THE LOST PICK MINE

  A store in early day Phoenix was more than a place that sold soap, sugar and pick handles. It was a club of sorts, and Salt River Valley farmers, prospectors from the hills, vagrant politicans, philosophers like Darrell Duppa and promoters like Jack Swilling were the members.

  In the late 1870s two prospectors, remembered only as Brown and Davies, were lounging about just such a store when an Indian, apparently well-known to the proprietor, stopped and paid for a pack horse loaded with provisions with gold nuggets. He was a Yavapai the store man told Brown and his partner. He lives in a canyon, mabye 50 miles north of here. Mabye he is a hermit Indian or mabye he is an emissary for a band living living there. Anyway, he comes in about once a year and always has enough gold nuggets to pay for what he wants.

  Long months of working the hills and arroyos of eastern Arizona had been fruitless ones for Brown and Davies. Here, perhaps, was a clue to the bonanza that had eluded them for so long. They followed the Indian out of the little town on the, traversing north by northwest. They noted red-brown mountains on their right: looking back into the valley they realized they had been climbing steadily. They camped on the grassy heights and their second day found them in higher, rougher country. the mountains loomed larger now, some of them black and forbidding - malpais from an ancient lava flow

  The Indian and his pack horse were always in sight: he made no effort to vanish from their view, as he easily could have done. Whether he was leading them into a trap or was unaware that they were trailing him is a question for folklorists to ponder. The going became slower. the saguaro and sandy slopes gave way to broken rock an low-growing mesquite on the gulch floors. They crossed three washes, now known as Skunk Creek, New River and the Agua Fria, and rode into the vastness of Black Canyon. There were high mountains on the west; on their right was a towering hillside so steep that it appeared to be a clif. It topped out into a rolling mesa and precipitous arroyos led into it.

  The Indian headed into one of these arroyos and disappeared, but Brown and Davies followed what seemed to be a likely course. They crossed the mesa and dropped into another canyon, this one a tributary to the Agua Fria. They searched the canyon and the draws that fed it. The gold was there, in one of the rocky, rough-cut washes. They constructed a crude rocker and worked for days, sunrise to dark and filled two dozen bags with high grade ore. Old timers that know the story peg the vlue at $60,000 to $80,000.

They had forgotten about the danger of Indians while they were amassing their small fortune-but the Indians hadn't forgotten them. A hostile band [probibly Yavapais] jumped them. Davis fell dead in the first burst of gunfire and Brown dropped to the ground, rolling into a thicket. The Indians, always unpredictable warriors, rode away. Brown hid the ore bags under a pile of rocks near an outcropping of white volcanic ash on the east side of the arroyo. He marked the spot with a miners pick and riding at nightmade out of the canyon and on to California.

  Many years later, when he was a very old man, Brown returned to Phoenix, certain he could find his way into the canyon, but h fell ill and died, telling the story of his lost mine on his deathbed. More years passed. A herder learned the story of the lost bonanza and recalled that, while he was riding east of the Agua Fria, he had seen a rusty pick in an outcropping of white rock, but the Bradshaws and the adjoining hills and canyons are full of mining relics and he thought nothing of it.

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