Monday, March 25, 2013

The Kings of King's Ranch

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

Caption: Julian King at the entrance of King’s Ranch Resort, circa 1955.

Julian and Lucy King arrived in Arizona shortly after Julian was mustered out of the United States Navy as a Lt. Commander. He had served on the U.S.S. Enterprise during World War II. The idea of a guest ranch was born during World War II while Julian was a Fighter Director Officer on the Enterprise. The idea of building a guest ranch in some remote location emerged from the pages of letters written back and forth between Lucy and Julian while he served on an aircraft carrier during the war. These two New Yorkers decided after the war was over they would go west and build a dude ranch. Their challenge was, they didn’t know where!

Julian and Lucy departed New York in September of 1945, first traveling to Florida, then to Texas. Finally on to California, "the land of opportunity" in Steinbeck’s book Grapes of Wrath. Early in December the Kings headed east to Arizona. According to Julian’s book, Sand in Our Shoes, they first observed Superstition Mountain on December 24, 1945, and fell in love with this towering monolith.

It was here on the desert floor below Superstition Mountain they would build their dream, a guest ranch resort. As they traveled down a very primitive road with their ’41 Ford convertible and a small camping trailer in tow they marveled at the beauty of the Sonoran Desert knowing its climate would be a wonderful attraction for those who lived in the Midwest and Eastern United States during the winter months. Julian, almost immediately could see his first winter residents arriving at his doorstep to spend time at their guest ranch enjoying the Arizona climate.

However, there would be no guest ranch until they could purchase a piece from Gertrude Barkley. These old time ranchers had lived in the desert off and on since 1911. The Barkley’s advised Julian and Lucy not to try and build a guest ranch in such a remote region. They told the Kings the hardships would be enormous even in modern times. The Kings were determined to start a guest ranch based on their limited knowledge of Midwesterner and Easterners wanting to get out of the extreme cold and spend a few weeks in the warm Arizona sunshine during the winter months. Once the Kings saw Superstition Mountain they were determined they had found their guest ranch site. Julian and Lucy were determined to take on the project and learn their building skills as they worked on the construction of their dream guest ranch.

An old man named Pearly Bates had the homestead rights and patent to 160 acres on the slopes of Superstition Mountain. When Julian first asked him about a price he wanted $76,000 for the 160 acres. An outrageous figure at that time thought Julian. Julian suggested they buy 80 acres, and Pearly Bates hold the remaining acreage as an option. Bates returned the next day and said he didn’t want to sell the land. However, Bates kept coming around and eventually Julian convinced him to take their trailer and five hundred dollars for the 160 acres. Julian ended up with 160 acres of raw desert land for about four dollars an acre. The Kings now had their guest ranch land, and they carved the date, February 7, 1946, in a Palo Verde tree to celebrate. It required almost three years of hard work before the guest ranch was ready for its first guest.

I met Lucy and Julian in 1955, when I first worked for the Barkley Cattle Company at the Quarter Circle U Ranch. This was just prior to William A. Barkley’s death in September of 1955. Julian and Lucy were two people filled with dreams for the area. When I visited the King’s Guest Ranch Resort they always treated me like a dignitary because I was a Barkley cowboy. Today it is hard for me to believe this occurred almost 60 years ago. Julian was a hard working man and a very proud individual. He never talked much about his experiences on the U.S.S. Enterprise at Midway, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and many other sea battles of World War II. He was always anxious to talk about horses and the Superstition Mountains. Julian was a great storyteller and Lucy loved to paint. Her oils adorn many of the homes in the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon area. Lucy captured the beauty of the Palo Verde in the spring while blooming and the colorful dynamics of Superstition Mountain in changing light.

Some evenings I would spend time talking with Julian and some of his guests before he sold his beloved King’s Guest Ranch Resort and retired to a hilltop at the end of King’s Way (known as Blackhawk today). This was certainly a fitting retirement for such a gallant naval officer. My wife and I had dinner with Lucy and Julian at the Cowboy Steakhouse in Apacheland in February of 1961. Julian could never really retire; he had to be involved in his community in some way. At the time he was involved with the Apacheland Movie set and the Superstition Mountain Enterprises. Julian was a good salesman. He sold my wife and I one hundred shares in Apacheland stock when one hundred dollars was a lot of money.

The last time I visited with Julian was in Apache Junction at Herb Jordan’s Chevron Service Station on Highway 60. This was around 1966. We chatted about how Herb helped college students by hiring them while they were attending school. Julian pointed out to me what a fine man Herb Jordan was for trying to give back to his community as much as he could.

Both Julian and Lucy gave back to their community in many ways over the years. Their contributions to this community improved the way of life for all of us. Julian was involved in several local service clubs and organizations. He was involved with Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce, American Legion Post 27, VFW and many other organizations. Julian M. King passed away on November 12, 1972 and his wife Lucille Ingham King passed away on March 2, 1999.

Anyone interested in reading an excellent book should read Sand In Our Shoes: Chasing An American Dream by Julian M. King. Rosemary Shearer promised me twenty-five years ago she would someday publish Julian’s book, and she has done an excellent job with Julian’s manuscript. He would have certainly been proud and honored. The book tells the story of how the Kings came west and found their dream in the shadows of Superstition Mountain after World War II. I personally recommend all residents and visitors interested in the history of the Gold Canyon – King’s Ranch area or Arizona history to read this excellent book written by a true pioneer who settled on raw desert land in the Sonoran Desert below the towering façade of Superstition Mountain more than fifty-seven years ago.

The Kings were a remarkable couple with a dream, far different from the prospectors who searched the Superstitions for gold. They were a young couple whose lives were changed forever by World War II. Their dreams and tenacity built them a wonderful life on the Arizona desert beneath Superstition Mountain.

Sand In Your Shoes by Julian M. King is available at the Superstition Mountain Museum and other outlets in the Apache Junction area.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Reavis Ranch Legacy

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

Duane Short, Superstition Mountain guide and packer, cleaning up around the Reavis Ranch. c. 1989
Floyd "Stoney" Stone was ramrod on the old Reavis Ranch in the mid 1950’s. He and his wife, Alice, operated the ranch. His handshake and smile were genuine and made you feel welcome after a twelve mile terrorizing drive over the Reavis Ranch road from the Apache Trail. This particular day Stoney and Alice had invited my wife Sharon and I to visit them at their mountain paradise in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness. The Reavis Ranch was excluded from the Superstition Wilderness Area and was an island of patent land surrounded by national wilderness. The only access corridor was a twelve-mile single lane road, with an occasional pull out.

While at the ranch, I was able to observe and study the Western decor of the ranch house. It was filled with a mixture of contemporary western and pre-Columbian artifacts. The kitchen had a long wooden table with benches on each side to accommodate working ranch hands. The authentic copper-paneled ceiling of the kitchen appeared out of place in such an isolated location. There were three windows in the kitchen and a large wood-burning stove for cooking. The windows framed the beauty of the Reavis Valley.

The front room or living room was the center of the house and dominated the decor of the house. At the west end of the room was a large fireplace. The hearth was framed with peeled pine logs that had cattle brands burned into them for decoration. Western style leather covered furniture filled the room. The floor was covered with large Navajo rugs while the ceiling displayed open round timber rafters. Scenes of cowboys and cattle adorned the walls in the form of paintings. The walls were constructed of white plaster covered lathe. Here and there a Pre-Columbian artifact was displayed. A large painted Salado Olla sat in the corner. I will never forget the subtle beauty of the ranch house’s interior. A woman’s touch indeed made you feel at home.

The exterior of the house exhibited carefully laid sandstone rocks. The ranch house’s front entrance faced the east and had a large screened porch paralleling the full length of the house secured by flagstone columns. There were two good size bedrooms on the south end of the house overlooking the reservoir or pond. Beyond the pond there was a vineyard filled with grapes. A large breezeway was located on the west end of the house. This breezeway served as a place to hang meat and help cool the house in the summer. The bathroom and storeroom were located just beyond the breezeway.

Using a ladder, you could climb into the attic where numerous things were stored and where occasionally a tired cowboy would throw down his bedroll. Occasionally a family of raccoons would settle into the attic and cause chaos at the ranch.

The Clemans’ Cattle Company built the Reavis Ranch house during the 1930’s. William J. Clemans and his sons operated the ranch from 1909 until 1946. The Stones sold the Reavis Ranch to the Department of Agriculture in 1967 for $80,000 and twenty acres of patented land at the old IV Ranch near the Apache Trail.

The Native Americans were the first humans to occupy the Reavis Valley. They settled here some 10,000 – 15,000 years ago. These early residents settled here for the same reason Elisha Marcus Reavis did in 1874. This valley had permanent water and good soil and has the only spring fed permanent stream flowing year around in this entire region. Native Americans, farmers, and cattlemen all cherished and coveted this beautiful valley and its abundance of water in a desert environment. Numerous archaeological sites, including Circle Stone, dot the towering knolls that surround the valley and serve today as a mute testimony to those who once lived in this valley.

Elisha Marcus Reavis, the first Anglo to occupy the Reavis Valley, died in 1896. His lonely grave is located four miles south of the Reavis Ranch. Shortly after his death, John J. Fraser, better known as "Jack," a local cattleman, took over the Reavis Valley and the water rights. Fraser, like Reavis, was just another squatter on this land. Fraser never acquired title because at the time he was not a citizen of the United States. Fraser operated the ranch from 1896-1909.

Fraser sold his interest in the ranch to William J. Clemans in January of 1909. Clemans patented the 140 acres of the Reavis Valley on January 16, 1919. He and his sons operated the ranch until 1946, when it sold to Bacon and Upton. John A. Bacon ran the ranch from 1946-1953. Bacon’s son-in-law, Floyd Stone, took over operation of the ranch in 1954.

Between 1909-1954 many improvements were made at the Reavis Ranch. A road was constructed from the Apache Trail to the ranch in 1946. Old Ed Talley did most of the bulldozer work on the road. Almost two miles of irrigation canals were dug to water some six hundred-apple trees and 60 acres of alfalfa. A large pond was created near the ranch house to irrigate the ranch lands. There was even a small sawmill constructed to produce lumber for improvements around the ranch.

Reavis Ranch road, first conceived in 1910, was not completed until 1946. The road survived only twenty-two years before being closed in 1968 by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The valley became part of the Tonto Preserve in 1909. The valley served as the site of the first Camp Geronimo sponsored by the Roosevelt Boy Scout Council in June of 1922. Spencer Stewart, founder of Apacheland, was one of the scouts from Mesa who attended the first Camp Geronimo at the Reavis Ranch in 1922. Swimming merit badges were earned by by all of the scouts who attended because of the Reavis Valley Pond. Arizona Governor Thomas Campbell rode into the valley horseback as a guest of the Roosevelt Boy Scout Council.

The old ranch house survived through famine, fire, and vandalism for twenty-three years after the road was closed in 1968. Around Thanksgiving Day of 1991, a fire erupted in the old ranch house and it burned to the ground. All that remains today is the concrete slab the ranch house once stood on.

The old ranch house no longer serves as a haven for wayward hikers and horseman. It will no longer protect the weary from a thundering rainstorm, lightning or a raging blizzard. It is certainly the end of an era in the history of the Superstition Wilderness Area, and another of man’s tracks have been erased from the wilderness forever.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Civil War In The Superstitions

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

Union Cavalry soldiers mounting near Fremont Saddle, Superstition Wilderness Area c.1984 re-enactment.
Several years ago I heard a couple talking about an American Civil War skirmish they witnessed in the Superstition Wilderness between Union and Confederate soldiers. As I listened to their story, it sounded quite bizarre. The couple said they were hiking between Peralta Trail Head and First Water Trail Head when they came across two Civil War military detachments near Brush Corral. Members of the detachment didn’t speak or look at them. Actually the soldiers were like ghostly images in military uniforms. Some of the men were mounted cavalry and others were marching infantry.

Their story fired my curiosity and I started to investigate their story. They assured me they were not telling a tall tale, yet I couldn’t find any account of a civil war military action in the Superstition Mountain area.

The next thing I did was try and contact some of the local Civil War re-enactment groups for information. I was absolutely certain there were no Civil War battles in the Superstition Wilderness Area and the nearest skirmish was fought at Picacho Peak between forces of the Union Army and Confederate Army in April of 1864. I did find information about a skirmish fought near Pinyon Camp in the Superstition in 1866 by the Arizona 1st Volunteers led by Brevet Lt. John D. Walker against the Apaches. This battle was fought after the Civil War ended. As I continued my research a story began to emerge.

Yes, a civil war skirmish had occurred in the Superstition Wilderness. Actually there were two skirmishes, one at Pinyon Camp along the Peralta Trail FS 102 and at Brush Corral in Boulder Basin between West Boulder and East Boulder Canyons. The engagement at Brush Corral was between two cavalry units and two infantry units. The skirmish at Pinyon Canyon was between an infantry company and a cavalry unit. An infantry company had ambushed the cavalry unit at Pinyon Camp. Re-enactment groups from Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa recreated these skirmishes on November 14, 1984. The circumstances and details of these skirmishes are now available after almost thirty years.

Several re-enactment groups made these skirmishes possible. These units were from the 7th Confederate Cavalry, Mesa, Arizona, the 6th U.S. Cavalry, Tucson, Arizona, the 7th Georgia Infantry Regiment and the 1st U.S. Infantry, both units from Phoenix, Arizona. The infantry units entered the mountains from First Water Trail Head and Peralta Trail Head on November 14, 1984 at 7 a.m. and the cavalry units entered the mountains from First Water and Peralta Trail Heads at 8 a.m. An ambush was staged at Pinyon Camp between an infantry unit and a cavalry unit. All units met at Brush Corral for the battle between Union and Confederate forces in the Superstition Mountains.

The 7th Confederate Cavalry Re-enactment group was responsible for organizing the annual Picacho State Park re-enactment of the only American Civil War battle in Arizona. Several thousand people drove to Picacho State Park each year between 1979-1993 on the second weekend in March to witness the outstanding portrayal of the "War Between The States" skirmish in Arizona.

The 7th Confederate Cavalry also participated in the Inaugural Parade for Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1985. They served as the Honor Guard at the Capitol Rotunda during the Inaugural Event and marched in the Inaugural Parade for George W.H. Bush. The group also recreated the Battle of Gettysburg at Apacheland on July 3 and 4, 1979 for Arizona to witness. The battle drew several hundred people.

An old friend of mine, Dan Hopper, was at Parker Pass on the Dutchman Trail when he witnessed an infantry unit pass him and his partner. He said they were all in uniform carrying what appeared to be cap and ball rifles of the Civil War period. He said none of the soldiers talked or look at them. He also said they were like ghostly figures marching into the mountains. Dan just recently told me this story.

The legendary 7th Confederate Cavalry Unit has been disbanded for several years. Lt. Larry Hedrick organized and commanded this unit. The unit was cited many times for community service and historical preservation in Arizona.

If you were a witness to this re-enactment in the Superstition Wilderness Area in 1984, you now know the whole story.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Legend of the White Stallion

February 25, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

It is difficult to believe the wild stallion survived in the Superstition Wilderness for almost two decades and evaded capture.

Several years ago an old friend of mine, Dan Hopper, told me a story about a white stallion he and his father often observed in the Superstition Mountains during the 1960s. Dan talked about one particular trip he and his father had made down into Second Water Canyon. As they hiked through Black Gap at the northeast end of Garden Valley they saw a beautiful white stallion on the skyline to the south. Dan’s father took a picture of the stallion as it stood cautiously and watched them pass by. 

Dan quizzed me as to the origin of this beautiful stallion. I found his story extremely difficult to believe for several reasons. However I knew Dan did not just make up stories. I respected his opinion and the story about the white stallion in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

I decided to investigate the story by talking to several people who had spent a lot of time in the Superstition Mountains between 1965-1995, a period of thirty years. On a cool December morning I rode into Needle Canyon to visit with Edwin Buckwitz. I asked Edwin if he had ever observed a white horse in the Superstition Mountains. He looked at me in an inquisitive manner and said, "Of course I have seen that great white stallion." 

Edwin had searched for the Peralta gold off and on since 1965. He was a very honest individual and never really lied to me about anything over the years. If he said he saw the white stallion, I could believe him. I continued to pursue the story of the white stallion. 

I worked for the Barkley Cattle Company in the late 1950s and I knew Barkley would have never allowed wild horses on his range. Any livestock other than the units allotted on his grazing permit cost him money. Barkley may have allowed a few of his own horses on his range, but never a stallion. Most of the horses owned by Barkley were geldings and I don’t recall him owning a mare. Gelding’s are less problems on a cattle ranch.

Another possible source of the white stallion was the Indian Reservation across the Salt River. Indian horses were known to cross the Salt River near the confluence of the Verde and then make their way up the Salt then into the Goldfield Mountains and across the Apache Trail into the Superstition Wilderness Area. The Indians had a lot of broomtail stallions on the reservation, and this could explain a white stallion in the Superstition Wilderness Area. 

As I continued to search for possible answers, Dan finally produced a picture his father had taken the white stallion near Garden Valley. There was no question the horse was a stallion. 

I had not doubted Dan’s story, but I did want to collaborate it. I talked to another old friend of Chuck Aylor. He had also observed the stallion in the Second Water-Garden Valley area. Al Reser, an old timer prospector, also told me about seeing the stallion on several occasions. I was now convinced the white stallion existed. 

I worked for the Barkley Cattle Company until June of 1959, and did not know of any horses that had been turned out on to the Barkley range. When William Thomas Barkley was no longer capable of managing the ranch because of health problems, I wondered if he might have turned his old horse out on the ranch. "Champ" wasn’t a true white, but a gray. Monte Edwards, a prospector and airline pilot, told me he saw the horse several times the winter of 1966-67. I must confess I had never observed the white stallion of Superstition Mountain, but I had seen signs of him. 

Several years ago I found out the truth about the White stallion near Second Water. This beautiful animal had belonged to an old cowboy who lived in eastern part of the Salt River Valley. He was diagnosed with a terminal disease and decided to release his horse in the wild. I just can’t imagine an old cowboy releasing a horse in the Superstition Wilderness Area knowing the rules and regulations the forest service has pertaining to unassigned livestock on Taylor graze. 

Secondly, it is difficult to believe the horse survived for almost two decades and evaded capture. The man who told me this story would not reveal the name of the man who released the horse. 

From what I have been told the horse roamed the Superstition Wilderness Area for almost two decades. The white stallion had been observed from one end of the wilderness to the other. I was told the horse died of natural causes near the Tortilla Ranch in 1984. 

This wild, white stallion could be the source of the name ‘Whispering Horse Canyon’ near the Apache Trail about three miles east of Tortilla Flat. 

The spirit of that white stallion still roams the rugged Superstition Wilderness Area in the minds of those who love to wander this endless and pristine region thinking about its legend and lore.