PIE TOWN, NM--There was a time when the most famous lost goldmine in America was right here in New Mexico. It started at the end of the Civil War when troopers from Fort Tularosa found a man named Adams wandering around in the desert near the Plains of San Augustín. He told of Apaches killing his fellow miners not long after they had discovered a canyon where gold nuggets as big as acorns clung to the canyon walls. He even had samples.
He went back east to recover from his travails, but returned to New Mexico later. Though he made many attempts over the years, he was never able to again locate that canyon. Others tried as well. Over half a century passed without the Adams Diggings ever being located. By the time of the Great Depression, a multitude of prospectors, treasure seekers and unemployed adventurers were roaming throughout western New Mexico... all looking for the legendary riches.
And there were treasure maps as well. They showed hidden rocky passages, haystack mountains, melon patches, and zig-zagging canyons. But nobody found what had become nationally known as The Lost Adams Diggings.
Then something very interesting happened: the Adams Diggings started showing up on official state road maps. It was a black dot on the Continental Divide northwest of Pie Town. Even a recent atlas, the 1998 edition of The Roads of New Mexico, has it clearly marked.
Of course I just had to drive out there. It was a farm house at the junction of two gravel roads. I guess I knew before I started that it had to be some kind of joke. And, according to Bob Julyan’s Place Names of New Mexico, it was. It seems it was an office prank that somehow found its way onto official maps and stayed there.
But there is another version of how that dot on the map came to be. In a 2004 article written for Socorro’s El Defensor Chieftain, Paul Harden states that a couple named Guy and Daisy Magee homesteaded there in 1916. They opened a small general store, complete with a tiny post office. Hoping to cash in on the prospectors’ need for supplies, they named their store and post office Adams Diggings. The post office finally closed in 1946.
Meanwhile several different accounts of exactly where the Lost Adams Diggings can be found have surfaced. All the seekers are convinced they have the true location, but because the canyon is now on private property, they are sworn to secrecy. They also state there is no gold there.
So the legend continues...with or without that dot on the map.