Monday, January 11, 2010

The Wagoner Golden Ledge

January 4, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

A tale of lost gold without a "Dutchman" or "Peralta" would be inappropriate for the Superstition Mountain area. However, such stories do exist in the files, and Wagoner's lost ledge has intrigued the imagination of many prospectors.

The Hewitt Canyon Wagon Road. Wagoner's Lost Gold was in really rugged country very similar to this.

It was spring-time when John Wagoner arrived in Florence, Arizona Territory, 1883. Wagoner traveled west for his health. He suffered from a severer respiratory illness. Eastern doctors had advised him to move to a hot dry climate to rebuild his health. Wagoner made short forays into the desert surrounding Florence to regain his strength. As he regained his health his trips became longer and more intensive. He would board the stage at Florence and travel to a site near Black Point on Queen Creek. From here he would hike in a northeastern direction into the Superstitions carrying nothing more than a canteen and small black suitcase. On his return trip he would catch the stage near the "Narrows" on Queen Creek for a ride back to Florence.

By 1893 several rich gold strikes were found west of Superstition Mountain. These mines included the Bull Dog, Black Queen, and the Mammoth mines. The discoveries encouraged Wagoner to take his prospecting a little more serious. He soon realized the discovery of a bonanza was not impossible so he began to work the Superstition Mountains with earnest. A stage driver, who had become his friend, would drop him off and pick him up at prearranged locations along the stage route between Florence and the Silver King, Pinal and Hastings.

Wagoner was not an experienced prospector or miner, but he was familiar with gold. He had traveled to the Goldfield area to become informed about the deposits there. He was sure if gold existed in quantity at Goldfield, it was only reasonable that gold could be found in other locales around the Superstition Mountain range.

Wagoner began his quest for gold in the desert lowlands southwest of Superstition Mountain, Working his way northeast toward the area of Miner's Needle. Somewhere between the stage route and Superstition Mountain he found his bonanza. Fred Mullins, a stage driver, remembered one particular day when Wagoner flagged him down. Wagoner was standing and waiting for Mullins. His black suitcase was under a large Mesquite tree. He was very excited. Mullins pulled the stage to a stop and dismounted. Wagoner came up to him and said excitedly, "Hey Fred I've found it."

He hurried to the shade of the Mesquite tree and brought back his suitcase to show Fred Mullins the specimens he had. As he opened the suitcase, Mullins saw some of the richest gold ore he had ever viewed. The gold was laced so thickly through the Quartz it would have been almost impossible to separate it other than by hand-cobbing.

All the way to Florence, Wagoner sat on the box with Fred and told him about his discovery. "Fred," he said, "it was in white quartz on a ledge about twenty inches wide." He continued, "The gold is laced in the quartz and easy to separate." Wagoner told Fred the quartz had intruded a large black basalt outcrop on the desert not to far from the stage route. Wagoner continued to gather gold from some undisclosed location for five years on a monthly basis. Wagoner continued to tell Fred Mullins more about his golden ledge with each trip.

Wagoner talked about seven shallow shafts with Ironwood collars near two black hills. At the base of these hills was a stone mill for grinding the ore. From what Wagoner said the rich ore was never placed in the stone mill for grinding. This ore was hand-crushed and the gold was separated from the quartz. Mullins was convinced that Wagoner worked the mine with out the benefit of tools. He concluded this because he hauled Wagoner for all those years and he never transported any tools or powder.

Many years later Fred Mullins told friends he believed Wagoner had found a rich Spanish mine filled with cache gold ore. The reason for this conclusion was the richness of the ore. Wagoner told Mullins one day he was returning to his home back east. He had plenty of gold and had regained his health. Wagoner told Mullins he did not ever plan on returning to the mine so therefore he wanted to tell Mullins how to find the mine.

Wagoner said the gold ore was located four hours walking time north of the "Narrows" on the stage route. The ledge was located near two black hills. A sharp needle rock could be seen on the horizon to the north. Water could be found one mile to the east year around no matter how dry the season was. Indian markings can be found on the rocks just to the west of the site over some very rough and steep terrain. The old alternate route for the military trail between Fort McDowell and Camp Pinal lie about one mile to the north. Fred Mullins never found Wagoner's golden ledge and it remains lost to this day.

Mullins and Wagoner are both gone now, but their tale of lost desert gold still intrigues the hearts of adventurers young and old alike. There are several versions of this story; so maybe you will be fortunate enough to find the missing clues and locate this fabulous bonanza known as Wagoner Golden Ledge.