Chapter Eleven: Simon Novinger
One day I was in Goldman's store in Phoenix and a man whom I was acquainted with by the name of Simon Novinger and who was about 69 years of age, a rancher and a bachelor and who owned three hundred and twenty acres kist spitj of where the State Capitol now stands, said to me, "Jim, I hear that you are looking for a lost mine up in the Superstition mountains." I said I was, and he said, "Keep on looking as it certainly is there." I looked at him in surprise, as Novinger was considered a very conservative man, one who never spoke idly, and was one of our most prominent ranchers. He was considered well off financially and all around reliable man and a good citizen. He was tall, thin and quite lame, and always carried a cane, apparently not as an ornament but as a necessity. We sat down away at one side of the store on the counter, and he told me the following story:
That in the early sixties he had a horse ranch in San Bernardino County, California. Horses were running loose on the range, and one day a boy about fourteen years old came along and asked him for a job herding the horses. He said that he would work for ten dollars a month and grub. Novinger said all right, and the boy went to work herding; that he fixed up an old saddle he had and let him have a pony, and just the two lived on the ranch. The boy told me that he had never worked before; that the Commanche Indians had raided his father's home on the Rio Grande river in Texas; that they had killed the whole family but him; that he had had a father, mother, brother and sister; that he was the older of the three children and the Indians took him prisoner. They traded him to the Apache Indians in New Mexico, and they traded him to the Apache Indians in Arizona, with whom he had been ever since, until a few weeks ago when he had escaped.
One day, a couple of prospectors stopped at the ranch and bought some provisions. They paid me in gold dust. The boy was there and saw them pay me. After supper that evening the boy said, "Was that gold that those men paid you?" And I told him it was. He kept quiet for a while, then said, "Say, Mr. Novinger, I know a place in Arizona, yes, two places where there is lots of that gold. The first place is on top of a high mountain where you can pick up big chunks of it. The second place is about eighty miles east of there where you can load a mule team, yes, six of them. It is high up, then down and hard to get to, and if Mr. Novinger could get a hundred men well armed, he would guide them to both places." Novenger said that he couldn't get a hundred men, and anyway, he could not get away.
One day, some time after that the boy asked Novinger if he would give him the pony and saddle for what he owed him. Novinger wanted to know if he was going to quit. The boy said he was going back to Arizona and get some of the gold. Novinger told him that the Apaches would kill him, and the boy said, yes, they would kill him or anybody else, but that he knew more about their ways than anyone else and consequently, he thought he could slip in, get what gold he could carry, and get out again. If he couldn't, he would rather get killed than have to work like that all his life.
So Novinger gave the boy the pony, bridle and saddle. By the way, he said the boy made the bridle out of horse hair and it really was a nice bridle, better than anything he had. He also gave the boy what grub he could carry on his saddle and ten dollars, and when he left he wished him all the luck he could. The boy rode away and was never heard of again.
About a year after that, Novinger had a chance to sell cut, and as the boy's story had been working on him, he skirmished around and got together a party of twenty men beside himself. They were well armed and mounted and struck east for Arizona and the gold. They crossed the Colorado at Ehrenburg, and arrived at the Hassauyampa river, just about where the Santa Fe railroad now crosses it. By that time they were pretty tired, worn out, and disgusted, as they had not found anything, although they had prospected all likely looking country ever since crossing the Colorado river. They held a meeting that evening after supper, and the general sentiment was that Novinger wanted to go prospecting and sprung that story on them, and hanging was too good for anyone who would tell such a dastardly lie.
Novinger said, "Boys, we are within ten or twelve miles of the mountain where the boy said the first gold was to be found. Why not put this hanging off until we can go up there and see whether the boy was lying." One of the men spoke up and said, "Maybe it wasn't the boy that has been doing the lying." Another said, "I have prospected for a great many years, and I never yet found placer gold on top of a high mountain. Still Novinger insisted that they delay the hanging until they could go to the top of the mountain which the boy described.
So the meeting closed and the next day they arrived at the mountain, and placering on the top was Jack Swilling, old man Peoples, and another white man, and about twenty Mexicans. As soon as they saw the men coming up, they began to stake claims, and when they arrived on top they were welcomed and told to work where they pleased, just so they did not interfere with those working. They displayed nuggets that would weigh as much as seventy-five dollars. They all went to work and kept at it for about a month, when Novinger called them together and proposed that they go look for the other mine, about eighty miles east of there; that perhaps it was not found as yet. The men and Novinger had averaged about ten dollars a day, some days nothing, then again find what they called a dandy nugget that hope always dominating. After talking it over, there was only one man that would go, the balance saying that it was good enough for them where they were, and they thought it would get better.
So Novinger and his man started out for the second place and did not stop to prospect until they got about thirty-five miles southeast of McDowell near Salt river. Their first camp was about fifteen miles from where I think the Lost Dutchman is located. The first day they were prospecting, Novinger said that his six shooter, a Colt's improved, fell out of its scabbard, struck the hammer on a rock, went off and shot him through the leg, about half way between the knee and thigh, cutting the artery.
He reached under a bush and got some dry grass, as he could see that the artery was cut, stuffed the grass well into the wound, pulled the bullet out of a cartridge, poured the powder on top of the grass and touched a match to it, doing likewise on the other side, thus succeeding in searing the artery and the blood stopped flowing to a great extent. By that time, his partner had come over to him, found it was not Indians, went back to camp, got his horse, and after tieing up Novinger's leg in wet towels, got him on a horse and to McDowell, which at that time had no hospital, although there was a company surgeon.
So they erected a tent which they called the hospital tent and placed Novinger on a cot. After an examination, the surgeon said that he would have to amputate the leg as the bone was split for a long way, and would prevent healing. Novinger had his six-shooter under his head, and he told the doctor if he took his leg off without his consent that as soon as he came to, he would kill him. The doctor told him that he didn't care. Well, Novinger lay on that cot one year and a day and during that time pieces of bone kept coming out until there was left just a half bone from the knee to the thigh. The doctor told him never to try to climb mountains or go up and down stairs without a crutch, or at least a cane, "for if that bone ever breaks again, nothing on this earth will save that leg, even your stubbornness."
Novinger heard that they had started to take out a ditch in the Salt River Valley, and having a little money left from the sale of his ranch in San Bardino and some gold, he went down in the valley, bought a couple of teams and scrappers and put them to work on the first ditch taken out in the valley, and then took up the half section of land first mentioned.