Monday, September 4, 2006

Diary of a Lost Mine Hunter, 1907

September 4, 2006 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

The search for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine has been going on for more than a hundred years. Men and women from all walks of life have pursued this dream, and it is not my place to claim or deny the existence of this legendary mine.

According to some sources, Julia Thomas was the first person to search for old Jacob Waltz’s mine after his death on Octobr 25, 1891 in Phoenix, Arizona. Again, I am not sure Thomas was the first person to search for Waltz’s gold. Richard J. “Dick” Holmes could have, and may well have, searched for Waltz’s gold immediately after his death. Newspaper accounts place Thomas and the Petrasch brothers in the Superstition Mountains in late August or early September of 1892.

The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) are taught from a young age to keep a journal of their life. Several years ago I acquired a copy of a journal kept by a Mormon prospector named Beach who lived in Miami, Arizona. He had worked most of his life for the Inspiration Mine. His prospecting partner, James Kidd, worked for the mines in Miami also.

The following are several quotes from the passages from this journal that will open a window into the life of a prospector in the Superstition Mountains nearly 100 years ago, in 1907.

February 11 – Started eastward from Mesa compound… headed for Goldfield about 6 a.m. this morning. I told my folks I would spend about six or seven days prospecting in the Superstition Mountains. My horse “Jug” serves me for riding and packing. I lead him to base camp with my supplies and then I will ride him while I inspect the area. I made my first camp at Salt Tank just above Jones’ old place. I filled up my canteens at the Jones’. They have a lot of fresh water. Jones ask[ed] me if I were going anywhere near Silverlane’s mine down toward the Salt River. I told him I wasn’t. There has been a lot of work along Roosevelt Road. Weeks’ station sells water to people using the road. Good thing there is plenty of water now. I couldn’t buy it.

February 12 – Up at sunrise this morning. It is a lot colder than I thought it would be. I scrambled some eggs and a couple of slices of bacon. I broke camp by 8:30 a.m. I am following an old trail over to First Water. I spotted a large buck deer. I wish I had a rifle. There is a brush corral at First Wate that Jim Bark uses. The trail was really rocky from Bark’s Corral to Boulder Canyon. I plan to camp in Boulder Canyon tonight.

February 13 – This is really beautiful country. Weaver’s Needle towers over the entire region. No wonder people believe there is a gold mine in this country. Today I was up early. I didn’t bother with breakfast. I decided to start my search up Boulder Canyon. It wasn’t long before the country really got rough. I found an old prospect on the western side of Boulder Canyon. Returned to base camp about 5 p.m. totally exhausted. This country is too rough to ride Jug so I leave him staked out.

February 14 – I was up early again today. I prospected much of Needle Canyon looking for gold sign with a spoon. Needle Canyon is flowing and it is possible to spoon every once in awhile. I am disappointed that there is little sign of quartz in this area. Around the Goldfield mines you find quartz. I planned this trip for six days and am already running low on provisions. I think I will pack Jug up and head for home tomorrow. I should be home day after tomorrow if I am lucky.

February 15 – I was up early preparing for the trip home. I camped at the Jones’ property. It was a long fifteen miles, but I made it. Mr. Jones was working his prospect. He invited me to have a meal with him. We visited about relatives and all the gold that had been found at the Mammoth. He told me there wasn’t any gold in the mountains. He knew a lot of men who had searched there and they had found nothing. Mr. Jones didn’t totally convince me, but I didn’t argue with him. I plan to return to the Superstitions to have another look someday.

February 16 – I was up early today and I plan to be in the Mesa compound by tonight. I am not sure whether I want to go back to the fields. Maybe somehow I can go on another prospecting venture into the mountains. I wish I had more money. Mother wants me to go to school, but we can’t afford it. Wish I had kept a better journal, but I really don’t know what I would have written. I did see the stagecoach going into town from Government Wells work station. Also I saw one of those new wagons which run on oil. Most of those new wagons I have seen just run around town. My trip to the Superstitions was a lot of work and I learn (sic) a lot.

February 17 – I have decided to keep a journal. Mother told me it was an important contribution to my child and their children. I plan to return to the Superstition Mountains someday if God is willing.

Walter Beach was 20 years old in 1907 when he made his trip into the Superstition Mountains and documented it in his journal. Beach continued throughout much of his adult life to search for lost gold. He was James Kidd’s partner for many years and had several claims near the Miles Ranch.