Kino and the Hunt for Gold
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Father's Kino's Implication in the Hunt for Gold

By Robert Zucker

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Written by Robert Zucker
Collaborated with William Carter.

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1686-1711: Kino’s Mission To Convert The Natives

Hstorically, the major reason that Father Eusebio Francisco Kino went to the New World was to enforce an edict from the King of Spain: [1] [2] It forbade the enslavement of natives in the mines. [3]

Local mining activities were already in operation by Spanish colonists before the Jesuit missionaries made their way into Pimería Alta, [4] and the native Indians were being badly mistreated and forced to work in the mines. [5] [6] Kino wanted to prevent further abuse.

Charles II, the King of Spain issued his Royal Cédula in 1686. It promised the natives that they would not be forced to work in the mines for a period of five years– then prolonged to 20 years– if they converted to Christianity. [7] [8] 

The King made his decree:

“…promising in my name to all new converts that during the first twenty years of their reduction they will not be required to give tribute or to serve on estates or in mines, since this is one of the reasons why they refuse to be converted…”

Done at Buen Retiro, Royal Provision and Royal Cédula Which Favors The New Conversions, May 14, 1686. I, the King.” [9]

Kino arrived in Sonora in February, 1687, with expectations that this “Catholic seal might well, and should, astonish and edify the whole world.” [10]

1697: Kino Establishes Missions–
The Military
 Hunts For Minerals

Kino made several journeys from his base at Mission Nuestra Señora de los Delores and headed north into the Pimería Alta. Each time a military escort accompanied him. One of those soldiers was named Escalante. This may have been how the Escalante name became linked with Kino in the legend.

During Father Kino’s first expedition in the autumn of 1697, he traveled past the Santa Catalina Mountains and along the San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers. Kino established several missions along the way. He named the rivers, mountains, and villages that were encountered. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] It was during this journey he reportedly named the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Kino left Dolores in Sonora, Mexico, on November 2nd under the escort of Lieutenant Cristobal Martin Bernal, Alférez Francisco Acuña, Sergeant Juan Bautista de Escalante, and twenty soldiers from the Compañia Volante (“Flying Company”) the mobile military unit that roamed the Pimería Alta to protect the settlers, mines, and missionaries. Their military objective was to determine the nature of the natives and to hunt for a cache of stolen goods. [16]

Carrying gifts for the Sobaipuri Indians, Kino’s group met up with Capt. Juan Mateo Manje and ten Indians. As the entourage traveled up the east range of the Santa Catalinas along the San Pedro River (“Rio de Quiburi”), they met many friendly Sobaipuri Indians and made “numerous finds of artifacts.” [17]

Kino brought along lots of livestock. At each Indian village he named, he left twenty to thirty of his “mission horses.” [18] Some of those cattle and wild horses roaming Southern Arizona today are descended from Kino’s initial herds. [19]

The group traveled farther north to the Gila River and saw the “Casas Grandes” (the Casa Grande ruins). [20] Sgt. Escalante wrote how he marveled at the structure. From there they went south along the Santa Cruz and passed several villages until they arrived at “San Xavier del Baac of the Rio de Santa Maria (Santa Cruz River).” [21]

The inhabited villages in the Santa Cruz Valley were named La Rancheria de San Cosmé de Tucson, San Agustin del Oyaut, San Clemente, and Santa Catalina de Cuitoabagum. [22] Kino named San Xavier del Baac after his patron, the apostle of the Indies in the New Galicia. [23] During that journey Kino rode about seven hundred and eighty miles in thirty days. [24]

Captain Bernal’s account of that trip gave rise to the early legend about the report of minerals shown to the Spaniards.

Both history and the legend are correct. Father Kino was on an expedition when, somewhere along the trip, they heard reports from the Sobaipuri natives about rich minerals in the nearby mountains.

“El año 1697 el capitan Don Mateo Manje, pasando con el Padre Francisco Eusebio Kino por la rancheria de San Javier del Bac, cuarenta leguas disante de dicho rio gila, le dieron los indios una piedra de metal del poniente que parecia rico metal de plata.”

Lt. Cristobal Martin Bernal  [25] (“In the year 1697, the Captain Don Mateo Mange (Manje), went with Father Francisco Eusebio Kino to the ranch of San Xavier del Bac, distance of forty leagues of the Gila River, the Indians gave rock of rich metal setting that looked like silver metal.”)

Manje, or someone else on that same trip, also wrote about the report of minerals as they traveled from Casa Grande towards San Xavier del Bac. [26]

“Many rancherias were visited by detachments wandering in different directions, and reports were received of quicksilver mines, and of white men bearing fire-arms and swords who sometimes came to the Colorado.”

This is where history and the legend merge. While the events are recorded, there is no mention of where the reported discovery originated. If the group left the Casa Grande ruins and headed south to San Xavier, they would have passed the Santa Catalina Mountains on their left. Along that route was the Santa Catalina visita.

Legend writer John D. Mitchell had been told this mine was discovered in 1698 by Indians who were hunting deer in the Catalinas on the “western slopes of the mountains and not far from the Ventaña, a hole in the rocks resembling a window.” The mine could be seen from the light shining through the Ventaña in a “southeasterly direction from where they stood.” [27] This may have been the unwritten portion of that find. The legend names the Catalinas.


[1] “To the Very Catholic Majesty of Our Sovereign, Philip V,” letter from Father Kino explaining his desire to attend to the new conversions. From Spain in the West, Volume 3, page 85. Also, page 107.

[2] “I (Kino) set out on December 16, having obtained from the Royal Audiencia the royal provision and the inserted royal cédula...” From “Kino’s Historical Memoir of Pimería Alta,” by Herbert Eugene Bolton. Volume 1, page 107.

[3] “Misionero nombrado para la reduccion de gentiles, y conversion a nuestra Sancta fe de los Seris, Huaymas, y Pimas en la provinzia de Sonora, Reyno de la nueua Vizcaya.” Petition asking prohibition of taking Indians with seal to work in mines from his prospective missions. Guadalajara, Dec. 16, 1686. A.G.I. 67-1-36. Transcript in Bancroft Library.” From Kino’s Historical Memoir of Pimería Alta, Vol. 2, page 290.

[4] Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, Part 5. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, MLA 25-94, 1994. Page 24. Based on Edgar Heylmun, 1981. Page 11.

[5] “They suffered them in the mines and farms to be guilty of the most abominable excesses, which the fathers took care to restrain their habitation.” From A Natural and Civil History of California, published in 1759. Volume 1, Page 296. Translated from Noticia de la California, published in 1757. Tomo Segundo. Page 89-90 (see next footnote).

[6] “Fuera de las violencias se acudia, para extraerlos de las Missiones al diabolico medio de permitirles en las Minas, y Haciendas los vicio, y defordenes, que les impedian, y refrenaban los Padres en sus reducciones.” From the manuscript written in 1739 and published in “Noticia de la California Y De Su Cnquista,” in 1757. Tomo Segundo. Page 90.

[7] “que no pudiessen ser compelidos a trabajar en Minas, y Haciendas los Indos recien conversion.” From “Noticia de la California,” 1757. Tomo Segundo. Page 89. See translation in next footnote.

[8] “…that the new converts among the Indians, should not, during the first five years of their conversion, be obliged to work on the lands or in the mines.” Translated in A Natural and Civil History of California, 1759. Volume 1, Page 296.

[9] “Royal Provision and Royal Cédula Which Favors The New Conversions.” This is the petition of Eusebio Francisco Kino, “missionary named for the reduction and conversion to our Holy Faith of the Seris, Huaymas, and Pimas in the province of Sonora, Kingdom of Nueva Vizcaya,” regarding taking Indians under seal to work in mines, undated, but passed on by the Audiencia December 16, 1686; and petition of Father Azcarasso, undated, but considered May 2, 1687. From Spain in the West, by Herbert Eugene Bolton. Vol. 3, Chapter 2. Page 109.

[10] Ibid. Page 109.

[11] November 21, 1697, Kino made the trip accompanied by Lt. Manje, Capt. Bernal and 22 soldiers. Spain in the West, Kino’s Historical Memoir of Pimería Alta, Volume 1. Page 56.

[12] Annals of the Spanish Northwest: North Mexican States, [1531-1800] (1884) by Henry L. Oak. Page 264-265.

[13] The Papago County, Arizona, by Kirk Bryan Dept of Interior, 1925.

[14] Kino’s Historical Memoir of Pimería Alta, Vol. 1, p. 186. By Herbert Eugene Bolton, Ph.D.

[15] Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697-1768, by Harry Crosby. University of New Mexico Press, 1994. Page 440, Notes on pages 53-55.

[16] Oak uses the date of November 5th. Marched by the order of General Jironza, Sgt. Escalante’s name is included in the list. From Annals of the Spanish Northwest: North Mexican States, [1531-1800] (1884). Pages 264-265.

[17] “Father Kino’s 1697 Entrada to the Casa Grande Ruin in Arizona A Reconstruction,” by Ronald L. Ives, reprinted from Arizona and the West, Vol. 15, No. 4, Winter 1973. Pages 345-370. Ives reconstructs Bolton’s account of Kino’s journey.

[18] The Critically Endangered Colonial Spanish Mission Horse, by Deb Wolfe.

[19] Ibid.. Kino Heritage Society. Endurance Rider: The Padre on Horseback. First Arizona Breeder of Horses.

[20] The Casa Grande ruins are located approximately halfway between Tucson and Phoenix. These are the same ruins reported by Coronado.

[21] The Works of Hubert Bancroft, Vol. XV, History of the North Mexican States, Vol. I, 1531-1800, A.L. Bancroft Publishers, 1884. The return route from Casa Grande on the 21st was along the Santa Cruz River past “S. Andres, Sta. Catalina, S. Agustin, S. Javier del Bac or Batosda, S. Cayetano Tumacacori, Guevavi, Cocospera, Remedios and Dolores.” Footnote, Page 265.

[22] Spain in the West, Kino’s Historical Memoir of Pimería Alta,  Volume 1. Page 186.

[23] Arizona: The Jesuits in Pimería Alta, From American Journeys Collection, Report and Relation of the Near Conversions, diary notes from Father Eusebio Kino. Page 435.

[24] Ibid, Page 58.

[25] Materiales para la historia de Sonora, by Miguel Angel Paz Frayre, UNAM, 2007. A compilation of documents of the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City. Page 603.

[26] Possibly written by Manje or someone else on that trip. From Annals of the Spanish Northwest: North Mexican States (1531-1800), by Henry Lebbeus Oak, 1884. Volume 1. Page 265. The Spanish text is not provided, so the actual mineral is not known.

[27] Ibid.

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