Monday, September 30, 2013

Saguaro Markers

September 23, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

It is difficult to find a story about lost treasure or a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountain area that is not associated with a Saguaro cactus marker of some kind. There are several mutilated old Saguaro cacti in the wilderness area with a variety of markings on them that include crosses, arrows, and slashes. Some actually have stones embedded in them pointing out certain directions.

The Saguaro marker along the trail to
West Boulder Canyon. c. 1988

My first experience with a marked cactus was when my father and I hiked into La Barge Canyon in the spring of 1949. Near a place called Horse Camp, just southwest of Charlebois Spring, there was a Saguaro cactus about ten feet tall with no arms on it. About half way up the cactus was a perfectly carved cross. I ask my dad about the cactus. He told me he didn’t know a lot about it and had heard several stories. Judging from my knowledge about Saguaros today the cactus couldn’t have been older than fifty to seventy-five years. The cactus must have been a seedling sometime between 1875-1900. Oh yes, just in time for Jacob Waltz of Lost Dutchman mine fame to have carved the cross. Basically that is the story my dad told me about the cactus at Horse Camp.

The last time I saw the Saguaro cactus it was down and on it’s side dying. It had been blown over in a severe storm. The carving of the cross on the cactus allowed insects to get inside and eventually kill the plant. This was around 1979. Bud Lane told me another story about the Cactus. He said a couple of Dutch Hunters (people who hunt the Lost Dutchman Mine) carved the cross in the cactus in the early 40’s. I am sure there are many stories out there as to how the cactus received its death sentence by man.

The four aligned Saguaros near First
Water Road and Apache Trail. c. 1976.

Another interesting Saguaro cactus carving is on the trail to West Boulder Canyon. This appears to be a trail marker of some kind depending on whom you are talking to. This Saguaro has two large arms and appears to be about a hundred years old. The marking on this Saguaro cactus is an arrow that is pointing downward just below the intersection of the arms of the plant. I have always suspected this to be just a trail marker used by somebody some fifty or so years ago. I have been riding by it since the late 1950’s when I worked on the old Quarter Circle U Ranch for William T. Barkley. Even then the marker didn’t look freshly cut into the cactus.

It is interesting that the marking didn’t damage the cactus so severely that it eventually died from disease. I suppose this would make a case for the carving to have been made during the winter months when there were no insects that would lead to the cactus becoming diseased and eventually meeting its demise. Now I had an old friend name Monty Edwards who was convinced the cactus served as a marker on the Spanish Trail to the top of Superstition Mountain. He said this trail was used by "El Gato," who carved the Peralta Stone Maps. Monte’s Spanish Trail was the Summit Trail to Summit 5024. This same trail through upper West Boulder was used to bring strays off the top of the mountain. Cattle would often wander to the top of the mountain looking for greener range. Usually they ran out of water up on the mountain and would then come back down. There is always an explanation for a trail in the Superstition Wilderness Area. If the storytellers had been around in the early 1850’s they would have found Native American trails all over the rugged Superstition Mountain range. Did they mark Saguaro cactus? Who knows for sure? It is reasonable to believe they may have marked Saguaros by pounding rocks in them marking a certain direction.

There are many markers in the Superstition Wilderness Area and all of them have different stories depending on whom you talk to. Four perfectly aligned large Saguaro Cacti just outside of the wilderness area near the Apache Trail are either freaks of nature or somebody a hundred fifty years ago planted them like this for a marker of some kind. These cacti could be between a hundred and hundred and fifty years old. The four are no longer standing. I am not sure whether their demise was deliberate or natural. I photographed them in 1976 and they were in very good shape then. I was told at that time the Saguaros were about one hundred and fifty years old. Recent research reveals Saguaros grow much faster than once believed.

The markers found throughout the Superstition Wilderness Area continue to fascinate prospectors, treasure hunters, researchers, and storytellers. The stories are numerous and they are widespread. Contemporary prospectors (1880-1983), cowboys (1876-2013), the military (1860-1898) and others who wandered these mountains used a variety of markers to guide themselves from place to place in this rugged terrain.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Dreams Are Made Of

Arizona’s Superstition Wilderness Area has fascinated and mesmerized those who have walked and ridden the trails within the towering spires and deep canyons of this region. The terrain can overwhelm you with beauty, isolation, tranquility, vastness and pure ruggedness. These 159,780 acres of wilderness continues 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 of the area 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. Although his book wasn’t much of a success, it did get him the threat of a lawsuit from Barry Storm, another author on the topic.

Prospectors and treasure hunters still wander the region but, for the most part, their way of life is slowly disappearing. Strict forest service regulations have ended the legal mining in the region.

Contemporary writers, weekend explorers, and the curious continue looking for facts and information associated with events that occurred decades ago. 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 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 especially online.

When someone 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 curious about 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 most old timers would not have told anyone about their discoveries in the hills. This type of behavior could easily explain all the confusion associated with the Dutchman’s lost mine today.

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.

The Dutchman’s lost mine continues to be just 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 individuals have claimed they found the fabulously rich Dutchman’s lost mine. The roll of discoverers lists men like Glen Magill, Barry Storm, Robert Simpson Jacob, Charles M. Crawford, and many, many more that allegedly found the mine and reaped its profits. Most of those profits were monies they extracted from innocent and naïve investors. I have watched this vicious cycle for more than fifty years and have witnessed the destruction and heartache it has caused.

Former Arizona 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?" Like many others, I have dreamed of finding this mine, but I have not found any evidence that suggests the mine ever existed. Everything is based on subjective hearsay. 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 supposedly pieces of this gold that exist today. But the documentation that supports this alleged gold ore is nothing more than hearsay. Even I am guilty of signing an affidavit some thirty years ago verifying I saw the gold ore and jewelry "Brownie" Holmes claimed 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. 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."

The iconic Dutchman and his burro stand at the entrances to Apache Junction and greet all who visit.
September 16, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Machete Man

I have ridden the trails of the Superstition Wilderness Area for more than 50 years and have been witness to a variety of unusual events. Sometime during the 1970s most of the livestock was removed from the wilderness lands in the Superstition Mountain region and the removal of livestock led to the brushing up of the trails. It wasn’t long before I started seeing trails that had been brushed out (cleared).

The trail I remember in particular was the old West Boulder Canyon Trail. I couldn’t imagine a sincere Dutch hunter doing such a thing. Brushing a trail would be like advertising exactly were one would be going in this rugged terrain. Someone had done an enormous amount of physical labor clearing this particular trail.

There were a couple of prospectors working the West Boulder Canyon area at the time that I was familiar with. One was H.V. Baun and the other was old Don Shade. Shade had a spot of interest in Old West Boulder Canyon and Baun was interested in a location just above the stone corral in West Boulder Canyon.

At the time I was convinced neither Baun nor Shade would have brushed out three miles of trail. It had to be someone who was far more ambitious then these two men and more physically adept.
Late in September of 1979 I was riding my horse "Crow" into West Boulder Canyon. I wanted to photograph the old stone corral in that canyon. As I rode along the trail I noticed it was brushed out quite well and easy to ride along without snagging cat claws or cactus. Someone had definitely cleared the trail and made riding much easier. Cattle going to and from water once kept the trails quite clear of brush and cactus. Since the cattle had been removed, the trails had become overgrown. This particular day was quite warm and I was really surprised when I came upon a man cutting brush along the trail. He was wearing a yellow cap and red shirt. He was swinging a large military machete and cutting brush and cactus here and there clearing the trail. I called out to him.

He was very friendly as I approached. Then I recognized the man to be Monte Edwards, an airline pilot, who was a part time Dutch hunter. He spent most of his spare time in the Superstition Mountains looking for the Lost Dutchman Mine.

Mr. Edwards was a command pilot for Delta Airlines. He flew international flights in the DC-1011 later in his career. At first I was amazed to see him out here in the mountains alone. He was totally self-sufficient. His backpack contained everything he needed. He told me his pack weighed 60 pounds. At the time Monte Edwards was in top physical shape. I soon learned he had been a major in the United States Marine Corps and flew F-86 Sabre Jets during the Korean Police Action in the early 1950’s.

Monte Edward hiked the trails of the Superstition Wilderness Area for more than thirty years. He spent a majority of his time photographing pictoglyphs and markings on rocks in the area. He had hundreds of photographs and precise GPS locations for all the markings he had found in the Superstition Wilderness Area. To this day nobody has duplicated his work. His work was a monumental task. He was always asking me about any markings or pictoglyphs within the Superstition Mountain area. I would give him some directions to a site he had never photographed. He would then go find it. He always surprised me with his tenacity to search out and find a marking or pictoglyph in the region.

One day Edwards and I were visiting and I asked him why he brushed the trails so much and worked so hard at it. He told me he sat for hours in a cockpit five days a week. He explained that he needed to get out and do some good hard manual labor to stay in shape. He told me cutting and clearing trail was good physical exercise for him. There was a logical explanation for the "Machete Man" after all.

I am certain his work will appear in some museum in the Southwest someday. His work was unique and special in annals of Southwest history.

Monte Edwards was born in Lewiston, Idaho on November 16, 1932, and attended Colorado Western College at Gunnison, Colorado. He searched the Superstition Mountain region from 1963 until 1989 and passed away on May 6, 1990.
Monte Edwards in camp near Weaver’s Needle. c. 1978

September 9, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chasing Ghosts In Haunted Canyon

There is an old Indian story about Haunted Canyon. It’s a tale about where the sun introduces the sky to the wind. When the sun hides and the sky becomes dark, the wind blows through Haunted Canyon calling to the dead.

That’s from a ghost story told to me by an old Apache many years ago while he was gathering jojoba nuts in Haunted Canyon. The story convinced me that Haunted Canyon was important to the Apache. Bear grass, agaves, jojoba, pinyon and acorns can all be found in the canyon. These were all staples for the Apache at certain times of the year.

Haunted Canyon has eroded down through a thick layer of limestone, making the region susceptible to solution caves. These caves are found high above the canyon floor, and one large cave just below the old Toney Ranch goes deep into the mountain.

Many years ago a rancher found a skeleton of a bear in the cave. The cave was also filled with stone arrowheads, again attesting to the use of the canyon by the Apache or other early inhabitants of the area.

I visited Haunted Canyon for the first time in 1968. It was still a very primitive area and difficult to penetrate on horseback or afoot. Once into Haunted Canyon, one finds the brush along the canyon floor very thick and difficult to see through. Oak, juniper and sycamores are common along the canyon floor.

We set camp about a hundred yards from the old Toney Ranch cabin. This chinked log cabin with its corrugated metal roof stood out among the sycamore trees. At the time the old ranch was not occupied, but we chose not to stay in the house because of the mice, scorpions, black widow spiders and whatever else occupied the dwelling.

As the sun slowly fell below the horizon the air began to cool. The sounds of the night filled the air. At first we heard the crickets; then an occasional frog, all of this was followed by a pair of serenading coyotes somewhere up the canyon from our campfire. We sat around the fire talking about chasing cattle and working on such a desolate ranch in the Superstition Mountain area.

We repeated the story of the "cave with a thousand eyes" and talked about how a man named Pete Moraga found this cave around 1900. We also told the story about another man named Perez who thought he found the Lost Dutchman Mine when he found the same cave in 1917.

Then there was the story of Modoc and his lost diamond mine in the Superstition Mountains. Modoc reported his find to the Mesa Journal-Tribune in mid 1930s. The story was short-lived when the diamonds turned out to be calcite crystals.

There is even another story about lost gold in Haunted Canyon. An old man named Kennedy allegedly had a hidden gold mine somewhere in the area of the canyon. Kennedy would show up in Superior or Globe periodically with a large quantity of placer gold claiming it came from his mine in Haunted Canyon. Nobody has ever found placer gold in Haunted Canyon, but they have found placer gold in Gold Rush Creek, a tributary of Pinto Creek. Today Gold Rush Creek is gone and in its place is an open pit mine.

Many years ago the area was filled with wild cattle and in 1968 there were still a few left. About the only way the old time cowboys could work cattle in this brushy nightmare of a range was with cow dogs. Years earlier I had ridden into this country with a friend looking for deer. After a couple of days riding the brushy tributaries of Haunted Canyon I was ready to return to the desert.

Cowboys who busted through this chaparral were called ‘brush whackers.’ Cholla cacti are notorious on the desert, but Manzanita is worse. Broken Manzanita is brittle, very sharp and extremely hard. It is so hard it can easily pierce heavy work chaps, boots, even a horse’s hide or a cowboy’s leg.

Setting around a campfire helps conjure up ghost stories and tales about mysterious occurrences. This night was no exception around our campfire in Haunted Canyon. It wasn’t long before somebody was talking about the Apaches and some of those stories about Haunted Canyon. There was one story about an old prospector who was captured by the Apaches and hung upside down over a bed of hot coals just eight inches from the top of his head. This was one of the slowest and cruelest ways the Apaches killed their captives.

Time was always on the side of the Apache. As the old man dangled from a piece of rawhide he kept pulling his head from side to side trying to avoid the heat of the coals that were slowing baking his skin and brains.

According to the storyteller, the sun introduced the sky to the wind. The wind soon brought heavy dark clouds. Lightning streaked through the sky and the thunder roared. Heavy rain began falling and the coals were soon extinguished. The sound of thunder, wind and rain made the Apaches abandon their helpless captive without further harm.

The rawhide began to loosen as moisture once again returned to it after the heavy rain. Somehow the old prospector was able to escape his bounds and return to Globe and tell his story.
Over the years I have returned to Haunted Canyon on several occasions and found the area undisturbed. I suppose the old ranch house has survived because of its isolation.

The last trip I made into Haunted Canyon was in the mid 1990’s when I heard the area might be destroyed or impacted by a large open pit mining operation scheduled to begin operation in the area to the east.

The legacy of Haunted Canyon is filled with many interesting and fascinating stories. Today, the old Toney Ranch and property are under the conservatory of Superstition Area Land Trust and is protected. One needs to secure permission to hike into the old Toney Ranch, however Haunted Canyon is open to exploration.

I wouldn’t recommend trips into the area except from mid-October to the end of April. The summer months can be hot and water is extremely limited in the area.

Author’s note: There are articles about the Toney Ranch, the Cave of a Thousand Eyes, and Haunted Canyon, the Lost Modock Diamond Mine and others in years past. The Apache Junction City Library may have copies of those stories available to read.

Toney Ranch (c.1975) is now managed as part of a conservatory by the Superstition Area Land Trust (S.A.L.T.). To visit the Toney Ranch you need to secure permission from S.A.L.T

August 26, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.