Tuesday, March 31, 1998

A&E TV Explores the Superstitions

March 31, 1998 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

The Arts and Entertainment Channel recently sent a Greystone Communications film crew into the Superstition Mountain Wilderness to explore the history and the beauty of the region.

The goal of the film producer, Rick Davis, was to present the history and spectacular beauty of the region. Davis found the history of the region extremely complex and with varied opinion. He and his staff made every effort to gather all the information about the area they could. They worked with the Arizona Historical Foundation, Salt River Project, Tonto National Forest, the Superstition Mountain Museum and many local residents. After several months of research filming began on Tuesday, January 6, 1998.

The first trip into the field was to a place called the Paint Mine, on a divide between Boulder and La Barge Canyon. The subject here was the old Paint Mine and the towering façade of Malapai Mountain. The next day was spent in Needle Canyon at Al Morrow’s old camp and near the site where Adolph Ruth’s skull was found on December 9, 1931. On the third day, the film crew traveled to Weaver’s Needle. It was in the shadows of Weaver’s Needle much of the contemporary history about the region was molded. The final day was spent on top of Black Top Mesa and in East Boulder Canyon. Black Top Mesa provided spectacular panoramic views of the Superstition Wilderness Area. All this was made possible by cooperation from the officials of the Tonto National Forest and the O.K. Corral Pack Outfitters.

Greystone Communication film crews returned to Apache Junction on Wednesday, January 21, 1998, to do a special segment with United States Senator John McCain at Lost Dutchman State Park. Senator McCain was the co-sponsor, with Congressman Udall, in setting aside fifty-five more sections of land for the Superstition Wilderness and the finalizing of the 1964 National Wilderness Act. McCain visited the Superstition Wilderness with members of the Superstition Mountain Historical Society in 1983, after the bill was passed in the U.S. Congress.

There are many positives and negatives about filming the history and beauty of this region. One positive includes visual access for the many mentally and physically handicapped who would otherwise never have an opportunity to experience the history and beauty we enjoy so much. Of course, the most common negative is, the documentary will bring more people to this wilderness and eventually ruin it for all of us.

The growth rate of the Salt River Valley is one of the highest in the nation. The reality is, controlled access will be the only way to manage this wilderness. Management controls may range from access fees, parking fees to permits in the future. 

Some day, the only access for the public may be through documentaries about the history and the beauty of this fragile desert wilderness. We are most fortunate that earlier planners preserved this 159,780 acre wilderness for future generations of Americans to enjoy. Future management will be a tremendous challenge for those in public office and those responsible for the management of this area. The lifestyle we moved to Apache Junction for is being rapidly consumed by high density development. The desert we know will be gone and the only reminder of it will be the lands preserved within the Tonto National Forest, such as the Superstition Wilderness Area.

A&E’s documentary on the History of the Superstition Mountain region aired Sunday, March 29, 1998 at 4:00 p.m. The producers of this film wanted to preserve the beauty, history and mystique of this wilderness. We have many friends who will enjoy this documentary but will never step a foot into the wilderness. I am sure they will appreciate this opportunity to view the history, legend and beauty of the Superstition Wilderness Area. After all, the history of this land is its people.

Tuesday, March 24, 1998

Searching For Gold

March 24, 1998 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

The town of Goldfield, in the Arizona Territory, has undergone several changes during its one hundred and seven year[s] of existence.

The Mammoth Mine was discovered in April of 1893 and the town of Goldfield grew around it. According to some reports, more than a million dollars in gold was removed from the badly faulted formations in the area.

The ledge from which Charles Hall took over $1,000,000 in gold was the famous “Mormon Stope.” This bonanza pocket was lost in a fault and never rediscovered according to some mining experts. This led to the decline of Goldfield and eventually its abandonment. Mining men still believed the old mine had potential in the late 1920s. One man who believed in the potential of Goldfield and the Mammoth Mine was George U. Young, the last territorial secretary of Arizona and a prominent figure in political affairs.

Young spent a great deal of his money, as well as funds raised from the sale of stock in the east, to search for the ore body he believed lay below the desert. Young sunk the shaft deeper in his search for the lost gold ledge called Mormon Stope. He did not find the stope, but he did uncover ore that contained enough gold to make it profitable to process. During 1925, Young ran a small cyanide plant, but his equipment was old and crude, not efficient enough to extract the gold which would pay a profit to investors.

Young passed away suddenly on November 26, 1926 near Prescott, Arizona. His death [led] to the reorganization of the Young Mines Ltd. Under the new name Apache Trail Gold Ming Company. A.H. Sevringhaus served as the general manager.

Again, the operators struggled with financial problems in trying to reopen the mine. After several attempts to mine the Mammoth profitably, the Apache Trail Gold Mining Company also failed.

In early January of 1930 the mining company was completely reorganized again. The new organization was called the Metallurgical Research and Mining Company of Colorado. This new company leased the holdings of the Apache Trail Mining Company and hired their own superintendent to direct the development and operation of the Mammoth Mine. The man put in charge was Albert McCarthy.

Construction began immediately on a new mill which a company spokesman said would be producing bullion within ten days. A new amalgamator attached to the milling machinery was put in place. This refinement to the milling operation was expected to produce pure bullion on the property without the necessity of shipping the concentrates to a refinery. Also, ore would be hauled on a track from the old Black Queen shaft to the mill near the Apache Trail. Engineers believed there were vast quantities of gold ore beneath the surface in the Goldfield area. According to reports, there are several tons of gold ore on the dumps ready for processing in the new mill. 

Assays of quartz tested remarkably high in 1928, running from $90-$1,115 a ton. Most Arizona mining men of the period did not believe Goldfield was worked out. Even today men continue to work the gold veins of Goldfield hoping to strike it rich. Some claim if the old Dutchman of Lost Dutchman Mine fame had a mine it had to be located in Goldfield.

The Goldfield Mines have opened and shut down many times during the past one hundred and seven years. The production of gold bullion from the Goldfields more than a century ago has convinced a lot of prudent men that finding another bonanza is possible. So they continue to search, dig, dream and go broke. My father always said, “The Mammoth was one of those kind of mines that would make a poor man rich and a rich man poor.”

Tuesday, March 17, 1998

The Bark Ranch

March 17, 1998 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

Located on the southeast end of Superstition Mountain is the historical Bark Ranch. This ranching endeavor dates back to 1877, and it was here, along Padre Canyon near a water seep, that Jack Minor squatted with a small drover’s herd. He planned to fatten his cattle then market them at the Silver King Mine.

Minor worked the squatter’s ranch for a short while then turned it over to Matt Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh constructed a fortress-type stone building with gun ports which still serves as a barn today. At the time this building was constructed the marauding Apache still roamed free in the area. The ranch was sold to George Marlow in 1885.

George Marlow was born in Montreal, Canada, along the St. Lawrence River in 1850. He had large cattle and sheep interests in Arizona. Marlow ran between three and four thousand head of cattle on his Superstition range when there was sufficient water and feed, and he certainly overgrazed these desert lands. Marlow owned and operated the ranch until his death on May 27, 1890. James Bark purchased the ranch in mid July of that year.

James A. Bark was born near New York City in 1860, and arrived in Arizona Territory in 1881. He was a printer who had turned to livestock raising and farming after settling in Arizona Territory. Bark was truly an interesting personality in early Arizona territorial days. He not only was interested in cattle raising, he was also an avid prospector constantly searching for an El Dorado. Bark’s lifelong prospecting partner was Sims Ely, general manager of the Salt River Water User’s Association. Together they searched the Superstition Mountains for the elusive Dutchman’s Lost Mine. Bark and Ely both made great contributions to the history of Arizona and to the legend and lore of this infamous lost mine story.

James Bark sold his ranch to William Augustus Barkley and a partner in 1907. The Bark Ranch soon became [known] as the Quarter Circle U Ranch because of Barkley’s brand. Gus and Gertrude Barkley operated the Quarter Circle U and the Quarter Circle W ranches from 1907-1955. The Quarter Circle W was also the 3Rs ranch.

Barkley passed away in October of 1955. Gertrude and her son, William Thomas Barkley, operated the ranch until 1963. Sometime after 1965 the ranch was sold to a conglomerate. Eventually Charles Backus acquired the ranch in 1977 and continues to operate it today. Like many other old ranches in Pinal County the Quarter Circle U Ranch is part [of] our heritage and legacy.