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The Golden Rule Mine, Dragoon Arizona

Last Updated: 4th Mar 2017

By Rolf Luetcke

The Golden Rule Mine, Dragoon Arizona
By Rolf Luetcke

Back in the early 1970's I was exploring mines in Cochise County and came across a mine the locals had told me was called the "Old Terrible Mine". They told me it was an old gold mine that had been worked intermittently since the mid 1800's. I took a drive out to the mine to have a look. The mine was now known as the Golden Rule Mine, the Old Terrible was a former name for the location. There had also been a company named the Old Terrible Mining Company among the owners of the mine. I don't know if the company name or the mines name came first. When I got near the mine there were buildings and people working there and I decided at that time to not drive in.
I went to the mine again a few years later since I needed a source of gold ore. When I got to the mine it was still being operated and there were people at the mine that waved real friendly as I stopped. They were very pleasant and told me a bit about the mine and its history. They were winding down with the mining and said it was fine for me to look for specimens on the two big piles by the building that housed the equipment and workshop. I think it was some of the last ore that had been brought out of the mine and had not been taken to their crushers. I later thought about them being so friendly and realized it was probably because they were about to close down so were not worried about my trying to high grade any ore they may have had.
I was looking for a source of gold ore to use in mineral collections and had heard this mine had produced quite a bit of gold in its day. The ore was mostly massive quartz with a lot of iron staining. I took a bag of the ore along to work over at home and thanked the men for being generous and letting me look and take some samples. When I pick samples I always try to pick a variety of different looking material to see which has the most potential for any later trips. I have followed this practice on most of the mine dumps I have visited.
The mine was originally discovered in 1849 and went through a number of closings and re openings and a number of different owners following the rise and fall of gold values and the discovery of new veins with good potential. The mine had a number of shafts that accessed the ore veins. In reading the literature I had on mines of Arizona, it said there were close to ten shafts. Ores produced amounted to about 19,000 tons. Metal amounts were about 9,700 ounces of gold, 72,000 ounces of silver, 178 tons of lead, 124 tons of zinc and 9 tons of copper.
The mine has an interesting history and there have been a few articles on the mine in various early newspapers and later literature. The need for water was a big issue at times and the mill equipment for processing the ores were brought in from far away. Early on any ore had to be shipped by wagon to the nearby rail line at Cochise. Indians were also in the area in the early days of mining and that caused for a number of temporary closings. At a later point a rail line was established to the mine and ore was shipped out by rail. For all its history there is not much left now to show how much work had been done there over the years. The main openings have now been backfilled and no underground access was possible on the last visit to the mine.
When I got home after the visit with the mine still in operation I worked over the material and sure enough there were tiny bits of gold in the ore. The solid quartz was not the best for gold and mostly had flakes between quartz and iron layers but the white quartz with holes left behind by weathering of pyrite and some iron staining turned out to have the most gold. It was all quite small and spotty but there was quite a bit under 40 power magnification. Much of the gold in the quartz with the vugs was free standing from the matrix. I kept a few for specimens and used the ore for the collections I was making. It was nice of the people at the mine to allow me to take some of the last ore to be brought out.
A couple of years later I needed some more material and went back to the mine. By then all the signs of work were gone and no buildings remained on the South side of the hill. The mine had been closed. The old dirt road to the mine was still there and took me right to where the buildings had been and the ore in the two piles had been taken to the mill around the North side of the hill. I parked and decided to explore the old mine and surrounding area. Where the buildings had been and down the road I had driven up was a lot of the massive quartz with a bit of iron staining. Near the spot the old building had been was a wooden collar to a mine shaft and it was open but looked dangerous and I didn't want to enter the mine since the angle was much too steep. I looked a bit farther along and found another entrance to the mine that went down at a steep angle but was not too steep to go into. Since I had lights along I ventured into the mine here. There was still track in the tunnel and it went deep into the mountain. I ventured into the mine a ways but since it was quite dirty and dust covered everything I didn't do any collecting. I didn't go down far enough to get to one of the horizontal levels of the mine. The mining here had followed quartz stringers that varied from about four feet thick to only inches. The tunnel I had entered went down as access to the lower levels but I could see the mined out areas went here and there following the quartz veins in numerous directions from the upper level I had first entered.
After I exited the tunnel I went up the hill and found another entrance to the mine and something that was quite interesting. It seems that in this area a quartz seam had run into the mountain at about a 45 degree downward angle and the seam had been mined out. The seam had been about 4 feet thick and seemed to have been all along one layer of the hill. From the entrance of this mine I could look for a hundred feet or more into the mined out area. Since it went to the surface in a number of places along the hill there was plenty of light. Here I realized why the early name for the mine, "Old Terrible" since the seam had been worked out completely and only the 4 feet of quartz had been removed. It must have been a difficult task to mine a seam with only a 4 foot high place to work in and all at a 45 degree angle. As I looked I saw the miners had left columns of quartz standing to hold up the mountain. If they had timbered this area, all the timber was now gone. What I couldn't believe was that the columns of quartz that had been left had an hourglass shape. People had been into the mine and had been hacking away at the columns. Seeing how the whole mountain could come down if the columns were weakened I couldn't believe anyone would chop at the only supports. If the mountain had come down I don't think anyone inside would have known what happened, they would have been instantly flattened. I never went to the columns to see if there was rich ore that had attracted people to hack away at them, it just looked too dangerous to enter. It is a sight still etched into my memory and I wish I had a camera with me at the time but when I did return with a camera those areas has either been filled in or collapsed.
I had never seen such a large area that was mined out with only a column here and there to hold up the whole mountain. I think the mined out area was about a hundred or more feet long and went nearly the same distance into the mountain at a steep angle. The surrounding rock that hosted the quartz was limestone and here it was fairly sturdy and that is probably why the mountain had not collapsed during the mining. When I returned years later with the geologist friend Clive Bailey I wanted to show him this opening but the area was no longer open. It had either been back filled or collapsed intentionally. It was the most dangerous looking area of any mine I have been in except for a few rooms in the Bisbee mines. When we walked up and down the mountain it was not even possible to see where many of the openings had been. The whole hill here was covered in cactus so it was not easy to work ones way up and down the mountain and find any of the old openings. We did come across some small access tunnels but they were not very secure looking and we didn't enter. The hill was also used by deer and there were deer trails all along the hill with evidence of them moving among the cacti to get farther into the Dragoon Mountains or to the valleys to feed. The tall cacti offered good cover from predators and people.
A German friend had also visited the Golden Rule Mine and he was looking to collected a gold specimen from this well known old mine. He found what he was looking for but also found some copper colors. He brought me the copper containing specimens to play with since he had only been looking to find a piece with gold. I have always had a moderate degree of color blindness and the green colors of many of the copper secondary minerals never jumped out at me on the ground. When collecting the green copper minerals I often called to my wife Mary to help find them. For me if I hold a piece of malachite in my hand I have no trouble seeing its color but, as with the color tests, where you have to pick out a number in colored circles, I never was able to see the numbers. Same with the green specimens among all the ground rock, they were also very hard for me to pick out.
The minerals I have found at the mine are: gold, anglesite, calcite, cerussite, galena, hematite, limonite, linarite, plancheite, malachite, quartz, mica and pyrite.
I returned to the Golden Rule in about 2015 with Clive Bailey, who wanted to have a look at the mine. We climbed all over the hill the mine is on and checked any other possible areas the quartz could contain minable gold. When we returned to the old ore shoot area and looked around a bit for specimens we all found quartz with spots of visible gold.
There are several other small prospects in the area but I have not explored those. The few pieces of ore containing gold were some of the richer pieces I have self collected in Cochise County. The gold is not in large amounts but sometimes the association was nice. One piece of gold I found in a pocket with a nice anglesite crystal. One thumb size piece of the quartz with lots of holes in it had more than 30 separate spots of gold.
On the north side of the hill with the Golden Rule Mine are a few old buildings that were the mill and early smelter that were used to process the ore from the mine. These buildings are still visible from the Dragoon Road.
The mine is on BLM land but the patented claim is under private ownership. In the times I have visited the mine since its last closing the access road had been piled with blocking dirt and rock so walking was the only way I was able to get to the mine. I could still see much of the massive iron stained quartz along the access road but I remembered it was not the ore that held the best gold. I had found gold in this material as well but not as much. The nearby area now has homes and ranches but so far I have not been bothered when visiting the mine. The last time I visited there were no signs to keep out in the area.
The Golden Rule Mine has always interested me and it is a mine I have seen go through a number of changes since my first visit there in the 1970's. I have a little thing going with the German friend and when he comes to visit he would always like to explore a new gold location to try and add a specimen to his growing collection. There have only been two mines I have visited in SE Arizona that I told him I guarantee he will find gold. One he looked at me and said he had never been able to guarantee finding gold but after collecting a couple of bags of ore we found gold quite easily and he was duly impressed. The second is the Golden Rule, I have always come home with a specimen or two with visible gold.
As with many places I have visited over the years, the area around the Golden Rule mine is building up with ranches and pistacio orchards. I think the time of access to this mine won't last too long before it becomes one of the places one can only read about.

Article has been viewed at least 1787 times.


Nice article Rolf. Thank you for sharing. Chris

Chris DeGrave
5th Mar 2017 2:59pm
Hi Rolf, did you ever try a metal detector?
David K Joyce

David K. Joyce
9th Mar 2017 12:29pm
I think of you every time we drive by the area. I too noticed the road blocked and never tried to investigate the area. Glad you have some samples from there. Noticed the Commonwealth Mine is very active now and also their other claims in the area. Have not seen any activity at Six Mile Hill though.
Nice article as usual!!

Brander Robinson
14th Mar 2017 3:19pm

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