The Mystery of the Jesuit Gold

According to history these gold bars should not exist. But there they are, defying the experts, pundits, non-believers and aristocrats that would have you believe that if it does exist then it surely belongs to them. But that's a matter for the courts, lawyers or pistols to settle at a different time. The mystery of the gold that shouldn't exist goes back to the hellish Southwest territroies of early Arizona and Sonora, Mexico when the Jesuits had a heavy presence in the area. These black robed priests were  converting the Natives and settling new towns in future Arizona cities and according to some were also mining gold from the rich desert hills. Of course, mainstream history denies that the Jesuits ever did any mining in the Southwest and even Jesuit historians like the late Father Charles Polzer state without equivocation that the Jesuits' in Primeria Alta never operated any mines or owned any Silver or Gold except what they used for trade for goods and services. They certainly weren't operating, smelting and mining their own gold and silver. Or were they? 
A few years ago Ray Kopman lent two gold bars to the The Arizona Mining and Minerals Museum in the hopes that someone would identify them as Jesuit.

Later, treasure hunter and Jesuit historian Mike McChesney, was contacted by Kopman to act as a broker, in the hopes of trying to sell them. McChesney was able to gather more history about the bars, and take better pictures.

Do these two bars represent the proof of an old Jesuit mining operation? If so they would be historically significant, in that they represent something that according to the experts shouldn't exist, like Jesuit Mines in Arizona. Professor W. Wrightson was an executive for the Aztec Syndicate Mining Group who spent half of his life exploring the Santa Cruz River Valley looking for good mining sites. While examining the long abandoned grounds of the Mission at Tumacacori in 1860  he found an oblong building where metallurgical operations were once carried out. Professor Wrightson wrote: Here are still the remains of furnaces and quantities of slag, attesting the purpose for which this was formerly used.

But according to the Parks Services there was never any indication that smelting operations were going on in Tumacacori in the 1700s. But both father Kino's and father Manje's Diaries tell of visiting mines but they didn't specify which Mission had these mines. A number of Indian Revolts over the years, would make mining the area extremely difficult and as a result the locations of these mysterious mines have been lost to history. That's why Kopman's bars are so fascinating, they provide a real link to this suppressed bit of history. When Padre Kino died in 1711, these bars were given to a Yaqui Family who kept them until the 1940s when the last member of that family sold them to Kopman. Kopman displayed the two bars off and on at the Arizona Mining and Minerals Museum from 1947 until 2004. Many people tried to buy the bars over the years, but Kopman refused to sell, because the story from the Yaqui man was that these were actually the personal property of Padre Kino. True? Who knows. Kino's diaries don't say anything specific about these two bars.

It is a well known fact that the Jesuits taught mining schools in the New World. Now, if the Jesuits stuck by the letter of the law (according to Charles III, they were not allowed to mine), they would not have owned or operated any mines. We know the Jesuits wouldn't do anything against the King's Laws would they? Why did they get expelled from the New World? Because the Jesuits were becoming too powerful and wealthy and had the loyalty of the Indians (at that time) all of which made the Spanish very angry and  jealous. Keep in mind they weren't just expelled either, King Charles III sent a secret Envoy to round up all the Jesuit Priests and put them on a ship back to Europe in 1767. But why would the King want the priests' roundup to be kept a secret? Doesn't really make a lot of sense on the surface, if you believe that they had no mines. If the Jesuits were poor, what would be the need for secrecy? They couldn't run anywhere. They weren't being executed. Just kicked out of the New World, and sent home. So, why the secrecy? Unless the Jesuits had mines in the far North of Pimeria Alta. Mines that were in direct conflict with the King's orders. 

The only sensible reason to keep the Jesuit Roundups a secret, would be to grab them before they had a chance to hide something, or run away. And since there is nowehere to run in a vast endless desert, burying your goods seems a much wiser option. But what did they had to hide. Crops? Cattle? Converts? Those were all within their charter from the King. Nothing to hide there. Mines? Goes against the Kings Charter to the Jesuits. Large Scale mining operations, and none of the money going to the Crown would be a VERY GOOD reason to keep the Jesuit Roundups a secret. This way, the Spanish could catch the Jesuits before they had time to hide evidence of their mining operations. The King (after receiving reports of Jesuit mines), wanted to catch them with their pants down (so to speak). Only problem was, the Indians liked the Jesuits much more than they did the Spanish. When they saw the roundups in the Port Cities, they quickly sent word to the Missions farther inland. This resulted in the father's in Pimeria Alta Inland Areas getting about a six week head start. Plenty of time to backfill and bury mines and hide any cache's of gold and silver.

In the late 1930s, a man named Milton Rose supposedly found a Spanish Mine right near the border West of Nogales, Az. Here are B&W Pics of some of the 800 or so bars of Silver, Gold, and Silver-Gold Alloy (and this alloy was only about 40% Gold) of his discovery.

Charles Kenworthy recovered a Jesuit Cache consisting of 1028 silver bars thought to be a Martyr Cache for father Javier Saeta SJ who was murdered in the Pima Indian Uprising of 1695. This is a copy of the only known picture of one of those Silver Ingots:

Some common factors in ALL the bars: The Jesuit Cross and "V". This would denote that it belonged to the Jesuit Order. Some of the bars have the cross above a circle. This is the Spanish map Symbol for a mission. Most of the bars are small square and rectangular in shape. Some of the bars from Rose's mine were bar shaped, and stamped or had symbols cast into the ends.

THE ALTAR BAR: The ALTAR Mission was in between The Tubutama Mission and the Oquitoa Mission at the end of the ALTAR River. That is the meaning of the TWO mission symbols (cross over circle) on the bar. The "X" marks the spot of the ALTAR Mission (between Tubutama and Oquitoa Missions). The word peseta (meaning little piece) most likely does not refer to the Spanish Monetary Unit PESETA. Most likely, since the Jesuit Bars come in two sizes (rectangular and square), that it refers to the smaller of the two sizes (little piece). Can't be certain though.

THE KINO BAR: This bar shows the date 1697. This was the date King Charles III gave the Jesuits free reign over Pimeria Alta (as long as they didn't take anything from the crown). This is a very important date to the Jesuits, and may or may not denote the actual casting date. The name KINO is also cast into the bar. Does this necessarily mean that THIS bar belonged to Padre Kino? No. It is most likely an homage to him because of his importance to the Jesuit Order. There are also the letters "S" and "F" cast into this bar. These denote the Saint of Pimeria Alta "San Francisco" Xavier. And lastly, the cross over the circle Spanish Map Symbol of a Mission (with a "V" inside denoting a Jesuit Mission).

In 1986, Ron Quinn and three friends found a cache of 82 pounds of Jesuit gold bars near the Tumacácori Mission in Southern Arizona. Some say they found more than 100 pounds, and up to as much as two hundred pounds but according to Ron himself, it was 82 pounds. The tale of his discovery is an astonishing one. It took Quinn, his brother and a few friends several trips into the Timacacori Mountains to eventually locate the lost Jesuit treasure. 

During Arizona's early history, the Spanish built several missions across the Southwest. The majority were located in highly mineralized regions. After gold and silver were discovered, the converted Indians, both Pima and Papago (Tohono O'odham) worked the rich deposits. This continued for several hundred years. These treasures were often stored within the confines of the missions or nearby in bullion form. During this time several Indian uprisings occurred. The peaceful Indians didn't like working in the dangerous mines where many died in accidents within these unsafe 

The big Pima Rebellion of 1751 temporarily drove the Jesuit order out. This began by burning missions, killing padres and attacking anything Spanish. The Jesuit priests heard of the impending revolt and decided to hide their wealth, then flee. The hordes of gold and silver were hidden in mines located deep within the surrounding hills and carefully concealed, while others were hastily buried in caves, buried in the ground or were cleverly covered in other locations. With some of the faithful mission Indians, the Jesuits traveled westward. Many were imprisoned, died or were killed in route, taking their secrets with them. 

The triumphant Indians had no interest in the yellow metal and over the years the mines were slowly forgotten, until legends, rumors and old Spanish documents began surfacing, telling of these lost Jesuit treasures. Ron Quinn and his team found one of these treasures during a cool Arizona afternoon in 1984. The Legendary treasure hunter even wrote about it:

It all began during a two-year adventure into Southern Arizona in search of lost mines and hidden Spanish treasures. High among the rugged terrain bordering Mexico, my brother Chuck and I discovered a location where time itself is altered. This all began after my release from the military. My brother Chuck asked if I'd be interested in taking an extended trip to Arizona to search for several of the legendary lost treasures allegedly hidden during the Spanish occupation. This ignited my adventurous spirit, so plans were made. We saved enough capital, with the help of our parents, for two years. I was 23; Chuck was 26. We left Tacoma, Wash., on March 20, 1956. Our final destination was Arivaca, Ariz., a small desert hamlet of perhaps 70 residents. This old adobe village was located squarely in the center of the country harboring some of these well-known hidden treasures. About three weeks into this treasure game, Chuck and I were relaxing at camp one evening. Towards the south, the craggy peaks of the Tumacacori Mountains were silhouetted against the darkening sky…

Ron’s tale was first told in the November, 1986 issue of Treasure! Magazine, which featured him on its cover proudly displaying his incredible haul of Jesuit treasure. It was a move that would come back to haunt him.

Three years earlier Ron and his friends had stumbled across a Spanish Christian cross and other strange markings etched in some rocks high up in the canyons. 

It took Ron 22 months later to figure out what he had been seeing where Mayan numerical markings. But what were Mayan numbers doing next to a Spanish Christian cross in Southern Arizona? Armed with some new maps and a positive attitude Ron and friends left for the site in two 4x4 campers. After a few days of bad weather and unfortunate accidents, one of which destroyed one of two metal detectors’ they were finally able to get a hit on the metal detector that survived. And what a hit it was. Buried two feet down was a stack of shiny yellow gold bars. 2-by-2 inch gold squares totaling 27 pounds. They of course celebrated with screams of joy and dances of jigs but after the shock wore off they were searching for more gold bars. 

A half hour later they found another 10 pounds of gold. As dusk approached they packed the gold in three backpacks and hiked the twenty minutes back to camp with their minds blown. They sat up till one in the morning passing the bars around the campfire and wondering who they belonged to before falling asleep. But the men didn’t get much sleep that night. The next morning they were once again searching for more buried treasure in the desert. Later that afternoon they found the third cache of 16 pounds of Jesuit gold bars. The next day they found two more caches of 10 pounds and 19 pounds. 

With a haul of gold bars the next question is where do you sell them and to whom? One of Ron’s friends had a connection in Portland, Oregon who could properly dispose of the gold for a fair price. They loaded the gold into the back of one of the campers and hit the highway north to Portland. During the journey, Ron kept saying, “Don’t get into an accident, we don’t bullion scattered all over the highway.”  Three days later they arrived in downtown Portland and checked into a hotel. The gold dealer took some samples for analysis and determined them to be smelted in the 1700s, around the same time Ron believed they had been buried. 

The bullion contained small traces of copper too, which was common in Jesuit mining operations of the era. The dealer negotiated a price of $410,000 for the gold bars and Ron agreed even though they both knew they were worth much more. But who else were you going to sell Jesuit gold bars that aren’t even supposed to exist to anyways?? After waiting a few days for a bag of cash consisting the $410,000, Ron and his partner packed up their camper and headed back to Arizona. Only this time it was.. 

“Remember, drive carefully…we don’t want all this cash blowing across the highway.”…

Upon arriving back in Tucson, Ron and his partners sat at the table and divvied up their cash. Each one getting $102,000. Later, Ron appeared on the front page of Treasure! Magazine, showing off his horde of Jesuit gold bars. It was a big mistake as federal law says that any treasure discovered of more than 80 pounds must be reported to the government. Obviously, Ron and his team overlooked this little law of the land. And due to Ron being shown holding the gold bars, with his metal detector next to him in Treasure! Magazine, the IRS came to collect and except for what he managed to hide as shown in the pictures….he lost it all.

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