Before the Civil War, more than six decades before Arizona was a state, legend has it that Apache warriors ambushed members of the Peralta family as they were transporting gold from their mine in the Superstitions back to Mexico.
There is little evidence that such a gold mine existed. However, in , two gold hunters found a cache of gold. Also, Jacob Waltz is known to have discovered gold. Whether he found a cache of hidden gold or actually discovered a mine is open to speculation and argument.
As the legend relates, Apaches chased the Peralta family and workers into a dead end trail – a trail that ended at a cliff. The only way out was back, and everyone in the party was killed except for two workers that managed to hide and escape.
The Apache, having no need or use for the gold buried it under rocks,and made off with the weapons which were actually useful to them.
To get a feel for the animosity that the Apache had for Mexicans, you have to understand that the Spanish launched a campaign dating back tot he 1600’s annihilating natives and subjecting native Mexicans to slavery in their quest for the yellow substance which was plentiful in this New World.
The Apache became skilled in torture and the fine art of scalping – they learned it by being on the receiving end of the Conquistadors. Also, the Superstitions are sacred to the native tribes. The Apache, in particular, felt the Superstitions would reward treachery in one’s heart with treachery. Any trespass into the mountains for the purpose of despoiling the mountains was tantamount to a crime.
Historians debate whether the Peralta Family made it this far North into Arizona. That gold was found is not in dispute. That there was a massacre is backed by the discovery of bleached human bones and remains in the area. It is the facts that have been distorted by fictional accounts and legends and wives tales over the years.
The Massacre Trail is a nice day hike – just about 5 miles in and back, with an 80-foot ascent in elevation over rocky terrain. The end of the trail is the precipice of a cliff, and across the chasm, after a rain, is a waterfall. Last week the waterfall was flowing freely; this Saturday when Liz and I made the hike, the fall was reduced to a trickle. Such is the pursuit of water in the desert.
The bounty of rain this winter is sure to harbor in a colorful spring. The only flower we saw on the hike was a lone yellow bloom on a brittlebush. In a matter of weeks I expect to see splashes of color other than green and brown. The winter brought unusual amounts of rainfall, and the hike took us through verdant valleys. By next month, the green will have turned to brown, and the mountains will be a tinderbox.