LOST ADAMS DIGGINGS, NATIVE AMERICANS, AND DREAMS AND LEGENDS [HUNTER GRAY MAY 8, 2002] UPDATED APRIL 15 2005
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
A cool, early morn in Eastern Idaho -- which had a light snow yesterday in
the context of very high winds. Hereabouts, the Western drought is long
over. Later today, accompanied by Eldri; my youngest, Josie [LSW social
worker]; and Thomas, my grandson/son [getting set for full fledged medical
school], I will visit my main medic for a look-over. Things with
me go up and down and up again, but, as I pointed out to a good neighbor
yesterday afternoon [and have to others], my traditional hypochondria was
cured immediately when I came down with this potentially lethal disease.
The attached -- on the legendary Lost Adams Diggings -- is an older post. [I
have expanded it a bit here.] Our heavily visited website, Lair of
Hunterbear, well over five years old at this point , and huge [even I, ever
the "trusty Indian guide", can occasionally lose my way down in it], has
contained our Adams gold post for quite a good while. Data from our server,
to say nothing of inquiries from those interested [which I answer politely
but only very generally], indicates that it continues to be one of our prime
attractions. It's term paper time in high schools and higher ed settings,
and many of our website visitors are involved -- usually a little
desperately -- in those endeavors. I do help students in any ethical way I
can -- I won't, of course, write their papers -- but I can provide outline
suggestions, thoughts, references etc. The Lost Adams Diggings does not, as
a rule, attract students -- but, as it has since the inception of the Legend
[ca. 1864], it does draw gold-searchers: traditional prospectors, arm-chair
historians, and now cyberspace speculators.
And for those gifted with some insight, it provides a mirror with which one
can survey and assess one's basic values. And that can be very interesting.
LOST ADAMS DIGGINGS, NATIVE AMERICANS, AND DREAMS AND LEGEND
Note by Hunter Bear:
This is a story about something that's very, very real: Gold. Gold Found,
Gold Lost, and Gold That's Still There. And, since Gold never exists in a
void by itself, this involves Natives and Anglos and Values.
And Dreams and Legends.
You can't grow up in the Real Southwest without hearing much about this
particular situation -- from the very Four Directions.
There is, as I mentioned the other day, a bona fide lost and massive lode of
gold in either Eastern Arizona or Western New Mexico: "The Lost Adams
I know much about many things -- and little or nothing about many more --
but I do know much indeed about Native Americans and the Rugged West. I
have a curious mind -- and I've always wondered just where, specifically,
the Adams gold might be. I've done a great deal of research -- and even
more listening. And I've done more than my share of looking.
But I make no sweeping claims.
It was "found" by Anglos in 1864 who started from some point in what is now
Southern Arizona. They were led by Adams, originally of Rochester, N.Y.,
and guided by a Mexican Indian, a former captive of the Apaches who was
later killed by the Apaches for his treachery. It lies in a very deep
trough-like box canyon, through which a small creek flows or at least once
There are some other landmarks of significance -- but most of these are not
especially unique to any one locale in this vast sweep of still-wilderness
But some certainly are unusual.
Once down in the deep, steep canyon the gold-hunters immediately spotted
good-sized pure gold nuggets in and around the creek -- obviously washed
down from a "home lode" further up the canyon.
And, no sooner had the gold hunters arrived and begun to accumulate, than
they had very interesting -- and interested -- visitors.
A large band of Apaches led by the extremely shrewd and intrepid Nana
arrived within a day. Nana was a man of the direct statement and came
immediately to the point: The down-in-the-canyon gold hunters were told to
take what they wanted, gold-wise from the creek -- and make absolutely no
effort to find the basic gold deposits further up the canyon. And leave
soon. And never return.
The Apache leader explained patiently that the canyon was Sno-Tah-Hay -- a
very special religious place for his people. [Like all Native Americans,
the Apaches had no special interest at all in the gold itself.]
A man of many great gifts, Nana was well versed in a number of languages
and had no problem clearly conveying all of this, including his reasonable
ultimatum -- and its implications. There was no misunderstanding his
One and all, the Anglos agreed with his conditions.
Some weeks after this, with Adams and the main body of gold-hunters
remaining in the canyon, a smaller group of Anglos left, with nuggets --
some as big as wild turkey eggs -- to buy supplies at the very far away
[Old] Fort Wingate, then at the present site of San Rafael, N.M. [at
The trip took many days -- precisely how many is speculative. They purchased
those supplies from the post trader, paying with the huge gold nuggets --
something carefully recorded by the storekeeper. One man in Adams' party, a
German, worried about the Apaches, had taken his gold out and left with the
supply train -- and then returned to Germany where, years later, he verified
in detail the existence of the gold.
Meanwhile, Back at the Canyon, the astute and unseen Nana et al., watched
the gold operations continuing and expanding via the building of a cabin and
observed the surreptitious night-time Anglo trips up-canyon to the basic and
super-rich source of the gold. The Christian doctrine of Original Sin is
not in the theology of the Apaches [or any other Native cultures, as far as
that goes] but Nana and his men certainly recognized the existence and the
great endurance of on-going, burgeoning avarice.
With the exception of one man -- Brewer -- who escaped, the Apaches wiped
out the entire supply group as they approached the canyon from their
purchasing trip -- and then killed everyone in the canyon save two who were
a short distance from the main Anglo encampment. One of these was Adams
himself. [A significant and extremely unfortunate personal shortcoming of
his, as it turned out over the decades to come, was his almost total lack of
any dependable sense-of-direction.]
No survivor -- including Adams who sought it for the rest of his life --
could ever again find the canyon full of gold. Asked years later about
Sno-Tah-Hay, the normally friendly Nana would immediately grow cold and
withdrawn. In the chaos and unpredictability of the Southwestern Native
world in the latter 19th Century [Geronimo did not "surrender" until 1886
and Indian resistance continued for years afterward], the Old Apaches
obviously did not pass the location of Sno-Tah-Hay on to any of the younger
In any event, many have sought The Wonder -- and continue to do so. And no
one has found. A reasonable question to me might be, "What's your guess?"
And I say, first, that "If the Adams Gold isn't where it's supposed to be,
than it has to be somewhere else."
And, Yes Indeed -- I have an idea where it might well be: A very remote and
obscure and geographically wonderful area where everything, with one very
minor directional exception, fits the information provided by Adams and
the other two survivors -- especially the very carefully compiled account by
the extremely astute Brewer. I've been on and into the interesting edges of
that very, very rugged sprawl. And it took me a very good while to get even
I had access to some very rare, special insights -- given some years before
to me by a very old Indian [a lone, traditional hunter] who knew me
extremely well. And he knew I was passionately interested in Mystery but
never in Gold.
As Fire Lookout/Radio Operator for the Apache National Forest, on super
high/super remote Bear Mountain on the Arizona/New Mexico border --
reachable only by miles of horse and mule trail -- I could see eastward into
the Mogollons of New Mexico and all the way to Albuquerque, westward into
the White Mountains of Arizona and the Apache reservations, northward to
Escudilla Mountain and the Little Colorado River country, and far southward
to the Clifton-Morenci copper district. Somewhere, in all of that . . .
But I do have a much more specific focus indeed.
And, in an interesting situation later, I was once able to be flown quite
near the setting -- the special significance unknown to anyone else, even
the pilot -- and it all looks very possible indeed.
But there are, all over the Golden Southwest, many places which
certainly seem to fit the Lost Adams Diggings. Many.
Again, I make no grand claims.
Still, every single landmark -- unique and otherwise -- indicated in detail
by Adams and Brewer especially was in that very special local region to
whose borders I traveled and into which I gazed: a signal mountain with
unique peaks; a far off snow-topped range in a certain specific direction; a
stream bed with sycamore and cottonwood trees; and, immediately up and far
above that, high country with some big girding belts of bright red
sandstone. And then pines -- and finally an incredibly deep canyon. And
And roughly speaking, the geographical distances mesh with the Legend.
There was a feel of ghosts -- friendly -- in the soft winds that stirred the
wild grass and the cedars and sang in the pines and in my soul as well.
I suspect that Its gold reality, while truly stupendous, falls somewhat
short of Its still-growing-nicely Tree of Legend. But It's still -- judging
from the survivors and the "nuggets as big as wild turkey eggs" --
a very, very rich deposit.
Personally, I do indeed have great cultural inhibitions about digging for
gold -- in such a beautiful area as the one I suspect houses it -- or even
seeing the gold. And I also profoundly respect Nana's concerns. I do know,
definitely, the very specific location of moderately rich gold-laden rose
from the lower half of the very remote and vasty Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
Area southwest of my home town of Flagstaff, Arizona. I found that quite by
accident and brought out ore samples in 1955. Although I've been back there
a number of times, almost half a century has passed and, at no point, have I
had any interest whatsoever in pursuing that.
I should add that, every single person -- bar none -- who has spent any time
thinking about the Lost Adams Diggings has his or her pet theories, and even
special information -- with locations that stretch from not far north of the
Mexican border clear up to the Utah and Colorado lines. Some even have
extraordinarily detailed maps whose origins are unknown.
So I'm probably not that unusual. Not a bit. Lots of theories and all --
for the last almost 150 years.
But down, 'way down in the Canyon of my very Inner Being, I do think I Know.
But, wherever It is, It's real -- Sno-Tah-Hay, the Lost Adams Diggings --
very real indeed. For my part, I hope It slumbers -- forever unfound -- in
the shadowy mists of legendry where It will always continue to grow and
We need Dreams. All of us. And we need many kinds of Dreams. Good Dreams.
One of the great human beings of the Southwest who certainly understood
this was the late Texas-born [old ranching family] writer and historian, J.
Frank Dobie -- who wrote extensively about Western New Mexico and Eastern
Arizona and the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. He deeply appreciated all
of the people and their respective cultures -- Native and Anglo and Mexican
and Whoever -- and the wildlife and the geography. And all of them and all
the land itself certainly appreciated Frank Dobie.
He was also, I should add, a very strong supporter of civil rights and civil
liberties and union labor throughout his entire and very long life. Frank
Dobie fought a number of significant academic freedom battles at the
University of Texas, strongly supported the Southern Conference for Human
Welfare [predecessor of the Southern Conference Educational Fund], and I
have an extremely strong pro-union address "Divided We Stand" -- that he
made in the very early 1940s which was published and widely circulated by
Furthermore, Frank Dobie knew how to write -- lucidly, and with grand
simplicity -- in such a way that your soul is gripped and your mind can't
let it go. I strongly recommend one of his several very great Southwestern
classics which covers the Adams gold in considerable detail, and much more
stuff as well: great sagas from the American Southwest and Old Mexico. It
is Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver [Boston, Little Brown and Company, 1950.]
[That's the date for my personal edition. However, Apache Gold initially
appeared in 1928 and it's been coming out in various other printings ever
Nana and the Old Indians were very wise indeed. So was my Native father who
told me emphatically, many times: "Go after bears, leave gold alone."
[And now, an added and related note of mine, from "Panthers":
There's an excellent book, The Ben Lilly Legend, by
Dobie [Boston: Little, Brown
and Co., 1950 and many more recent printings.] I bought my copy as a 16
year old at a Santa Fe bookstore almost as soon as it appeared.
The focus of this particular Dobie book [ he wrote many very fine ones]
is Benjamin Vernon Lilly, the great lion and bear hunter -- "Last of the
Mountain Men" -- who was born in 1856 in Wilcox County, Alabama, grew up in
Mississippi's Kemper County, hunted extensively in the Deep South and
eventually went down into the Sierra Madre of Mexico, and finally came up
into the Western New Mexico/Eastern Arizona setting where he was active for
decades until his death at Silver City, NM, in 1936. There is a monument to
him in the Mogollon Mountains. Lilly was a Southern hunter -- who always
referred to the cats we are discussing as "panthers." One fascinating
chapter of Dobie's book is Chapter 9, "Ben Lilly on Panthers" -- which is
based heavily on Mr. Lilly's manuscript, "What I Know About Panthers." And
he knew a lot.
A ranching family in the remote Blue River/Bear Mountain country of extreme
eastern Arizona, at whose home I occasionally stayed in the late 1950s and
1960s especially, had two gunny sacks of possessions that Mr Lilly had left
there during his "last trip through" -- in the early 1930s. Everything was
kept just as he had placed it: home-made hunting knives, clothing, spare .33
WCF cartridges, etc. Ben Lilly was highly respected and is to this very
day -- a top authority on bears and lions. And he always, in the best
Southern tradition, called the latter "panthers."
Ben Lilly had not a whit of interest in the Lost Adams Diggings. For his
part, his primary and life-long focus -- killing lions and bears -- could
not have been more successful.
Yours, Hunter Bear
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Micmac /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
Check out Surprise Tribute:
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]