Saturday, October 8, 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.
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.
‘Superstition Joe’ (Cecil Vernon, circa 1960)
is part of Apache Junction’s legendary past. 
  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 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.
  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.
Lost Dutchman Monument on N. Apache Trail
  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.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Sword of Bluff Springs Mountain

Some thirty-two years ago Bob Corbin and I visited Ernie Provence and Tracy Hawkins at the store called the Lost Dutchman Mine Store some eight miles east of Highway 60 on the old Quarter U Circle Ranch road. The store was located about a mile east from the junction of Peralta Road and Quarter Circle U Ranch road.
  I had met Ernie Provence walking along the old U Ranch Road doing some surveying of property boundaries at the time. Ernie and Tracy were planning on opening a store and eventually a trailer park to attract winter visitors. This dream was totally dependent on them finding a good source of water. This is not the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine store, but story of an alleged Spanish sword found stuck in the ground on top of Bluff Springs Mountain north of the old Quarter Circle U Ranch.
  Corbin and I had driven out to the U Ranch with plans of riding into the mountains and looking around Whiskey Springs Canyon. We parked at the U Ranch at the time and Henry Jones assured us he would watch our truck and horse Trailer. After our trip we stopped by Ernie and Tracy’s Lost Dutchman Store site. The store was partially completed and Tracy had just installed a diesel Whitey power plant to run their big iceboxes. There was no electricity in the area and the nearest power lines were eight miles away. Ernie and Tracy were two very determined individuals. This particular day they were full of great stories about the area and their lives.
  It wasn’t long before Ernie brought up his old sword with gold trim on it that he called a Spanish saber. He said he found the saber on Bluff Springs Mountain while he was searching for the Peralta mines, Lost Dutchman mine, and various treasures in the area.
Ernie Provence at the 2011 Dutch Hunter’s
Rendezvous at the Don’s Camp.
  Ernie was convinced the saber was a Spanish weapon left there some two hundred years ago by the Spanish Conquistadors. Bob Corbin examined the sword carefully and questioned Ernie’s opinion. He told Ernie he had a friend at the University of Arizona that had knowledge about military weapons— particularly swords. After some discussion Ernie trusted Bob to take his cherished sword and have it checked and tested by an expert. Bob warned Ernie this would take a month or so, but Ernie wasn’t too concerned about the Attorney General of Arizona at the time taking his sword in to be studied and tested.

Ernie told us how he found the sword on top of Bluff Springs Mountain. He claimed he was following an old Spanish map that designated the top of Bluff Springs Mountain as a protected pasture for Spanish horses used on expeditions in the mountains to mine gold. The Spaniard had to have a place to pasture their horses that was safe so the Indians wouldn’t kill them and eat them. Ernie had found the sword stuck in the ground near where the Spanish kept their horses in Canyon de Fresco on top of Bluff Springs Mountain. Ernie and Tracy both believed this story with all their hearts. They both believed the Spanish had been on Bluff Springs Mountain and had used it to pasture their horses.
  As we prepared to leave that spring day from the site of Ernie and Tracy’s Lost Dutchman Mine Store Ernie carefully packaged his treasured possession and turned it over to Bob Corbin. Ernie told Bob as we left he was anxious to know the truth about the sword. Some people had told him it was Spanish and others had said it was not. Ernie called our attention to Ray and Liz Howland’s discovery near Castle Rock (Cathedral Rock) of Spanish armor in the 1930s. This find was never authenticated but years later it was said the armor was not authentic Spanish armor of the period. Few if any historians believed this wild story about Spanish armor dug up at the base of Castle Rock.
  Now Ernie’s sword would be put to the test. About six weeks later we returned to the Lost Dutchman Mine Store with some sad news for Ernie and Tracy. Several experts had looked at the sword and determined it was not Spanish even though it was trimmed in 14 Karat gold. The experts concluded it was a 1953 Korean Police dress sword.
  Ernie, at first, looked a little embarrassed but didn’t feel bad about the sword not being Spanish. He had found it stuck in the ground on Bluff Springs Mountain. I don’t think anyone doubted him about that part of the story.

  Most Arizona historians will tell you there were no Spaniards in the Superstition Mountains, much less Aztecs hiding their gold from Tenoctitlan, their capitol city in central Mexico. Yes, the mountains are rugged and have lot of secrets, but not secrets of Spanish or Aztec gold, not even Jacob Waltz’s gold. The majestic mountains do, however, make great stories that are very entertaining to many people and new arrivals to Arizona and Superstition Mountain area.
August 15, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dismal Valley

Several years ago Joe Clary introduced me to the military records of the Rancheria Campaign in the Superstition Mountain area.  It was among these field reports and maps that several new names for various landmarks within the Superstition Wilderness Area were discovered. The Rancheria Campaign against the Apache and Yavapai between the years 1864-1868 eventually ended much of the hostilities along the Gila and Salt Rivers.
  The region east of Tortilla Creek and west of Fish Creek Canyon formed a small alluvial flat that was once the site of the Tortilla Ranch.  Cattlemen and cowboys have used this valley for stock gathering and raising for more than a hundred years.
  Prior to the cattlemen’s use of this valley, it was an important Native American encampment or farmstead.  During the 1860s the Apaches and Yavapais had a rancheria in the valley. This village was used on an intermittent basis because of the water supply. When water was abundant the Native Americans grew maize, beans and squash along Tortilla Creek.
  The Apaches and Yavapais had a nasty habit of raiding their distant neighbors along the Salt and Gila River for women and additional supplies. Prior to 1860 there was very little the Pimas could do to prevent these raids.  It was certain death to challenge the Apache in their mountain sanctuary to the east. The Pimas avoided these mountains because the region was the home of their dreaded enemy.

John D. Walker organized a militia unit of Pimas and
white settlers to combat the Apache and Yavapai.
This militia was called the 1st Arizona Volunteers.
This all changed when John D. Walker settled along the banks of the Gila River, near modern-day Florence in early 1860.  Walker soon organized a loose-knit militia of Pimas and white settlers to combat the problematic raids of the Apache and Yavapai.  This militia was called the 1st Arizona Volunteers.  Territorial Governor John N. Goodwin commissioned Walker a brevet lieutenant and promised to help with supplies.

Walker’s first campaign against the Apache-Yavapai consisted of several attacks by his poorly armed and fed group of volunteers.  Even under such conditions this rag-tag militia struck hard against the Apache-Yavapai rancherias in the Pinal Mountains.  The first campaign consisted of approximately 200 Pima scouts and forty American settlers.   Camp McDowell was established along the Verde River in 1864 to control the predatory raids of the Apache-Yavapai from Tonto Basin down the Rio Salinas (Salt River) into the Salt River Valley. Units from the 14th, 24th and 32nd Infantries under the command of Brevet Colonel Bennett went into the field in 1866 and continued operations until the end of 1868.  Their mission was to eliminate hostile villages in the Tonto Basin area, the Pinal Mountains and the Superstition Mountains.
  May 11, 1866, Brevet Lt. John D. Walker led elements of the 14th and 24th infantries against Apaches and Yavapais in what is known as the Superstition Wilderness today. Their mission was to destroy all Native American villages or rancherias and capture or kill all inhabitants they could find south of the Salt River, north of the Gila River and east of the Superstition Mountain. 
  Walker turned southward from the Salt River at a place called Mormon Flat and then followed Tortilla Creek into the mountains.  His column first attacked a large encampment of Native Americans above Hell’s Hole on Tortilla Creek. The infantry unit killed 15 warriors at Hell’s Hole. The unit then moved up Tortilla Creek to Dismal Valley. Walker’s command attacked a large Rancheria in Dismal Valley killing fifty-seven Native Americans including several women and children. During the mopping up operation the mosquitoes were so fierce, the stench of the dead was so nauseating and the heat was so extreme the site became known as Dismal Valley. 
  Walker led several other campaigns into the Superstition Mountain area during the period 1860 to 1868.  It was this involvement that led to his name being prominently attached to the story of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. 
  Some storytellers believed Walker received a map from Jacob Waltz’s partner, Jacob Wisner. It was believed this map was given to Walker because of his knowledge of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Walker eventually passed this map on to Thomas Weedin, the editor of the Florence Blade. 
  Joseph Clary’s work with military records in Washington D.C. opened another interesting era in the history of the Superstition Wilderness Area. His research located many new names for landmarks in the area around Tortilla Mountain and in Dismal Valley.
  Prospectors and treasure hunters have always linked John D. Walker with Jacob Waltz and his alleged partner Jacob Wisner (Weiser).  It is apparent the most logical site for this link was during the military campaign of 1864-1868. The irony of this is the fact Waltz was not in the area until at least 1868. These skirmishes had already been fought. It is highly unlikely Walker came across Waltz or Wisner in the Superstition Mountain area.  It is very interesting how facts get mixed with supposition and faith. Walker was not involved with the second campaign against Apaches in the Superstition Mountain region.  Major Brown led units of the 5th and 10th United States Cavalries against the Apache in this campaign of the 1870’s.
  The Walker-Waltz connection is strictly supposition and there is little or no documentation to support it.  It is just another tale about the legendary mountain range east of Apache Junction.

October 3, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.