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The deserts of the American southwest have long been the discussion of lost mines and buried treasures. For hundreds of years, man has scoured the desert floor searching for any signs of the countless tales of lost riches. Some have claimed to have found the elusive treasures but only to be lost again, while others grew old or died trying. None the less, the legends live on as they are passed down from generation to generation. Maybe you will be the lucky one...
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ARIZONA'S LOST SIX-SHOOTER MINE
By James McCoy
From page 44 of the August 1998 issue of Lost Treasure magazine.
Copyright ©1998, 1999 Lost Treasure, Inc.
In the annals of Arizona history, the story
of a lost mine made famous by the exaggerations pulp fiction writers
has been long-forgotten. The Lost Six-Shooter Mine, as the story became
known, is supposedly located somewhere between the Planet Mine and
Quartzsite, Ariz. The Planet Mine was Arizona's first copper mine.
It was discovered in 1863, by a man named Hyland near Planet Peak
in the Buckskin Mountains of western Arizona.
The Buckskin Mountains are as isolated
and wild as ever, consisting of broken and jumbled mountain ranges,
ridges and scattered peaks, ranging in elevation to over 3,000 feet.
The landscape is punctuated by numerous washes and alluvial fans,
many of them gold-bearing. The mountain slopes are rugged and often
quite steep. Summer temperatures can reach 125 degrees! The Planet
Mine is one of many mines in the area which is located in the Santa
Maria mining district.
Many mines in the district carried gold
and silver values as well as copper, including: the Argus and Maryland
Group, the Clara, the Mineral Hill Group, the Planet, the Swansea,
the Revenue Group and the Signal group of mines. One mine in the district,
the Angelus Mine, is of special interest as it carried only gold and
silver values. The gold was found as finely divided particles in irregular
streaks, and small discontinuous pockets of brecciated to pulverized
sugary quartz, making for beautiful specimen gold!
Although ore deposits in the Santa Maria
District were found as early as 1850, samples of copper ore were not
sent to Boston for analysis until 1858. In 1862, 100 tons of high-grade
copper ore were shipped to San Francisco by boat down the Colorado
River and was sold for $100 per ton. Operations continued on an intermittent
basis through 1923, at the Planet Mine and, today, little remains
at the site other than a scattering of tumbled-down buildings.
Much the same can be said of the nearby
Swansea group of mines. Today, only ghosts occupy the shacks and walk
the streets of the old settlement at Swansea, a town that once boasted
of having its own smelter. The total estimated production for the
mines of the Santa Maria District exceeded $12,000,000.
The Santa Maria is a small district, as
mining districts go, surrounded by better known districts (at least
from the standpoint of known gold deposits) such as the Harquahala,
the Weaver and the Cienega districts. It is into this milieu that
we toss our main character, the superintendent of the Planet Mine.
One bright spring day, the superintendent
mounted his horse and left the Planet Mine to escort the mine's eastern
stockholders to the stage station in Quartzsite, Ariz. In those days,
hostile Indian war parties still roamed the West in search of prey.
Neither whites nor Indians were immune from such attacks, especially
those whites seeking gold and those small groups of Indians living
along the Colorado River.
On a wind tossed day, his obligation to
the stockholders completed, the superintendent mounted up and headed
back to the Planet Mine. Somewhere along the way, he was caught in
a whipping sandstorm that blacked out the sun. A not uncommon event
in the Desert Southwest even today.
The man became lost and wandered aimlessly
for several days until he came to rest along a wind protected ledge.
He curled up against the ledge under the protection of his coat to
protect himself from the windswept sand. Thirsty and hungry, the man
thought the storm would never end, but it did.
Days later, the storm blew itself out and
the man got to his feet, hoping to be able to find his way back to
the Planet Mine, and to have the strength to do so. As he prepared
to leave, he took a good look at the ledge that had provided him with
shelter and noticed that it was quartz rock sprinkled with gold! Knowing
mining as he did, the superintendent broke off as much of the ore
as he dared to carry and placed the samples in his saddlebags. Then,
in order to find the spot in the future, he wrote down a description
of the surrounding countryside and marked the mine's location by placing
his two six-shooters on top of the ledge.
The man hoisted himself up into the saddle,
barely able to do so, and headed his horse in what he believed was
the direction of the Planet Mine. Going without food or water during
the time of the storm, the man was in such weakened condition that
he could barely hold on to the saddle. When the horse showed up at
the Planet Mine without its rider, a search was organized to find
the superintendent. Days later, his body was found in the desert near
present-day Bouse. Inside his saddlebags, the search party found the
ore samples that had been removed from the ridge, along with detailed
notes as to its location. When the ore was assayed, it showed values
in excess of $25,000 to the ton! To this day, the Lost Six-Shooter
Mine has never been found.
The area covered between Quartzsite and
Bouse, where the superintendent's body was recovered, is not so large
by today's standards. It's 25 miles by county road from Quartzsite
to Bouse and 26 miles by similar road to Swansea and the old Planet
Mine, all located in what today is known as La Paz County, which was
formerly a part of Yuma County, Ariz. Rest assured that plenty of
rich gold mines have been found in La Paz Country, including the Harquahala
Along the Quartzsite-Bouse Road, which
is paved and heads in a northeasterly direction, there are two mines:
the Southern Cross and Mudersbach, both gold deposits. Be advised
that detectorists are welcome to nugget-shoot in the area of the Mudersbach
Mine (see Ronald Wielgus' How to Get More of Your Share of Desert
Gold). And, of course, copper mines surround Bouse; however, all of
these hold minor gold and silver values as well as copper.
The Bonanza, or Harquahala Mine, and the
Golden Eagle vein (both located east of Quartzsite) were discovered
in 1888, and sold to Hubbard and Bowers who organized the Bonanza
Mining Company. Reportedly, a 20-stamp amalgamation mill, which was
erected in 1891, produced $1.6 million in bullion in three year's
time. While many speculated that the Lost Six-Shooter Mine was, in
fact, the Harquahala Mine, no such evidence exists. For one thing,
the nature of the ore at the Harquahala Mine was completely different,
being found in course-grained, grayish-white quartz with abundant
iron oxide, pyrite, chalcopyrite and galena (lead ore).
Further to the east, miners found the Socorro
Mine, a gold property located 11 miles southeast of Salome, Ariz.,
at the turn of the century. Free-milling ore was found at the Socorro
Mine consisting of white quartz and oxidized gold-bearing iron minerals.
Yet, between 1906, and 1914, the mine yielded only $20,000 in gold
bullion. Hardly a rich mine by anyone's standards. Howard Fisher has
acquired a number of specimens of free-milling ore from the dumps
and inside the tunnel for Socorro Mine by using a metal detector to
conduct the search. The present-day owners had offered the property
to Howard for a small price.
A number of other minor gold claims exist
throughout the Harquahala Mountains, such as the San Marcos, Hercules,
Hidden Treasure and the Alaskan mines; however, none ever produced
more than $12,000 in bullion.
A number of mines were located in the Plomosa
District, located northwest of Bouse: the Dutchman, Blue Slate and
Old Maid mines. Only one of these, the Dutchman Mine, has a record
of production, producing $20,000 in bullion between the years, 1912,
The question lost mine hunters and detectorists
always ask whenever they gather to discuss the Lost Six-Shooter Mine
is: could the superintendent have become so lost and confused that
he wandered around for days in a circle? If so, could he have missed
the Planet Mine entirely, heading further north or east? Quite possibly.
As we have seen, the Harquahala Mine lies
to the east of Quartzsite; yet, the nature of the ore was such that
no match can be made with those samples retrieved by the posse from
the superintendent's saddlebags. Should he have missed his mark and
wandered far to the north, only to later turn back and head south
to die at Bouse, could he have found rich gold ore in what's known
as the Planet District?
According to geologists at the Arizona
Bureau of Mines, the answer is no as the Planet District, located
in the vicinity of the Williams River, north of Bouse, has produced
very little gold and what little was produced was combined with copper
ores. So the Lost Six-Shooter Mine remains, to this day, lost!
-- James McCoy