Monday, April 25, 2016

The Deering Story

April 18, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

A man appeared at the Bark-Criswell Ranch in December of 1891 with a burro and a puppy. The burro he called “Chase” and the puppy he called “Yelp.” He informed Jim Bark that the Silver King Mine had shut down again. He asked about securing employment on the ranch. The owner asked him if he could repair water holes and maintain them for cattle. The man said he could and would, as long as he could periodically prospect. The man’s name was John Chuning.

Chuning later told Jim Bark about a gold mine he knew of in the Superstitions. Bark listened attentively and soon remarked, “It wouldn’t be difficult to find a mine if someone had already found it.”

Jim Bark was a very successful business man, with interest including ranching, meat packing business, and gold prospecting. Bark owned what is now known as the Quarter Circle U Ranch, pictured above about 1934.
Chuning said the mine was located in a rugged place and nobody would go up there to look for it. He further explained he had built a small rock monument near the site of the mine.  The country, he said, was so rough even if you found the monument you couldn’t find the mine.

Bark listened carefully as Chuning told how he had worked with Joe Deering at the Silver King and how tragic Joe Deering’s death had been in 1884. Chuning told Bark how Deering had told him about the mine.

Jim Bark, inset photo taken around 1920. 

Deering reportedly had said the mine was located high up on a wall in an isolated and rugged canyon. He told about how Deering had tracked two soldiers and then used pure logic to figure out where they worked their mine.

Chuning went on to explain how Deering said he had found the mine.

“I headed for Silver King to get a job,” Deering had told him. “I had camped in a big canyon at a spring, near some willow and sycamore trees. I had breakfast, took my canteen and went looking for my burro. I finally saw him halfway up the side of a mountain, and above my camp.

“As I started up after him I saw a deep worn trail. The trail was so much larger and worn so much deeper in the rocks than any other trail I had seen in those mountains that it excited my curiosity. I left the burro to follow the trail. I must have walked two or three miles and came to the worst place I have ever seen in these mountains.

“There was a tunnel and it had been walled up. The wall had settled about eight inches and had partly fallen down. I don’t know how deep the tunnel was. Above the tunnel it looked as though there had been two big shafts, but they were almost filled in.”

Chuning said Deering returned to his camp over the same trail. He noticed a large willow tree growing just at the lower edge of the trail He rested under it and took out his little hand ax and cut a cross in the tree.

A prospector named Wright found a hand ax which had been pounded out of shape, as though it was used to crush or pound rock. This same trail was monumented by small piles of rocks until it left Javelina Canyon and dropped over into the Horse Mesa country. Chuning further claimed Deering had said the country was kind of ghostly looking and there were many queer-shaped rocks in the region. Some of them looked like stone statues.

Deering said, according to Chuning, “after closely examining the area I built four rock monuments of long slender stones with four or five smaller stones that were laid around to support them. I paid little attention to directions or distances in the area. I avoided placing markers near the mine.”

Chuning said after Deering had found the mine’s location he went to Silver King to secure a grubstake and ended up taking a job. This job underground proved to be fatal for Deering and he never returned to his find.

John Chuning, Bark’s friend, had met Joe Deering at the Silver King Mine a few weeks before he was killed in an accident. Deering had told Chuning he had found a mine, a very rich mine in the Superstitions south of the Salt River.

He had told Chuning about the “trick in the trail.” He explained you had to go down before you could negotiate the “trick in the trail.” Deering said he had worked the mine only twice and he never traveled through the mountains to it, but through the desert.

Deering showed Chuning about four pounds of rich gold ore from the mine while they were in Jesse Brown’s Saloon in Pinal. Chuning later told Bark the gold was quite rich. If the ore had been broken up the gold would have been the size of peas or kernels of corn. Some years later Jesse Brown verified Chuning’s story to Jim Bark in Nogales, Arizona.

Chuning hunted for Joe Deering’s lost mine for several years after Deering’s death at the Silver King Mine. Chuning worked for Bark off and on until Bark sold his ranch to Frank L. Criswell in 1907. After the sale of the ranch Chuning moved his base of operation to Tortilla Flat.

Chuning prospected around Tortilla Flat for about three years. John Chuning kept a base camp up La Barge Canyon in a cave just below the Lower Box of La Barge Canyon. The site today is known as Chuning’s Cave.

Sometime in October of 1910 Chuning became quite ill and passed away on November 11, 1910.

Ironically, Dr. Ralph Palmer signed Chuning’s death certificate.  Palmer owned and operated the Palmer Mine (Boulder-Buckhorn) on the western-side of Superstition Mountain.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Big Nose Kate

April 11, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The following story is certainly filled with much speculation, but still has some interesting and valid historical points. One of Arizona’s most infamous characters was a madam by the name of “Big Nose” Kate.  She was born Mary Katherine Harnoy, in Budapest, Hungary, on November 7, 1850.  Her father was Michael Harnoy, a physician, and her mother was Katherina Boldizer Harnoy.

 The Harnoy family moved to Mexico City in 1863 when Kate was thirteen years old.  Kate’s father was one of the court physicians to Maxmillian, Emperor of Mexico.

After the fall of the Emperor Maxmillian, the Harnoy family escaped from Mexico to the United States with nothing but their lives. They finally ended up in Davenport, Iowa in 1866. Shortly afterward, Kate’s mother passed away.

Kate Harnoy left home in 1867 at the age of seventeen and took the alias of Kate Fisher. She was working for Bessie Earp at a saloon and hotel in Wichita, Kansas, in 1874. The next year Kate was working in Dodge City, Kansas, at another hotel and saloon. Kate acquired the name of Kate Elder in 1877 and moved to Fort Griffin, Texas. Kate met Doc Holiday in 1877 in Fort Griffin.  Kate broke up with Doc Holiday in 1881 while living in Tombstone. It was in Tombstone she acquired the nickname “Big Nose” Kate. She worked as a madam and gave special favors to certain Tombstone citizens.
Mary Katherine Harnoy (alias Big Nose Kate)
with John Henry “Doc” Holliday in an undated photo.

After Kate’s breakup with Doc Holiday in Tombstone she moved to Globe in 1882 and operated a hotel and served as a madam. Kate met many of the prominent male citizens of Globe during her stay. There is some speculation she may have met George P. Hunt for the first time long before he became Arizona’s first governor.

Kate lived in Pinal and Silver King for a short time in 1884. She rekindled her friendship with Cecilia N. Blaylock Earp, Wyatt Earp’s first wife, during her brief stay at Silver King.  Blaylock is buried in the old Pinal Cemetery.

“Big Nose” Kate returned to southern Arizona by 1887.  She married George M. Cummings, a blacksmith, in 1888.  Kate and George worked in several of the mining camps from 1888 through 1897. They worked briefly in Pearce, Arizona in 1897. Some historians say she separated from George Cummings in 1898.

“Big Nose” Kate was managing a hotel in Cochise, Arizona, 1899 and another hotel in Dos Cabeza, Arizona, in 1900. Between 1900-1920 “Big Nose” Kate operated hotels and brothels throughout the mining districts of Arizona. Kate had made a significant impact on Arizona history, but maybe not a page most historians would like to record for posterity.

Kate in later years.
George M. Cummings died in Courtland, Arizona in 1930 and left “Big Kate” a small estate. The estate amounted to a house and some mining claims.

At her advanced age of 81, Kate petitioned the Office of the Governor in 1931 for permission to live at the Arizona Pioneer’s Home in Prescott.

“Big Nose” Kate, the most infamous madam in Arizona history was accepted into the Arizona’s Pioneer’s Home in Prescott. She died there on November 2, 1940, at the age of 89. She is buried in the Prescott Pioneers Cemetery as Kate Elder Cummings.

You might ask. How is this story linked to the Superstition Wilderness Area? Much of the following is speculation and supposition. I have no direct documentation or evidence to support this story except the word of a few old pioneers.

It is said that Kate Elder Cummings wrote a letter to old George P. Hunt explaining her destitute situation. There is also the story about three men who made a trip over to the Silver King Cemetery from Globe and made a grave cap out of concrete. These three young men were survivors of a Typhoid epidemic where Kate had courageously cared for the ill. On this grave cap they printed the letters, “Big Nose Kate” 1850-1884. Hunt allegedly recommended the Kate Elder Cummings petition to be approved because he knew “Big Nose Kate” was buried at Silver King at the time and that the petitioner was a lawful pioneer citizen of Arizona and deserved the rights of such. After all, the old woman that had petitioned Hunt for residency in Arizona’s Pioneer Home certainly was not the infamous “Big Nose” Kate of Tombstone history.

We must thank many people for the above information. I would like to thank Marshal Trimble, Ben Traywick, Malcom Comeaux, Grace Middleton, Jack Kinslow, and many others. Any mistakes or supposition not documented are my responsibility.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Desert Bonanza

April 4, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Goldfield and the famous Mammoth Mine have long ceased to be the booming mining camp they were at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The inhabitants have left and little remains today of its glorious past. Remnants of this era can be found on the base of a large alluvial fan. This alluvia fan protrudes into the desert far below the towering cliffs of Superstition Mountain.

 Late in the Nineteenth Century, early prospectors passed this area without much of a glance. Mexican prospectors found small stringers of gold in the area as early as 1879. However these outcrops did not attract any serious interest. Eventually some Mormons from Mesa City began to prospect in the area. The Lucky Boy claim was staked in 1881, but produced very little gold. William Kimball staked out the Boulder-Buckhorn in 1886. On November 27, 1892 C. R. Hakes, Orlando Merrill, Orrin Merrill and J. R. Morse filed on the Black Queen claim. The Black Queen produced a reasonable amount of gold and it kept miners busy in the area until the discovery of the Mammoth claim in April, 1893. This discovery was prompted by a flash flood along Goldfield Wash (Weeks Wash) that exposed a rich vein of gold ore.

Hakes, the Merrills and Morse worked their claim for a short time then filed four other claims; the Black King, Mammoth, Mother Hubbard, and Tom Thumb. They sold their claims to Denver capitalists Denny Sullivan and Charles I. Hall just six months after filing the claims. They sold the claim for the price of twenty thousand dollars.

It was the Mammoth that became the bonanza of the five claims. At first there was only a small amount of gold detected at the surface, however at the depth of sixty feet a large ore deposit was located that later became known as the “Mormon Stope.” Between seventy and two hundred and fifty feet the gold was so rich it held the quartz together in the stamp mill making it difficult to separate. It is claimed that over three million dollars in gold was removed from this mine in four years between 1893-1897.  Most of the gold was removed from the Mormon Stope in the first two and a half years with aid of a twenty-stamp mill.

Geologically this area is a basement pediment complex composed of coarse grained, indurated conglomorates and altered granite breccia. Rich veins of gold in quartz intruded the granitic material. The principle ore body, the Mormon Stope, was located in the vicinity of two northward striking and steeply westward dipping faults that outcropped some three hundred feet apart. Within this zone the richest ore was produced, resulting from granite outcrops heavily stained with brownish limonite containing irregular stringers rich gold-filled quartz. According to George B. Church, the material mined was oxidized. The Iron Pyrite that accompanied the quartz was the source material for the gold bearing Iron Oxide. Some minerals today that have been associated with the gold quartz were Monzanite, and Calcite.

By November, 1893, the hostile desert environment had been altered so that it was compatible for occupancy by miners and their families. Frame structures and tents were commonplace. However, Goldfield was doomed from the beginning. The miners were digging rich gold ore one day and the next day the gold ore was gone. The rich ore body had been dissected by a fault millions of years before. The rich ore body had attracted well over five hundred people to the area. By November, 1897, Goldfield became a ghost town haunted only by the wind and the coyotes.

Early in 1910 Goldfield briefly came to life again. George U. Young acquired the claims and for the next fifteen years tried to relocate the lost ore body. At 900 feet low-grade ore was encountered, however this attempt ended in failure because they didn’t locate the high-grade ore deposit. It was at this time a large steam-driven electric power plant was installed. The purpose of the power plant was to operate a ten-stamp amalgamation mill and provide power for a 50-ton cyanide plant. The two were operated intermittently for several years producing about $67,000 worth of gold and silver.

On June 8, 1921, Goldfield was re-established as Youngsberg, Arizona. After the closing of the post office in Goldfield (Youngsberg) in 1926 the community ceased to exist officially. The area saw mining activity in 1949, and then through much of the 1970s. During both of these periods gold was produced. Only sturdy concrete foundations and eroded mine dumps exist from the early days of mining in this area.

In 1985 Goldfield had a rebirth when Robert and LuAnn Schoose decided to fulfill a dream and build a ghost town that would serve as both tourist attraction and a museum. The site of Goldfield and Youngsberg are once again a place to go see.

Schoose’s effort has definitely help preserved the mining history of the area and Arizona. His ghost town has one the finest display of old mining equipment in Arizona.

Take the time to drive up the Apache Trail (SR88) four miles northeast of Apache Junction and visit the Goldfield Ghost Town. This site is a fun place to visit and learn about mining in the American Southwest. This modern theme town is located south of the old Mammoth mine.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Apache Trail Mile Post Markers

March 28, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Several years ago I was helping a friend who worked for the Page Land and Cattle Company gather a few cows on the old Weeks’ cow outfit west of the Apache Trail in the Goldfield Mountains.  We were working near the old Government Well Highway Yard on the west side of the road. I was moving four or five cows along an old abandoned section of the Apache Trail when I spotted an old concrete pillar in a thicket of Broombush. The post was about four feet high, triangular in shape, made of concrete and had the numbers “23” and “37” engraved on it.

My nature, curious as it may be, dictated that I should step down from my horse and examine this old concrete milepost used by stagecoach drivers of the old Apache Trail.  One side of the post had the number “23”, meaning twenty-three miles to the Mesa railhead. The other side of the post had the number “37”, meaning thirty-seven miles ahead to the construction site of Roosevelt Dam.This discovery was made in the summer of 1960. I left the old marker as I found it.

I returned to the site during the winter of 1973. At the time I was teaching a class “Prospecting the Superstitions” for the Apache Junction Community School. I was absolutely amazed to find the old concrete milepost marker still in tact and undisturbed. The milepost marker had stood for sixty-six years.

This is a portion of Apache Trail milepost marker 23.

I had totally forgotten about the old milepost by the spring of 1990. It was by accident I came across it again while photographing the Goldfield Mountain one evening.  Again I was surprised it had survived this long.

It was at this time I decided something should be done to protect this old mile marker from vandalism or destruction.  I contacted the Tonto National Forest district ranger who eventually arranged for the removal of the milepost marker and the placing of it in the Superstition Mountain Museum at Goldfield Ghost Town, Inc. in 1991.

My friend and close associate, Greg Davis, brought me an article about the Apache Trail. The milepost was mentioned in this article. The article, “The Nile of America” carefully identifies this particular concrete milepost. The article was published March 21, 1908. The following is quoted directly from the article: “About a mile from Mesa the government road begins, and one of the first things noticed was the neat cement mile and half mile posts. Each mile post gives the distance from Mesa to the dam, and the observant teachers soon made up their minds to commit to memory all the combinations of sixty that can be made by using two numbers at a time, 0-60, 14-45, and ‘30 all’ were correctly anticipated, and each found the figures corresponding to the mile post of his life, through not all in the same half day. At the eight mile post Desert Wells is past, where Mesa and Roosevelt stages changes horses.”

The article continues, “Gradually swerving toward the north, at twenty miles the foot hills are reached and soon the beauties of a thoroughly constructed mountain road are appreciated. Passing the ranch (Weeks’ Station) where water is sold at “ten cents a span,” and the deserted mines at Goldfields in the corner of Pinal County, we returned to Maricopa county and stop for dinner at Government Well, near the 23 mile post. This also was a changing station for the stage and here you could change a ten-dollar bill. Only one family lives here and neighbors are not within call, although three or four miles south at the foot of Superstition range can plainly be seen the camp and gold mine of two Scandinavians who are said never to allow a visitor to set foot on their claims.”

Today the named sites along the Apache Trail are difficult to recognize. Old Government Well is located opposite the Needle Vista Point and the old mine mentioned as belonging to two Scandinavians Silverlocke and Goldleaf can still be found if one searches the slopes of Superstition Mountain Southeast of First Water Road.

This interesting article pointed directly to this old concrete road marker that now resides in the Superstition Mountain Museum 3.8 miles northeast of Apache Junction on the Apache Trail.

When they lowered the waters of Apache Lake in the Spring of 2007, another road marker (Three Mile Wash Marker) was found along the old Apache Trail roadbed. Only a portion of this marker was saved and returned to the forest service for preservation.

These markers where placed along the Apache Trail every mile between Mesa and Roosevelt Dam. Only a few survive today. The most amazing one to survive was the Government Well marker. It remained undisturbed for more than eighty years.