The Lost Black Canyon Placer
Named for the black metamorphic rocks that it cuts through, Black Canyon Creek is part of the drainage system that taps the southeastern flank of the Bradshaw Mountains. Turkey Creek, Crazy Basin Creek, and Poland Creek are all feeder streams of Black Canyon Creek, which empties into the Aqua Fria River at Black Canyon City.
The Black Canyon area has a history of gold placer mining extending back at least to the 1850’s. Nearly every tributary of Black Canyon Creek, and the main stream itself, contained placer gold. The adjacent slopes of the Bradshaws were intensely mineralized. For millennia, the mountains had shed nuggets of gold into the surrounding streams. Rich pockets of placer gold accumulated throughout the Black Canyon Creek watershed. In the early 1920’s, a prospector recovered $20,000 worth of placer gold from a gravel bar in Black Canyon Creek, just downstream from the Howard Copper Mine.
In the 1850’s, Mexican prospectors were active in the southern Bradshaw Mountains. They worked a few of the lode deposits, panned many of the streams, and built arrastres to separate the gold from the gangue. Sometime in the latter half of the 1800’s, a Mexican prospector discovered an extremely rich pocket of placer gold somewhere in the Black Canyon area. The Mexican worked the deposit for a short time and then left the country, intending to return later. He never did, but his two sons tried to find the placer deposit years later. They were unable to locate the pocket. There has been much gold taken from Black Canyon, but the big pocket apparently still remains.
The Lost Duppa Mine
irst known as the Silver Range, the Bradshaw Mountains rise up west of the Aqua Fria River in central Arizona. The Bradshaws abound in mineral deposits, both gold and silver. For many years a stronghold of the Apache, the Bradshaws were slow in giving up their mineral wealth. American prospectors finally opened the floodgates in the 1860’s. In 1862, a party of prospectors led by the famous mountain man Joseph Walker discovered rich deposits of gold near the headwaters of the Hassayampa River. The following year, a group led by William Bradshaw penetrated the heart of the range and also found precious metal deposits. In August of that year, a second party of prospectors led by another famous mountain man discovered the fabulous Rich Hill gold fields.
Many rich strikes were to follow in the coming years. This rugged mineral-rich mountain range came to be known as the Bradshaw Mountains. They were named for the famous prospector and early Arizona pioneer, William Bradshaw. During the 1860’s, a wave of prospectors, adventurers, and drifters poured into the mining districts of the Bradshaw Mountains.
One such adventurer was an Englishman named Bryan Philip Darrell Duppa. Born in 1832, Duppa moved first to New Zealand, and then in 1863 moved to the Arizona Territory. He gravitated to the mining district near present-day Prescott where he lived for about five years. In 1868, Duppa moved down to the Salt River valley where he tried his hand at farming. Soon, he decided to take on the job of station manager of the stagecoach stop near present-day Dewey. Duppa’s station was located about 13 miles straight east of Prescott, on the Agua Fria River. The new proprietor of the Dewey station found himself traveling back and forth to rescott many times. One day, Duppa took a short- cut down one of the many canyons that cut the east flank of the northern Bradshaws. Somewhere in that steep canyon, Duppa stumbled on a ledge of silver-bearing quartz. The ore mineral was pure native silver! Duppa returned to the station on the Aqua Fria in great excitement. He had finally made good. Or at least he thought so. When Duppa attempted to retrace his steps to the ledge, he was unable to find it! He never did. Duppa eventually retired in Phoenix, dying there in 1892.
The Lost Flannigan Mine
The Gila Bend region of Maricopa County, Arizona was perilous country for early mountain men, emigrants, and settlers. In 1826, the first mountain men arrived in Arizona. They came in search of beaver but found hostile Indians instead. One of these early mountain men, James Ohio Pattie, claimed that after only one year of trapping on the Gila River, he could remember only 16 men left alive out of a total of 160 who started the season.
The emigrants and 49’ers who passed through the Gila Bend region during the mid-1800’s also encountered a hostile land and people. In 1851, tragedy struck the family of Royce Oatman who were on their way to California. While camping near present-day Gila Bend, the Oatman family was attacked by Yavapai Indians who killed both parents and two of the children. Two other girls, Olive and Mary Ann, were abducted by the Indians. Mary Ann died in captivity but Olive was eventually ransomed from the Indians and returned to civilization.
The settlers who carved out their ranches and farms from the land also encountered hostile Indians. One such attack in 1869 led to the discovery of a fabulously rich deposit of gold-bearing quartz in the Gila Bend Mountains of southwest Arizona. It was in that year that the Gila Bend farm of Abner McKeever was raided by hostile Apaches. The Indians kidnapped his daughter Belle and headed north into the Gila Bend Mountains. Several scouting parties went out in search of the war party; one group in particular penetrated deeply into the Gila Bend Mountains. This party was made up of three soldiers, a sergeant named Crossthwaite and two privates named Wormley and Flannigan. The three men soon lost their way and found themselves wandering through some low hills. In a depression filled with water they discovered nuggets of pure gold. Above the pool of water were two veins of gold-bearing quartz, one 5 inches wide and the other an incredible 16 inches wide! The soldiers filled their saddlebags with gold and headed southeast in search of the Gila River. Eventually they were forced to separate in a desperate attempt to reach water. Unfortunately, Crossthwaite died in the wilderness. Wormley made it back to civilization but was mentally never the same again. But Private Flannigan managed to reach safety with his saddlebags full of gold! He mounted many prospecting expeditions into the mountains but never found the pool of gold. Finally, in 1881, his body was found in the desert of northwest Yuma County. He had been carrying his saddlebags with him when he died – they were full of gold nuggets again.
The Lost Four Peaks Gold Mine
The Four Peaks area comprises the southern portion of the Mazatzal Mountains, an extensive range that forms the western boundary of the famous Tonto Basin. The Four Peaks have always been an important landmark in this part of Arizona. Nearly 8000 feet high, they dominate the skyline. From the highest peak, one has a panoramic view of the Superstition Mountains rising up less than 10 miles to the south. To the north, the rugged peaks and ridges of the central and northern Mazatzals seem to go on forever.
Hidden by the intervening peaks, the historic site of old Fort Reno lies about 14 miles north of the Four Peaks area. The Reno Road, built in 1867, connected the fort to the network of military posts springing up in Arizona during the late 1800’s. Fort Reno was constructed on the eastern flanks of the Mazatzal Mountains, overlooking Tonto Creek to the east. The Mazatzal peak known as Mount Ord rises only four miles to the northwest of the old fort. Beyond Mount Ord, the mountains march away to the northwest.
During the 1800’s, the Mazatzal Mountains were in the middle of Apache country. The Tonto Apaches wandered these mountains in search of game, but occasionally found something else. For years, rumors had circulated of a hidden Apache gold mine in or near the Mazatzals. The local Tonto Apaches always seemed to have plenty of gold nuggets for trading. During the 1850’s, the famous Dr. Abraham Thorne was led to an Apache gold mine by friendly Tontos. Although blindfolded for most of the way, Thorne insisted till the end of his days that the mine was in the Salt River country. In 1853, Francis X. Aubry saw local Apaches making bullets out of gold!
Many prospectors have searched the Mazatzals for the lost Four Peaks gold mine. Unfortunately, most of them ended up dead. At least two accounts place a rich gold-bearing quartz deposit somewhere along the western flanks of the Four Peaks. In one case, a pair of prospectors discovered the lode but were later killed by Apaches. In the other, a cowboy stumbled on the gold deposit while searching for cattle. He was never able to find the mine again.