In The Desert
Content including photographs are Copyright © 2013 - Present - Don & Linda Gilmore
Contact us via E-mail
Lost Winchester rifles
1895 Winchester rifles worth $2,500 each?
Of course their condition will dictate the sale price. But even in just good condition, they'll fetch a handsome price. This is a well known story, but some of the particulars are not well known. How did they become lost in the desert? Where were they being shipped too? When did they become lost? In the Desert has some those answers.
Back in the early 1900's a man (who has to remain nameless here as his relatives are still alive in Wellton, Az.) was taking on odd jobs shipping goods that arrived by the new train. He took on a job of shipping a lot of crates of 1895 Winchester rifles to Mexico to help the revolution down there. He got several wagons and according to his son loaded them at night off a car at the railroad in Wellton. These were to be immediately delivered to the revolutionaries in Mexico. His son went out that night and saw his dad and several other men loading them on the wagons. At the time he didn't know what was going on or what was in the crates. His father never told him. They left in the middle of the night headed down the old El Camino Del Diablo toward the border. They had to sneak them across to make delivery and get paid.
This was a common occurrence back then, but you could still get caught. If your not familiar with the area they were traveling in, then here's a map with the old road located on it.
Tinjas Altas Mountains, Arizona
A Marine's story
You can see Route 2 in Mexico at the bottom of the map. The road to Mexico was always well traveled, and is in fact still well traveled today. The Old US 80 Route on the map was the only road at the time and the railroad followed it to the East. This was also the Old Butterfield Stage Route. There is no exit off of I - 8 so you'll have to leave Old US 80 and turn South on 25 E. As soon as you do you'll be on the El Camino Del Diablo (highway of death).
The map showing the area ---
GPS track can be found at the above link ---
A day trip into this area
We'll get back to the story here soon. This prominent black mound is called Raven Butte and is on the East side of the El Camino Del Diablo. It is near here that the rifles were hidden. Why? On the way down to the Border one of the wagons broke down, so without delay they hid the rifles in a natural cave and sent the other wagons on toward the Border.
The wagons that did make it to the Border, were overtaken and the drivers were put in prison, by the Federales. They never got to the revolutionaries. The Mexican Army ended up with them -- all except the one wagon load that was now hidden in a cave in the mountains.
There is an area we named the Thousand Caves just North of Raven Butte. This is just one of thousands of caves in the area. Probably one of the best areas to search.
This is a view of the Tinajas Altas Mountains in this area. They are very rugded and travel is hard going to say the least. Crossing the mountains to the West is only possible at Cipriano Pass and Tinaja Altas Pass. Now don't forget there are 3 Cipriano Passes, and the one used today is not one of the orginal passes, it was put in for the Border Patrol. So what happened to the wagons with the rifles that headed into Mexico?
Here's a friend crawling into a series of caves in the area. Some of these caves (like the ones here) were fairly large inside and make great hidding places. It would take years to search all the caves in this area. Years later a Border Patrol agent went looking for the rifles, but never had any luck. He interviewed people in the area and even wrote up an account of his search. We had a copy of this, while it's interesting, it doesn't have any clues that would help in finding the rifles.
Here's another friend on a different trip to search for the rifles. WARNING - this area is now a hot spot for illegals and drug runners. Also the Marine base has put a lot of areas off limits in 2009. They do give you a map when you get a pass (it's free) that has the roads you can travel on and the areas that are off limits to visitors. It's your responsiblitiy to know where you are allowed to go. A lot of the places we got into years ago are now restricted. This whole area is on the Barry Goldwater Bombing Range.
Back in the 1970's a Marine was on a training excercise down near the Cipriano Pass. While scouting in the mountains he found the Old Winchester Rifles in a cave. He couldn't get them or come back for them. He did tell this story to an employee at a local gun shop here in Yuma. This is how I heard this. People talk. He was supposed to come back and look up the area again. Did he? No one knows. Are they still there? Will you be the one to find them? The people's names and places that I left out wouldn't do you any good -- all the information that is pertinent to finding them is here. Take a look at the area involved and you'll understand why they are still out there. Good Luck......