Monday, May 25, 2009

The Pack Rat's Gold

May 25, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Several people over the years have asked me to tell stories I’ve heard in the mountains around campfires. This will be one of those stories.

My dad, George Kollenborn, along with Bill Cage, “Monument” Smith and I hiked into Charlebois Spring in the fall of 1950. This was the last trip for both Bill Cage and my father. Bill Cage had invited “Monument” Smith to go along with us on this trip. It certainly was a memorable trip for me.

I recall the day as being warm, but not really hot. We took our time because Bill was seventy-eight, but in very good shape. My dad was still in quite good shape at fiftysix years of age. Bill Cage wanted to make it to Charlebois Spring by the end of our first day. We had departed Barkley’s First Water Ranch about 7 a.m. that morning. We arrived at Charlebois Spring about 3 p.m. and set camp for the night.

This was a very exciting time for me to be with my father and old Bill Cage. My mind was on finding a lost mine so rich we would never have to worry again.

As we sat around the camp- fire that evening at Charlebois, I listened while Bill Cage told my dad the story of the “Pack Rat’s Gold.” This story has some validity, but it would have been just another gold story if it hadn’t been for the man who was telling it. Bill Cage had lived most of his life in Arizona. He apprenticed as a blacksmith in Phoenix in the late 1880’s. He had heard many of tales about mineral riches in the mountains around the Salt River Valley. Most, he said, were pure fiction, but others had some merit.
“George,” he said that night in the flickering light of our campfire, “Nearly thirty years ago, to this day, an interesting thing happened to my partner and I on Peter’s Mesa just above us here.”

Cage continued talking about camping somewhere immediately below a bee hive in Peter’s Canyon. He talked about how the night was very cold. “There was a roaring campfire going up against some rocks so it would reflect the heat toward us. This heat disturbed a Pack rat living nearby.

The rat started packing up his abode then searched for a better place to live or at least better suited for his lifestyle. Soon the pack rat had a trail of debris from his old home to his new home. I kept talking and watching the Pack rat with the problem of moving his residences.

“It was at this point old “Monument” Smith saw something that caught his eye. Smith picked up a small twig and started sorting through the Pack rat’s trail of debris. It wasn’t long before Smith came up with what he thought he had observed.

“Look here Cage,” he called out calmly. “Look at this bonanza ore this damn pack rat had in his nest. Where did the gold come from?”

Bill Cage examined the small pieces of gold ore and said it was very rich. Cage knew the ore was definitely bonanza quality by its richness. Cage also recognized something else. There were small pieces of rotten leather. The kind of leather you would find in old pouches, definitely not in saddlebags. Saddlebag leather is much heavier than pouch leather.

In the flickering embers of our fire “Monument” Smith verified the story old Bill Cage told. Stories like these have attracted gold seekers to Peter’s Mesa for the past century.

This story kept “Monument” Smith searching for gold on Peter’s Mesa for another decade. Bill Cage always figured some prospector lost his gold pouch and the pack rat found it. When old “Monument Smith” passed away he had known one thing for sure. He had found rich gold ore in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona thanks to a pack rat. Old Bill Cage also was convinced there was gold in the Peter’s Mesa area.

A lot of men have searched for gold on Peter’s Mesa over the past eighty years and many of them believe there is a rich gold mine to be located there. Geologically Peter’s Mesa might have more promise than other areas of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Ironically only traces of gold have ever been found on Peter’s Mesa. These traces are so minute it would not be profitable to mine them.

That trip, almost 60 years years ago, reminds me of the many wonderful adventures I have been so fortunate to enjoy. I never put a lot of faith in this story because of the circumstances surrounding it. Old “Monument” Smith might have planted the gold placer shortly before he called our attention to it. Who knows for sure? “Monument” Smith wanted to be remembered for something to do with the Superstition Mountains.

Several years ago I was told there were a couple of old timers who went by the name of “Monument” Smith. If this were true it would only further complicate this story. Believe me every story has its way of bending the truth and facts. Understanding the objective and subjective information is very important in finding the truth.

Always remember; just because somebody says something, even if you respect them as an authority, it doesn’t mean it’s true. That said, all lost gold stories should be taken with a “grain of salt.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ron Lorenz

May 18, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Early in September of 1974 I walked into my classroom to prepare for another evening adult class sponsored by Central Arizona College titled “Prospecting the Superstitions.” There at my door stood a small young man with a receding hairline awaiting my arrival. He asked me if this was where the Superstition class was being taught for the college. He assured me he had signed up for the class by immediately producing a receipt. To this day I can still recall what he was wearing. He had on dark slacks, a white shirt and tie. He had a name badge with letters that spelled out RON LORENZ. His name badge had basically introduced us and began a friendship that lasted thirty years.

Ron was the type of student who constantly wanted to learn more, however in class he was a bit shy and seldom participated in discussion. As soon as class was over at 9:30 p.m. he was anxious to talk with me about the Superstition Mountains. He was fascinated with anything to do with the mountains. The class met two and half-hours each evening for sixteen weeks. By the time the semester was over Ron Lorenz was soon a friend of my wife and I. He would drop by our home almost daily, we would visit and he often joined us at the dinner table.

Our friendship with Ron Lorenz continued to grow over the years. Ron worked for A.J. Bayless in Apache Junction for many years as the dairy manager. It was during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Ron and I started making trips in the Superstition Wilderness Area. He dreamed about learning to ride horses. At the time I had a real gentle horse name Ringo. Ron went on many trips horseback with me as he learned to ride. I tried my best to treat Ron as an equal and we rode over the trails of the Superstition Wilderness.

Ron also loved to collect anything about the Superstition Mountains. He was always looking for books and any other item that might be related to the Superstition Mountains. Greg Davis, Ron Lorenz and I began to build a large collection of periodicals, books, records, photographs, and other miscellaneous items on the Superstition Mountain. We traded with each other and made every attempt to help each other find any special book or periodical. Ron was so dedicated to this preservation of periodical history he traveled to California to meet with Greg Davis and copy several thousand items. He had to sacrifice his one-week vacation. This was certainly dedication, which was how Ron Lorenz was. He was dedicated to what he believed and nothing really ever deterred him.

Ron decided he wanted to go along with us on a five-day pack trip into the Superstition Mountains in March of 1983. We hired a packer and camp cook. We planned to ride for five days out of Tortilla Ranch in March. We planned on visiting the true inner sanctum of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Again Ron had sacrificed his week’s vacation for this opportunity. We got our gear up to the old Tortilla Ranch and set up our tents.

One of the wettest winter storms hit the area for the next three days. It was so miserable we just about abandoned the trip. We did ride the first day. The next two days we spent trying to keep dry. The third day we looked like drowned rats. Here was Ron still upbeat and looking forward to the trip after three days of rain and we only had two days of riding left if it cleared up. He was the eternal optimist.

Finally the rain let up and we got to ride the last two days through streambeds filled with water. The last two days of riding made up for the first three days of rain because the wilderness was so beautiful with all this rain. Ron found something positive with about every little thing that week. This illustrated the kind of person he was under sometimes really bad conditions.

Ron, Greg and I made several trips into the Superstition Wilderness Area on horseback during the late 1970’s and most of the 1980’s. Ron eventually took a job in Mesa working for Fry’s Super Market and we didn’t see him as often, however I heard from him on the phone regularly. Ron was always proud of the fact he was in the grocery business. He was dedicated to his job and he had excellent job ethics. Ron was the kind of person you could always depend on.

Ron Lorenz was one of the founding board members of the Superstition Mountain Historical Society and a very active member in the building of the Superstition Mountain-Lost Dutchman Museum. All of the years he collected material on the Superstition Wilderness Area it was always his plan to donate it to the Superstition Mountain Historical Society.

Ron was an avid photographer and he took hundreds of photographs and slides of the Superstition Wilderness and historical sites located in the region. His collection is now housed by the Superstition Mountain-Lost Dutchman Museum.

The members of the Superstition Mountain Historical Society should dedicate their future and success to members like Mr. Ronald A. Lorenz. His epitaph should read, he was truly a proud American, a very dedicated employee and he worked diligently to assist many worthy non-profit organizations that assisted those in need.

We are all better off for knowing Ron Lorenz. He is the kind of person we should never forget. If we modeled our lives after his, this world would be a better place in which to live. Ron Lorenz certainly followed in the footsteps of Frank Dobie’s Coronado’s Children.

Ronald A. Lorenz was born in Wadena, Minnesota on February 1, 1952 and passed away in Mesa, Arizona on October 11, 2004. He was interned at the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Mesa.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kit Carson Mountain

May 11, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

History is often best served by the preservation of landmark names. The Superstition Wilderness is filled with landmarks significant of historical mention. It is very difficult to research the history of a given area if all the historical landmarks have been changed or erased. What if we became tired of place names like Roosevelt Dam, the Apache Trail and Apache Junction or maybe even Arizona?

Shortly after the turn of the century, Tortilla Mountain was a victim to a place name change. Early in 1915 a group of enterprising concession entrepreneurs from Phoenix arbitrarily decided to change all the names along the Mesa-Roosevelt Road (Apache Trail) because they believed more romantic names were needed for tourists. The group felt place names in general along the road were quite sterile and needed a more Spanish or Western flavor. One of the first name changes was the Mesa-Roosevelt Road to the Apache Trail. A young Southern Pacific Rail Road ticket agent named Watson is accredited with naming the Apache Trail.

Names such as the Bronze Wall, Treasure Pass, Coronado Mountain and Kit Carson Mountain begin to appear on travel maps and brochures promoting the beauty of the Apache Trail, the Canyon of the Salt River and Roosevelt Lake. This occurred around 1916.

These changes, for the most part, went unnoticed by most Arizona residents. The concession entrepreneurs that changed the place names along the Apache Trail were not very sensitive to the recommendations of Arizona historians. There was one Arizona historian whose ire was raised. This man was James A. McClintock. His first response was indicative of his outrage.

“Who are these men that would change our pioneer names— change the meaning of Arizona History?,” said McClintock.

McClintock was a noted Arizona historian. He had been deeply involved with the development of the Roosevelt Dam site and had suggested the survey route of the Apache Trail.

He had served with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.

McClintock immediately appealed to the Arizona legislature to set up a historical place name commission that would oversee the naming and renaming of Arizona landmarks.

The legislature formed the Historical Landmark Commission and McClintock was appointed to the commission in 1919.
McClintock soon pointed out Kit Carson was never near Superstition Mountain nor was the Spanish explorer Coronado. The twenty or so place names changed during this period had no historical documentation to support such a change other than the desire by the concession entrepreneurs of the Southern Pacific Rail Road to please the appetite of Wild West tourist. Ironically McClintock had faced down the most powerful lobby in the Arizona legislature, the railroads, when he defied the change of place names along the Apache Trail.

Kit Carson Mountain was changed back to Tortilla Mountain (near Hayden, Az.). The place name Coronado Mountain for Superstition Mountain did not survive one year. The names, the Bronze Wall, Lookout Point, Inspiration Point and Treasure Pass did linger on for a few years.

Arizona place names are often confusing enough, but to mix them with romantic history of the times distracts from the true pioneer history of the state.

There are always those people who want to change pioneer names or geographic landmarks to better suit their needs with little or no consideration for history. Recently, we have been told, the place names within the Superstition Wilderness Area do not actually exist, the only purpose for the names remaining on maps are for emergency use by rescue units. The names have no historical significance in a wilderness area.

Personally, I totally disagree with this philosophy. It is ironic some people believe we should totally ignore our heritage for the satisfaction of the future generations. Can you imagine changing the name of Potomac River, or the Hudson River? Can you imagine changing the name Washington D.C. to better suit the economic climate of this nation? The Southwest has a strong heritage were historical names are of enormous value. Future bureaucrats could easily make such adjustments in American history.

The name Apache Trail is the most significant named land mark from this period of Arizona history. The strong railroad lobby was able to name the Apache Trail to better suit its bid for tourism in Arizona along the Southern Pacific Railroad.

The Apache Trail was originally called the Tonto Wagon Road; it was named the Mesa-Roosevelt Haul Road and eventually the Apache Trail. Between 1880 and 1950 railroads had a powerful lobby in our state legislature and controlled the naming of many of our states landmarks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Jacob Waltz and the Mexican Mines

May 4, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The subject of Mexican mining north of the Gila River has often conjured up tales of lost gold mines and treasure. My father was involved in mining most of his life and found prospecting and mineral collecting a wonderful and relaxing hobby. My interest in mining, prospecting, lost mines and even treasure was nurtured by my father’s interest.

Father’s best friend was an old man named Bill Cage. Cage had worked at the Old Dominion mine in Globe, the Magma in Superior and many other Arizona mines prior to 1930. Bill worked for my father from 1941 until 1952. If I recall correctly Bill Cage was born in 1869 somewhere in Indiana.

His family supposedly moved to the Salt River Valley around 1879. Bill became a blacksmith apprentice in Phoenix around1885. Cage worked in the Phoenix area for about ten years before moving to Globe and working at the Old Dominion mine. During Cage’s blacksmith apprenticeship in Phoenix he met many of the old timers and prospectors. Bill spoke quite fluent German. My father’s German was also quite fluent. My father and Bill became great friends even though there was some twenty-five years difference in their ages.

Bill Cage showed up at Christmas, Arizona looking for a job in November of 1941. Bill told Morris Watson, the level foreman, he was looking for work. He further said he was too old for the draft. World War II had just begun for the United States and many young Americans were joining the military service. Morris Watson asked Bill Cage how old he was. He told Morris he was seventy-two years old but in good shape. My dad asked him what kind of work he did.

Cage told my father he was a blacksmith and had worked at mines before. Finally Morris and my dad agreed to hire Bill Cage and gave him a try. Good blacksmiths were hard to find and the mine certainly needed help with the new demand for more copper production because of the war.

Bill Cage was an excellent blacksmith and could work circles around men twenty years younger then him. Bill Cage worked for my dad until he was eighty-four years old. He was one of the best blacksmiths ever employed at the Christmas Metal Shop.

The hiring of Bill Cage united two men who were interested in the Superstition Mountains and the tale of the Lost Dutchman Mine. Bill Cage could hike just about anywhere at his age. My father soon found out he had many ideas about the location of lost gold in the Superstition Mountains. Bill talked a lot about Mexican mines around the Silver King and Goldfield area. Father and Cage made only four trips into the Superstition Mountains during the war years. The mine’s production schedule kept my father tied to his job and he had little time to spend in the mountains.

Bill Cage and my father were both convinced there were Mexican mines in the Superstition Mountain region. Cage believed without a doubt that Jacob Waltz had found one of the many rich Mexican mines in the area. Cage offered an old drift or adit in Gold Rush Canyon as proof of Mexican mining in the area. Today Gold Rush Canyon no longer exists. The canyon has been obliterated by open pit mining in the area.

Bill told my dad he knew the old “Dutchman Jacob Waltz” when he was an apprentice blacksmith in Phoenix in the 1880’s. Bill further informed my father the “Dutchman” Waltz was a very secretive man and talked to very few people. Bill said he repaired a special short shovel for him, made him special chisels and made him a small pick. He also said he worked on his pack saddles a couple of times. Cage said Waltz often rode a dark mule and had two or three pack burros in his string when he went into the mountains.

Dad asked Bill if he ever saw any of the Dutchman’s gold. Bill told my father he would have to be honest about that and said no. Bill further told my father Waltz prospected during the winter months and worked during the summer months on irrigation ditches for different farmers along the north bank of the Salt River. He also said Waltz had a good size truck garden and raised a lot of vegetables. He further said Waltz raised chickens, a few rabbits and a couple of goats. Cage further stated Waltz claimed to have a friend in the mountain he visited several times over the years. He never said what mountains or what his friends name was. Cage never named Waltz’s friend, but I would surmise it was Elisha M. Reavis.

When Bill Cage passed on in 1959, at the ripe old age of ninety, he left behind an interesting life. He had prospected the Superstition Mountains off and on for almost sixty years. He left my father with a legacy about the life of an old man who loved to search for lost gold and treasure. This lure of gold in the Superstition Mountains had attracted a wide range of personalities who believed strongly in the possibility of a lost gold mine or cache in the area.

The legacy of Jacob Waltz, the old Dutchman and the Lost Dutchman mine, continues to attract men and women from around the nation and the world.

Recent discoveries such as ancient tunnels seem to indicate Mexican miners and prospectors may have entered the Superstition Mountain region prior to 1850. These miners and prospectors probably came from the Santa Cruz and San Pedro river valleys.