Could I Be Wrong?
Richard A. Robinson
Since 1975, I have publically maintained that Sims Ely knew where the Lost Dutchman Mine was located. Have I made an error - could I be wrong?
I am reminded of the story of the man who was walking his dog one evening when he came across a gentleman searching the grass beneath a street light. He stopped and asked what he was doing. The man responded that he had lost the keys to his car and was searching for them. He offered to help and started to also look for the keys. After about a half hour of fruitless search, he asked the gentleman if he was sure that this was where he lost his keys? He responded that he actually lost his keys about a block away but the light was better here!
The point of the story is - If you know where something was misplaced, isn’t that where you would search first? If you did otherwise, wouldn’t one be justified in questioning your judgement? Reading Sims Ely’s book “The Lost Dutchman Mine” (William Morrow & Co. 1953) leaves one with the impression that Sims Ely and Jim Bark did not know where the Lost Dutchman Mine was located and were therefore forced to search the entire Superstition Mountain and - in the end - claim that they were unable to find it. This is certainly a reasonable conclusion drawn from the book; however, if I am to prove that my contention that Sims Ely knew where the Lost Dutchman Mine was located is a tenable conclusion - one that I reached solely from reading this book - requires that I demonstrate that the data in the book can lead to such a conclusion.
Mr. Ely’s book contains approximately 65,000 words (11 words/line *35 lines/page * 178 pages). I intend to demonstrate that there is a sentence containing 36 words that have the power to make my case! But before I tell you what these 36 words are, which by themselves are not significant, it is necessary to discuss the concept of “context.” Context is (1) the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specified word or passage and can influence its meaning or effect or ( 2) the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.
So many times we take words out of the context and suggest what the meaning of these words were when they were spoken without reference to the total context of the words. In the instance of these 36 words, it is important to understand these words “in context” because outside that context there is nothing unusual about them. By context I mean not just the total words but also the individual writing the words and the time frame of when they were written. It is the specific knowledge of Mr. Ely and the time at which they were written that makes these words so pivotal! If I had penned these same words, they would not have the significance that I claim they do because I do not possess the level of knowledge not to have inadvertently made the mistake that these word’s possess in its context.
Let me give an example. Recently I was driving home from work and listening to the radio. There was a commentator on the radio who was lambasting another commentator (not present) because, while relating a news story, he had used the term “He did good!”. The critic was upset with the technical error of the sentence and felt the commentator had not held up the “high” standards of their profession! The sentence sounded fine to me; however, he pointed out that “did” is a verb and that “good” was an adjective. He further elaborated that an “adjective” modifies “nouns” not “verbs” (e.g., “the apple was good” with “good” - an adjective - modifying “apple” - a noun) and that one uses an “adverb” to modify a “verb.” So the sentence should have been “He did well!” because “well” is an adverb. I understand the grammatical rules behind the argument but have made similar errors and will probably do so in the future simply because I am not always clear if a word is an adjective or an adverb. So if you read something I wrote, it would be no surprise to find such a mistake; however, if you read something by the above commentator you would actually be shocked to find such an error - right. With that said, let’s focus on those 36 words!
The 36 words in question appear on page 19 of Mr. Ely’s book in the following paragraph taken from his book and are highlighted in red:
Systematically, through the years, we covered an area roughly twenty miles long and twelve miles wide. In a sense our search amounted to a process of elimination. Yet how easy it was to miss that elusive clump of bush or that almost indiscernible scar on the surface of the earth that today alone marks the presence of the Lost Dutchman and its gold!
So - what did I find disturbing about that sentence? - you might ask. Well, the problem is that Mr. Ely is writing a book about a failure to find the location of a lost mine and ends up concluding, in part, that it might be possible that they didn’t find the mine because it was located in some part of the Superstition Mountain where they had not searched. Now if he truly felt that way he would have said:
Yet how easy it would have been to miss . . .
Yet how easy it was to miss . . .
When he says “how easy it was” the tense of the verb “was” being past indicative and implies that at some point in their search that they “actually” were in the vicinity of the lost mine whereas if he had used “How easy it would have been” then the expression of uncertainty would have been conveyed. This sentence is clearly determined and there is a confidence imparted in this paragraph that I feel delivers Mr. Ely’s true sentiment.
These are the 36 words on which I rest my entire case about how I came to the conclusion that Mr. Sims Ely knew where the Lost Dutchman Mine was located.
Wait a minute! Don’t go away shaking your head like that. I have an idea - let’s take an imaginary journey and ask Mr. James Bark what he thinks of my theory.
“Mr. Bark do you have a minute. I’d like to ask you a few questions about the Lost Dutchman Mine?”
“Sure ask away!”
“What do you think about my theory that Mr. Ely knew where the Lost Dutchman Mine was located?”
“ Mr. Robinson I think you are an idiot! I use to say that the bump on the head of most Lost Dutchman Hunters was a dent! Let me check you head. Don’t you think if Mr. Ely or I knew where the Lost Dutchman was that we would have been working it?”
“Obviously I don’t. But do you mind if I ask you a few questions about your Notes that you wrote concerning your search for the Lost Dutchman Mine?”
“I don’t have access to your original notes, but a man named Thomas Probert produced an unpublished edited and annotated copy of them. I’ll be asking my questions based upon these ‘Bark Notes’ is that Ok?”
“Sure. I understand that he did an excellent job with my Notes.”
“I enjoyed them. Some people say that Sims Ely simply copied your notes to write his book.”
“Hold on there! Let me clarify something. Sims and I were PARTNERS in the search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. That means what was mine was also his! The Notes was a shared property. My notes are like a prickly pear cactus. It has some great fruits sitting there but when you try to reach for one you end up with a hand full of needles! Sims’ book on the other hand is like a hillside of scarlet and white pimpernel in fair weather always surprising you with every gust of wind.“
“I understand. There are a few sections in your Notes that I’d like to ask you about.”
“The stump is yours.”
“There is one section that I feel really caught your enthusiasm for the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine. It is the section titled “J. ADDISON REAVIS” on page 92 of the Bark Notes. In this section, you tell of J. Addison Reavis and his attempt to defraud the U.S. government of a large portion of land by forging a number of documents which claimed that the King of Spain had given a land grant - the so called Peralta Land Grant - to one Don Miguel Peralta and Mr. Reavis was attempting to establish the validity of this grant for his wife whom he claimed was the rightful heir to the grant. Ultimately his plot was discovered and he was sent to prison for two years. Upon his release, he spent a few days in Phoenix at the Adams Hotel. You tell of a meeting with him in the hotel lobby. The way I read it, you give the impression that the meeting was a coincidence is that the case?”
“Well you got me there! No, I had read in the papers that he would be spending a few days at the hotel and I went out of my way to make sure that we ‘accidentally’ met. I have to admit I was as excited as a little kid getting his first horse! That was what - April of 1898? I had been searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine about five years and thought there was possibly a connection between the mine and the Reavis story. While he did forge a number of documents, I felt with good reason that at the core of his story he had started with a legitimate document and that it was a grant to a sole right to a mine not a ‘land grant’. I was certain that I could sweet talk the snake charmer himself into working with me to find the mine. What a shortcut that would have been! If he still had the original document and could be convinced to share it with me, I was confident it would be possible to find the mine. The man I met though was a shell of the former man. The charisma was gone. Prison had sucked it all out of him.”
“ So you felt that the mine was a legal mining claim and not a rogue operation?”
“Another section of the Notes that I thought intriguing was the King Massey story on page 114.”
“King Massey? I don’t recall the name.”
“He was the gentleman that came into your camp at your mining operation on the Salt River just north of Horse Mesa. He told you how he and another fellow a few days before had waited under the Highland Bridge on the Goldfield Road to hold up Bill Kimball whom they expected to be passing by that evening with a large shipment of gold. They had waited all night but Bill Kimball never showed up so they thought that their information was bogus.”
“Oh that gentleman! I don’t think that was his real name. Why do you find that story so absorbing?”
“It’s because of your unique knowledge of the whole story. You actually knew both sides of the pressure!”
“Both sides of the pressure - what do you mean by that?”
“Well, let me see if I can explain it with a few illustrations. If you were riding your horse one day and the wind kicked to 15 miles, you would feel the pressure of the wind but would not be concerned. Later, if the wind then started blowing at 25 miles per hour, you would make sure that your hat was firmly attached but would continue with your ride. However, if the wind became a gale of 60 miles per hour, the force would be such that you would probably seek some shelter to protect yourself and your horse. In this case, the physical power of the wind caused you to make a decision that changed your original plans. A change that was justified by the changed circumstance and one that is easily understood.
Now an example of a personal real life experience where the pressure to change ones plan is more nebulous. One day I was in Baltimore with a colleague working a problem concerning one of our computer systems. It had been a long day. We had flown in early that day and spent most of the evening trying to resolve the problem. We were bushed and decided to go to the hotel and make a fresh start in the morning. When we dragged ourselves to the hotel and got in the elevator, there was an elderly woman already in the elevator. As the door of the elevator was closing, the woman suddenly leaped through the almost closed doors! I don’t know what caused the woman to suddenly change her mind and take the action that she did. I suspect that she felt that she was in a dangerous situation based upon the entrance of two scraggly looking gentlemen and decided to save herself from the predicament. If I am right about my assessment, then I would say that she felt some internal pressure to change the original course of here actions. Continuing along this line though and knowing one side of the situation as I did, I would say that her decision was not based upon the reality of the state of affairs and that the action was unwarranted.
In the case of King Massey; however, you ultimately ended up knowing both sides of the event! A few days afer Mr. Massey told you his story and left your camp, you happened to met Bill Kimball at the Kimball Hotel in Mesa where he told you about the strange hunch that he experienced when delivering the gold bullion a few nights before that became so strong that he actually left the Goldfield road as it approached the Highland Canal and drove across the desert for several miles to bypass that stretch of the road. He told you that he felt like a fool doing something so stupid. You, however, knew that his action was not foolish because you knew both sides of the story!”
“Now I understand.”
“What I don’t get though is why you didn’t tell Bill what you knew. Why do you say that you did not tell Bill ‘for obvious reasons’? I don’t comprehend what you describe as obvious?”
“Oh! You did not know Bill. He was not one to appreciate the fact that he had a soft side! Besides what good would it have been to tell him? He would probably become paranoid and would have started looking under ever rock for the informant who told King Massey that he was making a shipment that night. That was not information known by many people. Bill was entrusted to take the shipment because he knew how to handle himself and someone certainly would have died that night. I don’t think it would have been Bill; however, if Massey and his friend had overpowered him, they would have realized that they would need to kill him. The gold shipments from the mine usually consisted of a single ingot generally about four or five hundred pounds and the would-be thieves needed the wagon to take the gold to Mexico. If they left Bill alive, they could not get very far before he would have sounded the alarm and a posse would be hot on their trail. A trail that would have been very easy to track. So since nothing happened, I did not feel obligated to divulge the Massey story to Bill; moreover, Massey was just a youngster who hopefully became a little wiser from the experience.”
“Thank you for explaining that.”
“Your welcome, do you have any more questions?”
“Well yes. I have a question about a comment you make on page 63 of the Notes. The comment occurs after you have told the story of Silverlock and Malhm. These gentlemen had found some gold in the area of the Superstition Mountain which today is called the Massacre Grounds. The gold that they found was not a natural vein but what appeared to be the remains of gold that was dumped after the Indians had massacred the Mexican miners during a running battle. After describing where the location of the Silverlock and Malhm diggings is, you say:
If you can, stop over a few hours when traveling along the Apache Trail, go up there, and look at the empty dynamite boxes, old fuses and general camp equipment, and who can say but what you might pick up a piece of the Lost Dutchman. Then look almost due east, about four miles, and there you will see a mountain with a black lava top, just a little higher than the surrounding mountains, and there on the west side or the side toward Phoenix is located (I believe), the Lost Dutch [sic] Mine.
Are those your words?”
“Well, there is the conundrum!”
“What do you mean?”
“Let me repeat the last sentence for you -----
Then look almost due east, about four miles, and there you will see a mountain with a black lava top, just a little higher than the surrounding mountains, and there on the west side or the side toward Phoenix is located (I believe), the Lost Dutch [sic] Mine.
You do know what that black lava top mountain is?”
“Yes it is Black Top Mesa.”
“So basically the sentence says that you believe that the Lost Dutchman Mine is located on the west side of Black Top Mesa!”
“You could put it that way . . . ”
“But at the beginning you said . . . ”
“Whoa there - are you trying to back me into a corral?”
“I’m sorry, and I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just that I find myself in a world I did not create trying to follow rules that I did not make. Because of that, I look to the past to find out how others handled this problem. But I find all these contradictions! I have been told many times that I try to analyze things too much but I am not certain that I do. For instance in this case, you and Mr. Ely never once suggest or give any indication that anyone you knew thought that the mine could be on Black Top Mesa.”
“It would be great if life were simpler but that doesn’t appear to be the case does it? Sometimes situations in life force us to make decisions that are not always what would appear to be logical ones. That was so in my days also! Did you know that when Mr. Reavis trial began that there were also 106 lineal descendants of Don Miguel Peralta that had filed a suit of their own just in case Mr. Reavis was successful in having his grant approved? ”
“I had read that.”
“Starting with Rhiney Petrasch, who was the first to divulge information about the Lost Dutchman, do you know how many people have given me information regarding the location of the mine on the condition that ‘I would do right with them in case I found the mine by his or her description’? I don’t even want to count! Most of the information was useless including Rhiney’s. It would have been impossible to ‘do right’ especially with those who did provide valuable information if I had found the mine. “
“I understand. I just have one more question. Do you think that Sims Ely came to the same conclusion?”
“Of course, we were partners.”
“Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me”
“Your welcome - and thank you.”
Powell, Donald M.: The Peralta Grant. University of Oklahoma press, 1960.
Ely, Sims: The Lost Dutchman Mine. William Morrow & Company, New York, 1953.
Probert, Thomas: The Bark Notes (by James E. Bark) Edited an Annotated. Unpublished