Sunday, April 25, 2010

Searching Tortilla Ranch for Jesse Capen

Volunteers were at the Old Tortilla Ranch's upper windmill this past week searching for clues as to what happen to Jesse Capen. Volunteer searchers continue to search the area from the upper windmill to Peter's Mesa. So far the only thing found has been a few cigarette butts and Jesse Capen was not known to smoke. As this search continues success is going to be dependent on more personal information about Jesse Capen. Who did he communicate with in the Apache Junction area prior to arriving or after he arrived in the area. As far as we know, nobody in the Apache Junction area remembers seeing Capen prior to his departure for the Tortilla Ranch's upper windmill.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tortilla Ranch to Horse Camp

April 19, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Some years ago a man asked me about Horse Camp east of La Barge Canyon. I told him it was on Stone's Tortilla Allotment. It was one of the water sources for his Mexican steers he put on the range during the early spring each year to fatten them up for market. Floyd Stone made a little money doing this each spring. Nyle Leatham and I rode with him over to Horse Camp Spring one day in the spring of 1973. Nyle was doing a story on cattle ranching in the Superstition Wilderness for the Arizona Republic.

Floyd Stone always had a good story to tell. One in particular I remember was the time he was hauling three horses up to the Reavis Ranch. He said he had one too many drinks in Apache
Floyd Stone, one of the old-time local ranchers.
Junction and while driving down the Apache Trail he lost control of the truck and went over the edge of the road. Anyone else would have been killed. Stone's truck left the readjust beyond the "S" curve east of Tortilla Flat along Mesquite Creek. The drop off into the creek bed is about seventy-five feet straight down. The amazing outcome of the accident is Stone broke his leg, however the horses didn't fare as well. A patrolman was amazed anyone survived the accident. Old "Stone" indeed had nine lives.

Stone could really tell some good stories about the Tortilla and Reavis ranch country. As we rode south from the Tortilla Ranch and corrals he told us a story about old man Miller and his mining operation. He even pointed out the ruins of a rock cabin near the upper windmill on Tortilla Creek and told us he believed old Jacob Waltz stayed in it.

Of course we took that one with a smile and "grain of salt." Stone was proud of the fact there was a lot of history in area he chased cattle in. He told us about a place he called Fortress Hill were you could still find old military lead bullets and an occasional military button. Several years later I returned to this hill with a metal detector and found several .50 caliber bullets at the base of the hill. The bullets were old conical in form. However, I never found any military brass items. This must have been the site of a skirmish fought between the Apaches and the U.S. Army's 14th or 24th Infantries during the campaign of 1864-1868. Lt. John Walker and his Pima Scouts fought several battles or skirmishes in the region.

We continued our trip up and over the ridge south of the upper Windmill along Tortilla Creek. We eventually rode back into Tortilla Creek, then turned off on another trail where Cedar Basin Canyon and Nighthawk Canyon entered the creek. We rode up Nighthawk Canyon to Nighthawk Springs. We watered the horses in a large concrete tank. Stone told us another interesting story about Nighthawk Spring. He told of an old cowboy that pitched his camp here when working cattle in the area. One dark cloudy night the cowboy got the scare of his life.

This cowboy only had kitchen timber (matches) for light. He was sleeping with his head on his saddle and had his horse hobbled nearby. Some time around midnight, Stone said, the cowboy felt something brushing his cheek, then he heard his horse stirring about. He said it felt like a cat's whisker. He quietly picked up a match and struck it. He soon found himself staring a half-grown Mountain lion in the face, nose to nose. The lion was only inches from his face. The striking of the match startled the lion so much it ran off into the dark. The next morning old Elmer found lion tracks all around his bed. Stone surmised the lion must have not been very hungry, Elmer's body odor may have distracted the young cat or it thought Elmer was its mother. Whatever the case the lion went one way and Elmer went the other, never to meet again.

Elmer worked in the mountains for Stone and Hoolie Bacon off and on for more than twenty years. He spent most of his time filling in or covering prospect holes that old George Miller dug around his cattle range in the 1920s and 1930s. After that incident with the lion, old Elmer wouldn't sleep outside under the stars anymore. He always bedded down in the barn at the home ranch. Elmer Pope was an Apache cowboy from San Carlos.

Floyd Stone always had a favorite story about rattlesnakes, or wiggly-tails as we call them. He said the creatures always had a way of getting in the way. It wasn't uncommon to find a rattlesnake in the ranch house. One early spring morning Stone said he fired up the stove and kept hearing this hissing noise behind the stove. He said he look down under the hot stove and a large wiggly-tail was coming directly at him. He had nothing to kill the snake with so he dashed outside in his underwear and gave the house to snake. Just as he got out the door, Elmer Pope asked him if he was going to ride in his underwear today? Stone said he could have killed that Indian that day, but not after twenty years of service for the ranch.

Our ride continued up a steep grade then into a basin. Finally we arrived at Horse Camp Spring. All Nyle observed was a spring and a corral. I supposed Nyle was looking for a little more than just a horseback ride. After we returned to the ranch Nyle said all the stories Stone had told were well worth the trip.

Floyd Stone was Hoolie Bacon's son-in-law and they both operated the Reavis and Tortilla Ranch from about 1956-1974. Actually Floyd Stone traded the Reavis Ranch for twenty acres of patent land at the IV Ranch and an undisclosed amount of cash in 1967. Floyd Stone continue to operate the Tor-tilla Allotment until around 1976. When Floyd Stone passed away on April 29, 1995 in Merced, California his remains were returned to Arizona and buried in Bacon family plot at the Bacon Cemetery on the old Tin Ranch in Tonto Basin. Stone operated the Reavis and Tortilla Allotments after his father-in-law John "Hoolie" A. Bacon became ill until about 1976.

The Bacons and Stones left a legacy for the cattle industry in the central Arizona. Floyd Stone always said, "The only gold in the Superstition Wilderness is on four legs." Anyone who ever worked for them can give testimony to their legacy involving wild cattle and a rough cattle range in the Superstition Wilderness. I prefer to leave their legacy to them as bigger than life. After all, "Our Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys."

Monday, April 12, 2010

The search continues for Jesse Capen...

The search continues for Jesse Capen near the old Tortilla Ranch's upper windmill. Jesse went missing December 5, 2009. Searchers continue to search for evidence or clues as to what happen to Jesse Capen. SAAR, under the direction of Commander Robert Cooper had eight search teams in the field on April 10, 2010. As of this date nothing new has been reported or found associated with the missing treasure hunter.  I will continue to update this page as information comes available...........Tom Kollenborn

William A. Barkley, Cowman

April 12, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

A legendary newspaper-woman named Mitzi Zipf wrote the obituary and a story about William A. Barkley, cowman. She started the story with, "Another chapter in the saga of Superstition Mountain ended yesterday with the death of William Augustus Barkley... Tex to his host of friends."

William Augustus Barkley and Gertrude Anderson on their wedding day. Photo credit to Nancy & Ken McCollough of Gold Canyon (Nancy McCollough is the granddaughter of William A. Barkley).
For more than 50 years Tex Barkley was a named synonymous with the Superstition Mountains. He was not involved with its gold, lost mines, or the Lost Dutchman Mine, but with cattle and the rich lore he weaved around himself and the mountains.

He was lean, tanned, straight as an arrow, and as rugged as the mountains of which he was a symbolic part. At the peak of his cattle operation his ranch covered more than one hundred and seventeen sections of land. That translates into one hundred and seventeen square miles or approximately 78,000 acres of the most rugged cattle range in Arizona or, the American Southwest.

Tex, for the most part had nothing to do with dudes or gold seekers. He was a rugged individualist who was a cattleman first and nothing else. He was beholding to no man and only gave into the elements of the mountains during the worst and famine spelled death to the cattle and ruin of the cowman.

Tex Barkley was not even a Texan. He was born in Tennessee on August 11, 1879. He was only a lad when he moved the Gilbert area with his family. As a young man he was the foreman of the Diamond Ranch near Sunflower on the old Beeline Highway. He helped drive 8,000 head of cattle to Phoenix to be shipped in 1897.

Several motion pictures were made on the Barkley Ranches. Tex doubled for Jack Holt in one of the motion pictures. He was once offered a job as a character actor but he told the director he had to turn him down. He said, "I gotta a cow over the mountain that needs to be taken care of." This statement summed up the character of William Augustus Barkley.

He married Gertrude Anderson, an Arizona pioneer and lived on his ranch near Superstition Mountain for fifty years. William and Gertrude had two daughters and one son.

The Barkleys had three ranches. There was the First Water Ranch, Three R's and Quarter Circle U Ranch. For many years the Quarter Circle U Ranch (old Bark Ranch) was their home ranch. The Three R's Ranch eventually became the Barkley's main home ranch. When 1 first met Tex & Gertrude they lived in the stone ranch house at the 3R's near the old site of ApacheLand movie studio. The only thing that survives today of the old ranch is the old stone corral. Tex always preferred living outdoors because he felt living inside was just too confining.

Tex Barkley was a true cattlemen. He was always first to improve his herd. However, he did not enjoy modern means of transportation. There is a story about him driving a vehicle out to the Quarter Circle U Ranch from the Three R's. When the tires went flat from rocks and cactus he just threw them away and drove back to the ranch on the rims. Another tale mentions he would not ride in a car or truck unless he kept the door open so he could jump out if something went wrong. He was truly "a man of the horse."

Tex loved to tell stories about the mountains, but they were not gold stories. On occasion my dad visited with him in the late forties. Tex talked about nearly anything, except the treasure stories of the mountains. He always told my dad all those stories were hogwash. Barkley claimed the only gold in the Superstitions was on four legs.

Barkley was a cowman because he loved every one of his cows. He ran a mother cow operation. Many friends said he would have been a millionaire if he hadn't loved his cattle so much. Often he refused to take certain cattle to market because he liked them. He knew the history of each of his cows, calves, and bulls. He knew were they were branded, when and how many off-spring they had.

Barkley contended all his life with the lack of water on his ranches. Tex had a joke about two windmills that were close together. One was blown over by a severe thunderstorm. A dude notice one of the wind-mills was missing. He asked Barkley what happen. He told him, "Well I'll tell you. There just wasn't enough wind for two, so I took one of them down."

Life on the Arizona desert was. really rough for these early pioneers. Humor often carried them over the bad and rough times. William Augustus Barkley was a hard working Arizona Territorial pioneer who cared nothing about lost mines or treasure. His only concerns were his family and his cattle.

If you live in the Gold Canyon area today you are probably living on some portion of the old Barkley Ranch. Harold Christ, the founder of Gold Canyon, acquired two sections of the Barkley Cattle Company after Barkley's death in September of 1955. William Thomas Barkley, Gus's son and wife Gertrude Barkley ran the Barkley Cattle Company until about 1961. Ken and Nancy McCollough ran the ranch until 1965 when it was eventually sold.

I would like to thank Nancy and Ken McCollough of Gold Canyon and the written word of Mitzi Zipf, pioneer Arizona newspaperwoman.