Monday, December 22, 2014

The Golden Ghost

December 15, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

“The Golden Ghost” Stewart Adams (l) and his friend John P. Cunningham at a camp site at the Peralta Trail head area shortly before Adams’ death in 1934. Photo by Christensen, c. 1934.
Stories of lost gold continue to haunt the minds of men who trespass in the domain of the Thunder Gods. Superstition Mountain is like a magnet for dreamers. Eight decades ago Frank Dobie, an early American author, wrote about the Spanish conquistadors and hidden gold in the Southwestern deserts. Those who searched for the gold were called Coronado’s Children by the author.

Adventurers searching for gold in the Superstition Wilderness today are few and far between. These searchers were called Dutch Hunters, and it was their stories that became the history and legends of Superstition Mountain. These stories are told and retold today around campfires and in local coffee shops.

One might say Jacob Waltz and his legendary Dutchman’s Lost Mine is the Golden Ghost of Superstition Mountain. Since the time of Waltz’s death in 1891 the legacy of his mine has grown to almost unbelievable proportions, and the story is filled with more fiction than fact.  The true Golden Ghosts are the tales and stories passed on from generation to generation. No one can really legislate dreams, according to former Arizona Attorney General Robert K. Corbin. As long as there are dreamers there will be searchers and chroniclers of this infamous story of adventure, death, tragedy, lost gold and glory.

It has been eighty years since Adam Stewart died in his camp deep in the Superstition Mountain range. Stewart came to America from Scotland long before the turn of the 20th Century. He first prospected the mountains of California and then moved to Arizona about 1915. He established his base camp near what is known as the Don’s Camp, located near the Peralta Trailhead. 

It was here Adam Stewart met Dr. Rolf Alexander and John P. Cunningham. Dr. Alexander was a dentist who had aspirations of becoming a geologist. John P. Cunningham was a multi-millionaire ice cream manufacturer from Chicago. Alexander introduced Stewart to Cunningham as his partner in the mining operation near the Peralta Trailhead. 

Steward and Cunningham became good friends. The Chicago millionaire ice cream maker invested money in Adam Stewart’s dream to strike it rich in the Superstition Mountains.

Stewart was an honest and humble man who Cunningham respected and wanted to help. The old prospector was convinced the Lost Dutchman Mine was on his claims in Willow Canyon (Peralta Canyon). Stewart had spent almost twenty years searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine, but never succeeded in finding it.

It wasn’t really the gold that brought Cunningham and Steward together.

After meeting Stewart, Cunningham realized he had gone to school with Stewart in Scotland and they had even dated the same girl. This interesting story became part of Cunningham’s love for the Superstition Mountains in 1917. 

Cunningham made a special trip to Arizona in 1934 to visit Adam Stewart and reminisce about the past. It was Cunningham and a photographer who filmed Adam Stewart, his mine, the Superstition Mountains on 16 mm film in 1934, providing historians with some of the earliest films ever shot in the Superstition Mountain area around the Peralta Canyon.

Adam Stewart died in November of 1934 leaving behind many years of hard work on his Superstition Mountain claims. His tenacity to search for gold in the Superstitions provided this humble man with credibility among his peers and friends. His white handled-bar mustache was his trademark and many of his friends remembered him as a honest, hard working man.

Rolf Alexander had the “pipes” played in the memory of Adam Stewart at a site just under the Dacite Cliffs three days after Stewart’s death. The Golden Ghost of Superstition Mountain has impacted the lives of many men and women.