Monday, November 24, 2014

Apache Trail Circle Route, Part 1 of 3

November 17, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There were many important stage stops in the early days for teamsters and their animals while traveling the Mesa-Roosevelt Road (Apache Trail). These stations included Desert Wells, Weeks Station, Hall’s Station, Government Well, Mormon Flat, Tortilla Flat, Fish Creek Lodge and Snell’s Station. 

 Since 1906, tourists have traveled the Apache Trail and marveled at the spectacular beauty along the way. The original Apache Trail began at a Mesa railhead and terminated sixty-two miles away at the Tonto (Roosevelt) Dam site on the Salt River.

The construction of the Apache Trail (Mesa Roosevelt Road) began in November of 1903 and was completed in September of 1905. This sixty-two miles of roadway cost approximately $551,000 to complete and was used as a haul and service road during the construction of Roosevelt Dam. 

After the construction of the dam the road served as a maintenance road. There were several change stations along the road used by teamsters.  These stations included Desert Wells, Weeks Station, Hall’s Station, Government Well, Mormon Flat, Tortilla Flat, Fish Creek Lodge and Snell’s Station. 

The State of Arizona, under the leadership of Governor George P. Hunt, decided in 1919 to build a new transportation link between the cities of Phoenix and Globe.  Hunt considered the Apache Trail a very treacherous route for commerce.

The Apache Trail was narrow, rough and was often closed due to flooding and landslides.  Governor Hunt wanted to open the Globe-Miami copper industry to the Phoenix market.

The only road linking the area in 1919 was the Apache Trail.  Hunt knew the Apache Trail was not an efficient or dependable roadway for commerce.

The completion of the Phoenix-Globe Highway through Superior in May of 1922, opened commercial trade between the developing Salt River Valley and the copper rich central Arizona mountains.  This new highway completed the famous “Circle Route” that allowed drivers of automobiles to circumnavigate the entire Superstition Mountain region, a road-free region of some three to five hundred square miles.

If you want to take a trip over the famous “Circle Route” today, start in Apache Junction at the old “Dutchman’s Monument.” Drive northeast along State Route 88 (Apache Trail) about 4.1 miles and on the right side of the road you will find a stone entrance marker constructed on masonry rock from Roosevelt Dam. This 12.9-acre site is the home of the Superstition Mountain Museum.

About 4.5 miles up the trail on the left side of the road is Goldfield Ghost Town, Inc.  This is a modern recreation of the old gold mining boomtown of Goldfield (1893-1897).  Goldfield Ghost Town, Inc. has an excellent mine tour, train ride, a museum, great food and all kinds of specialty shops. 

As you continue up the Apache Trail the Bluebird Mine and Curio Shop is on the right side of the roadway.  This curio shop and pop stand has been operated continually since 1948, when “Red” Monigan first opened it.  Both the Bluebird and Goldfield are located in the Superstition Mining District.  A hundred years ago this was a booming gold mining district on the desert 23 miles east of Mesa, Arizona. The Mammoth Mine and Mill produced about three million dollars in gold bullion over a four-year period 1893-1897

A short distance up the road from the Bluebird is located the entrance to the Lost Dutchman State Park. This area was established in 1967 by the BLM and then turned over the State of Arizona in 1972. This became the Lost Dutchman State Park because of the extreme popularity of Superstition Mountain. The giant Superstition Mountain monolith towers above Lost Dutchman State Park some 3,000 feet with its cliffs and spires. The State park provides fee camping and there are miles of beautiful hiking trails.            

Shortly after leaving Lost Dutchman State Park you will enter Tonto National Forest.  This national forest encompasses more than 3,000,000 acres of public multiuse land.  As you travel along the Apache Trail in the national forest you will notice a complete absence of billboards and advertising signs.  No commercial signing is permitted along the historic Apache Trail for the next forty miles.  The Apache Trail was designated Arizona’s first historic highway in 1988.

Some two and a half miles down the road from the Lost Dutchman State Park is the site of Government Well. This site was an important stage stop in the early days (1903-1917) for teamsters and their animals while traveling the Mesa-Roosevelt Road (Apache Trail). 

The first automobile to travel the Apache Trail was on August 25, 1905. This car was a 1905 Knox built in Springfield, Mass. The car could carry seven passengers and had a twenty horsepower gasoline engine for power.  The automobile was used to carry passengers from Government Wells to Mesa, a distance of twenty-three miles. Holdren Brothers Stage Line was the first business to use motorized vehicles on the Apache Trail.

The drive from Government Wells to Canyon Lake is ten miles over a good asphalt road today. The volcanic rock formations along this portion of the route are spectacular. Most of the rocks are either ash or basalt in origin and were formed during the Tertiary Period of geologic time some 15-29 million years ago.  This is how most of the rocks in the western portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area were formed.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monument in the Sky

November 10, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Breaking ground for the original site for the monument on Apache Trail at Saguaro Drive in 1965 are (l-r) Albert Rather, Roy Hudson, Jack Weaver, and Harry Caldwalder.
An Air Force T-33 Jet plane at its new home on South Meridian Drive.
The Apache Junction area does not have many distinct monuments dedicated to the past. One monument, dedicated to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, lies some eight miles east of Apache Junction on Highway 60. This particular monument was erected in 1943. 

Another local monument is the Dutchman Monument,  dedicated to Jacob Waltz and the Dutchman’s Lost Mine in April of 1938 by the Phoenix Don’s Club. It was built to commemorate the history of the prospector, burro, and Superstition Mountain. This monument is located at the intersection of the Old West Highway (old Highway 60) and the Apache Trail in Apache Junction.

Another monument in Apache Junction is the Veteran Memorial Park and Gazebo at Idaho Road and Superstition Blvd.

There is another monument in Apache Junction, far more significant in many respects because of its longevity in our community. This monument is dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces who served their country in peace and war, and has stood by the American Legion Post 27 since 1965. It was the very familiar T-33 jet trainer setting atop a steel tower on Apache Trail at Saguaro Drive until the year 2000. The American Legion Post moved to its new location on South Meridian Drive, and the monument was moved as well. This column is to recognize the effort and dedication that went into the construction of this community icon.

Apache Junction is a melting pot and new residents often become involved in a variety of community activities. This was true of a man named Ken Gardiner, an American Legionnaire who thought that Apache Junction’s American Legion Post could acquire an Air Force T-33 jet trainer and install it on a steel post beside the American Legion.

Gardiner believed such an addition to Post 27 would bring attention to the men and women who served in the armed forces. The Legion committee responsible for the request of the aircraft and its installation was headed by Gardiner. Other members included Al Kennedy, Glen “Hap” Hawkins, Harry Cadwalder, Roy Kelchner, Joe Yanson and Roy Hudson.

Roy Hudson was the post commander at the time. He later became the first mayor of Apache Junction. He also later served as our State Representative and for eight years was our Pinal County Supervisor. Hudson, like many other Apache Junction Legionnaires, dedicated much of their lives to their community.

The project got started late in 1964 when a request for a surplus T-33 was forwarded to the officials of the Air Force Logistics Command headquarters at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. A T-33 slated for retirement was located and flown here from March AFB, California in June 1965.

Air Force personnel of the 3525th Field Maintenance Squadron at Williams AFB demilitarized the aircraft for the American Legion Post, and the men of the squadron volunteered to take the jet to a final resting place atop a steel tower on Apache Trail.

Under the direction of SMSgt. John Hancharik, a group of the field maintenance men loaded the plane on a tractor-trailer before dawn and proceeded toward Apache Junction from Williams AFB. The trip took two hours over a pre-planned route. The convoy was led by a legionnaire’s truck with a large sign reading, “Slow – Airplane Following.” The convoy was also escorted by two Pinal County Sheriff’s cars.

When the convoy arrived at the post, a large mobile crane was waiting to hoist the jet to the top of the steel tower where airmen bolted it into place. After the installation was completed the legionnaire committee of Post 27 was really proud of their achievement.

The T-33 jet trainer served the American Legion as important community icon for thirty years before it was moved in 2000.

On December 31, 1999 American Legion Post 27 moved to their new home on South Meridian Road.  Now the T-33 would be moved again.

Bud Hansing, a past Commander of Post 27, had chaired the building committee for the new American Legion Post 27, and also chaired the committee to move the airplane from its original home on Apache Trail to its new home on Meridian.

The moving of the aircraft was a genuine community effort supported by the veterans of American Legion Post 27 and the entire community of Apache Junction. Without the community support the moving of the plane would have been impossible.

For five decades the monument has honored the men and women of Post 27 who served their country. It is a constant reminder of those who sacrificed so much for the freedom we enjoy today. The plane is a very noticeable and noted landmark in Apache Junction, and has called attention to the community work of the American Legionnaires of Post 27. 

If you haven’t driven down Meridian south from Broadway and looked at the old plane... you should. This monument represents a very important part of our local history and expresses what a group of determined individuals can accomplish; not once, but twice.

We would like to remind you that Veteran’s Day was set aside to honor those who paid the ultimate price and can’t be here for the freedom we enjoy today in America. Our nation’s greatest resource is our young people who serve in the armed forces of the United States today insuring our freedom will bepreserved.

Take a moment and say thanks to a veteran this Veterans Day.

Editor’s note: Tom Kollenborn is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pot of Beans

November 3, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.


When I first hired on at the Quarter Circle U Ranch I had no idea what to expect. All I wanted was to be a cowboy. It wasn’t long before I learned that being a cowboy didn’t necessarily mean sitting on a horse and rounding up little doggies.

I had envisioned the more romantic things I had observed on the silver screen at the old Rex Theater in Hayden, Arizona. Each Friday night my father had taken me to the Rex. We lived in Christmas, Ariz. and it was a ten-mile drive to Hayden on a rough and dangerous road.

My cowboy heroes on the silver screen developed my knowledge of cowboys in general. To this day I don’t know why William Thomas Barkley hired me to take care of the Quarter Circle U Ranch in those days.

Barkley was always short on patience with new employees. He told me to feed the cattle and horses and to repair the corrals and gates. He provided me with a hand-drill, some stove bolts and some rough 2”X 6” X 10’ planks. He told me there was food in the cabinets and the Serval gas refrigerator. He never once said what kind of food there was to prepare or who would prepare it. I soon realized I was the new ranch cook and ranch hand. As Barkley drove away I still wasn’t that concerned about my survival on this isolated cow ranch some eighteen miles from Apache Junction.

Barkley pulled out about 10 a.m. after driving me out to the ranch and giving me some instructions. He told me he would pay me $75.00 per month. This would include my room and board. There I stood in the dust of his truck wondering what my future might be. At first I was thrilled that I had finally found a job on a cow ranch. Then reality sank in.

First, I examined the planks and bolts and wondered how I was going to built a gate ten feet long that would hang properly. I laid out my work on the ground and then decided I had better survey the kitchen at the bunkhouse and see what I had in the way of food.

Looking in the kitchen cabinets I found some pinto beans, dried chili, and some rice. I checked out the fridge and found lots of beef. I knew I wouldn’t starve, but I also didn’t know much about cooking food from scratch. I knew beans required a considerable amount of time to cook. So I decided my first dinner would consist of fried eggs. We had about eight laying hens down at the barn and a couple of roosters.

After dinner that evening I began to prepare the beans for the next day. I remember my mother cooking Pinto beans when she made chili. I poured out a pound or so of beans on the big boarding house table at the ranch. I spread the beans out and carefully sorted through them looking for stones and debris. I then crumbled up some of the chili. I mixed the chili and beans in a large pot of water and let them soak for the night.

The next morning I turned on the propane stove and put the pot of beans on the stove. I planned on checking the pot of beans periodically to see if they needed water added. I carefully placed a strong lid on top of the beans and then put a large rock on the bean pot lid. I knew beans were gassy, but gassy enough to blow the lid off the pot while they cooked? No, the rock on the bean pot lid was the keep the rats out of our beans. My boss, Bill Barkley told me never to leave anything in the way of food out or the rats would get into it. Bill said, once as a youngster he left the rock off the lid on the pot of beans and that evening when he lifted the bean pot lid to get a bowl of beans he was staring a dead rat in the eye. There are two ways of looking at that situation. You can go hungry or eat the protein-enriched pot of beans. Bill never told us which he did.

Every other day or so that summer I prepared a pot of beans with chili, beef, garlic, and ranch seasoning in it. Each time I cooked a pot of beans the taste would improve. I wasn’t certain if I was improving as a cook or just preventing starvation.  Yes, my diet did vary a little while I worked on the Quarter Circle U. Barkley occasionally would bring me cafĂ© prepared food such as Chicken.  In those days there were no fast food places in Apache Junction so when Barkley was at Bostwick’s for lunch he would bring me a basket of chicken. This was quite a change from my regular diet on the ranch. An old friend of mine named Manuel Zapeda down in La Paloma, Sonora told me beans and chili were the best food for longevity. He said his grandfather lived to be 110 eating chili and beans almost every day of his life.  The Zapeda family has been ranching in Northern Sonora for almost 150 years. As each year passes I think of what Manuel told me about beans and chili so many years ago.

You might say a pot of beans and chili became my legacy at the old Quarter Circle U Ranch. Yes, I learned to rope, use a horse properly, brand, dehorn, cut young bull calves, move cattle from pasture to pasture, check and work on windmills, maintain water holes, pack salt and feed, and many other jobs. I even learned how to maintain leather gear such as my saddle, bridle, headstall, chaps, and many other items essential to a cowboy’s life.

For a few years I had found my utopia, then I realized that not owning a ranch didn’t have much of future. Fate guided me on to another profession after I married the love of my life.