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RETURN TO THE LOST ADAMS DIGGINGS
My name is Richard U. French, friends call me Dick. I want to tell you a story; it is a story about gold. In the closing months of the American Civil War, in 1864, an event took place that came to be known as a gold discovery called The Lost Adams Diggings. As a result of the war’s devastating impact, masses of people pulled up their roots, bought, or built, covered wagons and began the process of moving west. They were creating what would become known as the western portions of the United States.
Because of the gold strikes in California, in the 1840s, gold was important; it was there, tucked away securely, in the minds of everyone. It was a part, however large or small, of the motivation to go west.
A man called Adams told about his experience of finding gold in a region called Apacheria, a dangerous and partly unexplored part of what was then New Mexico Territory.
He told of being a member of an expedition of 22 prospectors and a guide. The group of prospectors followed that guide for hundreds of miles in a daring penetration of Apacheria. He told of a canyon, deep in the Apache homeland, that held a great deal of the precious metal. He told of seeing the deposit, working it for a time, and then escaping a massacre that left only five of the miners alive.
The tragic loss of his companions traumatized Adams; he fled to his California home and didn’t try to return for many years. When he did make an effort to go back he could never find the canyon again, though he spent the rest of his life trying. He led several parties in that searching and in doing so, news of the endeavors---and the gold they were after---spread across the frontier; thus, the legend of the Lost Adams Diggings was born.
It has been almost 150 years since that original discovery, and people are still trying to find that remarkable canyon. There is a reason for that: It is the story Adams told. It is not flawed; it could really have happened exactly as he said. The fact it has lasted--in public interest--this long, tells us that it not only lasted, but it became the subject of literally hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, many books, and one of the best of the classic motion pictures of the twentieth century, Mackenna’s Gold.
The idea that a canyon could still be out there, secluded and lost to the society of today, would not fly in most regions of the United States; that is because of the intrusion of people on the land. But, there are still places in the Southwest, even in New Mexico, that are almost never visited by the human of the species. Mountain Lions are there, bears are there, rattlesnakes are there---but people aren’t.
My interest in the Lost Adams Digging began in 1977. Since then, I went from being casually concerned, because gold was involved, to becoming totally absorbed in what seemed to me to be a fascinating, and, at the same time, really believable account about a lost gold mine. I say fascinating because it is just that. The further I delved into the details of the many stories connected to this event, the more I realized how numerous the people were who had had a part in it. This is only one of the factors about the lost diggings that provide an inclination toward credibility. Unlike so many other lost mine stories, like the Lost Dutchman, where the reliability of facts about the discovery depends on the word of a single miner, the Lost Adams epic was created by twenty-three men in a very ambitious undertaking. Granted, most of them were killed in a massacre, but there were five who lived to tell their story. One of the five was the guide, and there are stories that he later led other expeditions to the canyon. And, then, the other four, including Adams, according to the various accounts, did tell their stories. As a result of those reports, people from four generations took up the search. Quite a number of them spent many years in their own efforts. The effect of this only urged others to pursue what J. Frank Dobie once referred to as the “Great Unfindable.” It was, perhaps, the Great American Dream of the day. Dobie’s 1928 book, Apache Gold an Yaqui Silver, which is still on book- store shelves today, mainly because of the Adams story, is truly captivating.
For many years I researched the Adams Diggings, searched for it, and in time I wrote a book about my experiences; I called it Four Days from Fort Wingate. One result of the book’s publication was my meeting two men from Las Cruces, New Mexico: Paul Hale and Ron Schade. Paul told me he had been probing the Southwest for the Lost Adams since the early 1960s. In a letter, he claimed to have found the lost canyon and the site of the ill-fated gold camp. I wanted to know more about what he had found, because in his letter he said things that I hadn’t heard before. He said he had found, in a very isolated canyon, the remains of an old chimney made out of native rocks. Around that chimney he had metal-detected hundreds of artifacts that dated to the time-frame of the Civil War. He also said he had found all of the landmarks shown on the Charles Allen map. These were the items of evidence I felt had to be at the authentic site if it was ever found. They are the things I had searched for but did not find. Over the years of my own researching and searching, I had located literally hundreds of published accounts of the Lost Adams Diggings. And, over those years I had come to believe strongly that the Charles Allen account was the most accurate in its portrayal of the facts of the story. Paul Hale and Ron Schade had reached the same conclusion, as had many others I had worked with in the past.
In time, Paul, Ron, and I became friends, and they took me to the sites involved in their discovery. I say sites, because the landmarks of their findings, which are detailed on the map in the Charles Allen account (a copy of that map is attached here) are spread out over an area of many miles.
In the late 1970s, another map claiming to be to the Lost Adams Diggings was published by the Arizona Republic Newspaper (a copy of that map is also attached.) The two maps come from two different sources, and while that is true, both maps show most of the principal landmarks of the various published accounts. In the order in which they occur, on the trail the Adams party followed, the landmarks are as follows---on the two maps.
A Big, Much-traveled Trail; a Gully, or Canyon, with a Dry Gravel Wash; a Low Ridge; the Pumpkin Patch; the Little Door; the Red Bluff; the Steep
Bank; the Bench, or Plateau; the Low Malapias Divide (Allen Map); the Valley that Flows from the Southeast to the Northwest; the Big Square Rock (Allen Map); the Cabin Site and Spring; the Choked Box Waterfall; and the two peaks that Adams said looked like haystacks in the autumn’s evening sunlight.
Those are the landmarks as they are portrayed on the two maps; the correlation between these maps is important, but what is probably even more important is how these landmarks match the terrain shown on the US Geological Survey maps, of New Mexico, labeled: Dog Springs and D-Cross Mountain. If anything, these two factors are actually topped by an even more important truth: The landmarks are not just there, but they are positioned in the terrain---in the Gallinas Mountains near Datil, New Mexico---precisely as they are shown on the two maps!
When I realized the significance of what Paul was showing me, when I first went there, I was simply overwhelmed. Overwhelmed, because I had spent over twenty years, at odd times, searching the mountain ranges of Arizona and New Mexico; I was looking for these very landmarks! Sometimes I would find a pair of peaks that might be the haystacks, or a canyon that looked like a possibility; but, there was nothing more; no Big Well Traveled Trail that could lead to Fort Wingate; no long gully with a sand and gravel bed; no Pumpkin Patch or Little Door to say nothing of the many landmarks that came after these! I knew there would be artifacts---but I never found any.
I had several trips into that scene, because it took all of them to see what was identified on the Allen Map. I found that everything was there, every one of the Allen landmarks—and all of those shown on the Arizona Republic map. Paul Hale was alone when he first walked into the canyon called Old Canyon on the topo maps. He was alone and starting his third year in the rough and rugt gold, and about history with its really interesting events were part of the American scene. Now, we seem to want to turn our attention, and our minds, to what is politically correct, what the greats of Hollywood are up to or perhaps to the Queen of England and what she’s up to!
Well, this is one of those Old West happenings; it took place when gold was worth about $21.00 an ounce! At that price it motivated, and stirred the passions of the Americans of the day. Now, it’s worth about seventy times what it was then, Of course, one has to remember, they didn’t have television, internet, I-phones, fast cars or jet planes. The poor devils!ged collection of canyons that surround Old Canyon; the one Indians once named Hot-ta-pi-wat Valley. In time, he
found the rock chimney of the burned out Adams cabin. In a few days Paul brought Ron Schade (Shawde) in with him as his new partner. They began metal-detecting around the old fireplace and finding artifacts buried from four to six inches deep in the ground. They began prospecting and looking for gold, and they started trying to understand the unique and truly fascinating canyon they were in. Paul had found the Adams gold canyon and camp. There was no looking farther for it. The two of them spent the next twelve years metal-detecting for artifacts and prospecting for gold in that canyon. They found both!
I wanted to be the one to write their story up. They agreed, and we started to work on it. They supplied me with video tapes, audio tapes and a multitude of pictures that authenticated their twelve years in the long lost canyon. It is now four years later; the book is finished, and I have sent query letters out to publishers all over the country. I am, however, not a celebrity or a politician. And in today’s climate, that is two strikes we have against us. I’m not sure I understand this or that I even want to understand it. In my day, stories about the Old West, about gold, and about history with its really interesting events were part of the American scene. Now, we seem to want to turn our attention, and our minds, to what is politically correct, what the greats of Hollywood are up to or perhaps to the Queen of England and what she’s up to!
Well, this is one of those Old West happenings; it took place when gold was worth about $21.00 an ounce! At that price it motivated, and stirred the passions of the Americans of the day. Now, it’s worth about seventy times what it was then, Of course, one has to remember, they didn’t have television, internet, I-phones, fast cars or jet planes. The poor devils!