This is a story about lost gold in the Superstitions. But there is no Dutchman in it, nor any of the ill-starred Peraltas. Not even any of the Indians usually prominent in lost-mine stories and who invoke the curse of the Thunder God upon nugget-hunting trespassers or leap from hiding to kill all but one....
One of them was Fred Mullins, who drove a stagecoach between the mining camps around Picketpost Mountain and the railroad town of Casa Grande. Some stories say he drove the "Pinal-Mescal run," but Mescal, an El Paso and Southwestern rail stop five miles west of Benson, would be a long and crooked way to go for a train connection.
The other was one of Mullins' regular passengers, one Wagoner. Wagoner suffered from a respiratory problem and came from somewhere back east. In time, the desert air and sunshine restored his health and his rambling hikes through the Superstitions made him financially independent.
Wagoner regularly boarded Mullins' stage near the present town of Superior and got off in the foothills of the Superstitions and was always waiting by the side of the road when Mullins returned. Prospecting gave purpose to Wagoner's outings and he usually exhibited a few specimens he had picked up. Sometimes they would show a chispas-a spark-of gold, but most of them were just pretty.
But one day in '94 he unexpectedly and accidentally struck it rich. He had wandered far to the north of the Superstitions, into the hills north of the Salt River. He was a long way from the Pinal road and, since he had replenished his haversack in the new gold mining camp of Goldfield, he struck out for home almost directly across-country.
He crossed the Salt River at Mormon Flat. From Tortilla Flat he made his way southeasterly along Tortilla Creek, between high cliffs and steep slopes, until he reached more level country near Tortilla Mountain. He changed course, almost due south, through broken hills and at sunset found himself in La Barge Canyon.
He camped for the night and at sunrise took his bearings. He sighted Weaver's Needle three miles to the west. He was almost due north of Miner's Needle. He was bone-tired and almost out of food, but being alert for promising color in the rocks had become a habit. Suddenly, he saw it an outcropping of rose quartz, heavily laden with gold.
He carefully checked his position (by now he had become a skilled explorer) and made his way to Picketpost, carrying as much of the ore as he could.
During the next year he made repeated trips to his rich vein of quartz, dropping off of Mullins' stage in the foothills and hiking out of the mountains a week later with a leather bag of ore. Unlike the prospectors who swapped their nuggets for chips at the faro tables or sold their claims for three-weeks worth of whiskey money, Wagoner carefully hoarded his earnings. When he determined that he had accumulated enough, Wagoner returned east.
Before he left, he told Mullins the location of his strike and said that he had marked it by planting a ring of trees around it. But planting trees in arid Arizona is not the same as planting trees in Michigan or New York and, untended, the trees must have died. Maybe other prospectors or Indians used the dry saplings for firewood. Mullins could never find them.