Monday, December 26, 2011

Unforgettable Christmas

December 19, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The spirit of Christmas was in the air late in December of 1956. The first snows had fallen in the high country as winter announced its arrival in the Superstition Wilderness Area east of Apache Junction. Low stratus clouds engulfed the towering spires of Superstition Mountain while a slow drizzling rain met with the approval of the local cattlemen.
Deep in the Superstition Wilderness there was an angry, bitter and lonely old man who had chosen isolation rather than the kindness of friends. “Old Ben” had been prospecting these mountains for more than a decade. He believed the old Dutchman’s lost mine existed and he wanted to find it. His search for the Dutchman’s gold had become as strong for “Old Ben” as the devotion of any pilgrim of Islam headed for Mecca.
My father and I visited Ben over the years because he and Dad had something in common. They were both veterans of World War I and had served with General John Perishing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Both men had witnessed the slaughter in the trenches along the Western Front. Both men had survived the horror of trench warfare in Europe. Each year Dad and I tried to visit Ben’s Camp a couple weeks before Christmas to say hello.
Ben functioned well in the mountains, but within society he was a misfit. His experiences, no less than that of my father’s during the war, had left his heart laden with hate for those who were associated with the production, distribution and application of war materials that were designed to destroy thousands and thousands of lives during a terrible time. Ben chose to live apart from this society because he couldn’t forget the rattle of machine guns, exploding artillery shells, fumes of poison gas and the screaming agony of the wounded and dying soldiers on the battlefields. The war had been over for almost forty years, but Ben still lived in the shadow of its horror.
Dad had also survived the battlefield of that war and for that reason understood Ben and was his friend. Ben and my father had spent many hours in idle conversation discussing the Dutchman’s lost mine, each being careful not to reveal any important information about its possible location.
We often sat under a large boulder in Petrasch’s old camp in La Barge Canyon talking about the Dutchman, Jacob Waltz. Sometimes Dad and Ben would hike up to Petrasch’s old camp on Tortilla Mountain and spend the day.
Christmas was once again coming to Ben’s Camp in the Superstition Wilderness, but he never celebrated Christmas because he didn’t see any real value in it. He said there was no God or Jesus Christ at Flanders, Verdun, or the other battlefields of Europe. Once again we bid our farewell to Ben and began our hike out of the mountains leaving the lonely old man to cope with his misery. As we drove home that day I thought of old Ben and his lonely existence.
Arriving home we found Mother had decorated our house and a beautiful tree for Christmas. The spirit of Christmas filled our home as friends dropped by with a friendly “Merry Christmas.” My mother was always full of the Christmas spirit and she wanted to share it with everyone who would listen or sing carols with her. 
On Christmas Eve morning I got up early and talked to Dad about our friend Ben. I kept thinking about Ben and finally suggested to Dad that I wanted to hike back into the mountains and spend Christmas Day with the old man. I was young and very impressionable at the time. My father’s first concern was my mother and our traditional family’s Christmas get together.
“What is Christmas,” I asked, “if it is not about sharing one’s friendship? Didn’t you teach me this dad?” Mom and Dad decided to allow me to share my Christmas spirit of friendship and giving with Ben on Christmas Day. Mom provided me with a couple of quickly wrapped Christmas presents for Ben and I grabbed a colorful ornament from the tree. I prepared my hiking gear and I was on my way to First Water Trailhead.
I arrived at First Water about noon. By the time I reached Ben’s Camp the daylight was rapidly disappearing. I called out for Ben as I arrived in his camp, wishing him a Merry Christmas. He called back inviting me into his camp. He immediately scolded me for leaving my parents on Christmas Eve and coming into the mountains. I handed him the two small packages mother had wrapped for him. The delicate glass Christmas ornament had survived the hike in my backpack. I handed him the ornament and then suggested we needed a Christmas tree. Ben laughed and said, “You’re not going to find many pine trees in this desert.”
At that moment I could see that Ben enjoyed having my company. He ended his comment with, “The only trees around here are those devilish Cholla.”
Near Ben’s camp, in the dark, using a small flashlight, I found a Cholla cactus skeleton that would serve as our fitting desert Christmas tree. I piled some large rocks around the base to hold it in place. Once the Cholla was secure Ben and I went about decorating it.
We placed the Christmas bulb from my mother’s tree on top of the Cholla. We added a few pieces of tinfoil here and there. We then made some ornaments out of empty sardine and bean cans. Ben had a plentiful supply because he loved sardines and beans. We made a simple garland out of bits of colored string we found in camp. The tree was not an ordinary one, but then Ben was by no means an ordinary man. And this was also no ordinary occasion for Ben. The meaning of Christmas had found its way into Ben’s heart in that odd-looking Christmas tree. We laughed together at our effort to create a Christmas tree. We had found the spirit of Christmas together.
We sat admiring our handy work when Ben reached into his bag and removed a very old Bible, then placed it under our tree. He looked at me with a tear in his eye, and said, “Isn’t this what Christmas is really about?”
Yes, we were celebrating Jesus Christ’s birthday in the simplest manner. The happiness of sharing our friendship on that Christmas Eve I will never forget. My father eventually talked Ben into returning to society and being a friend to others.
This lonely old man taught me that it is not how much you have, from Kollenborn, A-4 it is sharing of your friendship with others that is so important. Since that time many Christmases have come and gone, but few of them are remembered as this one.
Ben returned to the world of the living and each Christmas for many years, until his death, we received a card from him addressed to “My Desert Christmas Friends,” and simply signed “Ben”.
After almost fifty years we still decorate and enjoy a Cholla cactus skeleton in our home for Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hollywood Discovers the Apache Trail

December 12, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

As early as 1910, while in its infancy, Hollywood recognized the potential of the Apache Trail and area around Roosevelt Dam for filming. The Southern Pacific Railroad promoted the beauty and vastness of the area as early as 1915. The Southern Pacific (SP) published a color photo album with some fifty handcolored photographs in it to promote the beauty of the Apache Trail to passengers of the SP’s Sunset Limited.

These black and white images were sent away to Switzerland to be hand-colored and toned. The final product was vibrant and vividly hand-colored photographs. The beauty and isolation of Roosevelt Dam, and the rugged Apache Trail was revealed in photographs and films of the period. The Southern Pacific had captured the essence of this new frontier.

Several films were shot around Roosevelt Dam and the Apache Trail. These films were shown around the nation to an emerging new theater audience. The movie industry moved from the East Coast to the West Coast around 1905 in earnest, and the Apache Trail and Roosevelt Dam were popular subject matter between 1910 – 1925.

The building of Roosevelt Dam between 1903-1911 was one of the most photographed and publicized events at the turn of the century in America. The fledging movie industry took notice to this region for on-site  filming. Several silent films had been shot along the Apache Trail prior to 1925. These films included some early Tom Mix silent movies and other well-known actors. Film location managers found Mormon Flat one of the most spectacular areas to film in. Today, this site impounds Canyon Lake. The introduction of talking movies ended the long run of silent films.

A special train with five cars arrived in Phoenix from Los Angeles on February 13, 1927. The purpose of the special train was to carry a company of fifty famous Player-Lasky players who were filming a western movie for Paramount Films.

The title of the picture they were filming was “Arizona Bound.” The director of this western motion picture was John Waters. His assistant director was Richard Blayton. The company motored along the Apache Trail to Fish Creek Canyon where they planned to film several takes of “Arizona Bound.” The film centered on the stagecoach days of early Arizona, back in the 1890’s.

Betty Jewel played the feminine lead while Gary Cooper, Jack Dougherty and Christian Frank interpreted the important male parts. The scenes are centered on a picturesque stagecoach and twenty-two head of horses negotiating Fish Creek Hill. The location managers couldn’t have picked a better site for filming based on the dramatic and scenic backdrop Fish Creek Canyon provided for the cameras, however, the area was quite remote. It was more than fifty miles from Phoenix.

The story, Arizona Bound, was by Paul Gangelin. The cameraman for the project was Charlie Schoenbaum, one of the best known cameramen on the coast. Schoenbaum was really impressed with the filming opportunities he found in this area. Betty Jewel was the only star brought from the coast for the filming. At the time Gary Cooper wasn’t a major star in Hollywood.

The crew motored in a large bus from the Adams Hotel and the Arizona Hotel to their filming site daily. The filming involved extremely long days for the crew under quite primitive conditions.

The story “Arizona Bound” was woven around the transportation of a particular gold shipment from New Mexico to Arizona in the early 1890’s. The entire film was built around Arizona life and scenes.

John Waters directed many of Zane Grey’s stories into motion pictures and they were very popular. Waters returned to Arizona to film other productions along the Apache Trail and was one of the leading directors in the moving picture industry in the late 1920’s. His success focused around new film techniques, new stars and innovations. One important attribute of John Water’s films was “on location” no matter where.

Gary Cooper appeared in this film and this was one of his first trips to Arizona for the purpose of filmmaking. Yes, Gary Cooper rode the Apache Trail (for any of you who were fans of this legendary actor.)

This film was followed by many more. Such films as “Lust For Gold” starring Glenn Ford, Ida Lupino, Gig Young, Chill Wills, and Edgar Buchanan. “The Mountain Road” starred James Stewart. There is quite a film history for the Apache Trail area. We have listed only a few of the films from along the Apache Trail. Just a few years ago a portion of “Jerry Mcquire” which starred Tom Cruise was filmed at Lost Dutchman State Park along the Apache Trail.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost Gold: An Affliction

October 5, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona’s Superstition Wilderness Area has fascinated and mesmerized those that have walked or ridden the trails within the towering spires and deep canyons of this region. The terrain can overwhelm you with beauty, isolation, vastness, tranquility and just pure ruggedness.

These 159,780 acres of  wilderness continue to attract gold and treasure hunters. Prospectors still wander the trails of the Superstition Wilderness Area in search of gold. Most of the gold they search for is “in their minds” according to “Doc” Rosecrans, an old time prospector of the area now deceased. He spent forty years living along the Apache Trail and occasionally hiked into the Superstition Wilderness to explore a hunch. He published a small book on the Dutchman’s Lost Mine in 1949. His book wasn’t much of a success; however it did get him a threat of a lawsuit from Barry Storm, another author on the topic.

The way of life for today’s prospectors and treasure hunters is slowly disappearing. Strict forest service regulations and the withdrawal of the wilderness from mineral entry; has all but ended prospecting and mining in the region. A few wildcatters still take their chances with the authorities.

Contemporary writers, weekend explorers, and the curious continue looking for facts and information associated with events that occurred decades ago. Such research and discussions has been opened to the public through various forums about the Superstition Mountains and The Lost Dutchman Mine on the internet or worldwide web. You might say a new Argonaut has arrived on the landscape for the wilderness area.

The three most controversial topics are the location of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine, the Peralta Stone Maps and the tragic death of Adolph Ruth. These topics continue to attract a wide range of interest among readers on the internet or the worldwide web. The internet has changed the way we view and research material today. The forum about the Dutchman’s Lost Mine can be factual and fictional at the same time. After
all, history is a very thin line between the truth and a lie. You can Google up these forums on the inter-net. You might want to look at Desert USA, Treasure Net, and The Lost Dutchman Mine.

When somebody claims they have found a lost gold mine how do you know they are telling the truth? A simple question might be; where is the gold?

If that person were to produce gold then there would be some interesting repercussions from those interested in where the gold was found. The next question would be; did you stake a claim?

Would any person in their right mind stake a claim on rich vein of gold? Probably not! A claim notice would be an invitation for everyone to come and look at your rich gold mine. I believe this explains the dilemma you would be in. I would believe some old timers might not have told anyone about their discoveries in the hills. This type of behavior could easily explain all the confusion involving the Dutchman’s lost mine.

Jacob Waltz, the legendary “Dutchman,” may or may not have had a gold mine. Nobody knows for sure. When he died on October 25, 1891, a candle box of high-grade gold ore was allegedly found under his bed. This gold proved to be of bonanza quality. The discovery of this candle box of rich ore created a controversy that continues to linger to this day. Where did this gold orecome from? Men and women have searched the high peaks and deep canyons of the Superstition Wilderness Area for the source of this gold ore to no avail.

The are some unscrupulous pseudo-historians who will tell you that the gold came from an old Mexican ore mill on Peter’s Mesa and that other similar fragments of the gold ore can be traced to the Massacre Grounds, supposedly confirming or backing up the story of the Peralta Massacre in 1847. This is a bizarre tale with no historical foundation to support it.

To believe such a story is to believe a fairy tale. My father walked Peter’s Mesa and several other areas west of old George Miller’s place in the late 1930’s, and found nothing but the hard work of old time dreamers. My father never questioned the tenacity and obsession of the old timers that searched for gold in the Superstition Mountains.

The Dutchman’s lost mine continues to be a tale about a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. To many folks, the mine is a figment of somebody’s imagination that continually draws in more dreamers each year. Since the early 1920’s, more than 170 individual have claimed they found the fabulously rich Dutchman’s lost mine. The roll of discoverers lists the names of men like Glen Magill, Barry Storm, Robert Simpson Jacob, Charles M. Crawford, Howard Van Devender, and many, many more that allegedly found the mine and reaped its profits. Most of those profits were monies they conned out of innocent and naïve investors. I have watched this vicious cycle for more than fifty years and witnessed the destruction and heartache it has caused to innocent people.

Attorney General Robert K. Corbin successfully tried and jailed a couple of these crooks. Most notable was Robert Simpson Jacob. Jacob was sentenced to ten years in prison for his part in a criminal conspiracy. Even after Robert Jacob was convicted, some still believed he had found a bonanza and that the government was trying to keep him from bringing the gold out.

Is there a Dutchman’s lost mine somewhere out in the rugged Superstition Mountain region? Yes, I have dreamed of finding this mine, but I have never found any evidence that really suggested the mine existed. Everything is based on subjective hear-say. Actually, facts about the lost mine just don’t exist. Even the alleged rich gold ore found under Waltz’s bed is based on hear-say information. Yes, there are alleged pieces of this gold that supposedly exist today. The documentation that supports this alleged gold ore is nothing more than hear-say. Even I am guilty of signing an affidavit that verifies I saw the gold ore and jewelry “Brownie” Holmes claims belonged to Jacob Waltz. Again, witnessing such a thing is still subjective information at best.

A very distinguished gentleman once said Waltz’s gold ore is what dreams are made of; meaning, who knows where that gold came from that was found under his bed. Dreams help to build subjective ideology.

Let’s face it, if you have spent a lifetime searching for the gold of Superstition Mountain, there has to be something meaningful to the story. Maybe my father had it all figured out when he basically said, “Yesterday’s adventures are today's memories."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lost Over the Wilderness

November 28, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Because of the rugged terrain, early aviators have always feared the Superstition Mountain region between Apache Junction and Globe. The reason for the fear was, in case of an emergency, there was no place to land. Flying at low altitudes to get under severe weather often endangered early aviators in the area. This turned out to be the case in October of 1949.

It was about 10:30 a.m.  Wednesday, October 20, 1949 when three United States Navy F4U Vought-Corsairs pilots flew low over Safford, Arizona to avoid heavy clouds and rain. This was reported by a Safford resident as the planes roared over his home at a very low altitude. The three single place planes were being ferried from Quonset Point, Rhode Island to El Paso, Texas to Litchfield Park Naval Air Station for storage. A severe winter storm had moved into the state causing very low ceiling and lots of precipitation. Commander Marvin Hart believed he would have heard from the pilots if they had landed safely somewhere. The pilots of the Corsairs were Lt. (j.g.) George Albert Heckler, of Portsmouth, Va., Engs. James Truett Pilgreen of Shreveport, La., and Engs. John Earl Lawrence Jr., of Grosbeck, Tex.

Flight control at Litchfield and Williams A.F.B. believed the planes were down somewhere between Safford and Litchfield. Both the rugged Pinals and Superstition Mountains were the first places to be searched. On the morning of October 21, 1948, nearly fifty aircraft were launched to search for the three downed Navy Corsairs. Sixteen twoplace AT-6’s took off at dawn from Williams Air Force Base near Gilbert.

Charles S. Barnes, President  of Phoenix Precipitation Control, a rain making company, spotted the wreckage of a Blue Corsair while searching the rugged Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction and north of Superior. Barnes was flying a converted BT type aircraft.

Barnes reported the plane crashed in the snow and burned several Pinyon trees. He said he could identify the blue tail section of one of the planes. Barnes estimated the wreckage was due west of the Castle Dome mine and five miles north of the Superior-Miami Highway (Hwy. 60). The plane crashed near Government Hill about two miles northwest of the Toney Ranch in Haunted Canyon, and about two miles south of the Kennedy Ranch along the West Fork of Pinto Creek. The other two planes crashed on Granite Mountain just west of Campaign Creek near the Horrell Upper Ranch, known today as the Reavis Mountain School. The distance between the crash sites was seven and three-quarters miles.

The United States Air Force Fifth Rescue Squadron out of Williams Air Force Base sent a helicopter to the site. Lt. Herman T. Kennedy and Lt. Paul Obidowski piloted the helicopter into the dangerous and rugged terrain. Severe turbulence was common near the ground in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The helicopter was able to land on a 5,500 feet ridge (Government Hill). They were able to identify the body of one of the pilots of the Corsairs. Once the crash site was located, a rescue and recovery team of six Navy and two Air Force men would go to the site overland from a nearby ranch. By October 24, 1948 all three bodies of the pilots were recovered from the area.

During the war years (1941-1945) many training aircraft crashed in the Superstition Wilderness Area (Primitive Area). All of these aircraft have been recovered. Only one aircraft remained in the Superstition Wilderness Area as of 1961. This aircraft was an old PT-6 Waco Ryan that was located in Whiskey Springs Canyon.

Some time during early 1991, Richard Johnson became interested in the Navy Corsairs that crashed in the Superstition Mountains in 1949. He contacted me about their location. I was able to assist him with the plane near Government Hill.

I had visited that crash site in 1978 with Allen Blackman. I believe Royce Johnson, foreman for the old Miles Ranch, told Allen how to find the crash site. The area was rugged and brushy around Government Hill. Allen and I had ridden into the area on FS Trail 203 off of FS road 287A. At the top of the hill  above Limestone Spring, we entered thick brush and broke our way through it to the old Corsair Navy F4U tail section. We photographed it and worked our way back to the trail and out.

Richard Johnson met a man named Craig McBurney who was interested in vintage aircraft. The three F4U Vought-Corsairs were packed out by Johnson and McBurney. The removal of the wreckage required thirty-five helicopter loads to remove it from the wilderness area and required six months to complete.

This was a major salvage project with the support of the Tonto National Forest Ranger District. Before this salvage project could be undertaken the United States Navy had to reopen the crash report and approve the salvage operation. The recovery operation of the three navy planes was accomplished under the direction of Richard Johnson.

Other pieces of the aircraft were packed out by a group of hikers. The United States Department of Agriculture wanted the wreckage totally removed from the Superstition Wilderness Area and therefore supported the operation. Without their cooperation the project could never have been accomplished.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jim D. Hatt: The Search Must Go On

November 21, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Who was Jim D. Hatt? He was a man devoted to finding gold in the Superstition Wilderness Area and his desire and tenacity equaled that of any man who ever searched for gold there. Hatt was born in Lansing, Michigan on November 30, 1949. He attended school in Lansing, graduating from East Lansing High School in the spring of 1967. Jim married shortly after high school and had three sons. He joined the United States Air Force after his marriage.

Jim eventually moved to Florida and attended Devry College where he acquired his knowledge of Nuclear Engineering and became a radiation health technician in the Nuclear Power field. He worked for a variety of Nuclear Power Plants including Three Mile Island, St. Lucie, and Arizona’s Palo Verde Plant. Three Mile Island was Jim Hatt’s first experience with dangerous levels of radiation from a nuclear source. Jim told me he was involved in the development of a small robot that could be used for clean up in the contaminated areas. It was after all of this he decided to search for gold in the Superstition Mountains.

He first arrived in Arizona about 1989. He worked at Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant when I first met him. He attended one of my classes on rattlesnakes of the Sonoran Desert in 1992. Jim and I were very close friends for almost twenty years. He shared many of his dreams and expectations with me during that time. We made several trips into the mountains together, but he focused primarily on Tortilla Mountain. Ironically, I understood his obsession with the mountain.

Earl Arthur Hatt, Jim’s great grandfather, told him about the Superstition Mountains and the Dutchman’s lost mine in 1956. Earl Hatt knew members of the Petrasch family personally and heard many stories about the period 1880-1900. This was Jim’s contribution to the Dutchman story.

Jim became very obsessed with the gold of the Superstition Wilderness Area and focused all his resources on the search beginning in 1989. He would take a temporary job such places as Palo Verde, or Ford Proving Grounds, but his search for the old Dutchman’s gold was a full-time avocation. His sometimes caustic and stubborn attitude made him some enemies, however, most of the time he was amiable and friendly. He sometimes stretched the truth or told a story just to get a rise out of people. The best way to tell his story is to let you read excerpts from a letter he wrote to me on March 4, 1995 from St. Lucie, Florida. Jim worked there temporarily on a six-month contract to supplement his grubstake so he could continue his search on Tortilla Mountain.
“Dear Tom: Just a short note to let you know I am alive and well. I used to love the beach, and the sound and smell of the ocean. I don’t know if that love has died or just over powered by the pull of Superstition Mountain and the burning memories I have of my experiences in the SWA. It really was time for me to back off, and see if it was love or lust, I have for the area. As I was on the sugar white sand of the beaches of  Hutchenson Island, I appear content to all that see me, but inside there is a sadness, and words of a great chief echo in my head, 'the mountains, the cactus, the bear and coyote all miss me and wonder when I will return.'

“Tom, I know you think Al Reser and Clay Worst would never tell me any thing of value concerning their beliefs about the location of the mine, but I think they have. After spending three years (1989-1992) on Tortilla, I approached them (one at a time) and disclosed what I had found. I described areas in such detail, and showed photographs of things I had found that convinced them I was one determined individual. They both told me other things in those areas that I missed, which I later verified. Then two days before Thanksgiving 1994, I got a call from Clay inviting me for Thanksgiving dinner. Boy was I shocked to arrive and find Al there. There seems to be a sort of fraternity of individuals who have paid their dues on that mountain. I brought with me, into the Holmes Camp, information from the original Petrasch Camp, that I believe the current Petrasch Camp may not have been aware of it. You at least have never let out anything that leads me to think you are aware of it. But I think you are pretty tight with your secrets! (grin). These things ensure that I will some day be vindicated for my search. There is no way my efforts could ever be looked back on as in vain. I expect to be back this summer to pick up where I left off. Will let you know when I get back. See you this summer. Jim”

The foregoing excerpts from Jim Hatt’s letter allows the reader to realize how devoted he was to searching for the lost gold in the Superstition Mountains and how important it was to be accepted into the Dutch Hunter fraternity. Jim Hatt, like many others, devoted the later part of his life to this search. He was very intelligent, clever and very mechanically inclined.

This letter and several others from Jim Hatt revealed a man with his heart torn between reality and the adventure of searching for lost gold around Tortilla Mountain. So many others have followed this perilous treasure trail through  life and found nothing at the end of the rainbow. He was devoted to the search. He  chose one of the most rugged mountains in the Superstition Wilderness Area to search. He was determined to defend his ideas and opinions to the end. If nothing else, you had to respect him for his dedication and tenacity.

The last time I visited with Jim was at the First Water Trail Head in late July of 2010 during the search for three missing Utah prospectors. Jim had hiked into the Weaver’s Needle area trying to help out. While others remained in the cool of their homes during a very hot summer, there was Jim out looking for clues as to what happened to three lost prospectors. We were all sitting under a mesquite tree in the shade with temperatures around 109 degrees. Jim was coughing quite severely and I noticed blood on his hankerchief. I had no idea he was so ill. Later, after he passed away on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, I learned he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer early in the fall of 2009. Jim paid his dues in the mountains; he made his enemies, and also made friends. There were searchers out there that summer who really respected him for his effort.

Jim left behind a sister, Sherry Waller, three sons, and his close friend Doris Abbott. Doris cared for Jim up to the end then he was moved into Mesa to hospice for his last two days of his life.

You might say Jim D. Hatt found his niche in life when he got on the trail of the Lost Dutchman mine.

Monday, November 21, 2011

FAQ About the Superstitions

November 14, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

I taught a class about the history, geology, fauna, flora and legends of the Superstition Wilderness Area for more than twenty-five years in Apache Junction. These are the twenty most-commonly asked questions about the area.

1. How did Superstition Mountain get its name?
According to most historians the best answer to this question centers on the early farmers of the Salt River Valley. The farmers grew food for the Army at Fort McDowell in the late 1860’s. These farmers constantly heard stories from the Pimas about how they feared Superstition Mountain. The farmers thought the Pimas were superstitious about the mountain, hence the name. Early military sketch maps used in reports to the commander of Fort McDowell referred to the Salt River Mountains (Superstition Mountain) as Sierra de Supersticiones.

2. Is there a Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine?
Most Arizona historians believe there is little evidence to suggest the existence of a rich gold mine in the Superstition Wilderness Area. One can never forget the old adage, “Gold is where you find it.” Hundreds have searched for the old Dutchman’s mine over the past century and it still remains lost. Most geologists will tell you there is no gold in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

3. Who was the Dutchman?

Jacob Waltz indeed existed and prospected the mountains of Arizona from 1863-1891. According to early pioneers of Mesa and Tempe, Waltz made several trips into the Superstition Mountains. He was born in Germany in 1810 and died in Phoenix, Arizona Territory, October 25, 1891. Waltz had gold claims in Yavapai County and worked gold claims in California. He also homesteaded 160 acres of land along the north bank of the Salt River in Phoenix. Much of the legend about this old German immigrant resulted from the gold ore cache found beneath his death bed and the stories written by Pierpont Constable Bicknell as told to him by Julia Thomas, prior to the turn of the century.

4. How do I find Peralta Trailhead?
Drive southeast from Apache Junction on Highway 60 toward Florence Junction. Peralta Road is approximately 2.4  miles east of King’s Ranch Road. Turn east on Peralta Road and drive 8 miles to the Peralta Trailhead; an unimproved dirt road. A hike of Peralta Trail provides a spectacular view of Weaver’s Needle. This is a very strenuous 1.75 mile hike. Remember, this is a wilderness hike.

5. How do I find First Water Trailhead?
Drive northeast of Apache Junction on State Route 88 (Apache Trail) 4.9 miles. Turn right onto First Water Road. This road is dirt and can be a very rough 2.5 miles to the trail head.

6. Where is the Lost Dutchman State Park?
The Lost Dutchman State Park is located 4.7 miles northeast of Apache Junction, Arizona on State Route 88 (Apache Trail). The entrance to the park is on the right hand side of the road traveling northeast from Apache Junction. The various day-use and campsites have spectacular views of the northwestern façade of Superstition Mountain. The park now has overnight hookups for water and electricity.

7. How did Superstition Mountain form?

According to Geologist Dr. Michael Sheridan of Arizona State University, Superstition Mountain was formed from volcanic activity 17 to 24 million years ago. Sheridan says the mountain was once part of a large caldera which resurged to form a massive mountain and after millions of years of erosion, presents as the Superstition Mountain we know. The rocks of Superstition Mountain are primarily volcanic in origin and are formed from alternating layers of ash and basalt.

8. How old is Superstition Mountain?

Geologists believe Superstition Mountain to be between 15 million and 29 million years old.

9. Do Native Americans live in the Superstitions?

Native Americans may occasionally visit the fringe regions of Superstition Wilderness Area today; however, they do not live there. The last Native Americans to occupy a small part of the Superstitions were the Pimas during the construction of the Apache Trail from 1903-1905.

10. Are there any roads into the Superstition Wilderness?

Roads are prohibited in a national wilderness area by law. Today, only one road actually penetrates the wilderness. This road is the Tortilla Ranch access corridor. The forest service plans on withdrawing this access corridor sometime in the future.

11. Are there any working gold mines in the Superstitions?
There are no working (profitable) gold mines operating within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. The only gold mines that ever existed in the immediate area were the mines associated with the Superstition Mining District such as the  Mammoth, Bull Dog, and Black Queen, just west of Superstition Mountain proper. Visit the Goldfield Ghost Town to see the nostalgic remains of the old mining equipment and hear past stories about mining in the area.

12. What is a wilderness area?
A wilderness is a piece of public land set aside in its natural state and preserved for future generations to see and experience. The Superstition Wilderness Area encompasses some 159,780 acres of land in the Tonto National Forest.

13. Where can I see Weaver’s Needle from the highway?
Weaver’s Needle can be seen from both State Route 88 (Apache Trail) and U.S. Highway 60, approximately 7 miles northeast of Apache Junction at a new vista point. This is the best view of the “needle” from a paved highway.

14. Are permits required to visit the Superstition Wilderness?

The Superstition Wilderness Area does not require a permit to visit. First Water and Peralta are very popular trail heads to visit.

15. What agency regulates the Superstition Wilderness Area?
The Tonto National Forest Ranger District under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture.

16. What is the easiest way to see the Superstition Wilderness?
The quickest and easiest way to see the Superstition Wilderness is by helicopter, but this method can be very expensive. The cheapest method is hiking the enormous trail system of the wilderness. To use the trail system you must be prepared to do a lot of hiking or horseback riding. The best time of the year to hike the wilderness is between November and April.

17. How many miles of hiking trails are there in the Superstitions?
There are 140 miles of improved  system trails in the Superstition Wilderness Area and approximately 100 more miles of unimproved trails that do not appear on maps.

18. How high is Superstition Mountain above sea level?
The highest point on Superstition Mountain above sea level is Southeast Superstition Peak at 5,074 feet. Summit 5,024 is the second highest point on Superstition Mountain proper which is at the head of Siphon Draw.

19. What is the difference between Superstition Mountain and the Superstition Wilderness Area?

Superstition Mountain is one specific geographical location within the Superstition Wilderness Area, immediately east of Apache Junction. The Superstition Wilderness Area is a region of some 242 square miles or 159,780 acres containing many lesser mountains and some even higher mountains than Superstition Mountain.

20. Where can I get information on the Superstition Wilderness Area?

Mesa Ranger District, 5140 E. Ingram St., Mesa, Arizona 85205

Monday, November 14, 2011

Edwin's War

November 7, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Armistice (Veteran’s) Day  comes and goes each year. We remember the men and women who have paid the ultimate price so we as Americans can enjoy our freedom. The American soldier has fought around the world defending the American flag. Most of these soldiers return home and become average citizens once again. But there are some who were shell shocked for the rest of their lives because of the horrors on the battlefield. Today, we call the Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder.

Many of these men sought solitude and become recluses. Such a man was Edwin Buckwitz.

Hikers, prospectors, horsemen,  outfitters, and cowboys often passed an old man hiking in and out of the Superstition Wilderness Area along the Dutchman’s trail  between 1965 and 1993. This man avoided contact and stayed to himself, only speaking whenspoken to. He hiked silently along the trail with a large cardboard box on his pack frame never volunteering information to anyone. Outfitters, who were often visitors to the wilderness, called him “Spook.”

Spook’s real name was Edwin  Buckwitz. He was born on July 6, 1924, on a South Dakota wheat farm near McLaughlin. He was the middle child in a family of seven. Edwin was very shy and a true introvert. He spent most of his life avoiding contact with people. He preferred to be alone.

After high school, he joined  the United States Army Air Corps at the height of World War II in 1942. Edwin served with the 15th Army Air Corps and was stationed in Italy during  the war. He was a waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator and flew many missions over  Germany. Edwin once told his brother about the time he took off his flight jacket on a mission and hung it next to the waist gun aperture. When the flight was over he found the jacket filled with bullet holes. The one story Edwin told his brother I am sure played a dramatic role in shaping Edwin’s life after the war.

Edwin told the following  tragic story that involved the loss of his crew and aircraft. Edwin was grounded one day. He watched his crew take off in an over loaded B-24 filled to capacity with bombs for the Third Reich. He then watched helplessly as the plane stalled then crashed. All the crew, his friends, his buddies were lost in a split second. This event scarred Edwin’s mind for the rest of his life.

After Edwin’s honorable military service, he attended school to become an electrical engineer. Upon graduation, he worked for McDonnell-Douglas in the mid 1950’s. He did drafting work on the A-3D bomber and the  F-5D fighter escort plane. He worked for almost two decade in the aircraft engineering industry in California.

At the age of 45, Edwin decided he would fulfill his life dream of living with nature and surviving alone in a wilderness. He wanted to get away from people and traffic congestion. Working in the Los Angeles area would make anyone want to run away to the hills. Edwin resigned his job and traveled to Arizona. He decided he would devote the rest of his life to searching for the Peralta Treasure in the Superstition Wilderness.

Many years ago Edwin told  me about the anxiety he felt the first day he stood at First Water Trailhead and planned his solo trip into the Superstition Wilderness. He didn’t know whether he could find  water or not. He had never camped outdoors before. He wasn’t even familiar with the wildlife of the Sonoran Desert. He wondered just how long he would survive in this rugged wilderness with little protection from the weather and the animals. He was convinced most animals were harmless if left alone. He finally made up his mind not to worry about broken bones, dehydration, rattlesnakes, lions or the desert heat. He sincerely believed, at the time, anything was better than the traffic congestion of California and the ugliness of the war he had served in. He finally convinced himself,  he said to me, he was here to find the gold of Superstition Mountain and to seek the peace and solitude of this mountain wilderness.

Edwin lived in East Boulder and Needle Canyons for twenty years. He searched the area with total dedication believing he would find his gold. Edwin had an unshakable faith that the Peralta Mines existed. The last time I talked to Edwin, he revealed no traces of the young man who had gone to war, who had studied electrical engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit and Northrop University in Inglewood, California. His skin was rough and tanned like leather from years of exposure to the hot desert sun. His body was slender and wiry from decades of walking in the Superstitions and his hair was gray from age.

Edwin was a simple man, but well educated. I must admit I watched him grow older and he loved every minute of it. He said growing old put more time between the present and his memories of the air war over Germany and the tragic explosion in Italy that cost the lives of his aviation combat crew. He loved every minute of his isolation in the mountains. He had many friends among the animals. Birds would sit on his shoulders, squirrels would eat from his hands, and Cottontail rabbits filled his camp.

Edwin lived almost twenty eight  years in the outdoors and survived with the minimum of conveniences. His amenities included a plastic tarp, an old bedroll, a backpack, a cardboard box, a pot, a pan, a canteen and a bible. He carried all he owned on his back for almost three decades.

I passed Edwin Buckwitz on trail many times between 1966 and 1986 before I actually met him. Edwin hiked from his camp in Needle Canyon to Apache Junction twice a month, a distance of fifteen miles, for more than twenty five years. The only treasure Edwin found was peace of mind and the solitude of the mountains, not its gold.

Life in the Superstition Mountains for Edwin had not been easy. His paradise had become his own master. I often awed at his tenacity to continue his epic journeys into the mountain each time. I was fascinated with his interaction with wildlife around his camp. Edwin was at peace with his God and the environment around him. Actually, Edwin paid an exacting price for his privacy and isolation from his fellow human beings. It is ironic that such a man who shunned society died near a busy intersection along the Apache Trail in March of 1993.

He accepted no social pensions, although eligible, of any kind. He arrived in Apache Junction with almost one hundred thousand dollars in 1965, and when he died, he willed almost a quarter of million dollars to a religious radio evangelist in Kentucky.

Staff Sgt. Edwin Buckwitz was laid to rest with full military honors in the Phoenix Veterans Cemetery at 2:30  p.m. on March 26, 1993. Taps were finally sounded for this man who lived through hell high over Germany during World War II, but found his ultimate peace on earth in the Superstition Mountains.

Don’t wait until Memorial  Day or Veteran’s Day to say thank you to a veteran that was willing to risk his life for your way of life. We Americans are so lucky to have these brave men and women who gave so much for our freedom and our country.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's Just a Name

October 31, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The cattle barons of early Arizona territorial days left their names on many of our state’s landmarks. Cattlemen who worked the Superstition Wilderness left their names on landmarks also.

As each decade fades, names of various old landmarks are lost to time. The Bark Ranch in Pinal County is now known as the Quarter Circle U Ranch. The change occurred when William A. Barkley bought the ranch from James Bark in 1907. The old Barkley Camp of the 1930’s at the end of First Water Road is lost forever. For several decades, the camp was known as First Water Ranch. Today, the old Three R’s Ranch was part of the Apacheland property owned and operated by Ed and Sue Birmingham of Gold Canyon. Recently, the Birminghams sold the Apacheland property that included the old Three R’s Ranch. The ranch was obliterated to make way for a new housing development on the old Three R’s Ranch will survive for a few decades on old topographic maps and other old maps of the area.

Another interesting name change in the area was that of Silly Mountain. The mountain along Highway 60 (the Lost Dutchman Gold Route, The Old West Highway, and so forth) was originally called King’s Mountain. It wasn’t named after Julian King, but William N. King, the founder of the Superstition Mountain Ranch Club in Apache Junction in 1934. King owned a small ranch in the area during the late twenties and early thirties. I would imagine  somewhere in the Southwest the old minutes of the Superstition Mountain Ranch Club still survive waiting to be discovered.

One of the oldest named landmarks in the Gold Canyon area is Barkley Hill, but people aren’t familiar with it today. The hill was located almost due south of the old Three R’s Ranch and stone corral. The old mine that belonged to Pearl Bates is probably covered up today. Bates  sold the first 180 acres in the area to Julian King who slowly developed it after 1946 into the King’s Ranch Resort and  then sub-divided. I believe
Black Hawk Road runs along  the east boundary of the subdivision bordering State Trust Land.

One interesting landmark  that remains to this day has only suffered a misspelling rather than total eradication. This misspelling confuses the meaning and the origin of the name. This landmark is Iron Mountain in the southeastern portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Iron Mountain was named after a pioneer cattleman Robert A. Irion.

Irion arrived in Arizona Territory in 1876 with a small herd of cattle from Montana. He brought his herd to the area to provide beef for the miners of the Silver King and the Globe mining area. The booming Silver King Mine provided cattle drovers of the period with sufficient opportunity to make a profit with their herds. Robert Irion pioneered the Pinal Ranch (Craig Ranch) halfway between Superior and Miami in the late 1870’s. When Irion passed away the mountain was named after him. The name Irion became distorted by cartographers (mapmakers) near the turn of the century and Iron Mountain began to appear on maps.

Recent arrivals to the region continue to refer to Irion Mountain as Iron Mountain. The advocates, who support  the name Iron Mountain, claim there was a large iron deposit on the mountain that attracts lightning. The iron content of this mountain distorts the needle of a magnetic compass, hence, proof for the name, according to some sources. Today, the name Iron Mountain appears on all U. S. Department of Agriculture maps and U.S.G.S. 71/2” topographic maps of the region. The incorrect name may not mean a lot today, other than the fact it’s just a name.

Researching place names of  old landmarks in and around the Superstition Wilderness Area can be confusing avocation. Names appear to change every generation of so. Another classic change is Flat Iron or Ship Rock on Superstition Mountain immediately east of Apache Junction. Over the years, many hikers have climbed to the Flat Iron or Ship Rock by way of Siphon Draw, immediately east of Mining Camp Restaurant.

The hike up Siphon Draw  is a challenge even for the best conditioned hikers. The point on Superstition Mountain known today as Ship Rock was originally called the Flat Iron. Early newspaper accounts from the 1890’s make comments about “the Flat Iron.” When people began settling near the base of Superstition Mountain they thought the point looked more like the prow of a ship, therefore the name “Ship Rock.”
Also an east-west street in Apache Junction is named Ship Rock in direct reference to this noted landmark on Superstition Mountain.

Other interesting landmarks in the area include Bull Dog Peak and Goldfield Point. Bull Dog Peak was dynamited in the 1890’s around Christmas time, destroying a large rock that looked like a bulldog. The rock has been gone for over a hundred years, but the name remains with us.

Goldfield Point is the extreme rock edge on the northwestern end of Superstition Mountain. The residents of the gold camp known as Goldfield named the prominent point “Goldfield” in the early 1890’s.

Another interesting controversy around 1918 arose when Superstition Mountain’s name was temporary changed to Coronado Mountain. A group of early Phoenix entrepreneurs believed Coronado Mountain
sounded more southwestern than Superstition Mountain. Actually the mountain’s name was changed for a short  time, until the ire of James H. McClintock was raised. He protested to the state government at the time and the name Coronado Mountain was soon dropped. McClintock was the Arizona State Historian at the time.

After this incident, a state historic landmark commission was formed. Even with a historic landmark commission, names still get changed from either lack of use or knowledge.

Another interesting name in  our area is the Apache Trail. The sixty-two mile roadway from Mesa to Roosevelt Dam has had several names over the years. The first name was the Tonto Wagon Road, and this was followed by the Roosevelt Road, then the Mesa Roosevelt Haul Road, and, finally, the Apache Trail in 1915. Most historians agree that a ticket salesman name of E.E. Watson coined the term “the Apache Trail.” Watson worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad during the heyday of the “Sunset Limited” and the railroad’s many concessions along its route from Florida to California.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Old 3 R's Trail

October 24, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Early one fall morning Bill  Barkley arrived at the ranch and told me to saddle up, we were going to move some stock down to the Three R’s Corral near Dinosaur Mountain. I saddled up an old cow pony named Scooter. He was a large bay standing about fifteen and half hands, and weighting in at about eleven hundred and fifty pounds. Scooter was a good ride and I did enjoy handling him. This would be my first trip over
the Three R’s Trail.

Bill and I had rounded up about twenty-five head of yearlings the day before. Now Barkley planned on moving them down to the Quarter Circle W Ranch (Three R’s). Apacheland stood near the old Three R’s. A few years ago, the entire old Three R’s Ranch was razed.

Bill took the lead out of the corral and I hazed the yearlings into motion. They were through the gate and on their way with me eating a large cloud of dust. Now I knew why cowboys wore bandanas. It’s amazing how much dust twenty-five yearlings can stir up when the trail is dry. Bill rode flank and I rode drag. Oh, by the way, drag is riding at the rear of the herd and eating all the dust.

One yearling appeared to know his way back to the Quarter Circle W. Once the cattle settled down and begin to trail, the job of moving them became easier. I finally moved over to Bill’s flank and we chatted as the cattle moved along the trail.

“See up there, Slim, that is where mom killed a mountain sheep in 1915 with an old 30-40 Kraig rifle,” said Bill. What a shot Gertie must have been to make such a kill. The distance appeared to be at least four hundred yards.

Bill told me how many Desert  Bighorn Sheep roamed Superstition Mountain when he was a kid. He talked about the antelope that lived on the desert around Dinosaur Mountain. I couldn’t believe antelope use to be plentiful on the desert near the base of Superstition Mountain. Yes, the region had changed a lot in forty years.

As the cattle continue to walk slowly toward the Three R’s Ranch a Mule deer became part of our herd. Bill said it wasn’t uncommon to have as many mule deer in the herd as cattle when taking this trail. As we rounded Promontory Hill we could see Dinosaur Mountain in the distance some four or five miles away. The cattle continue walking slowly along the trail. Bill then started another story about how the Indians use to gather Mesquite beans along the alluvial fans of Superstition Mountain. “The first time my mother saw those Indians she thought they were on the warpath. Once she got acquainted with a few of them she found out  they were gathering Mesquite beans and Goat nut beans,” he said. Goat nuts were sometimes called Jojoba. One story would lead into another.

I was a young and not-too-cautious man at the time. I coiled my rope with the intentions of trying to throw a loop on one of the small Mule deer bucks that was no more than twenty-five feet away. The deer totally ignored us. Bill called to me and said, “You had better think about it for a moment, Slim, before you throw a loop on that Mule deer.” Then Bill started another story about a young buckaroo he knew once, who threw
a loop on a four-point buck up near Sunflower. When his catch rope was stretched tight the buck turned around and ran at his horse right up the rope. The deer then jumped to clear the horse and collided with the cowboy in the saddle. This was a wreck that would remain a part of cowboy vernacular for decades to come.

The cowboy ended up with a broken arm and two holes in his chest. Bill said he almost bled to death before they could get him to a doctor. After Bill’s short story, I coiled my rope and enjoyed watching the deer walk in and out of the herd. Bill had a unique way of discouraging dangerous behavior that could result in serious injury or an accident.

Bill told me there was a tank about two miles ahead and he wanted to water the yearlings. As we approached we could see Mallard ducks flying off the earthen stock tank. The ducks startled the yearlings momentarily, but they soon calmed down. The ducks circled the tank until we finally moved on. There must have been a dozen or more of them flying about.

While looking at the Mallards, Bill told me another story about a cowboy who almost drowned in a stock tank. Never let your horse get into a stock tank you don’t know. If the bottom is too soft and the horse rolls on you, the horse could easily drown you in six inches of water. Again, Bill was very convincing. I soon figured out, if an eleven hundred-pound horse were to roll on you in a stock tank and cause you to inhale silt as you came up for air, I could see clearly how easy it would be to drown. Another lesson learned from Bill Barkley.

About a half-mile west of the stock tank we ran into a herd of Javelina. These pig-like animals ran right through the middle of the yearlings scattering them in different directions. ill and I were rounding up spooked yearlings all over the desert. Finally, we got them gathered and trailing once more. Scooter and I had plenty of cactus thorns to attest to our effort to corral these young cattle.

We finally could see the windmill and we knew the corral wasn’t much farther down the trail. Finally, we could see one of Julian King’s houses and civilization. I ask Bill what was going on near the old ranch house and he told me they were building a movie set.

We finally got the cattle put away and rode over to Bill’s mother’s new home for dinner. Gertie, to all the cowboys, had prepared a wonderful meal for a couple of hard working men. Gertie made every effort to make me feel at home. When she became inquisitive about my experience as a cowboy I became quite nervous. Then she looked at me and said, I was too young to be very experienced at working cattle. She then asked Bill where he had found me. Bill mention my dad and that seem to ease her interest in me.

Out her front window I could see only a couple of homes in the area. She commented on  all the folks that were moving out to the desert. She believed the area would be covered with houses someday. What a vision she had for what the future held for this area. I will  always cherish that evening at Gertie Barkley’s home and the stories she told me about the old days and real cowboys of her day. Men like her late husband, William A. Barkley and a son like William Thomas Barkley. They were true Arizona cowmen.

I visited Gertie’s home a few times after she passed away and visited with her daughter Nancy and her husband Ken. I could still feel the spirit of this cowgirl of the Superstition Mountain stage. I have the deepest respect for these fine people who helped guide me through that youthful part of life when guidance was most needed to keep me safe.

The Three R’s trail from the Quarter Circle U Ranch to the Three R’s Ranch was a great learning experience for me. The lesson has lasted me a lifetime.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Cowboy Called 'Bud'

October 17, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The following story is an appropriate story for this year’s “Day of the Cowboy” celebration  here in Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.

Richard A. “Bud” Lane touched many of our lives here in Apache Junction. His name was synonymous with cowboys and horses and his love for animals and the outdoors was shared with all those he knew.

Bud Lane was born on March 5, 1923, in Hanford, California. His life’s work was with horses and cattle. He served his country during World War II with honor. He was a navy diver and was on the USS Fanning near Pearl Harbor when it was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. He also served in the United States Air Force during the Korean Police Action. Bud worked as a cowboy on many of the ranches that dot the landscape of the American Southwest. He also was a part of the rodeo circuit for several years. His saddle bronc riding received a wide range of recognition and denoted the type of man he was.

Bud was an honest and proud man. His pride prevented him from accepting charity at anytime form others. He was so stubborn at times it was difficult for some to understand him, but those of us who really knew Bud understood why.

He knew who he was, what he was, and he wanted nothing else but to be a cowboy. He wanted to improve his place in life, but it had to be in the outdoors and with a horse. Bud Lane was born a hundred years too late. He dreamed of owning a couple of acres where he could have a horse and dog. Bud’s willingness to help others when he was down and out revealed the true character of this man. This desire to help others earned him a lot of respect in Apache Junction. A call for help to aid a person, injured horse, dog or other animal would always bring Bud on the run.

I will never forget the time my dog, Duke, was severely lacerated on his leg by a large piece of glass. I called Bud and he responded immediately to assist me with my injured dog. Within minutes he had stopped the bleeding and was stitching up the gaping wound on Duke’s leg. Duke walked a couple thousand miles in the Superstition Wilderness after that day attesting to Bud’s skill in doctoring animals.

Those who knew Bud respected and loved him despite his faults. There will be many “Bud Lane” stories that will emerge in the years ahead. These stories will be the legacy of a cowboy who never changed his way of in life to suit progress. Bud always tried to maintain a low profile. Stories about him and Superstition Mountain evolved from those who knew Bud best.

There were few people who knew the Superstition Wilderness as well as Bud Lane. Geographic place names such as Frankfurter Flats, Lane’s Short Cut Trail and many other names will be part of his legacy in this mountain country. Bud packed prospectors for Ron Feldman’s O.K. Corral, Crader’s Superstition Mountain Pack Outfit, and was half owner of the Peralta Stables with Everett “Arkie” Johnston. Those who met Bud on the trail had a high regard for him as a seasoned cowboy. I sometimes believe the song “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” was written about and for Bud Lane.

Bud Lane touched the lives  of many of my students at the Apache Junction Jr. High School over the years. He and I sponsored numerous horseback trips into the Superstition Wilderness for the students of my classes. Bud and I guided these school trips for more than fifteen years together. On one trip we had sixty students and ten adult sponsors. Bud always said the children were his best “dudes” because they
took his advice about safety around the horses and also sought his knowledge about horses. I believe these were some of the happiest moments in this old cowboy’s life. Bud was very gruff toward adult customers, but his demeanor changed completely around children.

Bud Lane also taught classes on horse shoeing for Central Arizona College. He never dreamed he could get such a job. I talked to the dean of the college and he thought it was a great idea. Bud soon started teaching classes on Saturday at the old Quarter Circle U Ranch. These classes gave purpose to an old cowboy’s life. It was in these classes where he shared with his students the life he loved so much.

Richard Alexander “Bud” Lane was a proud man. He had his ups and down with life, but most important of all his integrity stood far above any of his faults. He was not a self-serving man nor was he self-centered. He was a man of his word and definitely a spirit of the Old West in Apache Junction. He was the cowboy in all us that we loved so much. Our friend Bud Lane passed away on Monday, June 1, 1987, at the Tucson Veteran’s Hospital in Tucson, Arizona.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Desert Bonanza

October 10, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Goldfield and the famous Mammoth Mine have long ceased to be the booming mining camp it was at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The inhabitants have left and little remains today of its glorious past. Remnants of this era can be found on the base of a large alluvial fan (an alluvial fan is a fan-shaped deposit formed where a fast flowing stream flattens, slows, and spreads typically at the exit of a canyon onto a flatter plain). This alluvia fan protrudes into the desert far below the towering cliffs of Superstition Mountain.

Late in the Nineteenth Century, early prospectors passed this area without much of a glance. Mexican prospectors found small stringers of gold in the area as early as 1879. However, these outcrops did not attract any serious interest. Eventually, some Mormons from Mesa City began to prospect in the area. The Lucky  Boy claim was staked in 1881,  but produced very little gold. On November 27, 1892 C. R. Hakes, Orlando Merrill, Orrin Merrill and J. R. Morse filed on the Black Queen claim. The Black Queen produced a reasonable amount of gold because it kept miners busy in the area until the discovery of the Mammoth claim occurred in April 1893. This discovery was prompted by a flash flood along Goldfield Wash (Weeks Wash) that exposed a rich vein of gold ore.

Hakes, the Merrills and Morse worked their claim for a short time than filed four other claims, the Black King, Mammoth, Mother Hubbard, and Tom Thumb. They sold their claims to Denver capitalists Denny Sullivan and Charles I. Hall just six months after filing the claims for a price of twenty thousand dollars.

It was the Mammoth that became the bonanza of the five claims. At first there was only a small amount of gold detected at the surface, however at the depth of sixty feet a large ore deposit was located that later became known as the “Mormon Stope.” Between seventy and two hundred and fifty feet the gold was so rich it held the quartz together in the stamp mill making it difficult to separate. It is claimed over three million dollars in gold was removed from this mine in four years between 1893-1897. Most of the gold was removed from the Mormon Stope in the first two and a half years.

Geologically, this area is a basement pediment complex composed of coarse grained, indurated conglomerates and granite breccia. The region was intruded by rich veins gold in quartz. The principle ore body, the Mormon Stope, was located in the vicinity of two northward striking and steeply westward dipping faults that outcropped some three hundred feet apart. Within this zone the riches ore was produced, resulting from granite outcrops heavily stained with brownish limonite containing irregular stringers rich goldfilled quartz. According to George B. Church, the material mined was oxidized. The Iron Pyrite that accompanied the quartz was the source material for the gold bearing Iron Oxide. Some minerals today that have been associated with the gold quartz was Monzanite, and Calcite.

By November of 1893, the hostile desert environment had been altered so that it was compatible for occupancy by miners and their families. Frame structures and tents were common place. However, Goldfield was doomed from the beginning. The miners were digging rich gold ore one day, and the next day the gold ore was gone. The rich ore body had been dissected by a fault millions of years before. The rich ore body had attracted well over five hundred people to the area. By November 1897, Goldfield became a ghost town haunted only by the wind and the coyotes.

Early in 1910, Goldfield briefly came to life again. George U. Young acquired the claims and for the next fifteen years tried to relocate the lost ore body. At 900 feet, low-grade ore was encountered, however this attempt ended in failure because they didn’t locate the high-grade ore deposit. It was at this time a large steamdriven electric power plant was installed. The purpose of the power plant was to operate a ten-stamp amalgamation mill and provide power for a 50-ton cyanide plant. The two were operated intermittently for several years producing about $67,000 worth of gold and silver.

On June 8, 1921 Goldfield was re-established as Youngsberg, Arizona. After the closing of the post office in Goldfield (Youngsberg) in 1926  the community ceased to exist officially. The area saw mining activity in 1949, and then through much of the 1970’s. During both of these periods gold was produced. Only sturdy concrete foundations and eroded mine dumps exist today.

In 1985, Goldfield had a rebirth when Robert and LuAnn Schoose deciding to fulfill a dream and build a ghost town that would serve as both tourist attraction and a museum. The site of Goldfield and Youngsberg are once again a place to go see. Schoose’s effort has definitely help preserve the mining history of the area and Arizona.

With our Arizona Centennial celebration coming up in 2012 their effort to rebuild this historical site should be recognized. This attraction is just north of Apache Junction on State Rt. 88 and has one the finest displays of old mining equipment in Arizona. It’s well worth your time to visit the Goldfield Ghost Town.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Dutch Hunters' Rendezvous

October 3, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

We are now in the twenty-first century, and the intense interest in lost mines in the Superstition Mountain area still prevails.

Men and women continue to come to the Superstition Wilderness Area hoping to find their fortunes. Most find nothing and some are lucky to just walk away. Sadly, some make poor choices and eventually end up dead or injured. These accidents are no stranger to the unprepared and inexperienced in this rugged mountain range east of Apache Junction. Adventurers and prospectors have suffered from extreme weather conditions, gunshot wounds, falls, flash floods, dehydration, and sun stroke to name a few. Ironically, the Superstition Mountains are far safer than the streets of Phoenix or the highways of Arizona.

Since the early 1880’s, men and women have searched these rugged mountains for lost mines and treasure. Gold is the natural magnet that attracts the modern day adventurer to these mountains. The most significant lost mine story centers around a German immigrant name Jacob Waltz. His infamous mine was allegedly located with a two-mile radius of Weaver’s Needle, a prominent landmark east of Superstition Mountain.

Each year, I am amazed at the people who become interested in the search for the Lost Dutchman mine. There is a continuous list of new prospectors who are searching these rugged mountains for clues. Several years ago a businessman and prospector named Joe Ribaudo, of Lake Havasu, Arizona, decided he wanted to see the Dutchman’s legend carried on by some kind of annual gathering. He came up with the idea of the “Dutch Hunter’s Rendezvous.” He held the first “gathering” just west of Twin Buttes along the Gila River east of Florence, Arizona.

This first “Dutch Hunter’s Rendezvous” was small with only thirteen people attending in October of 2005. However, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the idea. The next year the rendezvous was moved to the Don’s Camp with the help of Don’s member Greg Davis. The camp is located at the base of Superstition Mountain near the Peralta Trail Head. Each year the activity has been held toward the end of October and has continued to grow. It is a gathering of individuals that are extremely interested in the Superstition Mountains and stories about lost gold mines. This event has attracted old timers, as well as contemporaries, anxious to learn new stories about the Superstition Mountains.

The third year, Joe handed over the organizing of the “Dutchman’s Rendezvous” to Wayne Tuttle and Randy Wright. Greg Davis continued to make the arrangements for the Don’s Camp for the annual rendezvous. Joe and his wife, Carolyn, remained being camp hosts providing some shade and cold water. The scheduled activities include a variety of options for attendees. Friday includes sitting around various campfires and telling stories about the mountains and the many characters that searched for gold there. There are usually two hikes Saturday morning. One is a very difficult hike over rough terrain and the other hike is over much easier terrain and gentler slopes. After dark on Saturday evening everyone gathers at the Ramada
to listen to a couple of guest speakers.

I attended last year for the first time and I thought it was an excellent opportunity to meet a variety of people from all over the United States who are interested in our local history of the mountains. This particular event is not connected with the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce or the Superstition Mountain Museum. Last year there were three days of events. The interested, the curious, and the very serious showed up for the events last year. They traveled from such distant places as Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, California, New Hampshire, and other states. The organizers of this event should be proud of their accomplishment. I would estimate approximately a hundred people attended last year’s “Dutch Hunter’s Rendezvous.” The event is growing each year.

Each year, noted Dutch hunters, historians, and authors attend this gathering. Many of the authors have published books on the history of the area. Over the years Clay Worst, Bob Corbin, Jack San Felice, Bob Schoose, Gregory Davis and Dr. Thomas Glover have attended the event and added their signature to it.

The “Dutch Hunter’s Rendezvous” is an open event, so everyone is welcome. This year’s event is scheduled for Fri., Sat., and Sun., October 21, 22, & 23, 2011. There is no admission, no charge for camping, and all activities are free, based on first come, first served. The camping is primitive, so you need to bring what you need to be comfortable. Be sure to bring water, food, tent and bedding. If you don’t bring a tent you will have to sleep outside or in your vehicle. There is no electricity or running water. There are restroom facilities.

For more information you may email Joe at havasho@ or Randy at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Old Hermit Elisha M. Reavis

September 26, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

No story about the Superstition Mountains would be complete without a mention of the old hermit. Elisha Marcus Reavis was one of the most enigmatic individuals to wander the West. Reavis was born in Beardstown, Illinois in 1827. He taught school briefly in Illinois after graduating from an Illinois teacher’s college, but soon moved to California where he taught school at El Monti.

Reavis soon lost interest in teaching school and then decided to dedicate his time to the gold fields along the San Gabriel River. He spent most of the 1850’s prospecting for gold. Reavis joined a group of adventurers and prospectors headed for the Bradshaw Mountains in Arizona Territory in early 1863. He had little success in the Bradshaws and returned to California in 1866.

Upon returning to California he married Mary Y. Sexton on December 30, 1867, in San Gabriel. There were two children born to this marriage. One was a daughter named Louisa Maria born on November 22, 1868. There was also a son born to Elisha and Mary, but he did not grow to maturity.

Reavis returned to Arizona Territory shortly after his daughter’s birth. It was the fall of 1869. Elisha’s uncle, Isham Reavis, had just been appointed Assistant Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court. Reavis traveled to La Paz with Isham, but separated from him and traveled on the Vulture City near Wickenburg. He spent enough time in Vulture City to appear on the U.S. Census report for August 20, 1870.

Reavis’ name then appears in the 1872 U.S. Census report in the Fort McDowell area. It is believed Reavis settled on a horse ranch north of Fort McDowell on the Verde River were he broke and trained horses. It is believed he may have rode with the Army as a civilian packer between 1870- 1872. This would explain how he knew the Superstition Mountain region so well and was familiar with the Reavis Valley. He may have served as a temporary Deputy United States Marshall in the McDowell Precinct appointed by his uncle, Assistant Territorial Supreme Court Justice Isham Reavis. Also the 1875 U.S. Census report showed Elisha still living in the Fort McDowell Precinct. The 1880 Great Registry of Maricopa County listed Elisha Marcus Reavis as a resident of the Fort McDowell Precinct. This record may have resulted from Reavis filling out paper work on one of his many visits to the area to sell vegetables from his Superstition Mountain home.

Elisha Reavis was a skilled packer and expert marksman with a rifle. He carried a Winchester 1886 38-40 repeater. There were many stories about his marksmanship and fearless way of life. One of the best stories told about Reavis was the time he defended his abode from ten fierce Apache warriors who were heavily armed. Early in the afternoon of May 8, 1878, warriors tried to get Reavis out of his defensive dugout. Three warriors had lost their lives to the deadly accuracy of Reavis’ rifle. Finally, they decided to go across the creek and camp for the night. Their new plan was to wait until Reavis ran out of food and water. They were in no hurry.

Reavis, while waiting his fate, recalled an old story he had heard about the Apaches from other men who had survived similar situations. If he could convince the Apache he was insane or crazy they might leave him alone. He quickly stripped off all his clothing from his body, grabbed two butcher knives and ran across his garden, then the creek, screaming and showing absolutely no fear. The Apaches heard, then saw the fire red hair and blue eyes of a screeching “white devil” racing toward them in the light of their campfire. The Apaches were convinced he was surely crazy, as no sane man would run naked, armed with two knives, into the camp of seven heavily armed men. The Apaches fled in panic never to return to Reavis’ mountain sanctuary again. The Apaches raided into the area as late as 1881, but avoided Reavis’ valley.

This horrific event in the life Elisha Marcus Reavis certainly represents the overall cunning, daring and selfreliance needed by him to survive in these rugged and  isolated mountains during this period. During the latter years of his life he grew vegetables and sold them around the mining camps that dotted  the central mountain region of Arizona. Reavis was a loner, but did enjoy having an occasional visitor at his mountain dugout. He certainly had the first library of fine books kept within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Reavis became a legend during his life because of his personal appearance, his education, his self-reliance, and his isolated way of life. He never shaved or took a bath. His unkempt appearance undoubtedly added to this legacy. When Reavis arrived in various communities in Arizona Territory he was always riding his favorite burro and leading a string of eight to fifteen burros. These small sure-footed beasts of burden served Reavis well.

The old “Hermit’s” health created a lot of concern among his friends in the fall of 1895. He was close to seventy years old and still making trips from his mountain home to the small towns in central Arizona Territory selling his vegetables. Reavis cultivated and irrigated about fifteen acres of land by himself. He had chickens, turkeys, hogs, burros, two horses and several dogs he cared for. His team pulled a shear plow, disc and leveler. James Dalabaugh often checked in on Reavis at his place in the mountains. Dalabaugh stopped at the ranch on April 9, 1896 for a visit and check on his friend.

Reavis was preparing for a trip to Mesa to buy seed potatoes. Dalabaugh bid Reavis farewell and then checked on some mining property he had in the area and finally ended up at the JF Ranch on May 6, 1896 and found out his old friend had not stopped at the ranch. Dalabaugh back tracked and found the remains of the old hermit just off of Roger’s Canyon in what is known as Grave Canyon today.

He died alone along the trail about four miles south of his mountain home around April 10, 1896. A grave was dug and Reavis’ remains were laid to rest on May 7, 1896. Today the grave can be seen in a small Indian ruin with a pile of stones on it. Twenty years ago the grave had a stone marker, however, it is gone today.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Cholla Education

September 19, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Mighty Superstition Mountain is a place were I retreat from the rigors of city living. When I look toward the mountain and its wilderness I can still see a small part of pioneer Arizona. Actually, it is a land of yesteryear. Each time I sit down to write, my mind wanders back to those wild and woolly days on the old Quarter Circle U Ranch.

I must admit my cowboy days made a man out me. Someone my father and mother could be proud of and count on. When I worked on the Quarter Circle U Ranch and a couple of other small ranches I realized I was finally on my own. My teacher for  the most part was experience. No self-respecting cowboy-to-be would want to admit he didn’t know a cinch from a cinch ring. Often my teachers were far and few between.
Many of these cowboys often didn’t know anymore than I did. Those who knew more didn’t particularly want to share their coveted knowledge with an untested hand. I just wasn’t a part of the fold.

My knowledge was gained through experience. Experience that often would put my life in peril. In one year I had ten encounters and any one of them could have cost me my life.

Rattlesnakes, rank bulls,  mother cows, crazy broncos, barbwire, Cholla, windmills, gun-happy fools, intoxicated drivers, intoxicated cowboys, mine shafts, flash floods, dynamite, and lightning all tried to end my cowboy experience at one time or another during my employment on the Barkley’s Quarter Circle U Ranch. Today, I cherish those close calls as part of life’s experiences. I am not sure I should, but the bravado of yesteryear is the memories of today.

Life without peril on an Arizona cattle ranch in the 1950’s was non-existent. With this in mind, I think about my first encounter with Cholla cactus (also called jumping cactus). Bill Barkley, the boss man for the Quarter Circle U Ranch, had asked Mike Finley and I to check on some calves over in Tule Canyon south of the headquarters ranch. Mike saddled ‘Scooter’ and I saddled a horse named ‘Pee Wee,’ better known to cowboys as ‘Spook.’ A gentle horse he was not!

We rode out about 5 a.m. to the sound of Cactus wrens and White-Wing doves. It was just twilight. The eastern sky had just begun to turn a light yellow.

The morning sunrise was beautiful as the rays of light filtered down on the giant Saguaro cactus in Barkley Basin south of Miner’s Needle. We could hear the mournful call of a distant coyote and the first of the early sounds of a late spring morning. Early morning had presented us a beautiful day for a ride.

It seems I always drew the spooky and wild-eyed horses. Pee Wee was no exception. Pee Wee would crow-hop or buck just depending on the atmospheric conditions. Like I said, I learned from experience.

“Keep a tight rein on that spooky broomtail, Tom,” called out Mike as we rode through an open gate. I often wondered why Mike wasn’t riding Pee Wee. He was much more experienced around horses than I was. It wasn’t long before I understood why Mike wouldn’t ride Pee Wee. I soon found out a cowboy doesn’t ride anything any ranker than required to get the job done. Soon I realized I was in the school of hard knocks. Most of the knocks were on me.

Mike and I rode through a saddle that separated Barkley’s Basin and Tule Basin. It wasn’t long before we spotted  the calves Barkley wanted us to check out. Most of the calves ignored us except for a mule-eared small black steer. He must have thought he had balls. He put his head down and charged our two mounts. The little son-of-gun couldn’t have weighted more than four hundred pounds.

Scooter jumped to the right, while Pee Wee broke in the middle. His first jump had unseated me from the saddle. I was still on his back, but not in control. Pee Wee’s next move was a spinning crowhop. On the second spin he found a large Cholla and planted my body on it.

Cholla balls covered most of Pee Wee’s right side from his neck to his flank. I had Cholla balls from my shoulder to the top of my boot. The pain was excruciating. My whole right side felt like it was on fire. Fear filled my mind. I expected Pee Wee to break and go crazy. He didn’t! He just stood there in one spot and shivered from shock.

This brief moment in time  provided me an opportunity to step to the ground and out of the saddle. I collapsed on the ground in shock. Mike climbed off Scooter and rushed to my side. When he saw all the Cholla in me he thought I was a goner.

“Just lay there Tom, I’ve got to take care of the horses.” Mike said calmly.

“Horses, hell,” I thought. Mike had his comb out flicking Cholla balls out of Pee Wee. Each time he flicked a Cholla ball off of Pee Wee the horse jumped three feet. On several occasions Pee Wee landed on one of Mike’s toes. Each time that happened I cheered while tolerating enormous pain.

Half delirious, I finally heard Mike say, “Well it is your turn cowboy!” I guess Mike had finally decided I was going to live. I had never felt such pain in my life. Mike started plucking Cholla balls out of my hide slowly at first. He would say one, two, three, and on and on. Finally, after seventy-three Cholla balls, Mike had removed them all.

I had finally got over the initial shock. My shirt was still stuck to my skin. My chaps and Levis were even worst.  I was one miserable amateur cowboy. At that moment in time, I was ready to hang up my spurs.

When Mike reported the whole affair to Barkley he was more concerned about the damn horses than me. I could be replaced for seventy-five bucks a month, board and room. A good cow pony cost three hundred dollars in those days and required several years of training.

Barkley said, “You know Slim, one of my cow dogs is worth five good cowboys.”

This greenhorn cowboy found no sympathy that day. An inexperienced cowboy sure didn’t rate much with  Barkley. I was in such pain that day it really didn’t matter. Mike treated my wounds with Aloe Vera. I was laid up for than a week. My entire right side appeared as if it had been hit with bird shot from a shot gun. My introduction to Cholla was overkill.

The Barkleys tolerated the Cholla cactus on their range because it was an important source of feed for their cattle. I eventually got my revenge on the Cholla cactus. I burned the thorns off many acres of the cactus with a propane burner. When I burned Cholla the cattle would come from all over the pasture to feed on it. Each time I fired up the propane burner I was extracting my revenge for my ride through the Cholla on Pee Wee.

Barry Storm - the Adventurer

September 12, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Barry Storm was born John Griffith Climenson in Seattle, Washington on June 4, 1910. He was the son of Sila Griffith and Clara Virginia (Brown) Climenson. Storm graduated from high school  in Seattle and became interested in mining, prospecting and writing. He turned to prospecting and treasure hunting during the Depression. There were no jobs he often said and he prospected in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Early in 1934 Barry started writing short adventure stories for various pulp magazines such as the Home and Office. He also provided numerous articles for various treasure magazines.

Storm arrived in Phoenix in the fall of 1937 with plans to search for the Peralta Mines in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. He ended up at the YMCA Center in  Phoenix and was befriended by Art Webber, one of the founding members of the Don’s Club of Arizona. Storm advertised for adventurers in the local newspapers in January of 1937 to accompany him on a prospecting trip. This was Storm’s way of raising ventured capital for his prospecting adventures. He also wanted to author a small booklet with hopes of generating more income. Barry was successful at times attracting partners with substantial finances to support his expeditions into the Superstition Mountains.

Early in 1938, while prospecting near Aguila, he hurriedly put together a book titled Gold of the Superstitions which he published by the summer of that year. He had limited success with this booklet, but believed he could do a better job if he could find a backer who would support him for a future book.

Barry Storm just happened to enter the Goldwater’s Store in Phoenix in the late spring of  1938, and by accident he met Barry M. Goldwater. Goldwater was a young entrepreneur and an amateur photographer.  He was only twentyeight years old at the time. Storm talked Barry Goldwater into accompanying him on a hike into the  Superstition Mountains. He told his story to Goldwater and convinced him to finance his next book, On the Trail of the Lost Dutchman. Some old timers might have wondered why Goldwater would have supported Storm with his book writing venture. Just prior to Storm walking into Goldwater’s store, Goldwater had witnessed the success of Oren Arnold’s book advertised at the Korrick’s Department Store in down town Phoenix. “Why not,” he thought!

Goldwater also did all the photography for Storm’s book. Storm further convinced the Don’s Club through Art Webber to use his handsome gold currency covered book for their 1939  Superstition Mountain Gold Trek. The club thought it was a worthwhile  adventure and involved Barry Storm with their Superstition Mountain Trek for 1939. Senator Barry Goldwater once remarked, “The man borrowed my name and some money, but I enjoyed the experience with him in the mountains photographing his dreams.”

Soon after Storm’s experience with Goldwater he met a man named Fisher who had developed an electronic device for locating mineral deposits, but needed somebody to test it. Somehow Barry  Storm convinced Fisher he was his man. Storm took the M-Scope into the Superstition Mountains and tried it out. He claimed the Fisher Scope located the Peralta Land Grant Lost Mine in 1940. The publicity resulting from these claims launched Storm’s career as a mining expert and author. Storm was a so-called self-educated mining man. He had little or no actual underground mining experience. He had no formal geology  training, but he claimed to have enormous knowledge about ancient European mining (Spanish).

One of Storm’s best attempts at writing was his book Thunder God’s Gold in 1945. He wrote most of this book at Tortilla Flat after serving a short hitch in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943-1944.

The first time I heard the name Barry Storm I was a very young lad. My father and his friend Bill Cage were discussing the merits of Barry Storm’s book Superstition Gold in 1945, just before Storm’s book Thunder God’s Gold was published that same year. Prior to Storm’s book there were few publications that mentioned Jacob Waltz, the Peraltas or the Lost Dutchman Mine. The publications of Oren Arnold, Will Robinson, Mike Burns, Irwin Lively and a couple of other authors had tried to explain  the mystery of the Superstition Mountain and its alleged lost gold mine. These authors took a more romantic view of the Superstition Mountains, and Storm was the first to capture the story in an armchair adventure form. The reader could actually experience Storm’s excitement as he wrote about the Peraltas and the Lost Dutchman Mine. None of the other authors were as popular or as well circulated, other than Oren Arnold.

It was Storm’s Thunder God’s Gold that really took center stage when Columbia motion pictures decided to make a film based on the book in 1948. When Lust for Gold appeared in theaters the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine became part of the national spotlight. Not since the disappearance of Dr. Adolph Ruth in 1931 had the subject of this lost mine received such national interest. Storm wasn’t happy with how he was portrayed in the film. Columbia had portrayed him as the son of Jacob Waltz. Storm sued Columbia therefore delaying the release of the film for two years. The film still portrayed Storm as Waltz’s grandson when it was released in 1950.

Barry Storm was certainly one of “Coronado’s Children.” He continued to chase lost gold mines and treasures the rest of his life. He was a confirmed bachelor and always lived alone. Storm traveled annually to promote the sales and distribute his books.

Barry Storm spent most of his life chasing a dream and the latter years of his life were spent on a mining claim near Chiraco Summit, California. It was there he believed he would strike it rich with his Storm-Jade mine.

Storm was quite paranoid and believed somebody was out to kill him or steal his mine. He always carried a firearm. I visited Barry at his Jade mine in 1969. He  corresponded  with a variety of Dutch hunters around the country expounding his theories about lost gold in the Superstitions and other places around the country. Barry Storm was one of those ever lasting characters that legends were formed around. Barry impacted the Lost Dutchman Mine story more than any other person.

When I visited Barry at his mining claim I knew he was quite ill. The next thing I heard he had passed away in the Veteran’s Hospital in San Diego on January 5, 1971. This sage of lost gold and treasure history had passed on leaving a dramatic legacy on the stage of the American Southwest.

The last time I visited with him in the Superstition Wilderness area was at the Bluebird Mine and Curio Shopin 1967. We sat out front in some old chairs and talked about Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Mine, the Peralta Mine and even the mysterious stone maps. Barry still dominated the stage of western storytellers. He was just as dramatic about telling his story whether it was with one or fifty listeners. For the most part Barry Storm lived his life like a dream, always believing he would strike it rich in some way.