Monday, January 31, 2011

A Letter from the Past

January 31, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Recently I received an e-mail from Karen Rath from near Melbourne, Australia. She was inquiring as to whether Howard Horinek, a cowboy I had written about in one of my columns (AJ News, pg A4. Col. 3-6, 03/10/2008) was actually the person she corresponded with more than thirty years ago as a pen pal.

She wrote in her e-mail when she was a teenager she enjoyed writing letters to young men in the military. At the time Howard Horinek was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam. He was 19 years old and he was in the middle of a war he didn’t fully understand. This was almost 40 years ago. Karen asked me in her e-mail if this Arizona cowboy I wrote about had the middle initials H.H. She had lost track of Howard after the Vietnam war, but she did tell me she sent him some photographs of herself.

The following weekend I drove out to the Quarter Circle U Ranch and looked Howard up. I found him feeding and working on a gate. I walked up to him and said some lady in Australia read the Chronicles article about you. She believed you were her pen pal some years ago. Her name was Karen Rath. I didn’t recall Mrs. Rath’s maiden name, but the minute I explained the details of the e-mail Howard he recognized her as one of his pen pals while in Vietnam. He said he still had photographs of her she sent him. Her photographs and letters were very comforting during this very violent period of his life.

I asked Howard for his address and told him I was going to e-mail it to Mrs. Rath in Australia. I told him she and her entire family was excited about this link to the past. She had now been married 30 years and has two grown sons. They raise and train champion quarter horses in Australia. Interesting enough Howard has done nothing but cowboy for the last 40 years on ranches throughout the southwest.
What are the odds a distant Australian would be reading one of my columns and spot a pen pal from the Vietnam War era. Actually I was almost overwhelmed with emotion when I realized this was actually happening. When Howard said, “Yes I remember her and I have a photograph of her still.,” — what a wonderful feeling I had about the AJ News bringing them together again after all these years and also realizing Howard had survived a very brutal and deadly war.

Believe me this is one of my proud moments writing these columns. I have known Howard for about 10 years and have visited with him on many occasions. The Rath family is looking forward to hearing from Howard. It wouldn’t surprise if Howard makes a trip to Australia for a visit. 

How about a real American cowboy in Australia at the Rath Quarter Horse Ranch?

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Word of Caution About Gold

January 24, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

The price of gold is sky rocketing above thirteen hundred dollars an ounce, but buying gold can be a very risky business because of fraud and a variety of investment schemes. As the value of gold continues to escalate the fascination for finding lost gold and buried treasures also escalates. The gold market goes up and continues to drive the interest of prospectors and mine promoters to search for new deposits.

The search for lost gold deposits and new deposits has intrigued and fascinated the average person for decades. Large mining companies continue searching and drilling for gold deposits with the increasing value of gold.

We often think of lost gold mines in terms of maps and clues. A serious lost mine hunter will begin his or her research with a thorough investigation of available records associated with a given area or story. These documents will include records from vital statistics, census, probates, taxes and real estate ownership. If all of these records are exhausted and there is still no mention of the person involved with the lost mine or treasure it is often presumed at this point the story is nothing but an unsubstantiated tale (or to be more exact a myth).

When no proof exists of the main character’s involvement, it is then apparent the story is nothing but a legend based on hear-say. These stories often amaze objective historans. Why do treasure hunters and lost gold mine searchers place so much value on what they believe to be truth based on weak subjective stories accredited to faith or belief in another individual’s story to be factual or true?  Often intelligent wealthy professional men or women fall prey to such rhetoric and dogmatic story telling.
Robert Simpson Jacob was a man who could sell any idea if given the proper opportunity and setting. Jacob was known as the man with the golden tongue, not silver. Long before Robert “Crazy Jake” Jacob arrived on the infamous Dutchman’s Lost Mine stage there were men like Dr. Robert A. Aiton, Dr. Rolf Alexander, and many more who had acted before him.

Jacob was unique because of his success at accumulating  a fortune in just eight years. He was a master of deception. He told investors what they wanted to hear. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office estimated Jacob accumulated more than thirty million dollars during a five-year period, however they could account for only nine million dollars with documents. 

To this day there is no sound explanation or accounting for that money or what happen to it. Robert Simpson Jacob passed away in the summer of 1993 leaving no information or a confession as to what happen to the nine million dollars he had accumulated. The reason for this paragraph was to explain the ability of some to raise money honestly or dishonestly.

There are men who came to these mountains to hunt for gold, lost mines and treasure who were reputable and honest individuals. Richard Peck, Alva Reser, Robert Corbin, Walter Gassler, Ron Feldman, and many more searched based on their integrity and honesty. Treasure hunters who really believe in their search for riches usually don’t want any partners. Their avocation is a solo practice. They are often very secretive about their information. Local historians and prospectors will always tell you a true “Dutch hunter” is a very solo and secretive individual. I am redundant here purposely to make a point.

Since Jacob Waltz died in 1891, there have been many attempts to defraud people with stories of lost gold mines in the Superstition Mountain area. You can prevent yourself from being a victim, and here are some hints. Don’t give anyone cash for an investment that sounds far too good to be true unless you have a witness and a signed contract.  Don’t make any deals without a witness who can back you up, if need be in court.

Many years ago a handicapped man approached me in a class I was teaching and asked me to help him get an investment back. He explained to me the federal, state, county and city authorities would not assist him. I soon found out why. He had given a local prospector (con artist) five thousand dollars in a paper sack. He had no witnesses or proof of the transaction. What he thought he was purchasing was gold bullion half the price. Of course the local prospector didn’t deliver and the man demanded his money back. The prospector said he never gave him any money. In the final analysis, what this boiled down to was one man’s word against another. There was no contract, no check and no witnesses. The authorities had nothing to build a case on. Sadly to say the gentlemen lost his five thousand dollars. A lesson hopefully well learned.

Most people laugh and say this can’t happen to them. I agree it can’t, however when someone produces a considerable amount of gold and claims they have a rich mine in the Superstitions, then they further claim the government won’t let them mine it legally, but they will secretly sell their gold at half of spot with cash up front. Such a proposal like this can be quite tempting. Most intelligent people will immediately spot red flags on such a deal. This happens in the Apache Junction area a couple times a year.

My advice is to be very cautious about giving any cash to anyone for any kind of a gold deal. I would contact the state fraud division or the local police and report suchactivity. Any time you can buy gold bullion for half the spot price it is too good to be true. Anything that is too good to be true is generally a fraud of some kind. If you suspect some kind of fraudulent deal you should report it to the authorities before somebody loses their life savings or money they can’t afford to lose.

Some say we walk in the footsteps of Coronado’s Children if we are interest in lost mines or treasure. Frank Dobie made quite an impact on some Americans when he wrote his book,  Coronado’s Children in 1931. His tales of lost mines and treasure in the Southwest continue to tantalize the minds of men and
women.

Arizona, New Mexico, California, Utah and Colorado suffer from more gold mine and treasure fraud then any other states. The reading public is fascinated with the American Southwest and all the tales of lost gold and treasure.

Hundreds of books have been written on the topic and people continue to believe hidden gold lies out there waiting for them if they can just put certain clues together. Golden riches is the bait these con artists use to separate their victims from their life savings.

Again, any kind of gold deal should be carefully scrutinized by knowledgeable individuals in the area of investment or banking before you invest your hard earned dollars into gold or the precious metal market.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Three Utah Missing Treasure Hunters

Rick Gwynn was hiking east of First Water Trail Head on Wednesday January 5, 2011 when he made a gruesome discovery. He found the remains of two treasure hunters missing since July 6, 2010. The remains were found on the WNW slope of Yellow Peak. The third victim was found on January 15, 2011 by Superstition Search & Rescue and immediately reported to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. SSAR was a certified Community Emergency Response Team doing what they do best finding the lost, injured, and missing. This tragic chapter has finally come to a close after thousands of man hours has been exerted searching for these three men. Nobody or any state, county or government can be faulted for not finding these men sooner. Treasure hunters have a tendency to leave the main trails and wander about looking for treasure signs or markers. Some times they choose extremely rugged terrain and if a mishap occurs it is extremely difficult to find them in an emergency. Often it is almost impossible. July is no time to be hiking off into the Superstition Wilderness Area looking for gold when temperatures are above 110*F.  Gold was the deadly vision that led these men to their final resting place. Lost gold can certainly be a dangerous attraction for some individuals.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Silas Haywood Story

January 17, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There has been a lot said about lost gold in the Superstition Mountains and the involvement of native Americans. The following is a story that supposedly occurred in 1960 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and first began with a letter written by John Kochera to Robert Simpson Jacob on April 4, 1974. John Kochera wrote the following:

“With this letter I am enclosing a copy of the assays I had made on the ore we found. They are not too impressive. Just thought you might care to know. Also enclosed is a map that I will detail to you. I don’t have the money to search for it. I am a darn good prospector but a poor salesman. I can’t get any man with money to sponsor me in a search. So I am giving it to you. You seem to be an honest person and since you have about all the maps available I would like you to have these also. I hope you find it and if you do remember me in some small way.

“In 1960 I met an Apache Indian named Haywood. He was from the Verde River country in Arizona. He was in Milwaukee going to vocational school, which the government sent him to along with some others. We became good friends and one night he was over at my house and we had been drinking heavy. I started talking about finding gold in Mexico and then he told me this story.

“He said in the Spring of 1942, he and fourteen other men went on horses up the Salt River to La Barge Canyon then up La Barge Canyon to Squaw Box Canyon. They passed by the box canyon, than passed on the north side of three red hills. Then turned north about one mile and turned west to a hill north of the box canyon. There is a tunnel at the south side base of the hill, with brush and small trees nearly hiding it. They then went to the top of the hill and uncovered a pit. They took out about $50,000 in gold. When they finished they covered the pit again. The vein of gold is in a soft black rock and on both sides of the black vein is red rock.

“Haywood was thirty-seven years old when I met him. He believes strongly that something bad would happen if he told a white man, but since I am part Indian. He thought it would be all right. In July 1960, he and another guy died in a head-on crash with a tractor-trailer.

“For fourteen years I’ve kept this to myself and you are now the only person I’ve told this to. I hope it does some good for you. I personally believe this is the Dutchman’s mine. I wish I could search for it, but just don’t see how I can.

“I would appreciate hearing from you on what you think of this. I’ll close for now and if you have any questions I’ll be glad to help you out. I believe you are the person all this was pre-destined for.

Good luck and best wishes, Johnny Kochera.” This letter to Robert Simpson Jacob from Johnny Kochera is interesting and certainly a different kind of perspective on a story about lost gold in the Superstition Mountain region. Many of our readers are familiar with Robert Simpson Jacob and his operation in Squaw Box Canyon and on Peter’s Mesa for more than a decade. Johnny Kochera reported he heard many of his stories about the Superstition Mountain from Silas Haywood. According to Kochera he met Haywood when he was attending school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Another man spoke about Silas Haywood on several occasions and said he actually met a man who worked with Haywood and heard the same story about the rock that was formed by alternating layers of red and black material. This same rock was filled with gold.

Stories often get confused over the years. The J.J. Polka story is very similar to the Haywood story, except it occurred in the area above the upper box of La Barge Canyon. The rock in the Polka story is almost identical to the rock in the Kochera story. There are several maps associated with these two stories.

Jim Butler, who knew Chuck Aylor, Roy Bradford and Abe Reid, spent a considerable amount of time searching for the ore associated with alternating layers of red and black rock filled with fine gold. Butler was familiar with the Polka story and the man named Silas Haywood. I don’t dare try to figure out the exact relationships between these individuals and how much they knew about the Haywood story. As far as I know most of the knowledgeable “Dutch” hunters knew something about this story. There were many simple and some complex versions of this story.

The Kochera letter of April 1974 did shed a little light on the subject of the lost gold ore in the Superstition Wilderness Area and the origin of the story. When Kochera talks about Silas Haywood and fourteen other men making a trip up the Salt River in 1942, I find it difficult to believe they rode up La Barge Canyon from the Salt River. There were enorThere were enormous obstacles to overcome with such a route. First and most important there is a large lake in the way. Possibly Haywood and the fourteen men were hauled with their horses to a point just east of Boulder Canyon and rode south into La Barge Canyon. Many individuals believe all stories of lost gold must be checked out thoroughly.

I first heard about this story while working on the Quarter Circle U Ranch in 1955. Jim Butler was still active in the mountains with Chuck Aylor and others. Butler stopped by the Quarter Circle U Ranch hoping to acquire access to the region east of the ranch. He asked for permission to use the road going through the ranch. I told him he would have to talk to Bill Barkley. Butler then told me a little about the mine he had been looking for. I believe he called it the Lost Polka Mine at the time.

Butler said Haywood supposedly told those who would listen there were two almost impassible boxes in La Barge Canyon. I am sure he was making reference to the Upper Box and Lower Box of La Barge Canyon. The Upper Box is located just above the confluence of Whiskey Springs Canyon and La Barge Canyon. This is the only part of his story I have found to be accurate.

It could be Haywood and Kochera were talking about two entirely different locations. Only time will prove it out. To this day I have doubted the existence of Silas Haywood and furthermore, neither I nor my research associates have found any documentation to support the concept that Johnny Kochera was part Native American. Searching for the truth often makes stories very complex and sometime difficult to accept, except as legend.

Author’s note: It is difficult to document or prove the existence of Silas Haywood. Could it be Johnny Kochera used the name to kept his story safe from those who might research thoroughly the background of Silas Haywood? Could this be the reason for the deception on Kochera’s part? Only research will prove or disprove the existence of Sila Haywood.  Tom Kollenborn

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Hound in Disgrace

January 10, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

A story that might have climaxed the Arizona Republic- Phoenix Archaeological Commission’s Expedition into the Superstition Mountains in 1931 was a tale about the redemption of a Black and Tan hound named “Music.” This hound was one of the best lion tracking dogs in Arizona. Music belonged to Richie Lewis, rodeo star, operator of the Tempe Riding Academy and master of horses as well as tracking hounds. Richie Lewis brought Music along on the archaeological expedition hoping he might come across the scent of a mountain lion. Music found rustling beef steaks from the cook tent was far more to his liking than chasing mountain lions across a desert of cactus spines and thorns.

The goal of this expedition was to explore the various Indian ruins in the Superstition Mountain area. The expedition included Harvey Mott, editor of the Arizona Republic, Edward D. Newcomer, photographer for the Arizona Republic, Odd S. Halseth, archaeologist for the City of Phoenix commission, George “Brownie” Holmes, leader of the expedition and Richie Lewis.

On December 5th and 6th of 1931, Richie Lewis and George “Brownie” Holmes lead the expedition’s pack animals from Tempe to Barkley’s First Water Ranch northeast of Apache Junction. Shortly after daybreak on Monday, December 7, 1931, members of the entire expedition gathered at the First Water Ranch to begin a weeklong trip into the Superstition Mountain region.

The first day of the expedition was spent traveling to Garden Valley and setting up camp. The valley was filled with Native American artifacts and Cholla cactus. A major winter storm dumped rain all night on the expedition’s camp in Garden Valley. The next morning the expedition leaders realized this was a major winter storm for the desert. It rained continuously for two full days and nights totally paralyzing the expedition’s activities in Garden Valley.

The thief of the camp was Music, Richie’s hound. The hound had stolen and eaten all the beef steaks planned for the first two evening meals. Richie Lewis later said if Music hadn’t been such a good lion hound he would have shot him then and there. Music certainly was a hound in disgrace as far as the expedition members were concerned.

On Thursday morning, December 10, 1931, the expedition started for Charlebois Canyon. Finally the skies had cleared, but it was extremely cold for the Arizona desert and the ground was very muddy and difficult to ride across. The mud was so bad it was constantly loosening shoes or pulling the shoes off the horses. Richie and Brownie had tightened shoes on the pack and riding animals on several occasions. Brownie Holmes was in the lead, followed by Ed Newcomer, than followed the pack stock. After the pack animals were Harvey Mott and Richie Lewis. Odds Halseth brought up the rear of the expedition.

Music roamed back and forth across the trail trying to pick up scent. Suddenly he broke away from the group as if he was following a scent. He headed directly for a small Palo Verde tree sniffing and then baying. The pack train stopped temporarily to see what Music had found. Music was staring into the sightless sockets of a human skull in the shade beneath a small Palo Verde tree.

The expedition dismounted and the horses were quickly tied. The expedition members walked toward the Palo Verde to examine what Music had found. Newcomer called out for everyone not to move the skull until he had a chance to photograph it. With camera in hand Newcomer photographed the skull beneath the Palo Verde. Finally “Brownie” picked up the skull and held it while Newcomer photographed him. Brownie and Richie Lewis were quite convinced the skull was that of Adolph Ruth, a Washington D.C. treasure hunter who had disappeared in the Superstition Mountains the summer before on June 14, 1931.

Halseth placed the skull in a gunny sack and the expedition continued on to Charlesbois Spring for the night. Music’s reputation had been redeemed with the discovery of Ruth’s skull. The expedition made camp that night at Charlebois Spring. Halseth was quite convinced the skull was not that of Ruth, but that of an ancient Indian. Holmes claimed there was still flesh clinging to the skull when he picked it up. The skull was far too fresh to be that of an ancient Indian insisted Holmes and Richie. The consensus of the group agreed the skull was far too fresh to be that of an Indian. It was agreed by all members of the expedition they would return to Phoenix the next day.

Halseth hung the skull in a tree for the night so that animals would not haul it off or damage it. After nightfall a slight wind caused the skull to do a footless dance as it dangled from the branch of a large Sycamore tree.

Music had been redeemed, Adolph Ruth’s skull had been found and the expedition had obtained two out of three of its original exploration goals, however this did not please the expedition leader. Halseth wanted to continue on to Roger’s Canyon, but Harvey Mott wanted to return to Phoenix immediately to report the finding of Ruth’s skull. A majority vote of the expedition members decided the fate of the expedition. On Friday morning, December 11, 1931, the expedition returned to First Water Ranch. The next day newspapers reported the finding of Adolph Ruth’s skull in the Superstition Mountains. The discovery of Ruth’s skull ended one of the most enduring missing person mysteries of the Superstition Wilderness region.

The mystery of Adolph Ruth’s disappearance in the Superstition Mountain had finally been solved by the keen nose of a hound named “Music.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

Major League in Apache Junction

January 3, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The memory and dreams of major league baseball in Apache Junction faded when Geronimo Park was dismantled and the materials sold to the Mesa Unified School District in 1969. Geronimo Park (where the Apache Junction Moose Lodge stands today) had been the winter home of the Houston Colt 45s (now Astros) some forty-eight years ago.

The Colt 45s were an expansion team in 1962, the same year the New York Mets made their major league debut. There are not too many of us around today who remember the Colts being here for winter training, but I recall Jerry Burgess being a batboy for the team. Jerry later graduated from Apache Junction High School and went on to serve on the Apache Junction City Council after the city was incorporated in 1978.

When the ballpark was planned and construction started in the fall of 1961 the project was the “talk of the town.” A group known as The Lost Dutchman’s Baseball Association financially backed the project. The association contracted PG&R Engineering Co. of Phoenix to build the park for an estimated cost of $20,000. During construction there were weekly reports in the newspapers about the park’s progress. Even the length of the grass (turf) and the date it was first cut was reported in the news. By mid November 1961 the park was rapidly taking shape. It was at this time it was discovered the park had no name.

Gene Chambers, president of The Lost Dutchman’s Baseball Association started a contest to name the park and offered two season tickets to the winner. A name was not chosen until mid-January when the “Name the park contest” ended. Victoria Vala of Riverside, Ill. entered the winning name for the park. Her nomination, “Geronimo Park” was selected.

The first game was played in the park on December 5, 1961. The Colts dropped a 5-3 decision to San Francisco in winter league play. On December 15, 1961, manager Paul Richards announced the Colts would officially start spring training at Geronimo Park on March 10, 1962.

According to some sources “Geronimo Park, Apache Junction, Arizona,” would soon appear on the pages of sports magazines and newspapers. This dateline would put Apache Junction on the sports pages of American newspapers. This without a doubt was one the biggest promotions of Apache Junction since it’s founding in 1923.

The new park was almost completed and named when it ran into financial difficulty. Members of The Lost Dutchman’s Baseball Association put out a call for funding and support from local merchants. The local support came through and the park was completed.

Bill Giles, traveling secretary for the Houston Colt 45s, announced that Apache Junction was destined for fame with baseball as a headliner. Giles further announced arrangements had been made to broadcast all of the team’s spring training games over the network of sixteen stations covering Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

It was a big day on March 12, 1962, when William W. Creighton, president of Lost Dutchman Baseball Association tossed out the first ball. He was a substitute for Governor Paul Fannin who had originally been scheduled for the event.

After six weeks of Cactus League play the Colt 45s left Apache Junction short of the $24,000 they had been guaranteed at the gate, but vowed to return the next year for spring training.

Yes, they did return in the spring of 1963, however after March of that year baseball’s spring training was over in Apache Junction. Geronimo Park was a long trip from the rest of the Valley and there was no Superstition Freeway in those days. Unfortunately, Apache Junction (with a population of around 3,000) did not meet the Houston Colt 45s expectations as far as attendance at their games.

So, by 1964, no longer could you hear the crack of a bat or the cheers of the fans in Geronimo Park. The treasure of major league baseball had slipped away from Apache Junction.