One day in the late 80's there came to the ranch a man and camped down at the well. He had a burro and a pup. That evening he came up to the house, and we were talking on general subjects, when he said that the King had shut down, and that he did not want to go to town. He was speaking of the Silver King mine which was about fifteen miles southeasterly from us. It had produced between about fourteen and fifteen million dollars in silver, but now had shut down for an indefinite time. He thought he would rest up for a while.
I asked him to stop with me at the ranch and his grub would cost him nothing. I was busy cleaning water holes. The next morning I was pumping water and letting it run down a pipe about five hundred feet to a string of troughs for cattle. We had been without rain for quite a while and water was getting low in the well and all of the water holes.
This man, whose name was John Chuning, suggested that we sink or drift from the bottom of the well and under the creek, after pumping it dry and making an examination, and that he would do the work gladly and not charge anything. So he pumped and kept the water down and I made an examination, and we concluded to drift. What time I could spare away from the other half dozen water holes on various parts of the range, I put in helping John. I think he was one of the most efficient men I ever saw and one of the hardest workers, as well as one of the most truthful.
Well, he drifted in the well and about doubled the flow of water. One evening after supper, I said, "John, what will you work for per day until you get all the water holes fixed up in good shape, those that have to be kept clean from this ranch?" He thought for a moment, and said, "Two dollars a day and board." I hired him and told him that he would frequently have to do his own cooking, which he said was all right.
He fixed all the water holes and then built a rock granary, the walls of which are in perfect shape today. One evening, John said, "Well, Mr. Bark, the granary is about finished and I don't suppose you have any more work for me."
I settled up with John and gave him an order on Goldman's store, at Phoenix, as at that time they were our bankers. John handed the order back to me, and said as I was going to Phoenix for supplies the next day, John would make out a list of grub, and for me to have it sent up with my supplies, and to leave the balance of the order to his credit in Goldman's.
That evening, we were sitting outside the house when he said, "Mr. Bark, do you know that there is a rich gold mine over the mountain?" Then he launched forth as follows: that while he was working at the Silver King, a fellow by the name of Joe Deering asked for work. The foreman, who was Bob Bowen, asked him if he was a miner, and he said that he was; so he was told that he could go on at the next shift, and to report to John Chuning, who was a shift boss in the Silver King.
This Deering had one poor ratty burro and a very small and disreputable coming outfit. He had been working but a short time when he spoke to John and said, "I am only going to work here about thirty days." John did not reply as that was a common occurrence, and in a little while he said, "I got a rich gold mine over in the Superstition mountains, and it is some mine." John said, "If you got a rich mine over there, you don't need to work here at all, as you can get a partner and he will put up the money and work it." Deering replied that he did not want a partner, as he had had one, and that was the cause of his working now. He said that a merchant up in Colorado had staked him to prospect about eleven months ago, and the law of Colorado says that anything found by a man within one year after accepting a prospecting stake, one-half of such find shall belong to the man who furnished the stake, and as the year has been about thirty days to run here, he will work here until the time expires and locate the mine.
John said, "Supposing some one should locate the mine while you are working here?" "Oh, there is no danger of anyone's finding it." John said, "You found it, why couldn't some one else do the same?" "There is no danger, as the mine is in the most ungodly place you ever saw or heard of." During all this conversation, they were working away, side by side. John said that Deering kept referring to his find, and said that if anyone should find the mine, that he had put up a little monument within a hundred feet of it, but that one could not see the mine from the monument and he did not put any notice on it. John asked why. He replied that if anyone should find it he could swear that his monument was there ahead of him, and that he had destroyed the location notice.
Johny said, "How did you come to find it?" "Well, I was camped at a spring in a big canyon and was headed for the King. I had my breakfast, took my canteen full of water and went to look for my burro. I saw him about half way up the side of the mountain and about a mile and a half up the canyon and above the camp. As I started up toward him, I saw a deep worn trail and it was so much larger and worn so much deeper in the rocks than any trail I had seen on those mountains that it excited my curiosity. I left the burro and started to follow it and believe I followed it six or seven miles and came to the worst place I ever saw. There was a tunnel and it had been walled up."
John said it probably had caved in. Deering said, "No, I am enough of a miner to tell when a tunnel has been walled up. The wall had settled about eight inches, and I don't know how deep the tunnel was. Above the tunnel, and further over, it looked as though there had been two big shafts, but they were pretty well filled."
He returned to his camp, over the same trail which he took going in. On his way back, there was a willow tree growing just at the lower edge of the trail. He rested under it and took the little hand axe he was carrying and cut a cross in the tree." (I found a willow tree and sure enough, the cross was there.) There was an old hatchet picked up on the same trail by a man by the name of Wright. The heath of the hatched was all battered out of shape from pounding rock, and the trail was monumented with two little rocks, until it left Havalina Canyon and dropped over into the horse country.
Deering said that he would not have stayed all night alone at the mine for all the money in the world. John asked him why not. He said it was so ghastly and creepy. I cannot understand how a man like Deering, who had come all the way through the mountains from Colorado, alone every night, with not even a dog, could gather such fear from this particular spot. The next morning, after thinking it over, he concluded that he would visit the mine once more, so he went over the same trail, but in going back to his camp from the mine, he said that he came down off the big mountain into a canyon and there he built four monuments. He said they were not much monuments--just along slim stone stood on end with four or five small stones laid around its base, with no particular attention paid to distances or directions.
"What in the world was your idea of doing that?" John asked him. He replied, "I thought if anyone saw the monument at the mine and then saw these, they would think that crazy prospector has been here also, or if they saw these first, and then the one I built at the mine, they would say the same thing and pay no attention to either." (Now I have found the monuments, without a doubt, that Deering built in the canyon.)
Deering said then that he went up the canyon to his camp, and the next day came over to the King. John asked him how far it was from the Salt River. The reply was, "Oh, a mile, mile and a half, two miles."
John said that Deering could not help talking about it, and would keep breaking forth, saying, "John, there is a trick on that trail. Oh, it is no trick either, but you have to go through a cave or hole, and say, John, it is high up and yet you got to go down to it. Say, John, when I work that mine, I am going out the other way, toward the desert. Oh, you don't think I have a mine--you think I am just stringing you, just to be talking. You meet me at Jesse Brown's saloon tonight, and I will show you some of the ore that I picked up in front of the tunnel and evidently was thrown away as waste. If it was, you can judge what the ore they packed out must have been."
Jesse Brown kept a saloon in Pinal, where the mill for the Silver King was located, and the only time Jesse could get away was when Chuning would come down and tend bar for him, which he frequently did when off shift. So Deering showed up that evening and he showed John and Jesse Brown above five pounds of gold ore, and John said it was quite rich. The gold in the different pieces was from split peas to coffee kernels in size.
While I did not in the least doubt John's story, I went on a hunt for Jesse Brown and finally located him in Nogales, Arizona. Upon interviewing him, he verified what John had told me.
A few days after that, Deering was working in a stope in the King when a cave-in took place and he was quite badly hurt. A fellow workman, Ed Jones of Mesa, put a box on the elevator, sat upon it and held Deering in his lap to the top. He was put upon the operating table, examined, and it was found that he had both legs broken, besides other injuries. The legs were so badly injured that the company doctor decided that amputation was necessary. Deering never recovered consciousness.
I went to the county seat and found the record of where they had held an inquest on one Joe Deering. The verdict was accidental death, and that proved that part of the story.
John said, "I will go over and make a hunt for the mine, for a while at least." I told John that I would be pleased if he would make the ranch his headquarters, and any time he needed any grub to come to the ranch and get it, or any time that he wanted anything from town, I would see that it would be sent out to the ranch. John thanked me, and said under those conditions he ought to find it.
He came over to the ranch about once a month with his burros and his little cur dog. I remember one August night, we were sitting out in front of the house. The moon was shining full and it was hot. John was sitting on our rodeo table which was leaning against the front of the house. John had his shoes and stockings off, as his feet were swollen from climbing. I was sitting on a chair further out from the house to get more breeze. John started to get off the table when his little dog rushed from under the table and took hold of one of John's bare feet.
He said, "What ails that dog?" and settled in his seat on the table again. The dog quieted down, and in a few minutes John made a more determined effort to get down. The dog went through the same performance of taking hold of John's foot, and when he saw that John meant to step down, he let go of his foot and rushed at a rattler coiled right under John's feet. The dog killed the rattler, but was bitten on the nose and the side of the head. There was some water down in the creek, and the dog went down, buried himself all but the tip of his nose in the mud and water, and in the morning was still there. His head was the size of three heads. He stayed there for three days and came up to the house as a sorry looking dog as one ever saw. He never amounted to much after that. All he wanted to do was lie around in the shade. Unless John kept calling him, he would not go over the mountains with him.
Well, John hunted for about a year and went broke and wanted to quit. But I would not hear of it and told him that he had hunted so long, that this was not time to quit as he must have covered a whole lot of country, and that we would stay with it until we ran down. John loaded up and went back over the mountains. The dog followed a Mexican freighter, who had just delivered a load at the ranch and we saw him no more.
John continued to hunt, and at times he would have to take a layoff at the cow ranch and keep off his feet as much as possible as both his knee joints would swell to double their normal size.
John had told me that he had worked for Johnny Ayres, who had a horse ranch up near the Grand Canyon. He had been developing water for Ayres. One time when John was at the ranch, I returned from Phoenix, and the first thing John would grab would be the Arizona Republican. In it, he read of Johnny Ayers' committing suicide. "Well," John remarked, "I might just as well tear this note up. Poor Johnny." John had gone into the house where he kept his go-away bag and dig a paper from within. I asked him what it was that he was going to tear up. He replied that when he got through working for Johnny he took a note for his pay as Johnny had no money. The note was for four hundred and some dollars. I remarked, "Don't tear it up, John. Let me have it, and I will see what I can do with it the first time I go to Phoenix."
I made a few inquiries in Phoenix, and some one told me that E. J. Bennett was a silent partner of Johnny. So I took a chance, went to E. J. Bennett's office, told him that Chuning was hunting for a lost mine up in the Superstition mountains, and was worse than broke; that he was getting along in years, as he was over sixty; that he had a note of Johnny Ayers for work he had done on the horse ranch, etc. E. J. said, "Have you the note with you?" and I produced it. He looked it over, took a pencil and figures the interest, reached for his check book and asked me who he should make the check to. I said, "To me." He made it to me and it called for six hundred and some dollars. When I handed John the certificate of deposit, he thanked me. From that on he would not take a dollar from me. He continued to hunt for the mine, and still made the ranch his headquarters. He build numerous rope ladders to let himself down over cliffs in which could be seen caves, and which were absolutely unapproachable in any other way. Rope ladders that I would not trust myself at all upon, he would go down twenty-five and thirty feet, and if anything gave way it was "Kety bar the door for John."
He also ran a tunnel one hundred and fifty feet, along a crack in a hill near the Paint mine, north of Sombrero Butte. The crack was about eighteen inches wide and filled with boulders. He ran the entire distance without any timbering, and all alone. Every foot had to be blasted, with no possibility of there being a mine or any ore. I think it was the most dangerous piece of work I ever saw accomplished by man.
Whenever John ran out of money, he would quit hunting and go to work generally for Bill Kimball, who kept a hotel and livery stable in Mesa. John would take care of the livery part of it, and he was a number one worker. Kimball told me that he was always glad to get him.
One day coming from town, I found John resting at the ranch. He showed me a piece of ore and I could see a little free gold in it. I asked him where he got it and he said over in the box canyon of Salt River, above where Fish Creek comes in. He asked me if I thought it was very good. I told him the ore was good enough; it depended upon the quantity. I asked him if he found it in place, and he said he did not know, but that he did not think much of it. I asked him if he could show it to me, and he said he could and would go any time I was ready.
The next day we took a pack horse and two saddle horses and rode to within about two miles of the vein, but that two miles was a holy terror to get over, even on foot, but we got there with most of our clothing torn off and many skinned places. After examination of the vein, I told John that we might run into something pretty good by tunneling, and I thought that we had better spend a little money on it. He said, "Alright." That the money spent on it would not have much of a we to it, as he was in his usual condition financially broke, but that he was willing to work on it.
So I located it in his and my name and then told him that the first thing was a trail. We went back to the cow ranch, packed John's burros with grub and tools, and established camp on the river about two miles from the prospect. We had powder, picks and shovels and finally finished our trail. Some of it, to put it mildly, was very dangerous, as it was built along a cliff about five hundred feet above the river, and fifteen hundred feet above us to the top of the cliff. The fifteen hundred feet above us did not concern us as much as there was no danger in that direction unless the powder happened to go off.
We then went back to the cow ranch and loaded the three burros with mining supplies and grub which I had sent up, and struck out for our first trip over the trail with the animals. We got along all right until the trail gave way with Jenny, the old burro and John's special favorite. Where it gave away, it was at least five hundred feet straight down and just below Jenny. There was a mountain mahogany tree growing out of a crack in the cliff, and Jenny laid there on her side, loaded with a blacksmith bellows, fifty pounds of powder and six boxes of dynamite caps and fuse.
First of all, we drove the other two burros to a place of safety, unpacked them, took their lash and swing ropes, and went back and tried to fasten Jenny to another tree that was growing above the trail. We ran a line from that tree to a point of rock above. We made her fast to this anchorage, both bow and stern. Every time one of us would step down on Jenny, the tree would give something awful, but Jenny, bless her heart, would watch us and never move, and we worked fast.
John said, "Jenny, if you don't lie still, it will be Molly, toll the bell." And it appeared as though that burro understood everything John said to her. We started to get the pack onto the trail. John was certainly a genius. If we loosed the last ropes, everything would be over, and perhaps us with it. Oh, for an extra supply of rope. But first, we managed to get that cigar box of dynamite caps, and when we got that up and placed in safety, the sun shone brighter. Piece by piece, we finally got the pack up and in safety. As soon as we got the powder up, I wanted to throw the balance of the pack over, but John would not hear to it.
The next problem was how to get Jenny back up on the trail. It really looked impossible, as she was in the tree and about six feet below the trail. I can't describe how we did it, but I will say that Jenny was the best man in the party. When we would place any of her feet where we wanted them, she would not put any weight on them until we got hold of the ropes and gave the signal. We got down to the prospect and made camp and heaved a sigh of relief.
After John and I had been working several months running a bunnel and sorting there, we came to the conclusion that we would build an arrastra, and try and get some of the gold out of the rock. John said he could build it. I knew I could not as I had had no experience, but I could do some of the heavy work. An arrastra is a circle of stone about ten feet in diameter, two feet high, with the bottom laid in stone and clay of good quality tamped in the cracks. To prevent the gold from going down between, an upright post in the center with a cross bar running horizontally from the post, and about three heavy rocks around on the bottom rocks are so arranged on the cross bar that no one rock followed in the track of another, the drag rocks to cover the entire space in the bottom as they went around and around and around. Then a long sweep was fastened to this center post, and a burro was hitched to it. How foxy a burro would get-- the moment you were out of sight proceedings and the burro stopped. In a little while, he would stop if you were not yelling at him, then he would stop unless you were cussing him and throwing rocks at him. One pronounced trait a burro has, if you throw anything at him when he is packed or hitched to anything, he will stand perfectly still and clinch his tail tightly between his legs. Just why, I do not know. Finally, to keep the burro moving you would have to ride the sweep and threaten him with some kind of whip.
I have digressed in my description of the arrastra process of extracting gold. You broke the ore you were going to arrastra as fine as possible, the finer the more you could arrastra, put it in the arrastra, pour in water, just enough to make a kind of soup and keep it at about that consistency by adding water or grinding longer. You had a little gate on one side of the arrastra where you could draw off the top pulp or soup. I forgot to state that you added quicksilver by having a piece of buckskin tied over the neck of a soda water bottle and shaking it over the pulp as you would a pepper box. The quicksilver would come out as a spray through the buckskin, gathering the gold in the pulp and bo to the bottom where it would settle in the cracks and on top of the clay. You did not need to clean up for months, for if the ore was very rich simply add more quick. After running it with burros for some time, we found ourselves addressing each other with all the profane language we ever heard, and really had invented quite a vocabulary of new cuss words. He knew they were cuss words because we used them talking to the burros.
We were getting thin and did not enjoy our food, and we got to throwing drills and other tools at the burro hitched to the arrastra, cussing when we missed and cussing when we hit our mark. Our arrastra was built on a little promontory projecting out into Salt River, and many times we would have to go into six feet of water to recover our tools. All nice enough in summer, but wait until winter!
I proposed to John that we build a water wheel, undershot, and run the arrastra by it, and he agreed right away, but remarked that it was going to be some job to get lumber in there. I told John that I would go and get Boody, who was our foreman on the Bark and Criswell cow ranch, and try to hire some young fellows who could swim, and we could pack the lumber twelve miles above the mine, and there saw it in two. We would figure on making a wheel six feet wide and twelve feet in diameter. We would make the rope attached and dragging from each raft, as there were very large boulders in almost every riffle and many rapids, one for Boody, one for the fellow I hired, and one for myself.
John said, "That is all right, but you want to be sure than you don't let the rafts get plastered up against a boulder in the rapids, as all hell couldn't get it off and you might get your head bumped pretty hard." I said, "John, I will get back just as soon as possible." So I struck out afoot, got to the ranch that night. The next morning I got a horse and rode into Phoenix that day, ordered my supplies, hunted up a freighter. He loaded and struck out the next day, and the third day arrived at the ranch. In the meantime, Boody got the horses we wanted to pack and the saddle horses. We went over the pack outfits and were ready to load the next day, but made the river the next, spent the next day in getting our rafts ready and caching our supplies of grub, etc., to where John could take the burros and get them.
As we had no place to leave the horses, we brought along a Mexican boy who was working on the cow ranch with Boody to take the horses back. We started down the river with the three rafts, with noting on but our overalls. In the quiet waters we would wither tow them along with the rope, or pole them. We were as near together as was possible and we were getting along fine when just ahead we saw our hired man's raft plaster against a big boulder in the center of a rapids. He went overboard and for quite a while he did not come up. We could do nothing, as we were in the rapids. Pretty soon he came up and swam out. It developed that when he was thrown from the raft, the rope wrapped around him and the current held him under. As each of us had a knife, while under the water, he reached for his knife, opened it and cut the rope.
We fooled around all the rest of the day trying to get it loose and finally succeeded. We camped on a sand bar all night and it was pretty cold as we had no fire. Next morning, we went on and had no further trouble.
We could hear John talking to his burro long before we could see him. We soon built the water wheel, hitched it to the arrastra, but it would not pull it. We then commenced to build a dam across the river and finally got her going. The cable slipped off many times, but we finally got it regulated and soon made a clean up.
We recovered about eight hundred dollars in gold, but the mine was still in debt, so John and I kept it grinding until we had arrastraed all of the rich ore that we had taken out. In several cleanups, we recovered about eight hundred dollars more.
We were a little ahead provided neither of us received wages. I went to town for more supplies, and upon my return the water wheel was gone, as the river had raised and swept the wheel away. So John and I continued to work at the mine.
Up to that time, we had a single visitor, but in a few days Jim Goodwin of Tempe dropped in on us, stayed over night and went his way. In a few days a young man came to the camp just before dinner, and I asked him to eat. He stayed with us about a week, and one night he told me that he was going to leave the next day, and I probably would not see him in Mexico before this; that his name was King Massey; that they were looking for him; that on a certain night, about a week before (he told me that night) that he and another fellow, whose name he did not tell me were lying under the Highland Bridge on the Goldfield road--the ditch was dry--to hold up Bill Kimball, who, the were informed, was to bring to Mesa a bar of gold bullion, and then they intended to skip to Mexico. But their information was the bunk, as they waited there until daylight, and Kimball did not show up.
It was commonly known that Kimball brought in the bullion from the mine, but when, very few knew. Kimball had the boarding hose, saloon, and post-office at the mine, and the owner of the mine, who was Charley Hall, was a great friend of Kimball's, and as Kimball had to go up to the mine almost every day, it was very difficult to tell when he had the bullion. During hot weather, he almost always drove at night.
I have never seen King Massey since he left the next morning. In a few days I went to Mesa, and stopped all night at the Kimball hotel. In the morning at breakfast, there was no one in the dining room but Kimball and myself. He said, "Jim, I made a fool of myself the other night when I brought the last bar of bullion down." "How so?" "Well, I had about a ten thousand dollar bar, and as I approached the Highland Canal, I got a hunch that I had better go around. It was about two o'clock in the morning, and I paid no attention to it, but it persisted, and finally I turned out of the road, drove across the desert to the road a mile south of here, and then came up to Mesa. It was bright moonlight, and I just figure that I am getting old and paniky."
I asked him the night, and it was the night that Massey told me about. I did not tell Bill what I knew for obvious reasons, but it was certainly a queer hunch.
The Goldfield road is now the Apache Trail, and in packing in any lumber for the mine, we travelled along where the Apache trail now is, from the top of the hill at Fish Creek, up for about five miles, then bore off to the north to Salt River. Our mine was situated on Salt River, just at the edge of the water, and the Horse Mesa mountain looms over in almost a straight cliff for over two thousand feet. The Horse Mesa dam is just below about a half mile and the mine is now flooded. I wish to call attention to the distance between where John was prospecting and where we had every reason to believe the Lost Dutchman is.
This mine that John discovered while hunting the Dutchman is at least twelve miles off the course, and I think he finally hunted further away than that. You say, "How foolish." But remember John had been hunting faithfully for years, all alone, with his three burros. He would not see a human for months at a time. The natural conclusion, after thoroughly looking over the cliffs and crags, where his information led him to believe it existed, that he gradually expanded his area of search, until he really threw all logic to the winds and just went. At times, I happened to see John and his burros coming down the trail to the house, and hear the burros braying as they always did when they saw the granary which represented barley to them, and perhaps John had forgotten his mother tongue and was also braying.
To continue: John and I drifted on the vein until we came to the end; then sunk a winze about thirty-five feet and came to the bottom. The vein became narrower as we sunk and the values less. John said to me on day, "Jim, you can have my interest in this mine, if I have any interest. I am going back and hunt some more for the Dutchman."
In a short time after that, I gave to Criswell, my partner, and Elmer Boody, foreman of the cow ranch, my interest, and I went back to the cow ranch. Criswell and Boody kept the assessment work up for a number of years and finally let it go back to the government.
John would hunt awhile, then go to work until he made another stake, and out for the Dutchman again. Although when John first started hunting, he had never heard of the Dutchman, but was hunting entirely on what Deering had told him.
One time, not many years ago, Sims Ely and a prospector named Wright and myself were running down some story about the Dutchman, and we stopped at Tortilla station on the Apache trail. We found John Chuning there as station tender, where he had been working for about a year for the stage company running stages from Mesa to Roosevelt Dam, over the Apache trail.
John was glad to see us, and said that he supposed we were out after the Dutchman. We said we were. He also said that he had sent in his resignation to the head office in Phoenix; that he was going to leave just as soon as they sent a man to relieve him, but the darn sheep men had stolen his burros as they drove through in the spring, and he had sent to Globe for some more; that he was all ready to pack up and strike out for the Dutchman, except that he had nothing to pack on.
We were gone just a few days, and upon our return we stopped to see John. He said that he had bought four burros in Globe and was waiting to be relieved, but that he was not feeling very well. He said this time he sure had the mine and there was no mistake, and could he reach. me at the Arizona Club?
I said, "Don't go off alone, John, if you are not feeling well." He said he wouldn't, but that he was sure he would feel all OK in a few days. A short time after, I heard that John had died at the Tortilla station. He never got away from his job.
I wish to say in conclusion that both John and I found many sandals along the monumented trail, such sandals as the peions of Mexico wore, which were made out of the century plant fiber. Also around the caves near the water holes were many picks and shovels, all old and worn. The handles would fall apart if they were picked up.
The finding of the sandals is almost absolute proof of there having been large parties of peons in there. It is almost certain they were headed by a Don, as the Superstition mountains was the Apache stronghold, and the last mountains that the Apaches gave up. In fact, the last Apaches were not driven out until in 1884.