Monday, January 19, 2009

Music Mountain

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

The Mesa Journal-Tribune reported the following on August 13, 1928. “Music Mountain’ in Superstition Lure Too Romantic Misses,” was the heading of an interesting story about the Superstition Mountain range.

“Buried under an avalanche of ‘fan mail’ Ray Howland, famed seeker of the Lost Dutchman, spreader of Duco, and now widely known as ‘the big, strong, silent man of the Superstitions, is sending out frantic calls for help. Howland received hundreds of letters from ladies around the country and the world after one of his stories ran in Everybody’s Magazine. He described a certain ‘musical mountain’ that he claims to have discovered in the course of his wanderings around the Superstition Mountains east of Mesa.

Howland’s story was not confirmed or authenticated by the American Spiritualist Association or the National Geographic Society, but is certainly vouched for by the League of Hassayampers. Hassayampers are Arizona storytellers who have drank water from the Hassayampa River. The liquid of the river has a tendency to make storytellers tell tall tales.

According to the article Howland swears that the air around Music Mountain is filled with a weird melodious sound that cannot be attributed to the wind whistling through the rocks because the sounds can be heard when the wind is not blowing at all.

Howland’s story was printed and he received hundreds of letters from ecstatic females of all ages from sixteen to sixty who were curious about Music Mountain and its spiritual nature. These same females were wildly interested in the romantic prospector whose wanderings take him to such interesting places. The article further stated that sweet scented notes have come from every state in the union, and many foreign countries.

Most of these romantic letter writers wanted a photograph of Howland. Practically all of them wanted to know if he was married. All of them planned trips to the West wanting to be guided to Music Mountain by its discoverer. The article further stated, the beauty editor was out of town, but the snake editor looked over Howland’s monumental collection of snapshots and did certify that they are mighty good looking girls.

Howland had to give up auto painting, his regular occupation, when he was out hunting for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Howland’s wife Liz recommended her husband go back to the Superstition Mountains until this story dies down. It was just another story told by a man who drank from the Hassayampa River, according to his wife Liz.

Interesting enough Music Mountain still exists in the Superstition Wilderness Area today and even attracts some attention. Music Mountain is located between Black Mountain (Charlebois to some old timers) and Herman’s Mountain immediately east of La Barge Canyon along FS trail 107. I have always known this trail as the La Barge Trail, but the TNF map calls it the Red Tank Trail. Music Mountain was quite popular in the early 1970s. There were several individuals who found minute traces of gold, silver and other valuable metals in the area near Sheep Springs. The final analysis presented a completely different picture. The minute traces are totally absence of any real commercial mineralization. These tests eventually lead to the demise of the area.

Stories about how important Music Mountain is to Native Americans still circulate. The musical sounds that emanate from Music Canyon and its tributaries continue to produce stories about how sacred the area is to the Native Americans. Old timers talk about Apache burial grounds on Music Mountain and the haunting sounds of the dead. The Apaches and Yavapais gathered Agave hearts on Peter’s Mesa just north of Music Mountain. Their roasting pits can still be found on Peter’s Mesa. Their activity in the area might well have warranted a burial site on a nearby mountain such as Music. Some years ago I was talking to an old friend, Phillip Cassadores, a traditional Apache medicine man on the San Carlos Reservation. He cautioned me not to be so sure these stories were not true. Ray Howland may have become involved with an unexplainable legend when he talked about the music and ghosts of Music Mountain.

Most creditable historians who have researched the source of Music Mountain’s name have discovered it was named after a cattleman name Music. There appears to be no definitive account that proves the mountain was named after a man named Music. Prior to Ray Howland’s story about Music Mountain in the Mesa Journal –Tribune the mountain’s name had never been mentioned before in Arizona periodicals.

Ray Howland was a well known searcher of the Lost Dutchman Mine during the 1920s and early 1930s. This was an interesting article that appeared in the Mesa Journal-Tribune.