Somewhere out there in a deep trough-like box canyon a small creek flows. There lies the Lost Adams Diggings, as rich as any of the lost treasures of the west, and perhaps the most legitimate in terms of factual evidence. It is a tale corroborated by more than one individual.
The man named Adams was a teamster on his way to Los Angeles with 12 horses. Adams (his first name was variously given as William, Edward, Henry and John) was an overland freighter, hauling goods for a price, between Los Angeles and Tucson, Arizona. He was married, with a wife and three children in Los Angeles.
After his last trip, Adams camped in the vicinity of Florence, Arizona. Apaches, making off with his horses, awakened him. Adams gave chase and recovered the animals.
When he returned to his encampment, he found his wagon burning and all of his other goods, including the two thousand dollars received from his freight delivery, were gone. The Apache’s had simply used the horse-stealing ploy to allow them to plunder the camp of its real valuables.
With his valuables gone, save for the 12 horses, the penniless Adams went to a friendly Pima Indian village at what is now Gila Bend, Arizona. There he listened to miners trade stories about prospecting. A half-breed Mexican-Apache nicknamed “Gotch Ear” listened as the miners voiced their desires to find gold. The lad was called Gotch Ear because of a deformed and crumpled lobe of one ear.
Apaches captured Gotch Ear and his brother when they were young boys living in Mexico. Gotch Ear was now on the run from the tribe because he killed the Apache who killed his brother in a fight.
Gotch Ear finally approached miner group. If you’re interested in gold, he told them, he knew of a canyon ten days away on horseback, where a creek literally flowed with gold nuggets. All he asked in return was a horse that would take him back to Mexico.
It was in 1864 that Gotch Ear guided the group of 22 men to the site. Gotch Ear led the gold-lusting group down the Gila River in a general northeast direction for several days. On or about August 25, the group camped in the low area between two lofty peaks, believed to be Mt. Ord and Mt. Baldy.
This has led to confusion for treasure seekers, however, as Mount Ord is located north of Phoenix and is wrong for the journey taken by Gotch Ear and his followers.
Since Adams had all the horses, the gold-hungry miners chose him as their leader.
After four days of travel through heavy timber, the Mexican youth led the miners around a high mountain which Adams and John Brewer, another one of the miners, say was the White Mountains of eastern Arizona.
The group finally reached what appeared to be a box canyon. Here they camped for the night. In the morning, they rode up the canyon toward a reddish-colored bluff, but which was really a solid rock wall sixty to seventy feet high.
Gotch Ear led the men around a huge boulder at the base of the wall. There, through a hidden portal, they went into a zigzag canyon, so tight Adams said later, that a rider stretching his arms wide could touch both sides.
Running along the floor of the canyon was a stream, which they followed to an acre-sized meadow. Here they made camp for the night.
The miners had hardly settled and began gathering the yellow metal before a band of Apaches, led by Chief Nana, appeared in the meadow near a waterfall.
Nana told the miners to take what they wanted from the creek, but to make no effort to locate the gold deposits further up the canyon above the waterfall. He also ordered them to leave soon, and never return.
While the gold held no allure for the Indians, the canyon where it was located did. The canyon, called “Sno-Tah-Hay” by Nana, was a very special religious site for the Indians.
The Apaches also believed that gold was the “tears of the sun”. Nobody touched the tears of the sun because it was the source of all life.
The gold seekers remained in the canyon against the orders of Nana. Not only did they stay, but soon began construction on a cabin. In three weeks time, they had accumulated about sixty thousand dollars worth of gold, which they placed in a container and hid in the hearth of the unfinished cabin.
The intent was to later distribute the gold evenly to the men in the prospecting party, with the exception of a German named Snively. Snively took his share each day and kept his gold apart from the others.
Supplies soon ran low. A party of five miners, led by John Brewer, was assigned to go to Fort Wingate to restock the camp. The miners carried with them nuggets–some as big as turkey eggs–to use as payment.
At the fort, when the miners paid for their supplies with the huge gold nuggets, the storekeeper carefully noted this fact.
Meanwhile, the Apache Chief Nana, unseen, continued watching the activity at the creek, and also noted the surreptitious nighttime trips up the canyon to seek the source of the gold.
He was not pleased. He ordered his Apache warriors to kill the five-man supply group as it returned from Fort Wingate. This was done with the exception of one man, Brewer, who escaped.
The Apaches then killed all the miners in the canyon except for two men who were a distance away from the Anglo encampment. Snively, the German, who had already taken his gold and returned to Germany. Years later, Snively verified in detail the existence of the gold.
One of the two men who escaped the Apache massacre was Adams, and the other was Jack Davidson. The only reason the two men escaped the Apache wrath is they had gone in search of the long overdue Fort Wingate supply crew.
Adams and Davidson decided for safety it was best to head for Los Angeles to avoid further contact with the Apaches. Traveling at night, they became lost.
They were spotted by U.S. soldiers and taken to Fort Apache, according to one story. This casts some doubt on this version, however, as Fort Apache was not established until 1872.
Jack Davidson later claimed they were taken to Fort Whipple, east of Prescott.
Adams and Davidson did not know that John Brewer, who headed the supply party, had also escaped the Apache massacre. Brewer climbed up the canyon wall and reached friendly Pueblo Indians. Brewer eventually went to Colorado, married an Indian woman and raised a family.
Adams returned to his family in California and remained there for ten years. He was afraid to return to New Mexico to look for the diggings.
Adams did return in 1874. He searched and searched for the lost “Adams Diggings” until his death in 1876, but was never able to relocate the gold mine.
There are stories galore about attempts to retrace the path taken by Gotch Ear and his Anglo followers.
A man named Edward Doheny, traveling across New Mexico into Phoenix looking for a job, reported he had traveled down a box canyon before he realized he could not cross it. He noticed the ruins of a burned-out cabin before turning back, but, at the time, he knew nothing of the Adams story.
When later grubstaked, Doheny was unable to find the location again.
A cowboy named Jack Townsend claimed to have found the site of the Lost Adams Diggings in New Mexico in 1894, while working out of Magdalena, New Mexico. This was never confirmed.
Once, during the period when he was trying to relocate the “gold river”, Adams met a Bob Lewis in a saloon. Lewis, too, had been searching for the “Diggings”.
“Go and look for the bones of those men who were carrying supplies in the canyon. Show me the bones, and I’ll show you the gold.”
According to an account by Lee Paul, on a website called “The Outlaws,” Lewis did find the bones. He found them thirty years later. Stacked into a crevice were the skeletons of several men covered with pieces of packsaddles and rocks.
Lewis was in the Datil Mountains of New Mexico. While he found the bones, he could not find the secret door. It is believed that an earthquake, which shook southern Arizona and New Mexico in 1887, had rearranged the scenery in the Datil Mountains.
Many, many efforts have been made to trace the path laid out by Gotch Ear. None have proved fruitful. It seems The Lost Adams Diggings will remain just that–lost.