Friday, August 23, 2013

The Lost Dutchman Monument

 At the junction of State Route 88 and U.S. Highway 60-70 is a monument of a prospector and his burro that commemorates the story of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine and Superstition Mountain. This monument reminds us of the hardship Arizona pioneer prospectors faced prospecting this frontier more than a hundred years ago.

The Don’s of Arizona (Phoenix Don’s Club) constructed the monument in February of 1938. The purpose of this monument was to perpetuate the history and legend of this beautiful state of ours. This monument stands today as the oldest structure in Apache Junction and has seventy-five years of history and tradition behind it.
The monument as it appeared in 1940. 

The construction of this monument required the cooperation of many people, including Mr. and Mrs. George Cleveland Curtis, owners of the Apache Junction Inn. Also involved was the Brick Mason’s Union of Phoenix, the Arizona State Highway Department and the Salt River Project’s Water User’s Association. The Phoenix Don’s Club received considerable assistance from these groups in their effort to establish and finalize the construction of this monument in Apache Junction.

The Phoenix Don’s Club secured a "grant of easement" from George Cleveland Curtis and his wife, Aurora, on April 12, 1938. This "grant of easement" insured the Phoenix Don’s Club permanent access to the monument and its grounds for maintenance and repair. Fred Guirey, working for the highway department at the time, designed the monument. To insure the permanent site for the monument the Don’s Club recorded the "grant of easement" in both Pinal and Maricopa counties.

The monument was constructed in the shape of a stone wall, about eight feet high, twelve feet long, and two feet wide. It is surrounded by a cactus garden that includes saguaros and is surmounted by large figures of the prospector and his burro cut out of boilerplate. The wall had a bronze plaque set in it stating this legend:
"Here lie the remains of Snow Beard, the Dutchman, who in this mountain shot three men to steal a rich gold mine from Spanish pioneers, killed eight more to hold its treasure, then died in 1892 without revealing its location. Dozens of searchers have met mysterious death in the canyons there, yet the ore lies unrevealed. Indians say this is the curse of the thunder gods on white man in whom the craving for gold is strong. Beware lest you too succumb to the lure of the Lost Dutchman Mine in Superstition Mountain."

The construction of the monument was completed on February 25, 1938, and was dedicated on April 8, 1938, by the Phoenix Don’s Club. Approximately 200 people attended the 3 p.m. event. The dedicatory address was made by James Murphy, the Don’s Club president, who presented the monument to the people of the State of Arizona, and Mulford Windsor, State Librarian, accepted the monument on behalf of the State of Arizona.

Oren Arnold, noted Southwestern author, stated the following in his historic address: "This monument is a reminder that on this vast and colorful stage known as the Southwest, some extremely interesting characters have played dramatic roles."

Arnold was talking about the characters of the Old West the monument represented and was making reference to Jacob Waltz and the prospectors and treasure hunters that followed him. However, today the monument celebrates much more. It has become an icon of this community.
The monument was rededicated on Saturday, February 27, 1988. James Murphy, fifty years later, stood once again on the speaker’s platform. The keynote speaker for the rededication was Governor Evan Mecham.

Mecham was a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot during World War II, and flew P-51 Mustang escort fighters over Europe protecting B-17 bombers. During training at Williams Air Force Base, Mecham lost a trainer over Superstition Mountain and parachuted out, living to tell about it. He was certainly an excellent keynote speaker for the rededication of the LDM Monument. To this day the old monument is still a center of controversy between those who believe it should go and those who believe it should stay. My guess is, it will remain for another millennium reminding us of the importance of open spaces, our past heritage and the special lifestyle that exists here now.

The Dutchman’s Monument today represents the open spaces and the free spirit of the people who moved to this desert. They moved here to get away from the pollution, crime and traffic congestion of larger cities.

Look at all the businesses and business cards that use the icon of the old prospector and burro on them. The monument commemorates more than just a story; it celebrates a way of life.
On July 8, 2013, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the monument’s construction, Apache Junction Mayor John Insalaco signed a proclamation devoted entirely to preserving and protecting the Dutchman’s Monument. Apache Junction has become an advocate and conservator of this unique structure. This proclamation finally brings the City of Apache Junction and the Dons of Arizona together in the preservation and protection of this unique heritage landmark.

What does its meaning hold for the future? We have been fortunate. Progress is rapidly changing this rural community into a metropolitan city. The old monument has been replaced in many ways by the symbolic rhetoric of our modern and progressive society. We all know horses and cities don’t mix, just like prospectors and urbanization. Ironically, the old prospector and his burro have once again found a home in Apache Junction with the stroke of Mayor Insalaco’s pen. Their future is in our hands. I would hope this monument has a little deeper meaning to all us now.
The monument as it stands today
August 12, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.