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Cochise Stronghold Fun Gold Story

Last Updated: 8th Jul 2017

By Rolf Luetcke

Cochise Stronghold Fun Gold Story
By Rolf Luetcke

This story took place a year ago. The story concerns gold and the search for it. It involves a friend who will remain nameless to protect his identity.
There are quite a few of these stories floating around in my memory but the most recent one sticks in my mind. The friend was a new mineral collector who stopped by often to have me help him identify things he had found at the various SE Arizona mines he had visited. One day he stopped by and asked me if I would go with him to try and find a mine in Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains. There are two sides called Cochise Stronghold, one is on the West side of the mountains and the other on the East. The one on the West is wild and little visited but the East side had a campground and is a tourist destination. He said he had been told of a mine in the canyon of the East Stronghold and had gone looking for it but was unable to find it. He said the mine was supposed to be high up on one slope and he had tried looking for it by following the trail that supposedly went past the mine but he didn't find a mine . Since the area was steep and his climbing ability was not the best he asked if I would come along, which I agreed to do. I had not gone on many hikes on this side of the Stronghold so I thought it would be nice to get out to an area I had only been to a few times in the past. I had driven into the West Stronghold a number of times and even hiked up to the top from that side. There are a number of mines on the West side of the Dragoons so why not on the East side. On the West side is a place called Slavin Gulch and there used to be an old wagon road that went all the way to a mine near the top called the Abril Mine. This road had deteriorated so badly it was only possible to hike up this way now. This mine did have some interesting minerals and I had visited it one time from the road at Middlemarch Pass and one time hiking up Slavin Gulch. The time I hiked up to the mine I saw the one main tunnel leading into the mine but it was flooded and about a foot of glass clear water that was very cold kept me from going in. I had always wanted to go back but the road to the mine from the other side had deteriorated to the point of being nearly impassable. The ore I remember seeing at the Abril was lead and zinc mineralization with a bit of copper color also.
The Cochise Stronghold on the East side is a famous place and a tourist destination since it was the stronghold that the Apache Chief Cochise used as his hideaway. The rocks of the area made it nearly impossible for the cavalry soldiers to find his band. There were too many places for an ambush so they didn't follow into the canyon often. There was a nice campground up at the top of the road into the canyon and I had stayed there one time many years before. The trails went in several directions from the campground and many people came to visit the spot that Cochise had lived. When Cochise died he was buried somewhere in the canyon and the tribe rode their horses up and down the canyon for some time to make the spot he was buried impossible to find with all the horse tracks everywhere. As far as I know, his grave was never located. You could almost "feel" the history that lived on in the canyons.
We drove over to Cochise Stronghold on the East side of the Dragoon Mts. and parked where he had stopped before. The trail went high up the South facing slope of the canyon and the friend said the mine was supposed to be up high on the mountain, near the top. The person had told him if he followed the trail toward the top he would pass the old mine, which was supposed to have been a gold mine. I was often on the lookout for small gold specimens from new mines for a collector friend in Germany and the chance to get a piece of native gold from a new mine was always of interest to me.
As we started up the trail I was looking at the rocks and it didn't seem right for gold in the granite of the area. It was a nice day for a hike, not too hot and I liked the area so up we went. We climbed and climbed until he said that we had made it to the area where he had turned around and had lost the trail. I saw that the main trail went to the left but he said the person had told him the mine was off to the right so we went that way. We climbed looking for the white stringers of quartz the person had said were the indicator that he was close to finding the mine. I kept picking up rocks and looking for any mineralization but saw none that reminded me of gold bearing veins. We were in terrain that was very steep and with no trail it was very difficult to keep going. The friend said the mine was supposed to be up the small canyon we were in and up toward the ridge at the top. We finally got to a steep rock face in the canyon with a small seep and standing water. Beyond this the canyon looked to difficult to follow so we sat on the rocks and looked around. It was not long we were found by the mosquito's that hatched from the pools of water. It was broad daylight but the mosquito's were hungry and we didn't stick around. From high up on the mountain the views to the East were spectacular.
It was at this time the friend told me the story of why he wanted to go looking for the mine. When he told me he had met an old Native American woman while scouting the canyon for any roads that led up into the mountains a little light went on in my head. She lived in the canyon and he had gotten to talking to the woman and she had asked him why he was up there. When he said he was looking for any old mines she told him a story. As soon as he had said it was an old Native American gal I saw what had happened. Since my wife is part Indian, she had experienced many of the stories the Indians told the "white man" from going out with her father to visit many of the old mines of central Arizona and visiting relatives in the San Carlos area. Through her father and the people they visited in the back country she had learned that the older Indian people were very good at weaving yarns about lost mines. In the past the reason was to confuse and get the non native people running around looking for things that never existed. The old west was full of the same kinds of stories when old prospectors ran out of money and places to explore they sat in the bars and told fantastic stories of lost mines and treasure to anyone who would buy them drinks. I think that many of the old lost gold mine stories started this way.
Apparently the Indians did the same to gullible white men looking for treasure. As soon as I heard the friends story I knew the woman had seen a sucker coming a mile away and told him this fantastic tale. She had told my friend that the Lost Dutchman's Mine that was supposed to be up in the Superstition Mountains was actually in Cochise Stronghold and they had only told the story of the Superstition Mountains to throw people off the real location of the famous gold mine. I just shook my head and told the friend I couldn't believe he fell for the story and had dragged me up into the mountains in search of something that didn't exist at all. Many stories like this were floating around and it was up to the person listening to know whether the story even had a grain of truth or was totally made up.
After I realized where he had heard of this "lost mine" story I knew that the old woman had been having a lot of fun at the expense of a newcomer to the area and was probably sitting on her porch and laughing at another white man she had fooled into running all over the place looking for something that never was there in the first place. I told the friend I couldn't believe he had not told me about where the story had originated in the first place. He was honest and knew if he had told me before I never would have gone along. I was honest too and told him "darn right!"
I know there was a gold mine in the Dragoon Mountains to the North of the Stronghold called the Golden Rule and this is something the old woman must have played on. It was a nice little touch to throw in the connection to the Lost Dutchman gold mine and it actually being in the Dragoon Mountains and that is why it had never been found. That little piece of information would have tipped me off immediately it was a story and had no truth to it whatsoever. Of course, if there was truth to the story, everybody had been looking for the Dutchman mine in the wrong place.
The only thing I can say is that it was a nice day to be out in the mountains and the scenery was wonderful. The area of Cochise Stronghold is rife with history and I loved hiking there even if it was just to be out in the beautiful area. There were rock shelters with pictographs on the hike and with the wildlife we saw it was a nice day out hiking. Lizards lived all over the rocks and red-tailed hawks could be seen circling in the sky and you could hear their screeching cry in the distance. I saw a lot of animal sign that the area was full of wildlife but the actual animals had learned to stay out of humans way. There are many deer in the canyon and the wild pig called javalina and if you know how to read animal signs you knew they were around. Coyotes roamed the hills and we saw much sign of them. Bears had also been seen in the canyon but we didn't come across any evidence of bear. There are always snakes in the area and we kept our eye open for them since many were rattlesnakes but we didn't see any. The reason for the hike has never left my memory and I thought others might have fun with the tale of a lost mine that never existed.
I have several other friends who have that same gold lust and a need to find lost mines or lost treasure. One older friend spent days on end looking for a lost mine but never did find anything. He tried to get me involved in one local search but it was after the trip to the Stronghold and I knew as soon as he said what he wanted me to come along to do I begged off. When there are elements to a story that make no sense at all I know it is a total wild goose chase. In the case of the older friend, he said there was a tunnel that went from Mexico into Arizona and had been used to smuggle things into the US for years. The funny thing was that from what he heard there had also been attempts to smuggle rich gold bearing ore into the US when it was illegal to own gold and it had been either stored and left or abandoned when the smugglers were discovered. He said he had picked up a number of chunks of ore, loaded with gold where the tunnel came to the surface in the base of the Rincon Mountains. From what he said, the tunnel was part of a cave system that was all under the area. The thing that made no sense to me was that the one end of the tunnel was in Mexico and the other end was supposed to be about 60 miles to the North according to his story. This whole scenario was completely impossible and again held a tiny grain of truth with Kartchner Caverns having been found on the NE side of the Whetstone Mountains that was quite spectacular and this was the seed planted in the persons mind that if there was a cave system, why not have a cave system that was over sixty miles long. There are cave systems in other parts of the world that are miles and miles long but nothing like that has been found in the area we live in and for a cave system to go underneath two mountain systems and two valleys between them was just not geologically possible. This same fellow often stopped at our store and would tell me about his latest search. I learned to listen and not say what I truly thought and he told some whoppers. He did have plenty of gold but turns out it came from a big purchase he made from a fellow from Australia.
One other story involves a sister in law and her husband. He had heard the story of a man in the old west that was walking from Tucson to Tombstone and had crossed the Whetstone Mountains and had run out of water as he crossed the top of the Whetstones and needed to find water. The closest was at the San Pedro River, many miles away to the East. He didn't have the clear state of mind to mark his trail to follow it back to the vein he had supposedly found because the lack of water made him delirious. As the person was crossing the ridge at the top he had stumbled across a seam of quartz that contained much gold. The brother in law had gone searching for the vein but could never find it. I think that story was also one told by some aging prospector fishing for free drinks. The Whetstone Mountains run for about 30 miles and to scout the top of the whole range would be a daunting task. I think the brother in law finally did give up on that search. In my many hikes in these mountains I have not seen any areas that look like they contained gold. My reasons for going into the Whetstones was for the natural beauty of the various canyons and that it was the closest mountain range to our home, being only about 12 miles away. My wife and I love to go up a few of the canyons to see if there are nice wildflowers blooming every year.
The stories here are from my talking with friends over the years and the most recent one had me think about putting them down. I know there are many other stories similar to the few here that will come to mind. Hope it brings some chuckles to those who read it.




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Comments

Nice, Rolf! There is an old mine that a guy told ME a TRUE story about that I'd like you to help me find.... :)
David K Joyce

David K. Joyce
10th Jul 2017 1:21pm

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