Monday, November 7, 2016

Truth from Fiction

Most historians accept the story that an old prospector named Jacob Waltz created one of the most popular legends in American Southwestern history. Storytellers will tell you he spun yarns and gave clues to a rich lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains.

However, historians will claim Waltz was a very quiet and secluded individual preferring his privacy. These clues and stories attributed to Waltz continue to attract men and women from around the world to search for gold. The search for gold in these mountains is pure fantasy to many, however others believe this legendary mine is as real as the precious metal itself.
Prospector ‘Superstition Joe’ (Cecil Vernon)
circa 1960, is part of Apache Junction’s
 legendary past. 

Who was this man who left this lingering story of lost gold in these mountains? The story of this mine remains the legacy of this old German prospector.

Jacob Waltz was born somewhere near Oberschwandorf, Wurttenburg, Germany sometime between 1808 and 1810. The exact date and place of his birth is still controversial. The precise date of his birth has not been documented with baptismal records or any other type of documentation. To further confuse the issue here, there was more than one Jacob Waltz born during this period of time.

His childhood was quite obscure because few records remain about his early life in Germany. There are no documents or records that Jacob Waltz had any formal education. There are certainly no records that prove he was a graduated mining engineer as claimed by some writers.

I have a very close friend who lives near Baden-Baden, Germany named Hemut Schmidtpeter. He has researched Jacob Waltz for the past twenty years or so.

The name Jacob Waltz is quite common in Germany and this fact alone confuses research on the topic.

Ironically, some of the most damaging information about Jacob Waltz was passed on to Helen Corbin when she wrote her book titled the “Bible On The Lost Dutchman Mine and Jacob Waltz.”

This information was passed on to her by a researcher named Kraig Roberts. Experts in documentation studied these records and found them to be altered. Did Roberts alter them or somebody else? Nobody knows for sure.

Since the Olbler transit records have been “proved to be altered,” it appears in all probability Waltz may have entered the United States through the port of New York or Baltimore as originally proposed by Jerry Hamrick. The Obler ship passenger’s manifest was definitely altered with the addition of Waltz’s name and others.

Now we can only rely on the existing facts. Waltz did sign his “letter of intent” in Natchez, Mississippi on November 12, 1848, to become a citizen of the United States. Waltz filed for his naturalization papers in Los Angles, California and became a citizen of the United States on July 19, 1861.

He soon traveled to the Bradshaw Mountains near Prescott. Waltz staked three mining claims there between 1863-1868. Waltz also signed a petition for Arizona Territorial Governor Goodwin to form a militia to stop the predatory raid of the local Native Americans on miners and prospectors in the area.

Lost Dutchman Monument on N. Apache Trail.
It is highly unlikely Waltz spent any time around the Vulture Mine or Wickenburg. He did settle on a homestead on the north bank of the Salt River. He filed papers on the homestead in March of 1868.

Waltz farmed a little and raised a few chickens. He was known for selling eggs in Phoenix. He prospected the mountains around the Salt River Valley.

Did he have a rich gold mine? It is not very likely he did. After his death in 1891 his legacy began to build with the many stories written by newspapermen and authors. Many had a story to tell and didn’t care how they told it.

Fiction replaces fact and we have the story today that is told around campfires and in cafes around Apache Junction. Wherever there is a gathering of individuals interested in lost gold mines you will find the story of the Lost Dutchman mine. This story is still alive and doing well some one hundred and twenty-five years later.

November 1, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Civil War in the Superstitions

October 24, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Several years ago I heard a couple talking about witnessing an American Civil War skirmish in the Superstition Wilderness between the Union and Confederate soldiers. As I listened, it sounded quite bizarre. The couple said they were hiking between Peralta Trail Head and First Water Trail Head when they came across two Civil War military detachments near Brush Corral. Members of the detachment didn’t speak or look at them. Actually the soldiers were like ghostly images in military uniforms. Some of the men were mounted cavalry and others were marching infantry.

Their story fired my curiosity. I started to investigate their story. They assured me they were not telling a tall tale, yet I couldn’t find any account of a civil war military action in the Superstition Mountain area that would have justified a re-enactment.

The next thing was to try and contact some of the local Civil War re-enactment groups for information. I was absolutely certain there were no Civil War battles in the Superstition Wilderness Area and the nearest skirmish was fought at Picacho Peak in April of 1864. I did find some information about a skirmish fought near Pinyon Camp in the Superstition in 1866 by the Arizona 1st Volunteers led by Brevet Lt. John D. Walker against the Apaches. This battle was fought after the Civil War ended. As I continued my research a story began to emerge.

Yes, a civil war skirmish had occurred in the Superstition Wilderness. Actually there were two skirmishes— one at Pinyon Camp along the Peralta Trail FS 102 and one at Brush Corral in Boulder Basin between West Boulder and East Boulder Canyons. The engagement at Brush Corral was between two cavalry units and two infantry units. The skirmish at Pinyon Canyon was between an infantry company and a cavalry unit.

An infantry company had ambushed the cavalry unit at Pinyon Camp. Re-enactment groups from Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa recreated these skirmishes on November 14, 1984. The circumstances and details of these skirmishes are now available after some thirty years. Several groups made these re-enactment skirmishes possible. These units were from the 7th Confederate States Cavalry, Mesa, Arizona, the 6th U.S. Cavalry, Tucson, Arizona, the 7th Georgia Infantry Regiment and the 1st U.S. Infantry, both units from Phoenix, Arizona.

The infantry units entered the mountains from First Water Trail Head and Peralta Trail Head at 7 a.m. on November 14, 1984, and the cavalry units entered the mountains from First Water and Peralta Trail Heads at 8 a.m. An ambush was staged at Pinyon Camp between an infantry unit and a cavalry unit. All units met at Brush Corral for the battle between Union and Confederate forces in the Superstitions.

The 7th Confederate Cavalry Re-enactment group organized the annual Picacho State Park re-enactment of the only American Civil War battle in Arizona. Several thousand people drove to Picacho State Park each year between 1979-2016 on the second weekend in March to witness the outstanding portrayal of the “War Between The States” skirmish in Arizona. Larry Hedrick of Apache Junction headed this group and did all the announcing between 1979-1992.

The 7th Confederate Cavalry also participated in the Inaugural Parade for Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1985. They also served as the Honor Guard at the Capitol Rotunda during the Inaugural Event and marched in the Inaugural Parade for George H. W. Bush. The group also recreated the Battle of Gettysburg at Apache Land on July 3 and 4, 1979 for Arizona to witness. The battle drew several hundred people.

An old friend of mine, Dan Hopper, was at Parker Pass on the Dutchman Trail when he witnessed an infantry unit pass him and his partner. He said they were all in uniform carrying what appeared to be cap and ball rifles of the Civil War period. He said none of the soldiers talked or look at them. He also said they were like ghostly figures marching into battle. Dan just recently told me this story. If you were a witness to this re-enactment in the Superstition Wilderness Area in 1984, you now know the whole story.

Larry Hedrick, organizer of the 7th Confederate Cavalry Reenactment group and central in the founding of the Superstition Mountain Museum. Photo by the Arizona Republic.
The legendary 7th Confederate Cavalry Unit has been disbanded for several years. Lt. Larry Hedrick organized and commanded this unit. The unit was cited many times for community service and historical preservation in Arizona. Hedrick was dedicated to preserving the history of the Picacho Pass, Arizona’s only American Civil War battle. A lot of history was associated with this skirmish in the Arizona desert near Piacacho Peak, which today is known as Piacacho State Park along I-10 Highway between Phoenix and Tucson.
Larry Hedrick also dedicated more than thirty-five years to the concept and building of a museum devoted to the preservation of the history and lore of Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Mine. I worked closely with Larry during the first ten years and witnessed his dedication, devotion and hard work to see the concept materialize into its building at Goldfield Ghost Town on January 31, 1990. Finally the museum had a building. This required ten years of hard work and dedication to a cause. I am certain it would have never happened without Larry Hedrick working closely with Bob Schoose to make this dream come true. We all stood proudly in front of the new museum building on January 31, 1990.

Again, it was Larry Hedrick who pursued the land transfers that eventually led to the money and property the museum board eventually acquired. This story is a reminder of just what goes into a dream and an idea that it is designed to protect and preserve the history of any given area or event.

History begins with proper preservation. The future lies in the hands of historians and those who guard the events of our times for the future. Larry R. Hedrick was such a man. He is a man who should be recognized for his dedication, determination and devotion to history and this museum. There needs to be something better than just a plaque. Something heroic needs to recall this man’s dedication, determination, devotion, and work in this community.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Murder Conspiracy At The U Ranch

October 17, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Recently I read on the internet about a local cattle family’s ranch being used to hatch a murder conspiracy. The murder conspiracy supposedly included Abe Reid, George “Brownie” Holmes, Milton Rose, Jack Keenan and Leroy Purnell. The ranch was the Quarter Circle U in Pinal County and the man to be murdered was Adolph Ruth, a Washington D.C. gold prospector. The year was 1931. 

The story goes something like this. Dr. Adolph Ruth arrived in Arizona in mid-May of 1931. He was searching for a pointed peak in the Superstition Mountains based on a map his son acquired in Mexico in 1914, which he believed would lead him to buried gold in the Superstitions. The old man was convinced he would be successful in these mountains because he had failed in California.

Ruth had searched in the southern California desert previously with another map he had acquired from his son. This trip was in December of 1919. Ruth was severely injured during this experience and almost lost his life. His limited success in the Anza-Borrego Desert of California convinced Ruth he would have better success in Arizona.

Ruth arrived in Arizona in May 1931 and went about trying to find somebody to take him into the Superstition Mountains. He eventually ended up at the old Bark Ranch or what Barkley called the Quarter Circle U Ranch. It was there he met William Augustus “Gus” Barkley.

Dr. Adolph Ruth was last seen on the morning on June 18, 1931, by a man he met near the old brush corral south of West Boulder Canyon.

On June 11, 1931, Ruth tried to persuade Barkley to take him into the region around Weaver’s Needle. Barkley refused because of Ruth’s physical condition and the summer heat. Barkley made every effort to point out the hazards of going into the mountains this time of the year. But Ruth was a man that could not be discouraged easily after his previous adventure in the Anza-Borrego Desert near Warner Hot Springs in 1919. Finally, Barkley agreed to pack Ruth into the mountains but told Ruth to wait three days for Barkley’s return from a trip to Phoenix.

Barkley left the ranch on June 12, 1931, and returned three days later to find Ruth had already departed for the mountains. Ruth had become impatient during Barkley’s absence and asked two local cowboy-prospectors to pack him into the mountains. These two men were Jack Keenan and Leroy Purnell.

Ruth was packed into the mountains through First Water to a site near Willow Springs in West Boulder Canyon. His campsite was just west of Weaver’s Needle.  Ruth’s camp was comfortable, he had water and the temperatures were only up around 94 degrees at midday. Considering the time of the year these temperatures were very moderate.

When Barkley returned to the Quarter Circle U Ranch he found the elderly Ruth had been packed into the mountains. Barkley rode into Ruth’s camp at Willow Springs in West Boulder Canyon on June 20, 1931. After examining the camp he determined Ruth had not used the site for at least twenty-four hours. When Barkley realized the old man was missing he immediately notified the authorities. 

A search was mounted and it continued for forty-five days without a trace of Adolph Ruth being found. The search conditions for Ruth were terrible with temperatures reaching the 115-degree mark and the search was finally abandoned around the first of August 1931.

It was later reported that early on the morning on June 18, 1931, Ruth had met a man near the old brush corral south of West Boulder Canyon. This man claimed Ruth was in good shape when he saw him but walked with a limp and appeared a little exhausted. They talked about the weather and the black gnats. Ruth asked the man for directions to Needle Canyon. The man told him how to find the trail over Black Top Mesa Pass and into Needle Canyon. He also noted Ruth was carrying a small side pack, like a military gasbag, and a thermos jug. The man also noted Ruth was carrying a side arm of some kind. This fateful meeting was recorded in the man’s prospecting journal.

This individual never stepped forward during the investigation because by the time he heard about Ruth missing, the search had turned into a murder investigation. It is my contention this was the last human to ever see Adolph Ruth alive. He reported Ruth in good condition, although he thought he was unprepared for such rugged country at this time of the year. When Ruth told him he had a base camp the man wasn’t as concerned.

Ruth’s skull was discovered a few months later on December 10, 1931, by the Phoenix Archaeological Commission’s expedition. Richie Lewis and “Brownie” Holmes led this group. William A. Barkley and Jeff Adams found the skeletal remains of Ruth on the eastern slope of Black Top Mesa on January 8, 1932, about a quarter of a mile from the location of the skull.

There was no final agreement as to exactly how Ruth died, but there was a consensus that he died of natural causes and did not die from some foul deed perpetrated by some evil contriving individual. The periodicals of the period conjured up all kinds of murder and conspiracy theories. These stories were the source of the many tales that survive today. Ruth’s son, Erwin, was convinced his father was murdered for an old Spanish treasure map he possessed. Erwin Ruth was a very melodramatic individual.

It is pure fantasy to believe a person or parties known or unknown conspired at the Quarter Circle U Ranch in 1931 to murder Adolph Ruth for a treasure map he carried. If the cause of Ruth’s death was not murder then there could have been no conspiracy at the U Ranch. Again, all evidence suggests Ruth died of natural causes. Doubt was only raised when Ruth’s son, Erwin, made claims his father was murdered for a map he carried.

This conspiracy story was dreamed up to malign a lot of honest Arizona pioneers because of conflicting beliefs and interest involving lost gold and treasure in the Superstition Wilderness. The Arizona Republic printed the map found on Ruth’s body. One of these individuals was Quentin T. Cox. He had a very fiery pen and often attacked people and their ideas in writing.

Hundreds of his letters exist today and these letters continue to keep this murder conspiracy going. Milton Rose, according to Cox, was one of the conspirators in the Ruth case. Rose also had a fiery pen and countered any story that implied Ruth was murdered.

I met Quentin Cox on several occasions while employed on the Quarter Circle U Ranch in the 1950’s. He often came up to the old U Ranch and visited. His tongue was as fiery as his pen when it came to talking about certain people associated with the Lost Dutchman Mine. I would listen to his rhetoric then go about my chores. Quentin Cox had some interesting stories and he adjusted them according to his theories. It is people like Quentin Cox, Milton Rose and others who keep the tales of the Superstition Wilderness alive and going today.

The Barkleys were true Arizona pioneers who worked hard to eke a living out of this desert and the Superstition Mountains. The Barkley’s never felt guilty or haunted about the Ruth incident or anything to do with it. Old Gus had made every effort to find Adolph Ruth and help his family. No such murder conspiracy ever occurred at the Quarter Circle U Ranch. However, each decade the story changes and some people claim other preposterous statements about the incident that occurred eighty-five years ago.