Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Storms

June 27, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

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

The first storm type brings the central mountain area of Arizona its winter rains. These winter storms result from the general cyclonic patterns that move across the United States every 10 days or so. These storms originate in the Aluetian Low in the Gulf of Alaska. These storms can dump enormous amounts of precipitation on Arizona below the Mogollon Rim if their course is altered by the jet stream. These storms will generally last four or five days with steady rainfall. This type of weather can be identified with the solid unbroken overcast resulting from Stratus clouds. These are what we call our winter storms and they are usually not violent in nature.

The second storm type is known as the Monsoons. These storms bring massive thunderstorms with heavy showers, lightning and sometime devastating winds called microbursts. During the summer months most of the storms over central Arizona and the eastern portion of the Superstition Mountain Wilderness result from warm moist air flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico and Sea of Cortez. This air moves across Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mountains force the moist warm air upward forming clouds. These clouds release their moisture as they rise. This is known as orographic lift. The massive anvil-shaped thunderhead clouds that form over Superstition Mountain from July to September normally combine both from orographic lift and convectional activity. The convectional storm clouds result from the rapidly rising and expanding of warm moist air and rapidly falling cold moist air. Uneven heating of the Earth’s surface causes convectional activity in the atmosphere. This uneven heating of the Earth’s surface is caused by the open cloud pattern in the atmosphere.

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

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

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

Most Arizona monsoon storms are associated with two other dangerous factors. These factors are flash floods and dust. A thunderstorm can dump 3 to 5 inches of rain over a small area in an hour and create a massive flashflood. A flashflood near Payson in the 1970s claimed 22 campers along Christopher Creek. Many years ago I witnessed a 4-foot wall of water that roared down Hewitt Canyon claiming a couple trucks, horse trailers and a couple animals. These flashfloods result from heavy isolated downpours of rain in the mountains. There is often very little rain at the site of a flashflood.

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

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2011

George 'Brownie' Holmes

June 20, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The stories about Superstition Mountain and the Dutchman’s Lost Mine will forever live in the minds of those who were closely associated with George “Brownie” Holmes. His search for Jacob Waltz’s mine spanned more than 60 years and came to an end on his 88th birthday, April 11, 1980.

Holmes’ passing has brought to a close another era of history associated with the Superstition Wilderness Area. You might say Holmes was a significant oral reference source for those he wanted to visit with. His stories involved direct contact with those who vividly knew the significant players that played a role in the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine. These players included Holmes’ father, Richard J. “Dick” Holmes, Guidon Roberts, Julia Thomas, Hermann Petrasch, Rhinehart Petrasch, Joe Potertrie and other Arizona territorial pioneers.

Holmes was born in Phoenix, Arizona Territory on April 11, 1892, one year after the death of Jacob Waltz. Holmes was one of the early seekers of the infamous Lost Dutchman Mine. He had outlived all of his contemporaries and still remained an adamant believer to the last day of his life. Holmes wrote no books, drew no maps, and continually avoided conversation concerning the controversial gold mine allegedly possessed by Jacob Waltz of Arizona Lost Dutchman Mine fame. His belief in the mine was based on his father’s search and information left behind when Richard J. Holmes died on Oct. 31,1930.

Brownie claimed, by his own statement, to be almost an Arizona pioneer. His grandfather, Richard J. “Dick” Holmes Sr. arrived in Arizona Territory while it was still a possession of Mexico. He made his living rounding up maverick cattle along the Gila River and shipping them to Yuma. These cattle were animals that had escaped from herds being driven across Arizona by the southern route to California.

His father, Richard J. “Dick” Holmes was born at old Fort Whipple, near modern-day Prescott, in 1865. Richard J. Holmes ranched in the Bloody Basin where today Holmes Creek and Holmes Canyon bear his name. Brownie’s father was a packer for Al Sieber, an early Arizona scout who later was killed during the construction of Roosevelt Dam.

It was on Oct. 25, 1891, by chance, a course of events changed Richard J. Holmes’ life forever, as well as his unborn son, “Brownie”. Richard Holmes was walking down a Phoenix street when he was summons by Julia Thomas for assistance. She told Holmes the old prospector Waltz was dying and would he please help her. Thomas asked Holmes to stay with Waltz until she could find a doctor. There are other versions of this story.

Holmes rushed to the adobe behind Julia’s bakery shop (sic) to see what he could do. Holmes quickly realized there was little he could do for the old man but comfort him in his final minutes of life. It was during these few minutes many people believe Holmes found out the exact location of Waltz’s mine in the Superstition Mountains. Precisely what the dying Waltz told Homes, if anything, will never be known. If anyone knew what Waltz told Richard J. Holmes on that fateful day it would have to be his son “Brownie.” There are many who question whether Waltz told Holmes anything at all. They also doubt Waltz gave the ore in the candle box under his bed to Holmes. The question that has been ask, why would Waltz share with Holmes, the man he had warned not to follow him into the mountains or he would kill him. It is still possible Holmes removed the gold ore from beneath Waltz’s bed after his death. Nobody knows for sure.

The foregoing event altered the life of Richard J. Holmes and his son forever. Richard J. Holmes began his search for Waltz’s mine shortly after being at Waltz’s deathbed. Holmes believed the mine was located in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. When Richard J. Holmes died in 1930 “Brownie” continued the search. This quest lasted more than 60 years.

Yes, George “Brownie” Holmes was one of the last direct links between yesteryear and today as far as the Lost Dutchman Mine is concerned. How should George “Brownie” Holmes epitaph read?

I spent many hours talking and recording Mr. Holmes telling stories about the Superstition Mountains, Adolph Ruth, and Jacob Waltz. He talked about searching for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine as he called it, while working as a cowboy for the Barkleys and his adventures while a driving a stage over the Apache Trail for Wes Hill. Brownie always talked affectionately about the Barkleys and old Wes Hill, owner and operator of the old Apache Trail Stage Lines. His voice revealed his love for the mountains, the life of a cowboy, and probably most of all his love for freedom and independence.

Historians, Dutch hunters, and others have tried for many years to discredit his family as well as him on the facts associated with the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. Holmes never claimed he found the Dutchman’s lost mine, he had only sought its location. Over the years several manuscripts have been mistakenly accredited to “Brownie” Holmes. He denied writing any manuscripts up to the time of his death. Those who knew him respected him and those who tried to discredit him knew nothing about this man. All Dutch hunters must ask themselves this question, “If I knew the actual clues to the location of Jacob Waltz’s bonanza ore would I tell any one, even on my death bed?” When “Brownie” Holmes passed away most of the surviving samples of Waltz’s gold went to his stepson Billy Harwood. He passed away in 1998.

Some years ago a lone rider left First Water trailhead returning “Brownie” Holmes ashes back to his beloved Superstition Mountains. This man who carried “Brownie” home was his beloved friend who lived near the base of Superstition Mountain.

Those who knew “Brownie” were indeed fortunate.

He was a special living page of Arizona history whether you believed his story or not.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Lost Mine?

June 6, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

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

These 159,780 acres of wilderness also continue to attract gold and treasure hunters. Prospectors continue to wander the trails of the Superstition Wilderness Area in search of gold. Most of the gold they searched for was in their minds according to “Doc” Rosecrans, an old -time prospector 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.

Today, prospectors and treasure hunters still wander the region in search of gold or treasure, however for the most part their way of life 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. The only mining that might exist in the wilderness area is totally illegal.

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 and the worldwide web. The internet has changed the way we view and research material today. A forum about the Dutchman’s Lost Mine can be factual or it can be fictional depending on its source. It is very difficult to separate the fact from the fiction. After all history is a very thin line between the truth and a lie. 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 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 ore come from? How much was there, 24 lbs., 48 lbs.? 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. There is no guarantee as to the source of this gold ore found under Waltz’s deathbed.

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, and many, many more who 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. Former 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.

Now you ask me is there a Dutchman 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 of subjective hear-say. Actually facts about this lost mine just don’t exist. Even the alleged rich gold ore found under Waltz’s bed is based on hearsay 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 some thirty years ago verifying I saw the gold ore and jewelry “Brownie” Holmes claims belonged to Jacob Waltz. Again, even 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.”