Monday, March 7, 2016

Last Great Search for the Lost Dutchman Mine

September 24, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Time has a strange way of eroding away one’s memory of events that occurred five decades ago.  A few days ago I was perusing some old periodicals about the last publicized great search for the famous Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction. The story that caught my eye revealed interesting events that happen here some fifty years ago.

On April 8, 1966, the Associated Press announced to the world the discovery of the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona by a group of Oklahoma prospectors. A private detective named Glenn D. Magill led the group. The name Magill soon became a household word among those who were knowledgeable about the Lost Dutchman Mine. Some believed Magill had found the Lost Dutchman Mine while others doubted the claim of the Oklahoma detective.
Curt Gentry’s book “Killer Mountain” is
an account of Magill’s search for
 the Lost Dutchman Mine with a
 little exaggeration.
The book is available at the City Library.

Magill’s claim made front-page news throughout the United States. What an exciting story it was! Finally, the gold of Superstition Mountain had been found and many old timers who believed in the mine had been vindicated. Inquiries from around the nation poured into the small hamlet of Apache Junction. A Tucson radio station recorded a program at the mine site and later aired the program over their station. The program included interviews with the discoverers of this world-famous lost mine. Robert K. Corbin, a noted searcher for the Lost Dutchman Mine, who visited the site and was interviewed on radio.

The real story behind Magill’s discovery is how he became involved in the search for this legendary lost gold mine.

Glenn D. Magill was introduced to the initial search for this mine when he was a family man with a struggling business enterprise and bills to pay. Searching for a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona was the furthest thing from his mind.

Magill was born in Indianola, Oklahoma on October 16, 1927. His grandparents were Oklahoma pioneers, “Sooners”  who were originally involved in the Great Oklahoma Land Rush.  Magill grew up in Oklahoma City and as a youth was intensely interested in adventure. His dream for high adventure never waned, but as an adult he had a career  and a family to care for. These responsibilities prevented him from leading a wanderlust way of life.

Magill’s first introduction to the Lost Dutchman Mine occurred in an Oklahoma City theater in 1950. At this theater he saw the Columbia motion picture titled, “Lust for Gold,” starring Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino. The film was based on Barry Storm’s book “Thunder God’s Gold” published in 1945 at Tortilla Flat, Arizona. This more or less fictional version of the Lost Dutchman Mine story did little to invoke Magill’s desire to rush off to Arizona to search for this famous lost mine. Magill found the film to be a great adventure, but did not take it very serious. It was Hollywood’s way of presenting the facts about a lost mine, which Magill seriously doubted existed.

For the most part, Magill forgot about the Lost Dutchman Mine until an attorney friend of his in Dallas, Texas, contacted him. The attorney informed Magill he had a client in Denver, Colorado, who wanted someone to research the Lost Dutchman Mine to determine if it actually existed. The attorney asked Magill if he would be interested in examining some papers and documents about the lost gold mine in Arizona. Magill agreed to examine the material and assumed at the time his examination of the papers or material was not a paying job. After all, who hires a private investigator to search for a legendary lost gold mine? The attorney agreed to send the material to Magill for his thorough examination.

A few days later a package arrived for Magill. He returned with the package to his office and placed it on a file cabinet intending to open it immediately. The package was temporarily forgotten and remained unopened for several weeks. Under normal circumstances, Magill would have opened the package immediately, but in this case he thought he was doing a favor for a friend without payment so he attended to other matters that were more pressing of his immediate attention.

A few weeks later the Dallas attorney called Magill to inquire about what he thought of the papers he had sent him.  Magill apologized for not having examined them, but explained to his friend that he had been extremely busy.  Magill further advised the attorney that he was examining the information as a favor and was not expecting to be compensated for it.  The attorney explained to Magill he would indeed be paid for his time. A few days later a check arrived for $1,500.00. From that day on Glenn D. Magill, private detective was actively investigating the existence and location of the Lost Dutchman Mine.

This was a considerable earnest fee for a struggling private investigator in Oklahoma City in 1964. Magill now knew his client in Dallas was very serious about proving or disproving the existence of the Lost Dutchman Mine.

Magill’s investigation of the Lost Dutchman Mine led him across the United States, coast to coast, and into rustic old files searching for documents and information.  The more Magill investigated and researched the more he believed there was something to the story about a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.

Magill’s campsite on Bluff Springs Mountain became a center of intense activity for many years after the Associated Press International’s release in 1966. Magill tried to keep his trips into the mountain’s secret and out of the public limelight. This proved to be nearly impossible.

The general public believed or wanted to believe the Lost Dutchman Mine Exploration Corporation had at last found the fabled Lost Dutchman Mine. Prior to 1966 Magill had used a helicopter to pin point what he believed was the exact location of the Lost Dutchman Mine. He had methodically exhausted every clue he had obtained through research and then made his decision as to the precise location of Jacob Waltz’s bonanza.

Magill found what he thought was Waltz’s gold mine, but there was no gold bonanza to remove. Until the day of his death October 19, 1993, Glen Magill believed the Lost Dutchman Mine existed. He believed he had not pinpointed its exact location correctly.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Coke Ovens of the Gila River

February 22, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Recently I interviewed Mr. James Copeman, owner of the historic Coke Oven Ranch near Florence. The Coke Ovens are on private property that includes some 189 acres of land. Many people and visitors believe the Coke Ovens are open to the public to view. Mr. Copeman advised me the Coke Ovens and the 189 acres around the area are closed to the public, no exceptions.  

Citations will be issued for criminal trespass by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Fish and Game Department, or Ranch property patrols from now on. During the past ten years the ranch house has been destroyed and hauled off. The Coke Ovens are slowly being hauled away piece by piece. Also stones are being hauled away for souvenirs and to be cut up and used for bookends. My friends and readers—this is malicious and willful destruction of a historic landmark that appears on the National Registry of Historic Places as the Butte-Cochran Charcoal Ovens.

The “beehives,” as many old timers call them, present a very special visual to the Arizona backcountry. The search for gold and treasure in the Superstition Mountain area has guided many a treasure hunter down to the area on Gila River near Twin Buttes appropriately named North Butte and South Butte. The Gila River flows between the two buttes. Many treasure hunters believe the buttes are the starting point on the Peralta Stone Maps. However, the stone maps are phony and were created by a man named Travis E. Tumlinson. Many people believe these stone maps will lead them to treasure. There are those who disagree with this explanation that the stone maps are somehow connected with the area.

The surrounding mountains still harbor evidence of by-gone days. The coke ovens are among the historical remnants. They are located on a site which overlooks the Gila River, approximately 15 miles east of Florence. There are five ovens, wonderfully preserved, surviving in an area so remote and inaccessible that the lack of disturbance is easily understood. 
The Coke Ovens and the historic Coke Oven Ranch is located across the river one and a quarter miles west of the old Cochran town site along the Gila River and the Southern Pacific Railroad.

The Coke Ovens were constructed sometime during the 1870s to fire mesquite and to make coke for smelting ore.

Mr. Copeman said he believes the Coke Ovens were actually used to make coke for smelting gold ore from the area. There is a slag dump in the proximity of the Coke Ovens. The research I have seen stated the ovens were never actually used, however, all research is subject to debate.

Cochran was a small mining camp located about fifteen miles east of Florence along the Gila River. The town was established in 1905 and John S. Cochran was appointed postmaster January 3, 1905. The post office was discontinued on January 15, 1915. The town at its peak had an approximate population of one hundred residents. The town included a general store and boarding house.

Ironically, the old Coke Ovens are a historic landmark east of Florence, Arizona along the Gila River and the Southern Pacific Railroad. Again the Coke Ovens and the 189 acres around them are privately owned land and are closed to the public. Criminal trespass is a serious offense in Arizona and destruction of a historic landmark on the National Registry could be a federal offense.

The ovens were used to reduce mesquite wood to coke, a hotter burning fuel, for use in smelting gold and silver ore taken from surrounding mines. The beehive-shaped stone coke ovens are each about 25 feet in diameter and 30 feet in height. Each has a ground level entry and a few upper level vents. The mesquite wood, burned slowly in the ovens for days, yielded the coke. The new fuel was then transported directly across the Gila River to the community of Cochran (now a ghost town) and the smelters there.
I am certain most people will respect private property. Hopefully, all my readers do. We must work together to protect historical places and the Sonoran Desert from vandals, thieves, taggers and those who use off road vehicles. The public lands are for us to enjoy if we take care of them. Abuse and vandalism will only lead to more closures and restrictions on public lands in Arizona. Remember—historic things we preserve today will be here for our children and grand children and great grand children to enjoy in the future.

It is amazing the Coke Ovens have survived more than a hundred years and only now are in danger of being destroyed by inconsiderate visitors who are trespassing on private property.

If the Coke Ovens are to survive into the future they need to be continuously monitored somehow. The entire area is posted so there is no excuse for trespassing and willful destruction of this historical landmark on the National Registry.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cravey's Dream

February 8, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Jim Cravey woke up one May morning in 1947 from a dream he had about a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. He was convinced it was the Lost Dutchman Mine. He believed from his dream he could find the mine.

One of his friends, C. W. Vanderflute, tried to convince Cravey he was not able to go into the Superstition Mountains on such an adventure. After all he was 62 years old and crippled. One arm was almost useless and he had a leg that troubled him from an affliction that forced him to retire early from his career as a photographer.

Vanderflute lived in Cravey’s neighborhood near west Polk Street in Phoenix. Cravey insisted on hiking into the rugged wilderness and then hiking out to the Highway 60 between Apache Junction and Superior during the month of June.

James A. Cravey went about planning for his trip into the mountains. He purchased a backpack, bedroll, some tools, fifty foot of rope, food supplies, cooking utensils, and a large canteen. He also carried a pistol and compass.

As he thought about his impending adventure to find the gold mine of his dreams he decided he needed some help. He had read a lot about modern helicopters. He soon contacted Edwin G. Montgomery of Arizona Helicopter Services in Phoenix. Cravey explained his needs to Montgomery and Montgomery recommended that one of his pilots could fly him into the Superstition Mountains.

Montgomery introduced Cravey to Charles Marthens, an experienced helicopter pilot. Marthens explained to Cravey they could trailer the helicopter to an area near the Quarter Circle U Ranch and fly from there to his destination in the mountains. The distance was less than four miles, figured Marthens.

Charles Marthens flew Cravey and his supplies into the mountain on June 21, 1947. Cravey’s supplies included food, five gallons of water, fifty feet of rope, digging tools, a bedroll, and a canteen. As Cravey stepped from the helicopter with part of his supplies Marthens could not help but wonder how this adventure would end.

Marthens returned to his landing zone near the U Ranch and picked up the rest of Cravey’s supplies and returned. After flying James Cravey into the mountains Marthens loaded up his helicopter and drove back to Phoenix.

C. W. Vanderflute reported his concern for James A. Cravey to Sheriff Cal Boise when Cravey was overdue on July 1, 1947. Stanley Kimball, Captain of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies turned the missing person case over to Pinal County because he learned Cravey left the helicopter just beyond the Maricopa County line in the La Barge drainage.  When Charles Marthens was located he reported he let Cravey out of his helicopter on a small mesa near La Barge Canyon just beyond the county line with eight days of provisions.

Arizona Helicopter Services of Phoenix flew Jim Cravey and his supplies into the Superstition Mountains in June, 1947. Cravey was never seen again.
Pinal County Sheriff Lynn Early had not ruled out using an airplane or helicopter to search for Cravey. However, because of the extreme heat and rough terrain the aerial search was postponed. Sheriff Early also said violent thunderstorm conditions had discouraged the use of airplanes or helicopters in the search. The Sheriff ask Marthens if bloodhounds could be transported in the helicopter. Marthens discouraged the use of the small helicopter to transport bloodhounds therefore the idea was abandoned.

Sheriff Early had the exact location where Cravey departed from the helicopter, and on July 5, 1947, Jack Ashinhurst, MCSO Deputy and Arizona National Guard pilot 1st Lt. Clifford Gibson spent four hours on an aerial search of the area by plane. They did not find any trace of Cravey.

On July 8, 1947, Charles Marthens and Edwin J. Montgomery landed on the mesa near La Barge Canyon and located Cravey’s first night camp. Around an abandoned campfire site they found a bedroll, five-gallon can of water, and most of Cravey’s provisions for his eight-day adventure. The camp was located about eight miles southeast of Canyon Lake up La Barge Canyon, just inside the Pinal County Line. Cravey’s gun, mining tools, backpack, rope and canteen were missing. The landing site of Marthen’s helicopter was a small mesa between La Barge Canyon and Bluff Springs Canyon near La Barge Springs. This was about four miles from the landing site near the Quarter Circle U Ranch.  

Then on July 9, 1947, an experienced cowboy guide, Deputy Travis Wall, and a search posse took off at daybreak to search for Cravey in the drainage of La Barge Canyon. Cravey had been missing for three weeks by this time. Another friend of Cravey’s said he carried a fifty foot piece of rope hoping to use it to enter the mine’s shaft he had dreamed about. His crippled arm and legs would have prevented him from doing this said his friend Chris L. Adair, 2008 W. Tonto Lane, Phoenix, Arizona.

The search for Cravey ended on July 14, 1947, but it wasn’t until February 22, 1948 that hikers found human remains (bones). Captain R. F. Perrin, U.S. Army Ret. And Lt. Commander Welton W. Clemans of Chicago, guest at the Sunset Trail Ranch on East Main in Mesa, reported finding a man’s skeleton minus the skull about one mile southeast of Weaver’s Needle. The two retired hikers brought back the man’s wallet that identified the remains as that of James A. Cravey.

Sheriff Lynn Early took in a search party to the site on February 24, 1948. Early reported the skull was found in a Hackberry bush about 25 feet from the rest of the skeleton. There was no evidence of foul play. A rope and shoe apparently belonging to Cravey attracted the finders of the skeleton.

James A. Cravey’s dream of finding a lost gold mine lead to this man’s demise in a rugged, hostile and unforgiving mountain range for the inexperienced. Cravey was a total novice prospector and in extremely poor physical condition. He met the same fate as Adolph Ruth did, his predecessor in the summer of 1931. Both men died of natural causes brought on by their very poor health. Neither of them had any business going into this mountain range at any time, let alone during the heat of summer.  The combination of poor health and heat is often fatal. These kinds of tragedies continue to happen as gold fever sometimes overwhelms the innocent, the inexperienced and the na├»ve.