Monday, August 29, 2016

The Disoriented Wanderer

August 22, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Prospectors at Linesbe Cabin in Willow Canyon (Peralta Canyon) c. 1946.
Another New Yorker with a dream showed up at “Doc” Nation’s Camp along the old Willow Canyon (Peralta Canyon) Road late December 1945. He was a man anxious to find a guide and head into the mountains to search for gold. He was convinced he knew exactly where the Dutchman’s Mine was located and he didn’t want to waste any time, particularly his own time.

 Meyer Scuelebtz was an old man and not in good physical condition. He tried to convince “Doc” Nations to guide him into the mountains, but “Doc” immediately turned him down.

On January 19, 1946, a friend of “Doc’s” named James Watkins, reluctantly agreed to guide Meyer Scuelebtz into the area north of Weaver’s Needle. The area north of Weaver’s Needle had a couple of permanent camps. One was old man Pierce’s Camp in Needle Canyon and the other was Chuck Aylor’s “Caballo Camp” in East Boulder Canyon. Watkins figured Scuelebtz could get help from either man if he needed it.

Scuelebtz and Watkins departed “Doc” Nation’s Camp on January 20, 1946. They made their first camp at a place known by locals as “The Bluff,” about one and a half-miles north of Weaver’s Needle in East Boulder Canyon. “The Bluff” was located above Chuck Aylor’s Camp in East Boulder Canyon.

The next day, somewhere north of Weaver’s Needle in the area of the Three Red Hills, Scuelebtz told Watkins to return to camp because he didn’t need his services. Watkins protested but Scuelebtz insisted he return to camp. Watkins made his way back to camp beneath “the Bluff” and waited for Scuelebtz to return.

After thinking about the strange request of Scuelebtz, Watkins decided to go looking for him. He searched a half of a day and found no trace of Scuelebtz. Watkins became concerned and hiked out to “Doc” Nation’s Camp to report the situation.

“Doc” Nations contacted Sheriff Jimmy Herron. Herron quickly organized and brought a posse out to Nation’s Camp. He then prepared for a search in the mountains for Meyer Scuelebtz. Herron thought, “Another New Yorker with a dream who bit off more than he could chew.”

By this time Meyer Scuelebtz had been missing two days in the rugged back country of Superstition Mountain.

Two men prospecting north of Weaver’s Needle in La Barge Canyon found Meyer Scuelebtz in very poor condition wandering around and totally lost in rugged terrain. Meyer insisted he was close to his golden treasure and wanted to continue, however he was physically unable.

After breakfast on Thursday morning in the mountains he was taken back to the trail head near Linesbee’s cabin. William Linesbee notified Jimmy Herron who was at “Doc” Nation’s Camp. Herron immediately responded and came to Linesbee’s Camp to pick up Meyer Scuelebtz.

Meyer Scuelebtz, an inexperienced prospector-treasure hunter was lucky to be alive. If the two prospectors hadn’t stumbled on to him he would have perished in the mountains. Meyer never returned to the mountains again to try and fulfill his dream of riches.

Dreams have misguided many an individual and eventually led to their demise in these mountains.

Andy Syndbad told about Meyer Scuelebtz and his search in the mountains. He always said Meyer was a misguided German dreamer. He sincerely believed once he got in the mountains he could locate Waltz mine because he knew the thoughts of a German mind. Another interesting twist on the story of the Dutchman’s mine saga.

This is just another tale about a man and his dream to find golden riches in the rugged terrain of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Many men have perished in these mountains searching for gold, but this doesn’t discourage more from risking their lives a quest for the elusive golden treasures of Superstition Mountain.  The real gold of Superstition Mountain is it beauty, peace and tranquility. Meyer Scuelebtz was a lucky man to survive rigors of this rugged mountain range.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Sword of Bluff Springs Mountain

August 15, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Some thirty-two years ago Bob Corbin and I visited Ernie Provence and Tracy Hawkins at the store called the Lost Dutchman Mine Store some eight miles east of Highway 60 on the old Quarter U Circle Ranch road. The store was located about a mile east from the junction of Peralta Road and Quarter Circle U Ranch road.

I had met Ernie Provence walking along the old U Ranch Road doing some surveying of property boundaries at the time. Ernie and Tracy were planning on opening a store and eventually a trailer park to attract winter visitors. This dream was totally dependent on them finding a good source of water. This is not the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine store, but story of an alleged Spanish sword found stuck in the ground on top of Bluff Springs Mountain north of the old Quarter Circle U Ranch.

Corbin and I had driven out to the U Ranch with plans of riding into the mountains and looking around Whiskey Springs Canyon. We parked at the U Ranch at the time and Henry Jones assured us he would watch our truck and horse Trailer. After our trip we stopped by Ernie and Tracy’s Lost Dutchman Store site. The store was partially completed and Tracy had just installed a diesel Whitey power plant to run their big iceboxes. There was no electricity in the area and the nearest power lines were eight miles away. Ernie and Tracy were two very determined individuals. This particular day they were full of great stories about the area and their lives.

It wasn’t long before Ernie brought up his old sword with gold trim on it that he called a Spanish saber. He said he found the saber on Bluff Springs Mountain while he was searching for the Peralta mines, Lost Dutchman mine, and various treasures in the area.

Ernie Provence at the 2011 Dutch Hunter’s
Rendezvous at the Don’s Camp.
Ernie was convinced the saber was a Spanish weapon left there some two hundred years ago by the Spanish Conquistadors. Bob Corbin examined the sword carefully and questioned Ernie’s opinion. He told Ernie he had a friend at the University of Arizona that had knowledge about military weapons— particularly swords. After some discussion Ernie trusted Bob to take his cherished sword and have it checked and tested by an expert. Bob warned Ernie this would take a month or so, but Ernie wasn’t too concerned about the Attorney General of Arizona at the time taking his sword in to be studied and tested.

Ernie told us how he found the sword on top of Bluff Springs Mountain. He claimed he was following an old Spanish map that designated the top of Bluff Springs Mountain as a protected pasture for Spanish horses used on expeditions in the mountains to mine gold. The Spaniard had to have a place to pasture their horses that was safe so the Indians wouldn’t kill them and eat them. Ernie had found the sword stuck in the ground near where the Spanish kept their horses in Canyon de Fresco on top of Bluff Springs Mountain. Ernie and Tracy both believed this story with all their hearts. They both believed the Spanish had been on Bluff Springs Mountain and had used it to pasture their horses.

As we prepared to leave that spring day from the site of Ernie and Tracy’s Lost Dutchman Mine Store Ernie carefully packaged his treasured possession and turned it over to Bob Corbin. Ernie told Bob as we left he was anxious to know the truth about the sword. Some people had told him it was Spanish and others had said it was not. Ernie called our attention to Ray and Liz Howland’s discovery near Castle Rock (Cathedral Rock) of Spanish armor in the 1930s. This find was never authenticated but years later it was said the armor was not authentic Spanish armor of the period. Few if any historians believed this wild story about Spanish armor dug up at the base of Castle Rock.

Now Ernie’s sword would be put to the test. About six weeks later we returned to the Lost Dutchman Mine Store with some sad news for Ernie and Tracy. Several experts had looked at the sword and determined it was not Spanish even though it was trimmed in 14 Karat gold. The experts concluded it was a 1953 Korean Police dress sword.

Ernie, at first, looked a little embarrassed but didn’t feel bad about the sword not being Spanish. He had found it stuck in the ground on Bluff Springs Mountain. I don’t think anyone doubted him about that part of the story.

Most Arizona historians will tell you there were no Spaniards in the Superstition Mountains, much less Aztecs hiding their gold from Tenoctitlan, their capitol city in central Mexico. Yes, the mountains are rugged and have lot of secrets, but not secrets of Spanish or Aztec gold, not even Jacob Waltz’s gold. The majestic mountains do, however, make great stories that are very entertaining to many people and new arrivals to Arizona and Superstition Mountain area.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Truth from Fiction

Most historians accept the story that an old prospector named Jacob Waltz created one of the most popular legends in American Southwestern history. Storytellers will tell you he spun yarns and gave clues to a rich lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains.

However, historians will claim Waltz was a very quiet and secluded individual preferring his privacy. These clues and stories attributed to Waltz continue to attract men and women from around the world to search for gold. The search for gold in these mountains is pure fantasy to many, however others believe this legendary mine is as real as the precious metal itself.
Who was this man who left this lingering story of lost gold in these mountains? The story of this mine remains the legacy of this old German prospector.

Jacob Waltz was born somewhere near Oberschwandorf, Wurttenburg, Germany sometime between 1808 and 1810. The exact date and place of his birth is still controversial. The precise date of his birth has not been documented with baptismal records or any other type of documentation. To further confuse the issue here, there was more than one Jacob Waltz born during this period of time.

‘Superstition Joe’ (Cecil Vernon, circa 1960) is part of
 Apache Junction’s legendary past. 
His childhood was quite obscure because few records remain about his early life in Germany. There are no documents or records that Jacob Waltz had any formal education. There are certainly no records that prove he was a graduated mining engineer as claimed by some writers.

I have a very close friend who lives near Baden-Baden, Germany named Hemut Schmidtpeter. He has researched Jacob Waltz for the past twenty years or so.

The name Jacob Waltz is quite common in Germany and this fact alone confuses research on the topic. Ironically, some of the most damaging information about Jacob Waltz was passed on to Helen Corbin when she wrote her book titled Bible On The Lost Dutchman Mine and Jacob Waltz.

This information was passed on to her by a researcher named Kraig Roberts. Experts in documentation studied these records and found them to be altered. Did Roberts alter them or somebody else? Nobody knows for sure.

Since the Olbler transit records have been “proved to be altered,” it appears in all probability Waltz may have entered the United States through the port of New York or Baltimore as originally proposed by Jerry Hamrick. The Obler ship passenger’s manifest was definitely altered with the addition of Waltz’s name and others.

Now we can only rely on the existing facts. Waltz did sign his “letter of intent” in Natchez, Mississippi on November 12, 1848, to become a citizen of the United States.
Lost Dutchman Monument on N. Apache Trail
Waltz filed for his naturalization papers in Los Angles, California and became a citizen of the United States on July 19, 1861.

He soon traveled to the Bradshaw Mountains near Prescott. Waltz staked three mining claims there between 1863-1868. Waltz also signed a petition for Arizona Territorial Governor Goodwin to form a militia to stop the predatory raid of the local Native Americans on miners and prospectors in the area.

It is highly unlikely Waltz spent any time around the Vulture Mine or Wickenburg. He did settle on a homestead on the north bank of the Salt River. He filed papers on the homestead in March of 1868.

Waltz farmed a little and raised a few chickens. He was known for selling eggs in Phoenix. He prospected the mountains around the Salt River Valley.

Did he have a rich gold mine? It is not very likely he did. After his death in 1891 his legacy began to build with the many stories written by newspapermen and authors. Many had a story to tell and didn’t care how they told it.

Fiction replaces fact and we have the story today that is told around campfires and in cafes around Apache Junction. Wherever there is a gathering of individuals interested in lost gold mines you will find the story of the Lost Dutchman mine.  This story is still alive and doing well some one hundred and twenty-five years later.

August 8, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.