Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Paul and The Hidden Mine
Sierra Madre, MS> It all started with a scouting trip and a chance finding of a rusty skeleton key. Paul was making a wide sweep across the famous Christmas Place Hunting Club looking for signs of a big buck to hunt opening day. He had reached a sheer bluff that cuts across the property and found a deer trail that wandered into the thick brush at the base of the cliff. Fighting 10 foot high sticker bushes, thorn trees and thick honeysuckle he forced his way along the trail hoping to find an opening that might be a hidden honey hole for a big buck. The narrow trail hugged the base of the sheer bluff until the overhanging wall seemed to be a threat of collapsing on him. In fact, numerous small parts of the wall had recently caved off making it difficult to follow the rocky trail.
Easing along, watching for deer sign and keeping an eye on the bluff looming above him, he looked down and saw a small rusty piece of metal in the trail. Reaching down he pulled it out of the dirt and saw that it was an old skeleton key. He wiped it off on his shirt, wondering where in the world it had come from. As he started to slide it in his pocket, he realized that he had reached a sharp turn in the wall and there had recently been a large cave in as part of the wall had broken away and fallen. Moving up on the rubble he noticed several pieces of old planks along with a broken and rusty kerosene lantern.
He squatted down to look at these items and then noticed a hole at the base of the fall, leading into the side of the cliff. The small opening looked man made to him and he eased over and peered inside. It was jet black but he could make out wooden bracing and smooth walls just inside. He reached in his pocket for the flashlight he carried on scouting trips, turned it on and shined the light inside. All he could tell was the tunnel lead deep into the hillside. He grabbed a piece of the old wood plank and started to dig out the opening.Soon, he had opened it up enough to crouch down and step inside. He looked above him and felt safe that the wall above would not collapse any more, shined the light in and moved inside. The floor was packed smooth, the walls were also smooth and cut through a layer of clay that had been smoothed with a trowel. Several rough hewn braces had been added to support the tunnel along with several small recesses that held old lanterns.
He thought to himself that it was a goldmine but realized it was probably a shaft to keep food and milk cold for some family long ago during the summers. Then he reached the door. A large oak door bound in iron. He reached out and tried to open it but no luck. Shining the light he saw the keyhole and realized that he had the key in his pocket!
He stood there very quietly, scared and excited, listening for any noise. He glanced back at the light from the opening twenty feet away. Heart beating wildly, he pulled the key out, wiped it on his leg a few times, spit on it and eased it in the lock. Unbelievably, it turned smoothly and with a loud click the lock released and he pushed the heavy door open with a loud creaking sound.
Not stepping in, he shined the light into a large round chamber. The room was filled with wooden boxes. He saw that some said dynamite on the side. Others had the name Jacob Walz on the side. A large table was in the center of the hidden chamber that was half covered with small rocks covered in dust. A large piece of parchment was held down by an old lantern. Paul stepped into the room, and studied the boxes without touching anything. He moved to the table, ignored the rocks and studied the paper. Shining his light and blowing the dust off, he realized it was an old map that had a mountain range labeled Superstitious Mountains, some dim writing in the corner that appeared to be compass bearings and had a trail on the map that led to a large X. He started to get the map, but the edges crumbled with the slightest touch. He started to move the lamp away to try to roll the map up and then gently moved a few rocks off the edges.
He didn’t notice that the old door had silently closed behind him until he heard the slight click as it snapped shut. Panic gripped him as he instantly imagined himself locked in and dying in the darkness. He rushed to the door with everything else forgotten and tried to open it. He pulled, he jerked to no avail, and then he even yelled for help but realized that he was totally alone. The feeling of being buried alive almost made him lose control as he saw the small flashlight was getting dimmer. He closed his eyes a second and tried to think. Opening them, he tried to work the old key in the lock but it wouldn’t go in from this side of the door. Looking close, he saw that the keyhole was almost closed shut from rust. Breathing deeply he finally remembered his father always telling him to stay cool in an emergency. He looked around and grabbed a couple of the rocks from the table, he stuck one in his pocket just in case, and used the other to gently tap the key into the lock. After several gentle taps, the key slid in.
He dropped the rock and tried turning the key back and forth until, finally, it gave and unlocked as before. He jerked the door open against the wall as he dropped the key in his pocket, there was a small rumble that made a few small rocks and a bit of dirt fall from the ceiling of the chamber. It was time to leave and bring back help. He quickly moved down the tunnel, and heard the door once again click shut just before he moved out into the sunlight. Deer hunting forgotten, he hurried back to camp as the sun went down.
Paul told us of his adventure that night as a huge storm whipped the Christmas Place.
The electricity went out, candles were lit and between flashes of lightning he told the story, showed us the key and we discussed what it all meant until we fell asleep. The next morning we headed out to the cliff. The storm was gone and the sun was bright. We worked our way to the base of the bluff where it made the sharp turn and then realized that during the night, the whole side of the bluff had collapsed burying anything that was there under hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of dirt. Trent, Paul and Rex agreed then and there that one day soon they would hire equipment and reopen the hidden room. Meanwhile we have done extensive research and believe that Jacob Walz was the lost Dutchman of the famous lost Dutchman Mine . He had made several trips back and forth to Natchez and could have slowly moved his treasure here in wooden boxes, especially labeled as explosives. The other thing is the small rock Paul had kept in his pocket. Cleaned up, here is a picture of it.