Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of Arizona

Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of Arizona
W. C. Jameson
Paperback $20 , e-book $14
Publisher: University of New Mexico Press (2009)
Pages: 184
ISBN-10: 0826344135

After a brief introduction, the book is divided into four quadrants for the parts of the state, allowing a local or traveler to identify legends in their area. However, the maps beginning each section seem to be decorative elements rather than useful indicators of where each story is set.

The narration is a bit more academic than in some of Jameson's work, more journalistic nonfiction and less dramatic storytelling. The stories themselves are dramatic enough, though. They show what a brutal business prospecting was. In the earliest days, Spanish Jesuit priests enslaved Apaches to mine gold. The Apaches retaliated, eventually killing all of the Jesuits. The famous Apache leader Geronimo later traded that gold for guns to aid his fight against the white man.

In the 1800s, miners were attacked by Native Americans, bandits, and other miners. Bandits betrayed their own gang members. Even family members could not be trusted, as in one story where two men took over their brother’s business by having him committed to an insane asylum.

In one nine-page story, "Coconino County's Lost Gold Ingots," the death toll runs into the dozens. A gang of bandits killed an Apache family for sport. A group of Apaches followed the bandits and killed several of them before they were attacked from the rear by a posse also pursuing the bandits. All the bandits died during or soon after the chase. They set off a blast in a cave to hide their loot, $400,000 worth of gold (worth close to $50 million today). One man found evidence of the treasure in 1964, but died from a heart attack before he could retrieve the gold or leave directions to his discovery.

Tombstone, Arizona today
All this in an attempt to placate the lust for gold and silver. According to Jameson, "It was believed by many [Indians and Mexicans] that to retrieve wealth that was lost or hidden was to invite bad luck."  Certainly there are few happy endings in these legends of lost mines and treasures, many of which are still buried or hidden in the remote canyons and deserts of Arizona.

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