Monday, September 1, 2014

The Sage of the Superstitions

August 25, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Doc Rosecrans when he first arrived to build his cabin along the Apache Trail and search for the Lost Dutchman mine.
There are not to many of us around anymore who recalled the old “Sage of Superstition Mountain” who lived along the Apache Trail northeast of Apache Junction. Many of us referred to him as “Doc” Rosecrans.

I first met Ludwig Grath Rosenkrantz in the spring of 1949. Father had stopped by to purchase Doc’s new book on the Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman Mine. Our visit was short and interesting as “Doc” told stories about the Lost Dutchman Mine. At this time in his life Doc expressed a real interest in finding the Dutchman’s lost mine.  Rosecrans’ cabin was located along the Apache Trail northeast of Apache Junction about seven miles. One of his notable quotes when talking about the Lost Dutchman Mine was, “the only mine is in the mind of the believer.”

Rosecrans moved to the Superstition Mountain area in 1946, settling on a claim belonging to Mrs. Sina Lewis, an old woman he befriended. Doc had spent a couple of years around Amboy Crater in California searching for the Lost Peg Leg Mine. He made a trip over to Apache Junction and met Sina Lewis in the fall of 1945. He decided he liked the area and remained. It was at Sina Lewis’ suggestion Rosecrans built a cabin and filed on the Lazy Doc claim. He liked the geology of the claim and believed it had potential.

Rosecrans made several trips into the Superstition Mountains over the next forty years. He spent time around Black Top Mesa, Lewis Ridge, and East Boulder Canyon. People arrived at his doorstep from all over the world seeking information about the Lost Dutchman Mine. Rosecrans was more than happy to oblige them, but would always caution them about the mountains. “As for the mine,” he would say, “a lot of interest, but no substance.” His experience, information and philosophy led to his being called the “Sage of Superstition Mountain.” He became a legend within his own lifetime.

Who was Doc Rosecrans? Ludwig G. Rosenkrantz (his birth name) was born in Latah, Washington, on July 9, 1914. His father was a Veteran’s Administration doctor and was constantly on the move from one place to another. Rosecrans remembered as a child living on the Hoopa Indian Reservation. Growing up, he also lived at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, then in Chicago, and finally in Memphis. Rosecrans attended Southwestern College in Memphis, but soon gave up a college education and moved to California in 1935.

When Doc arrived in California he planned on striking it rich. He even tried Hollywood for a while, playing the part of a Burgundy soldier in the film If I Were King. The film starred Ronald Coleman and Claire Trevor and was released in 1938. Doc always said, “I didn’t hit Hollywood by storm, as a matter of fact Hollywood hit me by storm. I was in, and then I was out.”

In California Doc became acquainted with billiards. His only means of support was hustling pool, primarily at a pool hall located at 6th and Union Streets in Los Angeles. His pool shooting expertise soon earned him the name of “Sixth and Union Street Doc.” He actually played exhibition games against the great “tuxedo players” such as Harry Oswald.

“It was a romantic way of life,” Rosecrans would often say. “You were always looking for a big sucker, the one hundred thousand dollar hustle. Of course those games never came. It was much like looking for the Lost Dutchman Mine or Lost Peg Leg Mine, but somewhat less vigorous.”

Doc remembered December 7, 1941. He recalled leaving for the pool hall that morning, wondering where the money to pay for breakfast was going to come from. He passed some workers on the street who informed him of the events surrounding the “day that would live in infamy.”

Doc was drafted into the United States Army Air Corps on March 5, 1942. He had basic training at Shepherd Field, Texas, and then was sent to radio school at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. He was assigned to the 17th Bomber Group, General Jimmy Doolittle’s group, as a radioman. A short while later Doc was reassigned as a writer to the Army Public Relations Department. He wrote for the Stars and Stripes.

While in the military during World War Two, Doc became a public relations writer. In this position he sent many interviews of enlisted men and officers to hometown newspapers across our country for printing. As a public information writer he toured the Austrian concentration camps of Gusen and Mauthausen. He told the stories of Hitler’s Nazi Party atrocities against humanity. His vivid descriptions of these horrible death camps were printed in newspapers in Memphis and other communities across America. Doc carried this horror with him for the rest of his life. What he saw at Gusen and Mauthausen had soured him on the human race.

Rosecrans was discharged from the United States Army in 1945 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. After a brief visit with his family he returned to California, but he had lost his interest in pool halls and billiards. He decided to search for gold.

Prior to his move to Arizona in 1947, he searched for gold in northern California. He then moved his search to the Mohave Desert near Barstow. Doc was convinced he could locate the Lost Peg Leg mine if he had a dirigible. A dirigible captain suggested he give up his “wild idea” of searching for gold with a dirigible and move to Arizona and search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. This was always the story Doc told about how he decided to move to Arizona.

Lost gold mine hunting was certainly a solo way of life and he needed the isolation. He read John D. Mitchell’s book, Lost Mines Of The Great Southwest. It fired his imagination and eventually led to his decision to search for the Lost Dutchman Mine in Arizona.

Once settled in his cabin along the Apache Trail he turned to prospecting and writing. His first small book was titled Spanish Gold and the Lost Dutchman Mine.  The first edition was published in 1949 and the second was published in 1953. His book so enraged a pious contemporary expert on the Lost Dutchman Mine that Doc was sued for copyright infringement. This lawsuit was frivolous and never mounted too much, however it discouraged Doc from publishing any other books.

Not all of Doc’s writing was serious. His notebooks were filled with quips of witticism, and satirical statements. His final manuscript was written about life itself and what eventually happens to the soul. Rosecrans penned a manuscript titled The Kingdom of Reality. This manuscript was a very complicated and analytical look at life based on reality as understood by Rosecrans. The manuscript attempts to explain the unknown about life itself and it also projects the philosophical being of the author and the impact his war year experiences.

Another interesting aspect of Doc Rosecrans’ life was his attempt to make a claim to the James Kidd estate. This estate belonged to a very eccentric old prospector who disappeared on the eastern edge of the Superstition Mountains in the late 1940’s. Kidd left a handwritten will which basely stated, anyone who could prove the existence of a soul would be the sole heir to his estate. His estate was worth over five hundred thousand dollars. This just goes to prove Doc tried every avenue to accomplish his life goal of getting rich without much effort, but he even failed at this endeavor. See The Great Soul Trial by John G. Fuller, 1969 for more information about Rosecrans.

Visitors and friends from all walks of life visited with Doc and exchanged their ideas and life experiences. These people carried his stories and wit about life across America and around the world. Doc was a sounding board to many people who needed just to talk. They came to sit in his “old shack” to talk about the Lost Dutchman mine, Superstition Mountain, politics, religion, and life in general. The “old shack” had a certain amount of nostalgia and magnetism that attracted people and Doc always had the welcome mat out. Visitors included movie stars, Olympians, politicians, musicians, schoolteachers, police officers and members of the worldwide press. Doc had an amazing talent for wit that often dazzled his friends and visitors.

Ludwig G. “Doc” Rosecrans is gone. He passed away on April 7, 1986, in the Phoenix Veteran’s Hospital. He was buried with full military honors. He had a little bit of everything in his life and certainly he was a small part of history. Doc deserved the title of “Sage of Superstition Mountain.”