Monday, August 22, 2016

The Sword of Bluff Springs Mountain

August 15, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Some thirty-two years ago Bob Corbin and I visited Ernie Provence and Tracy Hawkins at the store called the Lost Dutchman Mine Store some eight miles east of Highway 60 on the old Quarter U Circle Ranch road. The store was located about a mile east from the junction of Peralta Road and Quarter Circle U Ranch road.

I had met Ernie Provence walking along the old U Ranch Road doing some surveying of property boundaries at the time. Ernie and Tracy were planning on opening a store and eventually a trailer park to attract winter visitors. This dream was totally dependent on them finding a good source of water. This is not the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine store, but story of an alleged Spanish sword found stuck in the ground on top of Bluff Springs Mountain north of the old Quarter Circle U Ranch.

Corbin and I had driven out to the U Ranch with plans of riding into the mountains and looking around Whiskey Springs Canyon. We parked at the U Ranch at the time and Henry Jones assured us he would watch our truck and horse Trailer. After our trip we stopped by Ernie and Tracy’s Lost Dutchman Store site. The store was partially completed and Tracy had just installed a diesel Whitey power plant to run their big iceboxes. There was no electricity in the area and the nearest power lines were eight miles away. Ernie and Tracy were two very determined individuals. This particular day they were full of great stories about the area and their lives.

It wasn’t long before Ernie brought up his old sword with gold trim on it that he called a Spanish saber. He said he found the saber on Bluff Springs Mountain while he was searching for the Peralta mines, Lost Dutchman mine, and various treasures in the area.

Ernie Provence at the 2011 Dutch Hunter’s
Rendezvous at the Don’s Camp.
Ernie was convinced the saber was a Spanish weapon left there some two hundred years ago by the Spanish Conquistadors. Bob Corbin examined the sword carefully and questioned Ernie’s opinion. He told Ernie he had a friend at the University of Arizona that had knowledge about military weapons— particularly swords. After some discussion Ernie trusted Bob to take his cherished sword and have it checked and tested by an expert. Bob warned Ernie this would take a month or so, but Ernie wasn’t too concerned about the Attorney General of Arizona at the time taking his sword in to be studied and tested.

Ernie told us how he found the sword on top of Bluff Springs Mountain. He claimed he was following an old Spanish map that designated the top of Bluff Springs Mountain as a protected pasture for Spanish horses used on expeditions in the mountains to mine gold. The Spaniard had to have a place to pasture their horses that was safe so the Indians wouldn’t kill them and eat them. Ernie had found the sword stuck in the ground near where the Spanish kept their horses in Canyon de Fresco on top of Bluff Springs Mountain. Ernie and Tracy both believed this story with all their hearts. They both believed the Spanish had been on Bluff Springs Mountain and had used it to pasture their horses.

As we prepared to leave that spring day from the site of Ernie and Tracy’s Lost Dutchman Mine Store Ernie carefully packaged his treasured possession and turned it over to Bob Corbin. Ernie told Bob as we left he was anxious to know the truth about the sword. Some people had told him it was Spanish and others had said it was not. Ernie called our attention to Ray and Liz Howland’s discovery near Castle Rock (Cathedral Rock) of Spanish armor in the 1930s. This find was never authenticated but years later it was said the armor was not authentic Spanish armor of the period. Few if any historians believed this wild story about Spanish armor dug up at the base of Castle Rock.

Now Ernie’s sword would be put to the test. About six weeks later we returned to the Lost Dutchman Mine Store with some sad news for Ernie and Tracy. Several experts had looked at the sword and determined it was not Spanish even though it was trimmed in 14 Karat gold. The experts concluded it was a 1953 Korean Police dress sword.

Ernie, at first, looked a little embarrassed but didn’t feel bad about the sword not being Spanish. He had found it stuck in the ground on Bluff Springs Mountain. I don’t think anyone doubted him about that part of the story.

Most Arizona historians will tell you there were no Spaniards in the Superstition Mountains, much less Aztecs hiding their gold from Tenoctitlan, their capitol city in central Mexico. Yes, the mountains are rugged and have lot of secrets, but not secrets of Spanish or Aztec gold, not even Jacob Waltz’s gold. The majestic mountains do, however, make great stories that are very entertaining to many people and new arrivals to Arizona and Superstition Mountain area.