A shroud of mystery continues to surround the disappearance of James Kidd on December 29, 1949. The enigma of this story still confuses those who attempt to delve into the records about this old prospector’s disappearance. Kidd was a man who lived such an obscure life few people knew him or anything about him. His disappearance would have been reported sooner than December 29th had somebody missed him. Records indicate he had no living relatives and extremely few friends. Authorities believe Kidd vanished from his small motel cabin on North 9th Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona, sometime after October 10, 1949.
James Kidd, like many other old Arizona prospectors, could have vanished without a trace and nobody would have noticed. In Kidd’s case, he left behind a half-million dollar fortune that was not discovered until several years after his disappearance. Kidd’s life and disappearance was of little or no importance until it was discovered some twenty-five years later that he had a fortune in several Arizona banks. Kidd had made his money by investing in the stock market through E.F. Hutton Company. The source of Kidd’s investment money was a mystery, but he was known to do a lot of prospecting in the mountains west of the Globe-Miami area. He was known to have prospected the east fringes of the Superstition Wilderness Area.
Who was James Kidd? Did he leave any kind of a record behind? Like many old-timers he did leave records behind, however they were far and few between. To find information about James Kidd requires a methodical search of federal, state and county records. James Kidd was born in Ogdensburg, New York, on July 18, 1879. Census records indicate he lived in Reno, Nevada and Los Angeles, California, before moving to Miami, Arizona in 1918. A friend of Kidd’s said he served in the Army during World War I, but there was no documentation to support this statement. Employment records at Miami Copper Company indicate James Kidd worked for the company from 1920 until his retirement in 1948. Kidd had worked for the Miami Copper Company as a pump man for twenty-two years.
Walter Beach was Kidd’s prospecting and mining partner for more than twenty years. Beach died in 1947, leaving Kidd alone to travel from his work to home and to his mining claims somewhere west of the Miami area. It was known by several prospectors along Pinto Creek, in the early days, Beach and Kidd prospected the eastern end of the Superstition Wilderness Area in and around the Haunted Canyon area. In fact, they had claims somewhere near Cherry and Oak Flats. These claims appear to never have been recorded at the Gila County Court House. There are those who believe Kidd was murdered for a rich gold mine he discovered somewhere in the drainage of Haunted Canyon. This story, like many others, lacks substantial documentation.
James Kidd was known for his interest in the supernatural. He believed the body had a visual soul of some kind. In other words, he believed in ghosts. When he made out his will in Douglas, Arizona, in the 1930’s, he left his entire estate to anyone who could prove there was a visual spirit; a spirit which we could see.
When Kidd’s will was probated in the late 1960’s, it amounted to more than $500,000. The court battle which pursued among many individuals and factions resulted in a book titled the “Soul Trial.”
James Kidd never owned an automobile, he never had a drivers license, he had no fingerprint record in Washington D.C., he had no military records, no social security record, and no police record.
In one sense, James Kidd never existed in the bureaucratic red tape of our society. He did exist in the minds of many prospectors who had heard his named associated with rich gold deposits west of Globe-Miami area in the Superstition Mountains.
James Kidd was extremely frugal and always looked for used newspapers rather than spending money to buy a new paper. He was never seen in church. He had little or no interest in women and never was married according to Arizona, California and Nevada records. He smoked cigars and would make one last him all day. His only hobby was prospecting for gold along Pinto Creek and Haunted Canyon. A close friend of Walter Beach once said old Kidd had worked in many of the Arizona mining camps before coming to Miami Copper.
Did James Kidd have a rich gold mine in the eastern fringe of the Superstition Wilderness? Did he save his money from the job to gather the small fortune he had? Not one man in a hundred-thousand ever saved up the kind of money James Kidd had at the time of his disappearance. How did James Kidd accumulate his fortune? The following is an explanation to Kidd’s disappearance and how he may have massed his fortune.
The last year James Kidd worked for Miami Copper Company he suffered a heart attack. The heart attack was not a major one, but serious. His doctor informed him he didn’t have too many years to live. A close friend of Walter Beach told me the following story of what happen to James Kidd in March of 1950, five months after his disappearance.
In October of 1949, James Kidd paid a man he knew to drive him to his claim in the eastern part of the Superstition Wilderness Area from his residence in Phoenix. Kidd had supplies for several weeks. The man that drove Kidd to his claim also packed in his food and supplies. Kidd ask him to return each month to check on him. He told the man if he returned and found him death to please bury him on his claim and not to notify anyone because he had no relatives living. The man returned monthly, and each month he returned he found Kidd in a worse condition. The man returned again in February of 1950. He found James Kidd in extremely poor health. The weather was wet and cold. He told Kidd he would die if he didn’t move back to town.
Kidd insisted on staying at the claim. The took his order for supplies and told him he would be back in two weeks. The man returned in two weeks, on March 3, 1950, and found Kidd near death. Again, Kidd begged him to leave him and let him die on his claim. The man decided to spend the night. That evening Kidd convinced the man if he died to bury him on the claim and leave no sign of his grave.
James Kidd’s last night alive on Earth was long and cold. Kidd died in the early morning hours of March 4, 1950. Kidd’s unknown friend buried him on his claim and did not report it. James Kidd had insisted nobody know he was dead and most important nobody was to know the site of his grave. Buried with James Kidd is a gold Elgin pocket watch with his name and date of birth inscribed on the back of it. This watch he did not want to be separated from, not even in death. If this story is true the mystery of James Kidd’s disappearance had finally been solved. Now the task is to prove it beyond any reasonable doubt.
The names of the individuals who supplied the information and material for this story are now deceased. The revelation of their names would only damage the reputation of these men’s survivors. James Kidd wanted to die in obscurity and out of the reach of anyone who wanted to remove him from his claim. He received his wish in death from a friend who believed James Kidd should receive his last wish while he was alive. This man abided by this agreement until two days before his death in 1982.
The disappearance of James Kidd may have be solved, but the location of his burial will remain unknown. James Kidd, prospector, miner, spiritualist, ghost chaser, and eccentric left a small fortune behind to anyone who could prove the existence of a visual soul, and yet his spirit still roams the Superstition Wilderness.
By Tom Kollenborn (c) 1988