The Yuma&#39s Mine
By W. Craig Gaines
From Page 18
July, 2007 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2007 Lost Treasure, Inc. All rights reserved.
The first gold mined in California was by the Spanish at placer deposits in the Imperial Valley from 1775 through 1780. The Spanish dry wash placer mines were in what became the Potholes and Piacho Districts, with placer and lode gold mined in the Cargo Muchacho-Tumco District. Another Spanish gold placer district, the Laguna Placers, was east of the Colorado River near Laguna, Arizona, just downstream of present Laguna Dam. Yuma traditions say their ancestors were enslaved by the Spanish, who forced them to work to recover gold.

Two Spanish towns with missions were established on the Colorado River to protect a trail between Spains California and Arizona settlements, near the expanding mining operations on Yuma lands.

Across the Colorado River from present Yuma, Arizona, Mission La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgin Santisma and the town of Concepcion were established in the fall of 1780 at the Yuma Crossing, on what later was known as Fort Yuma Hill, but now is called Indian Hill.

Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuner and the town of Bicuner were established in January 1781 about eight miles downstream from Concepcion on an overflow channel at a Yuma rancheria. Some place the Spanish town of Bicuner and its mission north of Concepcion near the Potholes mining district. The missions were established by Padre Francisco Garces, three other padres, and about 160 Spanish, part Spanish, and civilized Indians who were colonists, workers, soldiers, and families.

On July 17-18, 1781, the Yuma Indians (who called themselves Quechans), along with some Mohave Indians, revolted against the Spanish mistreatment and attacked the towns and missions along with other Spanish camps and travelers in the region. The attacks started during Sunday mass and church images were destroyed. Among the Spanish dead were Padre Garces, three other Franciscan Friars, 31 soldiers, 20 male settlers, 20 women and 20 children.

The Yuma Indians also took five Spanish soldiers, four male settlers, and 67 women and children prisoner. Most of the captured were later ransomed and returned to Sonora. The two destroyed towns and missions were abandoned After sacking the Spanish towns and missions in 1781, the Yuma Indians were said to have buried Spanish gold on the Arizona side of the Colorado River and to have thrown Spanish treasure into the Colorado River.

The Sunlit Cave

Another story was that Spanish treasure consisting of gold nuggets, gold figures, vessels, crosses, chalices, crucifixes, and holy images was hidden in the Sunlit Cave near Yuma and Ehrenberg, but closer to Ehrenberg, The cave opened on a cliff face on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, upstream of Yuma. The Sunlit Cave opening was visible in mid-afternoon.

Sporadic mining continued in the Imperial Valley after the Yuma revolt. In 1836 two Americans, Thomas Russell ,and Peter Weldon, and Francisco Ruiz left San Diego to look for lost Spanish mines and treasure in the Yuma area. They had no license, so suspicious Mexican authorities jailed the three men.

In the early 1840s some Yuma Indians in San Diego created much attention when they spent Spanish coins dated 1776, which they said came from old ruins of Spanish towns along the Colorado River. Over the years, treasure hunters dug up the missions foundations looking for gold. Secret locations of the hated Spanish mines were passed down through generations of Yumas.

Englishman Reginald Grey settled among the Yuma Indians and married a Yuma woman. He knew about gold mining and had heard about a hidden Spanish mine he tried to get his wife to tell him the location of. When Grey and his wife were going through the Adonde Range and camped at Bakers Tank, she let him know they were near an old Spanish mine the Yumas were once forced to work in. She refused to show it to him, but went to the old mine and retrieved two sacks of rich gold ore. Grey and his wife returned to their village, where Grey reduced the gold ore to gold. Often, Greys wife would go back up into the mountains and return with sacks of gold ore.

Other members of the Yuma tribe did not approve of gathering gold for the white men. During one of her trips, Greys wife disappeared. The Yumas then ordered Grey to leave, which he did, fearing he would be killed if he stayed. After the U.S. bought southern Arizona from Mexico, extensive placer gold mines were developed around 1858 in the Yuma territory.

Their discovery was likely due to tales of earlier Spanish mines in the area. Millions in gold have been documented as having been produced from placer and lode mines from lands the Yuma Indians once controlled, and treasure and gold still remain to be recovered there.


William B. Clark, Gold Districts of California, Bulletin 193, California Division of Mines and Geology, Sacramento 1980.

Eugene L. Conrotto, Lost Gold and Silver Mines of the Southwest, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1991.

Jack D. Forbes, Warriors of the Colorado, The Yumas of the Quechan Nation and Their Neighbors, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1965.

Thomas Penfield, A Guide to Treasure in Arizona, True Treasure Library, Conroe, Texas 1973.

Thomas Penfield, A Guide to Treasure in California, Carson Enterprises, Deming, New Mexico 1982.

True Treasure, March-April 1972, The Sunlit Caves Mission Gold, Maurice Kildare.

Treasure World, April-May 1972, Lost Gold of Bicuner, Robert H. Miller. www.greencity.org/discovery.html.
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