Monday, January 26, 2009

Herman Mountain

January 26, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Wilderness Area contains many uniquely named landmarks. East of La Barge Canyon and north of the Upper Box in La Barge Canyon is a mountain known as Herman Mountain. Down in La Barge Canyon below the “box” just above the confluence with Whiskey Springs Canyon is located a small cave known to many as Herman’s Cave or Petrasch’s Cave.

When I often hiked these mountains during the winter months of the 1960s I spent several nights in Herman’s old camp in La Barge Canyon.

Herman Mountain was named after an old Arizona prospecting pioneer name Hermann Petrasch. He arrived in Arizona Territory in the early 1890s. He worked as a young man for Emil and Julia Thomas in Phoenix. Julia Thomas was a caregiver for Jacob Waltz in his final years. Waltz, some said, had a rich gold mine in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Waltz died in the home of Julia Thomas on October 25, 1891. Rhinehart Petrasch was with Julia when Waltz died. Many old timers believed Waltz gave clues to Julia and Rhinehart before his death. Soon after Waltz’s death Julia Thomas and Rhinehart planned a trip into the Superstition Mountains to search for the mine. Rhinehart convinced Julia that his brother Hermann would be a lot of help on such a prospecting expedition. Julia Thomas and the

Petrasch brothers, Hermann and Rhinehart, made a trip into the Superstition Mountains in August of 1892 believing they could find Waltz’s rich gold mine. It was a futile search under the worst of conditions. Temperatures were well above 105 degrees and the humidity was bad. And to make things even less tolerable was the problem of black gnats and insects. This was the Petrasches first trip into the Superstition Mountain range. The two young brothers would spend the rest of their lives probing the canyons and mountains of the Superstition range in search of the old Dutchman’s bonanza.

Rhinehart Petrasch, Hermann’s brother committed suicide in Globe, Arizona in 1943 ending his search for the Dutchman gold. Hermann continued his search for another decade eventually passing away at his cabin on Queen Creek near the Martin Ranch in November of 1953. Hermann loved to play the fiddle and was very good at it. Helen Martin, Billy Martin’s wife, said old Hermann use to go with them to the dances in Superior and played his fiddle. Prospectors, miners, adventurers, storytellers, authors and many other stopped by Hermann’s cabin on Queen Creek. Hermann always had a good story to tell, but he never shared those clues he believed were keys to the location of the old Dutchman’s gold. My father stopped and visited with Hermann many times between 1939 and 1952. We often made trips from Christmas, Arizona through Superior to Glendale, Arizona to visit my mother’s sister. My mother would occasionally bake Hermann an Apple pie. My dad would deliver it while we sat in the car. Of course he would visit with Hermann for a half-hour or so and then we would be on our way.

Prior to 1940s old Hermann spent many days prospecting the Superstition Mountains. He often worked for the Cleman’s Cattle Company repairing water holes. He was also good carpenter and worked on the old Reavis Ranch house in 1936. Hermann would work for the cattlemen around the area then spend a few weeks prospecting the mountains. Sometime around 1939, Bill Martin Sr. helped Hermann establish his American citizenship so he would become eligible for Social Security. Hermann eventually received a very small check from Social Security and was able to survive in his small cabin along Queen Creek.

The Petrasch name has always been a significant part of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine story. What the Petrasch brothers actually knew has always been controversial. Did Waltz reveal any information about his alleged mine to Julia and Rhinehart is still a big question today. The “great schism” in the Lost Dutchman story lies with the split between the Petrasch families and the Holmes families that dated back to the time of Waltz’s death in 1891. Shortly after Waltz’s death the Petrasches believed Dick Holmes stole Waltz’s gold ore that the old man kept under his bed in a candle box. Holmes always claimed old Jacob Waltz gave him the gold ore. This resulted in a strong separation between the two families even to this day. Interesting enough there are landmarks in the Superstition Wilderness Area named after both the Petrasches and Holmes. And again maybe the mountain was named after old Herman Petrasch. It could have been named after some cattle drover named Herman. However, I am willing to bet it was named after Herman Petrasch because of the 1956 USGS Topographic Survey in area and the collecting of names from local ranchers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Music Mountain

January 19, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Mesa Journal-Tribune reported the following on August 13, 1928. “Music Mountain’ in Superstition Lure Too Romantic Misses,” was the heading of an interesting story about the Superstition Mountain range.

“Buried under an avalanche of ‘fan mail’ Ray Howland, famed seeker of the Lost Dutchman, spreader of Duco, and now widely known as ‘the big, strong, silent man of the Superstitions, is sending out frantic calls for help. Howland received hundreds of letters from ladies around the country and the world after one of his stories ran in Everybody’s Magazine. He described a certain ‘musical mountain’ that he claims to have discovered in the course of his wanderings around the Superstition Mountains east of Mesa.

Howland’s story was not confirmed or authenticated by the American Spiritualist Association or the National Geographic Society, but is certainly vouched for by the League of Hassayampers. Hassayampers are Arizona storytellers who have drank water from the Hassayampa River. The liquid of the river has a tendency to make storytellers tell tall tales.

According to the article Howland swears that the air around Music Mountain is filled with a weird melodious sound that cannot be attributed to the wind whistling through the rocks because the sounds can be heard when the wind is not blowing at all.

Howland’s story was printed and he received hundreds of letters from ecstatic females of all ages from sixteen to sixty who were curious about Music Mountain and its spiritual nature. These same females were wildly interested in the romantic prospector whose wanderings take him to such interesting places. The article further stated that sweet scented notes have come from every state in the union, and many foreign countries.

Most of these romantic letter writers wanted a photograph of Howland. Practically all of them wanted to know if he was married. All of them planned trips to the West wanting to be guided to Music Mountain by its discoverer. The article further stated, the beauty editor was out of town, but the snake editor looked over Howland’s monumental collection of snapshots and did certify that they are mighty good looking girls.

Howland had to give up auto painting, his regular occupation, when he was out hunting for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Howland’s wife Liz recommended her husband go back to the Superstition Mountains until this story dies down. It was just another story told by a man who drank from the Hassayampa River, according to his wife Liz.

Interesting enough Music Mountain still exists in the Superstition Wilderness Area today and even attracts some attention. Music Mountain is located between Black Mountain (Charlebois to some old timers) and Herman’s Mountain immediately east of La Barge Canyon along FS trail 107. I have always known this trail as the La Barge Trail, but the TNF map calls it the Red Tank Trail. Music Mountain was quite popular in the early 1970s. There were several individuals who found minute traces of gold, silver and other valuable metals in the area near Sheep Springs. The final analysis presented a completely different picture. The minute traces are totally absence of any real commercial mineralization. These tests eventually lead to the demise of the area.

Stories about how important Music Mountain is to Native Americans still circulate. The musical sounds that emanate from Music Canyon and its tributaries continue to produce stories about how sacred the area is to the Native Americans. Old timers talk about Apache burial grounds on Music Mountain and the haunting sounds of the dead. The Apaches and Yavapais gathered Agave hearts on Peter’s Mesa just north of Music Mountain. Their roasting pits can still be found on Peter’s Mesa. Their activity in the area might well have warranted a burial site on a nearby mountain such as Music. Some years ago I was talking to an old friend, Phillip Cassadores, a traditional Apache medicine man on the San Carlos Reservation. He cautioned me not to be so sure these stories were not true. Ray Howland may have become involved with an unexplainable legend when he talked about the music and ghosts of Music Mountain.

Most creditable historians who have researched the source of Music Mountain’s name have discovered it was named after a cattleman name Music. There appears to be no definitive account that proves the mountain was named after a man named Music. Prior to Ray Howland’s story about Music Mountain in the Mesa Journal –Tribune the mountain’s name had never been mentioned before in Arizona periodicals.

Ray Howland was a well known searcher of the Lost Dutchman Mine during the 1920s and early 1930s. This was an interesting article that appeared in the Mesa Journal-Tribune.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Arizona Lecture Series

January 12, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Apache Trail can certainly be classified as one of the most adventurous and scenic routes in the American Southwest. Since 1906 tourists have traveled this unique mountain road and marveled at some of the most spectacular scenery in our state. The Apache Trail, as we know it today, originates in Apache Junction and terminates at its junction with Highway 60-70 some four miles east of Miami, Arizona. The original roadway began at the Mesa railhead and terminated at the Roosevelt Dam site on Salt River some sixty-two miles away.

This approximate route of the Apache Trail has served humanity for more than a millennium. The Salado used the trail to penetrate the Salt River Valley around 900 A.D. Other Native Americans groups continued to use the trail as a migratory route between their winter homes on the desert lowlands and their summer homes in the mountains along the Mogollon Rim and the various sky islands of the central mountain region of Arizona.

The Apaches and Yavapais used the trail for their predatory raids against the Pimas along the Salt and Gila Rivers south and west of Superstition Mountain. The Apaches and Yavapais continued their raids after the arrival of the Anglo-Americans in the early 1850s. Finally in 1864, Camp McDowell was established along the Verde River some four miles north of the Salt River. The Pimas became willing allies of the blue-shirted soldiers who manned Fort McDowell. This footpath (trail) along the Salt River through the mountains to Tonto Basin was called both the Tonto Trail and the Yavapai Trail. The Army quelled the predatory Apaches-Yavapais in this region by 1868. There were other military campaigns fought against renegade Apaches from 1871 until Geronimo’s surrender in 1886 at Skeleton Canyon in Southern Arizona.

An expedition navigated the Salt River near the present site of Roosevelt Dam to Phoenix in a cataract boat during the early part of the 1880s. They reported numerous ideal dam sites along the river’s course. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors ordered a feasibility study done on the Salt River for possible water storage and flood control dam sites shortly thereafter. William “Billy” Breakenridge, James H. McClintock, and John H. Norton conducted this feasibility study. Breakenridge also explored the route for a possible wagon road at the time of this study. Billy Breakenridge was a well known Tombstone lawman during the 1880s. James McClintock became Arizona’s first official historian.

Breakenridge’s report was highly favored for the construction of a dam just downstream from confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River. The Congress of the United States authorized the construction dam and the project was funded in March of 1903. The task of supervising the building of this dam was given to the newly formed U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Service under the United States Department of Interior.

Immediately after funds were approved by Congress the communities of the Salt River Valley realized no money was appropriated for the construction of a haul road from Phoenix to the dam site. The valley communities wanted to participate in this economic boom. They wanted a greater involvement in the market developed by the construction of Roosevelt Dam. The communities immediately worked on a bonding plan to raise enough money to fund the construction of the Mesa-Roosevelt Road.

Actual construction of the Tonto Wagon Road began on August 29, 1903, with two hundred Apache laborers working just below the dam site on the Salt River. Another work camp was established on November 11, 1903, at Government Well, some twenty-five miles from Mesa, employing some 200 Pima laborers. The Tonto Wagon Road was completed on September 3, 1905, at a cost of $551,000. The road was sixty-two miles in distance, running from the Tonto Dam site to the Mesa railhead. It was reported more than a million and half pounds of freight moved over the road in its first month of operation.

The first Concord stage made a run over the Mesa-Roosevelt Road on June 10, 1905. The first automobile that traveled over the road from Mesa to Government Wells was on August 23, 1905. This Knox Automobile was known as the “Red Terror.” The first so-called tourist group to travel over the Mesa-Roosevelt Road was on October 10, 1905. The first major accident to occur on the Mesa-Roosevelt Road was a stagecoach accident that happened between Mormon Flat and Fish Creek Hill on November 23, 1905. The curves, steep grades, and narrowness of the Mesa-Roosevelt road challenged the skills of early teamsters and drivers. Even today as we drive the Apache Trail the road certainly can challenge our skill as a driver.

The Mesa-Roosevelt Road was highly regulated during the construction of Roosevelt Dam (1906-1911), however when the construction was over the road became a favorite tourist attraction. The road was known as the Mesa-Roosevelt Road and Tonto Wagon Road during the period 1903-1915. Sometimes the media called the road the Roosevelt Road. Shortly after 1915 the road became known as the Apache Trail. Historians appear to agree in general as to the origin of the name “Apache Trail.” They believe the term was coined by an enterprising young entrepreneur who worked as a railroad agent for the Southern Pacific. The man’s name was E.E. Watson. Watson was trying to promote the Southern Pacific’s “Sunset Limited” as it made its way through Arizona. The Southern Pacific offered a side trip for its transcontinental passengers over the Apache Trail if they were interested. Southern Pacific had the franchise on the Apache Trail as a special side trip for their passengers. Some of the photos from one of the Southern Pacific photo books of 1915 appear in this article.

The Apache Trail was officially dedicated as Arizona’s first historic highway on February 25, 1987, at Lost Dutchman State Park along the Apache Trail. The Apache Trail is a roadway to adventure, beauty and history.

President Theodore Roosevelt may have said it best when he talked about the Apache Trail. He said, “The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have.

To me, it is most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Black Top: Mountain With a Legacy

January 5, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Talk to anyone who knows something about the Dutchman’s lost mine and they will tell you the role Black Top Mesa has played in the story. Black Top Mesa lies between East Boulder and Needle Canyons immediately west of the north end of Bluff Spring’s Mountain. The highest point on Black Top Mesa probably doesn’t exceed 3,800 feet above sea level. The southern end of Black Top Mesa is the highest portion of the mountain. The mountain is formed from Tertiary volcanic rocks; primarily alternating layers of ash, tuff and basalt. The basalt that caps the mountain was formed about three million years ago during the Willow Springs caldera eruption era. Near the southern end of Black Top Mesa, on the East Boulder Canyon side is a red dike that crosses the canyon and intersects the side of the mountain. Prospectors for many years believed this dike was proof of mineralization in epic portions on Black Top Mesa. Prospect holes have been drilled and dug all over the mountain and not one ounce of gold has ever been produced. Several men have gone broke investing in wild schemes associated with buried gold on this mountain.

The source of Black Mesa’s name is not known; however it’s safe to suggest early cattlemen of the region named the mountain because of its obvious cap of black basalt rock. Black Top Mesa would probably still be on an obscure page of Arizona history if it hadn’t been for a writer named Barry Storm and a prospector [named] Adolph Ruth who died there in the summer of 1931. Barry Storm’s books On the Trail of the Lost Dutchman, 1939, and Thunder God’s Mountain, 1945, made this landmark and others in the Superstition Wilderness Area prominent on a national level. The newspapers of the 1930s also raised a lot of interest about lost gold and the rugged desolate [mountain] peaks within the interior of the Superstition Wilderness Area. In those days the area was known as the Superstition Mountain range or sometimes it was referred to as the Salt River Mountains. 

The easiest access to Black Top Mesa can be accomplished by hiking in on the Dutchman’s trail (FS 104), also known as the First Water-Charlebois Trail. As you drop into Boulder Basin and the Brush Corral area, Black Top Mesa looms [immediately] to the southeast. The mountain’s yellow tuff cliffs and black cap of basalt make it obvious just east of East Boulder Canyon. The distance from First Water Trailhead to this point is about 5.6 miles. A view of Black Top Mesa and a spectacular view of Weaver’s Needle can be observed from Fremont Saddle. The hike from Peralta Trailhead to Fremont Saddle is about one and a half miles. This route is a long climb uphill. From the trailhead to Fremont Saddle you gain about two thousand feet in elevation.

The cultural history of Black Top Mesa is very interesting. There are many petroglyphs on Black Top Mesa. Their cultural value depends on interpretation. On the south end of Black Top Mesa on the highest point is scratched the word “oro” in a rock. The area contains many more markings. Were these stone markings created by discouraged lost mine and treasure hunters? Or are they authentic Spanish markings? Could they be Native American in origin? Not far from the “oro” rock is a marker with the name “Fay Ward 1945.” Another question we could ask is how old do markings have to be to be historically significant? There are several other such markings on Black Top Mesa some dating as early as 1928. Many of the markings on Black Top Mesa came into being when Barry Storm published his books on the Peralta and Lost Dutchman Mines. All of these previous markings are on the south end of the mesa.

The north end of Black Top Mesa produces one of the finest preserved “oro” markings in the Superstition Wilderness Area. This marking has been visible for the past seventy years or so. It was first mentioned in a journal written sometime in the early nineteen twenties. If human history is important, and it appears to be in many circles, then the markings on Black Top Mesa have significant value as historical in our society. I am sure an archaeologist would not agree with this statement. However to archaeologists that study garbage dumps of the 1940s and 1950s they might be significant.

Black Top Mesa has many prospect holes dug in its surface. This mountain has attracted a host of Dutch hunters from around the world over the years. Their diggings bear testimony to their belief. These holes represent the dreams and hopes of prospectors and investors alike. The largest prospect is on the south end of Black Top Mesa at the base of the yellow welded tuff. This tunnel is about 60 feet long. This site over the years was worked by several different individuals hunting for gold or treasure.

Some of the more serious searchers were John Coombs and Walter Perrine. Probably every knowledgeable Dutch hunter has investigated Black Top Mesa at one time or another. Charles “Chuck” and Peggy Aylor maintained a camp in East Boulder Canyon directly below the cliffs of Black Top Mesa for more than two decades. Hank and Marion Harnish worked Black Top Mesa off and on for twenty years. They had base camps at Cowboy Camp, East Boulder and on top of Black Top Mesa. Dale Howard spent his share of time on the mountain searching for clues. Richard Peck looked at the mountain for awhile and moved on. Johnny Burbridge worked for years on the various markings he found on Black Top Mesa.

Robert E. Lee spent a lot of time and money on Black Top Mesa. He eventually produced a film and a book titled The Lost Dutchman Mine. Lee announced to the world he had found the location of the Dutchman’s lost mine on Black Top Mesa in his film. Many of these men and many more I have not named were convinced there was buried gold on Black Top Mesa and some of these men spent a lifetime searching for it.

The Forest Service has for years been filling in some of these old prospect holes. On December 31, 1983, the wilderness was withdrawn from mineral entry. This prohibited the prospectors from digging and stopped excavation operations in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The preservation of cultural history of this region is very difficult to preserve because of the policy of wilderness management. Only Native American sites and cultural materials are protected. Even hundred-year-old mining or ranching sites cannot be preserved for the future. Most non-Native American sites have been removed or destroyed because they are not conducive to the Wilderness Management Plan. There is an urgent need for many of the sites to have GPS coordinates recorded and preserved because the government does not allow plaques or any markings of the historical sites. 

Black Top is certainly one of the more interesting mountains within the wilderness area. It has played a significant role in the history of the area. Adolph Ruth’s remains were found on the slopes of Black Top Mesa in January od 1932 by William A. Barkley, Jeff Adams and members of a sheriff’s search posse. Ruth had disappeared the previous summer without much of a trace. Ruth’s death in the mountains created quite a furor in national headlines making this mountain well-known.

As long as there are dreamers there will be men and women searching for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. This is not to say the Dutchman’s mine doesn’t exist, but it does say, without dreamers there would be nobody searching for it.