Sunday, June 2, 2019

A Hunch and a Mere 30 Cents

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
There's a tale that old-timers used to tell along the sunbaked streets of old Tombstone -- the thrilling tale of Ed Schieffelin's and his gold. Tombstone's founder Ed Schieffelin started with a hunch that ended up bringing the richest silver strike in the nation to this area and making him a wealthy man.
Ed loved the thrill of working for his hands in the earth, exploring for the elusive gold. He traveled to California first, and then, after a few years, headed into the Grand Canyon area. As if searching for gold was no longer of interest, he joined a group of scouts who were fighting the Apaches and ended up going with them into southern Arizona. Not happy with what he'd gotten into, he quit the fighting to prospect in the Huachuca Mountains. He stayed in the vicinity of a soldiers' camp. When one of the soldiers asked him what he searched for, he answered, "Oh, just some stones."
The soldier guffawed. "The only stone you'll ever find in this country will be a tombstone."
The first claim that Ed staked out was named Tombstone, and from it, the town took its name -- which also led the town's first newspaper to be named the Tombstone Epitaph.
The Tombstone claim didn't prove very rich, nor did his next claim named the Graveyard. His luck changed when he worked The Tough Nut. He became rich in both silver and gold. He, his brother, and a third partner traded part interest in the mine to men with money. These men built a mill to refine the ore. In 1879 the mine was bringing in $50,000 a month. For a while, Ed Schieffelin hauled the bullion from his mine to Tucson, but when he became restless, he went back to prospecting again.
In 1880 he and his brother sold the mine for $600,000 -- $300,000 each. Ed returned to what he enjoyed most -- prospecting. When their third partner sold out for a fortune later, he subtracted $300,000 for himself from the sum and divided the remainder equally between himself and the two Schieffelins.
In 1897 Ed bought a quality outfit in San Francisco: wagon, mules, tools, especially fine cooking utensils, and plenty of provisions before he struck north. At Grants Pass, Oregon, he saw an eighteen-year-old boy named Charlie Williams working in a blacksmith shop and asked him if he'd like to go into the mountains with him. The boy was eager to go. Ed was happy he now had a helper in his new project. They stopped at Day Creek and camped in an abandoned cabin. Ed told Charlie they couldn't go any farther in a wagon, so while he prospected in rough country, they would make this place headquarters. He also told Charlie he could go off on his own for a few days and do as he pleased since he would be away from camp a while. They both left in different directions.
When Williams returned to the cabin, he found the dead body of Ed Schieffelin. When he died, Ed had been sitting while breaking stones with a hammer. The rocks were quite rich in gold. The camp seemed not to have been molested by anybody, but some of the new cooking utensils were missing. A theory developed that Ed had taken the utensils himself to set up a sub-camp near where he'd struck the rich ore.
Prospectors hunted for the location from which Ed brought in samples. For a long time, they hoped to find the missing cooking utensils as a marker. Any camp would be made close to the water for convenience. When no one found the cooking utensils, the prospectors searched for the gold near the old cabin on Day Creek. They never located the site. Its whereabouts died with Ed Schieffelin.
True West, October 1958 issue -- presented by J. Frank Dobie


  1. Somehow I missed the fact that Ed prospected in the Huachucas and I am grateful to read it here. My trilogy is set in the Huachucas, with each book sharing the Cochise County settings and a few overlapping characters. Thanks, Paisley.

    1. Thank you for letting me know. Best of luck with your series.


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