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.