Over the years, my father and I met many prospectors who spent a lot of time in the Superstition Wilderness searching for gold or treasure. It was my father’s opinion that there was little gold to be found in the area. He believed the only gold in the Superstitions would be in a cache. He never believed the Tertiary basalt and ash that had formed Superstition Mountain and the surrounding area would contain any reasonable amount of gold bearing rock.
Sometime in the Spring of 1952, Dad and I were out at Peralta Canyon looking around and visiting with old Louis Volk. It was at this time we were introduced to Joe Roider by Louis. Joe had been searching an area east of Weaver’s Needle since 1945, and was very secretive about the location of his diggings. He told us he only came out to the mountains once a year, usually February or March, depending on the weather in Chicago.
When Joe learned Dad had been wandering around these hills since the 1930s he became a little more sociable. Joe and Dad talked for a couple of hours under an old Ironwood tree while I hiked around the local area. The Dutchman’s Lost Mine was the main topic of their discussion. By the time we were ready to leave and drive back to the town of Christmas, Joe began to tell Dad about two soldiers and some of the information he had learned about them. Joe was trying to trace the soldiers back to Waltz’s mine.
The soldiers’ story is prominent in several “Dutch” scenarios about the Dutchman’s Lost Mine, and goes something like this. Two soldiers were mustered out of the Army at Fort McDowell in 1879. They decided to hike to Silver King Mine and look for work. They hiked down the Verde River then crossed the Salt River and followed it upstream. Somewhere between Boulder and Fish Creek Canyon they turned south to pick up the wagon road between Mesa City to Pinal City. It was in one of the rugged canyons south of the Salt River they came across what appeared to be an abandoned mine dump.
On this mine dump the two soldiers found a bonanza in gold ore. They picked up several rich samples and continued on their journey to Silver King. Once in Silver King the two soldiers decided to look for a grubstake. They showed a piece of their ore to Aaron Mason, owner of the Silver King Mercantile. Mason immediately recognized the ore’s richness and knew these young men had found a bonanza. He offered to grubstake them.
Instead, they [chose] to seek employment at the “King” and grubstake themselves. Like all lost mine stories the two soldiers were never able to return to their fabulous bonanza. There are several versions of this story and what happen[ed] to the two soldiers. One version claims both soldiers were murdered and buried on the desert west of Reid’s Water and Whitlow Canyon.
When I worked as a young cowboy on the old Quarter Circle U Ranch, Bill Barkley showed me a depression with a slight mound at one end with a few rocks piled up. He told me it was the grave of one of the soldiers that had found the Dutchman.
This scenario about the two soldiers and the mine dump they found while hiking from Fort McDowell to Silver King can be found in several stories. Some claim John Chuning heard the story from Joe Deering. Deering never searched for the soldiers’ mine dump because he died in an accident at the Silver King Mine. Somehow, Joe Roider came across information in Chicago that convinced him the story was true. He claimed to have known a descendant of one of the soldiers. Joe claimed to have seen some letters explaining the soldier’s good fortune and a few clues as to the location of the mine dump. I never saw one of the letters Joe talked about.
Joe Roider pursued this story for the rest of his life. I packed him into the mountains twice between 1955 and 1959. Sometime around March, 1960 I made my last trip into the Superstitions with “Little Joe.” We hiked, with heavy backpacks, into Whiskey Springs Canyon from the U Ranch. Joe and I spent two nights camped near the old airplane and searched the entire area for any sign of military buttons. The purpose of this trip was to check out Buck Wallace’s story about military buttons being found in Whiskey Springs Canyon. I believe Joe had a very primitive metal detector called a “beachcomber.” All Joe found that day were parts that had flown off the airplane when it crashed in 1942.
Joe continued hiking into the Superstitions until about 1983. He then started packing in with Billy Clark Crader, who owned and operated the Wilderness Safaro Outfitters out of Durango, Colorado. I rode into Joe’s camp sometime after 1983. He was camped in Needle Canyon about a half mile below Edwin Buckwitz’s camp. He had a comfortable floor tent setup, a battery television, radio and most of the comforts of home.
Most of Joe’s trips into Needle Canyon were made up and over Cardiac Hill, then through Bluff Saddle and down the old trail into Needle Canyon.
Crader’s crew considered “Little Joe” a true gentleman and scholar.
When I traveled in the mountains I would try to pay “Little Joe” a visit. Off and on for many years Joe and I would sit around the campfire and reminisce about the past and talk about “what if we found it.”
The last time I saw Joe Roider he dropped by my home here in Apache Junction to buy one of my books. He told me it was for his sister. He asked me to please sign it and place my phone number in it. A few months later I received a call from Joe’s sister letting me know Joe had passed away. We talked for several minutes about Joe’s dream in Arizona. She told me Joe’s heart finally gave out, but he wanted me to know the mine did exist and it was somewhere out there in the mountains.
Joe Roider was what I call an unsung hero with a good soul and a wonderful mind filled with dreams. He believed in the gold of Superstition Mountain and searched for it most of his adult life. He had prospected the mountains for almost fifty years. He expected nothing from anyone, nor did he ask for anything. He was determined to find the mine on his own. It was for this reason I respected him so much. So many had gone before him and certainly many will follow him. Robert K. Corbin once said it when he said, “You can’t legislate dreams.”
As long as there are believers like Joe Roider, somebody will be searching for the gold of Superstition Mountain.