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Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

William "Flint" Carter

William "Flint" Carter 2014
Photo of Flint Carter during a 2014 expedition into the Santa Catalinas. Courtesy of Will Grant.

One local prospector, William “Flint” Carter, has been mining the Santa Catalina Mountains most of his life.

Now in his mid-60’s, he spent the last forty years venturing deep into the mountains to service his mining claims. He is the only prospector with a continuously active mining claim in the Catalina Mountains. [1]

With the scarcity of ongoing mining projects in the mountains today, he may be the last, lone prospector.

William “Flint” Carter was lured, as hundreds before him, by the prospect of finding the Lost Mine with the Iron Door and the natural occurrence of precious minerals.

After Flint Carter moved to Southern Arizona in the early 1970s, Susan Thurman introduced him to Burton Holly, the man who helped build Hollywood and owned land in the Cañada del Oro. Holly shared with him the legend of the Iron Door Mine.

Holly told Carter that he was sitting on the largest gold mine in the U.S. Later, Carter learned more about the history of the area and about the biggest gold legend in the West. The story of that rich mine was just part of the reason the legend still exists and continues to grow. Carter believed that the largest land treasure in the world, over 100 tons of gold, was partially moved out of the Catalinas and carted a few hundred miles east. “The local legend mentions a treasure, but it is more focused on the lost mine,” Carter remarked. [2]

It was during one exploration of the Catalinas in the 1970s that Carter and his group stumbled upon more than just an old mine deep within the Cañada del Oro. His claim to discover the Lost Iron Door Mine [3] became overshadowed by the minerals he has been quietly recovering from his claims over the past decades.

In 1972 Carter purchased an acre on the former Samaniego Ranch [4] from Holly. There was a chicken coop between two old adobe buildings. Carter built a natural stone-incorporated earth shelter with a black sand iron structure from the chicken coop as an alternative solar energy concept. It was documented as Arizona’s first solar heated and cooled museum by the Arizona Governor’s Office in 1986. No other building had incorporated alternative building designs in the structures at that time.[5] The building used Paolo Soleri’s design of arcology– [6] a combination of ecology and architecture­–allowed the walls inside and out to be farmed, thereby increasing space instead of decreasing it. No fossil fuels were required. The house was to be used as a charging unit to run a vehicle one hundred miles a day, truly non-polluting transportation.

“At the beginning 1970s, there was a 350-acre man made lake called Golder Dam. I was the only person to buy lake front property and build. The concept was simple. I wanted to be self-sufficient. The house would heat and cool its self while acting as a vehicle charging unit for 100 miles a day travel. But, funding was the major problem.” [7]

The reason Flint Carter became involved in both the hunt for the Iron Door Mine and for minerals was to provide resources for his environmental projects.

Cody Stone 23 pound nugget

A 23-pound boulder nugget of silver and gold veins, marketed today as Cody Stone, from the Santa Catalina Mountains. The value has been placed at $1/4 million. [8]

In the early 1980s Carter accompanied Mel Fisher on the James Bay to the wreck of the Spanish galleon Atocha where the largest bullion discovery of the century was recovered shortly thereafter. In the late 1990s Carter partnered with Jerry Cheatham, the grandson of Doc Noss of the Victorio Peak treasure that was considered to be the largest land treasure in the world with over one hundred tons of gold.

Carter has maintained one active mining claim deep within the Catalinas. With a collection of high-grade ore accumulated from the claim, Carter has cut, polished, and fabricated the stones into jewelry called Cody Stone, which he named after “Buffalo Bill” Cody who owned mines in the Oracle area.

Carter’s business, Celebrity Stones only uses materials from the Santa Catalinas. The stones are named for past celebrities that owned the sites where the stones were mined. Cody Stone, Geronimo’s Gold, the Wilma Huggett stone, the Esmerelda, and others are just an example of some of the minerals still found in the mountains. These have become extremely rare collectibles. There have been fewer than five hundred pieces recorded. They are from the only known source of gold and silver from Mt. Lemmon.

Refined gold and silver can be purchased almost anywhere, but one hundred precent natural specimens are almost non-existent. Almost anything of value usually goes through the crushers, and only a few pounds remain. The values are placed on each stone by its separate grading.

Cody Stone samples are on display in fourteen museums worldwide, including the Mining Hall of Fame and the Gem Institute of America. For five years during the last half of the 1990s, an educational exhibit at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show highlighted the history of this epic gold legend.

In 2010 Carter appeared in the motion picture, Buffalo Bill, Beyond the Legend, [9] to describe Cody’s role in the search for the mine with iron door. He is working on a new film that carries the theme of the Iron Door Mine and continues to recover minerals from his mine.

Read more about Flint Carter and the Iron Door Mine.

Videos Music of the Santa Catalinas

Minerals of the Santa Catalina Mountains

Return to Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

[1] Carter has held 169 mining claims since the 1970s. Bureau of Land Management mining claim records, 2014.

[2] From a conversation with William Carter, 2014.

[3] “William ‘Flint’ Carter hints that he has found the Iron Door Mine,” C.T. Revere, Tucson Citizen, October 1, 1997.

[4] “Warranty Deed,” November 30, 2006. Official Records of Pinal County Recorder.

[5] William T. Carter memoirs, 2010. The letter from the Arizona Governor’s office by Sam Udall stating it was Arizona’s first solar heated and cooled museum.

[6] Introduction to Arcology, from Arconsanti, https://arcosanti.org/arcology

[7] According to William Carter.

[8] In possession of William Carter.

[9] Buffalo Bill, Beyond the Legend, by Jack Hubbell, Little Bighorn Productions. DVD preview at http://www.littlebighornproductions.com/bb-2.html