Monday, February 9, 2009

The Building of a Dream

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

Robert F. ‘Bob’ Schoose was born in River Grove, Illinois on August 23, 1947. Bob and his family moved to California when he was four years old. Bob grew up in and around Southern California and has been fascinated with prospecting and mining since childhood. After reading books like Treasure Island, Coronado’s Children, and Yaqui Gold he pursued his dreams. Much of his young adult life was spent around the Mohave Desert looking through old ghost towns, looking for lost treasure and mining gold, silver and tungsten.

Bob made his first trip to the Superstition Mountains in 1966 with his friend Art Dunbar. He fell in love with the mountains and the surrounding desert and planned to return someday. Bob did just that in 1970 when he moved to Mesa, Arizona. Using his own horses he packed supplies into Squaw Box Canyon for the notorious “Crazy” Jake between 1973 and 1974. This was an era when prospectors carried pistols and rifles protecting themselves from others. It was a period of uncertainty in the mountains. One man died of gunshot wounds while Bob packed for Robert Simpson Jacob (Crazy Jake). This and other things convinced Bob there were better things in life. One of those wonderful things was when he married Lou Ann in 1975. Together they have raised two fine sons and a wonderful daughter. They both had a dream to build a ghost town.

Early in the 1970s Bob had dreamed of someday owning his own Ghost Town in the desert. Schoose met “Doc” Rosencrans at his cabin on the Apache Trail one day. Doc mentioned Goldfield; then suggested Bob build a ghost town.

Bob took Rosecran’s comment seriously. He remembered stories about an old ghost town that use to stand near Superstition Mountain. When he finally found his way out to the site one day all that remained was a few concrete foundations, a rickety water tower, a rambling old shack used for a living quarters, and a small metal building. Bob found out Hub McErachan owned an old five-acre mill site that most of the territorial camp of Goldfield was located on in the mid-1890s.

Early in 1984 Bob and Lou Ann purchased the Goldfield mill site from Hub McErachan and started to build their dream, a living ghost town.

Hub McErachan owned and operated the Feed Bag Restaurant and the Long Horn Saloon in Apache Junction. Hub and Bob got together one day at the Feed Bag Restaurant and made the deal. When Bob told people what he had planned for the site, some said he was just a dreamer and his dream would never happen. If you know Bob Schoose, you soon found out he is a very determined man. Once he makes up his mind to do something he usually doesn’t change it.

His first construction project on his newly acquired acreage was the building of a mine tunnel from scratch. He started the project in 1985. He did not go underground with his tunnel because of insurance restraints. His entire tunnel and mine were actually created above the ground, but made to appear below ground; an illusion if you like. His reconstructed mine cage, tunnel, and stope appeared as real as reality itself.

While constructing the miner’s cage, tunnel and stope he also worked on his first snack bar. The mine tunnel and knack bar opened for business in December of 1988. Then construction soon began on the photo shop, Blue Nugget, General Store, Mammoth Saloon and the Goldfield Museum. The Blue Nugget and the Mammoth Saloon and Steak House opened in 1990, the general store in 1991.

The first major event held at the Mammoth Saloon and Steak House was a D.A.R.E. Charity Night. Officer Steve Greb and members of the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce worked with Bob Schoose to make this event a big success.

Bob Schoose has always been community minded even in the beginning. One of Apache Junction’s most honored citizen’s lived on his property until his death. Bob provided a place for his trailer and helped Grady Haskins on many, many occasions. Grady was Apache Junction’s first constable and a combat veteran of World War II. Most old old timers will remember Grady for his kilts and the bagpipes he generously played for community events and funerals of fallen comrades.

Bob and Lou Ann continued to help their adopted community. Such charity organizations as the Goldfield Ghost Riders are based out of Goldfield. Their Ben Johnson Poker Ride for charity is a legend. The Schooses have long been a proud sponsor and supporter of this organization.

There is another story about Bob and Lou Ann that needs to be told. I suppose I am the best one to tell.

Early in 1980 the Superstition Mountain Historical Society was incorporated. Between 1980-1984 the society worked at trying to organize a strong and effective board of directors. I was a member of the museum. I contacted Bob Schoose and ask him about a site for our museum at Goldfield. When he first explained the deal we were convinced we could not accept his offer. Under Bob’s terms we had to build our own building. The historical society had no funds at the time and could not undertake such a task.

Early in 1989 Schoose started construction of the Goldfield Museum building as planned. Larry Hedrick and I went back and talked to Schoose about the museum. Finally a deal was hammered out between Schoose and the Museum board. Schoose decided to go ahead and build the building from Kollenborn, A-4 for the historical society. The museum would be required to complete the interior and maintain the building. Our rent would be a percentage of the admission tickets we sold. It was a wonderful deal for our fledging new museum. It amounted to almost a donation of the building to the museum’s board of directors. We finally had a building thanks to Bob and Lou Ann Schoose. This again revealed the generosity and community spirit the Schoose’s had. It also revealed their love for the history and legend of Superstition Mountain, Goldfield, the Lost Dutchman Mine, and Arizona. Their interest in preserving historical mining equipment and the way life was one- hundred and thirty years ago in old mining towns.

Bob Schoose accomplished the publishing of a pictorial history book on the history of Goldfield in 2008. This excellent book is available at the Goldfield Museum in Goldfield.

Goldfield Ghost Town has certainly led the way in preserving the history of mining and ghost towns in Southwest, Arizona and the Superstition Mountains. The efforts and cost the Schooses’ have made to haul mining equipment and machinery from all over the Arizona and the Southwest to Goldfield to help preserve the history of mining for future generations of Americans to enjoy is certainly meritorious. Bob says, “The building of Goldfield Ghost Town has been a family project since the beginning.”

Bob Schoose was recently named the Heritage Award recipient for 2009 on January 22nd at the Lost Dutchman Days Kick-Off Dinner. Schoose’s contributions and involvement in community affairs certainly merited this award. Gary Mulholland, chairman of the Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo Committee made the presentation.