Monday, September 20, 2010

Abe Reid: Prospector and Miner

September 20, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

As you ride into the brush thicket just above the confluence of Whitlow and Fraser Canyon you find two old shot up Aero windmills and concrete water tanks. Just above this site was the camp of Abraham "Abe" Reid. He had prospected and searched the Superstition Mountains off and on for the old Dutchman's lost mine. His friends knew him as "Abe". Abe had been in the mining and prospecting business since territorial days. He had worked around Globe, Miami and Ray since the turn of the century. He started work as a mucker and eventually worked his way up to a hard rock driller. By the early 1920's Abe was promoting mining property throughout the central mountain region of Arizona, in particular the area around Ray, Arizona and Mineral Creek. The stock market crash of 1929 sent Abe Reid into the mountains to eke out a living searching for gold. Abe promoted one property after another verily surviving the "depression years." Around 1935 Reid settled on a property some six and a half miles east of the Quarter Circle U Ranch. Reid called this mine the Silver Belle. Reid maintained a camp below the mine at a permanent source of water, known today as Reid's Water.
Abe Reid standing near Fraser Canyon a short distance from his camp. This was about four years prior to his death. Photo courtesy of Dan Hopper, c. 1954
For almost twenty-two years Reid dug a tunnel into the side of the mountain on his claim. His work produced a large waste dump that is still visible today. Reid had a low grade silver ore deposit at the site, but it wasn't profitable to work. Reid spent a considerable amount of money building a road from the Silver Belle to Milk Ranch Creek. There was a road from the old Cavanaugh Milk Ranch to the Silver King Road. This road provided Abe Reid a route to and from his mine to haul supplies. It was possible to drive a high clearance pickup truck over the road from the Quarter Circle U Ranch through Coffee Flat to Reid's Water in the early 1960's. Around 1951, my father spent a weekend helping Abe Reid survey his tunnel and property. He was thinking about patenting the claims. However he decided against it because of annual property tax. While my dad worked, my mother and I stayed near his camp at Reid's Water. It was a beautiful spring morning for us. I remember the fresh green-yellow color of the early spring Cottonwood leaves, and most of all I recalled the magenta flowers of the Hedgehog cactus. It was from this experience that I remembered the character of Abe Reid and the beauty of the desert.

Abe was around seventy-two years old at the time. He had slowed down physically, but mentally he was prepared to dig forever in search of his bonanza of silver ore. My father wanted to help him continue that search even though dad knew it was fruitless. Abe was convinced his silver mine was a bonanza and he would someday hit pay dirt. Dad helped Reid because he liked him and had known him since before the "Great Depression Days."

Abe Reid always had three to eight burros he used in his prospecting and mining operation in Whitlow Canyon. Often Reid would be gone into the mountains for several days searching for the old Dutchman's gold mine. Contemporary storytellers mix Abe Reid into the Dutchman's Mine story with so many inaccuracies that it is obvious they are making up the story as they went along. Barry Storm wrote about Abe Reid prospecting throughout the Superstition Mountain region looking for the Dutchman's Lost Mine. From the "Great Depression" 1929-1938 Abe Reid spent a lot of time searching for the Dutchman's lost mine and digging his tunnel at the Silver Belle. Abe Reid was even mentioned as a plotter in the death of Adolph Ruth. If any of these individuals had actually known Abe Reid they would have known such a story was preposterous.

Abe Reid was always the topic of discussion when mining or the Dutchman's lost mine came up. Reid was known to hunt the Dutchman lost mine, sometimes with vigor, but after many years he settled on his silver claims near Whitlow Canyon and lived out his final years there. Fortunately Abe Reid told his story on magnetic tape and the recording has survived all these years. Today a copy of this tape survives at the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction, Arizona in the Abe Reid Collection. An old friend of Abe Reid's found him dead in his camp in October of 1958. Soon after Abe Reid's death the only accessible route to Reid property was through Queen Valley. It wasn't long before the road below Cavanaugh's old goat ranch was impassable in Milk Ranch Creek. Eventually the road through the Quarter Circle U Ranch was closed and Reid's old diggings became isolated from the modern world. A visit to Abe Reid's old mine today requires a vigorous hike up Whitlow Canyon from the Milk Ranch or a hike from the Peralta Trail Head through Castle Rock Divide then down to Whitlow Canyon from the opposite side. The last time I visited the area there was still water available in Reid's old campsite. At one time Abe had a network of corral at the site he kept his pack burros in. In my collection of Superstition Mountain artifacts I have one of Abe Reid's old burro packsaddles I acquired from George Martin. The legacy of Abe Reid focused on mining and prospecting in the Superstition Mountain region.