Monday, July 23, 2012

Buried Gold on Rattlesnake Lane

July 16, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

When we think of the Apache Junction area, we think of lost gold mines in the Superstition Wilderness. Adventurers, prospectors, and treasure hunters are always looking for lost gold in these mountains.

There are many people who believe there is lost treasure in the Apache Junction region. The following is an interesting story about old landmarks and buried gold.

The other day someone asked me about old landmarks in Apache Junction. At first I responded with landmarks such as the Apache Junction Zoo, Superstition Mountain Shell Station, Cowboy Service Station and the Apache Junction Inn. All of these places disappeared by 1958 and only a few people remembered them. Then I thought about more contemporary landmarks that many people would recall.

These included Superstition Ho Hotel, The Lucky Nugget, Traynor’s Texaco, Gulf Station, Blakely’s Service Station, Yucca Café, Hacienda Café, The Superstition Skies, Pappy Russell’s Garage, Slim Fogle’s Moonlight Ranch, Norman Teason’s Palo Verde Lodge, George’s Steak House, Jordan’s Chevron, Henry’s Tasty Freeze, Arnold’s Auto Center, Bill Bemo’s Plaza Barber Shop, C.L. King Towing, Lake Realty, Copper State Bank, Ray’s Western Wear, Cobb’s Restaurant and many, many more.

There are old names such as the fire station on Ocotillo Street, Vineyard Road (now Ironwood), Wilson Road, Mouer Road, and of course the legendary Rattlesnake Drive or Lane.

It is stories like the following that have always attracted my attention. Thirty years ago an old lady called from Texas inquiring about a road or street in Apache Junction called Rattlesnake Lane. She had a bizarre story to tell, but didn’t know exactly how to begin.

She said her father once to lived in the desert near Apache Junction on a road called Rattlesnake Lane. She believed her father named the road because of all the rattlesnakes in the area.

She said her father had emphysema and he found living in the dry desert better for his health. He moved here in the early part of 1954 and she remembered him mentioning that Barney Barnard lived nearby.

She also said you drove east of the Junction “Y” about a mile or so. That is all she could remember about her father and mother’s abode in the desert.

She continued her story and talked about how her father did not trust banks. He was a “Depression Era” man, she said. He placed his entire savings into gold coins and kept them buried in quart glass jars on his property. She said she had seen her father’s gold coins on several occasions over the years. Most of the coins were $20 double eagles, but he also had a large selection of $5 and $10 gold pieces. She said her father had been gathering gold coinage since 1890 and claimed his coins would have filled two or maybe three quart jars. She said her father had ignored the Gold Act in 1933 that limited the amount of gold an American citizen could hold to five ounces. She estimated her father may have had 200 or more ounces of gold coinage.

Not knowing where Rattlesnake Lane was or anything about it created quite a mystery. I inquired with local old timers if they had ever heard of a Rattlesnake Lane. Several said no and a couple said yes, but they didn’t recall where it was located.

The road could have been a dirt trail on private property to his abode. Through more research I found a Sidewinder Lane in Apache Junction, but its location did not fit the location described by the old lady.

For several months the search for Rattlesnake Lane was one of my research projects. The more I inquired about Rattlesnake Lane the more stories I heard.

There were no officially named streets in Apache Junction prior to 1975, and I believe Clay Worst chaired a street naming committee just prior to incorporation of Apache Junction in November of 1978. As far as I know, Clay Worst or Janette Lake didn’t know of any Rattlesnake Lane in Apache Junction.

Many early property owners in Apache Junction had 1.5 to 5 acres of land in the late 1960s. Many of these properties were part of the old Veterans Homestead Act of the early 1950s and many of these property owners named small road tracks on their private property that did not have a public easement.

It is for this reason I believe Rattlesnake Lane has become lost and gone the way of the Dodo bird.

Locating Rattlesnake Lane today is an almost impossible task. However, there is always the possibility someone might come forward one of these days with the precise location of Rattlesnake Lane.

Many of the old landmarks around Apache Junction are gone and few people today remember them. These landmarks were often colorful and different, but to some it is probably better that they have vanished.

I remember the old Lost Dutchman Café, Dog Track, McKinney’s, Yucca Café, Sand Tanks Café, The Rib Eye, and of course Elvira’s Cafe on the Apache Trail which is still there today. I recall the old fire station and sheriff’s office on Ocotillo Street.

Yes, Apache Junction has really changed. Many old timers fought a valiant battle to preserve old Apache Junction, but progress became reality. There is nothing more evident concerning change than the rise and fall of the Superstition Ho Hotel in the center of Apache Junction at the “Y” between 1960-2008. A Greek philosopher once said something like, “There will always be change.”