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.