April 24, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.
When did the first prospectors and miners arrive in the rich gold fields that are between Superstition Mountain and Oroahi Mountains? Historians believe the first prospectors in the area were Mexican miners from northern Sonora. They began prospecting this area after 1790. It was between 1790 and 1830 Mexican farmers and miners moved up into what is now Arizona territory by using the river routes. The Mexican miners may have worked this area from 1825 thru 1850. Most of the Mexican miners probably came from the Gila and Santa Cruz river areas. The first Anglo-Americans arrived on the scene about 1863 from the Bradshaw Mountain region. These prospectors wanted to get out of cold mountains and into the warmer desert for the winter months. They found the Apache a major problem and soon retreated back to the Bradshaws. The Mexicans tried to erase any prior record of their work hoping to protect their gold mining operations in the area. The Mexicans didn’t have the resources to really develop mining in the Goldfield area. These types of hostilities kept prospectors and miners out of the area for a few mores years. When the first prospectors from Mesa City arrived in 1881, it wasn’t long before claims began to show up in the area. Ed Jones staked one of the earliest gold claims in 1881. The claim was named the Lucky Boy. William A. Kimball staked another claim at the Boulder-Buckhorn in 1886. Later Anglo-Americans worked the veins of gold in the area that had been worked previously by very primitive mining methods employed by the Mexican miners.
The area was opened to mining soon after the Indian Wars came to a close. The Army brought the Apaches under control in 1886.The surrender of the famous war leader, Geronimo, at Skeleton Canyon in Southern Arizona ended the Indian Wars in Arizona.
A newspaper article appeared in the Arizona Daily Herald in 1879 describing an incident that occurred west of Superstition Mountain prior to the closure of the Indian Wars. The incident involved two Mexican brothers who had been attacked by the Apache. One brother was killed and the other escaped. The brother that survived the attack by the Apaches carried out a bag of rich high-grade gold ore. These brothers were named Peralta. Both Oren Arnold and Barry Storm knew this story and had information about the incident. Many contemporary historians believe this is the origin of the legendary Peralta story and their many gold mines in the Superstition Mountains. Oren Arnold always said, “Don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” Oren wrote quite a story about the Peraltas in his book Superstitions Gold. Barry Storm was a researcher who bent the facts toward his way of thinking. Even earlier writers such as Pierpont Bicknell picked up on the Peralta story of 1879. Bicknell did not let the truth stand in the way of a good story either. Bicknell’s January 13, 1895 story in the San Francisco Chronicle was an important contribution to the legitimacy of the Lost Dutchman Mine story therefore creating a foundation for the Peralta story. One inconsistent fact based on another man’s reputation followed by another began to weave a story of lies and misinformation that eventually produced a legend.
Yes it is true, miners and prospectors have been digging gold out of the region between Superstition Mountain and the Oroahi (Goldfield) Mountains since 1850. Some claim the old Kimball Mine (Palmer Mine) produced around 3,000 ounces of gold in the late 1880’s. Between the years1886-1892 various prospectors and miners mined a little gold from the Gold Fields, but not enough to make the area a major producer of gold. However, in1892 a real productive gold vein was discovered in the Goldfield mining area. This was the Black Queen. One vein after another was discovered leading up to the Mammoth Mine in 1893. The Mormon stope produced $3,000,000 worth of gold in four years between the years of 1893-1897. This mine proved the Goldfield area a worthy gold producer in Arizona Territory.
During the period 1880-1910 the entire area was considered a part of the Superstition Mountain region. Little is known about the region before 1880 until about ten years ago when an old Mexican family journal was found in Phoenix. This journal revealed some very interesting information about the Salt River Valley and what the Mexican community did to survive. Many families raised goats as subsistence animals. They herded these animals around the fringe areas of the developing irrigated fields in early Salt River Valley. Some families moved on eastward along the Salt River. Two Gonzales boys and two Peralta boys were herding goats along the Salt River near a camped group of Pima warriors that hunted Apaches in the Superstition Mountains. They told the boys there were no more Apaches in a lush valley just west of the mighty bluffed mountain. The boys started herding their goats toward the valley. While their goats grazed they found small outcroppings of gold. There wasn’t much gold in these outcroppings, but enough to keep them interested in digging. When they returned home and told their families about their discovery they were warned not to tell anyone. The Mexican families knew they would be murdered for something as precious as gold. The Mexicans from along the Gila, Santa Cruz and the Salt Rivers continued to work these outcroppings in the Goldfield area for several decades before the first prospectors arrived in the area around 1880’s. At the first sign of the Anglos the Mexicans began to conceal their mines along Weeks Wash and in the surrounding valleys, they then abandoned the area. Eventually the Anglos discovered the Goldfields. The old Mexican families never had enough capital to develop what they knew existed and belonged to them near the Superstition Mountains.
The gold claims and small mines west of Superstition Mountain became part of the Superstition Mining District some time during the late 1880’s or early 1890’s. The pounding of a large stamp mill could be heard across the desert from 1893-1897. The mill provided considerable gold bullion for its investors. Stamp mills are very interesting pieces of machinery. A visit to the Superstition Mountain Museum on the Apache Trail (State Route 88) near Mountain View Road will give an idea of what a stamp mill looked like. They have a real one on display at the museum grounds.
One of the richest prospects discovered in the valley between Superstition Mountain and the Oroahi (Goldfield) Mountains was the Bull Dog mine. Many clues to the Bull Dog fit the story of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. Clues such as an eighteen-inch vein, a pointed peak, brushy draw, three red hills, back from the northwest end of Superstition Mountain, and on a ledge above a wash are significant in the story of the Dutchman’s lost mine. Did Bicknell, Arnold or Storm make up their stories or did they base them on facts of the day? There is little doubt in the minds of historians today about these men being the perpetrators of the legendary Dutchman’s lost mine story in the Superstition Wilderness Area.