Here is the final part of the legend of Flannigan's lost gold:
Panic in the Gila Mountain Wilderness
After Flannigan's discovery of a rich placer and two substantial gold veins in the heart of the Gila River Mountains, the 3 soldiers gathered up as much gold as they could carry, stuffing the yellow metal into every pocket, crook, and cranny of their saddles and gear. They then filled their canteens and headed back the way they had come.Costplustools
However, after hours of following what they thought was the circuitous route they had taken deep inside the Gila River Mountain wilderness, Crossthwaite, Flannigan, and Wormley realized they were hopelessly lost. Fearful that they would be discovered by Apaches, the 3 men did the worst thing possible under the circumstances. They panicked.
Mutiny in the Ranks
They soon found themselves bickering and arguing about what to do and which direction they should follow. Crossthwaite tried to pull his sergeant's rank on the 2 privates but Wormley drew his side arm and threatened to kill him.
Cursing Wormley and Flannigan and threatening to have them both court martialed if the men ever made it back safely to Gila Bend, Crossthwaite galloped off on his own. He was never seen again.
On the Verge of Breakdown
After days of fruitless wandering in exceptionally high temperatures, Flannigan and Wormley ran out of water. Dehydrated and exhausted, both men were on the verge of breaking down physically and mentally, with Wormley babbling incoherently and hallucinating.
The only thing that saved both men was Flannigan's resolve to survive and to ensure Wormley's survival as well. Through sheer determination and a bit of luck both soldiers eventually made it back to Gila Bend, but Wormley had lost his mind by this point. He never recovered.
Search Expeditions Draw a Blank
The gold the men carried back with them created a huge stir but the Apache threat at the time was so serious that even those with the worst cases of gold fever were fearful of leaving the safety of Gila Bend. It wasn't until many years later that ex-cavalry private Flannigan organized an expedition to search for his lost gold.
That expedition drew a blank, as did a number of subsequent attempts by Flannigan to locate the rich placer and ledges of gold the 3 soldiers had found in the Gila River Mountains. Over the intervening years many others tried to find Flannigan's Lost Mine but were also unsuccessful.
A Variant Legend Near Yuma?
This lost mine legend has its merits and further research should establish whether the key players (Sergeant Crossthwaite and Privates Flannigan and Wormley) ever existed and were on U.S. Army records. Ditto for Abner McKeever and his daughter Belle whose abduction by an Apache raiding party started the whole mess (by the way, as far as I can determine Belle was never found).
One variant of the legend of the Lost Flannigan Mine has Sergeant Crossthwaite eventually making his way out of the Gila River Mountains and across the Colorado Desert to a location just outside Yuma, Arizona where he expired. Taking this a step further, some believe the entire legend is based in the desert mountains outside Yuma and along the Colorado River, where many rich gold placers and lode mines were later discovered.
However, this is speculation only and I tend to doubt this one. Why?
I used to work dry gold placer claims on both sides of the Colorado River near Yuma and once you are away from the river itself there is virtually no above-ground water of any consequence to be found in the nearby hills and mountains, which have the overall appearance of a moonscape since they are so harsh and barren. A running stream and a large pool of water (key components to the Lost Flannigan Mine legend) just don't fit the local topography.
However, it is possible that Sergeant Crossthwaite could have become dazed and disoriented enough to head toward Yuma and the Colorado River across many miles of searing desert. If so, there's small fortune in gold buried alongside human and horse bones....
Good hunting out there.
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Arizona's Lost Flannigan Mine (Part 2)"
(c) J.R. 2009
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