Monday, July 27, 2009

The Thunder God

July 27, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

According to legend and myth the great The “Thunder God” roars during the summer months. Many of us do not find this hard to believe, if we have experienced a violent thunderstorm in the Apache Junction area during the summer. There are basically two types of storms that occur in our area.

The first storm type brings the central mountain area of Arizona its winter rains. These winter storms result from the general cyclonic patterns that move across the United States every ten days or so. These storms originate in the Aleutian Low in the Gulf of Alaska, and can dump enormous amounts of precipitation on Arizona below the Mogollon Rim if their course is altered by the jet stream. These storms will generally last four or five days with steady rainfall. This type of weather can be identified with the solid unbroken overcast resulting from Stratus clouds. These are what we call our winter storms and they are usually not violent in nature.

The second storm type is known as the Monsoons. These storms bring massive thunderstorms with heavy showers, lightning and sometime devastating winds called micro-bursts. During the summer months most of the storms over central Arizona and the eastern portion of the Superstition Mountain Wilderness result from warm, moist air flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. This air moves across Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mountains force the moist warm air upward forming clouds. These clouds release their moisture as they rise. This is known as orographic lift. The massive anvil-shaped thunderhead clouds that form over Superstition Mountain from July to September normally combine both orographic lift and convectional activity.

Convectional storm clouds result from the rapidly rising and expanding of warm moist air and rapidly falling cold moist air. Uneven heating of the earth’s surface causes convectional activity in the atmosphere.

Lightning can be caused by the attraction of unlike electrical charges within a thunderhead. The rapid movement of ice and water molecules, going up and down in a thunderhead cell, creates friction that results in an enormous amount of static electricity being produced. A single lightning discharge can produce about 30 million volts at 125,000 amperes. A discharge can occur in less than 1/10 of a second. The results of a lightning strike can be horrific.

The rapid rising and falling of warm and cold moist air also creates violent bursts of energy. This type of activity results in micro-bursts. These micro-bursts can develop winds, momentarily, up to 200 mph. As the clouds build and combine they form massive anvil-shaped thunderheads called cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds are massive static electric generators dispersing lightning and creating violent winds. These summer thunderstorms are extremely violent and can be very dangerous.

It is these giant thunderheads that dominate the sky above Superstition Mountain during the monsoon season. The lightning produced by these storms can be spectacular. According to most sources the safest place during a lightning storm is in an automobile. Don’t make yourself part of a lightning rod during an electrical storm by standing near a lone tree or on a high point. The use of your telephone during a violent lightning storm could be your last conversation. The same is true connecting to the Internet during a lightning storm. Standing near or in a swimming pool is asking to meet your maker. Boating on a lake during a lightning storm is certainly risking your chances of living to a ripe old age. Common sense needs to prevail during our violent thunder and lightning storms.

Most Arizona monsoon storms are associated with two other dangerous factors: flash floods and dust. A thunderstorm can dump three to five inches of rain over a small area in an hour and create a massive flash flood. A flash flood near Payson in the 1970’s claimed twenty-two campers along Christopher Creek. Many years ago I witnessed a four-foot wall of water that roared down Hewitt Canyon claiming a couple of trucks, horse trailers and animals. These flash floods result from heavy isolated downpours of rain in the mountains. There is often very little rain at the site of a flash flood.

Huge dust clouds are often associated with Monsoon storms in the desert. Local weather reporters are often referring to Monsoon generated dust storms as Haboob, named for the Egyptian dust storms that blow in from the Sahara or Sinai Deserts in North Africa.

Dust storms are extremely dangerous to automotive traffic along our state’s highways and freeways. Extreme caution should be used during these storms. It is recommended during these storms to pull as far off the highway as possible and turn your lights off. While waiting for the dust storm to blow over don’t rest your foot on the brake pedal. Your taillights or brake lights might attract reckless drivers wanting to follow you in the storm.

It is not difficult to see why the early Native Americans held Superstition Mountain with such awe. If you have ever witnessed a violent electrical storm over the mountain you can see why. We can partially explain the phenomena today with modern science, but the early Native Americans could only look to their Gods for an explanation. The storms were certainly caused by their “Thunder God” with all his might and fury.

We, as late arrivals, should still respect the awesome power of the “Thunder God.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day of the Cowboy

July 20, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Prior to roads and the horse drawn carriage the only means of travel between Superstition Mountain and the surrounding towns was by horseback or afoot. Since those long forgotten days little has changed within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Today one must still travel by foot or on horseback. The Department of Agriculture set aside approximately 124,040 acres of land within the Tonto National Forest in 1939 to insure the preservation of natural wonders in the Sonoran Desert. This wilderness was increased in size in 1984 to 159,780 acres. Today a continuous flow of hikers and horseback riders travel these ancient Indian and early cattle trails to experience the isolation and tranquility of the Superstition Wilderness.

The cowboy was a significant part of this geographical region between 1870 and 1990. Only in the last decade or so were cattle permits removed from the Superstition Wilderness Area. Since the first settlers arrived in this area it has been known as the most hostile and rugged cattle range in the American Southwest. The first cattlemen fought Indians, drought, heat, famine, disease, and winter storms to graze their cattle in the deep canyons and on the towering ridges of the Superstition Wilderness. A very rugged breed of cowman evolved while taming this hostile environment.

These cattle drovers first arrived here from New Mexico and Texas shortly after the discovery of rich mining properties in the central mountains of Arizona Territory. Copper and silver were first discovered around Globe just after the American Civil War. The first cattle herds arrived around 1870-1871. The small valley flats between the towering ridges and cliffs served as grazing range. The discovery of the Silver King Mine in 1875 opened the region to cattle ranching because of the tremendous demand for beef on the hoof. This was the era before refrigeration. Robert A. Irion brought a herd into the Superstition mountain area from Montana in 1878. He eventually developed the Pinal Ranch (Craig Ranch) at Sutton’s Summit on U.S. Highway 60. Sutton’s Summit is known to some people these days as “The Top of the World.” Actually “The Top of the World” was located down the road toward Miami about six more miles.

The sharp spines of desert flora, the summer heat, the long droughts and the cold winters were nothing new for these early cowbboys. Many of the cattlemen came to reap the profits associated with providing beef for the early mining camps that dotted the landscape of central Arizona. The miners purchased tons of beef, making cattle raising a very lucrative industry in the Superstition Mountain area. The somewhat mild climate, good grazing and the nearby market convinced many of the cattlemen to stay on permanently. As the mining industry grew so did the cattle business. The cowboy was soon a common figure in the isolated canyons of the Superstition Mountain region.

Hardships were very common on these early cattle spreads. There were no permanent shelters or medical facilities. If a cowboy broke an arm or leg his only doctor was his partner or himself. If he picked up a stray bullet he prayed that he could make it back to headquarters before infection set in. Infection was the greatest killer of man and beast in those days. Survival was for the strongest because the weak often perished.

The early cowboy’s diet consisted of jerked beef, pinto beans, chili and hardtack. His revolver or rifle was his constant companion. Either weapon was used against his many enemies. These enemies could include an occasional Apache, cattle rustler, rattlesnake, lion or bear.

A cowboy’s horse was his most important means of survival. A solid and sound horse meant the difference between life and death in the wilds of the Superstition Mountains. The care of his horse was the most important chore of the cowboy’s daily routine. Most of these cowboys had a string of five to seven horses and rotated between them when working cattle. Providing care for these animals required a considerable amount of time. There was always an animal to doctor, shod, or train. A cowboy’s work day was from sun till sun and his work was never done. There were always fences to mend, water holes to repair, windmills to work on, stock to check, tact to care for and every other job associated with cattle ranching.

The advent of barbed wire changed the early cowboy’s way of life in the rugged Superstition Mountain region. Barbed wire forever ended an open and free range. The entire range was eventually divided off into grazing allotments. Names like Reavis, Mill Site, Tortilla, First Water, and JF are just a few of these old allotments. When Taylor Grazing was finally establishment the option of open range was gone forever. The colorful and romantic life of the cowboy so often portrayed by western writers was more fantasy than reality.

Dane Coolidge probably portrayed the American cowboy better than any other writer of his time. Russell, Leigh and Remington also portrayed the cowboy on their canvases with extreme accuracy.

A herd, including cows, calves and a couple of bulls would be cared for by one cowboy. Most of these herds numbered between a hundred and three hundred head. Each spring and fall a rodeo (roundup) was conducted to gather the cattle from the open range. The purpose of the roundup was to brand, castrate and doctor calves. Yearling steers were generally separated from the herd and driven to the nearest point of need. A typical roundup area consisted of temporary catch-pens, but most often it was open ground-work without the benefit of a corral. Open ground-work consisted of roping a wild range calf, taking it away from its wild mother.

Then you threw the calf to the ground without the benefit of a corral or catch pen while keeping the irate cow at bay, you then branded, castrated, dehorned and completed other necessary chores. The cattle drovers and cattle barons of the Superstition Mountain area have long since disappeared. The great herds that once grazed the region under the brand of the Clemens Cattle Company and others have also since vanished. At the peak of the Clemans operation more than 12,000 head of cattle grazed the eastern fringe of the wilderness. These huge herds overgrazed and destroyed much of the range. Through the use of careful range management techniques much of the old range is returning to its original state. There are many controversies associated with grazing and non-grazing within the wilderness. Some range managers believe grazing helps to reduce wildfires while other believed, without wildfires the soil becomes infertile. This controversy continues among range managers today.

What distinguished a cowboy from other working men during this period? Cowboys generally dressed a bit different then other workers because they worked outdoors most of the time. Large brimmed hats were common. Levi trousers, and heavy denim or cotton shirts, and of course pointed toed high top boots with extended heels were popular with cowboys. Cowboys often carried a rope, folding knife, bandana, chaps, and sometimes a Winchester rifle or Colt revolver.

Life was not easy on the open range, but it did have its rewards. Those old range riders may not have frequented churches very often, but they were close to their God and the work of his mighty hand. A cowboy’s sense of freedom and free spirit was unequaled anywhere else in the country. Cowboys rode through life uninterrupted by the complexities of urban society. They generally didn’t lay awake at night listening to sirens, bells and the noise of modern traffic. Their nights were filled with silence occasionally interrupted by the lonesome call of a coyote or other sounds of night.

The cowboy recognized the value of sitting astride his horse and traveling with the wind in his face. Hollywood has immortalized the free spirit of the American cowboy, therefore helping preserve some of the ideals of our freedom. These old time cowboys and their horses were true icons of freedom and they definitely have a place in the history of the Superstition Wilderness Area and Americana. Hollywood certainly captured the persona of the American cowboy and his spirit and spread it across America.

The large cattle ranches of the Superstition Wilderness have long since vanished from the Arizona scene. Conservation methods did not destroy them. The high cost of operation, limited grazing and strict controls on public grazing lands have reduced the productivity of these once large cattle empires to almost nothing. Feeder pens are slowly replacing the range beef of the past. Today only a few isolated ranches survive, symbolic of a time forgotten by many.

Today men like Billy Martin Jr., George Martin, Frank Herron and Chuck Backus try to hang on to the tradition of cattle ranching in the Superstition Mountain region. These cattlemen and cowboys are certainly a part of the history of the Superstition Wilderness and our American heritage.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Peralta Stone Maps, Part 2

July 13, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Clarence Mitchell began searching the Superstition Mountain area for the site he believed was indicated on the stone maps. He was very secretive about all of his operations in the Superstition Mountains, unless he was needing capital to operate. Mitchell received a big break when he convinced a naïve free lance writer to tell the story of the stone maps in Life magazine in July 1964. This article brought unbelievable notoriety for Mitchell and his now famous Peralta Stone Maps.

A photograph in the article showed Mitchell crouched down behind a rock hiding from people who he claimed was trying to find his treasure site. The article revealed for the first time public photographs of the stone maps. Certain markings on the maps were covered with black tape. These photographs fired the imagination of this nation’s treasure hunting society even though the stone maps were not totally revealed.

Early in 1965 Mitchell released a book he wrote under the nom de plume Travis Marlowe titled Superstition Treasures published by the Tyler Printing Company in Phoenix. By late 1968 Mitchell had milked his golden cow just about dry. He made many investments in the Tucson area and moved there from Apache Junction. He and Tummilson’s widow donated the stone maps to the Flagg Foundation who in turn loaned them to the Arizona Mineral Museum. Finally, both Arizona and Nevada ordered Mitchell to desist selling stock in the M.O.E.L. Corporation or he would be indicted for fraud.

The so-called Peralta Stone Maps did not go away. The Flagg Foundation asked to put them on display. They appeared at the Don’s Club Trek, First National Bank, Arizona, Arizona State Mineral Museum and finally the Mesa Southwest Museum. The Mesa Southwest Museum returned the stone maps to the Arizona State Mineral Museum in Phoenix in the early 1990s. The State Mineral Museum continued public display of the maps helped to perpetuate their legacy. Eventually the Stone Maps were taken off public display. Today the Peralta Stone Maps are on display at the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction. They will be on display there until 2011.

Barry Storm, in 1967, wrote an article for Treasure Hunters in an attempt to decipher the Peralta Stone Maps. At this point you must remember, Barry Storm was the “Dean of the Treasure Hunters” in America. Storm’s feeble attempt to explain the stone maps led to more confusion and consternation among those who knew the stone maps were probably a fraud. Storm’s work was followed by a variety of writers, photographers and film makers using the stone maps as a factual source for treasure hunting in the Superstition Mountain area.

More than ninety per cent of the fraudulent schemes involving the Superstition Mountains are perpetrated with the so-called Peralta Stone Maps. Those seeking a huge return on their investment or the super greedy are often caught up in schemes such as those often perpetrated by the use of the Peralta Stone Maps. Con artists are always looking for something to lure their investors with. The only con artist successfully prosecuted by the law for using the stone maps in a fraudulent manner was Robert Simpson Jacob better known as “Crazy Jake.” Jacob and his various schemes have become legendary in the Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Scottsdale areas. “Crazy Jake”, as he liked to be called, operated a base camp in Squaw Box Canyon in the early days (1965-1978) then moved his operation to the western edge of Peter’s Mesa just above Squaw Box Canyon.

When Jacob was indicted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in 1986, it was estimated he had defrauded more than thirty million dollars out of the private sector. Investigators were able to document some nine million dollars Jacob had acquired. Today, little or none of this money has been found or accounted for. It is believed most of this money was spent frivolously by Jacob. Robert Simpson Jacob was sentenced to ten years in prison and fined $145,000. He was released in 1991 after serving three years.

Jacob, like those before him, could see the opportunity the stone maps presented. They were impossible to disprove therefore making their authenticity more believable.

Historians, college professors, scientist and layman have all tried to explain the origin of these dubious artifacts. Some of the simplest questions about them can not be answered. For example, how old are these stone maps?

Attorney General Bob Corbin was in Washington for a meeting and he talked to a friend of an FBI analyst who said the maps were at least one hundred years old, however Bob never observed any documentation supporting this
statement. He was just told that the stone maps were investigated when M.O.E.L. Corporation was being investigated for fraud.

Dr. Charles Polzer, Jesuit historian at the University of Arizona (now deceased), believed the stone maps were totally fraud. Polzer told me personally no amount of research can convince him the stone maps were authentic.

However, research has developed some interesting leads, but none of them can be properly documented. An early Arizona periodical had a brief story about some stone maps being found in some mountains in southern Sonora or northern Durango in Mexico. These maps were never linked to the Superstition Mountains or Arizona.

A small segment of Arizona historians believe the stone maps may have been used by the Baron of Arizona, James Addison Reavis, to help verify the legitimacy of his land grant claim to much of Arizona and New Mexico territory in the 1880’s. Reavis was a meticulous organizer and planner.

He was also an expert forger. He changed documents in Spanish and Mexican archives to coincide with his claim to the Peralta- Reavis Land Grant a decade later. It would not have been something difficult for him to have planned or used stone markers for his fraudulent Spanish land grant. There are several historians who suggest the stone maps may have been markers for such a purpose.

Still other stories exist as to the origin of these notorious stone maps. Fifty years ago it was rumored that a cowboy who lived along Queen Creek carved the stone maps and buried them near Black Point to confuse treasure hunters. This old cowboy did a lot of stone work for Clemans Cattle Company at the old Upper Fraser Ranch known today as the Reavis Ranch. The story is that this old man was a stone engraver at a cemetery back East and gave up the job to become a cowboy in the West.

If indeed the Peralta Stone Maps were authentic the United States Government would have confiscated them under the Antiquities Act. Today, if indeed, they are as old as many claim and are of Spanish origin they would be in a museum in Washington D.C., not where they are today. If these stones were what some many claim they would be a national treasure.

As you can see this is just another explanation for the infamous and notorious Peralta Stone Maps. The stone maps have created as many enemies as they have friends. The Peralta Stone Maps will survive as long as there are those who follow in the “Footsteps of Coronado’s Children.”

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Peralta Stone Maps, Part 1

July 6, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The topic of the Peralta Stone maps have been one of the most interesting subjects associated with the Superstition Mountain area. These four stone maps maps continue to mystify and confuse those who try to interpret them. The greatest amount confusion involving these maps is associated with their origin and whether they are genuine or not.

The origin of these stone maps is dubious at best and still causes heated discussions among historians and treasure hunters. Stories about the stone maps vary from storyteller to storyteller as to their authenticity. Many periodicals have been written about the Peralta Stone Maps over the past three decades without any conclusive or sound evidence pointing to their origin or meaning.

Old “Doc” Ludwig G. Roscrans told me he saw the stone maps about three weeks after they were discovered near Florence Junction in 1949. He said he talked to the Mexican bracero (migrant worker) who had discovered the maps originally and then sold them to a tourist from Oregon.

Today there are many versions of this story. Bob Ward took me to a location east of Black Point, pointed to a hole and said that was were the stone maps were recovered. Bob arrived in the area about 1958. The strongest oral evidence suggests the maps were discovered near Black Point. However, all of this information is based on subjective testimony.

The stone maps are an excellent piece of art in many respects. It is obvious whoever carved the stone maps was familiar with carving in stone. There are those who claim the stone maps are made of material that can not be found in this area. The stone maps, according to some, are made out of soft sandstone more conducive to the Colorado Plateau region in northeastern Arizona than the desert areas around the Superstition Wilderness Area. However, there are some very soft pseudo-sandstone rock near Oak Flats between Superior and Miami that might have yielded the material for these maps.

Robert G. Garman knew the Mexican bracero who was working for John Hart building a fence near the north bank of Queen Creek east of the highway (U.S. Highway 60-70), who made the original discovery. The fence was aligned east to west near Black Point. The bracero, while setting post for this fence, noticed an unusually large flat stone in the side of his post hole. He worked the stone lose and found it had cryptic writing on it. He also recognized a Spanish word. He also noticed the rock was covered with Indian petroglyphs and some Spanish markings. Not understanding the significance of his discovery the Bracero hauled the stone to Florence Junction, a few miles away. He planned on selling the stone to a passing tourist for a few dollars.

He arrived at Florence Junction after walking and lugging the flat stone some three miles. He borrowed a water hose at the service station and washed the stone off, carefully preparing it for a curious tourist. He found such a person in Robert G. Tummilson of Portland, Oregon. Tummilson, a retired police officer, examined the rock and decided a fair price would be $10.00. This was almost a week’s wages for the Mexican laborer. Tummilson was now the proud owner of a stone with some cryptic writing on it. After this interesting purchase Tummilson continued his journey on to Phoenix to visit his brother. Once at his brother’s house Tummilson decided to wash the rock thoroughly and re-examine it. Tummilson and his brother immediately recognized this was no ordinary petroglyph of Native American origin, but some kind of coded map in Spanish.

The two brothers were convinced this stone slab was Spanish or Mexican in origin. The so-called Peralta Stone Maps have changed hands several times over the past fifty years. These mysterious slabs of rock have been called frauds by historians.

There are claims the stone maps were found on the Gila River near Dos Lomas. If indeed these stone maps were found by the Tummilson brothers as they claimed and if a Mexican bracero actually found them, why wasn’t the discovery better documented with more photographs, notes and field sketches? Tummilson was a retired police officer trained in accurate note taking and crime scene preservation. The lack of evidential commitment at the discovery site of the stone slabs seriously damages the authenticity of the discovery. There is a counter argument to evidential commitment at the site. It could be, according to Garman and others, Tummilson wanted to control all information disseminated about the stone maps. This is not a sound argument in itself because Tummilson had no idea what he had discovered. He did not know if they were authentic or fraudulent.

Not all of the foregoing information was supplied by Robert L. Garman. Some of the information came from Ludwig G. Rosecrans and others interested in the stone maps. Doc Rosecrans had a copy of the photograph of the maps on Tummilson’s car given to him by Tummilson himself. Tummilson died and the stone maps eventually ally changed hands. The stones emerged again in the early 1960s. There were very few people who knew about the stone maps existence prior to1962.

Clarence O. Mitchell met Tumilson’s widow and was able to convince her he could decipher the stone maps. Once Mitchell had the stone maps in his possession he decided from Kollenborn, A-4 to form a stock investment corporation based on solving this mystery. Mitchell and his wife organized the M.O.E.L. Corp. in Nevada and began a stock selling campaign among their friends and close associates.

The M.O.E.L. Corp. soon flourished when Mitchell convinced investors he needed money to search for the treasure indicated by the stone maps. According to documents Mitchell and his wife raised more than $70,000 over a two-year period. They were so successful in Nevada they decided to branch out into Arizona.
Next week, Part 2.

Be sure to visit the Superstition Mountain Museum and see the Peralta Stones for yourself at 4087 N. Apache Trail State Rt. 88, Apache Junction. For more information call (480) 983-4888