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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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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 Mines.

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, through 1913.

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