The Adams Diggings "Famous Saddle Tree"

Old Bookaroo

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Dec 4, 2008
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I found this in a turn of the century (19[SUP]th[/SUP] to 20[SUP]th[/SUP]) book about prospecting and mining. The author suggests a troop of “Buffalo” (Negro) solders (I’m assuming they were cavalry – they well may have been infantry) found and then lost the Lost Adams Diggings.
Unfortunately, the author uses the “n-word” to name the lost placer. After the turn of the 20[SUP]th[/SUP] to the 21[SUP]st[/SUP] century I think we can do better than that.

What I found particularly interesting is the mention of the “saddle tree.” This is new to me – can anyone else shed some light on Mr. Frazier’s reference?

“…a fabulously rich hill of gold was found by a company of negro soldiers while pursuing a marauding band of Chief Nana's Apaches in the Black range country. This country was one vast wilderness of quaking asp, rising and falling with the roll of the land like the dark green billows of a stormtossed ocean. The Black range was more than wild —it was full of small bands of murderous Apaches, to whom it was but amusement to fight the ‘buffalo’ soldiers. During the fake skirmishes back and forth on one occasion, the pursuing soldiers lost their bearings in an impenetrable growth of cottonwood in a broken, rolling country, and were forced to camp. The landscape consisted of a series of long rides, flat peaks, and a broad scope of high levels. The greatest similarity of topography—and forest and foliage existed everywhere.



“It was somewhere on the west side of the Black range, among the numerous tributaries of the Animas, Arroyo Seco and Palomas, which all head in McKnight canon. A squad of soldiers while scouting to the east, down the Animas, found the hill of gold which has since caused such a furor.”

This is the line that presents something new (at least to me). Describing a later hunt for the Buffalo Soldiers’ Gold, Frazier mentions that a man named Hurste couldn’t find a tree he had previously marked with recovered gold.

“Like the famous saddle tree of the Adams diggings it would not materialize.”

Has anyone read about the “famous saddle tree of the Adams diggings?”

From Secrets of the rocks… by S.M. [Samuel Mulligan] Frazier

Second Edition, Revised (Denver, Colorado: Hall & Williams, Publishers) 1907
 

Mar 2, 2013
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OB,

I believe that the "Saddle Tree" refers to a unique tree that was used as a marker to alleged sites regarding various mines and locations. I have seen it mentioned in some texts referring to the LAD but not in others. Apparently it is/was a large tree - not sure of the type - that was very distinctive as it grew out of the ground a short way vertically and then grew horizontally before shooting up again, hence you could put a "saddle on the tree". It was described as "horseshaped" by some and some accounts say that Adams' party used it to dry their clothes on before making for the final ascent with his group's guide Gotch Ear. In recent searches it has been said that the area described suffered from many a forest fire over the years, so it has been well nigh impossible to try and trace it again.
 

OP
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Old Bookaroo

Old Bookaroo

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IPiUK:

Thank you for your post.

I've been at this a long time, and it has been a while since I read some of the early LAD accounts. I do not recall reading a reference to a Saddle Tree.

If you would be so kind - which texts refer to this?

Thank you!
 

Mar 2, 2013
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IPiUK:

Thank you for your post.

I've been at this a long time, and it has been a while since I read some of the early LAD accounts. I do not recall reading a reference to a Saddle Tree.

If you would be so kind - which texts refer to this?

Thank you!

OB

Please note that when I orginally starting researching the southwest, it was in connection with the Apaches. I came across the "Saddle Tree" detail and only noted it mentally because of its peculiarity. I am sorry to say that I did not note the text or relevant details. I am fairly sure that I have seen it mentioned online from some southwestern sites detailing various "Myths & Legends", but again did not note the site info. I can only apologise for this and will endeavour to check my notes to see if I recognise from where I stumbled across this information.

It may be of small consolation but I will mention it anyway. The Saddle Tree info was something that I read about in 3-4 accounts, but only one was the accepted story of the Adams' legend; that is the group getting together in Arizona, the guide, travelling into New Mexico, the massacre, a German leaving with the supply party etc., the others started with Adams and his party coming from California to hunt/trap in Arizona and then coming across a guide who offered to show them a rich placer. It was also mentioned that the party got gold fever when they heard tales in Arizona and then decided as a group to abandon their orginal goal of hunting/trapping and became all-out prospectors. I am also certain one account suggested that they waylaid a group of miners returning east from the Californian goldfields as the nuggets that Adams had in his possession later were identified as not being of New Mexico or Arizona origin. So much garbled information that the mind boggles in all honesty. The Saddle Tree was also mentioned by a later searcher - very late 19th or very early 20th century I believe, and apparently was well known in the area it was located as it was very close to a good camping spot which was used in years gone by, but after the Indian Wars and the dwindling number of adventurers, explorers, miners and prospectors, it was almost forgotten and the lost after forest fires ravaged the possible site year after year. It was said that Adams may have been able to 'remember' the direction to the lost diggings if he had again come across this particular tree as it was used by the orginal party to dry their clothes and was noted for its shape.

Going back to my original interest - The Apaches - I am fairly certain that if any ambush took place, it was not Nana and his Chihenne Apaches. This particular old warrior was a great indomitable spirit but at the alleged time - 1860s, even late 1850s, was doing most of his damage down in old Mexico and was under the umberella of Victorio and Loco. I believe that when Nana carried out his legendary raid after the death of Victorio in 1880, his name became prominent in the Press of the time and was simply used to "colour" the story of the LAD. My opinion only. But when his group badly needed supplies and had furtive contact with Mexican ranchers/traders, he actually went down into old Mexico to 'find' some silver bars that his warriors had hidden in a raid in previous years. He had ample opportunity when he was raiding New Mexico to take a sidetrip to any such diggings but took the risk to go back into old Mexico even after the tragedy that had befell Victorio's band. Things simply do not stack-up to any alleged warriors who "massacred" the Adams party being in the control of Nana. The old warrior did not pass away until about 1896 and many tried to trap him and other leading men - Geronimo, Naiche, Loco, Chihuahua etc., into revealing such sites when they were in captivity. Rightly or wrongly they said the "best" mines were located in the Sierra Madres but on the American side were in the Guadalupe mountains.

Hope the above helps in some small way.

Greetings to all from the UK
 

cactusjumper

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OB and IPiUK,

There is a story of a silver bar being placed in the fork (saddle?) of a tree to mark the location of buried silver nearby in Old Mexico. I believe Perico and other Apache went down there looking for it after they chose to live on a reservation in NM. Believe Eve Ball wrote about the story.

Joe Ribaudo
 

Lucky Baldwin

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Hey Interested Party in UK

I know I'm late to the party but if you're still interested, "saddle" trees come from the California gold rush. When the 49ers would get as much gold as they could safely carry and still evade the highwaymen, they'd pull up stakes and head for San Francisco and a ship for the east. If their claim wasn't worked out, some guys would cover up all signs of their work and tie a heavy rock to a sapling pine before they left. That way, if they came back years later, they had a landmark.

Here in Calaveras county I used to come across them every now and then (before the Butte fire 4 years ago). In fact one guy tied a pine in a knot and it grew that way. That was a local landmark known as the "twisty tree," (lost in the fire). It marked the spot near Whiskey Slide where a 5 pound nugget was pulled out so the story goes...
 

Oroblanco

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Hey Interested Party in UK

I know I'm late to the party but if you're still interested, "saddle" trees come from the California gold rush. When the 49ers would get as much gold as they could safely carry and still evade the highwaymen, they'd pull up stakes and head for San Francisco and a ship for the east. If their claim wasn't worked out, some guys would cover up all signs of their work and tie a heavy rock to a sapling pine before they left. That way, if they came back years later, they had a landmark.

Here in Calaveras county I used to come across them every now and then (before the Butte fire 4 years ago). In fact one guy tied a pine in a knot and it grew that way. That was a local landmark known as the "twisty tree," (lost in the fire). It marked the spot near Whiskey Slide where a 5 pound nugget was pulled out so the story goes...

Thanks for sharing that, and it makes sense. I had never heard this, but I came from a northern part of Appalachia, and in that area a few old-timers would bend down young saplings, and let them grow for a year or two before cutting them to make walking canes. So a similar practice was done as a fact, which tends to support your statements.

Please do continue;
:coffee2: :coffee2: :coffee: :coffee2:
 

autofull

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i saw one here in berks county pa. a bit back. up in the mountains next to a rock outcropping where a big piece of the rock ledge had broken off and put its weight on the trunk. i thought of the saddle tree right off. i guess even nature can produce them.
 

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Old Bookaroo

Old Bookaroo

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Is a "saddle tree" another term for a "blazed" or otherwise marked tree?

Thanks to Ironwill, we have this account:

THE ADAMS DIGGINGS.
-----
The Interesting Story of the Mythical
Lost Mine.
-----

The story of the Adams diggings is revived by the following letter published in the Albuquerque Democrat:

In the fall of the year 1850 while the gold fever of California was at its height, a man by the name of Adams and his three companions were crossing New Mexico on their way to California. Late one evening they came to a path which led them up a short canyon to where they found water and it may be remarked here that water is scarce in that part of the country. They struck camp for the night and during the evening one of the men concluded to try a pan of dirt, and to his great surprise found gold in great abundance. After they were satisfied that they had struck it rich they went to work and built a miners’ cabin and prepared to pass the winter in working their claim. In building the fireplace to the cabin they made a box of stone with the hearth rock as a covering for a place of safety to store their earnings. When the had been working the mine for about three months Adams took his gun one evening and went out to kill a deer for meat. When he returned late in the evening he found one of his partners lying in the trail about 100 yards from the cabin, where he had been hilled by the Indians. On closer investigation he found the other two killed and the cabin burned down. The first thought with Adams was to get away from there as far and as fast as possible, and as California had been their objective point he started in that direction. As there was no [one] living in that country and the Indians were always on the warpath in that day and time, he traveled in the height and lay by in the day time. After two nights’ travel and about 9 o’clock a. m. on the third day he came to a stream of water at which point he marked a cott[o]nwood tree so that he might have something as a guide to assist him in locating his mines sometime in the near future. He then made his way in a westerly direction, traveling for days and days, or rather nights, without seeing any one until at last he landed in California. He there was engaged in different occupations for about twenty-five years, but at all times with the intension of closing out his business and returning to his rich mine in southern New Mexico, whenever the country was sufficiently settled to make it safe for him to return. In about the year ’78 Mr. Adams sold his two farms in California, which brought him $14,000. He then returned to New Mexico and began a systematic search for the mine.

On his return to the country where he thought he might be getting somewhere in the vicinity of his lost mine he found a few mining towns scattered over the country. He informed some of the best men of the country as to his business there, which created quite an excitement. He told them of how he had marked the cottonwood tree: he also produced a nugget of gold that he had taken from the mine and had carefully kept for twenty-five years. He described the stream upon whose banks the marked tree was growing. Some of the old timers who had heard and become interested in his story concluded to help him look for the marked tree, thinking if they found it as described there must be something in the story. After a diligent search of a few days the stream was located --- it is now known as the Negrito, or Little Black. It is a tributary of the Gila and heads up the Datil mountains. After a further search of a day or two the tree was found and was marked just as described by Adams, and showed to have been marked many years. Those who were present when the marked tree was found say that old man Adams was wild with joy and said, “Now, if the mine can be found I will be a millionaire and I only want what is hid under the hearth stone, and there are millions in the mines for others.”

Adams and his party began searching for the mine proper. They thought the mine would be some forty or fifty miles from the marked tree, so they began the search on that theory, supposing that Adams would have traveled about twenty or twenty-five miles in a night. Adams continued the search for about twelve or fourteen years and squandered the whole of his $14,000 long before he gave up the search; in fact, he never quit hunting for that mine until death claimed him as its own. He died a poor, old broken hearted man, always saying that there were millions in the mine if it could be found. Mr. Kenock, foreman of the Y Cattle company, who is now a resident of that part of New Mexico where the mine was generally supposed to be, took his outfit of twenty-five or thirty men and put in two weeks looking for the lost mine. Mr. Patterson, who is an old time miner and western man, and is now postmaster at Patterson, hear where the mine is supposed to be, has spent about $5,000 looking for the mine and he is perfectly sure in his mind that the lost mine does exist somewhere in that part of the country.

Adams said that when they discovered the mine the grass was waist high all over the country, so it is generally supposed that fire has long since destroyed all the signs of the ax made in building their cabin.

In conclusion, I will say to those who may chance to read this that the facts herein contained are the solemn truth, as there are men now living in southern New Mexico who were well acquainted with old man Adams and who helped him hunt the lost mine.
GEORGE R. SPOONER
Arizona Republic [Phoenix, Arizona] 11 March 1898

----- o0o -----

Good luck to all,

The Old Bookaroo
 

point hunter

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OB,

I believe that the "Saddle Tree" refers to a unique tree that was used as a marker to alleged sites regarding various mines and locations. I have seen it mentioned in some texts referring to the LAD but not in others. Apparently it is/was a large tree - not sure of the type - that was very distinctive as it grew out of the ground a short way vertically and then grew horizontally before shooting up again, hence you could put a "saddle on the tree". It was described as "horseshaped" by some and some accounts say that Adams' party used it to dry their clothes on before making for the final ascent with his group's guide Gotch Ear. In recent searches it has been said that the area described suffered from many a forest fire over the years, so it has been well nigh impossible to try and trace it again.


Hi. The "saddle tree" is also known as a "trail tree." I see mainly limbs bent like that here in Louisiana, but whole tree trunks can also be formed to look like a saddle or a "swaybacked horse." The reference to "Gotch Ear" IMHO is Persher code for Jesse James of KGC lore. This is from a fading memory, but I think the first reference was in the "Black Book" of the KGC. Jesse did have a mangled ear, which as the story goes, is how he got the name. I also saw a reference in this thread, regarding the gold nugget that Adams had was not native to New Mexico. This is another clue that your looking for a cache rather than a mine for those that were educated. The written clues put them in the general area, then the visible clues, the "saddle tree" would point the way.
 

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