Monday, February 25, 2013

A Deadly Explosion

February 18, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Steve Barrick, pictured here at Andy Synbad's claim, went with Grady Haskins deep into the mine shaft in an attempt to rescue an injured man in 1947.

During past few years a lot of questions have been ask about the old Buck Horn and Boulder Mine, known as the Kimball Mine and as the Palmer Mine. Here is a brief history of the old Kimball Mine.

As one looks toward the slopes of Superstition Mountain from Mining Camp Road, the old Kimball Mine dump is still visible despite the re-vegetation efforts of the forest service. William A. Kimball, of Mesa, discovered a deposit of copper on the western slope of Superstition Mountain in 1886. Local newspapers reported Kimball shipped wagon loads of rich copper ore to the mill to be processed. Records indicate Kimball shipped only two wagon loads of high-grade copper ore to a processing mill. Kimball eventually sunk a vertical shaft seventy-five feet deep, but this shaft never produced any large quantities of profitable ore.

Kimball became ill and passed away on January 20, 1906, and the mine remained idle for eleven years. Some time during 1917, a conglomerate of Mesa businessmen decided to acquire the property. Eventually they extended the shaft to 120 feet. This group included a young doctor named Ralph Fleetwood Palmer.

The newly formed Buck Horn and Boulder Mining Co. initiated the work. It was near the end of 1918 when the shaft was extended to 215 feet in depth. A single sample from a glory hole at the 200-foot level produced ore that assayed at 882 ounces of gold to the ton. This was motivation to continue digging, but the bonanza never panned out and World War I eventually shut the mine down.

The mine remained closed from 1919 to 1926 except for annual assessment work done in the name of the corporation. The property was sold at auction to pay for outstanding indebtedness in 1926. It was at this time Ralph F. Palmer acquired the old Boulder-Buckhorn Mine (Kimball).

The old mine became a hobby for Dr. Palmer. You might say a stress reliever. He tried the reach the "pot of gold" he believed was beyond the 220-foot level. Palmer had lot of friends who invested in his mining operation and his dream.

On December 17, 1947, a tragic accident occurred in the Palmer Mine at the bottom of the shaft some 225 feet below the surface. One miner was killed and another seriously injured in a premature explosion of dynamite. Killed in the explosion was Ernesto Jacoeo of Phoenix. He was a 38 year-old experienced miner. He left behind a wife and five children.

Injured in the same accident was Glenn Belcher, 41, of Apache Junction, who suffered multiple lacerations and had a severe injury to his left side by a flying rock. Jack Karie reported this information in Arizona Republic on December 17, 1947. At the time of this accident Dr. Ralph Palmer was living in Phoenix.

It was reported three men were working at the mine when the explosion occurred. Jacoeo and Belcher were at the bottom of the 225 foot shaft and Frank Hedworth, of Winkleman, was running the hoist. Evidently when the blast went off Belcher was in the mine bucket while Jacoeo was lighting the fuses. According to Hedworth there was no signal to lift the bucket. After the blast Hedworth raised the bucket and found Belcher in it. He was rushed to the Southside Hospital in Mesa.

Steve Barrick, a prospector from Chicago, and Grady Haskins returned to the mine with Hedworth to retrieve Jacoeo’s body.

Several years later Grady Haskins was elected Apache Junction’s first constable and became a well-known citizen of the community. Steve Barrick continued to prospect for gold and lived for many years on a mining claim near Andy Synbad.

Recently, like a ghost from the past, I received a phone call from one of the children of Ernesto Jacoeo. Lewis Jacoeo talked about his dad and the old Palmer Mine. He said he was only five years old when his father died on that fateful day in 1947. He expressed interest in visiting the old Palmer Mine site.

In order to care for his family, Ernesto Jacoeo gave the ultimate sacrifice, his life. I vaguely remember my father talking about the accident at the Palmer Mine around Christmas time in 1947 and expressing compassion for the dead miner and his family.

This tragic blast was the beginning of the end for the old Palmer Mine. It never really opened again after this accident. The old mine did serve as a water resource for the Barkley Cattle Company. Palmer and his associates continued assessment work up to the time of his death in 1954.

You might find Dr. Ralph Palmer’s memoirs some very interesting reading. A section of this book was written about Superstition Mountain. The title of the book is Doctor on Horseback.