Monday, November 30, 2009

Don Shade - A Man and His Dream

November 30, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Since 1946 many individuals have played a significant role in the Superstition Mountain drama. One such person was Don Shade. Not everyone was close to Don and understood his love for the mountains. However, a casual conversation with him would definitely convince you of his love affair with the Superstition Wilderness and its many stories. I first met Don Shade in 1961. He was preparing to go into the Superstition Wilderness from the First Water trailhead. It was I who prompted our meeting. I could tell Don was a Dutch hunter just by the kind of gear he was packing into the mountains. We talked briefly and this began a friendship that lasted more than two decades. Don Shade was an old timer when it came to Dutch hunting. He began his search with men like Barry Storm in the early 1950s. Don considered Barry Storm a good friend. Don told me about how Barry moved the “Two Soldiers” story from the Mount Ord area to the Weaver’s Needle area. I recalled one time sitting on the porch of the Bluebird talking to Barry Storm and Don Shade. Don made a couple of trips with Barry to Arizona when he was selling books. I don’t recall what year these trips occurred, but I am guessing it was in the early 1960s.

Don Shade was a dedicated and systematic Dutch hunter. He was reluctant to share his information with anyone. The last several years of his life was spent at the O.K. Corral in Apache Junction. Don became a close friend of Ron and Jayne Feldman and he often helped out around the corral. When Don and I re-established our friendship Don talked about some of the more bizarre possibilities associated with the Superstition Mountains and lost treasure. He was always trying to solve the mysterious content on several maps, especially those with cryptic symbolism.

It was toward the end of 1980 Don Shade came across a cryptic map allegedly given to somebody by Marie Jones, the infamous adversary of Ed Piper’s near Weaver’s Needle. It was the same map Charles Kenworthy had analyzed by several different universities including UCLA, Harvard, MIT and Hebrew University in Israel because he believed the map was in some form of Hebrew. The origin of the map was and still remains unknown, however there were stories about its source. One story claims the map was originally found on a flat sheet of native copper. This sheet of copper had been rolled up and found buried in the Superstition Mountains at some undisclosed location. Kenworthy had worked on deciphering this map for several years.

Don Shade found the map extremely interesting. The origin of the map was never established, but Shade eventually pronounced the map authentic and placed it in his book, Esperanza on page 104. Don claimed to have located a worked out mine from the information he gathered from this map. The site of the mine was in a rugged tributary of Old West Boulder Canyon. Several years ago in late May I rode into the canyon and packed Don Shade and his camp out of this area. On this particular occasion Shade was really pleased to see me in his camp. It was getting hot, he was low on water and he needed to get out of the mountains. Don always kept sufficient supplies in camp. He always had lots of water hidden about his camp, however this had been a dry year. As I was packing his gear he said he could have lasted most of the summer if nobody had showed up to pack him out. He was seventy-six years old that spring.

Don Shade had some unusual methods that helped him to interpolate his ideas with other original information. It was this type of research that led Don to the site near Old West Boulder Canyon twenty- five years ago.

Don Shade never gave up his search for the Dutchman’s Mine. He did eventually publish his book, The World Famous Lost Dutchman Mine: Esperanza in 1994. Don Shade was an intelligent and interesting individual. You might find a copy of his book in the City of Apache Junction’s Library. He was a kind and honest person dedicated to history and legends of Superstition Mountain.

Donald Maurice Shade was born on August 28, 1915 in Hubbard, Iowa. Don was an outstanding athlete in high school. He was a four-year letterman in basketball and earned all-state honors as a shooting guard. Don attended college between 1935-1938 majoring in business law. Don Shade enlisted in the United States Army in 1940 and was discharged in 1946 as a Sergeant Major. Don fought in many of the major battles in Europe during World War II. Shade became fascinated with the Superstition Mountains and its many stories in early 1960’s. For more than thirty-five years Don Shade researched libraries and prospected the Superstition Mountains. Don passed away on November 3, 1996, ending an almost four decade quest for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Origin of the Lost Dutchman's Mine Story, Part 2

November 23, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Spirits were high among the three very amateur adventurers searching for Waltz’ lost gold mine, but the tortuous summer heat and humidity soon took its toll. Toward the middle of the second week it was impossible to search accept in the very early morning or late evening. At the end of the third week the three explorers collapsed from exhaustion, lack of food and water. The search for Waltz’s mine was abandoned and the three returned to Phoenix exhausted, defeated and unsuccessful.

A local newspaper, the Arizona Weekly Gazette, noted the expedition with the following excerpt on September 1, 1892, “A Queer Quest, Another Lost Mine Being Hunted by a Woman.”

This prospecting venture reduced Julia Thomas to financial ruin. She and the Petrasches were destitute, having no source of income or a place to reside. Julia soon departed company with the Petrasches and married a farm laborer named Albert Schaffer on July 26, 1893.

At Schaffer’s encouragement Julia produced maps using what information she could remember. She became very resourceful and began producing excellent maps illustrating how to locate the lost gold mine of Jacob Waltz, her recent friend. These fraudulent sheets of paper were probably the first maps to the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. It is also quite apparent that Julia Thomas gave Peirpont C. Bicknell an interview about the Lost Dutchman Mine. Bicknell chronicled the mine in the San Francisco Chronicle in an article on January 13, 1895, making reference to most of Thomas’ clues. Now the story was out nationally that there was a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains.

The abandonment of the Petrasch brothers by Julia Thomas left them on their own. Rhinehart worked around Phoenix for awhile and eventually move up to Globe. He worked as a caretaker at an archaeological site in Globe for many years before committing suicide on February 5, 1943. Rhinehart was known as “Old Pete” around Globe and Miami. Herman had many odd jobs, first working as an apprentice blacksmith, then working for different cattlemen around the Superstition Mountain area. He was an excellent carpenter and worked at the old Reavis Ranch house for the Clemans Cattle Company in the 1930’s.

Hermann also repaired waterholes and windmills for the Clemans. He was seriously injured when a packhorse pulled his riding horse over backward along Hewitt Canyon in 1938. Hermann eventually settled near the bank of Queen Creek in the area of the Martin Ranch. The Martins looked after Hermann for many years. They would take Hermann to the dances in Superior where he would play his fiddle. Old Hermann had a host of friends, including my father. Newspaper reporters, authors, and magazine writers visited him from time to time and many articles were written about Hermann and his search for the old “Dutchman” mine.

My father and I visited old Hermann Petrasch on Queen Creek in October of 1952, during my freshman year in high school. I was more interested in baseball than I was lost gold mines at the time. He told us he was ailing a bit, but was still willing to talk with us. Hermann never complained about his aches and pains, he just endured. Herman Petrasch passed away on November 23, 1953.

I would like to clear something up about an old photograph taken of Hermann Petrasch in Queen Creek with a gold pan and shovel. The photograph appeared in Barney Barnard’s book, giving credit for the photograph to him. The person who actually took that photograph was Robert L. Garman, one of Hermann old friends.

The awful irony of the Petrasch- Thomas episode is that their journey into the Superstitions in the blistering hot days of August 1892 led them directly over the Black Queen and Mammoth mines that were discovered later that year. It was in April of 1893, four men discovered the famous Mammoth mine. That mine produced two million dollars in gold bullion when gold was worth only twenty dollars a troy ounce. Some historians believe the Bull Dog or Mammoth mine was the source of Waltz’s bonanza gold ore.

Julia Thomas and the Petrasch brothers were not successful in finding the Dutchman’s Lost gold, however, they initiated a legend that will likely endure forever.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Origin of the Lost Dutchman's Mine Story, Part 1

November 16, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Mountain has served as a beacon to treasure hunters and the curious around the world. Fortunes have been made and lost in the search for the Lost Dutchman Mine, however the mine has never been found. Many claim the majestic beauty and tranquility of the region are the only treasures man will find in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

The Lost Dutchman Mine was name after Jacob Waltz, an old German prospector mistakenly called the “Old Dutchman.” He allegedly discovered a rich gold vein in the Superstition Mountain region east of Phoenix, A man named Hermann Petrasch was probably one of the most persistent seekers of Waltz’s mine. You might say Hermann was the “father of all modern Dutch hunters.” Hermann, and his brother Rhinehart, began their search for the mine with Julia Thomas in the summer of 1892.

Carl Gottfried Hermann Petrasch was born in Hennersdorf, Germany on the 24th day of April, 1864. Hermann arrived at the Port of Entry, New York, New York in the spring of 1869. He had left Germany with his father Gottfried when he was only five years old. Herman accompanied his father to the town of Whatcom, Washington. Herman’s father traveled widely throughout the West, first Washington, Montana, Colorado, and finally to Arizona. Hermann lived in Arizona almost sixty years and most of those years were spent in and around the Superstition Mountain area. Petrasch did not apply for United States citizenship until October 1938.

Hermann arrived in Arizona shortly after the death of Jacob Waltz in October of 1891. He came to Arizona at the request of his brother, Rhinehart. Rhinehart wanted Hermann to assist him and Julia Thomas in the search for Waltz’s gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. Rhinehart claimed that he and Julia had the clues to locate Waltz’s rich gold mine.

Rhinehart Petrasch had been residing in Phoenix for some time and helped Julia Thomas with her business. Some historians believe Rhinehart became a close associate of Jacob Waltz in his final days at Julia’s residence on West Jackson Street in Phoenix. Rhinehart learned a few meager clues during this period some believe, but not enough to find the mine. Waltz may or may not have mumbled out any clues in the final days of his life. If any clues were given out, surely Waltz would have given them to Julia as his caregiver during his long illness.

As the end became apparent for the “Old Dutchman” he called Julia and Rhinehart to his side, some say, and gave them the final clues to his rich gold mine in the Superstitions. This would have been fine, but Julia and Rhinehart had been celebrating a bit too much and their minds were a little foggy. This they would regret when they wandered aimlessly in the mountains searching for Waltz’s mine. Julia and Rhinehart tried to put the pieces together after old “Jake’s” death. Their first decision was to find another partner they could trust. Julia accepted the idea of inviting Rhinehart’s brother Hermann to join them in the search for Waltz’s mine. Hermann was living in Colorado at the time.

Early in August of 1892, shortly after Herman Petrash’s arrival in Phoenix, Julia Thomas, Rhinehart and Hermann Petrasch began to organize their expedition to search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Julia Thomas had purchased a team, wagon, and camping gear for their expedition into the Superstition Mountains. The group departed Phoenix before sunrise on August 11, 1892, with little fanfare. The party moved slowly along the old Tempe- Lehi Road. They spent their first night a Marysville Crossing. The next morning they turned southeastward toward Superstition Mountain and the desert flatland west of the mountains. The second day of travel eastward across the desert toward the western face of Superstition Mountain proved difficult until they found some wagons tracks. These wagon tracks lead northeast toward Superstition Mountain and the Goldfield mining area; however crossing washes became very difficult for their overloaded wagon.

Somewhere along this route the group realized they had to abandon the wagon. They spent their next night under the cliffs of Superstition Mountain, some say near the entrance of Monument Canyon. At sunrise the next morning they were packing up their two horses and decided to walk toward the northwestern end of Superstition Mountain. Julia was searching for La Sombrero, the pointed peak she said Jacob Waltz had told her about. The heat and humidity was stifling, but the three adventurers continued walking and leading their pack animals.

According to Hermann Petrasch they camped the next evening in Needle Canyon, at least he thought it was. Years later Hermann said, “We might have camped in East Boulder Canyon on the western side of Black Top Mountain that third night. The next morning we were up at sunrise again and climbed a steep ridge to a pass and walked down into a deep canyon. We could see the pointed peak old Jacob had talked about. It was here they set camp for the next three weeks as they used their clues to search the area.

Next week, Part 2

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thank you, my friends...

I would like to thank all of my readers for their support. I enjoy writing about the legends and stories of the Superstition Mountains. Some of these stories are centuries old and have been handed down from family to family. Some of the tales come from the files of various periodicals. I try to find accurate sources, but like all stories about lost gold mines and other interesting events one can never be absolutely certain about their sources. I try to sort fact from the enormous amount of fiction and lies we find about the infamous Dutchman's lost mine and other stories about the region. I started writing columns in 1976 and I still continue to research the material I use, looking for as much authentic material as possible. Researching periodicals does produce some very uncertain sources with little or no documentation. Always remember these are stories that are often parts of a legend. Take care and enjoy............Tom Kollenborn

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Golden Cannon

November 9, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There are so many different stories and tales about the Superstition Mountains and the alleged gold mine that supposedly exist there. People’s imaginations have often been carried away because of what they think they see or read. Of course, interpretation has everything to do with the reality of a story. Our cognitive reasoning power is often put aside when it comes to lost gold and treasure stories. It is a lot like purchasing a lottery ticket. There is always that possibility of winning, but it is highly unlikely. The following story will give you an idea how the mind can play tricks on ones imagination and rearranges one’s common sense about reality and fantasy.

Some years ago a man who was well educated, but not necessarily rational, approached me in class I was teaching and told me a bizarre story about the Superstition Mountains and a solid gold cannon. He said the Spaniards had cast the cannon out of gold rather than bronze because the mine they had been working was so rich with bonanza gold. They had no bronze to cast a cannon according to the story teller. The Apaches, he said, continued to attack the Spaniards for several weeks so they hurriedly cast this “golden” cannon. I wanted to suggest to the gentlemen that a cannon, even a small cannon, would weigh more than a ton if cast of gold.

Let’s see... a cubic foot of gold weighs over 1400 pounds. Any cannon big enough to be effective would require at least a couple of cubic feet of metal, usually cast iron or bronze, depending on the period of time.

The man further claimed he had located the cannon in a cave back in the Superstition Mountains. He was adamant that someone accompany him back into the mountains to locate the cave and the cannon. When queried as to the location of the cannon the man claimed he had located the cannon by coordinating information he found in historical documents. He further stated he had never been there but knew the cannon existed from historical Spanish documents. He was eventually advised to continue his search elsewhere.

This is a good example how an intelligent person’s mind can be completely distorted by imagination. I had never before heard of a “golden” cannon being hidden in a cave in the Superstition Mountains. Some years later, while researching through periodicals in the Arizona Republic, I came across an article about a man who claimed to have discovered a “golden” cannon in a cave in La Barge Canyon. I read the article and checked the date. The article was written several years before I was approached by the man with the story about the “golden” cannon in the Superstition Mountains. I had believed this man had just dreamed the story up. But, when I found the article I thought it was strange that two different individuals dreamed up the same story.

Instinctively, I thought the man who approached me in class must have read the article and became enthralled by it. He figured out by himself the cannon was to heavy to move so the Spaniards just hid it in a cave. How unreasonable his judgement of the situation turned out to be. If the Spaniards had cast a cannon of gold that weighed around two tons, they could have recast it into gold bars then carried it back to Mexico City.

People who tell such ridiculous stories know nothing about the history of the American Southwest or the Spanish colonial period in Mexican history. This story is just as bizarre as many other Spanish tales of lost treasure in the Superstition Mountain region or the American Southwest.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people will invest money in hair-brained schemes believing such outright lies which are nothing but the figment of somebody’s imagination. Over the years I have interviewed people who have lost their homes and their fortunes to unscrupulous con-artists. Although I will admit there are people who are not con-artists, but still believe these ridiculous stories.

It is difficult for us to comprehend how many people come to believe these distorted stories about the American Southwest. Many of these individuals claim legitimate historians are trying to hide all the treasure in the Southwest for the museums and archaeologists. Also the same individuals distort historical documents to fit their own stories and interpretation. When stories sound to good to be true, then you should really check out the documentation with some accredited source or university.

The tale of a Spanish “Golden” cannon in the Superstition Mountains still lingers around campfires being told by story tellers. I’ll never forget when the man said, “You can look up into this cave and see the barrel of this golden cannon sticking out.” He further indicated that nobody could climb the cliff to inspect the cannon. The cannon was at least 800 feet off the ground and probably 300 feet from the top of the cliff, a total of 1,100 feet. His imagination was working over-time. First, common sense would ask, how could anyone lift a twenty ton cannon to a height of 800 feet with hemp ropes? Next, there are few cliffs in the Superstition Wilderness Area over 1,100 feet in height. Just check out a good topographic map and see for yourself.

Common sense defeats this story except in the minds of the approving storytellers. Gold cannons are what dreams are made of...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Military Trails

November 2, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Since the early 1970’s there has been considerable research done about military trails through the Superstition Wilderness Area. First, before we discuss the topic of a “military trail,” we need to first define the term. When most individuals think of the term they think of a byway named and used by the military. Now the next question would be what military? Was it the Spanish Colonial, Mexican, Confederate or American army that named the trail?

If it were during the American Civil War we would have to consider both the Union and the Confederacy as a possible source. If a military group named the trail why did they do it? Was it a trail used to resupply a post or for marauding and raiding Native American camps in the Pinal, Mazatzal, or Superstition Mountains? If these questions can be properly answered then a designation of a military trail through the Superstition Mountain area could easily be assigned.

Many historians talk about a military trail from Fort Lowell in Tucson to Camp (Fort) McDowell on the Verde River through the Superstition Mountain region. This trail has been defined as going through Gonzales Pass up through Hewitt Canyon, then over Tortilla Pass and then north to the Salt River. This route has never made much sense because it is so rugged. The military could have remained on the flat desert with moderate changes in elevation all the way from Fort Lowell to Fort McDowell with only the Usury Mountains  between them and their destination. Even the Usury Mountains presented no problems for the military because they could have gone around them to the West or through a low saddle in the middle of the range.

This route would have been the most logical route for resupply of Camp McDowell for the army. There were outpost camps such as Picket Post and Pinal. Most logical military trails would have been the shortest and easies route between two points.

Now, back to the question, was there a military trail through the Superstition Mountain region? If a researcher relied on military records he would have to say “yes.”

Between 1864-1868 during the Rancheria Campaign headquartered out of Camp McDowell there were many punitive expeditions in the Pinal and Superstition Mountains. Military sketch maps, basically hand drawn maps of each punitive expedition, accompanied all military reports made out by commanding officers.

Men like Capt. Bennett, Lt. DuBois, and Lt. Walker provided accurate and precise records and sketches of their campaigns against the hostiles. Many references on these maps mention variously named military trails used by the Army to subdue these marauding Native Americans. The most prominent trail was the trail that ran from the Salt River through the Goldfield Mountains coming out near Wolverine Pass across the Goldfield area to First Water then southeastward to Parker’s Pass, West Boulder Canyon, East Boulder Canyon, Bull Pass, down into Needle Canyon and over into La Barge Canyon to Charlebois Springs.

This area was often use by the military as staging area because of the water supply in the area. Also we must bear in mind these troops fought the Native American on foot. They were elements of the 14th, 22nd, 23rd Infantry Units, not mounted cavalry. The only mounted cavalry used in the Superstition Mountain area was when Major Brown led the 9th and 10th U.S. Army Cavalry. They were used in the campaign against the Apaches in 1872 and many of them were foot soldiers. There were several skirmishes around the Reavis Ranch Valley. The Apache often retreated to this area because of the permanent water supply along Reavis Creek.

Yes, there were military trails in the Superstition Wilderness Area, but most were only temporarily designated as such on military field sketch maps. Just about any trail used in the wilderness area during the Indian Wars could be referred to as a military trail. Most of the trails, but not all of them, were also used by the Native American long before the first white man arrived in this territory. The military basically used the Native American trails to subdue the hostile tribes.

Another interesting aspect of these campaigns was the fact the Americans armed and used the Pimas against the Apaches. Without the Pimas Scouts and the Apache Scouts the Americans would have never defeated the Apaches, at least not during the 19th century.

This information should provide a little resolve for this question. The final analyses of this question still remains as to what you define as a military trail.