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.