Monday, February 25, 2013

A Deadly Explosion

February 18, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Steve Barrick, pictured here at Andy Synbad's claim, went with Grady Haskins deep into the mine shaft in an attempt to rescue an injured man in 1947.

During past few years a lot of questions have been ask about the old Buck Horn and Boulder Mine, known as the Kimball Mine and as the Palmer Mine. Here is a brief history of the old Kimball Mine.

As one looks toward the slopes of Superstition Mountain from Mining Camp Road, the old Kimball Mine dump is still visible despite the re-vegetation efforts of the forest service. William A. Kimball, of Mesa, discovered a deposit of copper on the western slope of Superstition Mountain in 1886. Local newspapers reported Kimball shipped wagon loads of rich copper ore to the mill to be processed. Records indicate Kimball shipped only two wagon loads of high-grade copper ore to a processing mill. Kimball eventually sunk a vertical shaft seventy-five feet deep, but this shaft never produced any large quantities of profitable ore.

Kimball became ill and passed away on January 20, 1906, and the mine remained idle for eleven years. Some time during 1917, a conglomerate of Mesa businessmen decided to acquire the property. Eventually they extended the shaft to 120 feet. This group included a young doctor named Ralph Fleetwood Palmer.

The newly formed Buck Horn and Boulder Mining Co. initiated the work. It was near the end of 1918 when the shaft was extended to 215 feet in depth. A single sample from a glory hole at the 200-foot level produced ore that assayed at 882 ounces of gold to the ton. This was motivation to continue digging, but the bonanza never panned out and World War I eventually shut the mine down.

The mine remained closed from 1919 to 1926 except for annual assessment work done in the name of the corporation. The property was sold at auction to pay for outstanding indebtedness in 1926. It was at this time Ralph F. Palmer acquired the old Boulder-Buckhorn Mine (Kimball).

The old mine became a hobby for Dr. Palmer. You might say a stress reliever. He tried the reach the "pot of gold" he believed was beyond the 220-foot level. Palmer had lot of friends who invested in his mining operation and his dream.

On December 17, 1947, a tragic accident occurred in the Palmer Mine at the bottom of the shaft some 225 feet below the surface. One miner was killed and another seriously injured in a premature explosion of dynamite. Killed in the explosion was Ernesto Jacoeo of Phoenix. He was a 38 year-old experienced miner. He left behind a wife and five children.

Injured in the same accident was Glenn Belcher, 41, of Apache Junction, who suffered multiple lacerations and had a severe injury to his left side by a flying rock. Jack Karie reported this information in Arizona Republic on December 17, 1947. At the time of this accident Dr. Ralph Palmer was living in Phoenix.

It was reported three men were working at the mine when the explosion occurred. Jacoeo and Belcher were at the bottom of the 225 foot shaft and Frank Hedworth, of Winkleman, was running the hoist. Evidently when the blast went off Belcher was in the mine bucket while Jacoeo was lighting the fuses. According to Hedworth there was no signal to lift the bucket. After the blast Hedworth raised the bucket and found Belcher in it. He was rushed to the Southside Hospital in Mesa.

Steve Barrick, a prospector from Chicago, and Grady Haskins returned to the mine with Hedworth to retrieve Jacoeo’s body.

Several years later Grady Haskins was elected Apache Junction’s first constable and became a well-known citizen of the community. Steve Barrick continued to prospect for gold and lived for many years on a mining claim near Andy Synbad.

Recently, like a ghost from the past, I received a phone call from one of the children of Ernesto Jacoeo. Lewis Jacoeo talked about his dad and the old Palmer Mine. He said he was only five years old when his father died on that fateful day in 1947. He expressed interest in visiting the old Palmer Mine site.

In order to care for his family, Ernesto Jacoeo gave the ultimate sacrifice, his life. I vaguely remember my father talking about the accident at the Palmer Mine around Christmas time in 1947 and expressing compassion for the dead miner and his family.

This tragic blast was the beginning of the end for the old Palmer Mine. It never really opened again after this accident. The old mine did serve as a water resource for the Barkley Cattle Company. Palmer and his associates continued assessment work up to the time of his death in 1954.

You might find Dr. Ralph Palmer’s memoirs some very interesting reading. A section of this book was written about Superstition Mountain. The title of the book is Doctor on Horseback.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Trails of the Superstitions

February 11, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

View from Summit 5024 looking east over the Flat Iron.
View from Summit 5024 looking east over the Flat Iron.

The Superstition Wilderness Area is filled with many beautiful and mysterious areas. Searching out these special places has been a lifetime avocation of mine. I worked on a cattle ranch for several years, hiked the trails as a young man and continue riding the trails throughout adulthood. My love for the history, beauty and solitude of region has not diminished in any way. I continue today hiking and walking in the Superstition Wilderness Area and even enjoying it more because it has been saved from development.

Many years ago a gentlemen asked me what was my favorite hide-a-way in the Superstition Wilderness. This certainly was a difficult choice for me because I had so many places I loved and cherished within this rugged mountain wilderness of deep canyons and towering spires. Wandering the trails and remote regions of this wilderness was as exciting as gathering the history and legend of the region. After a moment of indecision, I decided to make my choices of favorite locales in the wilderness.

The first one was the rugged interior of Rough’s Canyon that flowed into Fish Creek Canyon in the eastern portion of the wilderness area. This canyon is beautiful in its transition through desert flora to high-mountain flora. Water is generally found year around in this canyon making it an oasis in the desert. The canyon floor is filled with house-size boulders making it almost impossible to hike through. An old cattleman named Floyd Stone once told me he got a horse down into the canyon and actually had to build a trail to get him out.

Knowing old Stone and his ability with livestock I didn’t doubt his story at all. He ran the old Reavis and Tortilla allotment for a couple of decades with his father-in-law John A. "Hoolie" Bacon. The early inhabitants of the Superstition Wilderness build cliff dwellings in Rough Canyon and these ruins today are a mute testimony to their survival instincts of almost millennium ago.

Another favorite location in the wilderness is Log Trough Canyon. This canyon is filled with large Ponderosa pines and thick underbrush. It is extremely difficult for a man or women on horseback to negotiate the trail along the canyon’s floor. Near the head of this canyon there are some old "trigger-traps" used to catch wild cattle. The brush in this canyon was so thick it was impossible to work cattle on horseback in the old days. Cattlemen like William J. Clemans, John A. Bacon, and Floyd Stone would tell you, "a good cow dog was worth a dozen good cowboys in this brushy country."

The beauty and solitude of Log Trough Canyon is unique. Several years ago I spent several hours watching a clearing among the towering pines of this canyon. As the wind rustled through the tops of these pines and the rays of the sun broke through into the clearing a young doe browsed on the deep green grass that covered the floor of the clearing. It was such a tranquil scene it mesmerized me for several minutes. This was the kind of beauty and tranquility you found in Log Trough Canyon.

Another favorite location is the top of Weaver’s Needle. I am quite convinced I will never climb to the top of Weaver’s Needle again, but my experience climbing the "needle" in the 1950’s and 1960’s will live with me forever. I really don’t consider climbing the "needle" a technical climb, however it is highly recommended only for experienced rock climbers or mountain climbers. An old friend of mine, Clay Worst, climbed the "needle" in an emergency in the 1960’s and I doubt very much he would recommend the average person to undertake such a climb. I don’t encourage anyone to climb Weaver’s Needle unless they are in good physical shape and experienced at rock climbing.

There was an old retired Navy photographer name Dewey Wildoner who mastered the climb when he was seventy-two years old. Dewey was a veteran hiker and climber. He celebrated his birthday while camping out over night on top of Weaver’s Needle. Dewey was a dedicated photographer of the Superstition Mountains during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Dewey shared his photographs and slides with the public by doing slide programs on the Superstition Mountains in the 1960’s. Many people in the Apache Junction area knew Dewey as "Superstition Curley".

The climb to the top of Weaver’s Needle is a very exhilarating experience. Once on top, the view is spectacular. Looking to the northeast and into Needle Canyon is a magnificent view. The three or four times I have climbed the Weaver’s Needle the wind blew constantly on top. There is a small area cleared for putting up a tent. Over the years a lot of people have climbed Weaver’s Needle safely, but as a word caution, many have died in their attempt to climb the "Needle" also. It is by no means recommended except for climbers with professional training.

I love the ride down into Reavis Canyon from the Reavis Ranch Trail. This ride or hike produces one of the truly scenic locations in the Superstition Wilderness Area. At the end of the trail is the spectacular Reavis Fall when there is sufficient water flowing over it. The fall drops over a basalt ledge and the water falls one hundred and ninety-six feet into a large plunge pool. The best time to visit this area is during the winter months.

Another favorite trip of mine is a hike or ride to the top of Summit 5024 on the top of the northwest end of Superstition Mountain. I have been climbing Superstition Mountain since 1951. My last trip up Siphon Draw Trail was in the April of 2002. The hike up Siphon Draw can be somewhat crowded if you do it on a weekend during cool weather. Of course the higher you are up the trail the fewer people you will encounter. Ninety per cent of the hikers abandon the climb at the base of the first stretch of slide rock. From this point on, the trail is almost vertical and requires considerable care to prevent injury. My last trip up Siphon Draw required almost four hours and thirty minutes too complete. The view from Summit 5024 towards Mesa and Phoenix is spectacular on a clear day. Superstition Mountain is the line of demarcation between rural and urban Arizona.

The other choice to the top Summit 5024 is by horseback. A trip I do not recommend anymore. Yes, a horse can make it to the top of Summit 5024, but it could be the horse or the rider’s last trip anywhere. The endurance of the animal you are riding will depend whether or not you can make it to the top. The average horse is not in good enough shape to make the climb to the top of Summit 5024 without considerable preparation. The ride to the top includes loose talus debris, shear drop-offs exceeding 500 feet, steep inclines of 50 degrees or more and along trails so narrow there is absolutely no room for error in judgement.

A calm horse is a real necessity for this trip. The horse must be use to walking on solid rock, slanted slide rock, loose talus debris and must not become panicked when slipping on rock. I haven’t owned a horse in the past ten years that I would trust on such a trip. The climb to the summit 5024 requires about three hours and thirty minutes and the return trip requires only about two hours. I am certain the Summit Trail is not a forestry system’s trail, therefore probably shouldn’t be used. Also the summer months are not the time to try these trails. Many of the trails I have mentioned in this column are not known as system trails and are not part of the Tonto National Forest trail system. Most of the trails were used prior to Wilderness status in 1964.

These are my favorite spots in the Superstition Wilderness Area and I am sure other people have their favorites. The beauty of the wilderness is enjoying the solitude and tranquility away from the congestion of our cities, their sirens, traffic and lights. Thanks to the vision of conservators such as Leopold, Pinchot, and Muir we today enjoy the beauty and solitude of these wonderful wilderness areas. If it where not for men like these we would be looking at a large hotel on the Flat Iron and cable cars running up and down Superstition Mountain in our backyards.

For information about the trails on most of these hikes pick up a copy of Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart’s book, Hiker’s Guide to the Superstition Wilderness. In fact, any serious hiker should have a copy of Carlson and Stewart’s three hiking books on the Superstition Wilderness Area. Most of these trails will be in their books. Most stores and museums in the valley carry these books.

Monday, February 11, 2013

For The Love Of Rodeo

February 4, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Gary Mulholland was devoted to Lost Dutchman Days
and to his community.
 Gary Mulholland was devoted to Lost Dutchman Days and to his community of Apache Junction. If you had observed this American cowboy and his dedication to Rodeo at the Lost Dutchman Day’s Rodeo in 2011 you would have never believed he was born in Dayton, Ohio.

He was sincerely a true "man of the West." There was nothing he loved better than rodeo, except his wife Susie, his family and helping children. Just how did Gary find his way to the American rodeo arena? The answer is that he found his way to rodeo through an event called Lost Dutchman Days in Apache Junction.
Gary Lee Mulholland was born in Dayton, Ohio on August 8, 1947 to Melvin and Jeanette Mulholland. Gary attended Gettysburg Elementary School and Jr. High School in Dayton, Ohio. He attended Red Bud High School in Red Bud, Illinois.

Gary married the love of his life, Susie, in Dayton, Ohio on November 29, 1975. Gary and Susie have three children; Tonya Westerman, Chad Mulholland and Scott Mulholland.

Gary grew up in the Midwest. He loved sports and played in a men’s softball league. He also enjoyed fishing and playing poker. Once Gary and Susie moved their family to Arizona he found another love and that was rodeo. His love for rodeo started in 1982 at the P &M Arena.

His first volunteer job with rodeo was with his father and two brothers. The four men manned the beer booth and his love for rodeo grew from there. It was at this booth Gary met many new people associated with horses, livestock and rodeo. It was almost love at first sight for Gary being around all these cowboys, learning from them and being a part of the West.

Gary was soon volunteering for a variety of jobs associated with rodeo in our area. He became very involved with the Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo group. His work certainly benefited organizations such as the Apache Junction Boys and Girls Club and Little League. His two boys Chad and Scott were involved in Little League and Gary helped by coaching Little League teams also.

It wasn’t long before Gary was chairman of the Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo committee. I worked closely with him in 1989 and witnessed his love for the sport. There were several years I served on a committee with Gary that selected an outstanding citizen of our community for the Lost Dutchman of the Year award for community service. Gary always sought out the person who had contributed the most to community service. He spent every minute he could to be sure everything was just right and ready for three-day of rodeo event for Lost Dutchman Days. The Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce sponsored the Rodeo in those days. Change eventually came for Lost Dutchman Days. The change came about when Gary Muholland formed a non-profit organization called the Superstition Promotional Group to manage Lost Dutchman Days and the rodeo. This non-profit group slowly started building Lost Dutchman Days into another entity that eventually became self-sufficient.

Today, the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce and the Superstition Mountain Promotional Group work together to bring our community Lost Dutchman Days each year. Lost Dutchman Days includes a carnival, parade, a professional rodeo, a rodeo dance, vendors and a variety of community activities.
Not only did Gary Muholland have a love for rodeo, he had a love for helping children. Raising funds to help children in our community was one of Gary’s main goals. He was known for wanting to "put smiles on children’s faces."

The many donations the Superstition Mountain Promotional Group has provided for children’s groups in Apache Junction speaks highly of this volunteer organization led by Gary Mulholland. He received many community appreciation awards and was posthumously given the Arizona Governors "Spirit of Service Award." His wife accepted this award from the governor on Gary’s behalf.

He also received the "Citizen of the Year" award posthumously for 2012 from the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News.

Gary’s last year, prior to his untimely death in the fall of 2011, was the most successful year in Lost Dutchman Days history. According to Hux Russell, Chairman of the Superstition Mountain Promotional Group. This success fulfilled Gary’s dream of helping children with a group of volunteers.

Gary Lee Muholland won and received many awards for his service to community and humanity, but the most important one of all was the "smiles he could put on faces of our children."

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Legendary Land

January 28, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

The legend and lore of Superstition Mountain has prompted a continuous search for hidden gold or lost treasure within the towering spires and deep canyons of this nationally known landmark for more than a century. Men and women from all walks of life come to bid their luck against the elements and dangers of a mountain some men call "evil".

The list is endless of those who have searched the barren
and rugged land known as the Superstition Wilderness.
Above, Superstition Joe (Cecil Vernon) prospected the
Superstitions from 1945 to 1970. He's pictured here near the
intersection of US Hwy. 60 and Royal Palm Blvd. circa 1960.
The German immigrant, Jacob Waltz, supposedly started this contemporary search with clues about a rich gold mine hidden within this mountain’s realm. After his demise on October 25, 1891, the clues he left behind fired the imagination of the citizens of Phoenix and the surrounding countryside. These stories are now a century old and they still tantalize the imagination of contemporary adventurers. A century of searching has passed since Waltz’s death, and still no gold. 

Only one other man has created such an interest and lust since Waltz’s death. This was Adolph Ruth. He did it by dying in the summer of 1931, alone in the heart of the Superstitions. Ruth’s sudden and violent death in mountains quickly replaced the headlines of "depression" news in all major newspapers across the nation. Newspaper headlines from coast to coast echoed the story of Ruth’s mysterious death in the Superstition Mountains while searching for gold. Soon after these stories appeared, authors and journalists capitalized on the story of Superstition Mountain and the infamous Lost Dutchman’s mine. The story caused temptation on the part of the reader to pack his bags and head for the Superstition Mountains in Arizona and begin the search for gold.

The list is endless of those men and women who have searched and died in this barren and rugged wasteland known as the Superstition Wilderness. Some threw their fortunes away, and all of them believed they would find just one meager clue that would lead them to the golden cache and make them rich beyond the dreams of kings. 

The Lost Dutchman’s mine is one of the most often found mines in the world, yet it is still lost. Since 1895, the mine has been found at least 150 times by a variety of individuals from all walks of life. The annual winter migrations of prospectors descending on the Superstition Wilderness only prove the interest still exists in the mine today. This story is still America’s most popular lost mine story. This fanatic search for lost gold has driven some men to the brink of insanity, and some even to suicide.

Some of these individuals have even organized complex corporations and implemented sophisticated electronic equipment to aid in their quest for the gold they believe is contained within the rocks of Superstition Mountain or its wilderness. Even with the advent of modern technology and the advancement of electronic metal detection equipment to aid in the quest for gold the legendary Lost Dutchman’s mine continues to elude the prospector’s pick and shovel.

Hunting lost mines, in particular the legendary Lost Dutchman’s mine, is like chasing a rainbow, "So close yet so far away." The search itself is a solo avocation among lost mine hunters. Maybe it is not the finding that is so important, but the searching. It is a documented fact many an old timer found pay dirt, only to sell it or lose it so he could return to his wander lust way of life. The source of gold and legends are where you find them, "out in the hills." 

The true Dutchman aficionados are definitely blessed with a certain amount of happiness and the rewards of adventure in the great outdoors. They spend countless hours, days, months and years around campfires speculating about the location of Superstition Mountain’s hidden wealth. 

As long as there are those who dream there will be Dutch Hunters and treasure hunters probing the towering spires and deep canyons of the Superstition Wilderness searching for lost gold and treasure. Men like Al Morrow. Al Morrow spent nineteen years of his life living in Needle Canyon in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness searching for the Peralta Mines. He believed these mines and the Dutchman were one in the same.

This man knew what happiness was and he most definitely knew the pain of loneliness among the towering escarpments of Needle Canyon. He found success in something that we are not able measure, in his simple everyday task of survival in this remote wilderness. Morrow chose this way of life so he could deal with nature first hand and continue his life at a slow pace. He did this with great success and integrity, and in an age where everything is based on material wealth. It is difficult to imagine the likes of Al Morrow and other prospectors like him, who choose such a solo way of life despite the demands of modern society. Al Morrow marched to the beat of a different "drummer."

Superstition Mountain is a tribute to those people and their stories of hidden gold and the never-ending search for it. This mountain has become a fitting monument to these men and women who suffered the hardships of isolation, hard work and being different just to survive. Maintaining a camp deep in the mountains required an enormous amount of work and the constant search for good water. However, the beauty and adventure associated with searching the lofty ridges and deep canyons for hidden wealth was well worth any exerted energy.

Just maybe someday a lucky man or woman will come forth with the gold of Superstition Mountain and forever end the tantalizing tales of lost gold within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Such a discovery would also vindicate all those who have believed in the legend. Jacob Waltz undoubtedly left behind the most lingering story ever told about lost gold in the American Southwest.

Until that gold is found, the legend of Superstition Mountain is the stuff of which dreams are made of. Dreams of hidden gold or personal enrichment it matters not because the opportunity to search has been worthwhile. 

This is strictly a romantic view of the Superstition Wilderness Area, but as we face the future the significance and importance of the region will grow enormously. Today we find hikers and joggers wandering the trails of the Superstition Wilderness looking for adventure, recreation, and relief from the stress of our modern urban society. The Superstition Wilderness Area has become an important habitat for these urbanites on weekends.

Today the region serves more as park than a true wilderness with almost 100,000 people using the system trails this past year. The future and survival of the wilderness is totally dependent on the forest service’s management as the Phoenix metropolitan area grows. We will probably soon see the day access will be limited to the wilderness as more and more state trust lands are closed or developed. This legendary land of the old "Dutchman’s" lost mine has become a prime recreational resource for the Phoenix metropolitan area, however old Superstition Mountain remains a tribute to a legend.