Monday, June 28, 2010

Bob Ward: A Walk With the Past

June 28, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Those of you who knew of Robert Lee Ward believed him to be a mountain man extraordinary. This is something no one could really deny him.

For some 30 years, Bob Ward hiked the trails of the Superstition Wilderness Area. He loved the mountains, the desert and stories that lingered there. I doubt I will ever meet anyone else who was so enthralled about the "wild" American West. The first time I met Bob he had his entire family over at Apache Land watching a western gunfight show.

Bob was here one day then gone the next. It happened so suddenly, even though I had known him for 30 years. He called me friend, I suppose because I loved the mountain and its history also. I called him friend because he was an undeniable part of these mountains. I did not like the mountains with the intensity he did, but I was totally absorbed with gathering the history and stories associated with them. When you listened to Bob he sounded like "lord of his domain," the Superstition Mountains. Treasure hunters came from around the country to talk to Bob Ward about his theories associated with the Peralta Stone Maps.

Bob's theory associated with hidden treasure in the Superstition Mountains centered on the Peralta Stone Maps. Ward believed in these stone maps with a very strong conviction that they were totally authentic. Bob was totally convinced he had deciphered the lines, marks and numbers on the stones. He made a presentation to me on a full moonlight night almost 30 years ago and even then I couldn't accept his theory. However, I didn't discourage his belief in the gold or the so-called Peralta Stone Maps of the Superstition Mountains.

Bob Ward at his cabin on Peralta Road c. 1984
I recall how excited Bob was when George Johnston and Clay Worst agreed to go on an expedition to see how he interpreted the Peralta Stone Maps. Bob guided the two men along the trail he believed to be the stone map trail. The trail Bob believed would eventually lead to the treasure of Superstition Mountain.

The 1970s passed, then the 1980s and by the 1990s I could see Bob's health was rapidly failing. I tried to encourage him to give up the cigarettes and the booze, but he couldn't do it. The cigarettes were slowly, killing him. The last 15 years of Bob Ward's life was spent living in or in close proximity of Superstition Mountain. Bob lived anywhere he could pitch a tent or build a lean-to. In 1984, Bob moved into an old cabin on a mining claim near the old Burn's Ranch on Peralta Road. He spent the next six years living in the cabin while Don Hensley tried to patent the claims the cabin was setting on. Bob made any place his home, whether it was a tent, old cabin or lean-to. He was a very clever and intelligent man. Bob was an excellent writer and a very good artist. He had a very good sense of humor that went a long way.

Ward in his final years tried to convince anyone who would listen that his theory about the stone maps was correct. I denied these attempts because I totally disagreed with the authenticity of the so-called Peralta Stone Maps. Ward believed these maps to be authentic and I believed them to be a hoax. Even though I disagreed with him, we still remained friends over the years. We both loved the same mountain, its history, legend and lore.

Bob's final days were spent trying to assemble his version of the lost gold of Superstition Mountain into a believable history for the people in the Apache Junction area. He had tried this with his Superstition Territory newsletter he printed off and on. I do believe Bob Ward accomplished this task when John Denmark published his book, The Ripples of Lost Echos. Bob was proud of his book and talked about it with me on several occasions.