It was the late 1890’s, and the rip-roaring gold mining town of Ruby City, Washington Territory, was at all-time mining production. In addition gambling was rampant. A gold mine rode on a queen of diamonds. The best poker player in Ruby City, John Clonan, nervously fiddled with his cards, and cast his eyes upon the faces of the other two players, both whose personal goal was to win the game. It was terribly quiet. John had almost jumped when the bartender, J.M. Byrnes, slammed down a glass of whiskey loudly on the bar. The drink was for an impatient customer in a far corner of the Mother Lode Saloon, gun-toting Frank Watkins from Riverside, Washington Territory.
John fingered his depleting pile of poker chips. He was gambling against two mining partners, Thomas Donan and William Milligan, both rough and tough opponents. He didn’t like the looks of what he was seeing. It was William Milligan who had called for the last card, then grabbed it. A moment later, William slapped his cards face up onto the table. John took one glance at the three aces and two kings; a full house. He then closed his eyes in disbelief, because nearly all of his chips had disappeared. At the next hand, he bet the rest of his chips, and lost to a straight flush. The other two men leaned back in their chairs, cocky, and balancing precariously on the chairs’ rear legs. He avoided their gaze, shifting uneasily in his seat. He didn’t have another cent of cash to his name. “John,” smirked Thomas, “It looks like yer out ‘a the game.” John brought his weight abruptly forward, shaking his head. “Huh-uh! Oh, no, I ain’t partner!”
The other two raised their eyebrows. “What ya say?” “Yep, I’m gonna let you bet all the pots you won off of me tonight, against the deed to my Last Chance Gold Mine.” The two astonished men brought the legs of their chairs crashing to the floor. John Clonan’s gold mine was no small one. Actually, it was worth many times the money they that they had just won. The noisy scene at the table was attracting attention, and saloon spectators were beginning to form a crowd. Thomas Donan leaned forward slowly, squalling at Clonan. “Yer gonna what?” Thomas asked. The mine was John’s entire fortune. “Jis what I said,” John confirmed. “Except ‘fer one thing: the odds. I deal only one hand, and to win my gold mine one of you has to get a royal flush.” Thomas stared incredulously for a moment, and then became thoughtful. Finally, he cracked a smile at William Milligan. After all, what were just one night’s winnings against such a huge jackpot? “Well, John,” Thomas boasted, “if that’s what yer gonna bet, I wouldn’t mind havin’ that gold mine for my own.” “Deal me in, too,” echoed William. John shuffled the cards, and after the cut, began dealing almost recklessly. Thomas Donan picked up the first card, a jack of diamonds. A bit more cautiously he picked up the second one, a ten of diamonds. He began sitting up straighter. The next card was a king, also of diamonds. He was trying now to keep his hands from trembling, but he almost lost composure at seeing the next card, an ace of diamonds.
The curious spectators were crowding even closer now. The tension was unmistakable, especially in Thomas’s favor. All he needed now was the queen of diamonds, and the odds of him getting it were still very high. John gave the last card a sort of reckless toss across the table. Thomas’ sweaty fingers fumbled for it. Cautiously, he raised a corner of the card and looked at it, a queen of diamonds.
John didn’t need to see the cards to know that the Almighty in favor of Thomas Donan had struck a miracle.
He began to yell; “Lucky Queen! Lucky Queen! I now own the Diamond Queen Mine! Anxiously, he spread the cards on the table, a royal flush in diamonds. John Clonan slowly and reluctantly paid off with the deeded transfer of title from his Last Chance Gold Mine. Indeed, it had been his “last chance.” And, he had blown it in a game of chance at playing cards.
Every day thereafter, Thomas’ gold diggings near Squaw Creek in Washington Territory near Ruby City were known as the “Diamond Queen Mine.”
Information for this article was compiled, researched, and written by Jerry Smith © 2007 Boom Towns & Relic Hunters.