filed was on another man’s property. Afraid an attempt to purchase the land would tip his hand, Slater and his daughter sealed up the mine, carefully hiding any signs of working the land and left the area, planning to head east.
Slater expected an absence of two or three years would give people time to forget about the copper and then he could return and offer to buy the land for “farming”. However, he and his daughter only made it as far as St. Louis where Slater died. His daughter eventually married and moved west without ever returning to reclaim her father’s discovery.
For decades, locals in Shannon County, Missouri retold the legend of the Slater diggings. As late as 1926, the Kansas City Star newspaper still purported the lost copper mind would be found and “revolutionize the Ozark region of Missouri.” And although many have searched for Slater’s lost copper mine, to this day, it has never been found.
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