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.