Originally published in Southern Arizona Trails, Vol. 3, No. 84, May 17, 1988, Page 19 & 22-23. This is an excerpt from Ron Quinn's adventure book on Searching for Arizona's Buried Treasures," now available on .Amazon.com.
Authored by Mr. Ron Quinn
Treasure hunting in Southern Arizona near Tumacacori with Ron Quinn, brother Chuck, and good friends and partners, Roy Purdie and Walt Fisher is a fun read and a great book for novice or seasoned treasure hunters.
The following information has been taken in part from Mr. Don Page’s various correspondence and documents now in possession of this writer.
February 4, 1929, “Tomé [Augustíne Tomé] hunted around until he unearthed a small piece of smelter slag and said when he was a boy he used to find many large pieces in the vicinity just north of the San José de Tucson Mission. This type of slag comes from one thing only, the reduction of ore.
May 31, 1929, Charlie Bell another associate and Don Page drove out and found abundant indications of a large Indian village. Bell discovered several arrowheads and a large piece of “furnace brick” together with a good-sized piece of “slag.”
June 5, 1929, Tomé and Don again drive out to the mission location, and he tells Don that about five years ago, the daughter of a family that lived in a “jackal” (hut) just north of the old road dug a hole in the ground and unearthed one side of a large copper pot that contained gold.
The ruins in the Cañada del Oro, also known as the Mission of Ciru, are mentioned by Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Salpointe in his writings. Just east of this old Spanish settlement several arrastras were uncovered by Mr. Page. (They were not used to grind corn.)
Some of my own evidence includes:
1) A small well-hidden Spanish tunnel in the Tumacacori Range.
2) The old Cerro Colorado Mine, located just north of the Arivaca Road. This was an ancient Spanish silver mine before it was abandoned by the fleeing Jesuits. It later was rediscovered by Mexicans and worked rather crudely until Samuel Heintzelman obtained the mine and worked it for many years.
3) The ruins of an old Spanish mine just south of the old Paul Bell place. It was either the legendary Sopori Mine or the San Pedro. Paul informed us back in ’56 that several ancient “chicken ladders” were discovered within it. These ladders were used extensively by Indian miners in climbing from one level to another.
4) The old Canez arrastra located just north of the Las Guijas Wash.
5) The well-hidden Spanish shaft concealed on the southern slopes of Tumacacori Peak. Many have dug at this site in search of treasure or the silver vein the Spaniards might have been following.
Many will point at this evidence as inconclusive, saying, “It doesn’t prove a thing.”
If the Jesuits never engaged in extensive mining activities, how come such a large amount of adobe smelters and arrastras have been found within the areas surrounding their missions? These crude works were never used by the early American miners in their operations. Also, the American miners dug ample-sized tunnels to work in, not the small “mole holes” Indians were force to labor in.
Our disbelievers also refrain from mentioning why the Indians rebelled during 1680 and again in 1751. It was because of the treatment they endured under Spanish rule.
Their leader, Luis Oacpicagigua, saw how fast the Spanish mining and ranching frontier was advancing, and he knew that more and more of his people as well as those of friendly neighboring tribes would be subjected to the “injustice” of forced labor.
On November 20, 1751, the second rebellion began with the killing of 18 Spaniards who had been partying with Luis at Saric, again fact.
There are many who will never believe the Jesuits were engaged in any type of mining, even if undisputed evidence was presented before them. It’s like politics and religion. Some will never change their beliefs, no matter what.
A number of these debunkers of Spanish mining wrote their articles around 1889 or thereabouts. Long before historians like Don Page and others entered the scene with fresh evidence indicating the padres were indeed mining some “rich ores” in the surrounding hills.
Of course, tall tales about the Jesuits burying large amounts of bullion sprang into existence around various American mining camps. This began when several old Spanish workings were found and some traces of gold and silver were discovered nearby.
Over the years, the value put on these treasures has increased to enormous proportions. A couple range from $80 million to $200 million. It’s up to the seekers of these mines, etc., to separate fact from fiction, and Mr. Page was quite skilled at this.
The mission that now sits on the Tumacácori Monument grounds is not the one mentioned in old Spanish documents. This was built during the 1800s.
The first small mission was supposedly built near Calabasas. From there, its location was moved further north and to the east side of the Santa Cruz River, then to the opposite side of the bank directly toward the west. The ruins of the last and final mission are now located within the structure east of the present church on the monument grounds.
One author of “mission treasures” wrote there once were “two” Tumacácori Missions. The upper and lowerthe upper being located on the southern foothills below the Sierrita Mountains. This is pure fiction, and the writer was doing his readers an injustice by making this claim. A small Spanish mining settlement was located in this general vicinity, but no mission occupied the site.
My advice to those wanting to search for these lost mines, etc., is: “Do your research well.” Much of the information you seek is hidden away on high dusty shelves in libraries and in the Arizona Historical Society.
You will not find any old maps pinpointing these locations, but many papers have been written on this subject. In reading through these works, some clues will surface. In all the years I’ve been at this treasure game, I’m quite certain I haven’t found all the documents available on these legendary treasures.