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.