by Jack Andrews

Spanish version


In 1909 after Kincaid had found the cave and the Smithsonian allegedly became involved in delving into the mystery, the appearance of the discovery as detailed in the Gazette article was one of a major archaeological find, "not only oldest archaeological discoveries in the United States, but one of the most valuable in the world".


The problem with this statement is obvious. If this find were as important as the article claims, then why is the discovery barely even known today?


From all appearances it looks as if the discovery "died" after emerging from nowhere as a headline story in the Arizona Gazette back in 1909. This unique and seemingly solitary "appearance" of the article has led to criticism of the story as a "hoax" or a "fraud". Quite frankly, based on that evidence alone, (the apparent death of the story) I can see where that assessment emerges from in the critic's mind.


Criticism has also been leveled at Kincaid himself. If Kincaid had run the entire course of the Colorado through the Grand Canyon from well beyond it's borders, starting from Green River Wyoming to Yuma Arizona, as suggested in the 1909 article, then where is his name in the history of river running in the Grand Canyon? Why is he not considered as a prominent figure in the history books, why is he not a "record holder"?


My research has shown that there are other levels to this mystery. The question of why the story apparently "died" and what became of G. E. Kincaid and his achievements cannot be answered by simple speculation or a rush to critical judgment.


There is other evidence and in order to come to terms with the apparent mystery here one has to delve deeper, ask more questions and not be easily satisfied with criticisms that put this fantastic story into a nice neat little package and dismiss it all as a "fraud".


At the turn of the century when this discovery allegedly occurred, the Grand Canyon had not nearly been as "tamed" by river runners as it is today. There were only a handful of people who had "run" the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon and even survived to tell the tale.


River runners and Grand Canyon historians I have contacted over the years have talked about John Wesley Powell's famous traversing of the Canyon, a feat which is well known and well documented (by Powell himself in his extensive journals) and in other books, articles and television specials, which have entertained and informed the world of Powell's exploits.


There are also lesser known characters in the "taming" of the river, such as Bert Loper and others, who had dared to test their tenacity against one of the world's most dangerous and challenging rivers. Even these lesser character's undertakings with the river are well documented.

There was however another, more obscure group of river runners, near the turn of the century (when the Gazette story occurred) who were not running the river for the fame and glory of the accomplishment or interested in "conquering" the river and Grand Canyon itself for the record books or to secure a place in history. In fact, the intentions of this group of solitary explorers were quite the opposite, They shunned any public attention and purposefully kept quiet. They had good reason to do so.


They were the prospectors, the gold seekers, the placer an load miners always searching for fortune and that stream or side canyon that would show "color" the flakes of gold which could yield to a mother load vein. These prospectors are mentioned in "Quest for the Pillar of Gold" by George H. Billengsley, (U. S. Geological Survey), Earl E. Spamer (Academy of Natural Sciences) and Dove Menkes.


In the book, they talk of such attempts at prospecting in the Grand Canyon, and note that "A few of the mines were profitable, but they were of limited extent and life. Still this did not deter itinerant prospectors, who usually worked alone, but showed up in waves when gold was discovered." These gold seekers were not about to advertise there finds, or prospects to their competitors or anyone else for that matter.

If we take Kincaid's own words as an indicator of his purpose in making the trip at all in 1908 then we see that he may very well have been one of these lesser more secretive river runners, when he said:

"I was journeying down the Colorado river in a boat, alone, looking for mineral."

This being the case, Kincaid most likely had not made public notice of his intentions to "run the river" so to speak, since the running of the river was not his main goal, but rather he was actively "looking for mineral".


This can account for his solitary and amazing achievement of running the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, not being in the history books as a "record" accomplishment. Unlike John Wesley Powell, who was definitely out to set a record and tame a river, Kincaid was quietly and somewhat secretly searching for mineral. What he eventually discovered however was quite a bit more than the simple "mineral" he was seeking.

What he did discover is detailed in the article as an important archaeological find. Why then did the story "die"? What became of the archaeological site in the Grand Canyon? I think that there may be several reasons for the apparent death of the story. Running the Colorado River at all in 1908-09 was a feat in itself. Kincaid had made his attempt in a small wooden "skiff".


Other attempts at the time were generally made in wooden boats. The trips were full of danger and the rocks and large boulders in the rapids that would have been encountered en-route would have been more than enough to dash a wooden boat to pieces. The site where the cave is located (Marble Canyon) was in 1909, very inaccessible.


Kincaid himself said: "First, I would impress that the cavern is nearly inaccessible"... It is in an area of sheer walls and a series of rough rapids. I feel that any expedition in 1909 that would have gone to the cave site, would have been constantly in danger of disaster on the river (crashing into the rocks) and the associated loss of life, and very well may have actually experienced such a disaster.


Such a disaster would have made the investigations a failure and as such, not something to brag about or publicize. It would have also been very difficult to make such repeated attempts to get to the site, haul all the necessary labor force, supplies, food and scientific equipment required for extensive studies of the cave. These considerations alone could have forced abandonment of the project and "death" of the story.

There is also mention in the story of the hieroglyphics found. The article states:

"If their theories are borne out by the translation of the tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, the mystery of the prehistoric peoples of North America, their ancient arts, who they were and whence they came, will be solved. Egypt and the Nile, and Arizona and the Colorado will be linked by a historical chain running back to ages.."

I think it is possible that the hieroglyphics may very well have never been "translated" and the story of who inhabited the cave was never deciphered. The article also states:

"On all the urns, or walls over doorways, and tablets of stone which were found by the image are the mysterious hieroglyphics the key to which the Smithsonian Institute hopes yet to discover."

What if the Smithsonian never did discover the "key" and the story of the cave remained a mystery.


This alone could account for the apparent death of the whole story. In this scenario there simply would have been nothing conclusive to tell and therefore no more newsworthy articles to print on the discovery.

What happened in 1909 at Marble Canyon and possibly much earlier back into ancient times, at the site is a true mystery that is much more complicated than the skeptics would have you believe, and as such, it cannot be simply placed into a neat and tidy box and wished away as a simple "hoax" or "fraud".


There is more going on here than meets the eye of a simple skeptical glance.