Tuesday, May 9, 2000

Lost Gold Found?

May 9, 2000 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

One of the most perplexing lost gold stories associated with Superstition Mountain has to be that of Charles Williams, a 41-year-old disabled veteran who walked out of the Superstition Mountains on January 8, 1935 with twelve large [shiny] gold nuggets. The weight of the nuggets was eighteen ounces.

Williams claimed he had been lost for three and a half days in the deep canyons and towering spires of the Superstition range. When authorities questioned Williams about his adventure he told the following story.

Williams said he found a cave deep in the Superstition range that had a pile of gold nuggets on the floor. During the frenzy of an anxious moment, Williams said he dropped to his knees to examine the gold nuggets he had found. He then suddenly jumped to his feet in excitement and struck his head on the roof of the cave. The blow was quite severe he said, hard enough to totally disorient him.

After his experience in the cave, Williams wandered for more than three days trying to find his way out of the Superstition range. He finally staggered into a prospecting camp nine miles from Apache Junction at 2:00 a.m. that January morning.

Williams was weak from apparent hunger and almost incoherent when brought to the Sheriff’s Office by Ed Layton, J.A. Wosham and Jim Potter. Because of the large quantity of gold Williams had, he immediately turned it over to the authorities. 

Old timers listened as Williams told his story about a cave with at least twenty pounds of gold nuggets piled on the floor. Williams was positive he could return to the cave and gather more gold, however he wanted to be sure he had a legal claim.

The authorities were very skeptical of his story and Sheriff Walter Laveen started an immediate investigation of Williams’ claim. Williams returned to the mountain on January 9, 1935, with several of his war veteran friends and tried to relocate the cave he had found. Williams was not successful in his search.

During this period of time, it was illegal for American citizens to possess more than five ounces of gold, and on April 30, 1935, the United States government claimed Williams’ gold under the federal gold laws and on November 11, 1935, the Assistant Federal District Attorney seized all the gold Williams had in his possession. The attorney said Williams’ gold nuggets contained primarily dental gold and was illegal to possess at the time without a government permit.

Charles Williams claimed to the end that he had found the gold nuggets in a cave. When the facts of the case were explored, it certainly appeared Williams knew nothing about the dental amalgam and that he never tried to do anything illegal. He reported finding the gold to the proper authorities as soon as he came out of the mountain range. During the entire eleven months of hearings and testimony he never changed his story.

If Charles Williams’ story is true, it would be reasonable to believe there are still nineteen pounds of dental gold in a cave somewhere in the Superstition range.

However, there are those who theorize that Charles Williams accidentally stumbled onto an illegal cache of dental gold belonging to someone else who was perpetrating a fraud or hoax. If this is true, one would have to believe the original perpetrators returned to the cave and recovered the remains of the original cache minus what Williams found.

After being cleared of any wrongdoing, Charles Williams returned and searched for his cave. But, he was unsuccessful and, eventually, like so many others, he faded into oblivion.