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