A few years ago my dad told me about a website, brazilbrazil.com. The author, a man by the name of John Arthur Deal was a passionate advocate for Arizona and a fellow explorer. Among his many writings was a story about an Old Spanish Mine in the Sierra Estrellas. I skimmed it, and tucked it away in my memory bank. As the time clicked by I thought of it frequently. Finally my inner Indiana Jones kicked in. It would be a while before I could make a trip to check it out for myself, so I did what any non-smoking, alcohol avoiding, outdoor loving 20-year-old would do… research. I wanted to know where it came from, when it was built, why, how and anything else I could find. Mr. Deal started the work, trying to unravel the mystery of the mine through his years of off and on research, but many holes were left in the story, and it was shaping up to be a very interesting one!
A mine in the middle of the Sierra Estrellas, a place not known for mineral wealth yet early explorers who ran across the site claimed it was quite an extensive operation. It is not a difficult claim to believe considering the path is marked by carvings in the rock and well-constructed rock walls. The crown jewel is the stone house, an architectural achievement in itself, constructed to withstand the raging waters from the draw. It is a wonder it still stands considering the stream bed is littered with boulders the size of buses and small aircraft that were moved from the mountain top at some point. And then there is the remoteness. It is not an easy trek up, even the toughest pack animals would have a hard time making it through the rocks. To add to my curiosity extensive research on mining yielded no other sites nearby with any similarities in construction. The time and effort put in to develop the site was not consistent with a small operation, or anything recent. Western miner’s stuck to tents and wood. These were obviously the signs of someone with more primitive technology and a good labor force.
I found only three other old references and through a lot of digging a handful of people who had claimed to have been there. I searched through hundreds of sources and collected stacks of information about the history of the area, mining, the Spanish, Jesuits, Franciscans and Indians. My research mostly complete I decided I had to get out to see it. Tucked away in a draw near Montezuma’s Head and not far from quartz peak was the stone house, stone walls, the old well, and the mine shaft, now almost completely filled in. It was great to finally see it for myself, though I felt like I had already been there.
Though I definitely don’t have all of the answers I can make some well-educated guesses on the origins. The impact of this site is not just an interesting historical place to visit, it could very well be proof of Spanish mining in Arizona and that would mean the stone house is the third oldest standing Spanish structure in Arizona. But I can’t give everything away in part one. You’ll have to stay tuned to hear the rest…
As always, get out and explore!
P.S. If your interested read John Deal’s research on his webpage here.