Arizona's Golden Past (Part 2)
(There's a nice Arizona nugget laying on top of this crumbling granite bedrock. Can you spot it?)
One of the early gold miners that fled Arizona when the U.S. Civil War began and attacks by desperadoes and was Charles Poston. If the name sounds familiar to you it should...the town of Poston was named after him as were the Poston Placers.
No Greater Praise
As an aside, Poston was also the location of one of the many U.S. internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II. My father-in-law, Aiji Esaki, was interned at Poston as a teenager during the war years. Aiji passed away in 2006. He was a great guy and a solid, law-abiding citizen who loved this country and worked hard his entire life. He was the best father-in-law I could ever have asked for and he deserved better from the country he loved. I admired, respected, and loved him. I can give no greater praise to anyone...
(Part of the Poston Internment Camp where my father-in-law was interned during World War II.)
"The Destruction of Our Hopes"
When Charles Poston pulled up stakes at a location known as the Tubac mining camp, he left behind a sizeable mining operation from a small-scale standpoint. Here's what Poston had to say about it. "It was sad to leave the country that had cost so much money and blood. The plant of this (mining) company at this time in machinery, materials, tools, provisions, animals, and wagons amounted to considerably over a million dollars but the greatest blow was the destruction of our hopes, not so much of making money as of making a country." The ground that Poston and his associates were working and had to leave behind must have been rich ground indeed to have a valuation of over one million dollars when gold was pegged at $22.00 a troy ounce. But what really bothered Charles Poston was having to leave behind his own version of the Golden Dream. However, his legacy and involvement with Arizona's history is cemented in time. Poston is known as the "Father of Arizona."
(Charles D. Postson.)
Main Area of Interest
But not all Arizona's prospectors and miners left Arizona during this unstable and patently unsafe period. The lure of precious metal was too great for them. The Territory had already proven its richness in various locations and the hangers-on were certain of finding new and even richer strikes than those found at Gila City and Tubac. One of those small groups that braved Indian attacks and depredations from wandering bands of murderers and thieves was the Walker party. J. R Walker knew his stuff when it came to prospecting and mining. He'd been in on the big gold strike along the Hassayampa River, which in those days was known as "Haviamp" (near modern day Prescott, Arizona). It was at Haviamp in 1863 that Walker and his pards established what eventually became the Pioneer Mining District. Their main area of interest from a placer mining standpoint was around Lynx Creek, which is still producing placer gold for recreational and small-scale gold miners. It's said that Sam Miller, one of J.R. Walker's associates, had shot a lynx (bobcat) near the creek and then decided to test its gravels. His very first pan netted him $4.80 in placer gold or 5-6 grams depending on how you want to look at it. Miller's first pan full of Lynx Creek gold would be worth about $300-$400 USD at today's gold prices. I'd go for gold ground like that anywhere, anytime as I'm sure you would as well.
With Rifle in Hand
The recorded gold production of Lynx Creek is estimated at well over $2,000,000, which is why it still draws small-scale gold miners today. I suspect that amount would tally even higher if the "unrecorded" gold recoveries from Lynx Creek were brought into play. Eventually Walker's name won out because of his rich find at Lynx and a new mining district was formed called the Walker District that included less spectacular placer gold producers like Agua Fria, Granite, Turkey, and Big Bug Creeks. Of these four creeks, the Big Bug held the best gold and the area around it is still called the Big Bug Placers. Caution ruled the day at all the mining locations in the Pioneer and Walker Mining Districts. For each man prospecting or mining another stood guard with a loaded rifle just in case the Apaches or desperadoes showed up. This might mean less gold recovered on the part of Arizona's miners, but they figured having their scalps intact counted for something. And scalping was not the worst of it...the Apaches had refined some very cruel and painful tortures for any miners they caught alive.
(Ruins at Big Bug.)
One of Arizona's richest (if not the richest) gold finds at the time occurred about 30 miles north of modern day Wickenburg. Pauline Weaver, Jack Swilling, and A.H. Peeples found very coarse, nuggety gold on top of a mesa. (How many times in Bedrock Dreams have I suggested you check out terraces and mesas when prospecting dry diggings?) This unusual find was astonishingly rich in gold and it's recorded fact that one acre of ground of the Weaver, Peeples, and Swilling trio's find produced at least half a million dollars in coarse gold. Some accounts state that amount was closer to one million dollars! Remember, this was when the spot price of gold per ounce was $22.00. My oh my...what an unbelievable gold find. The trio's discovery area became known as Rich Hill, a name it bears to this day. At Rich Hill the nuggets and coarse gold were found in rich pockets and sometimes in bedrock cracks and crevices. Weaver, Swilling, and Peeples removed staggering amounts of gold from the latter using only their hunting knives. That's how "rich" Rich Hill was. Most, if not all, of Rich Hill is claimed up these days and Arizona nugget hunters using state-of-the-art metal detectors are still pulling nice nuggets from it. I'm only theorizing here, but I suspect at least part of Rich Hill's gold was elluvial which accounts for its coarseness. However, much of the gold the Weaver party found there was smooth and water-worn which suggests an ancient gold-bearing river was left high and dry at Rich Hill. Either way it was one hell of a gold strike. Oh...one last thing. Pauline Weaver was one very lucky gold prospector. A party led by Weaver also discovered the rich dry placers at La Paz, near the Colorado River. Yours truly once worked a placer claim at La Paz back in the 1980s. Do tell, huh?
(Rich Hill placer ground.)
As always, there's more to come. Be safe out there.
(c) Jim Rocha 2016
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org