Entertainment Magazine: Tucson: Iron Door Mine: Flint Carter: The Lost City in the Catalinas

Explore the ancient Lost City in the Catalinas with Flint Carter

The connection between the Lost City and the Lost Iron Door Mine are intertwined with folklore and history.

According to the local legends, the Spaniards prospected lucrative gold mines in the Catalinas during the early 1700's while Father Kino was pioneering the New World and creating new missions, like the San Xavier del Bac, located south of Tucson, Arizona.

During this period the legends assert, the Spanish Jesuits forced the local natives into slavery to mine the gold from the Catalinas. The details vary with the different versions, but the basic theme is the same.

The legends describe a small community and church that was built deep in the Catalina mountains to support the imprisoned natives who were forced to work the nearby mine- the famous Iron Door Mine. The Jesuits were later expelled from the area and its exact location became lost in time.

All that remains in this area today are scattered stone ruins, artifacts, mine shafts and debris from later years.

Kino's mission to convert the natives; reports rich treasures

Kino came to the Americas in support of his Breve Relación of May 3, 1698. The royal cédula, issued by the King of Spain, was used to convert the natives and promise that they would not be forced to work in the mines if they converted to Christianity.

"that all the tribes of heathen Indians which may be found in the district and jurisdiction comprised in the government of each audiencia and government district,... promising in my name to all new converts that during the first twenty years of their reduction they will not be required to give tribute or to serve on estates or in mines, since this is one of the reasons why they refuse to be converted." 1

As Kino made this way up through present-day Arizona, called Pimeria Alta, in 1702, he described in his diaries about

"certain news of the treasure and rich mines which have just been discovered near here at Quisuani, Aygame, San Cosme, etc., and very near to the new conversion or mission of San Francisco Xavier of the Pimas Cocomacaques of Pimeria Baxa." 2

No documentation implicates either Kino or any Jesuits missionaries, but Kino's friendship with Lt. Juan Bautista de Escalante, the local military governor of Sonora, helped Kino round up renegade natives who were attacking the Spanish and Mexican settlers.

Some of the legends about the Iron Door Mine have referred to the mine as the Lost Escalante Mine. 3

In one of Kino's letters to Escalante, he requests Escalante's assistance to route out rebellious Apache Indians:

"...after having marched some days we attacked a rancheria of Apaches, where seventeen of the enemy were killed. We captured sixteen persons, of whom the Pimas are taking twelve and have sold us four, because I told them that whatever was captured should belong to the captor, in order to rouse in them a stronger desire to display valor. And such was the case, for they, being many, captured fourteen, and we two. This has been of great importance as a means of showing the opponents of this new nation the falsehood and the error in which they have been, unless it be that partisanship closes the eyes of their reason."

"Manje (Luz de Tierra Incógnita, libro ii, 66) states that it was Alférez Juan de Escalante, who, with Manje and twenty soldiers, went to certify to the deaths. He states that for seven leagues they followed the battle-march, counting sixty dead, and that it was reported that one hundred and sixty-eight died of poisoned arrows. He says nothing of Kino's part in spreading the news nor of his going to count the dead. Jironza tells us that he sent Escalante with twenty-five men to view the signs of the victory and to enlist the Pimas to pursue the enemy. The Pimas made excuses, and he did not urge them, since there were "recent allies" (letter of May 16, 1698). Kino took advantage of the victory above recounted to appeal for ten or twelve new missionaries. Indeed, this was the purpose for which the Breve Relación was written." 4

The mine was said to be active until the Jesuits were expelled in 1767.

It wasn't until 1880 that the lost pueblo, called The Nine Mile City, was rediscovered.

An account by two prospectors described an exploration into the Catalina mountains for the express purpose to find the Nueva Mia Ciudad and the mine with the iron door. 5

Over ten years later, in article in the February 17, 1891 edition of the Tombstone Prospector reported:

"Early in the present decade a prominent journalist of this city discovered in a "rugged and precipitous defile" of the Santa Catalinas the ruins of a long lost pueblo, adjacent to which were numerous shafts that had been sunk in ages past, for in one of them was a giant sahuara fully 70 feet high, only a small portion of which appeared above the surface." 6

Read more about the Iron Door Mine.

Return to The Lost City in the Catalinas index.

Photos of the Lost City with Flint Carter

Lost City Links


Robert Zucker, author, publisher Entertainment Magazine and former instructor.

Flint Carter, researcher, local mining operator and prospector. 520-289-4566 or email finder@emol.org.

Video editing courtesy of Mary K. Johnson


Footnotes: These links lead to the text of the quoted materials from above. Read the entire contents from the original sources.

1 and 2. "Spain in the West a series of original documents from foreign archives, volume III," "Kino's Historical Memoir of Pimeria Alta," Kino, 1683-1711. By Herbert Eugene Bolton, Ph.D., published 1919, The Arthur H. Clark Company. Vol. 1 page 364. http://ia700409.us.archive.org/2/items/kinoshistoricalm00kino/kinoshistoricalm00kino.pdf

more versions of this document: http://www.archive.org/details/kinoshistoricalm00kino.

3. "Lost Mine with the Iron Door," John D. Mitchell, Desert Magazine, July 1952. Page 25. Mitchell says "The Mine with the Iron Door, as the Escalante has come to be called, is believed to have been found and worked for many years by Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante, a Jesuit priest who at one time was assistant to Father Eusebio Kino at Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson."

Mitchell further states "According to old church records, the Escalante Mine was in full operation in 1767 when Spanish King Charles III issued the edit expelling the Jesuit Order from Spain and all her possessions."

Among many of the legends, there has a confusion between the two Escalante names as they lived several generations apart.

Lt. Juan Bautista de Escalante was the governor of Sonora and an acquaintance of Father Kino. See Kino Heritage Society, Kino Chronology, "Apr. 1700: Second Lt. Juan Bautista Escalante brings in Tepoaca Indians to the village of Santa María de Magdalena." http://padrekino.com/index.php/kino-chronology. Also see Kino's letters, footnotes 1 & 2

Silvestre Velez de Escalante was actually a Franciscan who passed through the area in 1776 on his way to explore Utah. From: Books of the Southwest, The Early Spanish Missionaries, University of Arizona Library Southwest collection, p. 115 "Among the adventurous pioneers of the cross who traversed Arizona from 1773 to 1776, were Fathers Pedro Font, Francisco Garcia, Silvestre Escalante and Francisco Dominguez. They explored the Casa Grande ruins and the Moquis villages." http://southwest.library.arizona.edu/reaz/body.1_div.19.html

also see "Lost Mines of the Great Southwest," John D. Mitchell, Rio Grande Press, 990. Pages 43-44. Mitchell says the "Padre Escalante was an assistant to Padre Kino at the Mission San Xavier del Bac. The main work of Padre Escalante was mines and mining." The only records of an Escalante and Padre Kino are the letters Kino wrote to the military officer in charge of the area, Juan Bautista de Escalante.

4. "Presidio of Corodeguachi, April 13, 1701. Juan Bautista de Escalante kisses the hand of your Reverence." "Spain in the West, a Series of Original Documents from Foreign Archives Volume III," Page 176-177. Kino's Historical Memoir of Pimería Alta: A Contemporary Account of the Beginnings of California. Herbert Eugene Bolton, Ph.D., (1919) http://ia600409.us.archive.org/2/items/kinoshistoricalm00kino/kinoshistoricalm00kino.pdf

5. "Mine with the Iron Door and the Nine Mile City of the Santa Catalinas," Arizona Weekly Star, May 4, 1880. University of Arizona Library Special Collections, M9791 Pam.

6. "Lost Mines of Arizona and Sonora" Arizona Silver Belt, Globe City, Arizona, December 3, 1892, image 1 http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84021913/1892-12-03/ed-1/seq-1/;words=Dan+De+Quill

Tour of the Lost City video

This 1990 video explores the area of the Lost City and lost mission deep within the Santa Catalina mountains.

Host Flint Carter takes a tour of the lost city ruins and describes the rediscovery of ancient buildings, artifacts and tunnels found scattered in the Santa Catalina's north of Tucson, Arizona.

YouTube Video Link: http://youtu.be/93kSR8VoVIA


Flint Carter descends a mine shaft that has been shored up over the decades. Note the Ponderossa Pines at the lower end of the mine shaft. Those pines no longer exist in the area. Examples of later shoring are seen with the tin and cut wood placed above the pines.

"Ballads of the Santa Catalina
Mountains" CD

Listen to songs and ballads on CD about the Iron Door Mine, the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Old West by Arizona historian Flint Carter. $9.95. Call 520-289-4566 for more information and to purchase directly. Mention the Iron Door web site.

Iron Door Mine Legend Tour and Artifacts

Explore displays of over 1,000 Old West artifacts and specimens from the surrounding area with Flint Carter. Learn about Western legends. Call Flint at 520-289-4566.

Mt. Lemmon jewelry grade silver ore in quartz

Flint Carter, a Tucson, Arizona miner, has samples of "Cody Stone" mined in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Southern Arizona. This stone is jewelry grade silver and quartz ore, and weighs 8 pounds or more. It also contains scheelite and fluoresces. Valued at $5 a carat. This particular piece is the second largest specimen recovered. Extremely rare. 

There is a 40 page provenance of the object, including an assay by the University of Arizona and opinions from the Gem Institute of America and other sources. More samples of Cody Stone.


The Lost City in the Catalinas

Flint Carter Home Page | Iron Door Mine

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