There’s gold in them thar hills…somewhere! Throughout the history of the West, stories are told of lost, forgotten and misplaced mines. Many have been sitting undisturbed for years, shrouding their boundless wealth, just waiting to be re-discovered. Gold and silver-bearing regions are awash with stories of miners losing their way; Indians killing off the miners and then hiding the markings; flash floods destroying the lay of the land; earthquakes changing the rock formations that helped a miner find his way.
Some of these accounts, of course, are surely yarns, just like the “fish-stories” told by sailors. But many are the true tale of mines “gone missing” to the poor fools that lost them. In Arizona alone, there are thought to be at least twenty such sites. Can you imagine how many the vast American West could be hiding?
The naysayers can scoff, but in 1959 the Burro Mountains gave up their treasure of the long-lost Spanish mines, twenty-five miles northwest of Lordsburg, New Mexico. And in 1965, Arizona’s “Lost Coconimo” mine was found in the state’s Sycamore Canyon.
If you’re feeling lucky and have been bitten by wanderlust, you might want to check out a few of the accountings I’ve listed of some of the most famous or colorful lost mines:
—Lost Blue Bucket at the Malheur River in eastern Oregon. The date was 1846 when a wagon train pulled into camp on the middle fork of the Malheur. Some pioneers, finding some stones in a creek bed, filled a hand-made blue papier-mâché bucket. Later they learned their finding was gold. Status: still lost.
—Lost Rhoades in the Uintah Mountains, northeastern Utah. This mine was said to be owned and strictly guarded by the Mormons. Only Brigham Young and a handful of elders and two other members of the Rhoades family knew of its location. In 1877 the Indians placed a ban on visits to the ledge where the mine was located, because it was on the Uintah Reservation. In 1905, Caleb Rhoads, the last living person to know its whereabouts, took the secret to his grave and the “bank” of the Mormon Church was lost, so to speak. He left a crude map with only Rock Creek and Moon Lake as landmarks, but others have been unable to find its location. Status: still lost.
—Lost Padre, somewhere in the 113,809 square miles of Arizona. This mine, originally owned by Indians, was taken over by Spanish missionaries. After the California gold strike of 1849, the Southwest had a surge of hopeful miners looking for their Eureka. To keep their mine secret, the padres sealed it off. It’s been re-discovered several times, but with all the lucky finders ending in a violent death. Status: still lost.
—Lost Gunsight in California’s Death Valley. No date is given for the first discovery of a reef that was said to be heavily laden with silver. It was discovered by a single man who was part of a Mormon migrant party. He fashioned a gun sight for his rifle with the silver from the reef. Stories of this silver reef in Death Valley have circulated for years, and it’s been found and lost several times. It’s believed that the cause of its elusiveness is the shifting sands. Status: still lost.
—Lost Adams, south of the Little Colorado River in northeast-central Arizona. In 1864, this gold-bearing dry wash was discovered by a man known only as Adams, along with a party of prospectors. They were led by an Apache half-breed. Soon after the colorful discovery, a war party descended and killed many of the men and ran the others off. For ten frustrating years, Adams tried to get back to the findings, but was always held off by the Indians. Finally, after the Apache Indians had been moved, Adams went back in search but was never able to find the correct spot. This discovery is also known as the “Lost Adams Diggins” and has been made into a movie called Mackenna’s Gold. Status: still lost.
As you now see, there is still gold in them thar hills! You just have to be lucky enough to find and keep it. Have you ever been gold panning?
Have you visited a haunted mine or discovered something special? We’d love to hear about it…
Today, in celebration of the release of MONTANA DAWN, I’m offering a signed copy to a commenter. Also, if you go to my website (www.carolinefyffe.com) and sign up for my News Letter on the contact page, you will be entered in the drawing for a basket filled with candies, chocolates, muffin mix, a handsome coffee mug (filled with even more chocolate!) and a jar of scrumptious jam, all made from the Big Sky State’s coveted huckleberry.
Also included is an autographed copy of both MONTANA DAWN and WHERE THE WIND BLOWS. It’s as easy as pie. The winner will be drawn on December 10th, 2010–just in time for Christmas.
It’s wonderful to be here again at Petticoats & Pistols.
Thank you to all the Fillies for having me. It seems like only yesterday when we were talking about Pioneer Teachers and how they helped shape the West. Don’t know about the rest of you, but time seems to have jumped its bank…and there’s no holding it back.
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