The story of Bill Jenkins and his lost gold in the Superstition Mountain area has all but faded into obscurity. Only a handful of old-timers remember the tale of this interesting man and his work in the Superstition Wilderness.
Some sixty years ago, William P. “Bill” Jenkins and his family drove out along the Apache Trail for a spring picnic. They parked their car near Willow Springs Bridge (First Water Canyon) at Canyon Lake. This was an extremely difficult place to begin a hike because the sheer cliffs rise out of the water a hundred feet or more.
Jenkins and his family made their way southward along a narrow canyon for an hour or so, finally ending up in a small flat valley in the canyon. Here, near a large mesquite stump they prepared their noon meal in the shade of a towering cliff.
Bill decided to look the surrounding country over after lunch and before heading home. Hiking up the canyon a short distance he came across a small tributary that he chose to explore. He walked up this canyon a short distance then decided to climb to the top of the ridge immediately above him and the canyon floor. From that vantage point he could see Weaver’s Needle clearly to the south some three and a half miles away. To the southeast he could see a large black mountain with sheer cliffs. It was Malapai Mountain that loomed on the horizon in a southeastern direction from his position on the ridge. Standing in the early spring sun he noticed four large saguaro [cacti] aligned north to south.
Bill eased himself down a steep slope from this flat-topped ridge into a narrow canyon below. Walking carefully along the bottom he came to an obstacle in his path. The narrow canyon was choked with brush and boulders.
The passage appeared impossible to negotiate without climbing out of the canyon on the far side. Bill then started to climb up on the far side. It was then he noticed an outcropping of white glassy rock. Below the outcropping in the canyon he saw a small circle of rocks just beyond the brush-choked canyon.
Being of a curious nature, Bill decided he should investigate. He worked his way around the brush and rock and observed a post in the center of the rock circle. Following a game trail, he made his way over to the small circle of rocks. He had read stories about old arrastras and he was quite sure he had found one. Note: When a full size stamp mill was not available, arrastras were used to crush the ore. Arrastras were small circular flat areas of land usually about 10-20 feet in diameter with a pole in the center.
Some years prior, when Jenkins had first come to Arizona, he had heard stories about Spanish arrastras in the Superstitions, particularly north toward the Salt River. After examining the site, he made his way up the other side of the canyon to the outcropping of white rock. Near this point he stumbled into a small prospect hole. Near the edge of the hole he picked up what he thought was a colorful piece of rock to take back to his wife. The rock he chose to lug back weighed between five and ten pounds, depending on which story you hear. Not being an experienced prospector, Bill chose the rock because of its beauty and not for its mineralogical value.
[Part II, October 7, 2002]
Some sixty years ago, William P. “Bill” Jenkins found an interesting rock while on a picnic with his wife and family at Canyon Lake. Jenkins discovered the rock while exploring alone after he and his family had eaten lunch.
Bill’s wife, Marion, collected rocks of all kinds from all over Arizona for their home. Bill knew Marion would be pleased with this colorful rock from the famous Superstition Mountains in her collection. Not paying much attention to landmarks or details about the area Bill made his way back to his wife and children.
Jenkins showed Marion the rock and related his findings to her. She was very pleased with the beautiful rock from the region. Lugging the rock back to the family car at First Water Bridge required more than two hours because Bill and his family could not follow the course of First Water Canyon because of Canyon Lake.
Once at home, the beautiful rock from the Superstition Mountains was given its place in the yard and forgotten. A few weeks later Bill decided to give this rock another inspection after talking to a friend. His friend had told him he may have found an old Spanish or Mexican mine of some kind. Curiosity overwhelmed him and he chose to break the rock up and see what was on the inside. Using a hammer, Bill broke the rock into three large pieces. To his amazement the interior of the rock was filled with gold wire stringers.
Not being an expert at recognizing gold, Jenkins called an experienced prospector he knew named John Clymenson (who wrote under the name Barry Storm). At first Storm was reluctant to take a look, but when he examined the rock he was sure that Jenkins had found one of the lost Peralta mines in the Superstition Mountains. Storm immediately knew the rock contained a large amount of gold and suggested that Bill have the rock assayed. The assay report was run in Phoenix around 1937 and showed the ore contained about 57 ounces of gold to the ton (about $2,000 per ton at 1937 prices).
Barry Storm immediately wanted to check the Jenkins story and encouraged Jenkins to file a claim. Jenkins was reluctant because he didn’t think he could find the spot again. Storm drove out to the First Water Bridge at Canyon Lake and tried to retrace Jenkins’ route into the Superstitions. Storm’s excitement and interest created suspicions in Jenkins’ mind. He soon realized he had a valuable deposit of gold ore and had no intentions of sharing it. He quickly advised Storm to get lost and refused to further cooperate with him or provide any more information.
Bill’s wife worked for the United States government and was transferred to Tucson soon after the discovery near First Water Canyon. After several months in Tucson, things quieted down and Jenkins returned to the Superstition Mountains. He searched for his rich bonanza off and on until 1941, but never relocated the site. Storm continued his effort to enlist Jenkins’ help to find the mine, but was never successful.
William P. Jenkins passed away in 1941 or 1942, taking the secret of his golden bonanza to the grave. The arrastra or golden ledge has never been rediscovered to this day.
There are few documents to support the Jenkins story other than Barry Storm’s account and an obscure newspaper article. The assay report may still exist among some of Jenkins’ descendants. But many years have [passed] and few remember the story of Bill Jenkins and his golden ledge supposedly hidden in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.