The Blond Mayo

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. 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 employees 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. The ore looked as though it had been mined more than a hundred years before. Adhering to many of the pieces were small bits of a porous lava rock suggesting that it might have come from one of those rare pipes or chimneys found in lava flows. Wherever found in any part of the world these pipes or chimneys have produced millions in gold.

The Blond Mayo made many weekly trips into the northeast end of the district in the vicinity of the Black Princess, always returning with his six pack mules heavily loaded. The rich gold ore was treated in arrastres that still stand on the north side of Arivaca creek about three miles west of town.

On these weekly trips to and from his mine, El Guero Mayo, like young Lochinvar of King Arthur’s court, “rode all alone and through all the wide border his steed was the best.” However, unlike the gay young knight, he did not ride unarmed. Across the pommel of his silver-mounted saddle rested a long rifle, and from the two well-filled cartridge belts around his slender waist dangled a pair of heavy Colt revolvers. The Blond Mayo was a dead shot; the way he picked off an Apache chief or buck at long range was a continual source of wonderment to his many friends as well as to the tribespeople back in the hills awaiting the return of the victim. He was gaunt, eagle-eyed, tireless and remorseless as doom when it came to avenging the death of a friend at the hands of an Apache. He rode the high ridges and the skyline, as Indians do, avoiding as much as possible the narrow passes and the mesquite-choked washes where an ambush might be laid against him.

Old timers in Arivaca, like Don Manuel Gonzales and Don Teofilio Ortiz, who knew the Blond Mayo when they were young men. say that normally he was quiet and stayed away from strong drink. But occasionally, when he received an extraordinarily large return on his ore, he went on a rampage — a “ramtooch” they called it. On these rare occasions he came into town six guns blazing at the sky and yelling like a Comanche Indian. The sound of his horse’s clattering hoofs and the roar of his guns were signals for all the little brown muchachitos and some of the older ones to rush into the dusty street to scramble for the handfuls of silver coins that El Guero Mayo would throw at their feet.

Arivaca was a wild camp in those days, filled to overflowing with muleskinners, bullwhackers, miners, gambucinos, vaqueros, saloonkeepers, tinhorn gamblers and dance hall girls. Money was plentiful, the people were happy despite the raids of marauding Indians, and bailes, fandangos and fiestas were held with or without provocation. Brilliantly caparisoned caballeros rode their fine horses up down the dusty streets and courted beautiful senoritas sequestered behind grilled windows. Music was romantic, soft, low and continuous. The fires of the smelting furnaces along the creek shown blood red in the night sky, and Apache warriors rode the skyline in the early morning light.

As the years passed, the Morales brothers prospered from their mining operations along the creek and back in the hills. Fermin, the younger brother, ran cattle on the Calera ranch three miles north of town, and El Guero Mayo established a cattle ranch on the Batamonte Wash below the Black Princess Mountain, presumably to keep an eye on his bonanza gold mine.

While the brothers were somewhat secretive when it came to discussing their private affairs, it is believed by many Hispano-Arizonans around Arivaca that they came north for the express purpose of locating and working this rich gold mine. There is much evidence to show that the mine, perhaps the old Sopori Mine, was first discovered by the Jesuits or other Spaniards that came north in the wake of the Coronado Expedition searching for the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. Old Spanish and early American maps show the Sopori mine in the vicinity of the Black Princess Mountain. Many people confuse it with the old Isabelle shaft located one and one-half miles south of the Sopori ranch house. The Isabelle was worked by the Jesuit fathers from the Tumacacori mission.

When old and full of years, El Guero Mayo died while on a visit to his old home in the Rio Mayo Valley in Sonora, Mexico. Fermin, the younger brother, died in Arivaca about some time later and lies buried in the old Campo Santo on the north edge of the town.

Lester Fernstrom, a tungsten miner in the Arivaca district for many years, flew his plane over the Black Princess mountain and reported having seen a long open cut on the side of the mountain. The cut was choked with huge boulders and could well be the entrance to the Blond Mayo’s mine. The Indian was never known to have carried any explosives or mining tools with him to or from his mine, and those who knew him agree that he probably found the ore already mined by the former operators. The fact that the ore brought to the arrastres showed no fresh surfaces would seem to bear this out.

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