Monday, June 25, 2012

Rick Gwynne: Searching for the Truth

June 18, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Richard “Rick” Gwynne is a man who believes in his own convictions. He has the tenacity of a bulldog when it comes to searching for something he believes in.

Rick has been searching for the lost gold of Superstition Mountain for the past three decades. I first met Rick in 1983 at the old DeCook Cabin near Peralta Road. At the time he was helping Bob Ward manage and care for some mining property. I could tell that Rick was very interested in the Superstition Mountains and all the different stories. Rick matured into an individual who knew what he wanted in life and he worked for it. However, always in the back of his mind he was thinking about the gold of Superstition Mountain and was convinced he could figure out the riddle that so many had failed to do.

Rick Gwynne was born in Battle Creek, Mich., in 1950, but left home when he was 13 years old. He attended high school in St. Petersburg, Fla. In the late 1970s he worked as a volunteer fireman for the Busnell Fire Department in Busnell, Florida. He came to Arizona with his future wife, Georgana in 1983. Preacher Don Deming married them in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains in 1987. Rick has six children. Richard and Joseph live in Florida. Jeremy, Will Garrett, Sarah Ann and Kayla live in Arizona. Rick also has seven grandchildren. Rick has always cared for his family first and treasure hunting was second in the “scheme of things.”

The Superstition Wilderness Area and the many gold stories attributed to the region continues to attract men like Rick Gwynne who believe they will find a golden bonanza within its realm. Many publications tell stories about lost gold and give clues as to where this gold is allegedly hidden. Many follow the stories associated with the Peralta stone maps. These stones continue to attract people who apparently love to follow clues from an unknown source. Men and women have been trying to interpret the stone maps since 1950. None of these searchers have found any clues really worthwhile. Nobody has produced any real gold associated with these stone maps.

Early in June of 2010, three men from Utah decided to search for the gold of Superstition Mountain. They were convinced they could find it. They had read and studied Jim Wilson’s book, “To Crack A Golden Egg.” Most of their clues had come from Wilson’s book. The book led these three men to a place called Yellow Peak just beyond Black Mesa Ridge some 2 miles east of First Water Trail Head. Even today there
is no precise agreement as to how these three men hiked into the area. They apparently felt they did not need to carry much water. They each carried about a liter of water in a plastic container, a couple of umbrellas, and a battery-powered lantern.

The men knew the sun posed a threat. Their well-being was dependent on the umbrellas and the little water they had in their possession. These men literally vanished from the face of the Earth around June 6, 2010. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Mountain Rescue Team mounted a seven-day rescue effort commencing on June 11, 2010, that included helicopters. Eventually the official search was called off on June 18, 2010, and then volunteers became involved in search for these men. Still there was no trace of these men as of Jan. 1, 2011. Speculation as to what happen to these three men ran high.

Rick Gwynne began his search for gold in earnest with his partner “Tin Cup” Gayle “Bob” Wagner. For the next twenty years they searched the canyons, mountaintops and ridges of the wilderness for clues. Rick continues the search to this day. Rick has suffered from a bad hip in recent years which has curtailed his activities, but not his spirit. He learned in 2010 that he needed surgery to help him with his hip problem.

Toward the end of October 2010, Rick attended the Dutch Hunter’s Rendezvous at Dons’ Camp and learned more details about the three missing Utah prospectors. Shortly after the first of the year in 2011 he decided to take one last trip into the mountains before he had surgery on his hip. He departed First Water on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011 and hiked toward Garden Valley and the Yellow Peak. Rick always believed James Wilson had some good information in his book titled “Cracking the Golden Egg.”

Rick, taking his time, hiked two and one-fourth miles in two days over extremely rough country. He was slowly making his way around the side of Yellow Peak when he made a gruesome discovery. Looking down, he spotted two fully clothed skeletons, lying on black basaltic rock scree out in the open. These unfortunate individuals had carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the rays of the hot June sun, but not enough water to survive.

Rick was convinced he had found the remains of two of the Utah prospectors reported missing June 6, 2010. He reported his find to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the two bodies were recovered on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, almost seven months from the time they were reported missing.

Rick Gwynne’s discovery ended the search for two of the missing Utah prospectors. The remaining prospector was found a half-a-mile away from the first two by the Superstition Mountain Search and Rescue team a week later. This final discovery ended the search for the three Utah prospectors. This prospecting trip Rick Gwynne will never forget as long as he lives. His search for the truth in these hills revealed a tragic end for the dreams of others.

This tragic incident should be a warning to people who believe they can manage the extremes of the summer heat in the Sonoran Desert unprepared. In the end it took a prospector like Rick Gwynne with the knowledge of the back country and the habits of prospectors to finally locate these missing men.

Richard Gwynne and Phil Rhinehart published a book titled: “In Search Of The Heart.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Father of Arizona

June 11, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Many oldtimers and some new residents have heard about Charles D. Poston. Some are familiar with Poston Butte west of Florence and north of the Gila River along the old Hunt Highway. Historians recorded Charles D. Poston as the “Father of Arizona.” He, indeed, was the first delegate to the United States Congress from Arizona Territory in 1863.

Ten years earlier, in 1853, the Mexican government agreed to the conditions of the Gadsden Purchase and the accord was ratified in 1854, adding some 45,535 square miles of land between the Gila River and the present southern boundaries of Arizona and New Mexico to the United States.

This territory included the town of Tubac. Tubac was the oldest European settlement in Arizona, first garrisoned by the Spanish in 1752. The Spanish Presidio of Tubac is located thirty-eight miles south of Tucson along the Santa Cruz River.

Charles Debrille Poston arrived in San Francisco in 1850. He was employed as a clerk in a customhouse for a couple of years until he read about the Gadsden Purchase. Poston traveled to and explored the Santa Cruz Valley area prior to the official recognition of the Gadsden Purchase Treaty. Young Poston, not thirty years old, left Arizona Territory for the East with hopes of raising capital to invest in new mines, workable Spanish mines and prospecting for more mineral resources.

He visited New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. but wasn’t successful in fund raising. He finally succeeded in his fundraising quest in Cincinnati. He organized and formed the Sonora Mining & Exploring Company on March 24, 1856. He was their agent and the company had capital of two million dollars. The Texas and Pacific Railroad Company contributed a grant for $100,000.

Colonel Charles D. Poston organized an expedition of around 350 men, primarily made up of miners. These men had mining equipment, arms and supplies to settle the frontier. The expedition departed Texas for Arizona Territory in May of 1856. The expedition arrived in Tucson in August of 1856.

Poston eventually made his headquarters at Tubac. His mining expedition attracted men from Sonora and soon almost a thousand people were living in the area. Poston recorded in his diary: “We had no law but love, and no occupation but labor, no government, no taxes, no public debt, and no politics.”

Poston certainly oversimplified the situation in Tubac. He was the “alcalde.” He was the law under the rules and regulations that governed the Territory of New Mexico at the time. This was not Arizona Territory, but New Mexico Territory until 1863.

Poston had many duties. He served as mayor, judge, town treasurer, and the justice of peace. He was legally authorized to execute criminals, declare war, but spent most of his time keeping official records, performing marriages, granting divorces, etc. He also had the power to print and issue paper currency that was a substitute for bulky and heavy silver bullion.

Poston and Tubac prospered until the beginning of the American Civil War. Poston escaped to California when the Army withdrew and the Apaches went on the rampage. He eventually made his way to Washington, D.C. where in 1863 he led the fight to gain separate territorial status for Arizona. This was accomplished in 1863 and Poston was rightfully given the title of “Father of Arizona.”

Poston returned to Arizona Territory as the first Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He served as the first Delegate to Congress from the Territory of Arizona. He also served as the Registrar of the Federal Land Office in Florence, Arizona. While in Florence, he built a road to the top of Primrose Hill (now Poston Butte). He also received a deed to the land from James Addison Reavis, the Baron of Arizona in 1883. He believed Reavis to be the legal holder of the so-called Peralta Grant.

Poston practiced law in Washington, D.C. He wrote books and worked as a newspaper correspondent and traveled extensively. He had few peers as a lecturer.

Poston became involved in mining once again in 1893. The Arizona Republican dated April 25,1893, stated Colonel Poston was about to leave on a trip to his mining claims in the Superstition Mountains. Poston spent a couple of years working around the Superstition Mountain and Goldfield area.

Poston was now sixty-eight years old and he was still promoting a mining operation and trying to raise capital. It is an interesting thing to know that Poston, the “Father of Arizona” was here in our community some one hundred and nineteen years ago.

He gave one of his last lectures in 1899 in Phoenix, at the age of seventy-four. The lecture was titled “How I Spent Christmas.” He recounted his personal celebrations of Christmas with people like Mark Twain, Joaquin Miller, Garibaldi, and other European royalty. However, he said his best Christmas was in Tubac in 1856.

Charles Debrille Poston was born in Kentucky in 1825 and died in Phoenix alone and in abject poverty amid scenes of squalor on June 2, 1902. A few years before his death, around 1899, the Territory of Arizona presented him with a late “recognition of his services” with a small pension.

He never completed his “Temple to the Sun” on Primrose Hill near Florence, Arizona, but he was later entombed there for all eternity. Poston’s remains were removed from Phoenix and moved to Poston Butte in 1925, the 100th anniversary of his birth. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Surviving the Sonoran Desert in the Summer

June 4, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Summer is almost here and temperatures will soon be soaring above 100  degrees and a review of some summer survival techniques might be appropriate at this time.

Each summer we read or hear about a tragic death or deaths resulting from dehydration, exhaustion or sunstroke occurring during the hot summer months on the Sonoran Desert. These summer deaths could be easily prevented with the proper preparation and training.

Living in the Sonoran Desert for more than sixty years doesn’t make me an expert on the topic of desert survival. However, I would like to pass on a few things I have learned over the past decades. Veterans of many desert sojourns in the summermonths have died tragically because they took the desert for granted. The older we get, sometimes, the more careless we become. The most basic rule of desert survival is tell somebody where you are going and when you expect to return. This simple rule can save you or your family’s

Now, if you insist on going into the desert during the summer months when temperatures exceed 110 degrees F. on the ground, you need to consider some other basic rules of survival. For each adult in your group you will need a minimum of one gallon of water per day to prevent dehydration. Yes, you can survive on a quart of water per day under ideal conditions. This means you are in the shade, off of the hot ground and not exerting yourself. Even under these ideal conditions a quart of water per twenty-four hour period will not prevent the onset of dehydration. A rule of thumb is always one gallon of water per day per person on any desert outing in the summer time.

When a family or group of four go trekking into the desert with their four-wheeler, sand buggy, ATV’s or family car they need to carry sufficient water for any emergency. Remember, if you are planning a three-day trip into the desert and there are three adults in the group you need a minimum of nine gallons of water. If you have a sufficient quantity of water your survival has been increased three-fold. Large quantities of water can be carried in a vehicle, but what about horsemen and hikers. A hiker or horseman must know the
sources of permanent water along the route he or she has chosen. I would like to believe a reasonable hiker or horsemen wouldn’t find themselves in a remote desert setting during the summer months. However, that is not the case anymore. Each summer Search and Rescue teams pull dehydrated hikers out of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Some succumb to the elements of the summer heat.

The next thing one should consider is their method of travel under extreme desert conditions, whether it is by vehicle, horse back or afoot. Surface temperatures can reach 180 degrees on a hot summer day. Temperatures three or four feet above the ground may be only 110 degrees depending on the color and texture of the surface. Dark colored material can increase your body temperature by thirty to forty per cent on a hot day. The best clothing to wear is clothing that is loose and reflects the suns rays and heat. The best material is always white. If you are hiking, you also must protect your feet from extreme ground temperatures. Few people will attempt hiking in the desert during the heat of the day (1:00 PM until 4:00 PM). If one must hike in the desert during the summer months, it is best to hike in the early morning, late evening or at night. Hiking or walking at night does have its disadvantages. The desert is a host to a variety of poisonous reptiles, insects and even an occasional mine shaft or prospect hole.

Vehicle operators often go into the desert during the hot summer months not giving a second thought to the operating conditions for their vehicles.

Tragedies can be cause by a flat tire, broken fuel line, dead battery, or a punctured oil pan in the summer time or just simply running out of fuel. A simple flat board might serve as a platform to jack up a stuck vehicle in the sand or to change a flat. Brush placed under a wheel to gain traction when stuck in sand can save your life. A vehicle will do better in sand if you lower the air pressure in the tires. Prior to the many deaths of illegal immigrants trying to cross the border between the United States and Mexico, more than sixty per cent of the desert deaths resulted from vehicle becoming stuck in the sand or high centered on a rock. A large percentage of victims perished from the over extension of their physical capabilities.

Remember survival begins immediately, not ten hours after you have become stranded and you realize the consequences of your decisions. People have worked all day in the hot sun trying to free their vehicles suddenly realize they are in a hopelesssituation. Once panic controls a person’s actions, survival is
dramatically reduced.

No situation is hopeless if preplanning has been undertaken. As soon as you know that you are in a dangerous situation, there are three basic rules for survival. One, don’t let yourself panic, Two, stay where you are, and Three, try to signal for help.

You can build a signal fire from desert brush for immediate signaling with smoke. Automotive tires make the best smoke signal. The tires will give off a dense black cloud of smoke that can be seen for miles. You can use your car mirrors to signal aircraft. One important rule is always to keep a signal fire ready to ignite if you see an aircraft in your vicinity. The international signal for distress is three shots, three fires, or three of anything that can be recognized as distress signals from the air or from a distance.

Many times an individual will not panic until the second or third day. The only control for panic is self-confidence in the fact that you know how to survive the situation. Staying with your vehicle is very important. It is much easier to spot a car than a human being on the desert from the air. Most searches are conducted from the air. If you decide to leave your vehicle, it is important that you leave some kind of signal letting rescuers know what direction you are traveling away from your vehicle. Sticks and rocks can serve as excellent markers if properly arranged to indicate direction.

The above suggestions are not guaranteed to save your life, but they will increase your chances of survival. If you choose to walk out, try to walk during the cooler hours of the morning or late evening. Walking after dark would be the best, but there are many hazards on the desert if you don’t have proper lighting. Cactus spines, venomous animals, mineshafts, and pits are just a few of the hazards you could encounter while walking in the dark.

The Superstition Wilderness Area, and other desert regions of Arizona have claimed hundreds of lives over the decades from dehydration, exhaustion, and sunstroke. Many illegal aliens die each summer trying to cross the border between the United States and Mexico. Often, summer deaths on the desert exceed one hundred human beings. Yes, the desert can be extremely dangerous in the summer months. Please use care and preplanning before going off into the desert for a summer adventure.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Circlestone: A Beginning

May 28, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There is an ancient archaeological site locate in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The site consists of a large
circular structure with a pit or ceremonial house located in the center. This large circle of stones is located at latitude N 33 28” 35” and longitude W 111 08’ 09”. The legal description of this large circle of stone is NW ¼, NW ¼, SE ¼, SEC 33, R12E, T2N, Superstition Wilderness Area, Tonto National Forest, Maricopa County, Arizona.

Circlestone is not a “perfect” circle – the diameter measures 133 feet at most points around it’s circumference. The circumference of the structure is 427.36 feet along the inside perimeter of the wall, while the outside measurements are 437.0 feet. The entrance is three-foot wide and is oriented S 30 Degrees E. A small structure can be found in the center of Circlestone that measures seventeen feet on a side forming a perfect square.

The site is located at 6,010 feet above sea level. The panorama from Circlestone is awesome. The structure lies immediately northeast of Mound Mountain (elevation 6,262 feet) some 3,500 feet. Few mountainous points rise higher than Circlestone within the wilderness area. Fieldwork at Circlestone has been impossible because of the status of the region. Circlestone lies within the Superstition Wilderness Area. This region has been closed to all archaeological excavations and explorations. The only type of fieldwork that can be undertaken at Circlestone is surface analysis and measurements. It is a matter of record that early cowboy pothunters visited this area searching for artifacts. According to several old timers, few artifacts were ever removed from Circlestone. The structure sits on a Quartzsite outcrop that inhibits any real excavation. Near the north end of the site, the soil is a sandy-loam mixture that might be some 18 – 24 inches in depth. Thirty inches of topsoil in the area would ne an absolute maximum. An assortment of shards, found on the surface, have been examined at the site. Many of these shards are indicative of the Salado and  Hohokam cultures, according to archaeologist. Some pottery shards and fetishes indicate the Hohokam may have been dominant in the area.

Numerous fetishes have been found on the surface around Circlestone. Most of these fetishes were found to the north of the main structure. Very few artifacts have been found within the structure itself. This could mean the artifacts were eroded down the slopes away from the center of the ruin or maybe they have been pickup by early visitors to the site and later discarded. Several turquoise beads have been found around the perimeter of Circlestone. For the most part, Circlestone does not have an abundance of artifacts or clues as to what the site may have been used for in the past.

Shards have been found that would indicate the region could have occupied at some time by passing nomadic  travelers. The structure has some similarities that are indicative of the Anasazi stonework from the Colorado Plateau area. The structure itself appears somewhat like Anasazi stone work, however, it lacks the uniform consistency of their work. The structure does not have the fine detailed stonework of the Chacoan culture or sites such as Mesa Verde. The work at Circlestone is far more primitive when compared to Anasazi stonework. There is no masonry-type work at Circlestone.

The immensity of Circlestone indicates a well-organized culture built the structure under the direction of a powerful shaman or chieftain. If you examine Circlestone closely, at first, the structure appears or suggests a mysterious origin, however, if you look around the surrounding hills you will find similar rock work. It is agreed nothing was built of the magnitude of Circlestone for it’s size or with the material used in the area. Some archaeologist have suggested Circlestone may have been a trading center, but its location being so far from water would have discouraged this type of use. The most likely use of Circlestone would have been as some type of religious structure. The site may have served as a primitive kiva-type structure. The Chacoan kivas, such as Casa Rinconada, are similar in size, but not in design. The Casa Rinconada kiva was built around 1100 A.D.

If one wants to speculate, it wouldn’t be to difficult to believe the Anasazi, Hopi or other similar groups may have used Circlestone in some capacity. Let’s speculate for just a moment. We will presume Circlestone was built about 700 A.D. If this were true, then Circlestone could have easily been on the path of the roaming people who came up from central Mexico. The circular structure is found throughout Mexico and Central America and is commonly linked to religious practices of these ancient people. The Hopi, who are part of the Colorado Plateau group, wandered the Southwest prior to settling down where they are today on Second Mesa. Their priest claims they were in the Tonto Basin area immediately east of Circlestone, about eight air miles away. Some Hopi priests claim their people emerged from the Earth near Tonto Basin. Again, this is all speculation.

We will not solve the puzzling questions that surround the origin and use of Circlestone in this century, but someday, with more sophisticated research tools, archaeologist will learn more secrets about mysteries that surround this unique structure deep in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

For the present the Wilderness Area protects the archaeological resources of this region.