In 1946, Doris Siebold, a teacher in Patagonia, Arizona, gave her students an assignment. She asked them to collect and write down the folk tales of the Patagonia area for preservation. The collection was published in 1949.
The resulting treasure trove of tales from 61 years ago contains many gems worth reading. The Patagonia area is rich in history and folk tales alike. Many of those tales originate in the ghost towns of Mowry, Harshaw, Lochiel, Duquesne and Washington Camp in the Patagonia Mountains.
Kansas Mine/Photo by C. Strong
Today, we’ll explore the Kansas Mine near Washington Camp.You can see the chute on a drive down Duquesne Road, while driving through a narrow mountain pass toward Nogales.
Still perched on the side of the mountain on a dirt road, the mine has a story to tell. We’ll dig into this story to see what parts of the story can be substantiated.
Student Luz Rivera contributed this tale of the haunted Kansas Mine:
The Kansas Mine is a mine on the Nogales and Washington Camp road. It is about half a mile from the Camp. This mine has killed more men than any other mine in the camp. It has killed forty-eight men in eighteen years. The last man killed Mr. Tony Rivera of Nogales, Arizona.
The reason this mine kills so many men is because it does not want to be worked because it is believed that it has a large amount of buried treasure either in ore, zinc or lead. This mine was closed for a period of nine months because the miners stated that it was haunted by a young man who was drowned in it just before the last man was killed. – Folk Tales from the Patagonia Area, The University of Arizona Press, 1949.
A search through Arizona Genealogy records reveals that Antonio ‘Tony” Rivera was killed at the mine on January 28, 1941, eight years prior to the story being published by The University of Arizona Press. Rivera’s death certificate online states the manner of death as a disturbing one. His head was crushed by a falling rock. It had been only his fifth day working at the mine.
It is unclear while researching this story whether the student, Luz Rivera, was related to Tony Rivera.
Kansas Mine remnants/Photo by C. Strong
The number of men killed at the mine was not verified via research. Searching through Mine Inspector records and death certificates did not support that many deaths. However, we can’t depend solely on records of the time. Records have been known to be lost or misplaced, or simply not recorded, especially as we research further back in time.
There was also no record of death by drowning in the years before Mr. Tony Rivera was killed. However, this doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. Records reveal that there was a mine explosion that killed two men eleven months prior to Mr. Rivera’s death.
Pedro Camez, 23, and Robert Landers, 48, were killed in an explosion at the mine on February 21, 1940. It is possible that the manner of death nine years later was mistaken by the informant of the tale. It is also possible that someone did drown at the mine, as reported, but there is no record of the victim. The young man haunting the mine could have been Camez, if the story of the haunting is true.
more Kansas Mine remnants/Photo by C. Strong
The nine month closure of the mine could have been caused by the explosion. It was also not uncommon for mining to cease operation periodically for various reasons.
If it was closed for nine months due to a haunting, there would be no record to substantiate that claim, there is only oral history to consider.
Doris Siebold asked her students to name the informant of each story submitted to the book. This story is attributed to “Many Informants”, which does lend some credibility to the lore.
Whether the mine is haunted or not, this story and others are fascinating.
The Patagonia Union High School and the entire community is fortunate to have had a teacher like Doris Siebold. She had the foresight to preserve the area’s rich history and folklore for many generations to come.
* Correction: The date that the folk tale collection project began was 1946, instead of the 1949 date posted in the original version of this post. The University of Arizona Press published the collection in 1949.