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Lost Mine of the Blond Mayo

Illustrated by Bill Edwards
Lost Mine of the Blond Mayo
From Desert magazine May 1953

blackprincessmine2TEN MILES northeast of the old mining town of Arivaca, Arizona, half way between Baboquivari Peak to the west and Old Baldy or El Felon, stands the Black Princess, a natural rock formation carved by wind and sand to resemble the body of a woman lying outstretched on top of the highest ridge in the Cerro Colorado Mountains. Vividly outlined against the sky, the Black Princess glows and gleams in the sunset and looks so realistic that she has long
been held sacred by the Opata and Papago Indians. In winter she is feared. On wild stormy nights when the wind howls down across the Catalina and Cerrita mountains, lightning leaps from the black clouds that settle down over the head and shoulders of the Black Princess and eerily silhouette her form against the sky. Thunder rolls back and forth across the steep canyon walls, rain comes down in sheets and swirls that loosen huge boulders from
the steep mountainsides, hurling them into the raging torrents to be left stranded on the floor of the desert below. Wild boars seek shelter from the raging elements in the dark caves under the shelving lava flows, and giant jaguars from the Moche Cowie country in Sonora stalk their prey around the few rock tanks and the one natural spring that bubbles from under the tufa beds on the north side of the mountain. Each week, the blond Mayo Indian would mount his silversaddled horse and ride off alone into the hills around the Black Princess mountain near Arivaca, Arizona. And each trip he would return, his six burros loaded down with rich gold ore. Here is John Mitchell’s story of a lost mine first worked by the Spaniards, rediscovered by the blond Mayo and his brother, and, with their deaths, now lost again. But when springs comes, the Black Princess looks down serenely from the mountaintop upon desert plains brilliantly carpeted with wildflowers. The sun, setting behind the ragged edge of the Baboquivari range, crowns her with gleaming gold. When the moon comes up over the Santa Rita mountains and sheds its long rays of silvery light down across the Cerrita and Colorado mountains, and the desert breezes begin to stir, the snow-white yucca blossoms that cluster around the feet of the Black Princess are turned into swaying ghosts with fleecy veils. There are many legends about the Black Princess mountain. Perhaps the most interesting is the tale of the lost gold mine of the Blond Mayo Indian. It was in 1861, about the time the United States Government withdrew its troops from Arizona to fight in the Civil War, that the two Mayo Indian brothers, Juan Morales, the blond, and Fermin, his younger brother, came to the Arivaca country from the Mayo Valley in southern Sonora.

Map by Norton Allen

Upon the departure of the troops, the Apaches and Mexican bandits again renewed their raids on small mines and outlying ranches, and the pioneers were gathering in Tucson and Arivaca for protection. John Poston, superintendent of the Silver Queen mine at Cerro Colorado, and a number of his employes had just been murdered by Mexican bandits from Sonora. Upon the grave of John Poston and many others, both American and Mexican, the men of Arivaca swore the Vendetta— the “Vengeance of the West” —and kept it. The two Morales brothers, Juan, locally called El Guero Mayo, and Fermin made their living panning placer along Arivaca Creek and on the surrounding mesas which were rich in gold. In the course of time the Blond Mayo quit his panning operations and made many trips into the surrounding country. He seemed to be searching for something. One day he came into camp from a northeasterly direction, his six pack mules loaded with rich gold ore. The quartz was matted together with wires and masses of bright yellow gold and had a blue indigo tinge, probably bromide of silver.

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