Monday, December 15, 2008

Secrets of Peter's Mesa

December 15, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Peter’s Mesa, a landmark in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness Area, has fascinated many a lost mine hunter over the years. The interest may or may not be merited. Several old time lost mine hunters spent time in the area. The names that come to mind are John Chuning, Walter Gassler, Robert Jacob, John Reed, Roy Bradford, George Miller, Abe Reid and several others. Another interesting name that is associated with the area is John Kochera. John started prospecting the area around 1962. Kochera wrote a letter to Robert Jacob in the mid 1970s attempting to solicit his support. He claimed to have found some high-grade gold ore near Peter’s Mesa on Charlebois Mountain. Kochera’s samples have been somewhat controversial over the years, but have created a lot of interest among Dutch hunters familiar with the story.

Of course many of these Dutch hunters settled for different areas of the Peter’s Mesa geographic region. I mention Robert Jacob because his search in the area near Squaw Box Canyon was very well known through newspaper publicity during the 1970s and 1980s. Several have claimed to have found gold ore caches on Peter’s Mesa. It isn’t necessary to name the successful discoverers [of] gold ore caches on Peter’s Mesa, but only to mention them in passing. Did they actually find gold caches on the Peter’s Mesa or is it pure speculation on their part? The only way you can be positive about a gold find is seeing its source. These tales would always depend on who is telling the story.

Bob Corbin, Arizona retired State Attorney General has made several trips to Peter’s Mesa over the years. I recall a trip he and I made in the mid 1980s and spent four days camped near the old Salt Grounds. We hiked out in every direction from the Salt Grounds looking the area over. We visited the Mescal pits, the natural arch, a mining tunnel with a table in it, and of course I can’t forget the beehive along the Peter’s Mesa Trail.

We also visited the old washed out Rock Dam constructed in Peter’s Canyon and also the concrete tank along the trail that held water in those days. Over the years I have been on Peter’s Mesa about ten times. My first trip was in the mid 1950s when I worked for the Barkley Cattle Company. I packed salt to the Salt Grounds several times over the years. I hiked into Peter’s Mesa from Tortilla Ranch in the early 1960s leaving my truck at the Tortilla Ranch under the watchful eye of Elmer Pope, an Apache cowboy working for Floyd Stone. I remember old Al Reser leaving his truck at the ranch on several occasions also. Reser often worked Tortilla Mountain around Hell’s Hole in Tortilla Creek. Al also parked his truck east of the Quarter Circle U Ranch when he worked the top of Bluff Springs Mountain and west side of Peter’s Mesa.

There are two very interesting things I have found on Peter’s Mesa. One is a triangle of pyramid-shaped rocks and the other is a foundation of an old stone cabin. Several years after I visited these sites somebody tried to totally eradicate them by rearranging the rocks. At least I took photographs of them. I believe Bob Corbin and I visited the Mescal Pits in 1986. A friend of mine, Monty Edwards, believed these pits were silver smelters. He once showed me a large chunk of silver (20 ounces or so) he claimed to have removed from one of the pits near Robert Jacob’s camp. Barkley always told me these were Mescal Pits dug and used by the Indians to cook the hearts of the Agave that grew profusely in the area.

The next thing that has always solicited my interest in the Peter’s Mesa area was the story that Adolph Ruth once camped in the general area sometime during 1928. I am quite sure I read a letter written by Adolph to Cal Morse or Gertrude Barkley relating his experiences in the area. He apparently arrived in the area sometime around April of 1928. Cal Morse, of Mesa, supposedly guided him to a campsite. Cal acquired permission from George Miller to drive all the way into his claims. I am not sure what kind of condition the Tortilla Road or trail was in at the time.

Ruth and Morse hiked while a burro carried their supplies. If this story is true, it puts an interesting twist on the whole Ruth episode and tragedy. If Ruth told Morse much about his Mexican maps I am sure it fired his interest. To this day I believe Ruth was looking for the cave that was located in the upper box of La Barge Canyon. The outline of this cave fits the Peralta Profile Map almost perfectly. To the best of my knowledge Ruth camped somewhere along the Hoolie Bacon Trail not [too] far from the Upper Box area of La Barge Canyon. From the end of the road on Miller’s claim it is about 3.5 miles to a good campsite above the Upper Box in La Barge Canyon. Was this Ruth’s first effort to locate the Peralta Miles in the Superstition Mountains? Did he at first think Coffee Flat Mountain was the S. Cima[?] This may have been the reason Ruth never moved over directly on to Peter’s Mesa from his base camp, but [chose] a site near the Upper Box in La Barge Canyon. I will be the first to say there is a lot of speculation on this theory, however, the old saying [is] where there is smoke there may be fire.

Another interesting story to do with the area is the death of Walt Gassler. Walt died of a heart attack after leaving Charlebois Spring hiking toward Peter’s Mesa. He died along the trail. His body was discovered by Gene Barker and Don Shade on May 4, 1984. It is claimed he had some very rich gold specimens in his backpack. These specimens apparently disappeared when his backpack was reclaimed at [the] Sheriff’s office. Walt had called me on Sunday previous to his hike into the mountains. He wanted Bob Corbin and I to accompany him. Neither of us could take off from work on such short notice. I told him if we were given a little advance notice [we] could accompany him. He was too impatient and insisted that he was going early on Monday morning. The morning he died, he visited with a local horseman who had packed into Charlebois Springs for an overnight campout. He reported Gassler in good spirits, but somewhat fatigued from his hike into the mountains. Did Walt Gassler locate a rich vein of gold on Peter’s Mesa? We will never know!

The Peter’s Mesa area is adjacent to Music Mountain and Hermann’s Mountain. Of course the Upper Box of La Barge separates Hermann’s Mountain and Coffee Flat Mountain. A lot of stories have emerged from this region over the past seven or eight decades. These stories and tall tales continue to attract treasure hunters, Dutch hunters, and the curious to the region.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Early Aviation on Apache Trail

December 1, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

When we think of aviation, the names of Orville and Wilbur Wright come to mind immediately. These brothers are credited with making the first flight with a heavier-than-air machine. They accomplished this phenomenal feat on December 14, 1903, near Kill Devil Hill, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Three days later, on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers accomplished their most successful flight of that year. Their plane flew for fifty-nine seconds and traveled eight hundred and fifty-two feet in the air. This experiment convinced the brothers they had finally solved the problem of flight. One month prior to this date construction began on the Apache Trail below the Roosevelt Dam site in the Box Canyon of the Salt River. This sixty-two mile road would require almost two years [to] build.

Sixteen years later, shortly after the end of World War I, a Wilbur Wright was traveling around the country demonstrating the ability of airplanes. It was about this time a transportation entrepreneur named Wesley Hill wanted to start an airline in Arizona between Globe and Phoenix. Hill knew very little about airplanes, but he had been involved in motor transportation since 1910 in Arizona.

Hill, a transportation entrepreneur, owned and operated the Apache Trail Auto State Company and was interested in developing and promoting business associated with aviation. Hill formed the Apache Trail Aerial Transportation Company in December of 1918. He convinced men like Lt. D.S. Bushnell, a retired U.S. Air Service aeronautical engineer and Lt. J.F. Casey, a retired U.S. Army Air Service pilot to become pilots in his new company.

Hill and J. Robinson Hall were convinced they could operate an aerial stage line. They planned on using a converted Handley-Page bomber to transport passengers and cargo along their line.

The Handley-Page was powered by two 400hp Liberty engines. Hill and Hall were convinced they could open the skyways over Arizona. Their advertisements of the day claimed a flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles would require only three hours and a flight to Globe from Phoenix would only require about an hour.

Hall and Hill released stock in their new company and the periodicals were filled with their advertisements about aerial transportation in Arizona and the Southwest. Sometime around the middle of February 1919, Hall and Hill traveled to New York to purchase their Handley-Page aircraft.

Once in New York they attended a U.S. Air Service reunion and heard a lot of praise about the safety record of the Handley-Page aircraft. Hall and Hill flew in the Handley-Page and further supported the testimony of the Air Service pilots. Hill pointed out the 12,000 pound aircraft landed at 35 mph and was extremely easy to control in flight. They announced that the aircraft would be on its way West within two weeks. Hill announced the Apache Aero Line would start service on August 1, 1919, and the story appeared in the Arizona Gazette on April 3, 1919.

While following the history of Arizona’s first aerial transportation company, I noticed in the Arizona Gazette another article where Wesley Hill sold his Apache Trail Stage Line to another company named Union Auto Transportation for $10,000. Hill had pioneered the Apache Trail Auto Stage Line some seven years prior.

Wesley Hill and Robinson Hall worked long and tedious hours promoting their aerial transportation company, but it never became a reality. Hill and Hall reminded anyone who would listen that a flight from Globe to Phoenix required less than an hour. The company’s stock never sold like Hall and Hill believed it would and the company eventually faded into obscurity.

While researching the aerial transport history of Arizona I came across the following story. On June 16, 1919, the following article appeared in the Arizona Gazette.

Makes Record Flight over Apache Trail
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 without incident 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 racetrack at the fairgrounds, as the larger field used by airplanes previously is under irrigation at the present.

Ironically this flight was not piloted by the famous Wilbur Wright who first flew at Kitty Hawk Hill on December 17, 1903. Apparently it was another Wilbur Wright who piloted the plane along the Apache Trail. Wilbur Wright would have never piloted a Curtiss plane according to aviation historians and secondly Wilbur Wright had passed away by this time.

Wesley Hill and J. Robinson Hall dreamed of flight across the Arizona skies a decade too early. Wilbur Wright proved them correct about the one hour flying time between Globe and Phoenix. Did Hill and Robinson take advantage of the fact Wright was in Arizona to demonstrate his airplane? The answer to this question we will probably never know. This story adds an interesting transcript to the history of Arizona aviation, the Apache Trail and the Superstition Mountain region in general.

Many of the Handley-Pages were converted to passenger planes after World War I. The aero company originally built bombers for the British Navy during World War I and after the war produced commercial aircraft by converting the Handley-Page 400. The plane [was] capable of carrying 14 passengers. However none of the Handley-Page aircraft saw service in Arizona. Wesley A. Hill’s dream of commercial air transportation between Globe and Phoenix never became a reality until years later. Today, private aircraft do fly from Cutter Airfield east of Globe to Phoenix.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tony Ranch in Haunted Canyon

November 17, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Recently SALT (Superstition Area Land Trust) acquired the old Tony Ranch. The ranch included some seventy-eight acres of pristine wilderness bordering the Superstition Wilderness Area. It was the desire of the descendants of George Taylor that the ranch become the property of a conservatory group, rather than the mining companies or forest service. This old homestead site is three miles from the nearest road. The old ranch house’s isolation has helped to preserve it into the 21st century.

William Toney [built] a cabin along Haunted Canyon in a large open meadow in August of 1913 on federal land. He applied for a homestead some two years after he constructed his cabin. Toney received a patent for 78.06 acres of land in 1922. This exact patent is the land SALT received from the descendants of the Taylors. The family always spelled their name Toney, but cartographers confused the spelling and made reference to the homestead as the Tony Ranch. The property has been known as the Tony Ranch since the 1940s.

Homestead documents acquired by Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart indicate William Toney [built] a 12-foot-by-30-foot two-room log cabin with a corrugated metal roof. Forest Ranger Henry Taylor reported in an inspection report in June of 1919 the following, “…no one at home but the children, I found the land under cultivation, farming implements consisted of a plow and a broken disc. The log cabin was furnished with a cook stove, two bunks, a board table, two chairs and few cooking utensils and dishes.” The cabin was enlarged to 12-feet-by-34-feet with three rooms by 1922. This was the present size of the cabin when I visited it in 1971 for the first time.

The homestead law required the the building of a home and also the cultivating of the land. By 1915 Toney had planted five acres of wheat and laid out 600 apple trees. The following years he planted beans, corn, potatoes, sorghum, alfalfa and a truck garden. A dependable supply of water for irrigation was lacking on the Toney homestead. The creek was normally dry most of the time and made irrigation impossible on the southern half of the homestead. Irrigation was possible on the northern portion of the property toward Hill Spring (now referred to as Tony Ranch Spring). One acre of alfalfa and 2.5 acres of beans were reported in 1920 as under irrigation. The bean patch only produced six sacks of beans that year.

The homestead law did not require a settler to raise livestock, but most homesteaders complemented their farms with a variety of animals. Ranger Henry Taylor reported Toney had 120 chickens, 25 turkeys, and 4 horses at his Haunted Canyon homestead. Toney also had several head of cows on the nearby range. In a 1921 document Toney mentioned he had 234 head of cattle on the range near the homestead. He ran his cattle under the Lazy W Bar T brand.

George Taylor purchased the Toney (Tony) Ranch and cattle from William Toney in 1921. After Taylor died in 1949, his wife Ann hired Jimmy Herron, of Superior, Arizona, to manage the Toney Ranch and another ranch property. SALT purchased the land and cabin from the Taylor heirs in August of 2008.

The old Tony Ranch is a unique, isolated window for viewing a natural ecosystem bordering the Superstition Wilderness Area. This homestead has provided a haven to hiker and horseman over the past forty years. Its isolation from our modern complicated society warrants [its] protection for the future. This protection will be provided by SALT as the old homestead’s new conservators.

The only way to visit the area is on horseback, hiking or by helicopter. This island of private land [is] located in the Tonto National Forest. It can only be accessed by a seven or three mile trail through wilderness terrain. The seven mile walk up Haunted Canyon to the Toney Ranch is probably the easiest access. I visited the old ranch site in 1971 for the first time. We traveled to the old ranch from the southwest. Our primary goal was to visit several limestone caverns within the area. A mile or so from the Tony Ranch is the legendary “Cave of a Thousand Eyes.” It is truly one of the unique wonders of the Superstition area. 

Sometime around 1975, Dr. Malcom Comeaux, Larry Hedrick, Allen Blackman, Nyle Leatham and I made a trip to the Tony Ranch from Jimmy Heron’s stock corrals in Whitford Canyon [on] horseback. The ride was about nine miles through heavy chaparral and a constantly vanishing trail. We made the ride in about four hours. Nyle Leatham did a wonder[ful] article in the Arizona Republic about our visit to the old Tony Ranch. Dr. Comeaux, a geographer from Arizona State University, was particularly interested in early Arizona homesteads. It certainly was one of those rides I will remember for many years to come.

The wilderness that surrounds the Tony Ranch has bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and most of the wild animals associated with the Sonoran Desert life zone. Some claim a Mexican jaguar was killed in the area about eighty years ago. Also there is an interesting story about a bear’s skeleton found in one of the limestone caverns with flint arrowheads in the chest cavity area. There are hundreds of stories about the old Tony Ranch. I am sure the future of the Tony Ranch is in good hands. These many stories will surely be told around campfires in the future.

There are many natural wonders in the area. Hopefully they will remain isolated and safe from vandals and greedy profiteers. It is likely some of the natural wonders in the Tony Ranch area will be discovered in the future, but for the present they are safe. My wife and I recently trekked into the region to check on one large cavern. The cavern still remains totally intact and undisturbed.

I would like to extend a special appreciation to Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart for all their research and for their assistance with this story. Also I would like to thank Rosemary Shearer for her help also. I am indebted to all of them for their gracious assistance in making this story possible. Carlson and Stewart’s book on the eastern portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area will be available soon with more details and information about the Tony Ranch. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Ghost Trail

October 20, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Anderson-Ely Trail off the northeast end of Bluff Springs Mountain and into La Barge Canyon is a real challenge on horseback. You might ask Jim and Betty Swanson about the trail. The three of us, along with Harold Christ, rode the trail across the top of Bluff Springs Mountain several years ago. The trail was rough and very brushy. There was plenty of cacti and Catclaw to keep you busy as well as plenty of boulders and rock slides to negotiate. This trail was often used by cattlemen checking on their livestock that grazed on top of Bluff Springs Mountain during the early and late spring. Basically there are two horse trails that will take you to the top of Bluff Springs Mountain.

One trail is located at the south end of Bluff Springs Mountain near Bluff Spring, a permanent source of water in the early days. For more than fifty years there was a concrete water tank at the site that provided cool water year [round]. Several years ago the forest service removed the concrete trough, broke it up into small pieces and packed it up onto the alluvial slopes of Bluff Springs Mountain. This action was part of the wilderness management plan to return the region to its natural state.

The southern access trail is also a challenge to a rider on horseback. I have ridden this trail many times and have often wondered why anyone would want to chase cows in this God-forsaken, cacti-covered country. Some old timers also consider this a part of the Anderson-Eli Trail. I’ve always been told the Anderson-Ely was the trail off the northeast end of Bluff Springs Mountain. Contemporary mapmakers and Dutch hunters make reference to the trail as the Ely-Anderson. Today the trail is often called the Ely-Anderson because of Ely’s notoriety as an author and his search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Anderson punched cows in the Superstitions for many years. He worked for Barkley and Criswell in the region. I believe Anderson worked for both Barkley and Bark as a cowboy. Sims Ely was James Bark’s prospecting and Lost Dutchman Mine-hunting partner. 
Sims Ely was born on January 7, 1862, in Overton County, Tenn., during the American Civil War. He attended the College of Commerce at Bloomington, Ill., and was first editor of a Hutchinson, KS., newspaper before moving to Arizona in 1895. He was 33 years old at the time and became involved with the Arizona Republican newspaper. He soon became the publisher and editor.

He became a life-long friend of James E. Bark, a wealthy cattleman who had several Arizona ranches and other businesses. Bark owned and operated the Bark Ranch (Quarter Circle U Ranch) near the Superstition Mountains. Bark was also an avid mine hunter. He searched for the Dutchman’s Mine in the Superstition Mountains most of his life. Sims Ely became his partner. In many ways they were an unlikely pair to share in the rigors of the rugged Superstition Mountain range searching for lost gold.

Sims Ely served as secretary to Territorial Governor Joseph Henry Kibbey. Ely, after his tenure as secretary, traveled to California and became involved with the Federal Land Bank in 1924. Ely, after serving several years in the banking business, became the city manager of Boulder City, Nevada in October of 1931. He served as city manager of Boulder City until April of 1941.

After retiring, Sims Ely became best known for his book The Lost Dutchman Mine published by William Morrow & Company in 1953. This book was based on Ely and Bark’s search for the infamous Dutchman’s Lost Mine. It is difficult to determine just how many trips Bark and Ely made into the Superstition Mountains together. Some pioneers claim they spent considerable time on Peter’s Mesa, Bluff Springs Mountain and Bronco Butte. Little remains today to suggest Bark and Ely spent a lot of time in the mountains. They were both very busy men with little time to spare.

The Barkleys were close friends of James Bark. They were familiar with his and Ely’s search for the Dutchman’s mine. When I first went to work for the Barkley’s I was curious and listened to the many stories told by Jack Riddle and old Bill Finch who were both good friends of Barkley and knew James Bark as well. They talked often about the trail that Ely and Bark used to access the top of Bluff Springs Mountain. Barkley called it the Anderson Trail, named after one of the old cowhands that had worked for his dad. Early in 1959 we worked out of the old tin barn (cabin) at Bluff Springs. We rode up on Bluff Springs Mountain almost daily working cattle down off the mountain. Barkley told me on several occasions we were riding on the old trail used by Sims Ely and Jim Bark to access the top of Bluff Springs Mountain. Bill pointed out several old cairns used as markers along the trail. He said Jimmy Anderson had piled up these rocks across long stretches of rock slabs so the trail could be followed easily. It has always been difficult for me to envision Ely and Bark together on top of Bluff Springs Mountain. Of course it would be difficult for people today [to] believe former Arizona Attorney General Bob Corbin and I rode on top [of] Bluff Springs Mountain also.

Today cartographers call the trail across Bluff Springs Mountain the Ely-Anderson Trail. I suppose that is a bit of a misnomer when you consider the fact that Jim Anderson blazed the trail off the northeast end of Bluff Springs Mountain. Following this trail on top of Bluff Springs Mountain is very difficult. For this reason it has often been called the Ghost Trail by some old timers. I would recommend you follow the information in Jack Carlson’s book “Superstition Wilderness Guide” for information about the trail today.

Sims Ely died in Rockville, Md., in 1954 at the age of 92. Ely left three legacies behind. One was as city manager for Boulder City during the construction of Hoover Dam (Boulder Dam); two, authoring the book, The Lost Dutchman Mine; and finally his name appearing on a trail in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Medicine of Thunder Mountain

September 8, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The majestic Superstition Mountain rises some 3,000 feet above the desert floor east of Apache Junction. This giant monolith was formed by volcanic action more than 29 million years ago during the Tertiary Period of geologic time.

The mountain is the remnant of an uplifted caldera formed by the deposition of alternating layers of ash and basalt. The façade of the mountain we see today was carved by the action of running water for four to five million years.

There are many legends and tales about this mountain, the mountain that thunders. Cowboys, horsemen, hikers and prospector[s] have told stories about how the mountain rumbles deeply. Some wonder if it generates its own thunder. Some researchers have cited the Native Americans as the first ones to call it Thunder Mountain. Researchers have attributed the rumbling of the mountain on cloudless days to earth tremors deep beneath the mountain or blasting at the Pinto Valley Mines west of Miami, Arizona.

The mountain was named by local Anglo and Mexican farmers of the Salt River who thought the Native Americans were very superstitious about the mountains to the east, hence the name Superstition Mountain. The U.S. Army called the mountain several names, however the two most common were “the Salt River Mountains” and the “Sierra de Superstitions.”

The U.S. Army, including elements of the 14th Infantry, 32nd Infantry and members of the 1st Arizona Volunteers campaigned against the Apaches and Yavapais in the Superstition Mountain from 1864 to 1868. The purpose of this campaign was to eradicate the Apaches and Yavapais who lived freely in the Superstition and Pinal Mountain areas. The Apaches and Yavapais were constantly accused of raiding the farmers in the Salt River Valley.

The Pima Indians called Superstition Mountain “Crooked Top Mountain” or in their tongue Ka-Katak-Tami, according to Dr. Charles F. Skinner. At sunrise you can see why the Native Americans called the mountain “Crooked Top.” Each Native American group had a different name for Superstition Mountain. The Apaches consider all large mountains to be sacred.

There is a legend about a German prospector by the name of Jacob Waltz who supposedly found a rich gold mine somewhere east of Superstition Mountain. Men and women have come from around the world to search for this legendary lost gold mine since Waltz’s death on October 25, 1891. The mine remains lost to this day even though many have claimed they found it, none have produced any gold. This legendary mine was called the Lost Dutchman Mine.

Gold was discovered in the foothills of Superstition Mountain in 1892. The sound of stamp mills crushing rich gold ore rang across the desert from 1893 to 1897. According to records approximately $3 million in gold was removed from the old Mammoth Mine. The Peralta brothers discovered the first gold prospects found in the area in 1879. The first gold claim was staked at the Lucky Boy in 1881. Another discovery was recorded at the Black Queen in November of 1892, however the richest and most famous mine, the Mammoth, was discovered in April of 1893, after a raging flash flood exposed a rich vein of gold ore. Prospectors had been searching the Goldfield area since 1864. They came down from the Bradshaw Mountains during the winter months to get away from the severe cold.

Superstition Mountain is part of the Superstition Wilderness Area and the Tonto National Forest. The Tonto National Forest was set up to preserve and protect the watershed of Roosevelt Lake and the Salt River lakes.

This wilderness area was set aside in 1939 to preserve the fauna and flora of the Sonoran Desert for future generations to enjoy. The wilderness encompasses some 159,780 acres or 242 square miles of the Tonto National Forest. The diversity of flora in this wilderness ranges from the giant Saguaro to the stately Ponderosa pine. It is certainly a land of extremes in plant life, animal life, climate and topography.

Superstition Mountain’s highest point is only 5,074 feet above sea level, while the highest point in the wilderness is some 6,242 feet above sea level at Mound Mountain. These mountains are part of the transitional mountain zone of Arizona.

Superstition Mountain is the second most painted and photographed landmark in Arizona second only to the famous Grand Canyon. Artists have painted Superstition Mountain since 1870 and photographers have photographed the mountain since 1893. Today more than 100 books have been written about Superstition Mountain and most of them are filled with photographs of this famous Arizona landmark.

The Superstition Wilderness contains some 240 miles of hiking and riding trails. The most popular trailheads are First Water, Peralta, and the trailheads in Lost Dutchman State Park. There are some 17 trailheads that provide access to the wilderness area.

The Superstition Wilderness Area is now a very crowded wilderness. It is one area that will experience controlled access in the very near future if the forest district plans on keeping the region pristine. It is estimated some 70,000 people visited the western end of the Superstition Wilderness last year. Most of these visitors hiked into the mountains less than a mile. These kind of numbers have changed the meaning of the world “wilderness.” A wilderness area was envisioned to be a place of pristine and tranquil beauty, a place where contemporary man’s things are left behind and only nature can be experienced. Men like Leopold, Muir and Pinchot had a vision of protecting some of America’s outdoors for future generations to enjoy when they advocated [for] wilderness areas in America.

Today, some of the most beautiful pristine areas in [America] are wilderness areas. [text cut off] Americans. Some of the individuals, who criticize the wilderness concept most, build their homes on the wilderness fence line and pay the highest price for their property.

We Americans are fortunate to have these special areas to retreat to when we have been overwhelmed by urban America. The fast lane society and stress kill more Americans [than] anything else. If only these people could just share a few moments of tranquility and solitude afforded by one of America’s wilderness areas they might increase their survival chances threefold. A famous American once said, "Slow life’s pace and enjoy being alive.”

Monday, September 1, 2008

Death on the Mountain

September 1, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Many people have fallen victim to the rugged terrain and extreme climatic conditions that often prevail on Superstition Mountain. Siphon Draw, on the west face of Superstition Mountain, is a classic example of a climatic basin affected by weather extremes during the cooler months of the year. The elevation changes from 2,400 feet to 5,024 feet in a very short distance. This rapid change in elevation can alter the temperature dramatically, especially during the winter months.

On Sunday, November 15, 1964, two brothers decided to go deer hunting in the canyons along the west face of Superstition Mountain. A winter storm was moving in, but they believed they could hunt until dark and then hike back to their pickup truck without difficulty.

They hiked a trail just north of Mining Camp Restaurant that followed the slope of the mountain into Siphon Draw. Richard Kermis, the older of the two brothers lived in Mesa with his expectant wife Barbara. Robert Kermis, his brother, was visiting from Fredonia, Pa. Hunting in this rugged terrain can be real challenging even to a veteran outdoorsman.

The brothers had hunted together before. However, they were young and inexperienced to desert conditions. On this particular day they hunted most of the time and climbed around the rocks in the area.

At sundown the brothers had not returned to their pickup. Later that evening, Barbara, Richard’s wife, reported her husband and his brother missing to the Pinal County and Maricopa County Sheriff’s offices. The next day a search was implemented by both counties that continued for four and a half days.

On Wednesday, November 18, 1964 the temperature in Siphon Draw had dropped to 15 degrees F. and above four thousand feet there was a foot of snow. After the third day hope was given up that the brothers would be found alive.

Roy Leubben, Tom Daley, and Deputy Sheriff Toby Drummond had worked the search area for three days by nightfall on Wednesday, November 18. Roy Leubben claimed all the trails had been checked in a 15-mile radius of the search area. Still there was no sign of the two missing brothers. The search continued, and the number of searchers had grown to several hundred [horsemen] and hikers by Thursday. The weather began to clear Thursday morning. Still there was no sign of the missing brothers on Superstition Mountain. 

On Friday, November 20, 1964, Mike Laughlin of Coolidge, making his last pass through Siphon Draw discovered the two bodies. The position of the bodies indicated the older brother was trying to shield his younger injured brother from the extreme cold. Investigators believed Robert Kermis fell from the top of a ledge some 60 feet. He was severely injured and couldn’t move. The weather changed rapidly and darkness was upon them.

A closer examination of the bodies assured the investigators that Richard tried to protect his younger brother from the extreme freezing conditions in Siphon Draw.

Judge Norman Teason called for an inquest to be held at his office in the Palo Verde Lodge on Apache Trail. An autopsy was performed by Dr. Alford D. Musgrave, Pinal County pathologist. He determined Robert died from a broken back and the complication of freezing temperatures. Richard died from hypothermia.

Temperatures at night probably dropped down to 22 degrees below freezing on the Fahrenheit scale.

Richard and Robert Kermis died on the mountain from the results of a severe winter storm. They were challenged by weather, severe injuries and isolation even though they could see the lights of the houses below and the lights of Apache Junction in the distance. The brothers didn’t attempt to build a fire because they didn’t have any matches or dry tinder.

Death on the Superstition Mountain under these circumstances is nothing but tragic and overwhelming to the family and loved ones. The story goes to show, you don’t have to be in the rugged interior of the mountain to meet up with tragedy. The Kermis family suffered the ultimate during that tragic week in November of 1964.

Since the turn of the century many individuals have lost their lives on Superstition Mountain. One should always approach the mountain with caution and common sense. Always let somebody know where you are going and when you expect to return.

It is recommended to always go prepared for extreme weather conditions during the winter months or summer months.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oren Arnold

August 18, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Oren Arnold has been gone for more than twenty-seven years, but his community involvement and writing has left an impact on Arizona and the Apache Junction area. One of Arnold’s first books was a novel titled Ghost Gold. This book was published by the Naylor Press in El Paso, Texas in 1934. He also published another pamphlet titled Superstition’s Gold in early 1934. Arnold was truly a noted author of the American Southwest and Superstition Mountain.

Oren Arnold, c. 1930

Arnold was born in Henderson, Texas in 1900. He attended high school in Henderson and then Rice Institute in Houston. He first worked at the Houston Chronicle, [then] became editor of the Harlingen Texas Star. He married his college sweetheart, Adele Roenach in 1926. Shortly after his wedding he took a job with the El Paso Times that only lasted six months before he moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Arnold served as Sunday Editor for the Arizona Republic for two years and then worked for the Arizona Farmer.

After working for the Farmer he struck out on a literary career. This was quite a challenge in the mid-1930s. He was a very independent individual. While working for the Phoenix newspapers Oren Arnold became very active in community affairs. He was president of the Kiwanis Club when they sponsored the Salad Bowl football game for handicapped children. Arnold was also a recipient for the National Junior Chamber of Commerce Award “for distinguished service to his home town community.”

Early in 1933 Arnold became involved with the organizing and forming of the Don’s Club of Phoenix. H became the club’s first president. The annual Don’s Club Superstition Gold Trek eventually led to the proposal of a monument dedicated to the “Dutchman.” The president of the club, James Murphy, assigned two men, Louis Tisdale and Rhes Cornelius, to organize the effort. When the monument was finally constructed in Apache Junction, Oren Arnold was ask[ed] to write a special piece for the plaque on the monument.

This was the inscription that Arnold wrote up: “Here lies the remains of Snow Beard, the Dutchman who in this mountain shot three men to steal a rich gold mine from Spanish pioneers, killed eight men more to hold its treasure, then died in 1892, without revealing its location. Dozens of searchers have met mysterious deaths in the canyons there, yet the ore lies unrevealed. Indians say this is the curse of the thunder god on the white men in whom the craving for gold is strong. Beware lest you [too] succumb to the lure of the Lost Dutchman mine in the Superstition Mountains.” 

The Lost Dutchman Monument in Apache Junction was dedicated in 1938.

At the dedication of the Dutchman’s Monument in Apache Junction on April 8, 1938, at 3 p.m., Oren Arnold was the opening speaker, by this time he was a noted Western author.

Arnold said, “In those mountains, people say, is the fabulous wealth that was claimed by Waltz, but searchers have failed to locate any trace of it and many of these searchers have disappeared, never to be seen alive again. This monument is not a tribute to one man or one group. It is a symbol, a reminder that on this vast and colorful stage known as the Southwest, some extremely interesting characters have played dramatic parts.”

This plaque was eventually stolen from the monument and then replaced in the years that followed with something else. The monument still stands in Apache Junction on the exact site where it was constructed some seventy years ago.

Arnold became a very good writer over the years that followed. He broke into the literary market by writing articles and stories for Saturday Evening Post, Collins, Better Homes and Gardens, Coronet and Esquire magazines. Arnold further developed his literary talent by writing eighty novels about the colorful old West. Books such as Savage Sam, Ghost Gold, Hidden Treasures of the Wild West, Arizona Under the Sun and many other titles. His final book about the Superstition Mountains was The Mystery of Superstition Mountain.

Oren Arnold was a fantastic storyteller and his career began with stories and tales about the Superstition Mountains. Arnold spoke to a literary group at Signal Peak Campus of Central Arizona College in 1972. He noted during this talk that novel preparation required the use of fantasy with a good helping of fact. He said, “One should never allow the truth to stand in the way of a good story.”

Oren Arnold has left behind a legacy with his literary work. His book reflected the West as it was with a little fantasy just to fill in the empty spaces. Arnold’s weaving of the Peralta story in and out of fantasy changed forever the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine. Pedro, Manuel, and Miguel have become everyday names in the legend of the Peralta Mines in the Superstition Mountains. 

Late in 1933, Oren produced a pamphlet titled Superstition’s Gold and published it early in 1934.

The Don’s Donas colored two hundred of Arnold’s pamphlets for the Don’s Superstition Gold Trek in 1934. These hand-colored pamphlets are highly sought after as collector’s items today. Oren Arnold left a legacy in his writing, and his community service. You might say he was also one of Frank J. Dobie’s “Coronado’s Children.”

At the age of seventy, Oren Arnold and his wife Adele moved to Laguna Beach, California in 1970, after living in Phoenix for 44 years. Arnold grew to love the ocean and took swims daily. A swimming mishap on Wednesday, August 27, 1980, in the Pacific Ocean cost Oren Arnold his life. He died on Saturday, August 30, 1980, at the age of 80. A legacy of Arizona, Apache Junction, and the Southwest had passed on.

The monument he was involved with still stands in Apache Junction at the intersection of State Route 88 and the Old West Highway (old U.S. Highway 60). This monument continues to represent the legacy of the Prospector, the Dutchman’s mine, and the dreams of many.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Allan 'Hoss' Blackman

July 28, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Several years ago I wrote an article about a man who changed his life based on what he believed in. This man moved from a setting of seascapes in the east to the southwest. His childhood dream of being a cowboy was finally fulfilled when he moved to Arizona in 1972.

In the fall of 1975 the Arizona desert was a burning inferno with temperatures well above the one-hundred-degree mark. Only after sundown did the air begin to cool. It was in my swamp-cooled classroom on the extension campus of Central Arizona College in Apache Junction that I met my first real “Connecticut Yankee.” He was dressed in a big Stetson hat, a western shirt, Levis, and pointed-toe cowboy boots. His better-than-six-foot frame made a real striking figure in a room filled with senior citizens and other students. Momentarily I thought John Wayne had joined my class. At the time I was teaching a special interest class titled “Prospecting the Superstitions.” As fall changed to winter on the Arizona desert this “Connecticut Yankee” would forever alter my philosophy about life and why a lot of people move to Apache Junction.

Allan Blackman on the trail to Haunted Canyon. c. 1978
During the many class sessions that followed he was so inquisitive, so charged with enthusiasm, and so sincere about accumulating knowledge on cowboys and the region. He wasn’t the typical instructor-student challenger; he wanted to learn everything he could about the Superstition Mountains and the American West. Sometimes it appeared he was trying to crowd a lifetime into a few short months. After our formal introduction I understood the motivation behind his drive to acquire all the knowledge he could. He was a “Connecticut Yankee” in search of a dream, a dream of learning and experiencing the life of a real cowboy. Something he had dreamed about since childhood. Allan Blackman was a man in search of a dream and had forgone his previous lifestyle as a successful Easterner to fulfill this burning desire to go west.

No longer would he do lapidary work, paint schooners on the high sea, or build brass cannons for Revolutionary War reenactment groups. Allan was an accomplished seascape painter and had oil paintings hanging in thirty-nine states. He traded all this for a chance to prospect gold in the West and find the legendary cowboy’s way of life.

Allan was born during the “Great Depression” on February 27, 1932 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and graduated from high school in Stamford on June 6, 1950. As a child he traded his piano lessons for art lessons and by the time he was fourteen he had his first one-man art show at the Stamford Museum. He sold ten of his thirty clipper ships and seascape scenes that day. His oil paintings found their way into banks and homes in thirty-nine states of the United States. Allan continued to paint and sell his work throughout high school.

His first introduction to the West was when he was four years old. All dressed in cowboy attire he would ride his tricycle around his parent’s living room while absorbing the music of Montana Slim who sang each morning on Radio WOR, New York City, about 8:15 a.m. His mother used to say the only thing he would sit still and listen to was a cowboy singer. From this point on Allan grew up dreaming of being a cowboy and living the cowboy’s way of life.

The beginning of World War II, when our nation was at its greatest turmoil, Allan passed time at the movie theater watching Tom Mix, Gene Autry and a host of Hollywood cowboys who were his heroes. It was from these characters Allan’s first impressions of the West came. However, nothing stirred him as much as the film Lust for Gold, starring Glen Ford and Ida Lupino in 1951. This film incorporated as one of its basic themes the legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine in the Superstition Mountains of Central Arizona. Now young Allan had both the West and lost gold to nurture his desire to see the West.

Allan joined the United States Army in 1951 shortly after high school. He served a tour of duty in Germany and was honorably discharged in 1953.

Blackman was employed as a tool-die maker at the Pitney-Bowes Company. He worked his way up to foreman by 1967. Allan had an excellent job, a beautiful home in West Redding, Connecticut and a wonderful family. In his West Redding home he continued his art and developed his lapidary skills and work. He traded oil paintings for uncut stones to finish and polish. During the twelve years he worked for Pitney-Bowes he continued to develop his painting ability for seascapes.

Allan planned a vacation in 1968 to San Antonio, Texas, but instead traveled to California. It was on his return trip he stopped in Wickenburg, Arizona, the “Dude Ranch Capital of the World.” It was here, he met his first cowboy. A man he could talk to about the West and the lifestyle here.

Early in 1972, after a severe winter of rain and a problematic asthmatic condition of his son, Bruce, he decided to move to Arizona. This unusual set of circumstances prompted Allan to ask for a transfer to Arizona from Pitney-Bowes. Company officials arranged a transfer for Allan. The Blackman’s sold their house that day and by October 10, 1972, Allan was finally living the legend he had dreamed about. He was only forty years old.

Allan always believed “cowboys were the swashbucklers of the desert.” As he settled into his new life it was a learning experience. He changed from a station wagon to a FWD pickup. He had to learn cowboy talk and special cowboy skills just for his own personal satisfaction. He read just about everything he could about cowboys, the West and lost gold.

Blackman first moved to Mesa, Arizona on one acre of land. On this land he had his horses, goats, and sheep. The first two horsemen he met were Gary Hunnington and Joseph Bailey. Allan learned his basics from these two men. They hauled their horses out to the Superstition Wilderness and rode to various destinations. This Connecticut Yankee thrived on the Wild West and the legends of Superstition Mountain.

Allan lived in Mesa eight years before moving to Apache Junction. He claimed meeting me in October of 1973 broadened his knowledge of the West, the Superstition Wilderness and the life of the cowboy. He was sincerely dedicated to learning about the legends and stories of Superstition Mountain. 

Blackman and I rode in the mountains for ten years together. He often volunteered to work for Bill Bohme in the eastern end of the Superstition Mountains during roundup. Royce Johnson, Bill Bohme’s foreman, once said he made quite a cowboy. He was tall in the saddle and a very strong rider. Allan loved his horse, Apache. The bay quarter horse was a powerful animal that carried him throughout the Superstition Wilderness from Black Top Mesa to Mound Mountain for more than 10 years. 

Blackman was an impulsive and stubborn person. One day he was driving through Globe when he saw a fiddling contest. He became interested in fiddling, bought a fiddle from a Mesa pawn shop, and began to fiddle his way into competition[s] around Arizona. Allan’s last remarks I recall were somewhat philosophical. He said, “Live each day of your life to the fullest, you won’t live it again.”

Allan Blackman was an ordinary person with a dream. He left his name on the Superstition Wilderness by having a trail he blazed named after him. The trail is known today as the Blackman Slope Trail to Circlestone. He found his niche in the West and became a son of the West. His dream had been fulfilled.

Blackman had many friends in the East Valley and the Apache Junction area. He lived in and around Apache Junction for more than fifteen years. About a year ago he had open-heart surgery and never really regained his health. Allan Blackman passed away on Sunday, July 5, 2008. He is survived by his two children, Bruce Blackman of Cottonwood, Ariz., and Nancy Foffett of Camdemton, Mo. Allan had five grandchildren.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wild Cattle

July 14, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

William Augustus “Tex” Barkley owned and operated the Quarter Circle U Ranch for almost 50 years. In the 1940s, Barkley’s ranch covered more than 117 sections. The family ran cattle from Canyon Lake in the north to almost Castro Springs in the South. Their range included most of Peter’s Mesa east of La Barge Canyon and Barkley also had a lease on several sections of state trust land around Superstition Mountain. The Barkley Cattle Company owned most of the land that Gold Canyon and Meadow Brook is located on today.

William Augustus “Tex” Barkley, circa 1940

Harold Christ and the Dinamount Corporation bought the Barkley Ranch in 1970 from a business group who had purchased it from the Barkley heirs in 1965. So much for the demise of the old Barkley Cattle Company. Let’s talk about the wild bulls of West Boulder Canyon.

Each Spring and Fall Barkley would check out his calve crop and round up the yearlings. There were several areas on his stock range where it was impossible to ride a horse. Most cattlemen will tell you Barkley had the roughest stock range in the Southwest.

Removing wild cattle from Old West Boulder Canyon became an annual event, but not part of the regular roundup. Any cattle successfully removed from Old West Boulder Canyon’s upper reaches would have to be done on foot and with dogs. There was always water in the potholes and good grass in the Spring, high on the slopes of Superstition Mountain’s east side. This was an almost impossible range from which to remove cattle.

There were old timers around that had a variety of suggestions on how our problem might be solved. One old man claimed he used to take a jackass into the mountains and tie the jackass to a wild bull and eventually the jackass would lead the bull out of the mountains. This idea might have been sound in some areas, but I wasn’t sure you could get a jackass into the area. Another man suggested we shoot the bulls, jerk them and haul them out in packages. This idea sounded most practical to me, but it was not my decision to make.

Tex Barkley died in early Fall of 1955, and his son, William Thomas “Bill” Barkley, took over the operation of the ranch. Jimmy and Tafoya Ruiz lived at the Quarter Circle U Ranch, and old Jimmy had worked for Tex for many years. Jimmy stayed on for about two years after Tex Barkley died, and then he retired.

It was during my first summer working for the Barkley’s that I learned of the wild bulls in Old West Boulder Canyon. I was young, inexperienced and not too knowledgeable about cattle. I suggested to Bill that I hike up in the canyon with a couple of the dogs and try to haze the bulls down into West Boulder Canyon. I put on my military brogans and with two of Bill’s cow dogs I started my hike into Old West Boulder Canyon from the First Water Ranch. This experience taught me that wild cattle were just plain “wild.”

Hiking up Old West Boulder convinced me these old bulls didn’t want to be disturbed. They didn’t plan on leaving their habitat. The dogs barked, the bulls jumped from one rock to another and basically avoided all herding attempts. There was no way these bulls were going down Old West Boulder Canyon, and Bill wasn’t very happy with my attempt. Now I understood why some cattlemen recommended shooting wild bulls in impassible country. Eventually, the wild bulls of West Boulder Canyon were shot to rid their impact on the fragile ecosystem of the canyon.

Cattle were totally removed from the western end of the Superstition Wilderness by 1990. No grazing permits have been issued on the western end of the Superstition Wilderness Area since then. The Barkley Cattle Company owned most of the land that Gold Canyon and Meadow Brook is located on today. Several years ago the Gold Canyon and King’s Ranch Resort area had a problem with cattle, but this was because of cattle permitted to graze on state trust land adjacent to the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Wild cattle, grazing cattle, cowboys, windmills, dirt tanks, salt blocks, barbed wire, and cow pies on the landscape were all part of the ranching heritage of the Apache Junction area. For the most part, it is all gone.

Today, the closest thing to wild bulls and cowboys are the rodeos here in Apache Junction during the annual Lost Dutchman Days in February and Ben Johnson Days in November.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Land of Dreams

June 16, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

“Crazy Jake” Jacob was a man who could sell any idea if given the proper opportunity, setting and enough time. Jacob was known as the man with the golden tongue when it came to the Superstition Mountain region, and he accumulated millions of dollars before his death in 1993.

Robert Simpson Jacob was born in Kearney, New Jersey on December 17, 1928. As a youth he moved to Hooker, Pennsylvania, and later worked at a variety of jobs in the automotive industry in the Pennsylvania area.

Jacob served eleven years in the United States Army from December 20, 1945 to November 19, 1956, and was a veteran of the Korean Police Action. Jacob was in and out of trouble after the Army but his life changed completely in 1964.

One day while perusing a copy of Life magazine in the Hooker Library, a photograph caught his eye. It was a photograph of the alleged Peralta Stone Maps. When Jacob arrived in Arizona he was convinced he had a new lucrative means of income. Upon his arrival he began his search for the Lost Dutchman Mine.

I first chatted with Jacob along First Water Road in November of 1964. He was full of questions that day, but I believed that he, like others, would soon become discouraged with their search. I was certainly wrong about that.

For almost three decades he talked some smart people out of their life savings to search for gold in the Superstition Mountains. He was a man who had grandiose dreams and a great imagination. I doubt to this day that anyone knows for sure if Jacob himself believed in the lost gold of Superstition Mountain.

Jacob was unique because of his success in accumulating such a large fortune of other people’s money. The Attorney General’s Office estimated Jacob scammed more than thirty million dollars during a five-year period, however they could only account for nine million dollars. To this day there is no sound explanation or accounting for that money.

Jacob pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to several years in prison. He died in the summer of 1993 leaving no information or even a confession as to how he chated his investors out of their money.

Since “The Old Dutchman” Jacob Waltz died in 1891, there have been many attempts to defraud people out of their life savings with stories of lost gold mines in the Superstition Mountains. You can prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Here are some hints:

Don’t give anyone cash for any kind of investment unless you have a witness or a signed contract with a witness you know.

Check all investment groups out with the Better Business Bureau or the Arizona State Attorney General’s fraud division. A brief phone call can save you an enormous amount of grief later.

Don’t make any kind of deals without a witness who will back you up in a courtroom if need be.

Many years ago a handicapped man approached me in a class I was teaching asking me to help him get an investment back. He explained that the federal, state, county and city authorities would not assist him. I soon found out why.

He had given a local prospector (con artist) five thousand dollars in a paper sack expecting a return of twenty-five thousand dollars within thirty days. What he thought he was purchasing was gold bullion for half the price of spot. Of course the local prospector didn’t deliver and the man demanded his money back. The prospector claimed he never received any money. If there is no paperwork or witnesses, it boils down to a case of one man’s word against another’s. Sadly, the gentleman lost his five thousand dollars.

My friends, this can happen every day when it comes to lost gold and treasure stories. The stories are always shrouded in total secrecy. The perpetrator reminds the investor not to tell his best friends, his children or anyone because it could endanger the lives of the men removing the treasure or lost gold.

Several years ago the Attorneys General of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado met to discuss the problems of treasure and lost gold fraud. The four states’ legal representatives estimated approximately two hundred million dollars annually was lost to this kind of scam.

Most people laugh and say this can’t happen to them. I agree it can’t, however when somebody produces a considerable amount of gold and claims they have a rich mine in the Superstitions and the government won’t let them mine it legally, but they will sell their gold at half of spot with cash up front. A proposal like this can be quite tempting. It happens in the East Valley area three to four times a year.

My advice is to be very cautious about giving any cash in any kind of a gold deal. I would contact the state fraud division or the local police and report such activity. Anytime you can buy gold bullion for half the spot price it is too good to be true.

And if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Last Stage to Goldfield

June 9, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Gold was discovered on the desert west of Superstition Mountain in the 1880s. The first cries of eureka did not produce a gold mining boomtown.

A Mormon boy named Ed Jones staked a claim northeast of the area called the Lucky Boy in 1881. His claim was followed by several other mining claims staked by men from Mesa City. William A. Kimball of Mesa City staked the Buckhorn-Boulder claim in 1886. Kimball’s claim did not produce much gold ore.

Four Mesa City prospectors did discover a rich vein of gold on November 17, 1892, when they staked out the Black Queen claim. Orrin Merrill, Orlando Merrill, Charles Hakes and Charles R. Morse worked on the Black Queen through April of 1893. On April 13, 1893, a heavy downpour resulted in a flash flood that washed a lot of timbers away. While gathering up their timbers along Goldfield Wash they discovered a rich outcrop of gold ore on April 14, 1893. They filed the Mammoth No. 1 and No. 2 claims on the richest deposit of gold ore in the area. By mid-summer of 1893, a promising community had taken root on the Arizona desert west of Superstition Mountain.

Goldfield soon had a hotel, livery stable, mercantile store, butcher shop, stage station, a rooming house, three saloons, church and school. Names such as the Mammoth Saloon, Capitol Saloon, Pioneer Saloon, Gold Tower Rooming House, Golden Dipper, Petersen’s Mercantile, Riley & Co. Livery and the Mesa City-Goldfield stage line were common places with patrons of Goldfield.

William A. Kimball started the first stage line to the Goldfields in early August of 1893. Kimball advertised his stage service in the Arizona Republican on August 23, 1893. The ad read as follows: “Mesa & Goldfield stage line leaves Mesa everyday except Sunday at 1 p.m. and arrives in Goldfield at 5 p.m. The stage carries the Arizona Republican.” Kimball’s ad appeared once again in the Arizona Republican on Oct. 1, 1893.

Kimball was the owner of the Pioneer Hotel in Mesa City, and was a very active entrepreneur throughout the life of Goldfield. At different times Kimball owned a hotel, mercantile, livery stable and a stage line.

Kimball was a master at operating businesses. It wasn’t long before Kimball had contracts to carry passengers and freight for the Phoenix, Tempe & Mesa City stage line owned and operated by A.L. Fisher. Kimball and Fisher christened the Phoenix to Goldfield stage run on Feb. 10, 1894. By early 1894 the Mammoth Mine and its famous Mormon Stope had become one of the biggest gold producers in Arizona Territory. A month later the Saturday Review reported the Mesa City to Goldfield Road as being in excellent shape and trips could be made by stage between the two communities in three hours.

J.G. Petersen was appointed postmaster at Goldfield’s new post office on March 25, 1894. The post office opened on April 12, 1894. The opening of the post office created the need for contracted mail service. These coveted mail contracts were awarded to the lowest bidder. The receiving of a mail contract often meant the difference of surviving or not for a stage line in Arizona Territory.
The Arizona Republican reported on May 31, 1894, the Mesa City & Goldfield stage line was running a comfortable four-horse Concord stagecoach. It was further reported the Concord could make the trip to Goldfield from Mesa City in three and a half hours in luxury and comfort.

There were two stage lines running to Goldfield by the first of June 1894. James Bryant had the Mesa City-Florence-Goldfield stage line. Bryant’s driver was J.P. Levy. Kimball soon became [an] operating partner of Bryant’s. It was sometime in August of 1894 Kimball reorganized the Mesa City-Goldfield stage line and temporarily named it the Kimball, Riley & Co. stage line.

"Our stages were the Concord type, miserable things to ride in. The motion made the passengers sea-sick, and the dust was terrible." -Katie Leng, stagecoach passenger, circa 1887.

On Aug. 17, 1894, the U.S. Post Office advertised for birds for mail contracts from Tempe to Goldfield. This advertisement appeared in the Tempe News, Aug. 18, 1894. On Sept. 15, 1895, William W. Wall of Phoenix, received the mail contract to transport mail from Tempe to Goldfield. By Oct. 12, 1894, there were three stage lines operating from Mesa City to Goldfield. These lines included the Mesa City-Goldfield line owned by Willaim A. Kimball, the Hunsaker Daily Stage and the W.W. Wall line. The heavy competition resulted in Kimball reducing his daily runs to tri-weekly runs by Oct. 19, 1894. J.S. Petersen bought the Mesa City-Goldfield stage line from Kimball by Nov. 23, 1894. The Hunsaker stage line had assumed the mail contract in a sub-contract from W.W. Wall. A fourth stage line [began] operation between Phoenix and Goldfield about this time. William A. Buell made his first trip to Goldfield on Nov. 22, 1894. Buell’s stage line connected with the Fisher & Collins Phoenix stage line and the Byrant’s Florence-Goldfield line.

Bryant agreed to end his trips to Goldfield by the end of November 1894. There just weren’t enough passengers and freight to support four stage lines to Goldfield. About the same time William A. Kimball had double daily service from Goldfield to Phoenix. The periodicals were once more reporting Kimball was operating daily service to Goldfield from Phoenix by the end of March 1895.

The Nov. 11, 1895 periodicals reported stage line connections between George Reynold’s Tempe stage line and the Hunsaker stage line to Goldfield.

About this time Goldfield had been a booming gold camp for almost two and a half years.

Gold production had slowed down considerably by the end of 1895. Rumors began to circulate the post office in Goldfield might close.

The means of transportation and roads had improved considerably since the first stage lines started providing service to Goldfield from Mesa City.

William A. Kimball had survived all his competitors and continued to operate the Mesa-Goldfield stage.

Louis Wagner was appointed postmaster of Goldfield on Aug. 14, 1896. The appointment assured the operation of the post office in Goldfield and future mail contracts even though gold production had slowed down at the Mammoth Mine.

Hi (Hy) George was employed by the Mammoth Mine at Goldfield to make improvements on the Mesa City-Goldfield road on Sept. 4, 1896. The continuation of the post office, road improvements and mail contracts indicated a very bright future for Goldfield.

Jack Hall, near the end of September 1896, started another stage line from Mesa City to Goldfield. He called his stage line the Owl Express. He made a daily run to Goldfield from Mesa City while William A. Kimball had returned to a tri-weekly run. Hall advertised his daily run to Goldfield from Mesa City in the Mesa Free Press on Dec. 25, 1896, which read as follows: “The Owl Express leaves Mesa City for Goldfield every day at noon with passengers and freight. The fare is $1 to Goldfield and a round trip is $1.75, Proprietor Jack Hall.”

The Owl Express only survived a few months. An article appeared in the Arizona Republican on Feb. 5, 1897, that reported the following: “March 1, regular mail service to Goldfield from Mesa (distance 23 miles). W.W. Wall will sublet mail contract to Alex Hunsaker. Contract expires June 30, 1898.”

If one peruses the many periodicals between January 1897 and December 1898 concerning commercial mining and mining activity around Goldfield it is easy to recognize the decline of this once prosperous gold mining camp. As long as there was a mail service contract to the post office in Goldfield there was a stage line operating between Mesa City and Goldfield. Newspaper accounts of late 1897 pronounce Goldfield as dead.

The rich gold vein miners had been mining one day had disappeared the next day. The mass exodus from Goldfield had begun by November 1897. The Goldfield post office was discontinued on November 11, 1898. The last stage to Goldfield carrying the United States mail was on Nov. 9, 1898.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Al Morrow of Needle Canyon

May 12, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

As long as there are those who dream, there will be Dutch Hunters and treasure hunters probing the towering spires and deep canyons of the Superstition Wilderness searching for lost gold and treasure.

Men like Al Morrow.

Al Morrow spent nineteen years of his life living in Needle Canyon in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness searching for the Peralta Mines. He believed these mines and the Dutchman were one in the same.

This man knew what happiness was and he most definitely knew the pain of loneliness among the towering escarpments of Needle Canyon. He found success in something that we are not able to measure, in his simple everyday task of survival in this remote wilderness. Morrow chose this way of life so he could deal with nature firsthand and continue his life at a slow pace. He did this with great success and integrity, and in an age where everything is based on material wealth. It is difficult to imagine the likes of Al Morrow and other prospectors like him, who choose such a solo way of life despite the demands of modern society. Al Morrow marched to the beat of a different “drummer.”

Al Morrow at his mine in Needle Canyon.

Superstition Mountain is a tribute to those people and their stories of hidden gold and the never-ending search for it. This mountain has become a fitting monument to these men and women who suffered the hardships of isolation, hard work and being different just to survive. Maintaining a camp deep in the mountains required an enormous amount of work and the constant search for good water. However, the beauty and adventure associated with searching the lofty ridges and deep canyons for hidden wealth was well worth any exerted energy.

Just maybe someday a lucky man or woman will come forth with the gold of Superstition Mountain and forever end the tantalizing tales of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Such a discovery would also vindicate all those who have believed in the legend. Jacob Waltz undoubtedly left behind the most lingering story ever told about lost gold in the American Southwest. 

Until that gold is found, the legend of Superstition Mountain is the stuff of which dreams are made of. Dreams of hidden gold or personal enrichment it matters not because the opportunity to search has been worthwhile.

This is strictly a romantic view of the Superstition Wilderness Area, but as we face the future the significance and importance of the region will grow enormously. Today we find hikers and joggers wandering the trails of the Superstition Wilderness looking for adventure, recreation, and relief from the stress of our modern urban society. The Superstition Wilderness Area has become an important habitat for these urbanites on weekends.

Today the region serves more as a park than a true wilderness with more than 70,000 (as per estimated figures for 1997) people using the system trails this past year. The future and survival of the wilderness is totally dependent on the forest service’s management as the Phoenix metropolitan area grows. We will probably soon see the day access will be limited to the wilderness as more and more state trust lands are closed or developed. This legendary land of the old “Dutchman’s” lost mine has become a prime recreational resource for the Phoenix metropolitan area, however old Superstition Mountain remains a tribute to a legend.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Adam Stewart 1857-1934

April 28, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Prospectors have played a major role in the history of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Most of these old timers remained obscure and for the most part died without the benefit of the world ever knowing of their meager existence. Most were honest, hardworking men who followed their dreams among the jagged peaks and deep canyons of this rugged wilderness.

Adam Stewart (left) and John Cunningham in 1934 shortly before Stewart's death.

Names like Jones, Piper, Morrow, Clapp, Bradford, and Aylor are household names among “Dutch Hunters” and Lost Dutchman mine aficionados. However, men like Adam Stewart are seldom discussed around campfires today. These lesser known men were also part of this mountain legend in their own way. Stewart’s name stands out as an unknown among those who have been chronicled in various periodicals over the years.

Adam Stewart was born in Scotland around 1857. He arrived in America during the 1880’s and spent much of his life in the mountains of Arizona Territory and California. He often worked as a carpenter when work was available.

Stewart met a man named Dr. Rolf Alexander while in California. Alexander introduced Stewart to the treasure tales of the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. Upon hearing all these stories of lost gold bonanzas in Arizona Stewart and Alexander became prospecting partners. They departed for Arizona in 1919.

Their arrival in Arizona was marked by a recent discovery of gold near the old boom town of Goldfield. It was near this town Spanish gold was supposedly discovered by two prospectors named Carl Silverlocke and Malm about 1916. Stewart believed more gold could be found. Alexander and Stewart immediately set about to determine the site in which they would conduct their search. Both men had heard about the small Mexican mining tunnels found near the old Bark’s Ranch in Bark’s Draw.

By the close of 1919, Alexander and Stewart had a well-established base camp located near Willow Canyon (Peralta Canyon) on the southeast end of Superstition Mountain. From this base camp they began their search for gold. It wasn’t long before their finances were exhausted and they had to find a grubstake. Adam Stewart had such faith in his mining property he suggested they look up an old boyhood friend of his from Scotland who was now quite wealthy and lived in Chicago at the time.

With this information Alexander contacted John T. Cunningham and explained to him their position. Cunningham was soon convinced the property had merit and was willing to grubstake the two of them. The project started out with a few dollars. Then it was an ever increasing amount of money to keep the operation going. The purchasing of mining equipment and promotion of the property was an expensive venture even in the late 1920’s.

Adam Stewart was the miner and Rolf Alexander was the promoter. Contrary to most arrangements Adam was pleased with living and working at the mining claim. Together Alexander and Stewart studied the various maps available to them to help them plan the project they were working on.

Days became weeks, months became years as Stewart continued his digging and prospecting in the nearby mountains. No matter how dim hope was for Adam Stewart he continued his prospecting venture never failing to put in a good day’s work. 

In the spring of 1934 John T. Cunningham decided to visit the mining property in Arizona he had invested in for so many years. Probably his investigation of the property was disappointing, but he once again met with Stewart, his boyhood friend with whom he shared a hometown in Scotland.

After Cunningham’s brief visit he returned to Chicago, but soon returned again upon hearing the news that Adam Stewart died on November 30, 1934. Cunningham provided a decent burial for his old friend.

At this time, the secret of Stewart’s long-time benefactor was revealed. The story was of two young men, Stewart and Cunningham, who were both in love with the same young Scottish lass. Rather than break either man’s heart she [chose] another man. Both men left Scotland and destiny played its role. Stewart became a prospector of little means and John T. Cunningham became a multimillionaire financier.

“Adam Stewart never returned to Scotland,” said Cunningham at Stewart’s funeral in the Superstitions, “but I will someday return to Scotland and see Anne and tell her of Adam’s life in America. He was truly a happy man and at peace with the world when he died.”

Cunningham eulogized Stewart as an honest, hard-working, and truly distinguished gentleman.

Those who knew Adam Stewart will remember him as a man who held his head high despite the many shortcomings of others around him. His honesty and integrity will be recorded forever by those who knew and respected him. Stewart always believed the Spanish bonanza was just a couple more feet down or just over the next hill; even on his deathbed he still believed in his dream.

According to the Mesa Journal Tribune, December 7, 1934, p. 1, col. 3 and 4, Adam Stewart had died just shortly after he discovered a rich Spanish bonanza mine. Death had cheated a deserving man of his lifelong dream. Adam Stewart was definitely a part of the Superstition Mountain legacy.