It was in 1894 that three men where out in the Gila Mountains looking for some lost cattle that had gotten away. That night they set up camp and moved a bunch of rocks to build a fire pit and in the morning they noticed gold in those rocks. After looking around the side of the mountain the noticed a gold vein not far from where they were camped.
The men decided to stake this area and once the thre men got back to town he men filed seven mining claims on 130 acres of land around this newly discovered gold vein. Of course as usual it didn't take long before word out and soon a man by the name of Charles Lane came around wanting to buy these claims. Charles was a big time miner and had the Harqua Hala gold mine which was up near modern day Salome. Charles ended up buying these claims for $150,000.
Once the deal was finalized, Charles sent a bunch of his men down this property to start getting this mine in production. Mining started by chasing the vein but eventually was comprised of two inclined shafts. One of these shafts had a depth of 1000 feet and had several hundred feet of drifts and stopes. Next thing that was needed was a mill of some kind to process out the ore so a 20 stamp mill was brought in and set up on the hill. This mill with stamps weighing over 13 hundred pounds each. All the crushed ore was run over a long sluice along with a mercury amalgam where it is said that they were able to collect about 80 percent of the gold.
Of course being out in the desert in the middle of nowherem there was really no water nearby, so a four inch water line was run from the Gila river which was 14 miles away. This water was pumped into a reservoir which was above the townsite. The town itself was pretty small with around 100 people. However besides housing for the workers of the mine there was a blacksmith shop, a general store, a schoolhouse, and even a couple saloons.
After the mine and mill had been running for a while it was noticed that there was still gold left in the tailings so a cyanide plant was built on the site just below the crusher. This proved to be profitable as these gold tailings were running around 5 dollars per ton. That was a lot of money back then when gold was just around 20 bucks an ounce and they had tons of tailings from the mine just sitting there.
Like most old mines back then, these mines were all located way out in the middle of nwhere and transportation of supplies was just done with mules and wagon trains. Transporting gold to a refiner to get paid back then always left mine owners dealing with the risk of stage robberies and even employee theft. This mine was no different as there was always the threat of theft of gold during shipments. Because this gold was being stolen the mine starting pouring bars that weighed as much as 150 to 200 pounds. This made theft just a bit more difficult as theives would have a tougher time trying to run off with 200 pound bars. However, it is rumored that a cache of stolen gold is buried in an area known as Spook Canyon in the Gila Range. This canyon is is about 5 miles southeast of the mine site so if you are treasure hunter, here's a free tip to follow up on.
The life of the mine was short lived and by 1904, the main vein ran out of ore and the mine shut down. Over the nest few decades the mine was worked off and on but with little success. Over it's lifetime, the mine produced an estimated and recorded production would be some 213,000 tons of ore which produce approximately 125,000 ounces of gold. That amount of gold today would be about 250 million dollars worth.
You can still go to the Fortuna mine today. It's just a few miles away from presnt day Yuma. There you can see the old diggings and foundations where the mill once stood.