Monday, December 12, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monday, October 31, 2005

Monday, October 24, 2005

Searching For the Truthh

October 24, 2005 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Mexican mining north of the Gila River has always been a very controversial subject. The late Dr. James Officer once stated, “It was unclear, according to Mexican documents, whether or not Mexican mining occurred north of the Rio Gila prior to 1825. However, Mexican prospectors undoubtedly worked the mineral rich areas around Globe, Superior and maybe even the Goldfields.”

It is very important to define the difference between prospecting and mining. Often the layman considers prospecting and mining the same. Prospecting is basically the searching or locating of mineral wealth and mining is the extraction and transport of mineral wealth to the marketplace. Using this basic definition for prospecting and mining it is easy to conclude the Mexicans never did any real mining north of the Gila River. A prospect tunnel is not a mining operation. This does not mean there were no Mexican prospectors in the Superstition Mountains.

Contemporary geologists have often stated that the basic geology of the Superstition Wilderness Area is not conducive to gold bearing minerals. This dos not mean there are no gold bearing deposits in the area. Immediately west of Superstition Mountain’s towering façade we find a very rich gold bearing deposit. The gold discovered in the Goldfields have attracted prospectors and miners for more than a hundred years.

The first major deposit of gold bearing ore discovered in Goldfield was on November 17, 1892. This was the Black Queen Claim. Other insignificant deposits were discovered prior to 1892. The Lucky Boy was located in 1881 and the Boulder-Buckhorn was located in 1886 by William A. Kimball. However, in April of 1893 the fabulously rich Mammoth Mine was discovered after a flash flood. The Mormon Stope produced more than three million dollars in gold during a four-year period for Denver capitalist[s] Denny and Sullivan. The gold at the Mammoth Mine disappeared by 1897 and the mining camp of Goldfield returned to desert.

Prior to 1891 a somewhat obscure prospector wandered about the Superstition Mountains looking for gold. His name was Jacob Waltz. Newspaper accounts, naturalization documents, mining claims and grain receipts note his activity in territorial Arizona between 1863 and 1891. Another Arizona pioneer named Elisha Reavis moved into the eastern end of the Superstition Wilderness Area in 1874, give or take a couple of years. It is quite apparent both men knew each [other] when they both worked along the San Gabriel River in 1862. Waltz had worked for a man named Rueben Blakeny and Reavis was working a claim in the vicinity. Several early Arizona pioneers believed Waltz visited Reavis occasionally at his abode in what we call the Reavis Valley today.

Jacob Waltz undoubtedly searched the Superstition Mountain range for that elusive vein of gold he had chased since traveling west from Natchez, Mississippi around 1850. Many contemporaries believe Jacob Waltz found a rich Mexican or Spanish mine in the Superstition Mountain range and that was the source of his gold.

Recent excavation and research by Ron Feldman, his sons and Historical Exploration and Treasures (H.E.A.T.) may change our perspective on Mexican prospecting or mining within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. 

One of the most popular stories told around campfires about Waltz and his gold mine has to do with Mexican miners. This story claims Waltz and a partner came upon three Mexicans working a rich mine near Weaver’s Needle. The two men immediately killed the Mexicans and buried their bodies. Shortly after acquiring the mine Waltz and his partner were attacked by the Apaches. Again the two men managed to escape death and continued to work the mine. Supplies were running low so Waltz eventually left his partner at the mine and headed for Phoenix. While gone for supplies Waltz’s partner was attacked by Apaches. He escaped death, but was severely wounded. He made his way to the Walker Ranch near the Gila River. He allegedly told John D. Walker about the rich gold mine and even drew him a map. Walker, at the time was involved with the so-called Lost Pima Silver Mine and didn’t have any interest in the Superstition Mountain mine.

Waltz eventually learned his partner ended up dying at the Walker Ranch on the Gila River near Florence. Waltz continued making trips to his mine until about 1884. Many Arizona pioneers never believed Waltz had a mine. Many of these pioneers said they had never heard Waltz talk about a rich mine in the Superstition Mountains. When Jacob Waltz died on October 25, 1891, a small candle box filled with forty-eight pounds of high-grade gold ore was found beneath his bed. This box of gold ore created a schism between the Holmes and Petrasch families that continues to be debated to this day. The question has always been asked, what did Waltz tell the Holmes or Petrasch families in those waning hours of his life? To this day nobody really knows if Waltz said anything to anyone.

Lost gold mines and treasure stories are always a question of credibility. You must always ask yourself, what is the source of the information I am using and is it credible?

Jacob Waltz left a legacy that continues to haunt the rugged Superstition Wilderness Area.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

Superstition Rock Writings

September 19, 2005 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

The subject of rock writing in the Superstition Wilderness Area conjures up tales of lost gold or buried treasure. Treasure hunters of the American Southwest are constantly searching for clues or signs that will lead them to a bonanza of buried treasure, and many books have been written on the topic of treasure signs. Hundreds of business ventures have been launched due to the misinterpretation of petroglyphs. Actually, few, if any treasures, have ever been found from the direct use of treasure signs carved in rocks.

Most of the stone markings found in the Superstition Wilderness were placed there several centuries ago by the early inhabitants of the region. Their culture was most likely related to the Hohokam or Salado. The petroglyphs (rock writings) found in the Superstition Wilderness and many other parts of the Southwest are so numerous and sometimes so complex it is difficult to analyze them in any scientific manner or order. Our knowledge and research involving ancient stone writings in the Southwest is so superficial it is almost impossible to find any sound consensus of agreement among contemporary researchers.

The novice finds these writings to mean little and usually having no real significance to anything they are familiar with. Treasure hunters have used these stone writings to support preposterous claims about hidden treasure in the Southwest. Archaeologists and anthropologists have not found any consistent linguistic key among the thousands of stone writings found in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Rock writing in the American Southwest has been considered by many to be nothing more than an attempt by early inhabitants of the region to pass idle time. Lavan Martineau, author of the book “The Rocks That Speak,” believes it is unforgivable for any scholar to believe ancient petroglyphs were carved by a people who had a surplus of time. The ancient inhabitants of this desert region lived a life of gathering and subsistence. Food gathering was their only means of survival and there was no such thing as idle time.

The ancient occupants of various settlements throughout the Superstition Wilderness were like all people of the period. They spent most of their time gathering food for survival and then protecting it from their enemies and predators. They did not have idle time to “scratch on rocks with stones.” It is believed the petroglyphs we find throughout the Southwest, Arizona and the Superstition Wilderness were carved as a vast communications network or for religious purposes. Each design, no matter how simple or complex, had a meaningful function or purpose.

Within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness there are thousands of markings on rocks which have witnessed the eons of time. There are two major examples of these writings that can be found in the wilderness. One is located in Hieroglyphic Canyon (Apache Springs Canyon, see “History of Arizona,” Robinson, 1912) and the other is near Charlebois Spring in La Barge Canyon. Many isolated examples of petroglyphs are found throughout the Superstition Wilderness at such locations as Circlestone, Rough’s Canyon, Garden Valley, Black Ridge and Black Mesa. Most of the petroglyphs located within the Superstition Wilderness Area are found on basaltic-type rocks and are usually near old springs or water sources. Another interesting group of petroglyphs are often found near the tops of towering peaks or ridges.

The rock writings in the Superstition Mountain area can be attributed to a variety of groups. Native Americans, the Spaniards, the Mexicans and the Anglo-Americans all left their markings behind. Proving the source of these rock writings is an almost impossible task.

Since the turn of the century we have been faced with the treasure hunter who alters, defaces or makes new markings. This group of rock markings would also include those carved by dubious treasure hunters for the purpose of fraud. The origin of these questionable markings is an endless topic. The confusion they have caused among serious interpreters of ancient stone writings is sometimes irreversible.

[Part II, September 19, 2005]

The Superstition Wilderness contains thousands of petroglyphs, stone markings and stone writings of which many are from an unknown source. Let us examine one of the best known sites in the Superstition Wilderness.

On the south side of Black Top Mountain (Mesa) there is a set of stone writings that suggest they are Spanish in origin. The drawings are of a sunburst and the Spanish word “oro.” These markings have been the source of much controversy over the past eighty years or so. Thousands of dollars have been invested in a variety of schemes and scams to find gold on this mountain because of these stone markings.

Barry Storm, an early writer of Dutchman’s Lost Mine lore, may have been responsible for much of the interest expressed in these markings today. He claimed they were Spanish markings and many people believed him. Even the USGS printed the Spanish Hieroglyphics on one of their 7.5 minute topographic maps of the area. Only a handful of people before Barry Storm were aware of the markings on the south end of Black Top. William A. Barkley, owner of the local cattle ranch, said the markings had been there since he bought the ranch in 1907. My father visited the ranch in 1933 because Barkley told him about the petroglyphs at [the] south end of Black Top. Barkley and my father recalled the “oro” being on the rock prior to Storm. Did Storm mark the rock? I don’t know and I doubt if anyone knows for sure.

Other well-known petroglyphs are located in La Barge Canyon above its confluence with Charlebois Canyon. This stone marking is known as the “Master Map” in the world of the treasure hunters. Most archaeologists agree these petroglyphs were left by an ancient hunting culture who probably hunted sheep in the area a thousand years ago. The markings were later altered by contemporary man. Although the perpetrator of this alteration is unknown, his reason was to convince someone these petroglyphs were [of] Spanish origin.

Another very similar set of petroglyphs can be found in the desert south of Superstition Mountain. This set is not altered in any way, but identical to the La Barge group except for the contemporary alteration. It is apparent the same individual made both of these petroglyphs or maybe two different individual[s] made representations of stellar constellations. Archaeologists believe the markings in La Barge are in celebration of a successful hunt by ancient people who lived in this semi-arid environment several centuries ago.

One of the most fabulous stone marking galleries in the Superstition Wilderness is located in Hieroglyphic Canyon north of the old 3R Ranch in what is known as Gold Canyon today. The markings in this canyon represent a variety of mammals, reptiles and birds found in the Sonoran Desert. The craftsman who pecked out the outlines of these animals with another stone was a true artist. This canyon is certainly one of the finest examples of petroglyph art in the region.

Since the times of Caesar and Imperial Rome men have climbed to the top of mountains and left their monograms. After the turn of the century many hikers who climbed to the top of Superstition Mountain left their initials and the date to basically say to future generations, “I was there.” To remind us of this, at the top of Summit 5024 there are several names and dates.

The stone markings in the Superstition Wilderness range from contemporary man to ancients of several centuries ago. I suppose our markings are worth preserving in some manner. Over time they become a small part of our written history. However, the real historical value is in the ancient petroglyphs left more than a thousand years ago by the early inhabitants of this desert wilderness. It is important we become stewards of these stone markings and protect them for future generations to enjoy and study.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Story of Edgar Piper

July 11, 2005 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The towering spire of Weaver’s Needle has played a major role in the history and legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine. The canyons and draws of this famous slope were once the realm of several colorful and interesting characters. One such character was Edgar Edmond Piper.

Piper came from Oregon in the early 1950s to settle in the shadows of Weaver’s Needle and begin his search for the Lost Dutchman Mine or one of the Peralta Mines. The landmark “Piper Springs” preserves the legacy of his life and times around Weaver’s Needle.

Piper was a tall, lanky man, deeply tanned by decades of exposure to the sun. His facial features were sharp and extremely pronounced. His attire generally included khakis, a baseball cap and a pistol strapped to his hip. Ed was a mild-mannered, gentle and fearless individualist. His personality reflected his burning desire to find the gold he believed to be buried near Weaver’s Needle.

Piper was also a cautious man, a good conversationalist if he chose to be, but if provoked or challenged he could protect himself and his property. Piper was a friendly man, not a violent man, and he always welcomed strangers to his camp with a cup of coffee.

I visited his camp many times during the late fifties while working for the Barkley Cattle Company, and I was always welcome in his camp. Piper was a decent storyteller when he talked about what he believed to be true. He was dedicated to his search for the lost gold in and around Weaver’s Needle.

Not a man to [be] take[n] lightly, Ed Piper would certainly challenge you if he felt threatened. And he felt threatened on November 11, 1958, when he was confronted by a young man on the slopes of Weaver’s Needle above his camp.

Piper was accosted by Robert St. Marie, a young man employed by Marie Jones, the leader of a rival prospecting camp. Jones had been feuding with Piper over some mining claims adjacent to Weaver’s Needle. St. Marie pointed a revolver at Piper and told him he was going to kill him. Ed drew his pistol and shot St. Marie to death. The killing was later ruled an act of justifiable self-defense. Piper’s story proved to be the accepted version of the confrontation that occurred high on the slopes of Weaver’s Needle, and it was a drama that is still argued around campfires to this day. If this tragedy had not occurred it is doubtful that Piper’s name would be remembered. 

Edgar Edmond Piper was born in Florence, Kansas, on April 4, 1894, to Edmond and Laura Eason Piper. He arrived in Apache Junction in early 1952 and had been a farmer and fruit tree grower in New Plymouth, Idaho.

Just prior to Piper’s departure from Idaho his wife and mother died within days of each other. He told some friends “the whole world collapsed” around him. He then chose to spend the rest of his life in obscurity, living briefly in a small trailer in Apache Junction before moving to the base of Weaver’s Needle. He established a permanent camp there in 1955. He staked out his first mining claims on February 9, 1956. The claims were named “The Thing No.1 – No.5.” 

Piper continued his talent at growing fruit trees after moving into the Superstitions. When a visitor rode into his camp he always pointed proudly to a small peach tree he carefully cultivated. He loves this world apart from the pressures of our complex mobile society and he continuously pointed to that fact.

Piper was also a prospector in the true sense of the word. He had many claims in and around Weaver’s Needle and sincerely believed he was within 300 feet of the richest gold mine or treasure in the world.

He lived near Weaver’s Needle during the violent years of 1958-1961, when death was no stranger to the region. Just fourteen days after the tragic death of Robert St. Marie, Lavern Rowles died of gunshot wounds inflicted by Ralph Thomas. According to Ed Piper, Thomas and his wife had just completed a visit to his camp and were leaving the area when an argument erupted between Rowles, Thomas and his wife that ended in that shooting. A few months later, on March 21, 1961, the body of Walter Mowry was found in Needle Canyon, a short distance away. This bloodshed in the area appeared to prepare the future dialogue for numerous articles and books on the Superstition Mountains.

Piper lived in the mountains during a very turbulent time and became part of the legend, willingly or unwillingly. He survived all the hostilities during this violet period, only to die in the Pinal County Hospital in Florence on August 13, 1962, from stomach cancer. He was 68 years old.

“Gold can possess a man’s soul, but the soul cares nothing of gold beyond death.” This old proverb measures the value of gold after death. Ed often told me, “Gold creates an obsession in some men’s minds that eventually destroys them.” His quote was quite prophetic. All men appear to want gold; therefore the yellow metal of the kings continues to flow from one generation to another without interruption by the death of any one individual.

Piper made James Slaven the executor of his will and he requested in the will to be buried in the Superstition Mountains. Although the law prohibits this, there are faint rumors that claim Piper’s remains were buried within the mountains he loved so much. The rumors have no supporting documentation and, according to existing documents, Edgar Edmond Piper is buried in a pauper’s grave near Florence, Arizona. This too is ironic for a man who was born in Florence, Kansas [to] be buried in Florence, Arizona.

Monday, June 6, 2005

The Legacy of Lost Gold

June 6, 2005 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

The Superstition Mountain area of central Arizona has fascinated men and women for more than a century. The beauty and solitude of the region attract most, but some come to these rugged mountains to search for gold or hidden treasure, and this story of lost riches is centuries old.

The legend of lost gold in the region began when the first Spanish conquistadors landed on the Mexican coast near Vera Cruz in 1519. The soldiers under the command of Hernando Cortez captured the Aztec city of Tenoctitlan. The discovery of this city of gold created hundreds of rumors about hidden treasure to the north and south of Tenoctitlan.

Stories tell of gold being buried in the Superstition Mountains by the Aztecs shortly after the Spanish invasion of the Mexican mainland in 1519. These wild stories led to many expeditions. The conquistadors searched for gold with Coronado and found no gold in the north, but rumors continued to persist. The conquistadors were followed by the Jesuit priests who allegedly forced the Native Americans to mine silver and gold for them. The priests reportedly then hid the gold and silver for the church without paying the Spanish royal fifth as required by Spanish law. Still, no documentation remains today that proves this happened.

The Jesuits were expelled from the New World by the Spanish king in 1767. They were followed by Mexican prospectors and miners looking for gold and silver. One family, according to legend, was the Peraltas of Arizpe, Sonora, Mexico. The Peraltas supposedly had eight rich gold and silver mines in the mountains north of the Rio Gila. 

Some stories claim they had at least eighteen mines in the Superstition Mountain area.

One version of the story says the Spanish Peraltas hid their mines from the Mexicans when Mexico received its independence from Spain in 1821. After a period of time the Peraltas returned to the mines and worked them until 1847.

The Peraltas were massacred at their mine in gold fields west of Superstition Mountain. Their ore laden burros and mules were scattered over the bajadas of Superstition Mountain. Only one Peralta escaped the Apache attack and its said he claimed the Apaches buried the mines to discourage the return of the miners and prospectors. It was from this period of time the famous Peralta Stone Map allegedly appeared. 

Other storytellers will tell you the Mexicans and Native Americans hid all the gold and silver mines when the Americans acquired the area shortly after the Mexican-American War in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

Another famous myth about the Superstition Mountain area is the story of the Apache “Thunder God” protecting the gold of Superstition Mountain from American prospectors and miners by killing them when they entered the Superstition Mountain area.

Then there was the story of Jacob Waltz, a stubborn old German prospector, set on finding a rich gold vein in the Superstition Mountains. According to the legend, Waltz penetrated this vast and rugged mountain wilderness, evaded the Apaches, and found a rich gold mine. The rich gold ore found under Waltz’s death bed in 1891 fueled the legend of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. This story in the hands of a great storyteller like Pierpont Constable Bicknell, a freelance newspaperman, produced one of America’s greatest lost mine stories.

Today, Superstition Mountain and the Dutchman’s Monument in Apache Junction stand as reminders of the great American West that is slowly vanishing. The monument represents an era that has been replaced by more regulation and new urban population. This rapidly growing urban population requires controls to protect the limited open space we still have in our state.

The future of Superstition Mountain and its wilderness undoubtedly is destined to be a recreational ground for the Salt River Valley. The wilderness and the legend are one of the greatest assets our community has. It is the dream of finding a rich gold mine that continues to stir the imagination of those who follow in the footsteps of “Coronado’s Children.” For almost five hundred years men and women have dreamed of finding this gold.

A myth about lost gold is sometimes more powerful than reality itself. The old prospector and his burro are still icons of our community.

Monday, May 2, 2005

The Gonzales Story, Part I

May 2, 2005 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

Library Note: The Library's copy of the May 9, 2005 edition of the News is missing and so part 2 of this story is unavailable.

There are few tales in the annals of Superstition Mountain history that can chronicle the feverish quest for gold by men better than the Gonzales story. 

Historians ascertain the story is strictly fabrication, the imagination of a creative writer who first put it in print in the 1930s. Most of the story is supposition; however, there are lingering facts that tantalize the imagination. A close examination of documents fails to produce any substance to the story, but the Gonzales name does appear frequently in Mexican history. The hearsay in the story appears to produce enough pseudo-evidence to satisfy those who believe in lost gold mine stories. Tales of bonanza gold have always obscured documented fact and more often these stories command the attention of the reading public. The average reader is also a dreamer searching for an armchair adventure.

The Gonzales story has always produced interesting controversy and has, on many occasions, subjected credible historians to criticism. The lure and lust for gold often overwhelms and obscures fact and replaces it with hearsay. There is no truth stronger [than] the true story told by an old and trusted friend even if historic evidence does not exist to support it. Men have been blinded from the truth by exaggerated stories of huge quantities of gold or treasure for the taking. The Gonzales tale is such a story.

Juan Gonzales supposedly lived in the Mexican state of Sonora near the village of Arizpe. It was here his grandfather, Miguel Peralta, told him the story of the Peralta gold mines in the Pimeria Alta to the north. Juan promised his grandfather someday he would search for the family’s mines and bring wealth once again to Arizpe. It was two decades later before Juan could organize his first expedition into the Pimeria Alta. On November 20, 1878, Juan Jose Gonzales Sanchez departed from Arizpe with his cousin, Alvarado Luis Sanchez, and a friend, Jose “Mano” Peralta Quiroz. Alvarado was Juan’s partner and Quiroz was a helper. Juan’s father warned him the Americans did not like Mexican prospectors who competed with them for the mineral wealth of the territory recently stolen from Mexico. Often the Americans would kill Mexican prospectors and claim they were Apaches or hostile Indians. Juan’s father also cautioned them about the Apache who dominated the Apacheria. They were still seeking the revenge of Chief Victorio, Magnus Colorados and others.

The small Mexican party crossed the international border near what is [known] today as Agua Prieta. At this point they traveled northwest until they arrived at the banks of the Rio San Pedro. For three days they followed the Rio San Pedro to its confluence with the Rio Gila. They then followed the course of the Gila until they arrived at Dos Lomas, the two hills.

At this point they traveled across the desert guided only by a sharp pointed peak called La Sombrero. After two days of hard travel the small group arrived at the old Ruiz Hacienda near what is known as Queen Creek today. The Ruiz Hacienda was a fortress on the banks of the Rio Tortuga (Queen Creek). At the Ruiz Hacienda they purchased a few meager supplies and continued their journey toward La Sombrero.

The three young men had two French rifles and a limited supply of caps, powder and ball for protection. They made their first night’s camp in the Superstition Mountain near La Sombrero. Juan’s grandfather had called Superstition Mountain by its Mexican name “Sierra Supersticion.”

The trip from Mexico had been a difficult one and the three were near exhaustion. After a day of rest they [began] their search for the La Mina del Sombrero, the mine of the hat. The three men followed the instructions given to them by the elder Peralta, Juan’s grandfather.

Late one evening the young men heard a woman’s scream in a neighboring canyon. Picking up their rifles they went to investigate. They climbed a steep ridge dividing the two canyons. Once on the summit they saw four Apache warriors assaulting a young Mexican woman. She was screaming at her attackers in Spanish. For a moment the young men were overwhelmed with fear and confusion, but the woman’s continued struggle with her captors forced them to make a decision.

Lifting their rifles to their shoulders, they took careful aim and pulled the triggers. As the roar of their weapons echoed through the canyons two Apache warriors fell dead. The remaining warriors quickly grabbed their rifles and fled for cover in the rocks. Juan and his companions lay quietly near the summit of the ridge waiting for the Indians to make the next move. Soon the young Mexican girl began to crawl toward them. Suddenly, an Apache warrior jumped to his feet and took careful aim, but before he could pull the trigger of his rifle the roar of Alvarado’s rifle and the speeding bullet tore the top of the Apache’s head off. The warrior fell dead, but his comrade fired a fatal bullet into Alvarado’s chest. Juan fired a second shot killing the fourth Apache warrior. Alvarado lay on the ground near his friend with his life blood [slowly] draining out on the rocks of Superstition Mountain.

Juan and “Mano” slowly climbed down from the summit to the aid of the young Mexican woman. The young woman told how she was kidnapped from the Silver King area three years previous. As the young men talked to her they soon realized she spoke Apache and English, as well as Spanish. It wasn’t long before they found out she knew the Sierra Supersticiones well. She told them her name was Carmen Maria Antonio Ruiz. Carmen claimed she had lived with a white prospector near the Ruiz Hacienda who was more cruel than the Apache. She showed them a brand on her back. It was placed there so that there would never be any mistake as to who owned her. One late night an Apache warrior plunged a knife into her tormentor’s chest and stole her in the night.

As twilight gave way to darkness, Juan and “Mano” buried their friend on a ridge overlooking the canyon leading to the base of La Sombrero. After a short prayer the three returned to Juan’s camp. As they ate a meager meal of corn mush and jerky Juan was prepared to tell the young woman why he was in the stronghold of the Coyotero Apache.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Monday, March 28, 2005

Monday, March 21, 2005

A Historical Dichotomy

March 21, 2005 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

[Library Note: In this article, Kollenborn switches between "Wilbur" and "Orville" Wright multiple times. Wilbur Wright is the brother who passed away in 1912 and who was thought to have been referenced in the Arizona Gazette. Orville Wright lived until 1948.]

There are times when historical research, speculation and supposition all come into play when looking for information. Often historical writers pursue information based on periodical articles supported by historical dates. The flaw in this type of research is one’s memory about names, places and events. A recent article written by this columnist falls in this category. The story was about Wilbur Wright, the famous American aviator at the turn of the century. For the record I want to correct the speculation and supposition I put forth about this American aviator in a recent column.

Several years ago I was researching newspaper periodicals when I came across several articles written about early aviation in Arizona, c.1916-1920. One article caught my attention. It appeared in the Arizona Gazette and was dated June 16, 1919. The headline reads as follows: “Makes Record Flight Over the Apache Trail.”

It continued: 

Piloted by Lieut. Wilbur Wright a Curtiss plane came Saturday from Globe, making a record flight of 100 miles in 52 minutes. Capt. F.L. Darrow was a passenger. The flight was made over the beautiful scenery of the mountains traversed by the Apache Trail.

Lieut. Wright made a flight up to Globe last Tuesday, accompanied by a man from the local recruiting station. During the short time spent in the mining town an intensive recruiting campaign gained nine applications for the air service.

The landing Saturday was made in the small oval field within the race track at the fairgrounds, as the larger field used by airplanes previously is under irrigation at the present.

Using a little supposition I combined several aviation stories of the period into one story about Orville Wright and the Apache Trail based on the newspaper article that appeared in the Arizona Gazette on June 16, 1919.

After my article appeared in the AJ News on January 24, 2005, I was soon advised this event could not have occurred. First, Orville Wright died in 1912, and secondly Orville [Wilbur] Wright would have never flown a Curtiss aircraft. Yes, I was guilty of taking the article in the Arizona Gazette for face value. If my thought process had kicked in I would have recalled Orville [Wilbur] Wright passed away in 1912.

This error on my part was based on the information that appeared in the Arizona Gazette has created another interesting historical dichotomy. Who was the Lt. Wilbur Wright in the Arizona Gazette article? Did the event ever actually occur? The event mentioned in the Arizona Gazette did occur, however the actual pilot has not been identified through research. The Gazette reporter may have written the Army pilot that flew the Curtiss handled the aircraft like Orville Wright and whoever wrote up the story misunderstood the reporter’s story and called the story in by telephone incorrectly. Telephones were often used to forward stories to press rooms in those days.

Today, wireless computers send stories to press rooms. A reporter today can use a laptop computer to report an important event directly to the pressroom in writing preventing any confusion over the telephone lines or the air. As a columnist I feel I reported the story as it was written, but did not further research it. Further research might have revealed the Orville Wright mention in this article was just another man named Wright. If I am so lucky to find any new information about this article I will print an update.

Thank you all for reading my columns and supporting the historical preservation of this area.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Monday, February 7, 2005

Monday, January 31, 2005

Cowboying to Wrangling

January 31, 2005 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

I was working as a teacher for the Apache Junction Junior High School in 1973 and the teachers there were a very innovative group. This innovation inspired me, so I proposed a new type of field trip for our students in the spring of 1973. I suggested to Principal Dale Hancock a horseback field trip through the Superstition Mountains for a class I was teaching titled “Superstition Gold.” I thought this would be a great idea because I loved my long horseback rides into the Superstition Wilderness when I worked for the Barkley Cattle Company.

At first Mr. Hancock looked at me, smiled then said, “Are you really serious?” I explained that, if I could get the students out to First Water I could find enough horses for the field trip. To permit the field trip, Hancock had to take a lot of things under consideration before allowing me to implement horseback field trips at his school. There were matters of insurance, parental approval, and safety, not to mention the logistics.

Superintendent Tom Reno and the school board finally approved the field trip, commenting that it was quite an innovative idea. Our first field trip occurred in April of 1974. I would like to think it was a historical event for the Superstition Wilderness Area and the Apache Junction Junior High School. However I am sure others made such field trips prior to 1974. A lot of cows had gone through the corral gate since I had left the Quarter Circle U Ranch in 1959.

The first horseback field trip included thirty-one students and ten adults. I was able to contract thirty-five horses from Billy Clark Crader at the Superstition Inn Stables. Crader was able to borrow horses from Dallas Adair at Greenhorn Stables to complete the number of horses we needed for the field trip. Crader charged ten dollars per student for an all-day horseback trip and lunch.

We did this field trip on a Saturday so as not to interrupt classroom time. I guided the string of horses through the mountains to a place called East Boulder Canyon. As I rode that day, I thought about the days I worked for the Barkley Cattle Company. Now here I was leading my own horseback field trip into the Superstitions. It sure had been a long trail from the back of [a] cow pony on the old U Ranch in 1958 to guiding my students through the Superstition Wilderness Area on a horseback field trip.

Bud Lane called our lunch stop Frankfurter Flats. Along the way, the students were encouraged to note the geology, plants and animals for a discussion at lunchtime. The students were also required to write a brief report on their experience. To this day I still have some of those essays. I must admit I cherished my students’ comments such as, “The best thing I [ever] did in my life.” “It was so beautiful, I couldn’t believe all the water,” “I have never done anything like this in my whole life,” “My horse was the best friend I could have had,” and “I’ll never forget this trip as long as I live.”

Many of these children had never had such an experience and I found great pleasure in sharing the horses and outdoors with my students. I was able to broaden their horizons by giving them the opportunity to look at something in a completely different perspective.

While preparing for another field trip I was called to the office one day to meet a gentleman who offered to sponsor ten deserving students each time I had a field trip. His generosity ensured an opportunity for children who without this sponsorship could not have attended the horseback field trip. 

I continued these horseback trips for more than a decade. Hundreds of junior high students and adults accompanied me on these trips into the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Almost every week I run into former students who accompanied me on one of those horseback field trips during the 1970s and 1980s. These brief encounters with my former students are fond memories for an old man.

The other day I ran into Craig Arnold, Arnold Motors, and we talked about the trip he was on during his junior high school days. I am always running into other students who were a part of these field trips and they are always reminding [me] what a great time they had. Kendra McKinney (Adams) I see almost every day. She is a school administrator for the Apache Junction Unified School District now. She and her sister were on horseback trips with me into the Superstition Mountains when they were students at the junior high school. Her father, Ken McKinney, was a deputy sheriff for Pinal County and he often rode with us on our field trips.

I hoped all my students absorbed something worthwhile from the horseback field trips that would help them later in life. I was really enthusiastic that day I walked into Dale Hancock’s office and offered to start these horseback field trips for students, and I’m sure this innovative idea caught Dale Hancock off-guard just a little.

Hancock implemented many innovative programs at the junior high school in Apache Junction during [his] career there. The horseback field trips may have been one of the most unusual for a public school setting, or at least he believed so. The students who participated in these horseback field trips are now in their thirties and forties. It’s difficult to believe they are all grown up now.

Our nation’s greatest resource is our children, and I am proud of my classroom days as a teacher. If I made a difference in one child’s success in life, I felt I was a success. 

The other day someone asked me just how rich I am. I thought about it for a moment and I said I was really wealthy. I measure my wealth not in dollars but in the young minds I helped to cultivate for the future. My reward is not my dollars, but my students’ success. Today, any time I meet one of my students and see how successful they are, I have found my reward in life. I used every available means to help them on their way. The horseback field trips were just another step forward helping my students meet their goals in life.

Monday, January 17, 2005