The Greaterville area has a long and storied
history of placer & hard rock mining. Placer mining has
been done largely by small miners at first with rocker boxes
and more recently with metal detectors. A large scale placer
operation was attempted by the Santa Rita Water & Mining
Company in the early 1900's. Their headquarters is now a Forest
Service Heritage Site known as Kentucky
Most of the land in this area is now part of
the Coronado National Forest. However, it was not always that
way. In the early 1900's most of the land became patented.
The Santa Rita Water & Mining company held the patents
on about 3,000 acres of the best placer ground in the area.
The company failed and the patented land remained in private
hands until 1989 when the land was acquired by the US Forest
Service through a land swap.
This information is taken directly from US Geological
Survey Bulletin 1355, Placer Gold Deposits of Arizona, by
Maureen G. Johnson, 1972.
The placers in the Greaterville district are found in streams
that drain easterly from the Melendrez Pass area in the Santa
Rita Mountains to the Cienega Valley. The deposits are in
the southeastern part of T. 19S R.15E and in the southwestern
part of T. 19S R. 16E. The gold-bearing gulches are, from
north to south: Empire, Chispa, Colorado,Los Pozos, Hughes,
Ophir, Nigger, and St. Louis Gulches, tributaries to Hughes;
Louisiana, Graham, Sucker, Harshaw, Kentucky, and Boston.
Placers were found not only in the gulch gravels but also
in gravels on the hillsides and ridgetops between gulches.Hill
(1910) describes the distribution of the gold-bearing gravels
in each gulch in detail.
In general, the gold is found in the lower 2
feet of angular gravel overlying bedrock and underlying less
rich gravels; in places, the gold was concentrated in natural
riffles in the sedimentary bedrock.The gold recovered range
in size from flakes to large nuggets. Hill (1910, p.20) states
that the gold washed in 1909 ranged from small flakes to particles
0.1 inch in greatest dimension. Most of the largest nuggets
were recovered during the early mining period in the district;
at that time (1874-86) nuggets worth $1 to $5 (about 1/20
to 1/4 oz.) were common, and one nugget weighing 37 ounces
The early production is not accurately known. For gold recovered
before 1900, estimates range from as high as one million to
as low as $500,000. During the 20th Century the placers have
been worked continually by many individuals using rockers.
Much of the placer ground has been reworked several times,
but a considerable of gold is said to remain in the gravels.
Various attempts have been made to mine the gravels in different
gulches using hydraulic or dredge mining methods, but thickness
of overburden made large-scale mining unprofitable.
The placer gold was derived from erosion of
free gold-bearing veins genetically related to a quartz latitie
porphyry (dated at 55.7 m.y.) intrusive into Cretaceous sedimentary
rocks. These veins are found near the heads of the gulches
and have been mined for the gold content at the Yuba, St.
Louis and Quebec mines.