Another Arizona Lost Gold legend, is the legend of Sanders Lost Gold.
Just before the Salt River in Gila County dumps into Roosevelt Lake, it passes through the wild country of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. The Tonto Apaches who inhabited the country were not as hostile as their brethren to the north and south but they weren’t always accommodating to the white men and Mexicans that strayed into their territory either. Because of this the Army patrolled the area in the 1870s and 1880s.
As the legend goes, one of the soldiers assigned to the area was a man identified only as Sanders. At some point, Sanders was detached from his company and sent on a patrol into the Sierras after a suspected band of Indian cattle rustlers. Sanders headed out following the trail of the Indians and the stolen cattle in the Salt River Valley but the trail petered out as it moved into the rocky highlands of the Sierra Ancha’s. Sanders, having lost the trail, gave up his search and started heading back down into the Salt River Valley following Coon Creek. After about 8 miles of riding Sanders found himself in a stretch of the creek that was to narrow to navigate and he found himself climbing out of the creek and making his way along a low ridge nearby.
As Sanders ambled along he noticed an outcropping of quartz along the ridge and stopped to have a closer look. What he found, he certainly couldn’t believe at first. Scattered about were pieces of quartz full of gold. Moving along the ledge he came upon a rich outcropping, said to be 3 yards long and 8 inches wide comprised of half decomposed granite and half gold.
Sanders, being a good soldier returned to his company, and I’m sure waited anxiously for his discharge.
Once Sanders was discharged at Fort Apache, he made his way to Phoenix where he formed a small group of three other men to work his claim along with himself. Setting out and moving into the country, the group met a patrol from Camp Reno who warned them that the Tonto Apaches had become hostile and recommended that the party turn back. Two of the group took the patrol’s advice and returned to Phoenix. Sanders and the remaining member of the party did not and headed into the vast Sierra Ancha Wilderness never to be seen or heard from again … well, not alive, at any rate. Their ghosts spoke one last time.
Sometime in the early 1900s two cowboys were working in the area bringing some cattle down Coon Creek when they stopped in a grassy valley to rest. One of the cowboys saw what he concluded to be a round white stone, but upon further investigation realized that what had caught his attention was a human skull. The cowboys continued to search further and discovered two skeletons separated by about 4 feet and hidden in the grass. Spurred on by their recent discoveries the cowboys soon found the stone foundations of a small cabin and charred wood logs. Still searching, one of the cowboys found a rather large piece of quartz, flecked with gold. After cleaning the rock he held it up to the sunlight and noticed that it had been smoothed and flattened on one side and glinted with gold. The gold was inscribed “Sanders.”
The question remains, does the Sanders gold still exist out there somewhere in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness?