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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 -- Lost Soapmaker
By Anthony J. Pallante

From page 50 of the February 2002 issue of Lost Treasure magazine. Copyright © 2002, 2001 Lost Treasure, Inc.

The Tinajas Atlas, or High Tanks area at the southern end of the Gila Mountains near the Arizona-Mexico line is named for the natural rock tanks that trapped rain water from the infrequent but violent desert thunder storms. In 1855 a party from Mexico City headed for the California gold fields stopped to camp and rest at the Tinajas Atlas for a couple of days after completing the arduous trek across El Camino Del Diablo from Caborca. During the rest break the horses were lightly hobbled and allowed to graze freely. When the prospectors were ready to proceed on into Yuma, the two guides that the group had hired through the auspices of a wealthy German soapmaker in Caborca set out to retrieve the stock. While accomplishing this task, the guides accidentally dislodged the over burden on a steep butte and exposed a rich vein of gold in “rotten sugar quartz.” The guides cut a few samples with their knives and returned to the mining party as if nothing had happened.

After setting the group on the road to Yuma, they returned to Caborca seeking a grubstake from the soapmaker. The soapmaker was only too happy to oblige. He gave the guides a pack train of mules complete with leather ore sacks, tools, and food. They gave him the gold samples and a crude map and headed back to Tinajas Atlas. They were never seen or heard from again. The soapmaker organized a second expedition but could find no trace of the mine.

In 1922 the fire chief of Yuma befriended an ancient Papago Indian who told him that as a young boy he had been with a party of Indians who had killed the guides at the mine site and then caused an avalanche of overburden from further up the hill that buried the miners and their mine. The Indians took the mules and horses but never returned to the site because of the spirits of the two dead miners. The Papago told the fire chief that the mine site was one day’s ride (by Model T) out of Yuma in the vicinity of Tinajas Atlas and offered to guide him there. The fire chief agreed and set aside three days for the complete trip, but the Indian disappeared in the interim and was never seen again. When the fire chief had the ore samples that the old Papago had left with him assayed, the report came back $80,000 per ton at 1922 prices.

The chief and many others searched the area between Tinajas Atlas and Tule Well for years afterwards, but the mine — now called the Lost Soapmaker — has never been found.

Please Note: It is the responsibility of the treasure hunter to gain permission before detecting.

-Anthony J. Pallante