Monday, December 30, 2002

Saving Our Open Space Heritage

December 30, 2002 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Wilderness Area is a unique natural resource adjacent to a large metropolitan area. The future management of this wonderful natural resource will be based on access. It is now an overused and crowded geographic region that has little resemblance to a true wilderness.

Immediately west of the Superstition Wilderness Area lives almost four million people with enormous recreational needs. When wilderness founding fathers established the Superstition Wilderness Area in 1930 they were not anticipating the rapid growth of the Salt River Valley. The cities, counties and the state did not plan for such growth by constructing more parks, hiking trails, and setting aside recreational outdoor areas. South Mountain Park in the City of Phoenix is the largest park in the United States. Still, this wasn’t enough for the rapid growth of the Salt River Valley.

Urban recreation participants have a wide range of recreational activities they enjoy. These activities include four wheelers, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, horseback riding, hiking, mountain climbing just to name a few. The wilderness was never meant to serve the varied recreational needs of a large metropolitan area.

A wilderness is a special place, where time stands still and man is only an occasional visitor. Where man should leave only his footprints. A place where the mute testimony of ancient ruins are chanting the history of cultures that existed here a millennium ago. Wilderness is a place where we can find solitude away from the urban landscape; a place where nature is in control and the sounds of our modern society [are] left far behind. The only way such a place can exist in the future is if man maintains it with the strictest rules and regulations.

The natural resources of America have been just about totally exploited except for a few rare exceptions. Most of these exceptions are located in the American West. Yes, these places are worth preserving for future generations to enjoy. Many of us look back and thank men like Leopold, Muir and Pinchot for their futuristic views on conservation and preservation. If it had not been for men like these most of the natural resources would be gone. Theodore Roosevelt was a man of conviction when it came to preserving special places in America.

The Superstition Wilderness Area is a special place for all of us. Its preservation has survived the urban development of the Salt River Valley. The need to preserve and conserve places is well known by Americans, but the profit motive and greed have absorbed some of the most isolated and spectacular pieces of American real estate that should have been preserved. We know the best-valued pieces of real estate today are those located near open space with all the amenities of a modern subdivision. If for [a] moment you don’t think real estate adjacent to open space is valuable, check out the prices of low-density real estates near the base of Superstition Mountain.

Our attempt to prepare for all this growth has not taken in the importance of open space. Yes, some developers and planners sincerely believe golf courses constitute good open space planning. But, for the average American to enjoy a golf course it cost[s] a considerable fee. Golf courses are of little value except to a small segment of our population who can afford to pay and play on these designated open space areas for humans.

Golf courses should not be considered part of open space in a development. A wildlife sanctuary or botanical preserve would mean more to our grandchildren. Access routes, trail systems, mountains, swamps, arroyos, canyons and desert all should be what we call open space. Open space is rapidly disappearing in Arizona and, once it is gone, it is gone forever.

Some day in the future we will wake up and find ourselves with no open space and we no longer can afford the cost of water in this arid desert environment. Yes, someday we will all be judged for our decisions today.

The Superstition Wilderness Area is open space, but not the kind of open space that can be fully utilized by our society. The wilderness is preserving the natural setting for future generations to enjoy. This natural setting cannot be preserved if too many people visit it in a  given period of time. Last year almost 70,000 people visited the Superstition Wilderness Area, and it is true that only ten percent of them hiked more than two miles beyond the trailheads.

The wilderness area was once a wonderful asset of Apache Junction, but it is now an asset of the entire Salt River Valley with enormous future management problems. The Tonto Ranger District and the wilderness rangers have a tremendous job controlling this large primitive area. Future control will require access permits in addition to the trailhead parking fees. If we are to save this spectacular natural wonder east of Apache Junction it is going to require a lot of sacrifice in the way we use this region.

There should be a message going out from the populace of Arizona asking our state legislators to consider preserving some of these existing beautiful vistas across the Sonoran Desert and to strongly support our state parks system. This will be our legacy for our grandchildren. 

Don’t we want to make the right decision?

Monday, December 16, 2002

Monday, December 2, 2002

Monday, November 11, 2002

Monday, October 28, 2002

The Roosevelt Dam

October 28 and November 4, 2002 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Read this article here.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Lost Gold of Bill Jenkins, Parts 1 and 2

September 30, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The story of Bill Jenkins and his lost gold in the Superstition Mountain area has all but faded into obscurity. Only a handful of old-timers remember the tale of this interesting man and his work in the Superstition Wilderness.

Some sixty years ago, William P. “Bill” Jenkins and his family drove out along the Apache Trail for a spring picnic. They parked their car near Willow Springs Bridge (First Water Canyon) at Canyon Lake. This was an extremely difficult place to begin a hike because the sheer cliffs rise out of the water a hundred feet or more.

Jenkins and his family made their way southward along a narrow canyon for an hour or so, finally ending up in a small flat valley in the canyon. Here, near a large mesquite stump they prepared their noon meal in the shade of a towering cliff.

Bill decided to look the surrounding country over after lunch and before heading home. Hiking up the canyon a short distance he came across a small tributary that he chose to explore. He walked up this canyon a short distance then decided to climb to the top of the ridge immediately above him and the canyon floor. From that vantage point he could see Weaver’s Needle clearly to the south some three and a half miles away. To the southeast he could see a large black mountain with sheer cliffs. It was Malapai Mountain that loomed on the horizon in a southeastern direction from his position on the ridge. Standing in the early spring sun he noticed four large saguaro [cacti] aligned north to south.

Bill eased himself down a steep slope from this flat-topped ridge into a narrow canyon below. Walking carefully along the bottom he came to an obstacle in his path. The narrow canyon was choked with brush and boulders.

The passage appeared impossible to negotiate without climbing out of the canyon on the far side. Bill then started to climb up on the far side. It was then he noticed an outcropping of white glassy rock. Below the outcropping in the canyon he saw a small circle of rocks just beyond the brush-choked canyon.

Being of a curious nature, Bill decided he should investigate. He worked his way around the brush and rock and observed a post in the center of the rock circle. Following a game trail, he made his way over to the small circle of rocks. He had read stories about old arrastras and he was quite sure he had found one. Note: When a full size stamp mill was not available, arrastras were used to crush the ore. Arrastras were small circular flat areas of land usually about 10-20 feet in diameter with a pole in the center.

Some years prior, when Jenkins had first come to Arizona, he had heard stories about Spanish arrastras in the Superstitions, particularly north toward the Salt River. After examining the site, he made his way up the other side of the canyon to the outcropping of white rock. Near this point he stumbled into a small prospect hole. Near the edge of the hole he picked up what he thought was a colorful piece of rock to take back to his wife. The rock he chose to lug back weighed between five and ten pounds, depending on which story you hear. Not being an experienced prospector, Bill chose the rock because of its beauty and not for its mineralogical value.

[Part II, October 7, 2002]

Some sixty years ago, William P. “Bill” Jenkins found an interesting rock while on a picnic with his wife and family at Canyon Lake. Jenkins discovered the rock while exploring alone after he and his family had eaten lunch.

Bill’s wife, Marion, collected rocks of all kinds from all over Arizona for their home. Bill knew Marion would be pleased with this colorful rock from the famous Superstition Mountains in her collection. Not paying much attention to landmarks or details about the area Bill made his way back to his wife and children.

Jenkins showed Marion the rock and related his findings to her. She was very pleased with the beautiful rock from the region. Lugging the rock back to the family car at First Water Bridge required more than two hours because Bill and his family could not follow the course of First Water Canyon because of Canyon Lake.

Once at home, the beautiful rock from the Superstition Mountains was given its place in the yard and forgotten. A few weeks later Bill decided to give this rock another inspection after talking to a friend. His friend had told him he may have found an old Spanish or Mexican mine of some kind. Curiosity overwhelmed him and he chose to break the rock up and see what was on the inside. Using a hammer, Bill broke the rock into three large pieces. To his amazement the interior of the rock was filled with gold wire stringers.

Not being an expert at recognizing gold, Jenkins called an experienced prospector he knew named John Clymenson (who wrote under the name Barry Storm). At first Storm was reluctant to take a look, but when he examined the rock he was sure that Jenkins had found one of the lost Peralta mines in the Superstition Mountains. Storm immediately knew the rock contained a large amount of gold and suggested that Bill have the rock assayed. The assay report was run in Phoenix around 1937 and showed the ore contained about 57 ounces of gold to the ton (about $2,000 per ton at 1937 prices). 

Barry Storm immediately wanted to check the Jenkins story and encouraged Jenkins to file a claim. Jenkins was reluctant because he didn’t think he could find the spot again. Storm drove out to the First Water Bridge at Canyon Lake and tried to retrace Jenkins’ route into the Superstitions. Storm’s excitement and interest created suspicions in Jenkins’ mind. He soon realized he had a valuable deposit of gold ore and had no intentions of sharing it. He quickly advised Storm to get lost and refused to further cooperate with him or provide any more information.

Bill’s wife worked for the United States government and was transferred to Tucson soon after the discovery near First Water Canyon. After several months in Tucson, things quieted down and Jenkins returned to the Superstition Mountains. He searched for his rich bonanza off and on until 1941, but never relocated the site. Storm continued his effort to enlist Jenkins’ help to find the mine, but was never successful.

William P. Jenkins passed away in 1941 or 1942, taking the secret of his golden bonanza to the grave. The arrastra or golden ledge has never been rediscovered to this day.

There are few documents to support the Jenkins story other than Barry Storm’s account and an obscure newspaper article. The assay report may still exist among some of Jenkins’ descendants. But many years have [passed] and few remember the story of Bill Jenkins and his golden ledge supposedly hidden in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.

Monday, September 16, 2002

The Latest Facts about Jacob Waltz, Parts 1 and 2

September 16, 2002 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The recent publishing of The Bible of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine and Jacob Waltz by Helen Corbin, the wife of former Attorney General Robert K. Corbin, will require Superstition Mountain historians to revisit several historical points of view about the tale of the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine. Historians will find some of the revelations in Corbin’s book extremely thought-provoking when compared with the general thinking among contemporary Dutch hunters.

Helen has revealed the source of three important facts involving Jacob Waltz that have never been available to historians or readers before. She has uncovered new evidence and revelations about how Waltz got to America from Germany, about his travels in the American West, and, most importantly, about a large shipment of gold ore Waltz made in 1887.

Let’s examine and review these revelations and then address a few points of interest.

The first fact involves Jacob Waltz’s travels from Germany to America and how he accomplished this. Waltz, the legendary owner of a rich gold mine in the Superstition Mountain area, was born near Oberschwandorf, Wurttemburg, Germany some time between 1808 and 1810. His exact birth date cannot be verified by any actual documents. Corbin’s book states that Waltz was born in 1810 in Wurttemburg, Germany. Other accounts place Waltz’s birth near a village named Nagold in Wurttemburg.

According to Corbin’s account, Waltz came from Horb or at least that is what the Obler ship’s manifest stated. Several years ago I received information from a German police officer named Helmut Schmidtpeter who had studied the Waltz family lineage in depth. He was convinced Jacob was born in Horb or nearby, according to baptismal records he found in Germany. I must admit it doesn’t really matter where Jacob Waltz was actually born. The most important thing is to understand the path this man’s life took from Germany to America and then through the American West.

Jacob Waltz, according to the Obler ship’s manifest, crossed the Atlantic Ocean departing Bremen on October 4, 1839, and arriving in the Port of New Orleans on November 17, 1839. Waltz’s name appears s the ninety-seventh name on the ship’s manifest. It is also interesting to note a Jacob Weiss also appears on the same manifest from the town of Horb. Both Waltz and Weiss were listed as laborers. The Obler ship’s manifest appears for the first time in Corbin’s book. This document was acquired from the International Ship Transcriber’s Guild, according to Corbin’s documentation. I suspect the document possibly came from Kraig Roberts.

Historians, I am sure, would appreciate an opportunity to see the original handwritten manifest for the ship Obler and Captain Exter’s ship’s declaration. It is doubtful these documents were typed or set in type originally.

In 1997 and again in February of 2001, I wrote about Waltz entering the United States through New Orleans. I made these bold statements without documentation at the time. I based my statements on the word of Bill Cage, an old friend of my father’s who claimed he knew Jacob Waltz. I also used information provided to me by Helmut Schmidtpeter in 1991. I did state at the time there was no documentation to prove Waltz travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to New York or New Orleans, however, Helmut was convinced Waltz had entered the United States through the Port of New Orleans.

A man named Jerry Hemrick, from Baltimore, Maryland, claimed he possessed a ship’s manifest that contained Waltz’s name. He claimed the ship was the “Obler” and it had docked at the Port of New York in 1839.

Today I believe Hemrick was putting up a smoke screen and knew all the time Waltz’s port of entry was New Orleans. My father’s friend, William Cage, said Waltz told him he entered the United States through New Orleans.

[Part II – September 23, 2002]

My father’s friend, William Cage, told us Jacob Waltz had worked in Grass Valley, California, one of the richest gold mines along the Sierra Nevadas. My father had also worked at Grass Valley in the early 1920’s and was very familiar with the high-grade ore there. It was here my father often wondered if Waltz had high-graded the ore here he had under his bed at the time of his death from Grass Valley. Helen Corbin’s revelations have certainly opened our minds about this obscure character and his habits.

Helen Corbin’s second statement is certainly significant to historians who study Jacob Waltz and his travels in the West. William Cage insisted Waltz traveled to the Bradshaw Mountains with the Peeples-Weaver party in April of 1863. We just accepted Cage’s words at face value and had no reason to doubt him. He claimed to have befriended Waltz as a young man in Phoenix around 1883 when Cage worked as an apprentice blacksmith. Again, I wrote about this in an article on February 27, 2001, in [the] Apache Junction News titled “Jacob Waltz, The Old Dutchman.”

Helen Corbin’s research has definitely verified what an old man told my father more than fifty years ago. I have searched for those identical documents from the ship “Obler” and the Peeples-Weaver Party. I have never been able to uncover the documents, though I’ve always believed they existed.

Cage also talked about Waltz, Montgomery, and Binkley prospecting in the area west of Superstition Mountain and finding gold in 1864, but also being attacked by the Apaches. Prospectors did not visit the area again until 1879. The Peralta brothers from Phoenix searched the area for gold outcrops in 1879. They were successful in finding gold… and the Apaches. The Apaches killed one of the brothers and the other escaped with his life and a bag of gold ore. All the stories confirm the validity of Bill Cage’s information.

The third and most important document Helen Corbin came up with was the United States Treasury warrants where Jacob Waltz shipped fifty pounds of gold ore worth $7,000 to the National Bank of Lawrence, Kansas. This shipment of ore was allegedly sent to his sister. The date of this U.S. Warrant was August 24, 1887. The warrant, which Corbin has in her book, was No. 2250 for the amount of $7,000.00. 

How much gold does this warrant really represent? It represents at least 350 troy ounces of gold if it is .999 fine. We all know that hand concentrated ore is not .999 fine. My guess is this ore may have been around .700 to .750 fine. If so, Waltz may have shipped about 500 troy ounces of gold concentrate.

Now let’s do the math. 500 troy ounces times .700 fine or 70% equals 350 troy ounces times $20.15 per ounce which would equal $7,052.00. These calculations come out quite close to the $7,000 U.S. Warrant Waltz sent to the National Bank of Lawrence, Kansas, on August 24, 1887. The warrant is quite compelling evidence that Waltz had a large cache of high-grade gold ore.

So much confusion has been associated with Jacob Waltz and the Lost Mine over the years. Much of this confusion can be associated with men like Pierpont Constable Bicknell, a freelance writer for the “San Francisco Chronicle” near the turn of the century.

Helen Corbin has done an excellent job of clearing up much of this confusion. It is certain that Corbin’s new book will change the thinking of many when it comes to Jacob Waltz and his mine. We now know how Jacob Waltz came to America and how he made his way to the Bradshaw Mountains south of Prescott. We also know he shipped rich gold ore in large sums.

Skeptics will claim it is the wrong Waltz, the gold came from California, or the documents may be frauds. All these possibilities still remain however the information is now available to further research.

Corbin’s book adds a new chapter of enlightenment in the history of the Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman Mine. The story of Jacob Waltz and his lost mine come closer and closer to reality thanks to Helen Corbin and her excellent new book. If you are interested in acquiring a copy of the new book, contact the Superstition Mountain Museum at 480-983-4888.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Monday, July 29, 2002

Monday, July 8, 2002

Charlebois Petroglyphs

July 1, 2002 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

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

Prospectors and treasure hunters found their way into the Superstition Mountains shortly before the turn of the century. They cast their critical eye upon these figures carved in stone by 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. He was John T. Clymenson (Barry Storm) a pulp fiction writer of the 1930s. Storm was not the only man to promote the Master Map in La Barge Canyon as Spanish rock writing. Oren Arnold (1930-1972) used the same landmark in La Barge in some of his writings. Another man, who would never allow the truth to 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 in one way or the other. 

I first visited the Inscription Rock in 1954 with my father. Dad thought it was important to check it out. He studied the main 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; while on other occasions the alterations were major. Early photographs taken on different dates show a considerable change in the configuration of these petroglyphs.

[Part II – July 8, 2002]

Ironically the pictoglyphs in La Barge Canyon are not Spanish in origin. They are without a doubt nothing more than the work of the ancient inhabitants who lived here a thousand years ago. It is sad there are people in our society, uneducated and ignorant about the early writings of early hunters of this desert country, who believe and try to make others believe these markings are treasure maps or signs. Many flimflam artists in our society try to use such ancient writings to bilk people out of their savings with the promise of buried treasure.

The pictoglyphs in La Barge Canyon, sometimes 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 (SR 88) from Apache Junction 4.9 miles to First Water Trailhead Road (FS 78). Turn right on First Water Road and drive to the parking lot, approximately 2.5 miles.

There is a $4.00 per day parking fee at the trailhead. 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 [the] canyon to the confluence of Charlebois and La Barge Canyon. The pictoglyphs are located in La Barge about 200 yards up the canyon on a rocky outcrop on the left side of the canyon.

The hike is eighteen miles round trip. Only those who are in excellent condition and experienced hikers should attempt this trip. The hike should be made only between the middle of November and the 1st of April. Always be sure to carry an ample supply of water. The average person needs a minimum of one gallon of water a day. The Arizona Fish & Game discourages camping in Charlebois Canyon near the springs.

Monday, June 17, 2002

The Final Chapter in the Adolph Ruth Tragedy, Parts 1 and 2

June 17, 2002 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The rocky eastern slope of Black Top Mesa, a rugged black topped mountain within the Superstition Wilderness Area, holds the secret as to what happen[ed] to Adolph Ruth in the late spring of 1931. His skeletal remains were found on its slope on January 8, 1932, ending the mystery of Ruth’s disappearance.

The search party consisted of five men led by Jeff Adams and included William A. Barkley, Hosea Cline, Ace Gardner and Gabe Roblas. Ruth’s skull had been found on December 10, 1931, near the Three Red Hills. Ruth disappeared in the famous Superstition Mountains six months earlier while on a prospecting archaeological expedition sponsored by the Arizona Republic.

Ruth’s skeletal remains were found about three-quarters of a mile from the site where his skull was discovered almost a month earlier. The search party came up on the skeleton while making a systematic search of the canyons and ridges. The searchers had passed within 200 yards of the site a dozen times in previous searches but failed to see the remains.

The bones of the missing prospector had been scattered over an area of 50 to 100 square yards. Ruth’s clothing had been shredded and spread over the area by wild animals, but his personal belongings were intact.

The search posse found his penknife, a jackknife, a top of a thermos bottle, a tin matchbox containing six matches and Ruth’s gold case watch. All these items were found within a double fold of his pants pocket. A compass and hand-held lens for inspection of ore samples were found in his buttoned shirt pocket.

Ruth’s suspenders, gun, flashlight, pick axe, checkbook, thermos bottle and canvas leggings lay nearby. The leggings were wrapped as if he had been wearing them prior to taking them off. His revolver, a .44 caliber Smith & Wesson Russian, had not been fired and was fully loaded. His empty thermos bottle provided grim testimony as to what might have happened at the site in June 1931.

The skeleton was five miles as the crow flies from Ruth’s camp at Willow Springs in West Boulder Canyon. Adams proclaimed that, because of the rugged terrain, Ruth would have had to walk at least eight miles to reach his camp from the spot his remains were found. He wasn’t prepared for the distance, the heat or the exertion.

Law enforcement officials abandoned all murder theories in connection with Ruth’s disappearance after they were able to examine his remains. It was apparent to these veteran officers that Ruth had succumbed to the elements. They declared Ruth died from thirst, exhaustion and starvation. It was his struggle through the hot desert and his quest for a distant peak that had cost him his life. Ruth believed locating Weaver’s Needle would lead him to the fabulously rich Lost Dutchman Mine.

The law enforcement officers found several papers scattered around the site of Ruth’s remains, but they did not find an old Spanish map which Ruth was believed to be carrying. It was this alleged map that so many believe he was murdered for.

[Part II – June 24]

Reviewing some of the facts about the disappearance of Adolph Ruth might help clarify the story. Ruth, a Washington, D.C. treasure hunter, arrived at the Barkley’s Quarter Circle U Ranch on May 13, 1931. William A. Barkley discouraged Ruth from making a trip into the mountains because of the extreme heat and his physical condition. Almost a month later, Jack Keenan and Leroy Purnell packed Ruth into West Boulder Canyon and set up camp for him at Willow Springs. This was on June 13, 1931.

Ruth wrote a letter to his wife Clara and dated it June 14, 1931. When Barkley found out Keenan and Purnell had packed Ruth into West Boulder Canyon, he immediately rode in to check on Ruth. He didn’t find Ruth in camp or any sign of him. He then immediately reported Ruth missing on June 20, 1931.

The search for Ruth began the next day. Deputy Jeff Adams and Barkley found traces of Ruth at East Boulder and West Boulder Canyon on June 17, 1931. Both men were convinced that Ruth had walked down West Boulder Canyon to its confluence with East Boulder Canyon and then on to Needle Canyon. He then turned up Needle Canyon hiking toward Weaver’s Needle to the south. Considering the conditions, it is amazing that he made it as far as he did before being overcome by heat and exertion. Ruth sat down on the ground in what little shade he could find along a small tributary of Needle Canyon on the slope of Black Top Mesa. Here he died of exhaustion, heat stroke or maybe a heart attack.

There was one unofficial reported sighting of Ruth by a prospector on June 16, 1931. The man who saw Ruth reported him in fair condition. This was about 9:30 a.m. in the morning near West Boulder Canyon west of Brush Corral. It appears that Ruth died sometime between June 15 and June 17th.

Ruth’s skull was found on December 10, 1931, and Dr. Ales Hrdlicka examined it on December 19, 1931. Dr. Hrdlicka said on that day that he could not be positive the skull had bullet holes in it.

Irwin Ruth, Adolph Ruth’s son, was convinced his father had been murdered in the mountains. Hrdlicka listened to Irwin Ruth talk about possible foul play. Hrdlicka then changed his original statement and said murder was possible, but he never signed the original statement drawn up by Olive S. Taylor stating the possibility of foul play.

Dr. Hrdlicka was a physical anthropologist and not a forensic pathologist. He very much lacked the professional training to determine if the holes in Ruth’s skull were bullet holes.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Department had the skeletal remains examined by two doctors in Phoenix. Both doctors reported there were no signs of foul play. They did not examine the skull, but the doctors were convinced Ruth died from the extreme conditions he tried to endure in the desert.

There is one common denominator in this story that is lacking when told by others. This was an old man, in poor condition, and convinced he could find a lost gold mine under extreme summer conditions in the Sonoran Desert. He perished because of his lack of common sense and his ignorance of the prevailing conditions.

For more information about this case read Dr. James R. Kearney’s “A Death in the Superstitions,” The Journal of Arizona History, Vol. 33, No. 2, Summer 1992, p.117, Arizona Historical Society, 949 East Second Street, Tucson, Arizona, 85719.

Monday, June 3, 2002

Lost Gold: A Lesson, Parts 1 and 2

June 3, 2002 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The search for lost gold has intrigued and fascinated many people. We often think of lost gold mines and treasures in terms of maps and clues that were left behind. A serious lost mine hunter will begin his or her search with a thorough investigation of available records associated with the story. These documents will include records from vital statistics, census, probate, taxes and real estate ownership.

If all of these records are exhausted and there is still no mention of the person involved with the lost mine or treasure, it is often presumed that the story is nothing but an unsubstantiated tale. It is apparent, when no proof exists of the main character’s existence, the story is nothing but a legend based on hearsay and lacking in documentation.

It amazes historians and [academics] how treasure hunters and lost gold mine searchers base so much of what they believe on weak subjective stories based on faith or belief that another person’s story is totally true. Often intelligent wealthy men or women fall prey to such rhetoric.

Robert Simpson Jacob was a man who could sell any idea if given the proper opportunity. Jacob was known as the man with the golden tongue (not silver). Long before Robert Jacob arrived on the scene of the infamous Dutchman’s Lost Mine there were men like Dr. Robert Aiton, Dr. Rolf Alexander, and others. Jacob was unique because of his success in accumulating a fortune in just eight years of fundraising (as he called it). 

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office estimated Jacob accumulated more than thirty million dollars during a five-year period, however they could only account for nine million dollars. 

Robert Simpson Jacob died in the summer of 1993, leaving no information or confession as to what happened to the remaining funds. The reason for this paragraph was to explain the ability of some to raise money honestly or dishonestly. The old clich√© “a mine promoter is a liar with a hole in the ground” is probably the truth about many of these people.

There are men who come to these mountains to hunt for gold, lost mines and treasure who are reputable and honest individuals. Richard Peck, Alva Reser, Robert Corbin, Walter Gassler, Ron Feldman, and many more searched based on integrity and honesty. Even the old timers like Al Morrow, Edwin Buckwitz, Jay Clapp and others had dreams of helping others if they ever struck it rich. This is the nature of searching for lost gold and treasure. The Superstition Wilderness Area has bee a fertile ground for this wonderful fantasy of lost gold.

[Part II – June 10]

Several years ago a man named Joe came to me with a story about a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. He was careful not to mention the Lost Dutchman Mine. He claimed he needed my assistance in the search for a mine his grandfather had told him about. We sat down and talked on my front porch. He told me a story about a narrow deep canyon on the eastern side of the Superstition Wilderness near Haunted Canyon. He kept mentioning a place called Tonto Canyon. This was a landmark I had never heard of within the boundaries of the wilderness.

I told him I had heard of Tonto Basin and Tonto Creek, but not Tonto Canyon. He then told me this was the Apache name for the canyon. Tonto means “fool” in Apache. Instantly the word “fool” brought back a very important memory from the past. I recalled a rich placer deposit story in a place called Fool’s Canyon somewhere in the Haunted Canyon area. It certainly surprised me this gentleman was talking about Fool’s Canyon.

Bill Cage, my father’s partner and friend, had told him about Fool’s Canyon more than seventy years ago. Could this man be the grandson of Bill Cage’s partner? I ask[ed] him if he had ever heard of Bill Cage. He didn’t recall the name. I then ask[ed] him about his grandfather. He told me his grandfather worked at the Miami Inspiration Mine around 1910.

Bill Cage had worked at the Miami Inspiration. I recalled Bill Cage telling my dad we called the area Fool’s Canyon. Cage and his partner said the region was so rough they figured they were fools for being in there looking for gold. It appeared I had found my father’s partner’s partner by mere accident. When Joe left I was convinced of this relationship. We have continued to work together all these years, hoping someday, we would find Fool’s Canyon. Joe passed away in 1997, ending our partnership.

Yes, I believed in Joe’s story and I still do. The gold was certainly not at the end of the rainbow, but we had a life of dreams and a great friendship. Joe never robbed me of anything but a little time; time I was willing to share. My father always said, “it is not so much the finding as it was in the searching.” It is that adventure that keeps me going, like my father and Bill Cage. Now, as I walk into the twilight years of my life I know now what my father was talking about.

Monday, April 22, 2002

Surviving a Desert Summer

April 22, 2002 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Mountain region, like any other desert environment, can be extremely dangerous during the hot summer months to both a novice or the experienced veteran of the desert. A combination of high temperatures and a lack of water can often lead to tragic circumstances for hikers or those who become [disoriented]. It is recommended to always carry plenty of water no matter where you are going.

During these dry and hot summer months a simple mistake can lead to tragedy. There are two simple rules that can save a person’s life. One, always carry a sufficient supply of water when out in the desert. This should be a minimum of a gallon of water per person per day when temperatures exceed 100 degrees F.

The second rule is, always notify someone of where you are going and when you expect to return. These two simple rules can save yours or your loved one’s life.

Warm weather brings out numerous reptiles, insects and spiders from their winter habitat. A lack of precipitation brings mammals down from the mountains and out of the desert in search of water. Humans and wild animals do not mix well in an urban setting and wild mammals can expose humans to rabies.

We often erect security lights to protect the integrity of our property, but at the same time these lights attract thousands of insects at night. In turn, these insects attract bats and rodents. The rodents attract snakes, and often these snakes are rattlesnakes. Even though rattlesnakes are venomous, humans are probably more endangered by mammals because of rabies. We should use caution around all mammals and venomous animals in the desert. Any wild animal that allows a human close to it is a potential threat for rabies exposure. As is often the case, the most informed people are sometimes the season’s first victims because of their carelessness.

Rattlesnakes are ectothermic vertebrates (cold-blooded animals), meaning they lack an appropriate physiological mechanism for maintaining body temperature. This condition directly affects their daily rhythm of activity and their habitat.

There are six species of rattlesnake in our area. These include the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Mohave Rattlesnake, Arizona Black Tail Rattlesnake, Sidewinder, Tiger Rattlesnake and the Arizona Black Rattlesnake. These animals have a very highly developed method of injecting venom therefore making the successful predators [in] the desert. Rattlesnakes prey primarily on small rodents.

If we follow three basic rules it is almost impossible to be bitten by a rattlesnake. Rule one, always watch where you put your hands; rule two, watch where you put your feet, and rule three; watch where you sit down.

Reptiles, including rattlesnakes, like cool shady spots during the spring, summer and fall months. During the winter months the snakes generally move underground where there is a constant temperature. Rattlesnakes are primarily nocturnal. Most rattlesnake bites involving humans occur from ½ hour before sundown and 2 hours after sundown. It is reported 72% of all bites occur during this period.

Rattlesnakes prefer live food. Eighty-four percent of the diet of rattlesnakes consists of small rodents. Rattlesnakes, when feeding o rodents, are the terminal point for dangerous diseases spread by rodents to humans. Rattlesnakes and other species of snakes are an important barrier between humans and diseases like rabies.

Rattlesnakes can be seen twelve months a year in the lower Sonoran Desert regions of the Southwest. Anytime temperatures exceed 72 degrees F rattlesnakes can become active.

The Western Diamondback can grow to six feet long and some have lived for thirty years in captivity. The rattlesnake is a true survivor, like a coyote.

[Part II – April 22]

Other dangerous creatures of the desert include the Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus mactans) which is quite common in our area. The spider can be found around the home in cool, damp and dark areas which are seldom disturbed. The bite of the Black Widow can be very serious, but seldom fatal. The spider is not aggressive by nature and bites human beings only when prevented from escaping and when in contact with the human body.

The Black Widow is easily identified by [its] ball-shaped abdomen and long spine-like legs. The female has a red hourglass on the underside of her abdomen. It is always advisable to see a physician if bitten by a Black Widow spider.

Another venomous animal of the desert is the scorpion. There are more than 20 species of scorpions found in the American Southwest. There are two closely related species that are dangerous to children. They can also be dangerous to adults in a rundown condition. These scorpions are Centruroides sculpuratus and the Centruroides gertschi. Both of these species are extremely small, usually less than three inches in length. Both species are very slender with thin tail segments. The key to identification of these species is the tiny notch called the subicular tooth just in front of the stinging spine.

The C. Sculpturatus is straw-colored and common to the desert areas. The C. gertschi is more common to the grasslands of the Southwest and not the desert regions. Scorpions are often found under rocks, wood, tree bark, and in and around debris that has set awhile. One of the most common areas for the C. sculpturatus is the bark of the Cottonwood tree (Fremonti populus). The scorpion easily acclimates to houses and is often found associated with moisture in homes.

We have just touched on a few of the things associated with living in the desert. Most important is to be aware that we are living in the habitat of other animals that were here long before human beings, but if we use [our] common sense with heat, animals, fire and water, there is no need to live in fear of the desert.

There are many other creatures I did not mention in this article. If you are interested in more information, check out the Apache Junction [Public] Library on North Idaho Road in Apache Junction.

Editor’s note: For bee and snake removal contact the Apache Junction Fire District at 480-982-4440.

Monday, March 25, 2002

Monday, February 11, 2002

Monday, January 28, 2002

Monday, January 7, 2002