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Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

Gold Extracted From Southern Belle

Written by Robert Zucker

Collaborated with William Carter.

The detailed history and legends of the Catalinas is told in a 400-page paperback. Buy "Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains" online for a discount at amazon.com, or locally in Tucson at Mostly Books, Oracle Inn, Buzz Café and other locations to be announced. Kindle: Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

“The Southern Belle mine is one of the few in the Santa Catalina Mountains which has produced any significant quantity of auriferous ore.”

The Southern Belle  mine is one of the most well known gold mines in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It was also one of the holdings of “Buffalo Bill” Cody that returned a profit.

By the time Cody got involved, the Southern Belle had been a profitable gold producing mine.

“The gold is generally fine and free, any pyrites which formerly existed having been fully oxidized. The quartz is reported to be richer in gold where there is no galena.”  

The report further stated “there are an estimated 85,200 straight tons of indicated resources of auriferous vein material along the full strike length.” It suggested, however, that was not economically viable to leach out the remaining gold. That was when the mid-1994 price of gold was $387 an ounce.

The Southern Belle has been idle for decades and remained on private property. But its illustrious career as a major gold producing mine has endured in Arizona history.
 ‘Struck It Rich’ At The Southern Belle


he famous Southern Belle gold mine is located about one mile ENE of Apache Peak and two and a half miles south of the American Flag Hill. The gold mine was close to Campo Bonito, just over two miles southwest.

The original find was known for sometime among prospectors in the late 1870s, however, the ledge stood as high as one thousand four hundred feet and was impenetrable. C.G. Gillette and his partner, Capt. J.J. Young, were prospecting the claim in 1880 when that fall Mrs. Gillette, who had an interest in mining saw “no harm in trying,” penetrated the cap rock and “struck it rich.” She named the ledge the Southern Belle and gave half interest to her husband and his partner for prospecting the claim.

The specimens that contained gold through the whole quartz assayed from $5,000 to $20,000. Visible gold could be found through the whole ledge.

Among the other claims Mr. Gillette held was the nearby Morning Star, a visible four-foot silver ledge. Mrs. Gillette was lauded for her accomplishments by breaking sexual stereotypes among miners, but the sight of a feisty woman pounding out gold from the mountain probably seemed like a spectacle.

From 1881 to 1906, there were 18,666 st (tons) of auriferous quartz vein mined from the Southern Belle. Gold mineralization was a flat vein or “blanket” that dips twenty inches to thirty inches and about four feet of quartz below and two feet above a parting layer of red shale.   E.W. Rice had bonded Isaac Lornine (correctly spelled as Laurin) several mining deeds to the Southern Belle in 1881.  

By the next year a four-foot vein of gold ore was yielding $20 to $40 per ton in gold. The claim was being developed; it showed to be very promising.

Two years later Isaac bonded his claims to an eastern company that was taking out “ten tons of ore” for a mill test. The vein was reportedly five-foot wide. A few months later a trail was made from the mine to the Ada mill and the new Southern Belle Mining company. With Col. J.R. James as superintendent, it is expected to pack out bullion from the rugged mountains soon. By August there were twenty tons of ore a day being turned out.

The Southern Belle mine was reached by a stagecoach that ran in 1884 from Tucson, passing “La Punta de la Sierra, Pueblo Viejo, up Canyon del Oro” and around the western foothills to Oracle.

Misfortune befell the Southern Belle in the summer of 1884 when in June Charles Hudson, manager of the Hudson & Co., was accused of carrying on mining business with bank money. Among the charges was a questionable overdraft of $18,147.57. The Southern Belle went into litigation with an assurance it would eventually resume to pay its dividends.

Despite the Southern Belle’s legal troubles, as word of gold in the Santa Catalinas got out several other nearby strikes were made. S. E. Hall worked his Telfair mine about four miles south of the Southern Belle and averaged $56 in gold; the Cap mine assayed $60 in gold. Hall expanded his claims to the Tobe, Gold Hill, and Empire.

The Telfair is a “mammoth ledge, the cropping along being over sixty feet wide.” The “ore is a rusty yellowish quartz, light and honeycombed, assaying up to several hundred dollars.” Hall reported he had a thousand tons of one hundred dollars of value in sight, but it was not the richest claim in the region.

By February, 1885, a ten stamp mill was proposed for the Southern Belle property. A survey on June 17, 1885, mapped out three-tunnels and a shop between them, plus a grade for the mill.

Within a month after the mill started in December 31, 1885, twenty men were employed, and within two months $7,000 in gold already had been shipped. From 1885-1888, the Southern Belle reportedly produced “considerable quantities of gold.”  

The camp had a post office and store operated by J. L. Clark. The Mammoth and the Mohawk mines were the only other two that produced any profitable quantity of gold bullion.   At the time a bar of gold bullion– produced in ten days worth of effort– was valued at $9,000.

The Southern Belle gold mine had already shipped about $7,000 worth of gold by February, 1886. At $18.86 an ounce at the time, that would have been over three hundred and seventy one ounces – more than twenty three pounds of gold. With today’s prices, it would have been worth $4.82 million.

By that summer Samaniego’s stagecoach was running twice a week from Tucson to the Southern Belle. George B. Brajevich, who had the Cross Town claim adjoining the Southern Belle, came into Tucson one mid-August afternoon in 1886 to show off some large specimens of free gold, “although much of the rich ore does not carry an visible metal.”

He and his partner Mr. Johonnet believed several claims in the Catalinas, including the Southern Belle, had some promising prospects. The large ledge they dug from assayed about $40 per ton on average, and free gold was seen in “almost every piece of rock broken from the ledge.”

James W. Fellows, a wealthy New Yorker who had an interest in mining near Oracle, claimed 20 acres of land southeast of Campo Bonito in June, 1888. He received a Mineral Patent Lode for 10.4 acres for the Southern Belle section. Col. Lewis said the mill would start running in August, 1888, to crush ore furnished by the Messrs. Brajovich (sic) after having been idle for a while.

In the summer of 1893, Capt. J. D. Burgess threatened if the Cañada del Oro Company resumed the Silver Belle operations, he would stop the operations. He deeded the Silver Belle mine to the CDO Company for $25,000, which was still due to him, and another $21,000 in advanced stock. Fellows continued to work seven patented claims on the property until he died in 1897.

A Sheriff’s Sale was held in August, 1897, to satisfy a recovered judgment against Fellows who owed $275.85 plus interest. The title of the Southern Belle was auctioned off in front of the courthouse in Florence, Arizona, on September 20, 1897, after which then the property went into litigation over his estate.

After a long absence of activity, in 1905 Thomas Wilson, administrator of Fellows’ estate, filed an application for a $45,00 bond to the Southern Belle group of gold mines. W. W. Ward became a principle interest in reopening the Southern Belle mine in early January, 1906. It was reported that the Southern Belle mining properties “produced considerable gold in the past, the ore having been run through a ten stamp mill located on the ground.”

To resume work, only the possibility of refurbishing of the mineshaft is needed. The stamp mill would be used, and some new machinery would be added. Two and a half miles of pipeline was finished by April. J. Knox Corbett and Roscoe Dale were named as interests in the property. About one hundred men were soon expected to work in the mine, a known gold producer.

Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, Part 5, Mineral Land Assessment, 1994. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Santa Catalina-Rincon District. UAiR.

USGS: Southern Belle is a past producer of gold and silica. Dolphin M S 1837 Patented; Apache Peak Cons, Mng.Co Property; Southern Belle M S 687, Patented; Careless M S 4090, Patented; Cross Town M S 2155-A, Patented; Apache Girl M S 1837, Patented; Morning Star Group. MRDS M241166, Deposit ID 10162340. From mindat.org: http://www.mindat.org/loc-63390.html

Ibid. Appendix A41.

Ibid. (A41)

Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, Part 5. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines. MLA 25-94 1994. Page A40.

“Old Hat District– Rapidly Coming to the Front as a Great Mining Camp– Recent Important Sales of Claims– The Imperial, Southern Belle and Others,” Santa Catarina was used in spelling. Arizona Weekly Citizen, September 4, 1880.

Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, Part 5. Page 12 and A40.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, May 22, 1881.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, January 22, 1882.

“Mining Matters,” Arizona Weekly Citizen, March 25, 1883. From the Florence Enterprise.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, May 12, 1883.

Arizona Weekly Citizen. August 11, 1883.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, January 19, 1884.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, June 7, 1884.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, August 2, 1884.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, August 1, 1885.

Arizona Sentinel, Yuma, Arizona. February 21, 1885.

Survey 687. July 2, 1885.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, January 2, 1886.

Tombstone Epitaph, January 26, 1886.

Tombstone Epitaph, February 20, 1886.

“Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, Part 5.” Page A40.

The History of the Lower San Pedro Valley in Arizona, by Bernard W. Muffley, 1938. Page 26, 69. UAiR.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, March 20, 1886.

Tombstone Epitaph, February 20, 1886.

Gold value in 2013 is about $1,300.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, September 11, 1886.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, September 18, 1886

Arizona Weekly Citizen, January 15, 1887

Survey No. 687. Plat of the Southern Belle Mining Claim, Old Hat Mining District. Surveyed by George Roskruge, June 17-18, 1885. Plat dated: July 2, 1885. Lot No. 44. U.S.M.M. No. IV.

“Fellows, James W., Southern Belle,” June 25, 1888. General Land Records, Document # 14165. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. T 10S, R 16E, Section 20.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, July 28, 1888.

Arizona Weekly Citizen, August 19, 1893.

Sheriff’s Sale, Florence Tribune, October 2, 1897.

“The News of Tucson and of Pima County,” Arizona Silver Belt, November 20, 1905.

Arizona Silver Belt, Globe City, AZ January 11, 1906, page 2.

Bisbee Daily Review, January 17, 1906, page 2.

Bisbee Daily Review, May 25, 1906, page 3.

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