Monday, October 2, 2017

Dutch Hunter's Rendezvous: The Story Continues

September 25, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The intense interest in the Dutchman’s Lost Mine and the Superstition Mountain continues to prevail today. Men and women from around our nation come to Arizona hoping to find their fortunes. Most find nothing, while some lose their fortunes and others are lucky to get away without the loss of their lives. Sadly, some make poor choices and eventually end up dead. Death or injury is no stranger to the unprepared and inexperienced in this rugged mountain range east of Apache Junction. Prospectors have died from extreme weather conditions, from gunshot wounds, from falls, drowned in flash floods and from natural causes. Ironically the rugged Superstition Mountains are far safer than the streets of Phoenix or the highways of Arizona.

Since the early 1880’s, men and women have searched these rugged mountains for gold and lost mines. The most significant lost mine stories center around an old German immigrant name Jacob Waltz. His mine was allegedly located near a prominent landmark called Weaver’s Needle, just east of Superstition Mountain.

Maintaining a camp in these mountains can be difficult at best. The trails are rough and steep, making it difficult to deliver supplies. Also pack trains (horses or mules) are a very expensive method in which to move needed items into the wilderness. Also all camps are limited to fifteen days by forest service regulations. Camps cannot be established within a quarter-of-a-mile of a water source. This can make camping very difficult in the dry season when water is scarce. One can easily get disoriented in these mountains if they don’t have map reading experience. The lost have died trying to find their way out of the mountains. No one is immune to the dangers that exist in these mountains; however caution and common sense will protect most from serious injury or death.

Each year I am amazed at the people who become involved in the search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. There is a continuous list of new prospectors who are searching the mountains for clues. Many years ago, a businessman and prospector named Joe Ribaudo, who lives in Lake Havasu City, decided he wanted to see the Dutchman legend carried on by some kind of annual gathering. He came up with the idea of the “Dutch Hunter’s Rendezvous.” He held the first gathering just west of Twin Buttes and south of the Coke Ovens along the Gila River, east of Florence. The first gathering was small with thirteen attending in October of 2005; however there was a lot of enthusiasm for the idea. The next year, the rendezvous was moved to Don’s Camp. This was accomplished with the help of Don’s member Greg Davis. The camp is located at the base of Superstition Mountain near the Peralta Trailhead. Each year the activity is held at the end of October. The gathering has grown. It is a gathering of individuals that are extremely interested in the Superstition Mountains and its many tales and stories. This event has attracted old timers as well as contemporaries anxious to learn the stories of Superstition Mountain.

Clay Worst and friends at the Dutch Hunters Rendezvous.
The third year, Joe handed over the organizing of the “Dutchman’s Rendezvous” to Wayne Tuttle and Randy Wright. Greg Davis continued to make the arrangements for the Don’s Camp for the rendezvous. Joe and his wife Carolyn retired as camp hosts. They will still greet you and say hello. The scheduled activities include a variety of options. Friday night includes sitting around a campfire and entertaining each other by telling stories about the mountains. There is usually a guided hike on Saturday. After dark on Saturday, everyone gathers around the large Ramada to listen to a couple of guest speakers or a program. This gathering at the Ramada is planned also for Friday evening this year.

I have attended for the last six years, and I think it was an excellent opportunity to meet a variety of people from all over the United States who were interested in our history. As I look back, I should have made an effort to attend and report on all of these events. Please don’t get this event confused with Lost Dutchman Days in Apache Junction. This has nothing to do with this particular event or the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, there were three days of this event. The interested, the curious and the very serious showed up for the event last year. Some of the individuals drove from Texas, California, Oklahoma, New York, New Hampshire and several other distant locations. The organizers should be proud of their accomplishment. I didn’t personally count each and everyone in attendance, but I would estimate there were about sixty to seventy people attended last year’s “Dutchman’s Rendezvous” at Don’s Camp.

A number of old time Dutch Hunters attend, and, of course, they are legends in their own right. Many authors who have published books about the Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman’s mine attend. I am not sure who are the guest speakers this year; however I am sure they will be interesting. Wayne made a big improvement a couple of years ago by adding a sound system.

The Dutch Hunter’s (Dutchman’s) Rendezvous is an open event, so everyone is welcome. This year’s event is scheduled for October 27, 28 and 29, 2017 at the Don’s Camp just below Peralta Trail Head. There will be guest speakers on Friday and Saturday night at the campfire gathering. The camp is primitive, so you need to bring what you need to be comfortable. Be sure to bring water, food, and bedding if you are spending the night. There is no charge for camping. For more information you may email Joe at havasho@frontiernet.net

If you’re interested in attending, drive out to Don’s Camp on Friday or Saturday and visit. The camp is located about eight miles east of Highway 60 on the Peralta Trail Head Road. Turn off Highway 60 east of Gold Canyon at the traffic signal into the Peralta Sub-division and drive east through the sub-division onto Forest Service Road 77. The last two and half miles can be a little rough, so slow down. The road will be rough and unmaintained in places, but easily passible. Occasionally the road is maintained. For more information contact Wayne at zentull @ aol .com.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Another Picacho Peak

September 18, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

At dawn on May 11, 1866, a contingent of the 14th, 24th and 32nd Infantries lay poised to attack an Apache-Yavapai village near the base of Weaver’s Needle. The unit was under the command of Brevet Lt. John D. Walker. Walker had a total of one hundred and one men under his command.

The command to attack was given. The soldiers and Pima Scouts swept down the hillside, firing their muskets. The inhabitants of the temporary village were in an array of total confusion. The first hail of musket ball fired by the soldiers and scouts struck the warriors, old men, women and children.

Weaver’s Needle near Pinyon Camp in
East Boulder Canyon.
The first men to reach the village were the Pima Scouts. They clubbed as many survivors to death as they could find. The scouts were then followed by soldiers of the infantry; who reloaded and fired yet another volley at the disoriented Apaches and Yavapais. When the acrid smell of gunpowder cleared the air, some fifty-seven men, women and children lay dead. Twenty-two women and children were taken prisoners by the Pimas to be used as slaves.

The contingent of soldiers and Pima Scouts had two casualties. The Pima Scouts had one man shot in the leg accidentally by an Army musket. One soldier severely sprained his ankle as he jumped over a large boulder. The Army confiscated eleven Mexican flintlock smooth bore muskets and a variety of clubs, lances and bows. All of the confiscated weapons were destroyed at the site. The Pima Scouts estimated three hostiles escaped the attack. This scenario came from a military report on the Battle of Picacho Peak, and not the landmark of American Civil War significance between Phoenix and Tucson on I-10 Highway.

The foregoing was a typical scenario of the Rancheria Campaign waged by the United States Army against the hostile Apache in the Superstition Mountains between the years 1864-1866. There were numerous other skirmishes fought throughout the Superstition Mountain region that were led by the Army. The Pima Scouts were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with the United States Army against their ancient enemy, the Apache.
 
This particular skirmish was fought near what we call Pinyon Camp today. The site is located just west of Weaver’s Needle. Army field cartographers made reference to Weaver’s Needle as Picacho Peak on their 1866 field sketch maps.
 
The Spanish word picacho means peak. It is extremely interesting why the military made reference to Weaver’s Needle as Picacho. This inaccurate reference has confused many mapmakers since the Rancheria Campaign. It is quite apparent the name Picacho was accepted by the military because of the frequency it appears in military reports of the period. Weaver’s Needle appeared on the Ives Survey Map of 1853. Also there is sufficient evidence to suggest the landmark was named after Paulino Weaver, an early mountain man, guide, prospector and scout of the region. Some historian’s believed Weaver trapped Beaver along the Salt River, north of the Superstition Mountains, as early as 1837.

Before the Rancheria Campaign was over more than three hundred Apaches and Yavapais were killed in the Superstition Mountain area. The Army had orders to return all hostiles to reservations or destroy them. The Rancheria Campaign became a modern day search and destroy mission for the Army against Native Americans.
 
This military action occurred in the Superstition Mountain region long before prospecting was routine in the area. Few prospectors ventured into the Superstition Mountain prior to 1870. Large scale maps with accurate place names and landmarks were none existent in these early days. Superstition Mountain was referred to as the Sierra Supersticiones , Sierra Salinas, or the Salt River Mountains.

Another interesting reference involving Weaver’s Needle is the landmark being called Statue Mountain. As one hikes toward Weaver’s Needle from the First Water Trail Head it looks much like a giant bird with its wings slightly lifted ready for flight. This may have accounted for the name Statue Mountain. Maybe it reminded some soldier of the American Bald Eagle ready to take flight.

Yes, the Superstition Wilderness Area has a wonderful history that we all must try and preserve for future generations to enjoy. We are all part of a unique page in Arizona history being involved with such a land of history, legend, and myth.