Tuesday, August 31, 1999

Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Youngsberg Junction or Apache Junction?

August 17, 1999 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

In the early 1920s the junction of Apache Trail and the Globe-Phoenix Highway was called Youngsberg Junction, named after Phoenix ex-mayor George U. Young. Young owned and operated the Mammoth Mine at Youngsberg, four miles northeast of the Youngsberg Junction.

The realignment of the Mesa-Goldfield section of the Apache Trail was completed on May 17, 1922. This finally and officially formed the junction we know today. Three months later, on August 21, 1922, a man named George Curtis started a business on the Apache Trail in Youngsberg Junction.

Offended by the fact that Young had his mine and the old junction named after himself, Curtis set about to change the name of Youngsberg Junction. 

The junction didn’t exist when the first prospectors searched for gold near the base of Superstition Mountain in the late 1860s. At that time, the United States Army called the mountains “Sierra de Supersticiones” and was still pursuing hostile Apaches in the mountain’s interior.

Prospectors worked small gold outcrops in and around Goldfield Wash (Weeks Wash) as early as 1880. The Lucky Boy claim was staked in 1881, and a rich deposit of gold ore was discovered at the Black Queen claim in November of 1892. But the richest discovery of all was made on April 14, 1893. This rich deposit was found after a massive flood occurred along Goldfield Wash in a sudden downpour. This discovery became known as the Mammoth Mine, and produced more than three million dollars worth of gold bullion between 1893-1897. This was equal to about 12,000 pounds of gold bullion.

Goldfield boomed and died within a five-year period like many other mining boom towns of the era. This mining camp, located beneath the towering façade of Superstition Mountain, brought the first church, school, hotel, saloon, [livery] stable, stage line, mercantile store, butcher shop, restaurant and barber shop to the area. The pounding of a twenty stamp gold mill created a towering cloud of dust visible for miles. The dust and sounds of the stamp mill soon ebbed when the gold vein disappeared and the desert once again became silent.

The area near the base of Superstition Mountain had turned to desert again by 1900. However, that wouldn’t last for long. It was the Newland Arid Lands Act of 1903 that brought life back to the area. The construction of the Tonto Wagon Road and a telephone line from Mesa to the Tonto Dam site changed the region forever. The Tonto Wagon road opened a very remote area to development. These construction projects produced hundreds of jobs shortly after the turn of the century. Workers from all over the nation came to work on the Tonto Wagon Road and the great Tonto Dam, later named Roosevelt Dam. This was a fabulous economic boom that is still felt today.

The Mesa-Roosevelt Road (Tonto Wagon Road) provided the shortest means of travel for a load of goods from the copper capital of the world (Globe-Miami) to Phoenix, the capital of Arizona. The road was renamed the Apache Trail by W.W. Watson, a public relations man for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Governor Geroge P. Hunt, Arizona’s first governor after statehood, envisioned a shorter highway route between the Globe-Miami area to Phoenix via Superior and the Queen Creek Canyon. Hunt had arrived in Globe in 1879, and was the community’s most adamant spokesperson. Hunt wanted to develop a shorter transportation link between these two important economic centers other than over the rugged and undependable Apache Trail. Hunt’s vision came true on May 13, 1921, when the first cars made a run over the Globe-Superior-Phoenix Highway, known today as U.S. Highway 60. This highway didn’t open to two-way traffic until almost a year later on April 19, 1922.

Soon after Hunt’s vision came true, another visionary arrived at the foot of Superstition Mountain where the new highway and the Apache Trail intersected. This man was George Cleveland Curtis.

[Part II – August 24, 1999]

Curtis was a traveling salesman from Logan, Utah, who had a dream and no money. It wasn’t easy for Curtis, his wife Aurora and their three daughters to make a living on undeveloped desert land west of Superstition Mountain. The family settled down to living in a tent at first, selling water and making sandwiches for travelers who came through the junction area.

Curtis was offended by the fact that Young had his mine and the old junction named after himself, and began an immediate campaign to change the name of Youngsberg Junction to Apache Junction. Curtis was adamant about the change because he did not think Youngsberg Junction had any character, color or charm.

George and Aurora Curtis believed so strongly in their convinctions about their business in the desert twenty miles east of Mesa. They filed a homestead on the following parcel of land, NE ¼, Sec. 20, T1N, R8E, on February 23, 1923.

All of us who love Apache Junction, its beauty, its charm, its uniqueness, its special place in our hearts and its heritage owe a debt of gratitude to George and Aurora Curtis, the founders of this community’s namesake. After all, we could have been Youngsberg Junction or Youngsberg Highway or Trail.