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.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sightseeing in the Superstitions

April 7, 2008 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Getting around in the Superstition Wilderness Area can be accomplished by three different methods. The first method is hiking or walking and it is by far the most common and least expensive. The second method of travel is by horseback, which is quite expensive these days. Pack trips are for the more affluent, but can really be enjoyed by anyone. The third method of travel is by airplane or helicopter. This is also a very expensive method of travel within the wilderness area, and for the most part is not practical in a rugged wilderness such as the Superstition Wilderness Area. Let’s examine these three methods of travel in the wilderness.

Most of us can't afford a helicopter flight over the Superstition Wilderness Area, however it is a beautiful way to see the wilderness.

The wilderness area has many rules and regulations. There are limitations on the number of days you can spend in the wilderness (14 days). There are also limitations on the size of any given party that enters the wilderness (15). Also no motorized, mechanical means of travel can be implemented in the wilderness area. This includes bicycles, wheel bars and similar mechanical objects. The wilderness is an area where man is a visitor and when he departs he must leave the area clean and in its original natural state. This means no fire rings or man-made rock walls, etc. The wilderness concept often comes into conflict with modern man’s interpretation of what is and is not historical.

Wilderness regulations stipulate that prehistoric ruins of Native Americans are part of the wilderness. Contemporary man and his structures are not part of the wilderness stage. This regulation basically means old rock walls, stone cabins, concrete water tanks, rock water tanks, windmills, bridges, and other man-made objects are not part of the true or pure wilderness concept as defined by wilderness regulations. Wilderness areas are geographic regions untouched by modern man’s use. Once a wilderness area has been set aside it is difficult to make any changes in its status as a wilderness. At best the wilderness concept can be quite complicated and complex when trying to explain it. You might say, it is an attempt to preserve American wild lands for future generations of American citizens to enjoy and marvel at. Look how popular the National Park System is!

The Superstition Wilderness Area is probably one of the most popular wilderness areas in the United States. It is estimated more than 60,000 visitors use the trail system of the Superstition Wilderness Area annually. There are more than 140 miles of improved hiking trail and another 100 miles of unimproved hiking trail. The western end of the wilderness near Apache Junction has six trailheads. The most popular are First Water Trail Head and Peralta Canyon Trail Head. The Lost Dutchman Gold Mine trail links these two popular trailheads. The other trailheads are Boulder Canyon Trail Head and Hieroglyphic Canyon Trail Head. Maps can be obtained from the Tonto National Forest Service Ranger District in Mesa (480-610-3300) or Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction (480-983-4888).

Another interesting and spectacular entry point in the wilderness is through Lost Dutchman State Park. The park is located about 5.5 miles NE of Apache Junction on State Route 88 (the Apache Trail). The park provides all kinds of amenities, including books, maps, camping areas, restrooms and secure parking. The park has a five dollar entry fee per vehicle.
The Lost Dutchman State Park and the Tonto National Forest Service have partnered on an excellent trail system out of the Lost Dutchman State Park. I recommend your first experience in the wilderness be through the Lost Dutchman State Park. There is available information about the wilderness from very knowledgeable park rangers.

The trails of the Superstition Wilderness Area can be rated from 1.0 to 10.0 with 10 being the most rugged. The most popular trail is First Water Trail, which is a rating of about 1.5-2.5 from First Water Trail Head to Boulder Basin near East Boulder, a distance of about five miles. The second most popular trail is the Peralta Trail. This trail is extremely steep about halfway up the canyon, and is rated 4-5 in difficulty. The hike from Peralta Canyon Trail Head to Fremont Saddle is about 1.5 miles.

Trail difficulty ratings can [vary] from individual to individual. A concrete or paved trail is usually rated as a one. A trail that you must use your feet and hands to negotiate is usually rated between a nine and ten. Reasonably easy walking is done on trails rated between one and four.

Be a smart hiker and always tell somebody where you’re hiking and when you expect to return. [Your] life could depend on it.

Always take enough water and some kind of a first aid kit. When you are in the wilderness you can always encounter the unexpected.

Be prepared – always – is still a good motto when hiking the trails of the Superstition Wilderness Area.