Monday, May 22, 2017

Alva B. “Al” Reser

May 15, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Anyone well versed in the history and prospector lore of the Superstition Wilderness Area has heard of Alva Reser. He prefered to be called Al by his friends. Al Reser devoted almost fifty years to his search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. What would possess a man of Al’s background to pursue such a mythical mine? Al’s faith in the mine’s existence never wavered. Al Reser searched for the Dutchman mine in many different locations in the Superstition Wilderness Area over the years. Reser was a partner with several men at different times including Clay Worst, Monte Edwards, Joe Roider, and others. Reser had met many of the old time Dutch hunters such as Abe Reid, Chuck Aylor, and Roy Bradford. Al and I visited many times at my home in the early 1970s and talked about the different Dutch hunters, clues and stories associated with the Lost Dutchman Mine and Superstition Mountain.
Alva B. “Al” Reser

Al often parked his truck above the Quarter Circle U Ranch and hiked into the mountain through Bark’s Draw or the Miner Needle Trail. I first met Al when I worked at the Quarter Circle U Ranch in the late 1950s. Al was a good friend of Henry Jones who took care of the Quarter Circle U Ranch for Chuck Backus. Al would contract Billy Crader to pack his camp and mining equipment into a pre-designated location in the wilderness area. Al often spent three weeks in the mountain at a time. One time I recall visiting with him on top of Bluff Springs Mountain in 1984. He was convinced he had found a new location for the mine. One day Al returned to his campsite on Bluff Springs Mountain and found the entire camp stolen. Whoever removed his camp must have had at least two packhorses. Billy Crader told me later that it would have required at least two packhorses to move Reser camp on Bluff Springs Mountain. Al Reser returned to California very disappointed that year.

Al’s first trip away from Kansas was in 1931. This was the same year Adolph Ruth disappeared in the Superstition Mountains. He read stories about Ruth in the newspapers and soon believed a doctor would not spend time searching for a gold mine unless there was some possibility of its existence. The Ruth story led to Reser’s interest in the Superstition Wilderness Area and the Lost Dutchman mine.

Reser had been considering going into the Superstitions about the time of Adolph Ruth’s death in 1931, but choose not to make the venture at that time.

Alva Reser was born on March 25, 1908 in the little town of Grenada, Kansas to James Milton and Alma Reser. Al was the oldest of six boys. Al’s father was a carpenter and small building contractor. His father’s poor health caused Al to drop out of college to help provide for the family.

Al moved to California in 1934 and went to work for the Ford Motor Company in plant security. He retired in 1957, and devoted much of the winter months searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains.

Al spent a lot of time around the Tortilla Ranch. He became a friend of Floyd Stone, the owner of the ranch. Floyd Stone liked Al and never complained about him parking at the Tortilla Ranch. John A. “Hoolie” Bacon also knew Al and talked very favorably of him. Hoolie Bacon was Floyd Stone’s partner and father-in-law. Bacon and Stone owned and operated the Reavis and Tortilla Ranches.

Al hiked out of the Tortilla Ranch for almost a decade. He explored Tortilla Mountain and many of its canyons. There was an old cowboy who worked for Floyd Stone who helped Al once in awhile. He would pack Al’s camp into the mountains for him. Even old Elmer Pope remembered Al visiting at the Tortilla Ranch. Pope was an Apache cowboy who worked for Floyd Stone off and on when he was sober.

When Sims Ely’s book, The Lost Dutchman Mine was published in 1953, Reser’s appetite for adventure was whetted once again. He traveled to the Quarter Circle U Ranch at the base of the Superstition Mountains and was referred to Chuck Aylor as a guide and packed by the Barkleys. Aylor and his wife Peg had come to the Superstition Mountains in 1939 to search for treasure. They staked a claim near the confluence of East and West Boulder Canyons, just beyond Boulder Basin. They named their new camp “Caballo” (horse in Spanish) and a nearby mountain “Palomino.”

Chuck Aylor was a guide and packer for Reser on his first trip into the Superstition Mountains in 1954. They remained for a few weeks. About Aylor, Reser says, “He was a good packer and did a good job of cooking.” During this first attempt at “Dutch Hunting,” Aylor took Reser to the camp of old timer Abe Reid, a long-time searcher of the Lost Dutchman Mine. Reser said, “There was nothing else to do but sit and listen to those two guys talk.” One of the most important things about Dutch Hunting is being a good listener said Al. Since those early days, Al Reser had been a good listener and has collected a substantial amount of “material” from many significant individuals who have roamed the Superstition Mountains looking for gold. “I’ve been at the right place at the right time,” he said.

Reser has been in the mountains every year since 1954 at every opportunity and had known and used probably every packer known to the Superstition Mountains. Well known packers such as John DeGraffenreid, Dallas Adair, Jim Walters, Buck Norad, Tom Daley, Slim Fogle, Bud Land, Billy Crader and Chuck Aylor all have packed Al Reser’s camp into the Superstition Mountains over the years. Al recalls Slim Fogle packing him into lower La Barge in 1966 and Fogle died shortly after this trip. Al believed he was the last person Fogle packed into the mountains. Reser’s longest sojourn into the Superstition Mountains was for five-week period of time during the early fall of 1970. Al’s enthusiasm for his endeavor has even motivated him to travel in the mountains during the blazing hot months of summer. Al states that “Dutch Hunter” is a solo avocation for an honest man.

Many years ago I rode into La Barge Canyon with Bud Lane to retrieve Al Reser’s drop camp. I believe it was end of March 1984. Bud and I met Al in camp at about 9:00 a.m. We packed up Al’s camp while he began his walk out to First Water. I figured we would pass Al on the trail. As we continued to ride there was no sign of Al Reser. I couldn’t imagine what had happen to Al. When we approached the trailhead there Al was sitting in the shade of his truck. He finally told us he had been waiting for almost an hour for us. Bud Lane had warned me Al would walk almost twice as fast as the horses. Al was eighty-six years old that day. Bud Lane packed Al’s drop-camps into the mountains for more than a decade. Bud looked at me then said, if any man deserved to find the Lost Dutchman Mine it would Al Reser. Bud Lane respected few men and those he respected didn’t know it.

Al Reser’s health failed in September of 1999. A couple months prior to this Al had been by the house and had asked me about a middle ear infection I had in 1991. He recalled how severely ill I was with the problem. Al had been having problems with his equilibrium and wanted to know how I was cured. I explained to him what caused my condition and the resulting diagnosis. I suggested he visit a specialist. Actually that was the last time I visited with Al. Clay Worst reported Al Reser spent the remaining months of his life in the Apache Junction Health Center passing away on May 10, 2000. He was ninety-two years old.

Clay Worst reported Al’s remains were cremated. Half were sent to California where they were buried beside his wife, Martha. The rest of his remains were carried horseback into the rugged mountains he loved so dearly accompanied by several friends. The mountains he had searched in for much of his life had become his final resting- place. Al spirit is free now wandering the trails of the rugged Superstition Wilderness in search of the Dutchman’s gold.         

Monday, May 8, 2017

Andy Syndbad's Revolver

May 1, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There has been a lot of speculation about the rifle Jacob Waltz, the Dutchman of Superstition Mountain fame, carried as he roamed and prospected the deep canyons and towering spires of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Many claimed Waltz carried a Sharp’s 45-70 repeating rifle while others said he carried a shotgun. As a reader of this tale, you can have your
Andy Synbad examines
his French LeFaueheaux
 revolver, model 1854,
11.75 mm pin fire.
choice when it comes to whether or not Waltz carried a rifle or a shotgun. Many of the early Arizona pioneers carried shotguns loaded with double 00 buckshot. These weapons were very effective at short distances and easily discouraged would-be attackers.

Several years ago I was visiting with Andy Synbad in front of the Bluebird Mine and Curio Shop. We talked about Jacob Waltz and his weapon of choice.

Old Andy reached into an old weathered leather valise he was carrying and removed an ancient looking pistol. I was amazed to find it was an old pin fire revolver. It was silver-plated and quite unusual in several respects. The pin fire revolvers of the mid-1850s used a highly specialized type of ammunition that was very difficult or impossible to obtain in Arizona Territory at any time. Pin fire ammunition also had a specialized method of powder ignition using a small pin-shaped device that was perpendicular to the cartridge case.

Syndbad allowed me to examine the revolver carefully. The revolver was a French LeFaueheaux Revolver model 1854, 11.75 mm pin fire. Some 12,000 of these revolvers were purchased early in the American Civil War and used by the U.S. I now could see why Andy thought this revolver could have belonged to Jacob Waltz. Some aficionados of the Lost Dutchman Mine story believed Waltz served in the Civil War.

Finally I looked at him and said I didn’t believe Waltz ever carried a revolver, much less a primitive pin fire system like this French revolver. Andy was quite indignant when I questioned the authenticity of his weapon. He then quickly produced a “certificate of authenticity” signed by a Globe, Arizona “Justice of the Peace.” The JP had only witnessed somebody stating the revolver had belonged to Jacob Waltz, the “Dutchman.” I must admit old Andy Synbad had me going for a few minutes. Andy offered the revolver to me for $500 and I turned him down. From that day on he never thought I was serious about the Lost Dutchman Mine. If the gun had actually belonged to the “Dutchman,” I doubt very much it could have led me to his mine in the Superstition Mountains.

Just who was Andy Syndbad? Syndbad had been around the Apache Junction area for many decades. He had prospected around Hewitt Canyon and Carney Springs Canyon as early as 1948. He moved to Apache Junction permanently in 1956. Andy was a confirmed bachelor and loner. He was born April 27, 1903 in Needles, California to a German immigrant family who worked for the railroad. His father and mother returned to Germany when Andy was one year old. Andy’s mother always told him after they moved back to Germany he was born an American citizen and could always claim that right. Andy lived in Germany from 1904 until 1946. The Nazi regime placed Syndbad in a concentration camp in 1938. He was finally released from the concentration camp and assigned to a work detail. This work placed him on the docks and ships during most of World War II. After the war and Germany’s destruction, Andy was able to prove his American birth right and eventually obtained permission to return to land of his birth after more than forty years. There was nothing in Germany for him after the war.

He drove through Apache Junction with a couple of prospecting partners in 1948, but found nothing to his liking. He returned in 1952 and met Hermann Petrasch who lived along Queen Creek. It was Petrasch who lead Andy to the prospects around Carney Springs. It around this time Andy met Carl Boderick, a pioneer metal detecting prospector. Andy spent a lot of time prospecting in the Hewitt Canyon area and on over into the headwaters of Randolph Canyon near the old Woodbury Cabin.

Early in 1958 Andy Syndbad staked out the silver claims located just south of the Goldfield Sub-Station just west of Weeks Wash. Andy sunk a shaft to the depth of 150 feet on his claims. He found a low-grade vein of silver; however it never proved to be profitable. Andy’s mining operation produced no income to live on so he had to find a way to generate a little survival income. He offered odds and ends for at his famous “patio sales”. He had a sign out on the Apache Trail to attract tourists and anyone else who would stop by and purchase something. The “patio sales” aggravated a few people around Apache Junction and they tried to stop him from having his patio sales. Their comments eventually lead to his famous highway sign. Syndbad stirred the ire of local citizens when he put up a road side sign making reference to all of the “old crabs” in Apache Junction and one other unusual individual. Andy’s famous “Patio Sales” were still going on in 1983.

Andy Syndbad’s health really began to decline by the early 1980’s. He had miner’s silicosis. He suffered so much from silicosis he committed suicide on December 4, 1986. I suppose Andy’s legacy will be his tenacity to search for gold on a claim he believed contained a bonanza. He chose the life he lived and I personally doubt he was unhappy with his place in life.

I remember him cursing those “dang” people for building houses under the cliffs of Superstition Mountain spoiling his view of the old Thunder God’s mountain. He was afraid someday rocks would roll down from the cliffs of Superstition Mountain and destroy their homes. Again, that was how Andy sometimes viewed progress. I might add the last major earthquake that dramatically altered Superstition Mountain was in 1887, more than a hundred years ago.

I would like to thank Eric Sundt of Apache Junction for his information on the old French LeFaueheasux revolver Model 1854.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Origin of the Dutchman's Lost Mine

April 24, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

When did the first prospectors and miners arrive in the rich gold fields that are between Superstition Mountain and Oroahi Mountains? Historians believe the first prospectors in the area were Mexican miners from northern Sonora. They began prospecting this area after 1790. It was between 1790 and 1830 Mexican farmers and miners moved up into what is now Arizona territory by using the river routes. The Mexican miners may have worked this area from 1825 thru 1850. Most of the Mexican miners probably came from the Gila and Santa Cruz river areas. The first Anglo-Americans arrived on the scene about 1863 from the Bradshaw Mountain region. These prospectors wanted to get out of cold mountains and into the warmer desert for the winter months. They found the Apache a major problem and soon retreated back to the Bradshaws.  The Mexicans tried to erase any prior record of their work hoping to protect their gold mining operations in the area. The Mexicans didn’t have the resources to really develop mining in the Goldfield area. These types of hostilities kept prospectors and miners out of the area for a few mores years. When the first prospectors from Mesa City arrived in 1881, it wasn’t long before claims began to show up in the area.  Ed Jones staked one of the earliest gold claims in 1881. The claim was named the Lucky Boy.  William A. Kimball staked another claim at the Boulder-Buckhorn in 1886. Later Anglo-Americans worked the veins of gold in the area that had been worked previously by very primitive mining methods employed by the Mexican miners.

The area was opened to mining soon after the Indian Wars came to a close. The Army brought the Apaches under control in 1886.The surrender of the famous war leader, Geronimo, at Skeleton Canyon in Southern Arizona ended the Indian Wars in Arizona.


A newspaper article appeared in the Arizona Daily Herald in 1879 describing an incident that occurred west of Superstition Mountain prior to the closure of the Indian Wars.  The incident involved two Mexican brothers who had been attacked by the Apache. One brother was killed and the other escaped. The brother that survived the attack by the Apaches carried out a bag of rich high-grade gold ore. These brothers were named Peralta. Both Oren Arnold and Barry Storm knew this story and had information about the incident. Many contemporary historians believe this is the origin of the legendary Peralta story and their many gold mines in the Superstition Mountains.  Oren Arnold always said, “Don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” Oren wrote quite a story about the Peraltas in his book Superstitions Gold. Barry Storm was a researcher who bent the facts toward his way of thinking. Even earlier writers such as Pierpont Bicknell picked up on the Peralta story of 1879. Bicknell did not let the truth stand in the way of a good story either. Bicknell’s January 13, 1895 story in the San Francisco Chronicle was an important contribution to the legitimacy of the Lost Dutchman Mine story therefore creating a foundation for the Peralta story. One inconsistent fact based on another man’s reputation followed by another began to weave a story of lies and misinformation that eventually produced a legend.

Yes it is true, miners and prospectors have been digging gold out of the region between Superstition Mountain and the Oroahi (Goldfield) Mountains since 1850. Some claim the old Kimball Mine (Palmer Mine) produced around 3,000 ounces of gold in the late 1880’s. Between the years1886-1892 various prospectors and miners mined a little gold from the Gold Fields, but not enough to make the area a major producer of gold. However, in1892 a real productive gold vein was discovered in the Goldfield mining area. This was the Black Queen. One vein after another was discovered leading up to the Mammoth Mine in 1893. The Mormon stope produced $3,000,000 worth of gold in four years between the years of 1893-1897. This mine proved the Goldfield area a worthy gold producer in Arizona Territory.

During the period 1880-1910 the entire area was considered a part of the Superstition Mountain region. Little is known about the region before 1880 until about ten years ago when an old Mexican family journal was found in Phoenix. This journal revealed some very interesting information about the Salt River Valley and what the Mexican community did to survive. Many families raised goats as subsistence animals. They herded these animals around the fringe areas of the developing irrigated fields in early Salt River Valley. Some families moved on eastward along the Salt River. Two Gonzales boys and two Peralta boys were herding goats along the Salt River near a camped group of Pima warriors that hunted Apaches in the Superstition Mountains. They told the boys there were no more Apaches in a lush valley just west of the mighty bluffed mountain. The boys started herding their goats toward the valley. While their goats grazed they found small outcroppings of gold. There wasn’t much gold in these outcroppings, but enough to keep them interested in digging. When they returned home and told their families about their discovery they were warned not to tell anyone. The Mexican families knew they would be murdered for something as precious as gold. The Mexicans from along the Gila, Santa Cruz and the Salt Rivers continued to work these outcroppings in the Goldfield area for several decades before the first prospectors arrived in the area around 1880’s. At the first sign of the Anglos the Mexicans began to conceal their mines along Weeks Wash and in the surrounding valleys, they then abandoned the area. Eventually the Anglos discovered the Goldfields.  The old Mexican families never had enough capital to develop what they knew existed and belonged to them near the Superstition Mountains.

The gold claims and small mines west of Superstition Mountain became part of the Superstition Mining District some time during the late 1880’s or early 1890’s. The pounding of a large stamp mill could be heard across the desert from 1893-1897. The mill provided considerable gold bullion for its investors. Stamp mills are very interesting pieces of machinery. A visit to the Superstition Mountain Museum on the Apache Trail (State Route 88) near Mountain View Road will give an idea of what a stamp mill looked like. They have a real one on display at the museum grounds.

One of the richest prospects discovered in the valley between Superstition Mountain and the Oroahi (Goldfield) Mountains was the Bull Dog mine. Many clues to the Bull Dog fit the story of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. Clues such as an eighteen-inch vein, a pointed peak, brushy draw, three red hills, back from the northwest end of Superstition Mountain, and on a ledge above a wash are significant in the story of the Dutchman’s lost mine. Did Bicknell, Arnold or Storm make up their stories or did they base them on facts of the day? There is little doubt in the minds of historians today about these men being the perpetrators of the legendary Dutchman’s lost mine story in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Charlebois Petroglyphs

April 3, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Charlebois petroglyphs site is probably the most maligned pre-historic rock-writing site in the Southwest. The site is located just upstream from the confluence of Charlebois and La Barge Canyons. Prior to the heavy pumping of the ground water in the Salt River Valley, the seeps and springs along La Barge Canyon were verdant oases for the early inhabitants of the region. The pre-historic Native Americans hunted Bighorn sheep, Mule deer, and other animals in the area. Archaeologists claimed it was the success of these hunts that were recorded on the canyon wall in La Barge.

The Petroglyphs of La Barge Canyon are often incorrectly called the “Master Map by treasure hunters.”
Some time around the turn of the 19th Century prospectors and treasure hunters found their way into the Superstition Mountains. They cast their critical eyes upon on these figures carved in stone by the ancient hunters in La Barge Canyon and believed they had found an ancient Spanish treasure map. It wasn’t long before the petroglyphs were known as the Spanish Master Map. One man promoted this scenario more than any other individual. This man was John T. Clymenson (Barry Storm). Storm was not the only man to promote the Master Map in La Barge Canyon as Old Spanish rock writing. Oren Arnold used the Master Map in La Barge in some of his writings (1930-1972). Another man who never let the truth stand in the way of a good story was Barney Barnard. He called the petroglyphs a master map also. Most writers have included the stone writings in their books somehow.
The Bighorn Mountain Sheep were
often depicted in Petroglyphs by
the Native Americans on rocks
 throughout the American Southwest.

I first visited the Inscription Rock, in 1954, with my father. Dad thought it was important to check it out. He studied the rock for a few minutes and was convinced it was nothing more than petroglyphs. I traveled to the site several times between 1954-1959. Each trip produced some new markings on the rock.

Sometimes the alterations were minor; a couple of times the alterations were major.

The petroglyphs in La Barge Canyon, known as Inscription Rock, require a nine-mile hike from First Water Trailhead. First Water Trailhead is located Northeast of Apache Junction on the edge of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Drive northeast on the Apache Trail (SR88) from Apache Junction 4.9 miles to First Water Trailhead Road (FS78). Turn right on First Water Road and drive to the parking lot, approximately 2.5 miles. Hike into the mountains on Dutchman’s Trail (104) to East Boulder Canyon, then over Bull’s Pass and down into Needle Canyon. Follow the Dutchman’s Trail (104) on into La Barge Canyon. Once you are in La Barge hike about 1.5 miles up canyon to the confluence of Charlebois and La Barge Canyons. The petroglyphs are located in La Barge about 200 yards up the canyon on a rocky outcrop on the left side of the canyon.


This is an eighteen-mile round-trip. Only those who are in excellent condition and experienced hikers should attempt this trip. The hike should only be made between the middle of November and the 1st of April. Always be sure to carry an ample supply of water. Charlebois Spring is an excellent area to camp and a good source of water year around. Please leave the petroglyphs as you found them. Only take photos of this Native American Inscription Rock.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Don't Be a Victim of Snakebite

March 27, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Just recently, a 67 year old man from California visiting the Mirage area was bitten by a Western Diamond Back rattlesnake when he was inspecting his RV. He had heard a strange noise under it.

A five-year-old girl was bitten by a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake in a dry wash along I-17 Highway north of Phoenix. She was rushed to the children hospital for treatment. This is a tragic way for us to be alerted to the dangers involving poison reptiles while we are in the outdoors during snake season.

This year 2017, we are experiencing an extremely warm February and March. Rattlesnakes are out and moving about. Several sightings have been reported. The snakes like basking in the warm rays of the morning sun.

Reptiles, meaning most cold-blooded animals become very active when temperatures begin to rise into the mid-seventies and eighties. In the spring reptiles come out of hibernation and begin their search for food. August and September are traditionally the most active months for rattlesnakes on the Sonoran Desert at elevations below 4,000 feet. In late fall when temperatures drop below seventy-eight degrees reptiles begin to prepare for hibernation. I have lived in the Sonoran Desert for the past seventy years and I have encountered hundreds of rattlesnakes. If the truth were known, most of us who walk or hike in the desert will pass by ten snakes for every one we see. Under most conditions a rattlesnake is very difficult to spot unless it is disturbed and it moves. Rattlesnakes generally rattle before they move, but not always.

A rattlesnake can easily be identified by the triangular-shape of its head and the rattles on its tail. A closer examination will reveal an elliptical-shaped pupil in its eye. Believe me I don’t usually get that close to look! This trait is common to poisonous snakes of the Sonoran Desert. All rattlesnakes will have a pit organ near the nostril orifice. Rattlesnakes come in a variety of colors and patterns. Most rattlesnakes found in our area will have rings around their tails above the rattles. The color of these rings will alternate between black and white in various shades. The visibility of these rings will depend on the species. The Western Diamond Back rattler’s rings are very pronounced and stand out, where as the rings on an Arizona Black is not very visible because of the blending of the rings. Occasionally a rattlesnake will lose it rattlers; when this occurs, the difficulty of identification increases.

Rattlesnakes are ectothermic vertebrates (cold-blooded animals), meaning they lack an appropriate physiological mechanism for maintaining body temperature. All cold-blooded animals are at the mercy of their environment. The air and ground temperatures will dramatically affects all reptiles in their environment. This condition directly affects their daily rhythm of activity in their habitat.

There are six species of rattlesnakes in our area. They include the Western Diamond back (Crotalus atrox), Mohave (Crotalus scutulatus), Arizona Black (Crotalus vidiris), Black-Tailed (Crotalus molossos), Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes), and the Tiger (Crotalus tigris). These animals have a very highly developed mechanism for injecting venom therefore making them very successful predators on the desert. A rattlesnake’s diet is composed of small rodents 82% to 85% of the time.

Reptiles, including rattlesnakes, like cool shady spots during the spring, summer and fall months. During the winter month’s, rattlesnakes generally go underground and hibernate. They usually choose caves and old mine tunnels. Occasionally dens of rattlesnakes have been accidentally uncovered by construction equipment and hundreds of rattlesnakes are found at one time.

Rattlesnakes have been known to come out of hibernation if temperature warm up to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The functioning temperature for a rattlesnake is 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and it effective temperature is 82 degrees Fahrenheit to 96 Degrees Fahrenheit. The effective temperature is the temperature at which the snake moves about and hunts for prey. Direct exposure to heat or sunlight in elevated temperatures will kill a rattlesnake in 10 to 15 minutes.

You might say rattlesnake season is twelve months a year in the lower Sonoran Desert if temperatures rise above 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months. Rattlesnakes are most commonly sighted from the first of April until about the middle of October. These animals are primarily nocturnal and prefer the hours after sundown and before sunrise. Most victims bitten by rattlesnakes are generally bitten ½ hour before sundown and up to two hours after sundown. It is estimated 72% of all bites occur during this period.

There are some interesting facts about rattlesnakes. The oldest known rattlesnake in captivity was 30 years and 7 months. This snake was a Western Diamond Back (Crotalus atrox). The largest rattlesnake officially recorded was an Eastern Diamond Back (Crotalus adamatus) at 7 feet 4 inches. The largest Western Diamondback was measured live at 6 feet 8 inches. There have been many wild claims about ten to fifteen-foot rattlesnakes, but usually these are snakes that were measured after death and their skin had been stretched. The average distance a rattlesnake can strike and effectively inject venom is approximately one-third of its body length.

Some eighty per cent of all rattlesnake bites are the results of carelessness or the handling of rattlesnakes by older juveniles or young adults. It is now estimated some twenty per cent of rattlesnake bites are accidental or legitimate. About fifteen per cent of rattlesnake bites are dry socket-bites, meaning no venom was injected into the victim. The Arizona Poison Control Center and other medical resources reported some one hundred and twenty-one Crotalus envenomizations for the year 1991. This statistics quadrupled in 2003. Again statistics have almost quadrupled for 2005. These numbers continue to increase each year as our population continues to grow and more people head for the outdoors.

How do you know a rattlesnake has actually bitten you and if the reptile injected venom? There are several signs and symptoms of envenomization. First there will be fang marks. These fang marks can be singular, dual or even a scratch. Fang marks are generally a very small puncture wound. A burning sensation usually follows the injection of venom by the reptile. A metallic or rubbery taste in the mouth often follows a bite, but not always. The tingling of the tongue or numbness can also occur. If a rattlesnake has injected venom into its victim, local swelling will occur within ten minutes. The amount of venom injected is generally indicated by the severity of edema or swelling at fang puncture site. Nausea and weakness is often associated with snakebite. Black or blue discoloration will generally appear near the site of the puncture wounds caused by the snake’s fangs after three to six hours. Every snakebite victim should be treated for shock. Shock is a greater threat to the victim’s survival then the actual venom of the snake.

The following is the recommended first aid for a rattlesnake bite. Call 911 immediately, snakebite is a medical emergency. If medical help is several hours away the following treatment is recommended. Calm and reassure the  victim and decrease the movement of the limb. Identify the snake if it is possible without further risk of another bite. It is not recommended to use a constricting band or tourniquet unless you are a medical professional. Many snakebite victims have come into emergency rooms with a constricting band, such as shoelace, completely obliterated by edema or swelling. It is extremely important to move the victim to a medical facility without delay.    

The following are some things we can do to prevent rattlesnake bite.

When walking in the desert or in any area known for reptile habitation, always look where you step, or place your foot, or feet (Caution should always be used at night, late evening, and early morning). Always look where you are placing your hands or fingers. Use extreme caution before placing your hands where you can’t see what you are touching.  Always look before sitting down, especially around or near boulders or brush. Think before defecating or urinating in the outdoors. I have observed a variety of bites during the past fifty years that resulted from total lack of common sense. Small children must be closely supervised at all times in areas of possible snake infestation or inhabitation.
 
If you and your family observe these basic rules you should be safe from snakebite. Again, watch where you put your hands, feet and where you sit. As urbanization continues at the desert edge in Arizona the threat of snakebite is always a reality. Small children have become the tragic victims of snakebite in recent years because of little or no supervision by parents or responsible adults.

I have tried to be as thorough as I can with accurate information about rattlesnakes in Arizona. It is important to take note, the better understanding we have of reptiles, the better chance we have of not becoming a victim of snakebite.

I would like to thank Jude McNally, and his staff, Arizona Poison Control Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, and Dr. Findlay E. Russell and his enormously valuable resource Snake Venom Poisoning printed by Scholium International, Inc., Great Neck, New York 11021. This book is a physician’s desk reference for snake venom poisoning.

For information call Arizona Poison Control System 1-800-362-0101. (The state legislature may not be funding the Arizona Poison Control Center because of budget cuts this year.)

For snake removal in Apache Junction call Apache Junction Fire District - 480-982-4440.
             
Tom Kollenborn directed the Snake Alert program for the Apache Junction Unified School District for seventeen years. He attended workshops and worked closely with the University of Arizona Poison Control Center and Medical Center.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Day of the Cowboy

March 20, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

A national holiday that recalls the “Day of the Cowboy” is somewhat interesting and unique. The cattle industry was a wild and rough business during the early years of 1850–1930. These eighty years of cattle ranching, roundups, trail drives, rodeos and even motion pictures played a role in shaping our image of the American cowboy. All these roles helped to form the cowboy image so familiar to many of us. When we think of cowboys, we think of cattle, horses, the open range, a ranch house, corrals, windmills, Stetson hats, bandannas, chaps, spurs, boots, lariats, and saddles. Today we mill around an imaginary world of the “Old West.” To some degree, many of us believe this world still exists today. There are movies, dude ranches, and gunfights to enrich our beliefs of what the “Old West” was like.

I can only speak from my experiences as to what cowboys are really like.

William Thomas Barkley watches from the back of the corral as he sits atop his horse “Champ.” c. 1958

When I was a young man I dreamed of being a cowboy based on the images portrayed on the silver screen at the old Rex Theater in Hayden, Arizona. I knew cowboys were good, honest and respectable men. They always defeated the bad guy, defended the good guy and won the heart of the ladies. Hollywood had created the perfect image of the American cowboy on the movie screen in my mind. This cowboy persona accompanied me throughout my life.

My image of the American cowboy was shattered when I accepted a job on the Quarter Circle U Ranch in the mid 1950s. I expected the cowboys to be a hero in all aspects, however I soon found out this was not case. Real cowboys were still only human—they were not always the men I thought they were. The real cowboys I met around Apache Junction, Globe, San Carlos, Tonto Basin and Winkleman were of a different breed. However, many of the cowboys I met were what I had expected. Some were rowdy, wild, and often careless. They drank far too much alcohol, cussed too much and were often not too dependable. Some of the best cowboys I ever saw were Apaches on the San Carlos Reservation east of Globe. Floyd Stone, owner and operator of the Tortilla Allotment, hired Apache cowboys to work his ranch. Most were really good cowboys and knew how to work wild cattle. Elmer Pope, an Apache cowboy, could rope a wild cow on the run in the roughest country east of Superstition Mountain. Stone always had a problem keeping his San Carlos cowboys sober.

Cowboys such as John A. Bacon, Bernard Hughes, Charlie Weeks, George Cline, Billy Garlinghouse, Slim Ellison, William A. Barkley, Billy Martin Sr., Billy Martin Jr., Jimmy Heron, Frank Herron, Duane Reese, Wheeler Reece, Bill Bohme, Royce Johnson, Jack Reeder and many more were real cowboys in our area that have left the legacy of the cowboy and cattle ranching in central Arizona. They were all good men.

First, and most important, a good cowboy has to be honest and responsible. These are the star attributes of a cowboy’s character, because they were often left in charge of corralled animals that needed to be fed and watered daily. By all means, not all cowboys are good cowboys. Any rancher will testify to that statement. Most cowboys are hard workers and they also play hard. Most of them love cowboy or country music. They would rather talk about cattle, horses, saddles, horse trailers or pickup trucks. Now, your old time cowboys wouldn’t be caught dead listening to some music we call Country-Western today.            

As a young man, I dreamed of someday owning my own cattle spread. Of course, it was nothing but a dream although I did manage to work for one of the real legendary cattle outfits. The old Quarter Circle U Ranch belonged to William A. Barkley and William Thomas Barkley. I worked for the Barkleys in the twilight years of this legendary Arizona cattle ranch. This was during the late 1950s and I cherish those couple of years I spent becoming what I am today. Life on that ranch certainly shaped my character, but also strengthened the values I had learned from my mother, father, and silver screen heroes. More than fifty years ago I sat astride a wild ranch pony and chased wild cattle across the mountains and desert east of Apache Junction. In those early days, there was not much in Apache Junction but a filling station, some permanent residents and a few desert dwellers that lived in mobile homes. To find the old Quarter Circle U Ranch you had to drive out Highway 60 some nine miles and turn east toward Don’s Camp. After driving another eight miles, you arrived at the Quarter Circle U Ranch. This ranch was really isolated with no communications with the outside world. The old ranch had no electricity and little running water. Conditions were very primitive, but I learn to cope with my new environment. My parents thought I was insane working in such a lonely place, making little or no money. I could never convince them that I had found my calling. I wanted nothing more than be a cowboy. My dad had wanted me to go to college and make a career for myself. I suppose I was a disappointment when all I could talk about was the Quarter Circle U Ranch and the cattle I cared for.

Like all good things my cowboy career ended one day when I was severely injured by a large Brahma-mixed bull. I lay in a hospital bed for several weeks. I found a new direction in life. I realized my father and mother were correct and I eventually returned to college and embarked upon a new career with the life of a cowboy always in the back of my mind.

Now friends, that is why I continue to this day wearing my cowboy hat, western shirts and jeans. Deep down in my soul I am still that young cowboy that worked on the Quarter U Ranch so many decades ago. The “Day of the Cowboy” honors this magnificent persona of the American West. I dedicate this column to all the cowboys who believe and follow this philosophy in life. An old friend, “Arkie” Johnston, recently passed away and left a cowboy legacy. He had four sons who are some of the best cowboys in the Southwest.

Note: Those of you that would like to read about another real cowboy, I recommend the book Cowboy Sign by Duane Reece. Duane has cowboyed all his life, and spent twenty years as a rodeo hand. His book should be on every cowboy and cowgirl’s shelf or in his or her saddlebags. For more information about Duane’s book, call (928) 812-0300 or drop a card to Kaycee Reece-Stratton, 4840 Longhorn Lane, Winkelman, AZ 85192.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Arkie" Johnston: Occupation Cowboy

March 13, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday, when I met “Arkie” for the first time at Dallas Adair’s Greenhorn Stable next to the Superstition Inn. Dallas told me Arkie’s name, but that was about all. He was showing Arkie some tricks to packing a horse for a trip over rugged terrain in the mountains. This was some time in either 1972 or 1973. Eventually, I was talking to Arkie and he told me he was giving up truck driving to become a cowboy. He was adamant about making this decision. He had been raised on a farm in Minesota around horses and cows. He understood working stock and cattle. He wanted more than anything to be cowboy on a ranch in the American Southwest. From that day on he worked on those cowboy skills. Packing, riding, roping, fence work, windmill work and whatever else was part of a cowboy or rancher’s job. Arkie soon found there wasn’t much money in just being a cowboy so he decided to start his own pack outfit. He decided to take on an old cowboy, “Bud” Lane as a partner. Bud was quite a legend in these parts with a reputation as a very skilled cowboy and rodeo rider. It wasn’t long before Arkie opened Peralta Stables on South Meridian Road below Broadway Road in Apache Junction. Arkie and his stables were almost our neighbors.

Arkie Johnston, a top hand,
a good cowboy who would help
 just about anyone in distress or in trouble.
Shea Lynn, my daughter, loved horses like all young girls so she eventually got a job attending to Arkie’s five children and helping Pandy, Arkie’s wife. We were always taking Shea Lynn down to Arkie’s to baby sit. Shea Lynn started riding Crow occasionally and having a great time. She and Charley, Arkies son, were riding Crow one day when the horse jumped a small ditch and they both feel off. Charley broke his arm.

It was some time in the 1970s that I traded Arkie my Chevy pickup for a horse named Crow and a pair of Crockett spurs. Crow turned out to be the best horse I ever owned—and I have owned several over the years. I boarded Crow with Peralta Stables for several years until Arkie sold out and decided to manage the U Ranch for Chuck Backus sometime in the early 1980s. Knowing Arkie, it was one adventure after another. First there was the Circlestone documentary, then the legendary Joe Mays Expedition and the Crystal Skull, then the May’s Documentary. This was followed by a summer at the Reavis Ranch. On all of these Johnston adventures, I learned many new things, whether I agreed or disagreed. I met Auggie Guiterriz, Don Allen and Frank Liken. Then in 1982 the ride to the top of 5024 with Nyle Leatham, reporter for the Arizona Republic, Arkie Johnston, Ken Coltmen, Doc Case and myself. This was a trip that none of us would ever forget. Arkie started helping out on roundups here and there, learning the skills of a range cowboy and better knowledge of the cattle industry. Eventually he sold out the Peralta Stables and became ranch manager for Chuck and Judy Backus.

Arkie was at the U Ranch in the 1980s. When Arkie left the U Ranch he was a top hand, a good cowboy and knew what he was doing. He had totally fulfilled his dream to be a cowboy. He always loved the cowboy way. Arkie would help just about anyone in distress or in trouble. His heart was in the right place, but sometimes he was a bit wild like all cowboys have been at one time in their lives. He raised four sons, Will, Charley, Chester and Matt to be cowboys. These four young men will carry on his legacy.

Editor’s note: Everett Kenneth “Arkie” Johnston was born in Humbolt, Minnesota on June 29, 1944. He was U.S. Army veteran. He had five children, Will, Charlie, Matt, Chester and Catie. He had fifteen grand children. Arkie is survived by his brothers Jack and Larry, and also his sisters Linda, Phyliss, and Christina. Arkie Johnston passed away on February 22, 2017, in Mesa, Arizona.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dr. William F. Wright: Cowboy, Educator and Statesman

March 6, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Education and the World lost a good friend with the passing of William F. Wright, Sunday, February 19, 2017. He was my mentor for more than half of a lifetime. He was a friend and wonderful example to follow for all who knew him. We will all certainly miss him. He was a friend to all humanity and wished to help all. His legacy will be “what he did for others, his family and his life was filled with accomplishments that mark the path of a great man.”

Right to left are Bill Wright, Tom Kollenborn, Jay Drazinke, Gary Hunnington, and Allan Blackman.

Bill, do you remember those campfires we sat around in the Superstition Mountains my friend? We often talked about what was good and what was right. We discussed people and things. Bill’s philosophy was to spend time with people not things. Bill Wright made several trips into the mountains with me over the years. The last horse trip we made together was with his son Matt and Mr. Gallager. I don’t recall exactly when we made that last trip.

I could write a book on his accomplishments and successes as an educator. But I am going to tell a little different story about a person we enjoyed on many trips in the Superstition Wilderness Area in search of peace, solitude and tranquility. Our lives required an escape from the hectic schedules we kept and in those mountains we found that peace and solitude. We were, in a sense, living the life of a cowboy. All of you know what a “cowboy” is and many of us have known real cowboys. Bill loved horses and the open range. We talked about Floyd Stone, Billy Martin Jr., John Bacon and William Barkley and many of the old time cowboys of the Superstition Range. When Bill and I first made trips into the wilderness, cattle still roamed the mountains. Seeing and talking to a cowboy was not uncommon, it was the norm. I would talk about the old days on the U Ranch and Bill talked about his time upon on the Blue. We often reached a consensus about the cattlemen we knew. They were fine men and we enjoyed being in their company. Bill’s heart was filled with the “Cowboy Way.”

I can remember one night in particular in 1975. We were all sitting around in front of the fire place at the old Reavis Ranch, with a foot of snow on the ground outside. When Bill spoke, everyone listened to his words—they were usually filled with wisdom and sound advice about the day’s ride. Even old Bud Lane agreed with Bill’s comments. This was a side of Bill’s experience few of us expected to hear. He was a man of diverse knowledge about cowboys and horses. One of his grandchildren recently said he was “John Wayne” to them too, and I can see why. As we sat there huddled around the fireplace on a cold winter night, Bill talked about several of the brands on the fireplace mantel as if he had one day worked this country and for these brands. This was William F. Wright in a totally different environment and knowledgeable of his surroundings when it was least expected.

Here is another story about his ability to adapt to the extreme. He always taught his children, students and athletes to adapt to changing situations. He was “Coach” to many of his friends. One year, he and I flew to Chicago. He was giving a national presentation about our school district to a group of school superintendents from around the country at the legendary Palmer House Hotel. The Palmer House was cowboy country in Chicago. I set up a dissolve slide presentation for Dr. Wright to present. The presentation was set for about forty minutes. The presentation would have worked as planned, but in the middle of it, the power went off. The room became pitch black. You couldn’t see your hand in front of you. Bill Wright didn’t miss a beat and continued the presentation without the slides or any lighting. About ten minutes later the lights came back on and I advanced the projectors to the right slide—he continued without missing a beat. When he was finished, the group gave him a standing ovation. In my opinion at the time, he was the master of making a presentation under any circumstances or conditions. How he kept up with his story line amazes me to this day. This was Bill Wright, the master of the impossible. He instilled this quality in his children, his athletes and those around him. I am a far better person for having known him and was honored to call him my friend.

Editor’s note: William Frank Wright was born in Tollenson, Arizona on November 22, 1940. He Graduated from high school in Page, Arizona in 1960. He married Martha, a cheerleader at Page High School and the love of his heart in October of 1960. They had three children Julie, Matt, and Mike, twenty-three grand children and forty-eight great grand children. He played football at Phoenix College and attended Arizona State University where he earned his degree in education. He was a coach, friend and teacher to all he knew. The “Master” in the sky has his lead rope now, guiding him to a green pasture there.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Lost Dutchman Days 2017

February 20, 2017 © 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.

Lost Dutcman Days includes a parade, a rousing Rodeo Dance, a carnival, Polka contest, gold panning, a Senior Pro Rodeo, and lots of good food and entertainment.
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 just a fable.

As we celebrate this Lost Dutchman Days we should 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, jurist, and politicians. These were the men and women who helped Arizona make the transition from territorial status to the modern state it is today.

Stories like the Dutchman mine compel 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 Mountains and try their luck at searching for gold. However most come to enjoy the climate, scenery, tranquility and solitude of the mountains.

The first major group to take advantage of this international interest was the Phoenix Dons Club now known as The Dons of Arizona. Their 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 governor of Arizona was the keynote speaker for the occasion. 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 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 Apache Land.

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. Lulu Luebben named Lost Dutchman Days. Lulu’s husband Roy became the first officially elected Lost Dutchman. If I recalled correctly, the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce organized the event each year after 1965. This year’s event will be the 53rd Annual Lost Dutchman Days.

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 everywhere you look. If it were not for community volunteers, there would be no Lost Dutchman Days. It is through their efforts 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 recognized 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 because of our recent growth. 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 has an event named after them. It sure pays to hunt gold in these hills friend.”

Please come out and celebrate Lost Dutchman Days with the fine people of Apache Junction on February 24, 25 and 27, 2017. 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 (602) 982-3141.

Community events have sustained Arizona through good times and bad times. Most communities in Arizona have an annual event that attracts thousands of people to Arizona. These community events have been important to Arizona’s sustained growth and prosperity. These events bring people together to enjoy the best of Arizona, its climate, culture, scenery, and people.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Another Search for the Gold

February 13, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Some forty-three years ago I met a man named Walt Harvane who lived in Litchfield. He happened to be a friend of an old acquaintance of mine named “Rocky” Lout. Rocky introduced me to Walt at Fletcher Jones Chevrolet on Grand Avenue in Phoenix in early 1961. Walt tried to convince me he knew exactly where the Dutchman’s Lost Mine was located.  Rocky had told Walt about my experiences in the Superstition Mountains with my father. He wanted me to hike into the area he believed the mine was located in. After I got acquainted with Walt I decided to hike into the mountains with him. I was convinced he was a good man and only interested in looking for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine.

We drove my 1956 Willys Jeep Station Wagon up to the old Quarter Circle U Ranch. Clark McKay gave me permission to leave my vehicle at the ranch. Clark was the head cowboy for Barkley at the time. Walt and I bid farewell to Clark and told him we would see him in three or four days. As we walked across the cactus studded desert below Miner’s Needle I was quite apprehensive about this trip. Harvane was about twenty years older than I and he had a few extra pounds on him he didn’t need. We started the steep climb up to Miner’s Needle Summit. Our trip was two years prior to the forest service rebuilding the trail up and over Miner’s Summit. We reached the summit quite exhausted, but continued on toward the head waters of Whiskey Springs Canyon. We dropped down into Whiskey Springs Canyon and the going was a little easier, but very brushy. We arrived at the site of the old World War II trainer that crashed there in February of 1943. We took time to inspect the old biplane, photograph it and then we moved on.

Above is an example of what the Upper La Barge Box country looks like.
At the confluence of Whiskey Springs and La Barge Canyons Walt ask me if I had ever been in the Red Tank Divide country east of our present position.

I told him I had worked stray cattle from Horse Camp Spring to Red Tank Canyon when they got through the fence and onto Floyd Stone’s range. He then asked me if I knew the area around Red Tank Divide. Yes, I said again, I know the area, but not well. He then asked me if I had ever visited the old stone cabin near the base of the cliff. I told him honestly I didn’t know about any stone cabin in that immediate area. However, I did mention Brad’s Cabin where old Roy Bradford stayed when he worked his diggings in the upper portion of the La Barge Box.  These same diggings were worked by Charles M. Crawford and a partner in the 1980s.

Walt and I continued up through the Upper Box. This was a very strenuous climb up a steep and unforgiving mountain trail. This was certainly a trail to be remembered. We finally found ourselves in the upper headwaters of La Barge Canyon. Walt led me through some brush, around a few boulders and there it was. A stone cabin constructed under a large boulder.  The cabin still had a framed wooden door on it and one window had a wood shutter. I must admit I was amazed how easily Walt Harvane found this old cabin in the middle of this wilderness. His immediate discovery of the cabin indicated he had been here before. Walt later told me he had hiked into the area about fifteen years earlier and discovered the old stone cabin. The old cabin’s site was in a really rugged location and completely obscured from anyone’s view. Digging in the floor of the cabin I found an old hunting knife and a metal plate.  These were souvenirs from the past.

Above is the old stone cabin under a boulder allegedly used by J.J. Polka when he worked his ledge of gold.

Then Walt began to tell his story. Many years ago I bought a sample of gold ore from a man in Kansas City, Kansas, who told me the specimen came from the J.J. Polka Mine. Actually he said the Lost J.J. Polka Mine. Walt said he had the gold ore assayed and it ran one hundred and fifty-two ounces of gold to the ton.  Of course Walt had not shown me a sample of the ore, but he was convinced it came from this area. I recalled a story about an Indian who had some rich gold ore that came out of the Superstition Mountains, but I couldn’t remember any of the details of the story.

Walt explained the appearance of the ore. He said it was layered like sedimentary rock in alternating layers of red and black bands. I told Walt my father really didn’t believe the Superstition Wilderness Area had any rock that was conducive to gold bearing ores. Nothing would change Walt’s mind. He was convinced the ore could be found in the area. We spent three days searching the area, but found nothing. Other than the old stone cabin tucked under a house-size boulder up near the base of Squaw Teat Mountain we found nothing else worthwhile. Today this mountain is known as Coffee Flat Mountain. The one other thing I remember most about this trip was the acacia or Catclaw. This miserable plant just about ripped our clothing and skin off.

When Walt and I left the old stone cabin we hiked over Red Tank Divide and down Red Tank Canyon to Randolph Canyon then on to Fraser Canyon and Reid’s Water. From Reid’s Water we hiked back to the Quarter Circle U Ranch along the old road from Reid’s Water to the U Ranch.  I was pleased to see my Jeep Station Wagon sitting in front of the ranch.  This had been a tough four days in the mountains. We had plenty of scratches to prove what we had done. I am not sure Walt Harvane ever found what he was looking for, but I know he really believe in J.J. Polka Gold. Three months later I went to work for the Arizona Highway Department and moved temporarily to Springerville for three months.

Many years later I ran across another man who was convinced the J.J. Polka Mine really existed somewhere in the Superstition Mountains. Twenty-five years later Bob Corbin and I sat in a camp near old Ray Bradford Diggings in Upper La Barge Canyon and listened to Bob Ward talk about the J.J. Polka Mine and how rich the gold was. At the time Bob Ward was in charge of security for Charles A. Crawford while he was developing mining claims in the area. Ward was a believer in the Polka Mine. Today there have been numerous stories written and maps produced about the Lost J.J. Polka Mine.

This trip with Walt can be written up as another adventure in the Superstition Wilderness Area in search of lost gold. After all, dreams are what keep us young. Bob Corbin, Attorney General of Arizona retired, once said, “You just cannot legislate dreams.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

John Hallberg Incident

February 6, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

It was late May of 1936, when John Hallberg and his partner, Charles Williams made there way to Apache Junction. They staggered into the Apache Junction Inn to see their old friend George Curtis. Both men were somewhat ravished from the desert sun. Their skin was tanned darkly and dried. You could tell by looking at them they had spent considerable time working in the hot desert sun. The men told an incredible story to Curtis, the proprietor of the Apache Junction Inn. They told Curtis about a gold discovery they made in the mountains. The men were carrying a very worn and tattered sack with a large rock in and a few small ones. Both men claimed they had discovered a rich gold deposit. Curtis, a man experienced with identifying gold, asked to look at their sample. Curtis had also done quite a bit of prospecting himself and was aware of rocks and valuable minerals. He said he could identify gold without any problem.


It was late May of 1936, when John Hallberg and his partner, Charles Williams made their way to Apache Junction Inn (above) to see their old friend George Curtis (below right), who was the owner of the Inn.
Hallberg and Williams removed the rock from the bag and several small pieces. Curtis suggested they weigh the rock on the kitchen scales. The rock weighted thirteen pounds and the smaller pieces seven pounds. The rocks were composed of Quartz, Mudstone, and free Gold. Curtis estimated, considering the amount of gold in the specimen to be worth about $7,000 and the other smaller pieces about $3,000. He told both men they had about $10,000 in gold of course this was based on the current price of gold at approximately $35 a Troy ounce.

From this point on the story really gets interesting. The newspapers basically carry this portion of the story and the gold discovery in 1936 by John Hallberg and Charles Williams. At first it was speculated they had found the Dutchman’s Lost Mine, but both denied it was the Dutchman’s mine or remotely associated with it. John Hallberg was a prospector of reputation who had prospected the area since 1919. Many people of the period respected his opinion and his word.

However, Charles William’s reputation was more of a problem. He was a World War I Veteran who claimed he discovered gold in a cave in the Superstition Mountains in January of 1935, but became disoriented and wandered around the Superstition Mountains for several days before walking out to safety. The sheriff of Maricopa had organized a search for Charles Williams when he walked into one of their camps with a pocket full of nuggets. Eventually William’s gold was proven to be Jeweler’s gold and not natural gold. The U.S. Government confiscated all of William’s gold. Actually he was lucky he did [not] go to jail. After the adjudication of William’s case he lost the gold he claimed was his. The U.S. Government proved it was stolen gold. Some believe, including William’s wife, that he was an innocent prospector involved in some kind of crooked scheme. Whatever the case, Williams never went to jail nor did he get the gold that he found.

John Hallberg claimed he didn’t know Williams was involved in that case when they had become prospecting partners. I suppose John didn’t know much about Charles Williams when he took him on as a partner. The following information I read from a personal journal dated from this period. Again this is for what it is worth and I certainly don’t know if it is fact, however it makes an interesting closure to the story.

The “Hallberg” conglomerate, as it became to be known, is explained like this. The source of this thirteen pound stone illustrates gold can be found anywhere. According to the journal the conglomerate of gold was found in a wash flowing off the side of Superstition Mountain below the old Silverlock and Malm’s claims. This could make sense if this area was known for gold. It was always George Curtis’s conviction the stone came from the northern end of the Goldfield Mining area. There are so many different kinds of formations in this area that might be conducive to gold. However, Curtis believed Hallberg and Williams picked the sample up on somebody else’s mining claim and just walked off silently with nobody else being the wiser. Free placer gold has been known through out this entire area. I have worked fine placer gold in the extreme north end of the region. One must realize that free gold is where you find it. Some times the source can be very difficult to determine. Many a gold rush has been started with placer gold and no known source. Sometimes the source is completely eroded away and nothing remains of it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Alfred Franklin Banta

January 30, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

President Abraham Lincoln had just signed the document forming the Territory of Arizona when Alfred “Franklin” Banta first arrived here as a young man. Banta was a Prescott newspaperman and one of the earliest chroniclers of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine story and Superstition Mountain.

Banta was born in Warwick, Indiana, in 1843. He arrived in Arizona at the age of twenty. Banta’s first appearance at Fort Whipple was on December 21, 1863, when a military expedition sent by General Carleton entered Chino Valley to take possession of Arizona Territory for the United States.

Fort Whipple was later moved to a site on Granite Creek near Prescott in 1864. Banta served as a guide for the state territorial government for almost six years. During the early part of the American Civil War Banta worked for the Rio Bajo Press, a newspaper published in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Banta served as chief guide on the Wheeler Expedition and 100th Meridian Expedition of 1871. He accompanied Lt. Wheeler on this expedition when he discovered Meteor Crater. Lt. Wheeler named the crater “Franklin’s Hole” after its discoverer. The site was later known as Barinnger Crater before being called Meteor Crater.

Alfred “Franklin” Banta was a judge, a lawman, a newspaperman, a guide and a scout who accompanied the Wheeler Expedition and 100th Meridian Expedition of 1871 when they discovered Meteor Crater in Northern Arizona. Lt. Wheeler named the crater “Franklin’s Hole” for Banta and the site was referred to by that name for many years.
After the Wheeler Expedition Banta become involved with newspapers and then entered politics. He served as Justice of the Peace in St. Johns, Arizona Territory, from 1876-1877 and in Springerville, 1877-1878. He was Apache County assessor in 1880.

During the session of the Eleventh Territorial legislature, Banta was instrumental in securing the passage of a bill forming Apache County. Banta then served as district attorney of Apache County from 1879-1880 and 1889-1890. He was probate judge of Apache County from 1881-1882. President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Banta as the first postmaster of the Springerville post office. He also served as U.S. Marshall in the Arizona Territory.

Banta frequently wrote for numerous newspapers throughout the Territory of Arizona and New Mexico. He wrote about early Arizona history, his life, pioneer families and lost gold mines.

Lost gold mines were one of his favorite topics. Many of his stories and editorials made reference to the Doc Thorne story and the Lost Dutchman Mine. Banta led an expedition out of the Zuni villages in 1869 to find the Doc Thorne Mine. Partners in this expedition included C.E. Cooley and Henry W. Dodd. Banta and the party ran into problems with the Apaches in the Pinal Mountains and returned. After Jacob Waltz died in 1891, Banta was involved with several expeditions that searched for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine in the Superstition Mountain east of Apache Junction.

Banta wrote many columns about gold mines and mining for the Prescott Weekly Miner and Courier, the paper he owned. He also free-lanced for other Arizona newspapers after statehood in 1912.

Banta wrote several manuscripts about early Arizona history, however they were lost in a fire at the Prescott Courier and he never attempted to rewrite them. Much of this work had focused on lost mines and pioneer history. The last newspaper he worked with prior to his death was the St. Johns Observer in St. Johns, Arizona.

Alfred Franklin Banta was actually the earliest chronicler to write and publish stories about the Lost Dutchman Mine and Lost Doc Thorne Mine, supposedly located in the Superstition Mountains. Banta had a notable public record in Arizona and when he performed his last public service as the assistant sergeant-at-arms at the Arizona State Senate he was anxious to get out of the limelight and return to the Pioneer’s Home in Prescott. At the time of his death in 1924, he shared with only a couple of other living men the distinction of being a witness to the formation of the Territory of Arizona in 1863.

Funeral services were held for Colonel Alfred Franklin Banta at Ruffner’s Chapel, Prescott, Arizona, on Wednesday morning, June 22, 1924, at 10:30 a.m.

Dr. E. Lee Howard, a personal friend, conducted the Colonel’s funeral service. Howard paid tribute to Arizona’s “Last Scout” the earliest printer in Arizona Territory and recognized him as the dean of Arizona newspapermen.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Another Mystery of the Mountain

January 16, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Each year another intriguing story about Superstition Mountain emerges and captures the imagination of some and compels others to search the most remotes areas of this wilderness. A few years ago a man reported seeing an unusual reflection in the mountains in the late evening as he was flying over the central region of the Superstition Wilderness Area on a flight between Chicago and Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. His story and search has created more unanswered questions than answered ones.

The landmark of “Circlestone” from about three thousand feet altitude.
I asked this man to present his story and ideas to Greg Davis with Superstition Mountain Museum, but he was reluctant to share it. He said he had known Joseph Roider and he recommended me for any help. I told him I couldn’t be much help because I didn’t go into the mountains anymore. He said he didn’t want me to go into the mountains with him because it would upset the “Earth God.” The man has asked me not to reveal his name until after his death. His story goes something like this.

I didn’t take the “Earth God” statement serious at all.  It was a way for him to be different in his communications with me. Then he told me about this flight over the wilderness area. He said somewhere east of Tortilla Mountain there was a tabletop mountain and on this mountain there was a large stone altar. At this point I interrupted him and ask how he could see anything from the airliner. He told me he carried an excellent pair of Nikon field glasses for looking at things while flying across the country. Then he continued the story.

He said the stone altar was not that important, it was what he saw on the stone altar that was significant. He said there was a reflection so intense it had to have been created by a parabolic mirror of some kind. It was too intense to look at with a pair of field glasses from an airliner at about 8,000 feet above. The airliner had decreased its altitude for the approach to Sky Harbor International Airport. He also said it was very difficult to see any details on the ground, but he did recognize a couple of landmarks. He said there was a ranch house southwest of the site about three, maybe four miles. He also said there was a running stream to the west of site, a few miles. These landmarks gave me an approximation as to where the site was located.


The man was completely convinced this was an ancient religious site still used by Native Americans today. The powerful parabolic mirror must have been powerful medicine for the group. I have ridden in the area, but have never seen this altar or religious site. I have been told about it by a couple of pothunters many years ago who said there was nothing buried in the area worthwhile. I took a group of riders from the Reavis Ranch to Walnut Springs and back through the area. I didn’t see the mesa or altar, however that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There is a lot of rugged country in that area especially west toward Boulder Mountain and northwest toward Reavis Fall. I have looked for the sight from the ground and from the air, but never had any luck.

My Chicago friend believed if the Native Americans had a large parabolic mirror carved from some kind of crystal it would be extremely valuable. It would be a treasure in itself regardless what it was carved from. He also believed it came from the Aztecs in central Mexico and brought here by the Jesuit priest to help pacify and convert the native people of this area. I am not one to say something like this is not possible, but I would say it was highly unlikely.

There are many unexplained things in these mountains and their mysteries still linger today in the minds of men and women who hike or ride the “Trails of the Superstitions.” Doesn’t this tale remind you of the story about the “Crystal Skull” in La Barge Canyon? Stories about these mountains are only limited by the imagination of the storyteller’s mind.

As far as I know, Joseph Roider’s friend is still alive, living out his life in southern Florida. I promised I would keep his name secret, but would one day tell his story.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Gold Mine & Treasure Fraud

January 9, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Prospectors and treasure hunters have often referred to Peter’s Mesa as the heartland of the lost gold and treasure stories about Superstition Mountain. History has recorded many expeditions in this region based on stories and different maps of the region. These trips may have begun long before the turn of the twentieth century. One of the earliest recorded trips appeared in the Arizona Republican about 1893.

The article mentioned groups of prospectors spending several days exploring the area between La Barge and Peter’s Canyons looking for color. These prospectors had no luck finding any color and soon abandoned their search and returned to Phoenix or Mesa City. Throughout the twentieth-century, men continued to search the top of Peter’s Mesa.

John Chuning, Joe Deering, Abe Reid, Chuck Aylor, Jim Butler, and others spent time on Peter’s Mesa from 1900 through 1960. The old-timers were followed by contemporaries such as Gassler (1932), Herbert (1954), Butler (1955), Hill (1960), Jacob (1966) and many more during this time in their search for gold. Yes, Peter’s Mesa and Tortilla Mountain were very popular Dutch hunting destinations during the mid-twentieth century and prior to this period. During the period from 1980-2000 you found men like Jacob (1960s), Worst (1980s), Corbin (1980s), Davis (1990s), Roberts (1990s), Carlson (1990s), Short (1990s), Hat (1990s), and Glover (1990) searching around on Peter’s Mesa and making some interesting claims.

In addition to all this prospecting on Peter’s Mesa there have been many fraudulent schemes hatched by those who made outrageous claims about rich gold specimens they had recovered from Peter’s Mesa. There are those who claim to see Apache Mountain Spirit Dancers dancing around old burial sites on Peter’s Mesa. There have always been stories about the Apaches guarding their gold caches in the Superstition Wilderness Area protecting these precious resources from the “white eyes” or “long knives.” These claims get more preposterous as you go from one source to another. Rest assured, my friends, there are no Apaches in the Superstition Wilderness Area guarding reservation gold reserves.

Usually all it takes to fire
one’s “imagination to invest”
 is a sample of gold.
Also the United States government is not protecting the gold reserves of the Superstition Wilderness Area by not allowing people to excavate.

Now, if you were to fall for one of these ridiculous stories and invest your hard earned dollars in some secret operation, I would say it is time for you check out your source and verify the information. The storyteller is always a good place to start by verifying his background.

Those who want to get rich quick always seem to fall for these kinds of stories. Or those who want to gather information without proper documentation and accept it as fact, based on the credibility of the source, may suffer if they use the information in print. This happens all the time.

It has happened to me on a couple of stories I printed several years ago. Checking the source and the creditability of your source is extremely important. You can’t take anyone’s word to be fact. I learned that the hard way and now I am very cautious. However, we are all susceptible to accepting false material thinking it is authentic.

A recent scam penetrated into the Dutch hunting community around this area and still has some who believe the information is true and others who are convinced it is false.

This story is very similar to the fraudulent Peralta Stone Maps. This scam has broken several families financially over the years and destroyed their futures. The other side of this story is greed on behalf of the investor. I have watched the evil misuse and misinterpretation of information to verify something that is fraudulent for more than fifty years. It is absolutely amazing how easy bright people are fooled by these con artists.

These unscrupulous individuals will purchase antiques on line then claim they are part of the treasure story. The laughable part of this story is the con artist will use the investor money to buy antiques or gold samples  to prove his theory .

However, on the other hand it is very interesting to explore history and legends about the Southwest and especially lost gold and treasure. I have always been fascinated by stories of buried or lost treasure. I have done my share of searching also, but I have not invested my hard earned dollars in somebody else scheme or story.

Treasure hunting is a healthy avocation if you keep it in the family. I have hunted gold coins, fire agate, placer gold, and even a few lost mines that proved to be just tall tales. Many individuals will tell you I don’t know what I am talking about, however after they lose a small fortune they want me to help them try and get their losses back.

I would recommend you approach all treasure and lost gold stories with caution and don’t invest your hard earned dollars in someone else’s dreams or tall tales without thorough investigation of the claims and stories.