Sunday, August 29, 2010

Indian Treasures: Lost or Found - 108

For some treasure hunting can become an obsession when searching for the 'Mother Lode' of gold and silver. Most treasure sites are far from home with many in the wilderness areas of America located on government or Indian property. Sure you can find them in old ghost towns or on the outskirts of towns in wilderness areas, but many of them don't become famous locations until those searching put their own spin on its possible location. Legends are built by those who have failed to produce tangible evidence proving the existence of the treasure. It becomes easier and easier for dreamers to entice others to help them find lost riches. New blood makes it easier. One man's obsession can make others "gold crazy," too. The longer the treasure remains lost the more lies and bullshit fatten the legend.

Take for example the three Utah treasure hunters that set out this past Fourth of July 2010 who sought the fabled mother lode of gold in the wilderness areas of Arizona's Superstition Mountains. Smart treasure hunters would not go treasure hunting in July. The heat would dehydrate individuals fast, but two of these men had medical problems, too, and their obsession with finding the "Lost Dutchman's Mine" based upon the obsessive dreams and searches by Curtis Merworth is what presumably took the lives of Malcolm Meeks and Ardean Charles.

Merworth was the youngest at age 48. The other two men were older and weaker (48-63), but that didn't stop these inexperienced wilderness walkers with medical maladies from trying to help their friend realize his dream of finding the Lost Dutchman Mine. They sure didn't believe in the Apache Curse that protects these mountains from treasure hunters.

The curse it is said can be historically traced back to the early 1500's, when Jesuit priests from Spain began to build missions in the wilderness areas of what would later become Arizona and New Mexico. Jesuit missions were built in the Michigan wilderness, too, in the late 1500's and much evidence of this was proved with the finds of sterling silver crucifixes worn by priests as found in the 19th century when sewer lines were being built in Grand Rapids, Michigan and in the vicinity of the Norton Mounds in the 1870's.

The Jesuits took it upon themselves to educate and convince Native American tribes that bad things would happen if they revealed the locations of such rich treasures to outsiders, but these same missionary groups were mining gold themselves and sending it back to the Kings of Spain for almost 300 years. The Spanish called the Indians in this area "Apaches de Navajo." Tensions rose in Mexico and Spain with the priests and he ordered them to leave Mexico in the late 1700's that encompassed Arizona and New Mexico until 1836. Records of the mines, ore deposits and treasures were destroyed by the Jesuits before leaving the country, but legends lived on.

Native Americans, the Apache of Arizona, the Navajos of New Mexico had kept the treasures secret and even today Indians in this region are reluctant to talk or provide any information that speaks about the lost treasures in the Superstition Mountains. Apache and Navajo were at home living in the deserts where land was useless to white settlers. To the Apache, the Superstition mountains were sacred mountains, the burial grounds of their ancestors in caves and they protected these mountains from those who sought their golden treasures. Dead children were entombed in the masonry walls or under the floors of Adobe houses and Cliff Dwellers. Indians were taught by Jesuit missionaries to be wary of treasure hunters for nothing good would happen in their lives so the Apaches kept the curse to protect their sacred lands and they kept this promise by singing songs to the sacred mountains.

Down thru the ages legends of the Lost Dutchman's Mine grew to fever pitch and gold crazy treasure seekers who weren't afraid of the Indians kept trying to find the mother lode of all treasures in the Superstition Mountains. Those who were discovered were killed and so it went that the Superstition Mountains would remain a wilderness protected by the Apache Curse. Many a treasure hunter has tried to find the mine and few have escaped the curse. They perished without a trace and that is exactly what has happened the Merworth, Meeks and Charles.

300 volunteers and 40 law enforcement officers searched 96 square miles of the Superstition Mountains for better than one week and never found a trace of the 3 Utah men, except for their vehicle at the base of the mountains at First Water Trailhead on July 11th. Temperatures in the mountains by day were upwards of 125 degrees F. to freezing at night. Such extremes of heat would have made it a necessity to carry lots of water, but the men reportedly didn't and add poor health and why would two imperiled men even attempt to follow Merworth into such a hostile environment?

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio believes they succumbed to the summer heat.

Greed made them gold crazy. Truth is they were searching for gold during the hottest time of the year and being unprepared with the necessities of survival extreme heat claimed their lives. Nobody is safe when gold is discovered not even for partners. Gold hardens the heart and men will do strange and bizarre things to keep it or not share it with others and water can be more valuable than gold, too. Or, could it be a wrong cave swallowed them. Treasure hunters simply disappear in the Superstition Mountains. The Pima Indians call the Superstition Mountains "Ka-Katak-Tami" meaning "The Crooked Top Mountain."

Merworth had already been searching in the Superstition Mountains twice and in May 2009 he got lost and was dying of thirst when he used his cell phone to call for help. He was trying to find the mine alone, but had convinced his friends he knew about where the mine was and he made this year's trip his last valiant attempt to find the Lost Dutchman's Mine before others found it. Three men to carry water. The hypothesis here is that one man can't carry enough water the find and mine the gold without additional water. Were the other men expendable? Nothing of what I've read about their disappearance ever says if Merworth told the two men about his previous brush with death by lack of water.

Paranoia and gold fever fueled his obsession and he didn't want others to find the treasure since many new maps and information had surfacing since 1998. It was now or never. It was reported that some had already found the treasure, but Merworth wasn't convinced. Nobody has actually found this treasure for nearly 140 years and not since its discovery by Jacob Waltz and Jacob Weiser around 1871 in the days of Cochise and Geronimo. Next time I'll start the story around 1840. Good night.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Richard.
    What a great story.And very accurate also.
    My folks had a cottage just a few doors down from Aces landing, since 1959. And today I live aprox. 200 yards from the chiefs death site.
    Back in 1982 or 83, I roto-tilled your garden with my then brand new Troy Bilt tiller.