Lost Pick Mine of Old Arizona: Hidden Gold Remains Hidden

Excerpt from In Old Arizona by Marshall Trimble, the state’s official historian.

Back in 1540 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led a large expedition across Arizona in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. They followed a tortuous path along waterless desert valleys, through twisting, boulder-choked canyons and across brawny mountain ranges. They came up empty in their quest for fortune but found, in the words of their chronicler, “a good place to search.”

Ol’ Ma Nature’s rough hands couldn’t have created a better place on this earth to hide a treasure than right here in Arizona. It’s also a good place to lose one and we’ve got more lost mines here in the heart of Arizona than politicians got plans.

Gold RockMost of these mines have a history of being found then lost again. The stories stay pretty much the same: prospector finds rich treasure, thinks he has memorized the exact spot, and then leaves. Upon his return, his mind starts playin’ tricks on him, and he can’t relocate the elusive strike.

In the 1870s a pair of itinerant sourdoughs followed a Yavapai Indian into the narrow canyons east of today’s Black Canyon City. Earlier, in Phoenix, they’d seen him pay for his supplies with a handful of nuggets and were determined to find the Indians mine and claim the riches for themselves. Some¬where along the Agua Fria, they lost him, and, while trying to pick up his trail, they stumbled upon a granite outcropping laced with pure gold.

The two men, whose names were Brown and Davies, quickly filled their saddle bags with some $80,000 worth of rich ore and started to leave the narrow canyon. Just then a war party of Yavapai showed up and opened fire. Davies toppled from his saddle, mortally wounded. Brown, who was bringing up the rear, dove behind a huge boulder and prepared to make a last stand.

Four well-placed shots dis¬patched the riders of three ponies and wounded a fourth warrior. Retrieving their injured comrade, the Indians rode away. Brown hid out in a manzanita thicket until it was safe to emerge, then buried his bags of ore on the east bank of an arroyo. He pocketed one ore specimen, took a long look around to make sure of his bearings and—just to make sure he could relocate the site—lodged his prospector’s pick in the side of an old saguaro.
Brown escaped from that canyon and made his way to California. In San Francisco, he had the ore specimen assayed.

The assay valued the ore at $84,000 to the ton in gold.

Brown waited for the Indian Wars to end before returning to Arizona. By this time he was 80 years old. On his way to the Agua Fria River country, he took sick and was placed in a hospital.

On his deathbed the old prospector revealed, for the first time, the story of his Lost Pick Mine. I reckon he figured some other old sourdough deserved to find it.

Well, no one did. A Mexican sheepherder did claim he’d seen a saguaro with a pick in its hide, but he couldn’t recollect exactly where it was.

Most folks believe all the lost Spanish treasures lie south of the Gila, but at least one is lost somewhere in the arroyos around central Arizona’s Sycamore Canyon.

Excerpt from In Old Arizona by Marshall Trimble, the state’s official historian.


  1. SaraD says

    A saddlemaker I knew in the early 1970s swore that he and a buddy had been riding in the rugged hills between Cave Creek and New River and had found a conquistador’s helm and breastplate in a cave, there. He said they had left it in place out of respect and told no one where it was because they were afraid looters would tear the area apart looking for “lost treasure.” I spent a lot of time, when we lived in that area, riding the creek and the hills, looking for any sign of the place he described. I never found anything like it and, to this day, I don’t know if his story was true or if he was spinning a tall tale to drive me crazy. He was not much given to joking, but you never know.

  2. says

    Sara, there have been dozens of reported findings of Spanish armor in various parts of Arizona and none have ever been proved. I’ve talked to a number of experts on the subject and all have heard these stories. It makes for an intriguing story but the presence of Spanish conquistadors in Arizona was limited to the expeditions of Coronado, Espejo and Onate and believe me none ever ventured anywhere near Cave Creek.

    • SaraD says

      Your reply is much appreciated, Mr. Trimble. I am certainly inclined to agree about none of them being in the Cave Creek area. Now the Hohokam… but that is another story. 😉

      I am reminded that, when we lived in that area in the 1970s, we had a large-animal vet named Trimble. I have always wondered if you were related.

  3. paul bailey says

    i live in northwestern arizona and have discovered an old pictograph that is hidden in a massive pile of boulders , it is about 2 feet high and shaped like a vase i believe it to be spanish in origin as there is an old stone arrastre not far away…. as well as a spring….could this be a treasure marker ? or did the spaniards mark their claims ? the old spanish trail runs thru this area any leads are appreciated….happy trails to you

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