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.