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Morgan City Wash Lost Gold

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Morgan City WASH
(Reprinted from April 1956 Desert Magazine)

AN THE SPRING of 1934 my father was working a prospect near Morgan City Wash 23 miles out of Wickenburg, Arizona.
I had moved recently from Oakland to Los Angeles and when he learned that I had not yet gotten permanent employment he wrote and asked me to come out and help him at the mine. I knew nothing about mining, but I welcomed the chance to get away from the city for a while, so I loaded my gear in my 1926 Model T roadster and headed for Arizona.
In his letter, dad instructed me to leave Highway 89 at Wittmann and follow the tracks that threaded through the dry washes for five miles to the cabin. So I would not get lost and follow stray tracks or find none at all, my father tied tin cans to the mesquite and cacti along the trail.

Wittmann was a single, small, weather-beaten frame building with a lone gas pump. It was late afternoon when I pulled up for gas. The owner and operator was a fine old gentleman who filled my tank and casually asked where I was going. When I told him he critically eyed my vehicle and asked if I carried extra water and oil and a shovel. I told him I did not and he said, "Son, I think you had better bunk here with me tonight and after a good breakfast we'll get you off to a good start."
I will never forget that old gentleman's hospitality. As we ate our supper of pork and beans, bread, coffee and canned peaches, he explained to me how dangerous it was to leave the main traveled highway without the essentials for desert travel, espe-cially without even a road to follow. After entertaining me until bed-time with stories of local happenings, he fixed a cot on the back porch for me and we went to sleep.

After a fine breakfast of bacon and eggs, frying pan toast and coffee, the old man filled a five gallon can with water, an old gallon can with oil and gave me an old worn shovel with a three-foot handle.
"Now you are all set," he said, I took out my total resources to pay him, but he would only accept payment for the gas and oil. No one could buy his hospitality.

Five miles can seem like a hundred when you are in the middle of nowhere. The tracks I followed dipped and squirmed in and out of shallow washes and gullies, following a course, I imagined that a lost steer would take. Large boulders had to be de-toured and after a crest was topped the surrounding landscape seemed identical with that over which I had just traveled. Any sense of direction I may have had was soon lost. Sand, cactus, rocks and sage brush! I knew now why the tin can markers placed by my father were so necessary.

The only clue to the identification of Morgan City Wash was its size—two hundred yards across. I turned right as my dad had instructed and I found the cabin a half mile down the wash on the far bank, surrounded by a forest of giant saguaro cactus.
During the months that followed we mined, hoisting the ore out by bucket and windlass from a 30-foot shaft, filled 50 pound sacks and carried them over the hill to the dump a quarter of a mile away.

There was no road to the shaft. We would single-jack our holes, place our shots and shoot just before we quit for the day. Next morning we would bar down and hoist out the ore, sack it and carry before lunch. In the afternoon we started drilling again. Dad wanted to stockpile enough ore for a shipment to Wickenburg. The ore was low grade and I doubted if we would break even after the shipping and milling costs were deducted.

When spring arrived dad went to Phoenix on a short business trip. Before he left, he told me to take it easy, which I was more than glad to do. To pass the time I decided to investigate a lead deposit up a little wash near the one through which I traveled from the highway. I was told by the prospector who discovered it to hike a half mile up the wash to a 20-foot high wall on the wash's right bank. This wall had vertical eroded ridges resembling a pipe organ, he said. Over this wall and back of the next rise was the prospect hole with large chunks of galena on the surface.

I started off early in the morning and easily found the wash, but was uncertain about the fluted wall. I climbed the first one I came to and hiked over the first rise, but found no prospect hole. I retraced my steps to the bank of the wash and continued on. At each intersecting wash I descended to the wash floor to look for the fluted wall.

It was on one of these descents that I stumbled and fell down a rather steep slope, striking my knee on a rock.
It was a painful bruise, and I sat down for a few moments. In front of me was a ledge of pure white quartz streaked with red and green discoloration. The bright colors caught my fancy and with my pick I broke off a piece of the rock and tossed it in my sample sack and went on.

Later I stopped for lunch and early in the afternoon climbed another fluted wall, and beyond it found the prospect hole exactly as described. I took several samples of galena and, very much pleased with myself, returned to the cabin. I placed the sack in a corner and immediately forgot about it and its contents.

My father returned in a few days and we casually discussed what we had been doing on our own time. I told him about the lead and brought out the sample sack. He carefully examined each piece with the 10-power glass he carried on his key ring. From the bottom of the sack he pulled out the white, red and green quartz specimen and laid it on the table. I explained that I thought the colors would look well in the rock garden. He examined the upper surface carefully with his glass and then turned the piece over. We both gasped!

The underside was covered with fine wire gold and small pin head nuggets which gleamed in the light from the coal oil lamp. Dad wanted to know where I had found this piece of quartz —was it in a solid formation or just float? Could I go back to the spot? I answered that I knew exactly where I had found it and we went to bed, dreaming of riches!

After a hurried breakfast we filled our canteens and started off. We re-traced every step I had made, or so I thought, until we came to the knoll where I had eaten my lunch. The orange peel was still there—but where was the rich ore? We could not find it!
We told no one about my find and every day for weeks we hunted for that lost ledge. Each time we started out I was sure I would be able to find it again. We did find a similar formation further up the wash, but it carried no value. Finally we told two other prospectors about it and they joined us in the search but with no success.

When our ore shipment showed practically no profit for all our hard labor, I decided to go back to Los Angeles and dad left for the Cave Creek area.

In 1951, with an old friend and prospector, I returned to Morgan City Wash. New roads and a new car made the trip much easier. Nothing much had changed in the Morgan City Wash area. We easily found the right wash and even the same formation, but the lost gold is still lost.

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Very cool. The very first wash I explored on this AZ trip was up that wash. I did find a few old prospects, one with some very mineralized quartz. No visible gold was seen with my loupe....... I did find an old pick head high up out of the wash in that quartz area.

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Hate to be a negative Neal but it sounds made up. Who carries any rock up over a hill then a quarter of a mile to the dump??? Does not make sense. Also Morgan city is very easy to drive up and is not up and down and over this and over that.

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