Buried Treasures in North America Lost Adams Diggings

About buried treasure in North America, history of the Lost Adams Diggings account of previous searches and location.


The Lost Adams Diggings

The story of the Lost Adams diggings in New Mexico is a morality tale. But for a broken promise to an Indian chief, a group of gold-happy miners might have ended up rich instead of dead.

How It was Discovered: In 1864, on his way to Los Angeles with 12 horses, Adams, a teamster, stayed in an Indian village at a spot which is now called Gila Bend in Arizona. He was listening to some miners trade stories about prospecting when a Mexican Indian, nicknamed Gotch Ear, approached and said if they were interested in gold, he knew of some in a canyon 10 days away on horseback. Of course Adams and the miners took him up on his offer to escort them there. The group was on the road for at least eight-and possibly as long as 20-days, traveling through desolate country. Then the men pushed on two more days, going through the mountains until they came to a canyon with a high, almost hidden entrance. At the bottom of a Z-shaped Indian trail running down into the canyon was a green valley with a creek running through it. The creek was rich with gold.

No long after the men had paid off Gotch Ear and started collecting the gold, a group of Apaches led by a chief named Nana appeared in a meadow above a waterfall. The Indians met with the miners and agreed to let them mine the creek, provided they did not venture up the mountain past the waterfall to a spot where the canyon wall showed two rich veins of gold. For a while the miners stuck to the agreement. In just three weeks, they accumulated $60,000 worth of gold, which they put in a jar and hid under a stone in the hearth of the cabin they were building. One miner, a German from Heidelberg, kept his gold separate.

Eventually greed got the better of one of the miners, and he began mining the canyon wall. Then, in spite of Adams's anger, the others joined him.

When supplies got low, some of the miners set off for Fort Wingate. When, after eight days, they had not returned, Adams and a man named Davidson decided to investigate. They didn't have to look far. From the top of the Z-shaped trail, they looked down the other side of the mountain and saw five dead men and three dead horses, all that was left of the party that had set out for the fort. The German, later found in Heidelberg, and one other miner had escaped. While Adams and Davidson were at the top of the trail, they looked back into the valley and saw that a large number of hostile Apaches had set their cabin on fire and killed the remaining miners. Twelve days later, the two men stumbled on an army patrol, which took them to the nearest fort. There Davidson died. Triggerhappy due to his experience, Adams later killed two Apaches and was jailed for murder. He escaped to Los Angeles and was afraid to return to New Mexico to look for the diggings until 20 years later.

Previous Searches: Adams was unable to relocate the mine. Davidson's sister, to whom he had entrusted directions to the canyon, organized a search party which found nothing.

A Scotsman, Sandy J. Welch, supposedly found the diggings, but he had accumulated only a little gold when a couple of renegade Indians showed up and stopped him. To keep them happy, he made wine and sold it to them for gold; supposedly he left the canyon $70,000 richer.

How to Get There: First go to Gallup, N.M., on either interstate 40 or U.S. 666, then south on state route 32. The canyon lies somewhere in the Zuni Indian Reservation. The creek could be a tributary of the Zuni River. Before searching, you should obtain permission from the Zuni tribal council.

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