Monday, February 27, 2012

The Story of Roosevelt Dam

February 20, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Roosevelt Dam and bridge on the Salt River 44 miles northeast of Apache Junction.
Photo courtesy of the Salt River Project.
 In honor of the Arizona 100th birthday this is the last in a special eight-part centennial series about Arizona by Tom Kollenborn.
On March 18, 2011, we celebrated the centennial of the completion of Roosevelt Dam and any story about Arizona’s Centennial would not be complete without a story about Roosevelt Dam.

This enormous reclamation project was accomplished during the transition from mule teams to motorized The Story Of Roosevelt Dam vehicles in America. This accomplishment at that particular time in history was a triumph over overwhelming odds. Man, beast, and machine had harnessed the power of the mighty Salt  River of Central Arizona.

The early pioneers who first settled in the Salt River Valley dreamed of harnessing the Salt River’s enormous energy. An early pioneer named John W. “Jack” Swilling looked at the Hohokam canal system and wondered why he couldn’t do the same thing. Swilling formed a canal company and started digging. He planned to irrigate the fertile desert land with water from the Salt River.

Swilling began construction on a canal site along the north bank of the Salt River in December of 1867. This vision of irrigating thousands of acres of desert land eventually led to the construction of Roosevelt Dam. A hundred years ago, nobody would have believed Swilling’s name would someday be synonymous with reclamation.

Prior to the construction of Roosevelt Dam, the citizens of the Salt River Valley depended on weirs and a canal system along the Salt River for water to irrigate their crops. But the weirs and canals did not provide a dependable source of water for the valley and its farmers. The system was constantly destroyed by flooding and had no water to irrigate crops during drought.

Water storage wasn’t something new. The Valley pioneers had explored the Salt River for a dam site, but didn’t have the capital to finance such a project. They were very familiar with the site at the confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River and the Hudson Company had acquired the Tonto site by 1897 with plans of building a dam.

The combination of serious drought, federal inaction at the time and the failure of the Hudson Company to construct Tonto Dam led to the formation of a citizen’s committee on water storage in 1897.

It was Benjamin A. Fowler, a man who abandoned a successful book publisher career, who stepped in and led the citizen’s committee which eventually ended up forming the Salt River Water’s Users’ Association. The committee wanted to bond all cultivated acres and charge $1.25 per acre water rent. This created considerable consternation among committee members.

In the fall of 1900, a permanent Salt River Valley Water Storage Committee was appointed. It was composed of thirty-six men. In 1900, The Arizona Republican reported a lot of talk by this committee, but no real action.

Fowler was able to pull the group together into a working body. The group worked hard lobbying Congress to pass the Newland Arid Lands Act. When the Newland Act passed it provided the much needed reclamation construction for the West and set into motion the future of the Salt River Valley Project. The National Reclamation Act of 1902 promised financial subsidies through the use of interest free federal money for construction projects in the arid West. At first, this act appeared to be an act of national benevolence for the farmers of arid regions in the Southwest, but upon closer examination it had many strings attached to it.

Fowler and others worked diligently to organize the Salt River Water Users’ Association. The process required signing up landowners. The association closed its books on July 17, 1903 and forged ahead with 198,587 acres of land on the books. Fowler became the Association’s first president and was instrumental in bringing together many factions in the Salt River Valley so Roosevelt Dam could be constructed.

President Theodore Roosevelt at the dedication of Roosevelt Dam, March, 18, 1911.
Photo courtesy of the Salt River Project.
The Salt River Water Users’ Association committed bonding money to construct Roosevelt Dam by having its membership put up their land as collateral for a federally subsidized low interest loan. This loan is what built Roosevelt Dam and insured a good water supply for the future of the Salt River Valley.

The construction bids for Roosevelt Dam opened February 23, 1905. John M. O’Rourke of Denver, Colorado submitted the winning bid of $1,147,600 and promised to complete the project in two years.

The newly-formed Bureau of Reclamation started on the infrastructure of the Roosevelt Project in 1903. Preliminary construction consisted of building roads, base camps for engineers and workers, a cement mill, a sawmill, a power canal, a sluicing tunnel, an outlet tunnel, and a coffer dam. Stone had to be quarried at a nearby quarry. The government needed cheap timber, cement, stone and electricity to keep the construction cost of this project within the original budget.

Louis C. Hill was appointed as an engineer for the U.S. Reclamation Service on June 8, 1903. Hill was a former railroad engineer and professor of hydraulics and electricity at the Colorado School of Mines when appointed to this job. He was thirty-eight years old and was placed in charge of the Roosevelt Project in the spring of 1904 and remained with it until March of 1911.

The first stone was set down on September 20, 1906 and the last stone was laid on February 6, 1911. The original contract had called for a completion date within two years. The construction site suffered severe flooding on several occasions between November 26, 1905 and the spring 1906. Flooding caused many delays in the construction of Roosevelt Dam. It required almost three years to raise the dam to 150 feet at its lowest point.

The dam was finally completed in late February 1911, and rose 284 feet above bedrock. Roosevelt Dam, at the time, was the largest dam in the nation.

The cost reached a staggering $5.4 million. Even at this cost, the dam had borne out the wisdom of Louis C. Hill’s decisions. This dam has become a national model in sound water development and has been vastly important to the growth of Central Arizona. President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the dam on March 18, 1911.

The construction and success of this massive reclamation project was dependent on the cooperation of many federal agencies and was dependent on the protection of the watershed of this lake. This need led to the formation of the Tonto Forest Preserve in 1909. The Bureau of Reclamation, Tonto National Forest and the Salt River Project are all constant partners today ensuring a good water and electrical supply for the Salt River Valley.

The need for a greater water storage capacity and better flood control resulted in the modification of Louis C. Hill’s work. The dam was raised an additional 77 feet in 1996 (work completed) giving this Arizona icon a new modern look.

If you decide to visit Roosevelt Dam, be sure and visit the Roosevelt Visitor’s Center at Roosevelt. The old haul road, the Apache Trail, will provide you with a scenic and adventurous drive.

There probably would be no Arizona as we know it today if Roosevelt Dam had not been constructed. This was a citizen’s project funded by the United States government. We celebrate Arizona’s Centennial this year because of the foresight of early pioneers who saw a future in Arizona. The building of Roosevelt Dam was one of many major projects that are a part of this great centennial we are celebrating.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Dutchman's Lost Mine

February 13, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The old prospector of lost mine fame, Jacob Waltz, left the State of Arizona quite a legacy when he died in Phoenix on Sunday, October 25, 1891.

His death marked the beginning of a period of mystery, intrigue, myth and cryptic clues about a rich gold mine in the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction. Today some believe Waltz had a rich gold mine and others claimed it to be a fable.

As we celebrate our state’s centennial this week, wemust think about all the stories these old timers left behind. Most are fiction, but some are true. Our state is unique with its many stories of lost mines, cowboys, gunfighters, miners, prospectors, lawman, ministers, farmers, ranchers, jurists, and politicians. These were the men and women who helped Arizona make the transition from territorial status to statehood.

The stories like the Dutchman’s lost mine compels some to search the deep canyons and towering spires of the Superstition Wilderness for the Waltz’s lost mine. Prospectors, treasure hunters and the curious come from far and near for a look at the Superstition Mountain and try their luck at searching for gold.

The first major group to take advantage of this international interest was the Phoenix Dons Club now known as The Dons of Arizona. There first annual Superstition Mountain Trek was held in 1934. The Dons Club, in an attempt to further commemorate the history and lore of the Lost Dutchman Mine and Superstition Mountain, constructed the Lost Dutchman Monument in Apache  Junction in 1938.

The monument was rededicated in 1988 after standing for fifty years undisturbed by progress. Almost 400 dignitaries and citizens from around Arizona rededicated the monument on February 28, 1988, The keynote speaker for the occasion was the Governor of Arizona. Thousands of families have stopped to admire the monument over the years. Many had their photograph taken with the monument in the background. Sam Lowe, columnist for the Arizona Republic recently wrote about the historical significance of the monument in the lives of many prominent Arizonians including Arizona governors, legislators and historians. Recently the City of Apache Junction dedicated a bronze statue of the prospector and burro at City Hall on October 4, 2011. The prospector and burro have become the motif of Apache Junction, unique to any other community in Arizona.

The Apache Junction Lions Club so valued the legacy of the Lost Dutchman Mine story and the monument they implemented the Apache Junction Burro Derby in 1958. The Burro Derby drew thousands to Apache Junction each winter. Hollywood movie stars often became involved with the Burro Derby between 1960-1963 when they were in town filming at Apacheland.

As I recall, St. George’s Church started a Mardi Gras parade. Lost Dutchman Days evolved in 1965 under the guidance and support of Colonel Rodgers. Lost Dutchman Days was named by Lulu Luebben. Lulu’s husband, Roy, became the first officially elected Lost  Dutchman. If I recall correctly, the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce organized the event each year after 1965. This year’s event will be the 48th Annual Lost Dutchman Days.

This year’s chairman is Sandie Russell. Missing from Lost Dutchman Days after more than two decades dedication and devotion is Gary Mulholland. He was the man who probably saved Lost Dutchman Days through forming the Superstition Mountain Promotional Corporation. Gary passed away recently, and Lost Dutchman Day 2012 is dedicated to his memory. Gary Mulholland’s motto was “putting smiles on kid’s faces.”

Lost Dutchman Days is known around the nation and world because of the notoriety of Jacob Waltz and his lost gold mine in the  Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction. Each year, this celebration draws thousands people to Apache Junction for fun and to share in our history. This event requires a tremendous amount of volunteer energy and ingenuity to pull off each year.

This event is marked by volunteer dedication wherever you look. If it were not for community volunteers, there would be no Lost Dutchman Days. It is through their effort our community puts its best foot forward. We also need to recognize the businesses and sponsors who so strongly support this event. It is also important we recognize the resources and support committed by the City of Apache Junction since 1978, when the city was incorporated.

Recently, I had to explain to an old timer how to find the burro and prospector monument in downtown Apache Junction. He recalled to me having his picture taken with the burro and prospector in the background in 1939. He said, “When I had that picture taken, there was nothing between the monument and Superstition Mountain.”

I then mentioned Lost Dutchman Days to him. His reply was simple, “You mean the old prospector and burro have an event named after them? It sure pays to hunt gold in these hills, friend.”

Come out and celebrate Lost Dutchman Days with the fine people of Apache Junction on Feb. 24, 25 and 26, 2012. This year’s celebration includes a parade, a rousing Rodeo Dance, a carnival, Polka contest, gold panning, a Senior Pro Rodeo, and lots of good food and entertainment. If you need information about Lost Dutchman Days call the Chamber of Commerce at (480) 982-3141.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Goldfield: An Arizona Centennial Treasure

February 6, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

In honor of the Arizona 100th birthday this is the sixth in a special centennial series about Arizona by Tom Kollenborn.

The discovery of gold just west of the towering facade of Superstition Mountain in 1881 eventually led to the discovery of the Mammoth mine. This mine was a bonanza of rich gold ore.

The mine was located shortlyafter a thunderstorm and flash flood on April 14, 1893. The discovery of the mine must be attributed to four men, C.R. Hakes, J. R. Morse, Orlando and Orrin Merrill. The Mammoth Claims and others were soon sold to C. I. Hall and Denny Sullivan, two Denver mining men, in early May of 1893.

Hall, by June 1893, had sunk a thirty-five foot shaft on the Mammoth, and had extended it to the depth of sixty-five feet by June 15, 1893. At the sixty-five foot level Hall drifted eastward ten feet without striking any rich ore. He then drifted westward and at a distance of thirty feet he struck a rich ore body. This strike became the famous Mormon stope.

The development of the Mammoth Mine led to the construction of a small business section in the middle of the Arizona desert twenty miles east of Mesa City by late July of 1893. It wasn’t long before Goldfield had three saloons, the Capitol, Mammoth and the Pioneer. There was a boarding house, restaurant, stable,
butcher shop, barbershop and school.

The Mammoth Mine produced between one and three million dollars in gold bullion when gold was worth about $20 per ounce. The mine was productive for a period of four years. After the rescue of James Stevens, a miner trapped in the mine for thirteen days in July of 1897, the Mammoth Mine began to decline eventually closing down by January of 1898. The rescue of Stevens was in no way connected to the decline of the Mammoth Mine. C.I. Hall remained after the mine closed and continued to search for the elusive vein he had lost.

The operation at the Mammoth Mine opened and closed several times between 1900-1948. George U. Young acquired the property in 1910 and spent the next fifteen years trying to relocate the lost ore body. Young sunk the shaft to 900 feet eventually encountering a low-grade vein of gold ore. Young’s operation produced about $70,000 in gold according to some reports. Young eventually had the post office at Goldfield changed to the Youngsberg Post Office on June 8, 1921. The post office closed in 1926 and Youngsberg ceased to exist. The name was never officially changed back to Goldfield.

Alfred Strong Lewis, a pioneer mining engineer, became very active trying to revive Goldfield in 1949. Lewis extracted about forty-five thousand dollars worth of gold bullion using a 100-ton ball mill and a cyanide operation. After Lewis’ attempt the Goldfield property was acquired by Hugh Nichols, Ted Sliger, Doc Waterbury and Russell. These four men formed the Apache Trail Mining Company and again attempted to put Goldfield in production.

The most successful attempt to reactivate Goldfield was made in 1978. John Wilburn located some interesting gold properties in the Goldfield area. The Oliver-Clark Mining Contractors began core drilling and found several areas with gold. Wilburn sold his claim and lease to an unknown party for an undisclosed amount.

John Wilburn had introduced another breath of life into the once famous town of Goldfield. Goldfield has been a great place to invest a lot of money for very little return on the mining dollar.

Early in 1984, Robert Schoose found the old mill site at Goldfield an interesting challenge to create a theme town based on gold mining. He decided with friends to recreate the old town of Goldfield on an old five-acre mill site. Schoose’s attempt has been a big step toward preserving the history of gold mining in the Southwest and the history of Goldfield. His Goldfield Ghost Town Tours, Inc. offers the visitor an opportunity to enjoy and at the same time examine the old mining equipment used at the turn of the century.

Goldfield today is an experience of what the past may have been like. Schoose has a tremendous investment in capital and personal labor, as well as his love for this town and its history. He involves his entire family in the everyday operation of Goldfield. His love for authenticity in Goldfield is expressed by the architecturally accurate design of buildings throughout the town. It is certain Goldfield will stand as a reminder of his and others’ dedication and devotion to the preservation of Southwest mining history and lore.

Goldfield has gone from boom to bust. Now, under the guidance of Robert Schoose and company, Goldfield will continue to boom again on the Arizona desert west of Superstition Mountain.

Goldfield’s contribution to our community has been enormous over the years in a variety of ways. The ghost town provides business opportunities, employment opportunities, entertainment, good food, historical mining equipment preservation and a source of mining history.

A visit to Goldfield helps to ensure the preservation of old mining equipment that could have been easily sold for scrape and melted down years ago. Today, this old equipment is displayed at Goldfield. Our children and grandchildren can examine it, learn about it and ask questions about the early history of Arizona mining.

Goldfield Ghost Town preserves a distinct part of Arizona’s past mining history for the 2012 Statehood Centennial.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Silver King Mine

January 30, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona will be celebrating its centennial on February 14, 2012. The 48th Annual Lost Dutchman Days, Feb. 24-26, will honor the statewide celebration of Arizona’s 100th birthday by featuring a President Theodore Roosevelt re-enactor as the Grand Marshall for the annual Lost Dutchman Days Parade (Feb. 25). After the parade he will drive to locations on the historic Apache Trail to speak about the building of the road to carry materials for the construction of the Roosevelt Dam.

This is the fourth in a special centennial series about Arizona by Tom Kollenborn.

The dream of riches is what brought the first Europeans to what is known as Arizona today. The mineral wealth of Arizona continued to bring men here after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. James D. Poston, known as the father of Arizona, brought miners to southern Arizona in the 1850’s to mine silver. By the time Arizona reached territorial status in 1863, much of the Central Mountain region was known for its mineral wealth. First, there was gold, then silver and, finally, copper.

There were many stories about lost mines throughout Arizona. Few lost mines or treasures have been found in the annuals of the American Southwest. Actually, only a few of these stories are based on fact. Most lost mines and treasure stories are based on fiction, distortion and outright lies.

This is not the case with the fabulous Silver King Mine north of Superior, Arizona. This is a true story from beginning to end about a lost mine actually being found in the wilds of Arizona Territory in 1875. This story may have fired the imagination of the early pioneers who searched this area for mineral wealth. These men also told stories about lost mines and embellished on their tales.

Silver was first discovered in the Globe area prior to the great American Civil War. The approaching civil war, the hostile Apache and extreme cost of transportation discouraged the development of the ore bodies in the area until 1873. The close of the Civil War and the suppression of the Apache led to the development of the mining industry in Arizona Territory. At first, the development was slow, but then it boomed. As men and equipment made their way into the Globe area, other prospecting ventures were started in other parts of the region.

The United States Army construction of a wagon road between Camp Pinal and Globe began in 1873. The Stoneman Grade was located near the foothills of the Pinal Mountains directly east of the present site of the old Silver King mine. The work crew, a group of soldiers, took a lunch break. A soldier named Sullivan was wandering around and noticed an outcrop of black rock. He broke off a piece of what appeared to be rock but it turned out to be somewhat malleable.  Finding this unusual sample of rock to be metallic and heavy he put it in his pocket to keep.

Sullivan showed his heavy metallic rock to a rancher named Charles Mason who lived along the Salt River west of Superstition Mountain. Mason informed Sullivan his black rock was a rich specimen of native silver and silver sulfide.

Mason tried hard to convince Sullivan to let him grubstake him for a percentage of the mine. Sullivan kept the secret of the “black nuggets” to himself, planning to return someday and staking a claim on his discovery.

He returned to the area a year later after being mustered out of the army. Sullivan searched the area of his discovery, but couldn’t locate the source of his “black nuggets.”

Shortly thereafter, Sullivan gave up his search and moved on to California in hopes of finding a gold mine. Mason was still intrigued by Sullivan’s rich specimen of ore and soon planned an expedition to search for the “black nuggets” of the Pinal Mountains.

Mason reasoned that Sullivan must have found his silver nuggets somewhere along the route of the wagon road constructed by General Stoneman. This was the area where Mason concentrated his search.

Mason and his prospecting party were attacked by Apaches in a canyon near the foot of the Pinal Mountain on March 20, 1875. After a brief skirmish, Mason’s men searched the surrounding area for their horses and pack mules. One of Mason’s pack mules was standing on a knoll. The animal was nervous because of the gunfire. Mason’s men spread out and approached the animal from four different directions. As they approached the animals they discovered the source of Sullivan’s “black nuggets” at their feet.

There on the ground, a short distance from the abandoned wagon road was the richest outcrop of silver ore any of the party had ever seen. Sullivan’s “black nuggets” had been found.

Mason immediately returned to Florence and filed the Silver King claims on March 21, 1875. The Silver King proved to be a rich vertical chimney. The mine operated continuously day and night from 1876 to 1887. The greatest obstacle for the Silver King planners was transportation of supplies and ore. As the price of silver fluctuated on the market, the Silver King had its ups and downs.

There was a large town at the Silver King mine site and another town grew up at the mill site on Queen Creek. The mill town was known as Pinal.

Finally, by 1895 and at the depth of 1,100 feet, the mine played out. This was not the end of mining in the Pioneer District. A short distance from the Silver King, the Silver Queen was developed, first for silver then for copper in 1895.

The development of the Silver Queen Mine led to the founding of Hastings at the base of Apache Leap in 1882. Shortly thereafter, it was suggested that the town be named after the mine’s superintendent Sieboth, but the United States Post Office chose to name the town after the superintendent’s company, the Lake Superior Mining Company.

Today, little remains of old Silver King. There are foundations of old stone buildings, underground workings, a cemetery and old dumps to remind us of the glorious past of the Silver King. Occasionally, men have tried to reopen the old mine and recent  underground exploration at the Silver King has shown some promise.

Even through Private Sullivan was insignificant in the history of the Silver King Mine, he did plant in the minds of men that sometimes lost mines turn out to be real. The Silver King was a classic example of a lost mine actually existing.

Mason and Reagan’s discovery of silver in 1875 eventually led to the discovery of vast deposits of copper in the area in 1895.

The opening of the Magma Mine, and other copper mines in the area and throughout the territory put Arizona on the path to statehood one hundred years ago.