In my interview some years ago with John Montgomery, Bob Groome, Joe Fugit, and John Hewitt, all of whom had been with Thorn on one or more of his expeditions, hunting for what is known as the Thorne mine, and which I feel certain is also called the Lost Dutchman, the above mentioned four men practically agreed upon the following facts told them by Dr. Thorn:
That Thorn, who was an army surgeon, and three other officers (names forgotten) were ordered from Santa Fe, New Mexico to report to Yuma, Arizona. This was about 1866 or late in 1865. They were furnished an escort of fourteen cavalry, and an extra man on the seat with the driver, who drove four mules. Somewhere east of Maricopa Wells they were attacked by the Apache Indians. All were killed except two of the officers, Thorn and one other officer in the stage.
Dr. Thorn had his case of instruments on the stage, and when the Apache chief looked in saw them, he made it known by signs that he wanted to know who the instruments belonged to, and Dr. Thorn claimed them. The old chief signed for him to get them and follow him, which he did. The chief then led Thorn to a mesquite tree, under which sat an Apache warrior with one arm badly shattered at the elbow. The chief motioned Thorn to fix it. Thorn amputated the arm, and they all started north on horseback. HIs fellow officer was with them until afternoon, then he disappeared and was seen no more. There was a party of about forty warriors. They travelled northerly until they came to the junction of the Salt and Verde rivers, and there on the northeast corner of the junction was the Apache camp. Thorn was given in charge of a young Apache warrior, and the warrior was given to understand that he would be responsible for Thorn's presence and safety. As Thorn had been successfully treating the Indians for a scalp disease and other ailments, he was given full liberty in the camp, but to go anywhere outside the camp, he must get his keeper to go with him, but if he refused, then Thorn could not go.
Thorn said he noticed on several occasions that a small party of Indians would bring in quite a quantity of gold, and every time they did, soon thereafter, there would be two white men with burros camped up on Cottonwood canyon toward Four Peaks, several miles east of the Indian camp. The Indians would take their gold and trade it to two white men for bullets, caps and powder, just so much of each, for like weight of gold, as the white men had only a set of balances. How the Indians knew that the white men were coming to trade, he never knew, but the Indians always knew.
Thorn and the Indians were getting quite friendly, as he had already handled an outbreak of measles, also an epidemic of sore eyes, and many individual troubles. So he presumed to ask one of the chiefs where they got the gold. He replied by pointing up Salt River, "Way up there." He asked them to take him with them the next time they went for gold, and they finally promised him they would, but that he would have to be blindfolded (as that was the only way they could overcome the bad medicine.) So one day in August, 1865 or 66, they told him they were going after some gold and he could go along. That evening, after sundown, he was told to get on his horse. They blindfolded him, and evidently circled the camp several times, as he could see the reflection of the camp fire on his blindfold. They rode into or across the water eleven times during the night, and which afterwards proved to be Salt River, and arrived at the place where they got off their horses about eight o'clock in the morning.
They did not take the blindfold off until they had walked quite a way, and when they removed it, the sun was shining very bright. "I was standing on the edge of a deep and very steep canyon, high up. To my left was a spur, and on the spur was a light-colored ruin of an old stone corral--not an Indian ruin, but very old, and it looked as though it was Aztec. We went carefully down the trail on the side of the canyon, and when we got down onto a little flat, there was an incline pit. Quite a lot of work had been done, and gold could be seen lying around in the quartz that had been brought up out of the pit and avidently discarded as not being rich enough. There was no scrambling for it; in fact, I was the only one who seemed at all excited. I asked the chief if I could take some, and he said 'Take all you want, as you will never come here again.' I did not know just how to take his statement, but nevertheless, I gathered some of the best specimens, and got some of the Indians to carry them for me, as they did not object."
"I believe I could have loaded a six mile team right from the dump. In my judgement, it was about nine o'clock in the morning. As I looked off toward the south, and about five miles away (just a guess as to time and distance) was a sharp peak that looked like a Mexican sombrero. We started back, but they did not blindfold me until we got to the horses. In the meantime, we had walked through a hole or cave, and it had a lot of old Mexican mining tools, such as screens, etc. Horses would not go through. There they again blindfolded me, and we rode until about two o'clock when I heard the horses go into water. I asked the chief to stop and let me get a drink, and he said they would cross over and all stop and get a drink. They took the blindfold off, and I got down and took a drink. As I looked up I could see the same Sombrero peak that I saw from the mine, guessing it to be about fifteen miles to the south. We resumed our journey, arriving at camp at about the same time we left it the day before."
"I proceeded to collect my gold, and guessed I had about fifteen hundred dollars. I buried it under a mesquite tree right in camp, and no one bothered it.
"Sometime after, an Indian came galloping into camp, his horse all white with sweat, and said soldiers were coming. There was shouting, dogs barking, and crying children. Wickeups were torn down and hitched to ponies, and here came the company of soldiers, not after the Indians, but to select a location for a Post to be named Fort McDowell.
"In the excitement, the Indians seemed to have forgotten all about me, so I went and dug up my gold and joined the soldiers. I did not have much a join, as they selected a spot just adjoining where the Indians had been camped, and called it Camp McDowell. The soldiers camped there about a year, then moved up the Verde River about eight miles, and actually established Fort McDowell, occupied for many years by the government to house their soldiers while driving the Indians on to their reservations.
Fort McDowell a few years ago was abandoned, and made into an Indian reservation, as there was already a ditch taken out of the Verde River. The government moved quite a number of the oldest Apaches from White mountain and San Carlos, and gave them each a few acres to cultivate, as the climate is much milder at McDowell than up on the other reservations, and the Indians seem quite contented.
(On with the story): "I spoke to the commanding officer, and told him if he would give me a small detail of soldiers, that I would be gone but a short time and would return just as soon as I finished locating. He told me that he could not do that but hinted that he would offer me any protection that was within his power indirectly.
"I then went to Prescott, and there, after telling my story and showing my specimens, I organized a company of prospectors and miners, wold me gold and blew it on my organization. We went well armed and fully equipped to take possession of the mine. At that time, I had no doubt whatever, but what I could go right to it. My greatest worry was how to restrain my followers from placing too much gold upon the market at one time. Well, we started and went to Sombrero butte and look around there, and there was considerable muttering among my followers as the formation all around (as far as one could see) was tufa, and non-mineral bearing.
"The soldiers were giving us all the protection, indirectly, possible. If it had not been for the gold I had shown in Prescott, I believe I would have been in a hazardous position. Grub was running low, horses were tired, men were disgusted, and so we voted to return to Prescott.
"I immediately began to organize another expedition. A great many of my former followers were telling all kinds of stories about what a bunco artist I was; that I just wanted to go prospecting in Apache country, and was afraid to go alone (intimating that they were not), and after a good wholesome drunk, a great many of them joined my second expedition.
"We started south, and did not take in the old tufa country, but hunted for another Sombrero butte. We found one that would do, by a slight stretch of the imagination on Cherry creek, but could find no mine, nor a country that looked like where the mine was located, so we gave up again and returned to Prescott.
"I had written my brother, who was a physician in Illinois, shortly after my first arrival in Prescott, mentioning my possession of the gold and how I came by it. I wrote him again at the end of my second trip and told him I had about exhausted my funds; that I had been out twice, given a thorough search each time, and that I had concluded to give it up. He wrote me to wait around Prescott, until I could hear from him again (which would be very shortly.) He soon after sent me a letter containing five thousand dollars to be expended in the further search for the mine; that he had raised the money among his doctor friends, and for me to go to it.
"I immediately wrote him that I was holding the money intact; that I was not at all certain that I could find it (in fact, I did not think I could); that it took quite a strong and well-equipped party on account of Indians, and, in general I was discouraged, and that I would be glad to return the money. He would not hear of it, and insisted that I go ahead, which I did, and made trip after trip, until finally I had only eleven followers with me. Globe had just been discovered, and we started from there, toward Salt River. It had been raining and the ground was very soft, and when we reached Salt River, it was out of its banks and could not be crossed, so we disbanded, threw up our hands, as it were, and quit. All I can say is that it was there and I know it still is."
John Hewitt, a neighbor cattleman, told me that he had been one of Dr. Thorn's expedition members, and got quite well acquainted with him; that in his opinion, there was no question about the truth of the story, and that he, Hewitt, received a letter from Thorn several years before. (That was at least twenty years ago.) I asked Hewitt if he would write Thorn and request him to come out to his place on a visit, as he, Hewitt, had a friend, a neighboring cattleman, who was looking for what he thought was the same mine, from an entirely different source of information, and he was having no better success than Thorn had; that if he would come, all his expenses would gladly be paid; that his friend was very anxious to have him identify some of the land marks that he (the cattleman) had obtained from this other source.
He replied to Hewitt that he was over eight years of age, almost blind, had a little drug store and postoffice in a little town on the Rio Grande river in New Mexico; that he was just making a living, but too feeble to do any more traveling; that he had given the best years of his life hunting for the mine, had run his brother and his friends in debt in seeking the mine; that he had only a short time to live and wished to live that little time in peace; and that if Hewitt and his friend had information from another source, he thought that between the two, they would find it, and that he certainly hoped they would.