Monday, December 28, 2009

'Crazy' Jake's Camp

December 28, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

One of the most colorful and controversial characters to ever play a role on Oren Arnold’s Superstition Mountain stage was a man named Robert Simpson Jacob. “Crazy” Jake, the name he liked to be called maintained a camp off and on within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area east of First Water Trail Head about seven miles. His main camp was located in Squaw Box Canyon just off La Barge Canyon below Marsh Flats. He used this camp for many years between 1966- 1974. After 1974 he moved his camp to the top of Peter’s Mesa just above his camp in Squaw Box Canyon. Jake was known to maintain quite elaborate camps in the mountains. He often entertained his investors and the press.

First, let’s discuss his camp in Squaw Box Canyon. This camp was located among some very large boulders at the mouth of Squaw Box Canyon. One boulder was large enough to serve as a shelter and protect his mining equipment. There was enough room under the boulder for four or five cots. Jake had large tarps stretched from boulder to boulder making a large shaded area for a kitchen and a place to rest out of the sun. I visited this camp about 1972. Actually it was by accident I came up on the camp with a group of Boy Scouts. Jake immediately advised us from horseback that it was far too dangerous to camp around his area because of blasting and etc. I lead the scout troop on down the canyon about 500 yards. Jake invited my assistant and I to visit his camp once we had our camp set up. My scouting assistant declined the invitation, but I decided to walk up to his camp and see what it was all about. The first thing I noticed when I walked into camp was the crude stone corral they had constructed to keep their horses in. Jake had five or six men in camp when I visited. He introduced me to a couple men and told them we were camping just below their camp in La Barge and he didn’t want any blasting or target practicing going on until we left the next morning. Jake’s Camp consisted of sleeping, storage and kitchen areas all partially under a large boulder and tarps stretched between other boulders held up with large poles. Some of his men slept in small tents away from the main camp. Jake’s camp was quite elaborate when it came to camping facilities. They even had a packer coming in every other day bringing them supplies that included ice.

I visited “Crazy” Jake’s upper camp upon Peter’s Mesa for the first time in 1987. By then Jake had abandoned his lower camp. This site was also quite elaborate for a mountain camp. This camp included large cabin tents. He had a cook tent, and the rest of the tents were used for sleeping quarters for his workers. I looked at some of the holes he had his men dig. The holes were randomly dug into rock that had no mineral value at all. Most of the rock in this area was volcanic ash or basalt. One of the most interesting things about this Peter’s Mesa Camp was the fact Jake built a trail from down in Squaw Box Canyon up the side of Peter’s Mesa to his upper camp site. I was amazed at the work that went into this trail. Many years later Ron Feldman and I took a news crew over this trail on horseback. What a challenge that was? Even my old friend Bob Corbin rode along on this trip. An old cowboy outfitter named Bud Lane packed supplies over this trail to Jake during the summer months when he had a crew in the mountains. If Jake had investors, he always had a crew working in the mountains. Many people have wondered where he hid all money he talked people out of. I don’t think he hid the money. I really believe he spent a lot of it in the mountains. He was certainly a man with a golden tongue and could talk people out of their money.

If you worked for Jake in the mountains he usually took good care of you if he had good investors. Jake’s camps never lacked the proper supplies to keep going as long as Jake was the ramrod them. He also spent a lot of money on frivolous things such as cases of bottled whiskey from Canada that were labeled “Crazy” Jake’s Whiskey. Jake maintained a headquarters at the Trails End Ranch in Chandler located at the corner of Pecos and Alma School Roads. His headquarters was an elaborate ranch-style home with a downstairs bar and a walk-in Diebold safe. The interior of the house was quite ornate with beautiful and valuable oil paintings. Jake had the ideal setting to convince investors to invest in his rich mining operation in the Superstition Mountains. Jake had about thirty head of horses on the ranch when I first visited it in the early 1980’s. I later found out the horses belonged to Jess Shumway and that Jake had worked out a deal to use the horses in return for feeding them. He also did not own the ranch-style home he was living in.

Robert Simpson Jacob became a legend in his own lifetime while pursuing the money of the wealthy with one of the biggest and must ridiculous scams since territorial days in Arizona. Today, in Apache Junction, many old residents have “Jake Stories” to tell if you have the time to listen. He had many wealthy doctors and lawyers investing in his gold schemes. I am sure someday a book or maybe a film will be made about Robert Simpson Jacob’s adventures in the Superstition Mountains.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Maiden Prayer Glen (Reavis Fall)

December 14, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The rugged Superstition Wilderness Area preserves some of Arizona’s most beautiful natural wonders. One of these natural wonders is a one hundred and ninety-six-foot waterfall near Castle Dome Peak. This waterfall can be found in a deep canyon about three miles north of the old Reavis Ranch.

The water from this fall tumbles over a basalt escarpment that traverses the flow of Reavis Creek. Reavis Creek is the main feeder stream for the fall. Most of the water that flows down Reavis Creek originates from seeps, springs, and ground water that percolate down through aquifers that underlie the region. Water flows over the fall year around except during extended periods of drought. This would probably classify the fall as intermittent. Reavis Fall is one of Arizona’s highest falls.

A trip to Reavis Fall is not for the novice hiker or horse person because the terrain is extremely rough with many deeply dissected canyons with perpendicular walls. The shortest and safest route to Reavis Fall is from the Reavis Ranch Trail Head three miles south of State Route 88, the Apache Trail. Often this parking lot is full on the weekend during the winter months. A trip into the waterfall requires about three and half hours on the trail. The last time I was over the trail it was in extremely poor condition and some areas were almost impassible.

Photographing this isolated fall can be a challenge even for a good photographer because of the precipitous cliffs, dense undergrowth, cold water, lighting and poor camera angles. Walking up Reavis Creek is a nightmare of dense underbrush, large boulders, numerous water crossings and always the possibility of a flash flood. Upon arriving at the base of the fall a photographer will encounter other problems such as mist resulting from the action of the water flowing over the basalt ledge. A lot of the water turns to mist in its almost two hundred foot drop from the top of the fall. The second major problem at the base of the fall is adequate lighting. Light conditions at the base of the fall are poor under the best of conditions.

The National Registry of Place Names never officially named this fall. The name of the fall does not appear on any official maps produced by the county, state or federal government. It is quite apparent the name used today for the fall originates from an earlier settler who lived here between 1874 and1896. His name was Elisha Marcus Reavis.

The naming of the fall may have been ignored in a deliberate attempt to protect the fall from too many visitors or maybe just an oversight on behalf of forest service or U.S.G.S cartographers. Some individuals I have interviewed over the years believed the forest service wasn’t aware of the existence of the fall. This is highly unlikely because the original goal of the forest preserve (Tonto National Forest) was to protect the watershed of the Salt River drainage system. Periodicals indicate there was knowledge of the fall as early as 1878. Military records indicate the fall was known during campaigns in the area between 1872 and 1874. Elisha Reavis told friends about the fall and even showed the fall to a few hearty souls as early as 1878.

Boy Scouts from the Theodore Roosevelt Council traveled to Camp Geronimo, Pineair, Reavis Ranch for summer camp on June 16, 1922. While at Camp Geronimo the scouts were involved in a variety of activities, including hiking. Several of the scouts hiked to Reavis Fall (or Maiden Prayer Glen as it was called by some of the scout leaders). It was such 1922 Arizona’s Governor Thomas Campbell visited the scouts in camp at Pineair. Seventeen years later the Department of Agriculture would authorize the forming of the Superstition Primitive Area.

To describe Reavis Fall area is like painting a picture of a true mountain “Garden of Eden” in the heart of the desert. The area includes Cottonwoods, Sycamores and numerous climbing vines at the base of the fall. Juniper, Pinyon pine and a few Ponderosa pines can be found at the top of the fall. At the base of the fall there is a large plunge pool measuring twenty to thirty feet across and four to five feet deep when there is sufficient flow that dominates the area. The water in this pool is usually crystal clear except during runoff after a major storm in the area.

Visitors called the area “Maiden Prayer Glen” in the 1920’s using the name to describe the beauty of this region. This was another name for an interesting landmark in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Author’s note: The Theodore Roosevelt Boy Scout Council’s first Camp Geronimo was held at Pineair along Reavis Creek seventeen years before the region became part of the Superstition Primitive Area in 1939.

Monday, December 7, 2009

One Man's Dream - Air Rescue

December 7, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The history of aviation has an interesting role in the legacy of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Men and their flying machines usually avoided the air space over the rugged topography of this vast wilderness during the 1920’s. Aviation was in its infancy during this decade. Most airplanes were underpowered and very dangerous to fly at low altitudes. Flying low over rugged terrain such as the Superstition Mountains was out of the question for most early aviators of the Salt River Valley.

The 1920’s marked an unusual interest in airplanes and flying by the public. Men like Commander Francesco de Pinedo and Colonel Charles Lindbergh held the world in awe with their aviation accomplishments. At the same time another man in Arizona was fascinated by the flying machine. Paul Ruble’s fascination for flying could not be controlled. In 1928, he designed and built his own airplane in the desert of Arizona. Not only did he design it and build it, he test flew it. His first airplane was somewhat underpowered, but was capable of extremely tight maneuvers. Ruble spent hours flying his creation over the mountains of Central Arizona.

Paul didn’t like to fly high in the air; he liked being close to the ground. Paul Ruble flew through canyons and mountains nobody else dared to. Paul was also a visionary who believed someday flying machines would be used to spot lost or injured people in the deserts and mountains of Arizona. His antagonist of the period claimed planes flew too high and too fast to be used successfully in air searches. This did not discourage Paul Ruble, he continued flying low and slow over the deserts and mountains of Arizona developing his skills as a pilot and attempting to prove his point.

Paul Ruble made several flights over the now famous Superstition Mountain range. He reported to friends the violent updrafts and down drafts that plagued the area during the summer months. Ruble was convinced these hazards could be avoided if flying was done in the early morning and late evening. Most aviators of the period felt low-level flying was far too dangerous, therefore airplanes would never be used for searching the rugged mountains of Arizona.

Some aviators also believed even if airplanes were safe enough for air rescue work, the cost of operating them would be prohibitive.

It was three years later in July 1931 the first attempt was made to use an airplane on a search and rescue mission. This aerial search occurred over the rugged Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Adolph Ruth, a Washington D.C. prospector, had been reported missing in the Superstitions on June 18, 1931. Men and dogs had been searching the canyons and towering peaks of the Superstition range for three weeks and had found no trace of Ruth. On July 1, 1931, Erwin C. Ruth, the missing man’s son, hired a pilot and airplane to search the rugged mountain range. Ruth later claimed all pilots of the period held a great fear of these mountains and would never descend below 7,000 feet while flying over them. It was suicidal to fly into the canyons of this mountain range, most pilots believed.

Ruth was finally able to secure the services of Mr. Charles Goldtrap, a pioneer aviator in Phoenix to fly a couple of search missions. Goldtrap had recently opened an airport in Phoenix and needed the money to operate it. Ruth offered Goldtrap $200 if he would search the Superstition range for his father in an airplane.

Goldtrap, accompanied by Edward D. Newcomer, made the first aerial search of the Superstition Mountains with an airplane. Newcomer was a photographer for the Phoenix Gazette. On that hot July day in 1931, Goldtrap and Newcomer changed aviation history in Arizona and fulfilled Paul Rubles’ vision that someday airplanes would be used for searches over rugged mountain terrain for missing people.

This was the beginning of air search and rescue work in Arizona and it was another important application of the airplane. It was a primitive start initially, but rapidly grew with the onset of World War II. Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s the importance of aircraft in air search and rescue was proven again and again by the hundreds of civilian and military searches and rescues performed by the use of aircraft. There are those who will question the authenticity of this information because the basic concept of air search and rescue was started in many places at the same time.

It was 1947, when another prospector disappeared in the Superstition Mountains. James A. Cravey, a retired Phoenix photographer vanished from his camp deep in the mountains. Cravey had hired a helicopter from the Arizona Helicopter Service in Phoenix to fly him to a secret location in La Barge Canyon. On June 3, 1947, Charles Marthens, a pilot for Arizona Helicopter Service, had flown Cravey to a predetermined location and planned to return two weeks later to pick Cravey up. When he returned he could not find Cravey and then reported him missing to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Lynn Early organized the search. Cravey’s trip was the first time a helicopter was used for a prospecting venture in the Superstition Wilderness. Ironically, the same helicopter was used unsuccessfully to locate James A. Cravey.

Marthens used his helicopter for several hours trying to locate Cravey, but failed. The search for Cravey continued for several weeks without success. 1st Lt. Clifford Gibson, Arizona National Guard, searched several hours for Cravey on July 4, 1947, but failed to find any sign of him. This was the first recorded use of a helicopter in an air search and rescue in the Superstition Wilderness.

Since that first helicopter search hundreds of stranded and lost hikers have been rescued from the cliffs, mountain peaks and canyons of the Superstition Wilderness by military helicopters stationed at Williams Air Force Base or Luke Air Force Base since the early 1950s.

On October 1, 1972, the Arizona Department of Public Safety acquired their first air rescue helicopter. This unit has made many rescue and search flights over the Superstition Wilderness Area. Even with this modern and sophisticated helicopter it is still a difficult and time consuming task to extract an injured person from rugged terrain, especially areas like the western face of Superstition Mountain.

During the summer of 1985, Deputy Gene Berry of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with the Department of Public Safety’s Air Search & Rescue Unit and the Apache Junction Search & Rescue, introduced a method of mountain rescue which has increased the chances of survival for injured people involved in accidents in rugged mountain terrain. The method of rescue requires the extraction of an injured victim from a site, where a helicopter cannot land, by rappelling a trained rescue team down to the injured person. The victim is then stabilized and lifted out by the helicopter, which never has to land.

From the efforts of this highly trained and professional mountain rescue team emerged the Pinal County Mountain Helicopter Rescue Team. Arizona residents and visitors can rest assured they have one of the best mountain rescue teams in the world now based near the Superstition Mountains.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Don Shade - A Man and His Dream

November 30, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Since 1946 many individuals have played a significant role in the Superstition Mountain drama. One such person was Don Shade. Not everyone was close to Don and understood his love for the mountains. However, a casual conversation with him would definitely convince you of his love affair with the Superstition Wilderness and its many stories. I first met Don Shade in 1961. He was preparing to go into the Superstition Wilderness from the First Water trailhead. It was I who prompted our meeting. I could tell Don was a Dutch hunter just by the kind of gear he was packing into the mountains. We talked briefly and this began a friendship that lasted more than two decades. Don Shade was an old timer when it came to Dutch hunting. He began his search with men like Barry Storm in the early 1950s. Don considered Barry Storm a good friend. Don told me about how Barry moved the “Two Soldiers” story from the Mount Ord area to the Weaver’s Needle area. I recalled one time sitting on the porch of the Bluebird talking to Barry Storm and Don Shade. Don made a couple of trips with Barry to Arizona when he was selling books. I don’t recall what year these trips occurred, but I am guessing it was in the early 1960s.

Don Shade was a dedicated and systematic Dutch hunter. He was reluctant to share his information with anyone. The last several years of his life was spent at the O.K. Corral in Apache Junction. Don became a close friend of Ron and Jayne Feldman and he often helped out around the corral. When Don and I re-established our friendship Don talked about some of the more bizarre possibilities associated with the Superstition Mountains and lost treasure. He was always trying to solve the mysterious content on several maps, especially those with cryptic symbolism.

It was toward the end of 1980 Don Shade came across a cryptic map allegedly given to somebody by Marie Jones, the infamous adversary of Ed Piper’s near Weaver’s Needle. It was the same map Charles Kenworthy had analyzed by several different universities including UCLA, Harvard, MIT and Hebrew University in Israel because he believed the map was in some form of Hebrew. The origin of the map was and still remains unknown, however there were stories about its source. One story claims the map was originally found on a flat sheet of native copper. This sheet of copper had been rolled up and found buried in the Superstition Mountains at some undisclosed location. Kenworthy had worked on deciphering this map for several years.

Don Shade found the map extremely interesting. The origin of the map was never established, but Shade eventually pronounced the map authentic and placed it in his book, Esperanza on page 104. Don claimed to have located a worked out mine from the information he gathered from this map. The site of the mine was in a rugged tributary of Old West Boulder Canyon. Several years ago in late May I rode into the canyon and packed Don Shade and his camp out of this area. On this particular occasion Shade was really pleased to see me in his camp. It was getting hot, he was low on water and he needed to get out of the mountains. Don always kept sufficient supplies in camp. He always had lots of water hidden about his camp, however this had been a dry year. As I was packing his gear he said he could have lasted most of the summer if nobody had showed up to pack him out. He was seventy-six years old that spring.

Don Shade had some unusual methods that helped him to interpolate his ideas with other original information. It was this type of research that led Don to the site near Old West Boulder Canyon twenty- five years ago.

Don Shade never gave up his search for the Dutchman’s Mine. He did eventually publish his book, The World Famous Lost Dutchman Mine: Esperanza in 1994. Don Shade was an intelligent and interesting individual. You might find a copy of his book in the City of Apache Junction’s Library. He was a kind and honest person dedicated to history and legends of Superstition Mountain.

Donald Maurice Shade was born on August 28, 1915 in Hubbard, Iowa. Don was an outstanding athlete in high school. He was a four-year letterman in basketball and earned all-state honors as a shooting guard. Don attended college between 1935-1938 majoring in business law. Don Shade enlisted in the United States Army in 1940 and was discharged in 1946 as a Sergeant Major. Don fought in many of the major battles in Europe during World War II. Shade became fascinated with the Superstition Mountains and its many stories in early 1960’s. For more than thirty-five years Don Shade researched libraries and prospected the Superstition Mountains. Don passed away on November 3, 1996, ending an almost four decade quest for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Origin of the Lost Dutchman's Mine Story, Part 2

November 23, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Spirits were high among the three very amateur adventurers searching for Waltz’ lost gold mine, but the tortuous summer heat and humidity soon took its toll. Toward the middle of the second week it was impossible to search accept in the very early morning or late evening. At the end of the third week the three explorers collapsed from exhaustion, lack of food and water. The search for Waltz’s mine was abandoned and the three returned to Phoenix exhausted, defeated and unsuccessful.

A local newspaper, the Arizona Weekly Gazette, noted the expedition with the following excerpt on September 1, 1892, “A Queer Quest, Another Lost Mine Being Hunted by a Woman.”

This prospecting venture reduced Julia Thomas to financial ruin. She and the Petrasches were destitute, having no source of income or a place to reside. Julia soon departed company with the Petrasches and married a farm laborer named Albert Schaffer on July 26, 1893.

At Schaffer’s encouragement Julia produced maps using what information she could remember. She became very resourceful and began producing excellent maps illustrating how to locate the lost gold mine of Jacob Waltz, her recent friend. These fraudulent sheets of paper were probably the first maps to the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. It is also quite apparent that Julia Thomas gave Peirpont C. Bicknell an interview about the Lost Dutchman Mine. Bicknell chronicled the mine in the San Francisco Chronicle in an article on January 13, 1895, making reference to most of Thomas’ clues. Now the story was out nationally that there was a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains.

The abandonment of the Petrasch brothers by Julia Thomas left them on their own. Rhinehart worked around Phoenix for awhile and eventually move up to Globe. He worked as a caretaker at an archaeological site in Globe for many years before committing suicide on February 5, 1943. Rhinehart was known as “Old Pete” around Globe and Miami. Herman had many odd jobs, first working as an apprentice blacksmith, then working for different cattlemen around the Superstition Mountain area. He was an excellent carpenter and worked at the old Reavis Ranch house for the Clemans Cattle Company in the 1930’s.

Hermann also repaired waterholes and windmills for the Clemans. He was seriously injured when a packhorse pulled his riding horse over backward along Hewitt Canyon in 1938. Hermann eventually settled near the bank of Queen Creek in the area of the Martin Ranch. The Martins looked after Hermann for many years. They would take Hermann to the dances in Superior where he would play his fiddle. Old Hermann had a host of friends, including my father. Newspaper reporters, authors, and magazine writers visited him from time to time and many articles were written about Hermann and his search for the old “Dutchman” mine.

My father and I visited old Hermann Petrasch on Queen Creek in October of 1952, during my freshman year in high school. I was more interested in baseball than I was lost gold mines at the time. He told us he was ailing a bit, but was still willing to talk with us. Hermann never complained about his aches and pains, he just endured. Herman Petrasch passed away on November 23, 1953.

I would like to clear something up about an old photograph taken of Hermann Petrasch in Queen Creek with a gold pan and shovel. The photograph appeared in Barney Barnard’s book, giving credit for the photograph to him. The person who actually took that photograph was Robert L. Garman, one of Hermann old friends.

The awful irony of the Petrasch- Thomas episode is that their journey into the Superstitions in the blistering hot days of August 1892 led them directly over the Black Queen and Mammoth mines that were discovered later that year. It was in April of 1893, four men discovered the famous Mammoth mine. That mine produced two million dollars in gold bullion when gold was worth only twenty dollars a troy ounce. Some historians believe the Bull Dog or Mammoth mine was the source of Waltz’s bonanza gold ore.

Julia Thomas and the Petrasch brothers were not successful in finding the Dutchman’s Lost gold, however, they initiated a legend that will likely endure forever.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Origin of the Lost Dutchman's Mine Story, Part 1

November 16, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Mountain has served as a beacon to treasure hunters and the curious around the world. Fortunes have been made and lost in the search for the Lost Dutchman Mine, however the mine has never been found. Many claim the majestic beauty and tranquility of the region are the only treasures man will find in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

The Lost Dutchman Mine was name after Jacob Waltz, an old German prospector mistakenly called the “Old Dutchman.” He allegedly discovered a rich gold vein in the Superstition Mountain region east of Phoenix, A man named Hermann Petrasch was probably one of the most persistent seekers of Waltz’s mine. You might say Hermann was the “father of all modern Dutch hunters.” Hermann, and his brother Rhinehart, began their search for the mine with Julia Thomas in the summer of 1892.

Carl Gottfried Hermann Petrasch was born in Hennersdorf, Germany on the 24th day of April, 1864. Hermann arrived at the Port of Entry, New York, New York in the spring of 1869. He had left Germany with his father Gottfried when he was only five years old. Herman accompanied his father to the town of Whatcom, Washington. Herman’s father traveled widely throughout the West, first Washington, Montana, Colorado, and finally to Arizona. Hermann lived in Arizona almost sixty years and most of those years were spent in and around the Superstition Mountain area. Petrasch did not apply for United States citizenship until October 1938.

Hermann arrived in Arizona shortly after the death of Jacob Waltz in October of 1891. He came to Arizona at the request of his brother, Rhinehart. Rhinehart wanted Hermann to assist him and Julia Thomas in the search for Waltz’s gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. Rhinehart claimed that he and Julia had the clues to locate Waltz’s rich gold mine.

Rhinehart Petrasch had been residing in Phoenix for some time and helped Julia Thomas with her business. Some historians believe Rhinehart became a close associate of Jacob Waltz in his final days at Julia’s residence on West Jackson Street in Phoenix. Rhinehart learned a few meager clues during this period some believe, but not enough to find the mine. Waltz may or may not have mumbled out any clues in the final days of his life. If any clues were given out, surely Waltz would have given them to Julia as his caregiver during his long illness.

As the end became apparent for the “Old Dutchman” he called Julia and Rhinehart to his side, some say, and gave them the final clues to his rich gold mine in the Superstitions. This would have been fine, but Julia and Rhinehart had been celebrating a bit too much and their minds were a little foggy. This they would regret when they wandered aimlessly in the mountains searching for Waltz’s mine. Julia and Rhinehart tried to put the pieces together after old “Jake’s” death. Their first decision was to find another partner they could trust. Julia accepted the idea of inviting Rhinehart’s brother Hermann to join them in the search for Waltz’s mine. Hermann was living in Colorado at the time.

Early in August of 1892, shortly after Herman Petrash’s arrival in Phoenix, Julia Thomas, Rhinehart and Hermann Petrasch began to organize their expedition to search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Julia Thomas had purchased a team, wagon, and camping gear for their expedition into the Superstition Mountains. The group departed Phoenix before sunrise on August 11, 1892, with little fanfare. The party moved slowly along the old Tempe- Lehi Road. They spent their first night a Marysville Crossing. The next morning they turned southeastward toward Superstition Mountain and the desert flatland west of the mountains. The second day of travel eastward across the desert toward the western face of Superstition Mountain proved difficult until they found some wagons tracks. These wagon tracks lead northeast toward Superstition Mountain and the Goldfield mining area; however crossing washes became very difficult for their overloaded wagon.

Somewhere along this route the group realized they had to abandon the wagon. They spent their next night under the cliffs of Superstition Mountain, some say near the entrance of Monument Canyon. At sunrise the next morning they were packing up their two horses and decided to walk toward the northwestern end of Superstition Mountain. Julia was searching for La Sombrero, the pointed peak she said Jacob Waltz had told her about. The heat and humidity was stifling, but the three adventurers continued walking and leading their pack animals.

According to Hermann Petrasch they camped the next evening in Needle Canyon, at least he thought it was. Years later Hermann said, “We might have camped in East Boulder Canyon on the western side of Black Top Mountain that third night. The next morning we were up at sunrise again and climbed a steep ridge to a pass and walked down into a deep canyon. We could see the pointed peak old Jacob had talked about. It was here they set camp for the next three weeks as they used their clues to search the area.

Next week, Part 2

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thank you, my friends...

I would like to thank all of my readers for their support. I enjoy writing about the legends and stories of the Superstition Mountains. Some of these stories are centuries old and have been handed down from family to family. Some of the tales come from the files of various periodicals. I try to find accurate sources, but like all stories about lost gold mines and other interesting events one can never be absolutely certain about their sources. I try to sort fact from the enormous amount of fiction and lies we find about the infamous Dutchman's lost mine and other stories about the region. I started writing columns in 1976 and I still continue to research the material I use, looking for as much authentic material as possible. Researching periodicals does produce some very uncertain sources with little or no documentation. Always remember these are stories that are often parts of a legend. Take care and enjoy............Tom Kollenborn

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Golden Cannon

November 9, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There are so many different stories and tales about the Superstition Mountains and the alleged gold mine that supposedly exist there. People’s imaginations have often been carried away because of what they think they see or read. Of course, interpretation has everything to do with the reality of a story. Our cognitive reasoning power is often put aside when it comes to lost gold and treasure stories. It is a lot like purchasing a lottery ticket. There is always that possibility of winning, but it is highly unlikely. The following story will give you an idea how the mind can play tricks on ones imagination and rearranges one’s common sense about reality and fantasy.

Some years ago a man who was well educated, but not necessarily rational, approached me in class I was teaching and told me a bizarre story about the Superstition Mountains and a solid gold cannon. He said the Spaniards had cast the cannon out of gold rather than bronze because the mine they had been working was so rich with bonanza gold. They had no bronze to cast a cannon according to the story teller. The Apaches, he said, continued to attack the Spaniards for several weeks so they hurriedly cast this “golden” cannon. I wanted to suggest to the gentlemen that a cannon, even a small cannon, would weigh more than a ton if cast of gold.

Let’s see... a cubic foot of gold weighs over 1400 pounds. Any cannon big enough to be effective would require at least a couple of cubic feet of metal, usually cast iron or bronze, depending on the period of time.

The man further claimed he had located the cannon in a cave back in the Superstition Mountains. He was adamant that someone accompany him back into the mountains to locate the cave and the cannon. When queried as to the location of the cannon the man claimed he had located the cannon by coordinating information he found in historical documents. He further stated he had never been there but knew the cannon existed from historical Spanish documents. He was eventually advised to continue his search elsewhere.

This is a good example how an intelligent person’s mind can be completely distorted by imagination. I had never before heard of a “golden” cannon being hidden in a cave in the Superstition Mountains. Some years later, while researching through periodicals in the Arizona Republic, I came across an article about a man who claimed to have discovered a “golden” cannon in a cave in La Barge Canyon. I read the article and checked the date. The article was written several years before I was approached by the man with the story about the “golden” cannon in the Superstition Mountains. I had believed this man had just dreamed the story up. But, when I found the article I thought it was strange that two different individuals dreamed up the same story.

Instinctively, I thought the man who approached me in class must have read the article and became enthralled by it. He figured out by himself the cannon was to heavy to move so the Spaniards just hid it in a cave. How unreasonable his judgement of the situation turned out to be. If the Spaniards had cast a cannon of gold that weighed around two tons, they could have recast it into gold bars then carried it back to Mexico City.

People who tell such ridiculous stories know nothing about the history of the American Southwest or the Spanish colonial period in Mexican history. This story is just as bizarre as many other Spanish tales of lost treasure in the Superstition Mountain region or the American Southwest.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people will invest money in hair-brained schemes believing such outright lies which are nothing but the figment of somebody’s imagination. Over the years I have interviewed people who have lost their homes and their fortunes to unscrupulous con-artists. Although I will admit there are people who are not con-artists, but still believe these ridiculous stories.

It is difficult for us to comprehend how many people come to believe these distorted stories about the American Southwest. Many of these individuals claim legitimate historians are trying to hide all the treasure in the Southwest for the museums and archaeologists. Also the same individuals distort historical documents to fit their own stories and interpretation. When stories sound to good to be true, then you should really check out the documentation with some accredited source or university.

The tale of a Spanish “Golden” cannon in the Superstition Mountains still lingers around campfires being told by story tellers. I’ll never forget when the man said, “You can look up into this cave and see the barrel of this golden cannon sticking out.” He further indicated that nobody could climb the cliff to inspect the cannon. The cannon was at least 800 feet off the ground and probably 300 feet from the top of the cliff, a total of 1,100 feet. His imagination was working over-time. First, common sense would ask, how could anyone lift a twenty ton cannon to a height of 800 feet with hemp ropes? Next, there are few cliffs in the Superstition Wilderness Area over 1,100 feet in height. Just check out a good topographic map and see for yourself.

Common sense defeats this story except in the minds of the approving storytellers. Gold cannons are what dreams are made of...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Military Trails

November 2, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Since the early 1970’s there has been considerable research done about military trails through the Superstition Wilderness Area. First, before we discuss the topic of a “military trail,” we need to first define the term. When most individuals think of the term they think of a byway named and used by the military. Now the next question would be what military? Was it the Spanish Colonial, Mexican, Confederate or American army that named the trail?

If it were during the American Civil War we would have to consider both the Union and the Confederacy as a possible source. If a military group named the trail why did they do it? Was it a trail used to resupply a post or for marauding and raiding Native American camps in the Pinal, Mazatzal, or Superstition Mountains? If these questions can be properly answered then a designation of a military trail through the Superstition Mountain area could easily be assigned.

Many historians talk about a military trail from Fort Lowell in Tucson to Camp (Fort) McDowell on the Verde River through the Superstition Mountain region. This trail has been defined as going through Gonzales Pass up through Hewitt Canyon, then over Tortilla Pass and then north to the Salt River. This route has never made much sense because it is so rugged. The military could have remained on the flat desert with moderate changes in elevation all the way from Fort Lowell to Fort McDowell with only the Usury Mountains  between them and their destination. Even the Usury Mountains presented no problems for the military because they could have gone around them to the West or through a low saddle in the middle of the range.

This route would have been the most logical route for resupply of Camp McDowell for the army. There were outpost camps such as Picket Post and Pinal. Most logical military trails would have been the shortest and easies route between two points.

Now, back to the question, was there a military trail through the Superstition Mountain region? If a researcher relied on military records he would have to say “yes.”

Between 1864-1868 during the Rancheria Campaign headquartered out of Camp McDowell there were many punitive expeditions in the Pinal and Superstition Mountains. Military sketch maps, basically hand drawn maps of each punitive expedition, accompanied all military reports made out by commanding officers.

Men like Capt. Bennett, Lt. DuBois, and Lt. Walker provided accurate and precise records and sketches of their campaigns against the hostiles. Many references on these maps mention variously named military trails used by the Army to subdue these marauding Native Americans. The most prominent trail was the trail that ran from the Salt River through the Goldfield Mountains coming out near Wolverine Pass across the Goldfield area to First Water then southeastward to Parker’s Pass, West Boulder Canyon, East Boulder Canyon, Bull Pass, down into Needle Canyon and over into La Barge Canyon to Charlebois Springs.

This area was often use by the military as staging area because of the water supply in the area. Also we must bear in mind these troops fought the Native American on foot. They were elements of the 14th, 22nd, 23rd Infantry Units, not mounted cavalry. The only mounted cavalry used in the Superstition Mountain area was when Major Brown led the 9th and 10th U.S. Army Cavalry. They were used in the campaign against the Apaches in 1872 and many of them were foot soldiers. There were several skirmishes around the Reavis Ranch Valley. The Apache often retreated to this area because of the permanent water supply along Reavis Creek.

Yes, there were military trails in the Superstition Wilderness Area, but most were only temporarily designated as such on military field sketch maps. Just about any trail used in the wilderness area during the Indian Wars could be referred to as a military trail. Most of the trails, but not all of them, were also used by the Native American long before the first white man arrived in this territory. The military basically used the Native American trails to subdue the hostile tribes.

Another interesting aspect of these campaigns was the fact the Americans armed and used the Pimas against the Apaches. Without the Pimas Scouts and the Apache Scouts the Americans would have never defeated the Apaches, at least not during the 19th century.

This information should provide a little resolve for this question. The final analyses of this question still remains as to what you define as a military trail.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Debating Landmark Names

October 26, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Landmark names in the Superstition Wilderness Area have caused a considerable amount of debate in recent years. The debate results from changes in place names and landmark names from generation to generation. There will never be any real resolve to this issue because of changing generations.  Place or landmark names can be here one year and gone the next.

Being a resident of the area for more than fifty years I have observed many changes in place and landmark names. The most obvious being name changes here in Apache Junction. How many of you remember County Line Road, Wilson Drive, Vineyard Road, Hickman Road, Transmission Road, Rattlesnake Drive or Sunset Drive? This name changing has also occurred in the Superstition Wilderness Area for the past one hundred years, and even continues today as new folks find a different name for a landmark or come up with their own name.

Some of these names remain and we are challenged with trying to interpret somebody else’s knowledge when it comes to search and rescue or hiking in these mountains. Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart have done an excellent job with their hiking guide books for preserving place and landmark names. Their books will be around for a long time and hopefully will benefit future historians and research people, and will help stabilized the present names on landmarks. Their books are the most accurate and factual ever written on the Superstition Wilderness Area. I highly recommend them for anyone who plans to become involved with the Superstition Wilderness Area in any way from hiking to historical research.

The premises of any landmark name that leads to any kind of solution about its origin has to be based on accurate research. Ironically, most information to do with landmark and place names is based on hearsay. This material is extremely subjective and very difficult to document. Let’s study, just for moment, the most popular landmark in the Superstition Wilderness Area, other than Superstition Mountain. Even with this statement there would be controversy as to what landmark within wilderness would be the best known. Some would say Ship Rock, Flat Iron, First Water, Weaver’s Needle, and Peralta Canyon just to name a few. Let’s evaluate the name of Weaver’s Needle.

This landmark is the oldest historically named landmark in the area. It was named after mountain man and guide Paulino Weaver. This prominent landmark east of Superstition Mountain has been named since 1853, however it has been called other names on maps and in a variety of stories.

Weaver’s Needle was known as Picacho Peak and Statue Mountain on various military sketch maps. These sketch maps were basically maps submitted by commanding officers who led campaigns against the Apaches in the Superstition Mountains between 1864-1878.

Arizona already has one Picacho Peak near I-10 Highway between Phoenix and Tucson. Weaver’s Needle has appeared as Statue Mountain on a couple of military sketch maps of the 1860’s. References were made of the prominent point being called Picacho as late as 1872. This reference can illustrate what happens to place names. Believe me, there have been many changes in place name during the past fifty years in our area. Recording landmark and place names for the future is very important when there is a need to do historical research about an area. Proper names help to identify a location and some of its history.

Within the Superstition Wilderness Area there are more than twenty-five hundred landmarks and place names that can bear out a systematic study. Many place names have three to five different names according to the source and the period the source lived.

The forest service wilderness management plan discourages the naming of places and landmarks within the wilderness area. However, the management office has conceded to the fact search and rescue operations would be almost impossible with recognizable landmark and place names to guide searchers. Could you imagine following instructions for a search and rescue operation in the wilderness with no names for landmarks? There also remains the distinct possibility that GPS coordinates could replace landmarks and place names in the Superstition Wilderness Area. To do this everyone would have to have GPS instrument and know how to use it. The names will survive and technology will help in the location of various landmarks and place names.

The additional argument for place and landmark names is the preservation of local history that was generated by the old cowboys; ranchers, miners, prospectors, treasure hunters and adventurers who walked and rode these hills. This history will never be lost as long as there are those of us who are interest in preserving stories of this unique region we call the Superstition Mountains of central Arizona.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Desert Symphony

October 19, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

I have often sat and listened to the sounds of the desert while visiting Lost Dutchman State Park or some isolated locale in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The collection of sounds that can be found in or on the desert alluvial fans, flats, spires, and deep canyons and mountains of the Sonoran Desert could fill a symphony hall with hundreds of different sounds and tones, these sound events being very acoustical in the open desert.

This description may not be the most accurate and even sometimes it may be far reaching, however it can give us a special feeling for what the desert is like we live in. The roar of thunder, a blinding flash of light from cloud to ground, followed by the sound of summer hail crashing down on Creosote, Bursage, Mesquite, Palo Verde, Ironwood and the giant Saguaros can ring loud in sensory perception of the desert. This is the opening bar of a “Desert Symphony.”

The pungent odor of the Creosote bush, the smell of the dampened earth, and the cool moist breeze that flows through the Saguaros, Chollas, and Prickley Pears after a desert thunderstorm is musical to one’s ears. This is the body of a desert thunderstorm in the Superstition Mountains.

When the sky clears and the moon shines bright the mountain begins to rumble deep from within the Earth. The Thunder God is awakening to the call of the desert. Some listen carefully and take warning from this mountain roar so far away.

The desert symphony continues to call together its followers. Now we can hear the distant call of a lonely Coyote. The squeal of a terrified Cottontail rabbit echoes through the air. You can hear the hoot of a Barn owl or the screech of a Screech Owl. The buzz of a rattlesnake warns all intruders not to tread on him. The night air is filled with the music of the desert symphony.

The sky turns golden with red streaks as the orb of the sun begins to rise above the horizon. We can still hear the distant call of a Coyote serenading the desert. The call of the quail can be heard through the Jojoba bush. You can hear the melodic call of the Cactus wren, Mourning dove, and the Curve-Bill thrasher. As the sun rises in the eastern sky the symphony’s crescendo is near.

Walking along a path we can see ants scurrying about looking for food. We can see a variety of reptiles crawling from one place to another searching for a meal. Bees are humming about searching for nectar in the cool morning air. As the temperature rises the buzz of Black gnats becomes the resounding echo of the desert. The desert symphony continues to play its way through the various bars of this melody.

We listen careful for even more sounds from our desert symphony. The noisy call of the Black raven and the whistle of the wind through the wing feathers of a Turkey buzzard circling above all add to our desert musical.

Near a desert seep you can hear a frog call to its mate. A Canyon wren chirps out a call to another. A large Chuckwalla searches for food while slowly moving about.

Bees continue to circulate around the water also searching for sweet desert nectar. Water is the root of all survival here in the desert. It is water that keeps the desert symphony sounding its melody. Those who walk these paths through the desert can write their own bars to this beautiful symphony of life in the desert and continue this serenade.

Our love for the desert is tested each day as more and more rooftops dot landscape and our beloved desert symphony slowly disappears.

The day will come when most of the desert is gone with its special collection of animals and those who care. Far beyond our dreams and expectations lies the memory of what was once a unique and very special desert symphony.

But, the call of the wild is still there as it rings across this land.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Closing Paradise

October 12, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

This past summer my wife and I decided to drive out First Water Road and take walk down First Water Trail toward the old Barkley First Water Ranch site. I had worked here as a young man in the 1950’s.

Driving out First Water Road about three quarters of a mile east of Jacob Cross Cut Trail Parking Lot we were astonished to see the old Massacre Ground Trail Head road had been obliterated by heavy equipment. Three huge mounds of rock and dirt were piled along First Water Road to prevent any access of the old road. The road to Massacre Grounds had existed for almost one hundred years. Old Carl Silverlocke and his partner used the road to access their claims around the turn of the century. Prospectors and treasure hunters have been using the road since the 1920’s to visit the Massacre Grounds.

This location was believed to be the alleged site of Peralta Massacre in 1847.It was the spot where the Apache cornered the Peralta mining group and destroyed them.

According to legend the bones of the miners and their burros were spread around the area. Also the Apache allegedly dumped the rich gold ore the Peralta’s had mined on the ground. Over the decades many individuals have claimed finding caches of rich gold ore in the area. Another explanation to the gold ore cache could be they were stashed by high-graders who worked at the fabulously rich Mammoth Mine between 1893-1897.

My father and uncle both talked about driving out along this two-wheeled track of a road in the late 1920’s in an old Ford Model T Touring car. They spent some time searching the area for anything that might have indicated a massacre almost a century before.

During the past fifty-five years I have hauled horses up to the Massacre Ground Trail Head, worked cattle along the base of the mountain and rode the myriad of trails in the foothills of Superstition Mountain. There was an old trail that ran from just below the Massacre Grounds to O’Grady Canyon, then into Old West Boulder and into West Boulder Canyon. From this point the trail went east along West Boulder Canyon by Willow Springs, the old stone corral and eventually over a saddle and down through Carney Springs Canyon. Some old timers referred to this trail as the Quarter Circle U Ranch Trail.

The Massacre Ground Trail Head has been used for years as an access point to the region along the east base of Superstition Mountain. Most of these trails are overgrown from lack of use during contemporary times. When cattle were used on this range the trails were kept open by the cattle moving from one place to another.

Over the years many families would drive out from Tempe, Mesa and even Phoenix to have their family Easter picnic along the Massacre Grounds Trail Head road. My wife and I have been spending evenings out on a small hill near the Massacre Ground Road for the past fifty years. It was an ideal place to set up a telescope to observe the heavens.

About fifteen years ago we noticed were some inconsiderate people were running their four-wheel drive trucks around in the wet desert off the Massacre Ground Road. “Mud bogging” as some people would call it. I told my wife it wouldn’t be long before the Tonto National Forest Service would close this road to all because of an ignorant few.

Each year as we visited the area the extent of the damage increased. We were certain closing this road would soon become a priority for the district ranger’s office. It is by no means cheap to close such a road. We understand why the road was closed and sadly enough we had to agree with such a harsh measurement to protect this fragile desert environment from more damage. Please be aware it is now close and the area is totally restricted to motorized vehicles of any kind.

As far as my wife and I are concerned this was closing a paradise in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains making such areas as Nashi’s Cave, the Massacre Grounds, Massacre Ground Draw, the Salt Tank Mountain Trail, and access to the Northwest Summit Trail far more difficult. We were shocked to find this road closed. When we eventually called the local ranger district they said closing that particular road had been in the management plan for ten years. Here again the majority has suffered in the name of a few ignorant and inconsiderate users of public land.

For those interested in hiking to the Massacre Grounds you will now have to park at the Jacob Cross Cut Trail Parking Lot or at the First Water Parking Lot if you want to save yourself a citation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Waltz at Pinto Creek

October 5, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The story of Jacob Waltz and his fabulous gold mine continues to attract prospectors and treasure hunters to the Superstition Wilderness Area of central Arizona. There are many versions of stories about Waltz’s lost mine.

Many old timers really don’t believe Waltz had a mine, but knew exactly what he was doing when he high-graded gold from other mines. He allegedly left clues around the frontier town of Phoenix to discourage anyone trying to figure out his scheme. One of his clues was, “You can’t see my mine from the military trail, but you can see the military trail from my mine.”

He also said, according to legend, “The evening rays of the setting sun shine into the entrance of my mine.” Waltz left these clues behind to hinder and confuse those who wanted to follow him into the mountains. Actually there is no real proof Waltz left such clues behind.

Jacob Waltz did exist. His name appears on naturalization papers, census records, grain receipts, and other documents. Waltz did live in Phoenix from about 1868 until the time of his death on October 25, 1891. His death was well documented by local periodicals.

Some claim there was forty-eight pounds of high-grade gold ore in a candle box under his deathbed. This discovery of gold ore under his deathbed lead to many versions as to how he acquired this small fortune.

Many of you have heard the standard version of where this ore came from, but there are others stories from different sources that are creditable. There are several interesting stories that have emerged from the old pioneers around Florence.

There is a story told about Waltz arriving in Florence in 1872 looking for a carpenter who could build a dry washer. Waltz was told to look up a man named “Frank”. Waltz found Frank. He asked him if he could build a dry washer that could be packed on the back of a burro. Frank looked at Waltz’s burro and agreed he could build such a dry washer.

Waltz told Frank that he had been working some placer gold near Pinto Creek and he wanted to trace its source with a dry washer. He had already worked the area with a horn and pan. He said he wanted to do a little more serious searching. Waltz’s search area was no secret to many people around Florence at the time.

This story correlates well with another tale. The story of Fool’s Canyon has some interesting parallels to this story first printed in a book by John D. Mitchell, a close friend of Milton Rose’s father. The Fool’s Canyon story tells of another placer gold deposit near Pinto Creek. Bill Cage spent many years prospecting the area and knew old man Shute quite well. Shute claimed there was a rich deposit of placer gold in the area somewhere, therefore there had to be a rich vein of gold ore in the area. Shute had used a dry washer in the tributaries of Pinto Creek since the 1880s.

Shute also told Bill Cage he had never seen Jacob Waltz in the area, but that really didn’t mean anything. The Pinto Creek country is really a rugged brushy terrain.

Prospectors have worked placer gold in the Pinto Creek and Gold Rush Creek area for decades until the mines completely obliterated the eastern tributaries of creek.

Placer gold could still be found in the narrows below the old steel bridge that crosses Pinto Creek on the Kennedy Ranch (Miles) road in the mid 1970s. It is possible the area was the source of some of Waltz’s gold ore, especially if Waltz had traced out the placer and found the ore deposit. We must remember Waltz was very experienced at hunting gold and tracing placer deposits to their source.

Many prospectors have worked the placer gold of Pinto Creek over the years. Big mining conglomerates and individual prospectors claim much of the area today.

There are a few areas along Pinto Creek, when there is sufficient water, you might be able to stick your pan in the water and pan for gold and not be considered a high-grader.

Some of the claim holders along Pinto Creek are serious prospectors and miners and if you are on their claims looking for gold they may consider you a high-grader. You are\ stealing if you remove material from a legal claim.

Several years ago there was an enormous flood that completed covered most of the bedrock in the “narrows” of Pinto Creek. These “narrow” were the best locations for placer. Flash floods continue to change the topography of Pinto Creek along with the mining companies and prospectors.

The story about Jacob Waltz working placer in area is not preposterous. You must consider he was an experienced miner, there was gold in the area, and he could have discovered the source of the placer gold in Pinto Creek.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tribute to a Legend

September 28, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The legend and lore of Superstition Mountain has prompted a continuous search for hidden gold or lost treasure within the towering spires and deep canyons of this nationally known landmark for the past century. Men and women from all walks of life come to bid their luck against the elements and dangers of a mountain some men call “evil”.

A German immigrant named Jacob Waltz, supposedly started this contemporary search with clues about a rich gold mine that he allegedly hid within this mountain’s realm. These clues, after his demise, on October 25,1891, fired the imagination of the citizens of Phoenix and the surrounding countryside about lost gold in these mountains. These stories are centuries old now and they still tantalize the imagination of contemporary adventurers. A century of searching has passed since Waltz’s death and has produced no gold.

Only one other man has created such an interest and lust since Waltz’s death. This was Adolph Ruth. He did it by dying in the summer of 1931, alone in the heart of the Superstitions. Ruth’s sudden and violent death in mountains quickly replaced the headlines of “depression” news in major newspapers across the nation.

Across this nation, coast to coast, newspaper headlines echoed the story of Ruth’s mysterious death in the Superstition Mountains while searching for gold. Soon after these stories appeared authors and journalists capitalized on the story of Superstition Mountain and the infamous Lost Dutchman’s mine. The story caused temptation on the part of readers to pack their bags and head for the Superstition Mountains in Arizona and begin the search for gold.

The list is endless of those men and women who have searched and died in this barren and rugged wasteland known as the Superstition Wilderness Area. Some threw their fortunes away just for an opportunity to search for this hidden wealth. All of them believed they would find that single solitary clue that would lead them to the golden cache, riches beyond the dreams of kings.

The Lost Dutchman’s mine is one of the most often found mines in the world, yet it is still lost. Since 1895, the mine has been found at least 150 times by a variety of individuals from all walks of life. The annual winter migrations of prospectors who descend upon the Superstition Wilderness Area only prove the interest that still exists in the mine today. This story is still America’s most popular lost mine story and continues to captivate the imagination of dreamers. This fanatic search for lost gold has driven some men to the brink of insanity and some even to suicide.

Some of these individuals have even organized complex corporations and implemented sophisticated electronic equipment to aid in their quest for the gold they believe is contained within the rocks of Superstition Mountain or its wilderness. Even with the advent of modern technology and the advancement of electronic metal detection equipment to aid in the quest for gold from the legendary Lost Dutchman’s mine continues to elude the prospector’s pick and shovel.

Hunting lost mines, in particular the legendary Lost Dutchman’s mine, is like chasing a rainbow, “so close yet so far away.” The search itself is a solo avocation among the most ethical and honest lost mine hunters.

These men and women share no information and ask nobody for assistance. Maybe it is not the finding that is so important to them, but the searching. It is a documented fact many an old-timer found pay dirt, only to sell it or lose it so he could return to his wander lust way of life. The source of gold and legends are where you find them, “out in the hills.”

The true Dutchman aficionados are definitely blessed with a certain amount of happiness and the rewards of adventure in the great outdoors. They spend countless hours, days, months and years around campfires speculating about the location of Superstition Mountain’s hidden wealth. As long as there are those who dream there will be Dutch Hunters and treasure hunters probing the towering spires and deep canyons of the Superstition Wilderness Area searching for lost gold and treasure.

Al Morrow spent nineteen years of his life living in Needle Canyon in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness searching for the Peralta Mines. He believed these mines and the Dutchman were one in the same. This man knew what happiness was and he most definitely knew the pain of loneliness among the towering escarpments of Needle Canyon. He found success in something that we are not able to measure, his was the simple everyday task of survival in this remote wilderness. Morrow chose this way of life so he could deal with nature firsthand and continue his life at this slow pace far removed from the complexities of urbanization.

He did this with great success and integrity. And he did it in an age where everything was based on material wealth.
It is difficult to imagine the likes of Al Morrow and other prospectors like him, who choose such a solo way of life despite the demands of modern society. Al Morrow marched to the ”beat of a different drummer.”

Superstition Mountain is a tribute to those people and their stories of hidden gold and the never-ending search for it. This mountain has become a fitting monument to these men and women who suffered the hardships of isolation, hard work and being different just to survive.

Maintaining a camp deep in the mountains required an enormous amount of work and the constant search for good water. However, the beauty and adventure associated with searching the lofty ridges and deep canyons for hidden wealth was well worth any exerted energy.

Just maybe someday a lucky man or woman will come forth with the gold of Superstition Mountain and forever end the tantalizing tales of lost gold within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. The discovery will also vindicate all those who have believed in the legend. Jacob Waltz undoubtedly left behind the most lingering story ever told about lost gold in the American Southwest.

This is strictly a romantic view of the Superstition Wilderness Area and the life of early prospectors in the area, but as we face the future the significance and importance of the region will grow enormously.

Today we find hikers and joggers wandering the trails of the Superstition Wilderness looking for adventure, recreation, and relief from the stress of our modern urban society. The Superstition Wilderness Area has become an important habitat for these urbanites with their daypacks, water bottles, and Nikes on weekends.

Today the region serves more as a park than a true wilderness with more than 90,000 (estimated figures) people using the system trails this past year. The future and survival of the wilderness is totally dependent on the forest service’s management as the Phoenix metropolitan area grows. We will probably soon see the day access to the wilderness will be limited as more and more state trust lands are closed or developed.

Until this gold is found, the legend of Superstition Mountain is the stuff that dreams are made of. Dreams of hidden gold or personal enrichment it matters not because the opportunity to search has been worthwhile to the old timers.

While this legendary land of the old “Dutchman’s” lost mine has become a prime recreational resource for the Phoenix metropolitan area and old Superstition Mountain continues to remain as a tribute to a legend.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The First School House

September 21, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

When people think of the first school in the Apache Junction area they instinctively think of Superstition Mountain Elementary School located on Broadway Road just east of Ironwood Drive. Construction began on this school in 1952, but Superstition Mountain Elementary School was not the first school or school district in the Apache Junction area.

The first school was established over one hundred years ago in the small gold mining community of Goldfield. The site of this once booming territorial town lies 4.4 miles northeast of Apache Junction on the Apache Trail (State Route 88).

The boomtown of Goldfield, Arizona Territory, appeared overnight after the discovery of gold along Goldfield Wash on April 14, 1893. This discovery of gold led to the development of the famous Mammoth Mine and Mill. The Mormon Stope, in the Mammoth Mine, produced more than 1.5 million dollars in gold bullion in two short years when gold was valued at $20 per troy ounce.

Goldfield grew rapidly. The town had three saloons, a hotel, mercantile store, butcher shop, boarding house, livery stable, barbershop, blacksmith shop and about three hundred residents. The one thing Goldfield did not have was a public school. Thirtyfour school age children lived in Goldfield by the middle of July 1893. The Phoenix Daily Gazette on September 12, 1893, reported Goldfield was in need of a school.

A request to form a school district was submitted to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to establish the Superstition Mountain School District. This request was delayed because of the controversy involving the political location of Goldfield. It was not known what county Gold- field was located in. This legal question had to be settled before a school district could be established.

Although the newspaper had reported thirty-four school age children resided in Goldfield, the board of supervisors did not act on the request for a school district. Mr. M. Lewis Spears open a private school in a small building constructed by the miners. Spears became the town’s first school teacher. He was shortly thereafter appointed Goldfield’s first Justice of the Peace.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors apparently approved the school district by February 1, 1894 because the Mesa Free Press reported this date as the first day of school for thirty-six children in Goldfield. The Phoenix Daily Herald reported Mr. M. Lewis Spears as teacher at Goldfield School and stated he had twenty-one students in his class. According to the article, he was also serving as Justice of the Peace for Goldfield. Newspaper articles indicate Mr. Spears served as schoolteacher in Goldfield from September 18, 1893 until September 13, 1894. Spear’s private school served as an interim school until the Pinal County Board of Supervisors formed the Superstition Mountain School District in the Spring of 1894.

Ms. Mamie Kennedy, of Florence, was hired as the first public school teacher in Goldfield. The first public school in Goldfield opened its doors for students on September 20, 1894. School started with thirty-one students. Ms. Kennedy taught school at Goldfield for the 1894-95 school year.

On June 16, 1895, Ms. Agnes Dobbie, Tempe Normal Class “95” was hired by the Superstition Mountain School District’s Board to teach the 1895-96 school year at Goldfield. Ms. Dobbie taught two years before resigning in June of 1897 to get married.

Ms. Holmesley was hired in June of 1897 for the 1897-1898 school year. It was during Ms. Holmesley’s tenure that the Goldfield Mines began to decline. When Ms. Holmesley dismissed school for Christmas vacation on December 22, 1897, only eight students were attending her classes. The real mass exodus of families from Goldfield had begun by December 20, 1897.

It was clear the mines had failed by January 3, 1898. When Ms. Holmesley reopened school on January 3, 1898, she had only nine students. The school board had resigned and moved away by the middle of January. The county school superintendent appointed Charles I. Hall and John Mechan to serve on the school board of trustees.

When the Richards family moved to Wickenburg on January 27, 1898, only seven school age children remained in the Goldfield School District. The Goldfield School closed it doors in May of 1898, never to open again to the voices of children learning and playing together.

Goldfield School served the needs of the early miners and their families at a time when Arizona was a territory of the United States.

It is interesting to note that public education played an important role in the lives of these people when gold was “king” at Goldfield. These hard working Americans realized the greatest resource our nation had was our children. They were willing to take that step forward and support education at the turn of the century. It is certainly no different today. We are all obligated to support public education today so we can prepare students for the future.

Monday, September 14, 2009

From Dreams to Reality

September 14, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

My father introduced me to one of the most important aspects of my life and that was historical preservation. Since those early days, I have been involved in a variety of community projects related to historical preservation. There was the historical designation of the Apache Trail, involvement with the Superstition Mountain Museum, the rededication of the Dutchman’s Monument in Apache Junction, and various publications over the years. My interest has always been associated with the Superstition Mountains; I’ve always tried to change dreams to reality.

I don’t recall the first time I hiked to the top of Bluff Springs Mountain, but it was with my father sometime in the late 1940s. I was attending Hill Street Elementary School in Globe, the spring my father and I climbed to the top of the mountain.

We drove out to the old Quarter Circle U Ranch and then hike up Bark Draw to the old Williams Camp then east toward Bluff Springs water trough and cabin. We started our ascent from the southeast end. I was worn out by the time we arrived at the base of Bluff Springs, but my dad wanted to climb to the top and into the interior of the mountain. My back pack was quite heavy, even though I was only carrying my bedroll, pillow and some water. Dad was carrying our food and other necessities.

We climbed over the southeastern end of Bluff Springs Mountain and hiked down into the canyon on top of the mountain. Dad wanted to camp near water so with hiked down into Bluff Springs Mountain Canyon and set camp near a pool of water. We had a small, two-man pup tent. Once camp was set, Dad rested for awhile then decided to do a little looking around. He suggested I stay in camp. However, in my spare time, I could gather of some wood for the fire. He also advised me to be very careful about snakes because it was spring time and they were out.

My father wanted to travel to Bluff Springs Mountain because he wanted to find something that was Spanish or Mexican. Something that would prove the Spanish or Mexicans were mining or prospecting in the area. Dad was checking out a story he was told by old Pete Petrasch who lived in Globe. According to Pete, he and his brother Hermann had a camp on Tortilla Mountain. Pete committed suicide about three or four years before our trip. Dad knew most of the old timers around Phoenix, Globe and Miami. He was always listening for another treasure story or tale that he could check out. Father loved to check out lost mine stories. It was his hobby and an opportunity for some recreation and outdoor fun.

I wandered around the camp site area searching for wood while dad hiked up toward the eastern facade of Bluff Springs Mountain. Petrasch had told father there were some steel rings embedded in the rock near the eastern edge of the mountain. When dad returned to camp, he said he found nothing that would confirm old Petrasch’s story. The next morning, we hiked down Bluff Springs Mountain Canyon toward the north end of the mountain. All I could think about was the long hike out of this country. We spent the morning hours looking around the north end of the mountain. We discovered some markings and maybe some very ancient petroglyph on an outcrop of black rock, probably basalt.

By 10, we were back in camp and packed up for the long walk out. Thank goodness I thought, most of our hike out would be downhill. We hiked down off the southeast end of the mountain to the Crystal Springs area then headed for Miner’s Summit. The hike from Miner’s Summit to the Quarter Circle U Ranch is a long walk, but most of it was downhill.

It was on hikes like these that I grew to love the desert. I was very fortunate to have a father who loved to take me into the hills and share his dreams and expectations with me. Dad never really believed the Dutchman’s mine existed, but he wasn’t going to leave anything up for grabs without checking it out. Basically this is how I was introduced to the tale of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine.

My father instilled in me the importance of historical preservation. He always said the cultural history of a region was worth preserving for future generations to explore and learn about. He constantly spoke about the many characters and their dreams of striking it rich. His dream certainly has been fulfilled with the construction and development of two museums in the Apache Junction area, especially two museums on the Apache Trail. I never forget the conversations he had with Jack Anderson before he died about someday having seeing museum in Apache Junction about our area. The Curtiss and Andersons in 1938 gave the Don’s Club of Arizona a perpetual easement on a piece of land they owned 50 feet by 100 feet to build their monument. One might say this was the beginning of the museum movement in Apache Junction. Yes, I agree this is stretching it quite a bit. Then again, maybe not! This was all started when I was born in 1938.

Today Apache Junction has two museums. One is located on the Apache Trail near Mountain View Road and the other is located in the Goldfield Ghost Town. Both organizations are preserving the unique history of Superstition Mountain and the surrounding region. I am sure your support of either or both of the fine organizations will help preserve the history of this area for future generations to enjoy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Incident at Doggie Springs

September 7, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There are many interesting stories about the Superstition Wilderness Area. Some tales are believable and others are not. The following story was told to me by an old cowboy named Bud Lane many years ago. Bud had worked for both Floyd Stone and the Barkleys. One evening, some time in the late 1970’s I was riding with Bud over the Apache Trail.

We were headed for the IV Ranch where we were taking a group of riders to the Reavis Ranch from Floyd Stone’s IV Ranch. As we rounded Inspiration Point and looking into the vast emptiness of Fish Creek Canyon we saw a brilliant meteor tracking north to south across the sky near Castle Peak. The meteor was so bright the light was reflected by Castle Dome Peak. It was at this point Bud spoke up and told this story.

“Tom,” he said, “all the crazies around Apache Junction and the mountains are always talking about flying saucers. I am not going to tell you I believe in flying saucers, but this really happen to me. I’m going to tell you a true story, but I don’t want you to ever repeat it until after I am dead and gone. First, I want to tell you I have never seen a flying saucer drunk or sober, and if I had I wouldn’t admit it for fear people would think I am a lunatic.”

At this point, Bud cautioned me again never to tell this story until he was dead and gone. Bud continued the story something like this. He said he was working some stray Mexican steers for Floyd Stone near the upper end of Tortilla Canyon above Doggie Springs. He planned on riding until dusk then working his way back to the Tortilla ranch house. Close to dusk he said, “Tom, I heard this whining roar that was so loud it was deafening. It even vibrated my lungs. All of sudden back toward Doggie Springs I saw this object rise into the sky so fast I couldn’t recognize what it was. Actually I thought it was some kind of a volcanic eruption. The object was gone in a split second.”

Bud further explained he had ridden all around the area trying to confirm what had happen. He found nothing to support what he had seen. He told me he was not suffering from illusions and he didn’t have a hang-over that day. Bud said he continued looking around the area every chance he had when he was in the region. Some ten or twelve years later Bud said he was in the area and found an interesting formation on the ground. On the side of a sandy wash he found a ring of sandy glass about ten feet in diameter. He was convinced this sandy glass ring wasn’t a geological feature. He believed the glass ring was formed from extreme and sudden heat. The heat, he believed, was produced by a rocket launch or something similar. I had known Bud since 1965, and he had always been exceptionally truthful with me. However, Bud was known to tell dudes a few tall tales when he worked for Billy Crader’s Safari Wilderness Trips.

This was a very puzzling and intriguing story that would be impossible to prove unless the melted sand ring could be found. Bud indicated it was located somewhere about Doggie Springs. I have ridden into Doggie Spring several times over the years and found nothing. Tom Jarvis, Maricopa Deputy County Medical Examiner and I spent an entire day riding the area and searching for this melted sand ring.

Several years later a hiker tried to sell me a piece of melted sand, much like sand that has been melted by a lightning strike. When he told me it came from the Doggie Springs area I immediately became more curious. He said it appeared at one time this piece of melted sand and glass had been part of a large circular piece material. He further stated he didn’t really know what it was, but he was -quite convinced it was part of a lighting strike. He gave me directions to the site, but I never found it. I am quite sure the site had been damaged from flash flooding over the years which made it difficult to recognize.

The story still fascinates me because Bud was such truthful story teller; unless he was just joshing you around. But, he would always relent andlet me know he was just joking. He never relented and said he was just telling mea tall tale when it came tothis story about an unknown melted sand ring near Doggie Springs.

I am sure Bud probably told this story to others. There are numerous stories about unusual things occurring in the area. I still wonder if this is a true story about some unusual occurrence in the Superstition Wilderness Area or a powerful lightning strike caused by ground to cloud lightning.