The Old Spanish Gold Mine – Part 3 Ray Howland’s Story

Here is the earliest account of the mine from a February 1935 issue of Arizona Highways. It was titled The Lost Mine of the Stars and written by Ray Howland.

It was hot. The yellow bluffs along the trail reflected the awful glare of the Arizona noon-day sun until we were glad to pull our Stetsons down over our eyes and keep mushing on. We were beyond the perspiration point; we were frying, eye balls burning; our tongues felt like smoked hams in our mouths. Two more miles to Los Alamos, that little bit of heavan thrown down there on the outskirts of hell, as if by accident by the Maker.

“Look!” cried my trial mate. She was pointing a sunburned hand to a smoke-brush where a magnificent paint pony, with rawhide hackamore trailing, hips sagging, with nosing a huddled heap of copper-colored humanity that had apparently fallen off the faithful pinto’s back and dragged himself beneath the scant shade.

With a startled cry, my wife bounded across the few seperating rods of burning canyon bottom to give aid to the poor, ragged redskin.

She pillowed the young brave’s head in the crook of her arm while I poured a few drops of “snake bite” down the boy’s gullet.

Finally he opened his eyes in wondermen. A frightened glance that gave place to a look of peace and gratitude as he lifted a groping brown hand to touch my wife’s face, to see if she were real or a child of the gods.

After a few days of careful nursing at Los Alamos Springs, where we’d packed him on his pinto, he vouchsafed the information that he had been hunting in the hills, drank of the poison waters of yellow medicine tanks, became deathly sick and had tried to make his way to open desert where he had hoped to be picked up by some wandering puncher.

One morning just as the first golden bars of the rising sun streaked through the pinnacled heights above our camp, I rolled out of my blankets ti see that Comet’s Tail was gone from where he’d bedded down on a bit of canvas close to the campfire.

Resuming our journey, my partner and I, legging-clad against the bite of sidewinders, plodded behind our faithful “canaries” across the desert.

A little fire was burning at the mouth of a great rugged canyon. Our lead burro brayed a mournful, sobbing bawl. from beyond and a little above the flickering fire, the yapping bark of a coyote echoed from ridge to barranca. That would be Comet’s Tail-A Pima challenge. I threw back my cabeza and did my best: “Aooh-oo-oo-oo-ah-aa-aa!:, the mournful wail of a lobo.

Soon we were at the fire. We entered the circle of light with our right hands raised, palm out in a friendly salute of the Southwest Indians. A gray-haired old Indian advanced beside his young companion, offered me his hand, muttering: “Smoiga-smoiga!” then struck himself sharply on the chest with a clenched fist. He banged me a resounding whack on my wishbone–fine, we were friends and doubly welcome. It was Comet’s Tail and his old dad, Chief Six, now James Suviate of Los Angeles.

The old chief fished in his pocket and dragged out a string of fine nuggets which he placed around my wife’s neck, then stepped back and grinned apreciatively.

Taking me by the arm he turned me around and motioned over the mountains, west of the Dog Tooth and spoke the few words:

“Oro del padres, mucho, buscar usted!–Mush gold of the Padres, you search.” His message delivered he grunted, shook hands again, and then in Indian fashion, abruptly left us, Comet’s Tail with him. Their debt was paid.

We camped in a great cave that gave every evidence of having been inhabited centuries ago, not by aboriginies, but by civilized man. The cave, as near as I could calculate, should be close to where old Chief Six had indicated that I should look for a mislaid mine, that supposedly had been worked by Franciscan Friars, before the Jesuits took over affairs of that ousted brotherhood in what was then part of Old Mexico, now Arizona.

It was the 13th day of our search when I chose to leave my wife at camp. About four o’clock that afternoon a loose boulder at the rim of a rock-lipped canyon gave way with me. I shot down the canyon-side like a cub bear rolling away from the enemy. My canteen smashed on a rock and began to leak. The sun was still high enough to burn down with all its August intensity when I was still a couple of miles from wife and cave. I was thirsty. Soon I could not bear the touch of a little smooth pebble that I tried to hold in my cheek thinking it would start a saliva flow. I crawled beneath an ironwood, exhausted. I could not last long in that condition.

At sundown I revived enough ti discover that I had been resting my addled head against the thorny bole of a visnaga cactus, that juicy lifesaver of the desert. With trembling hand I tore at the spiney, fourfoot fluted column. I wadded great hunks of the gooey, brackish pulp into my bleeding mouth and sucked for life.

I struggled to my uncertain legs and staggered across the darkening desert to a point where I could see flames, shooting high, from a signal fire that my wife had kindled. I heard a shot, then another, and another, evenly spaced. That was a signal.

I told my partner through cracked lips that I was through. “Well”, she said, with a twinkle in her eyes that I hand’t noticed before, “you may quit if you wish, but not I.”

She went to our duffle pile and brought forth and held out to me a little copper cylinder from which she had pried a cemented cap from one end. She’d found it under a flat rock at the back of the cave.

It contained a badly dry-rotted roll of parchment. From the dim, traced figures I could recognize only one thing for sure, that was the crude picture of a great boulder or pinnacle on the face of which was carved the maltese cross of the Order of Saint Francis. The Spanish script told me nothing except that close to this rock I would find the Trail that should lead me to “El Mino de Estrella”.

I had seen that mark in my rambles the day before. The next morning as I scouted the foot of the mountain I found it again. Nearby, at the partly concealed mouth of a steep canyon I found a trail which led me on up and up until I can to a flat, wide place in the canyon-bed where the piled-up boulders spoke of an ancient placer workings.

I got busy with prospect pick and pan. After a couple of hourse of tedious test-work I sat down on a boulder to cogitate. My mind wandered to the tale tole me by Jim Burson, an old-timer.

In 1878 two weary prospectors had made their perilous way up across the boulder from the west coast of old Mexico, and after dodging several bands of Broncho Apaches they finally found sanctuary in the Sierra Komatke, that knife-like range that lies just south of the junction of the Salt and Gila rivers.

High up in one of the precipitous, rock-ribbed canyons they found more Gold than they have ever before had the good fortune to behold. For months the heretofore silent canyon rang with the clank of pick and shovel; gold, lots of it for the taking. The two gold-hungry mineros worked night and day. Soon about fifty thousand dollars in dust, amalgam and nuggets were their reward. But all the commotion was bound to bring prying eyes into their territory. It did. The Pimas, jealous of their alloted domain, ordered the two from their rich find, telling them to take what they had panned and to vamos muy pronto and never come back.

They had allowed the two unfortunate men three days in which to clear out. The orders were given in the characteristic, good-natured Pima way and, of course, the two adventurers had not taken it much to heart, but had stayed on, working harder than before.

Chericas, Maricopa Indian Scout, had told me in confidence that late one evening a man, nearly done, came to his mud-and-brush wickiup, “Save me-hide me!” the man begged, but Chericas waved him away. It was none of his funeral, this white man’s troubles, so he, in his stolid Indian way, had watched the poor fellow lose himself in the brake along the Salt River, heading in the direction of the little village of Phoenix.

The man reached Phoenix, where he was taken to what then served as a hospital. After recuperating there for a few days he went out into the town where his story of how he had been jumped by Indiand; his partner killed during the fighting, and how they were forced to abandon their hard-won gold, won him many friends and backers. A posse was organized with the mine as a reward if they would accompnay him to the mine, give him his gold and allow him to depart in peace, and all together.

The evening before the start was to be made, the man fell in front of the old Palace Saloon; an epileptic stroke in which he died, but not before he had whispered the directions and distance to the rich placer diggings.

Without doubt, I had stumbled upon the lost placer of ’78, but no wonder the poor fellow was willing to give the mine to any posse that would see him safely in and out of those hills again. It was worked out.

But I was puzzled. Old Chief Six would never have sent me on a wild goose chase after a mine that was worked out. This was surely the right canyon. The witness rock at the foot of the gorge told me that. Possibly there was more to this than those old-timers had found. On up the canyon I climbed until, when nearly to the top of the mountain I found a little rock cabin that must have been built by the Friars. Across the gulch I found a seventy-five foot shaft with ironwood ladders looped crazily this way and that against the shaft-sides as far down as I could see into the black depths.

A kick sent them down below where the buzz of a diamondback warned me to go slow or I would surely pay for disturbing the peace and quiet of this old. ghostly diggings of the adventurous Padres of a past age. Close by were the other surface workings that gave promise of richness of the lead at depth.

It is rich. We are finding that out every day now that the new price of gold has quickened our pulses to the extent that we are willing to clear out the old shaft and take ore from a two-foot quartz lead that fairly glitters with free gold to the tune of over a hundred dollars per ton, old price.

A camp is now being established at the foot of the canyon that once rang to the shod hooves of pack animals as they toiled with their heavy loads of ore, down the trail on their way to a string of arastras which I have since found along the Gila River, ten miles to the north.

Another great treasure tale, but I’ll break it down more after I post the last story.

As always, get out and explore!

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2 Responses to The Old Spanish Gold Mine – Part 3 Ray Howland’s Story

  1. Janessa says:

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  2. Hooch says:

    Ray Howland was a known fraud, like John D Mitchell, I believe nothing that he said or wrote, or his wife. All the Spanish armor he supposedly found when he was the famed dutch hunter was planted by him. Don’t forget he found gold in the Supes, a gold shelf at Picacho. Guy was full of it.

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