Jenkins' Lost Lode

The Legend of Jenkins' Lost Lode

by Jim Hatt

The true story of gold-studded quartz found by William “Bill” Jenkins while on a family picnic in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona in 1937

Foreword and background information on the story - by Clay Worst

The subject letter dated July 23, 1957, referred to in this article, is the original that Jim Hatt and I received from Al Reser, and it emphasizes a little known discrepancy between the location of Jenkins’ Lost Lode as stated in the letter, and quite a different location given by Barry Storm in his book Thunder God’s Gold. Storm’s motives in misrepresenting the actual landmarks, and other discrepancies, are unclear, and it may be unfair to second-guess events that happened more than half a century ago. The unknown terms of a written agreement Storm had made with Bill Jenkins’ widow could explain it. Yet I feel that a general review of Storm’s work is in order.

Storm was thorough in his research. He was knowledgeable in geology, mineralogy and practical prospecting. Unlike most other writers, he actually spent many days on treasure trails in the Superstitions. He was a decent outdoorsman. He and Chuck Aylor were the two best old-time pistoleros I ever saw shoot. Importantly, he was the first writer to attempt to orient his many lost mine tales to specific landmarks in the Superstitions.

Thunder God’s Gold was published in 1945. The accomplishments of others in the intervening decades has understandably cast doubt upon many of Storm’s conclusions. On occasion he was deliberately misled by locals who dismissed him as a young “upstart.”

One evening around the campfire in Storm’s camp, after broiled steaks and a relaxing dollop of “drinking whiskey,” he and I talked about literary license and the inescapable tendency of writers to embellish facts to create readable copy. I was left with the feeling that his published account of his own work and conclusions in the Superstitions were pretty much the way they actually happened. Of the landmarks we discussed, the Jenkins story never came up, so I make no judgement as to the discrepancies Jim Hatt points up in this article.

Storm’s book was well written in a captivating style, and the sophisticated are ill-advised to disparage his work. I still have the much-worn copy that I carried with me into the Superstitions on my first trip, the beginning of my own 57-year search for the Lost Dutchman mine. It has been the adventure of my lifetime. I owe him for that.


Parking lot near gold where Jenkins parked in 1937

Photo taken from Boulder Trail looking down on parking lot where
Jenkins, Storm, Spichal & Snell parked in 1937
.

Jenkins’ Lost Lode

The Jesuit Treasure, The Peralta Cache, Geronimo's Cave of Gold, The Peralta Stone Maps... The Two Soldiers... Deering... JENKINS and on and on.

Where there’s that much SMOKE...

There’s just GOT to be some FIRE!

Chapter 12 of Thunder God’s Gold by Barry Storm (John Clymenson), published in 1945, tells a very interesting story about a large piece of rich gold quartz found by William (Bill) Jenkins while on a picnic in the Superstition Mountains with his family in 1937.

According to Storm, the chunk of quartz was half the size of a man’s head, with visible gold all through it and had extremely rich in inclusions of brown oxidized hematite, which was assayed to contain $2,000 worth of gold to the ton.

The story presented in Storm’s book appears to give intimate details about the location where Jenkins found this rich sample, in a canyon identified by Storm as Willow Creek.

However... a hand-written letter from George Snell to Chuck Aylor in 1957 gives a detailed account of an actual trip made in 1937 by Barry Storm, George Snell and Francis Spichal. The trip was personally guided by Bill Jenkins. Jenkins attempted to return to the area where he believed he'd originally picked up the rich gold ore. Interestingly, the canyon that Jenkins led the three men to in 1937 is not the canyon named in Storm's book.

The following is a word-for-word typed reproduction of the letter, including a map, which was written by George Snell to Chuck Aylor in 1957. The subject of the letter was the rich quartz that Bill Jenkins had picked up on a hillside while on a picnic with his family in 1937. Barry Storm related the story of the Jenkins quartz in his book Thunder God’s Gold published in 1945, but Storm concealed the truth about where the quartz was picked up and intentionally named the wrong canyon in his book. This letter tells the correct area where Jenkins found the quartz, and bears evidence to the fact that Storm did make a trip to the area with Jenkins and had full knowledge of the correct area, although he never revealed that information in his book.

When Chuck Aylor died, Peggy Aylor gave a lot of his belongings to Al Reser, who had been a long time friend and occasional partner of Chuck Aylor. On November 21, 1995, Al Reser gave me a photocopy of the letter and map for use in my own book.

George Snell’s Letter to Chuck Aylor

7-23-57
Dear Chuck,

Glad to hear from you again, I guess our last letters crossed on the way so will hasten to answer this last one.

Our minds seem to work pretty much the same way as I have always had the feeling that there was something fishy about that Jenkins deal. I don’t know very much about Jenkins personally, as I only met him once, the time the Four of us, Barry, Bill J., Francis Spichal, and Myself, went up La B. from Canyon Lake.

First, before we start up La B. I would like to tell you about a couple things that have been bothering me ever since. One is why would the Jenkins Family go all the way up La B. to the Jct. of Boulder for just a picnic lunch? It’s not a hard walk but it must be a couple of miles, and I can’t picture them with a couple of youngsters going that far. Another thing that puzzled me was J. hazy recollection of landmarks while we were making the trip. The beginning of the trip was OK. He remembered the bridge and about going South from the West side of it for a short ways before going into the La B. Canyon Bed itself. After that I don’t know just what part of the trip I started to have my doubts about his knowing where he was going.

He and Barry were in the lead and Francis & I tagged along behind. What conversation, if any, was carried on between them, Francis & I didn’t hear. Something else that I think doesn’t add up in Barry’s story is that it was about Sept. of ‘37 that the Four of us went up La B. Now if J. had been there previously that same year he would have remembered more. Besides that Barry took J. out of the Vet’s Hospital in Tucson to make the trip up the Canyon. He seemed to be in pretty bad shape and I was sorry he came. TB I think it was. Maybe it was the way he felt that made him hazy about where he was going, or Barry might have cooked up the deal with him promising a return when he published his book. Barry was one Lad who lived by his wits.

Now getting back to our trip. Yes, Chuck, the Four of us went up the La B. Canyon Bed, thro’ the box to the jct. of Boulder. We turned up B. how far I can’t remember, not more than 100 yds or so. Then we left B. and started back towards La B. like on a leg of a triangle. Just before we reached La B. and in plain sight of it, we came to a fallen tree, a fairly good sized one, and J. said “This looks like it.” (The picnic spot). Chuck, there is something else I want to mention at this point before I go on.

I think B. mentioned it later as coming from J. I have a hazy recollection of his mentioning a bottle, like an olive bottle or some kind that goes with a picnic. At that time we didn’t look for anything like that. Did Barry incorporate that into his story? 20 yrs. Chuck is a pretty long time to remember minute details.

Jenkins then said that after lunch he took a walk and was gone about an hour. While he was walking he stubbed his toe on a partly embedded rock. He pried it out as it felt pretty solid. (Here comes another fallacy). J. said it was heavy so he carried it back to the picnic spot. Then carried it all the way back to the car before breaking it open and noticing the pocket filled with free Gold. When B. showed me the rock, that I gave him $5 to pay for it was about 1/2 half the size of a man’s head. I wonder what size it was before he broke it? I also wondered how long J. had it after he broke it?

Anyway, J. took us across La B. from the picnic spot. There was quite a slope going up, paralleling La B., to a little saddle, then went down the other side, still paralleling La. B. to a pretty good sized ring-cone. Going up the first slope J. said it looked like this. That knocks B’s profile map right out of the picture.

No, Chuck, I don't think J. made a profile map or any other kind of a map. Another thing J. said going up the slope “There was a lot more rocks that looked like this one.” I can’t recall J. ever mentioning the Needle. That must have come from B. If you were to go up that slope to the little saddle you might see it, or part of it, I don’t remember. It was on the East side of the saddle where I drove the pick thro’ my shoe. We did a little digging, very little, fairly close to the saddle. There were no other places in the immediate vicinity that resembled this place that Jenkins showed us.

Now back to your original questions. The first one I’d say yes. J. did take us in the way he went with his family. No Trails. Two, I didn't know whether the Needle entered into it or not. It wasn’t mentioned by J. that I remember. Third, the same as number Two. Fourth, it was B’s idea of a map. I never saw any that J. made. I feel that La B. Canyon is the one to consider as the starting point.

Due to the fact that he crossed La B. from the fallen tree, (and there’s probably quite a few), I’d suggest in the N. E. or East side of La B. for a slope paralleling the canyon to the point where you enter the box. If there is a fair sized Canyon coming into La B. from the right hand side (the same as Boulder C. does) it would be worthwhile to follow it up and look for the same type of slope paralleling that C. on the left hand side. The fallen tree, whether in La B. or a tributary C. coming in from the right would be just outside the C. bed on the right hand side.

If I had my wife and Two small kids and were taking them on a picnic, I wouldn’t go too far from the car. I doubt if I would have gone thro’ the Box unless there was a specific reason, which I don’t think he had. I’m going to make a replica of the map you made, (not the profile) and point out the place J. said was the slope where he said he found the rock. Or let us say “Thought it looked like it.”

The only trail we took was where we left the car and made our way to the La B. Canyon bed. I was only up La B. once from the bridge (when the Four of us went) so can’t recall what type of tributary Canyons come into La B.

So, Chuck, there you have it as close as I can recall, details and all. Sure hope you can make something out of it. Since B. is such a stretcher of the truth that piece of ore might have been someone’s prize specimen and never did come out of the Superstitions.

Another thought just came to my mind. If J. retraced his steps back to B. Canyon after lunch and crossed it instead of La. B. and went up a tributary Canyon on the West side of Boulder it would take you somewhere in the vicinity of Clarke’s Mine. What type of ore his was I never heard. If you think I have left anything out that I might have forgotten to mention, fire away and I'll wrack my memory some more.

Our best wishes as always,

As ever,

George

Map of gold area

Modernized version of the Map Drawn by George Snell
and included in the letter to Chuck Aylor in 1957
.

On November 3, 2003, Clay Worst and I took a trip along the route shown on the map, using the Boulder Canyon Trail, since the beginning of the original Jenkins Trail leaving the parking lot is now under the water of Canyon Lake. We both knew that the area shown on the map as the area where Jenkins had picked up the rich ore had been heavily searched by many people looking for the Lost Dutchman Mine over the past 100+ years, including Clay Worst himself, but it had been many years since Clay had been to the area, and I had never been there. Our goal was to determine for ourselves if we thought it was more reasonable that the Jenkins family trip (in consideration of the small children) was made as described in Storm’s book or as described in Snell’s letter.

We parked our vehicle in the marina parking lot and crossed the road on foot to the Trailhead. It is rather steep at the beginning, but offers a spectacular view of Canyon Lake when you reach the top, high on Boulder ridge.

View of area and Clay Worst

Being on trail with Clay Worst in the Superstition Mountains was probably one of the most enjoyable experiences a Lost Dutchman Mine hunter could've had. With over 50 years of experience in those mountains, Clay had personally known and spent time with nearly every individual who had entered there in search of the Lost Dutchman Mine, the Peralta Cache, the Jesuit Treasure or the secret code of the “Peralta Stone Maps.” Every time we stopped for a short rest or just took a moment to enjoy the views, Clay would raise his arm, point to an area, and make a comment similar to, “That’s where Chuck Aylor and I spent a long time following up a clue that Chuck got from Tex Barkley,” or “Right over there is where Al Reser and I sat in the shade of that big boulder and ate our lunch on a hot summer day back around 1952.”

Clay and I had walkie talkies with us and split up several times paralleling both sides of the trail so we could see a little more of the country, and maybe see something that hikers using the trail might pass by and never know was there. Maintaining radio contact at all times, Clay would occasionally call me over so he could point out an area and tell me about an experience Brownie Holmes, Al Reser or Bill Barkley had right over there.

Map of our route
Route and distance we traveled on our trip that day in Nov. 2003

About the only thing better than being on trail with Clay Worst was sitting around a campfire at night with him. There was a lot more time to talk about the “Old Days” around the campfire. Those Ol’ Timers never found much gold or treasure, but they had experiences ranging from comical to hilarious, scary to bone chilling, and doubtful to unbelievable! I sometimes had a hard time helping Clay remember something we discussed yesterday, but he could recall events that took place in the mountains 40 years ago in such vivid detail that you would think he was reading from his recorded notes.

Old campsite with bent tentpoles

During one of the periods when Clay and I were separated, I came across an old campsite containing some badly rusted cooking utensils, a canteen, and a full set of aluminum tent poles. Every single tent pole had been bent or broken so as to render it unusable for some reason. Clay didn’t see the campsite himself, but when I showed him the photos later and told him where I took them, it had him scratching his head in disbelief. The campsite was very high up in a flat area a long way from any source of water. It was very puzzling to both of us why anyone would make a permanent camp there under those conditions. Clay’s final comment about the campsite was “Somebody had a very compelling reason to maintain a camp in that location when you know they had to haul water all the way up to it from a long distance away.”


I’ve been rained on in those mountains. I’ve been hailed on. I’ve had every one of my elbows, knees and knuckles scraped to the bone. I’ve lost watches, sunglasses, canteens, backpacks, tents and sleeping bags, and I’ve had some of them stolen from my hiding places. I’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains when the boulders were too hot to sit on and a spot of shade large enough to fit my whole body into could not be found.

I’ve come out of those mountains battered, bruised, bloody, tired, hungry and thirsty many times while mumbling to myself that I will NEVER go back in there again! Then…a nice soft truck seat, with the air conditioner blowing in my face, followed by a hot shower, a square meal, and a good night’s sleep in a soft bed…

Next morning I am remembering things I saw in the mountains the previous day, wondering how they might fit into the big picture. One more look at some old maps, some digging through my own notes...and I'm already planning my next trip. - Jim Hatt

_______________________________________________________________

Note: Jim D. Hatt passed away October 12, 2011 in Mesa, Arizona. In 1998, Jim was selected as one of five men to be profiled in a documentary filmed for A&E about the search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Also profiled in the documentary were Tom Kollenborn, Bob Corbin, Clay Worst and Ron Feldman. One day of filming was dedicated to an interview of Senator John McCain, filmed in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains, where as a younger man McCain left his own footprints along the rocky trails in the land of legends.

In 2009 Jim Hatt set up and managed DesertUSA's forum on the Lost Dutchman and the Peralta Stone Maps. He always looked for the truth, and ran a controlled forum so that only accurate information got posted. He will be missed.

More

The Lost Dutchman Mine
The Great Katherine Mine
Quest for Fire at Opal Hill Mine
Rockhounding, Treasure Hunting and Gold Prospecting

      
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