Monday, October 31, 2016

Civil War in the Superstitions

October 24, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Several years ago I heard a couple talking about witnessing an American Civil War skirmish in the Superstition Wilderness between the Union and Confederate soldiers. As I listened, it sounded quite bizarre. The couple said they were hiking between Peralta Trail Head and First Water Trail Head when they came across two Civil War military detachments near Brush Corral. Members of the detachment didn’t speak or look at them. Actually the soldiers were like ghostly images in military uniforms. Some of the men were mounted cavalry and others were marching infantry.

Their story fired my curiosity. I started to investigate their story. They assured me they were not telling a tall tale, yet I couldn’t find any account of a civil war military action in the Superstition Mountain area that would have justified a re-enactment.

The next thing was to try and contact some of the local Civil War re-enactment groups for information. I was absolutely certain there were no Civil War battles in the Superstition Wilderness Area and the nearest skirmish was fought at Picacho Peak in April of 1864. I did find some information about a skirmish fought near Pinyon Camp in the Superstition in 1866 by the Arizona 1st Volunteers led by Brevet Lt. John D. Walker against the Apaches. This battle was fought after the Civil War ended. As I continued my research a story began to emerge.

Yes, a civil war skirmish had occurred in the Superstition Wilderness. Actually there were two skirmishes— one at Pinyon Camp along the Peralta Trail FS 102 and one at Brush Corral in Boulder Basin between West Boulder and East Boulder Canyons. The engagement at Brush Corral was between two cavalry units and two infantry units. The skirmish at Pinyon Canyon was between an infantry company and a cavalry unit.

An infantry company had ambushed the cavalry unit at Pinyon Camp. Re-enactment groups from Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa recreated these skirmishes on November 14, 1984. The circumstances and details of these skirmishes are now available after some thirty years. Several groups made these re-enactment skirmishes possible. These units were from the 7th Confederate States Cavalry, Mesa, Arizona, the 6th U.S. Cavalry, Tucson, Arizona, the 7th Georgia Infantry Regiment and the 1st U.S. Infantry, both units from Phoenix, Arizona.

The infantry units entered the mountains from First Water Trail Head and Peralta Trail Head at 7 a.m. on November 14, 1984, and the cavalry units entered the mountains from First Water and Peralta Trail Heads at 8 a.m. An ambush was staged at Pinyon Camp between an infantry unit and a cavalry unit. All units met at Brush Corral for the battle between Union and Confederate forces in the Superstitions.

The 7th Confederate Cavalry Re-enactment group organized the annual Picacho State Park re-enactment of the only American Civil War battle in Arizona. Several thousand people drove to Picacho State Park each year between 1979-2016 on the second weekend in March to witness the outstanding portrayal of the “War Between The States” skirmish in Arizona. Larry Hedrick of Apache Junction headed this group and did all the announcing between 1979-1992.

The 7th Confederate Cavalry also participated in the Inaugural Parade for Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1985. They also served as the Honor Guard at the Capitol Rotunda during the Inaugural Event and marched in the Inaugural Parade for George H. W. Bush. The group also recreated the Battle of Gettysburg at Apache Land on July 3 and 4, 1979 for Arizona to witness. The battle drew several hundred people.

An old friend of mine, Dan Hopper, was at Parker Pass on the Dutchman Trail when he witnessed an infantry unit pass him and his partner. He said they were all in uniform carrying what appeared to be cap and ball rifles of the Civil War period. He said none of the soldiers talked or look at them. He also said they were like ghostly figures marching into battle. Dan just recently told me this story. If you were a witness to this re-enactment in the Superstition Wilderness Area in 1984, you now know the whole story.

Larry Hedrick, organizer of the 7th Confederate Cavalry Reenactment group and central in the founding of the Superstition Mountain Museum. Photo by the Arizona Republic.
The legendary 7th Confederate Cavalry Unit has been disbanded for several years. Lt. Larry Hedrick organized and commanded this unit. The unit was cited many times for community service and historical preservation in Arizona. Hedrick was dedicated to preserving the history of the Picacho Pass, Arizona’s only American Civil War battle. A lot of history was associated with this skirmish in the Arizona desert near Piacacho Peak, which today is known as Piacacho State Park along I-10 Highway between Phoenix and Tucson.
Larry Hedrick also dedicated more than thirty-five years to the concept and building of a museum devoted to the preservation of the history and lore of Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Mine. I worked closely with Larry during the first ten years and witnessed his dedication, devotion and hard work to see the concept materialize into its building at Goldfield Ghost Town on January 31, 1990. Finally the museum had a building. This required ten years of hard work and dedication to a cause. I am certain it would have never happened without Larry Hedrick working closely with Bob Schoose to make this dream come true. We all stood proudly in front of the new museum building on January 31, 1990.

Again, it was Larry Hedrick who pursued the land transfers that eventually led to the money and property the museum board eventually acquired. This story is a reminder of just what goes into a dream and an idea that it is designed to protect and preserve the history of any given area or event.

History begins with proper preservation. The future lies in the hands of historians and those who guard the events of our times for the future. Larry R. Hedrick was such a man. He is a man who should be recognized for his dedication, determination and devotion to history and this museum. There needs to be something better than just a plaque. Something heroic needs to recall this man’s dedication, determination, devotion, and work in this community.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Murder Conspiracy At The U Ranch

October 17, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Recently I read on the internet about a local cattle family’s ranch being used to hatch a murder conspiracy. The murder conspiracy supposedly included Abe Reid, George “Brownie” Holmes, Milton Rose, Jack Keenan and Leroy Purnell. The ranch was the Quarter Circle U in Pinal County and the man to be murdered was Adolph Ruth, a Washington D.C. gold prospector. The year was 1931. 

The story goes something like this. Dr. Adolph Ruth arrived in Arizona in mid-May of 1931. He was searching for a pointed peak in the Superstition Mountains based on a map his son acquired in Mexico in 1914, which he believed would lead him to buried gold in the Superstitions. The old man was convinced he would be successful in these mountains because he had failed in California.

Ruth had searched in the southern California desert previously with another map he had acquired from his son. This trip was in December of 1919. Ruth was severely injured during this experience and almost lost his life. His limited success in the Anza-Borrego Desert of California convinced Ruth he would have better success in Arizona.

Ruth arrived in Arizona in May 1931 and went about trying to find somebody to take him into the Superstition Mountains. He eventually ended up at the old Bark Ranch or what Barkley called the Quarter Circle U Ranch. It was there he met William Augustus “Gus” Barkley.

Dr. Adolph Ruth was last seen on the morning on June 18, 1931, by a man he met near the old brush corral south of West Boulder Canyon.

On June 11, 1931, Ruth tried to persuade Barkley to take him into the region around Weaver’s Needle. Barkley refused because of Ruth’s physical condition and the summer heat. Barkley made every effort to point out the hazards of going into the mountains this time of the year. But Ruth was a man that could not be discouraged easily after his previous adventure in the Anza-Borrego Desert near Warner Hot Springs in 1919. Finally, Barkley agreed to pack Ruth into the mountains but told Ruth to wait three days for Barkley’s return from a trip to Phoenix.

Barkley left the ranch on June 12, 1931, and returned three days later to find Ruth had already departed for the mountains. Ruth had become impatient during Barkley’s absence and asked two local cowboy-prospectors to pack him into the mountains. These two men were Jack Keenan and Leroy Purnell.

Ruth was packed into the mountains through First Water to a site near Willow Springs in West Boulder Canyon. His campsite was just west of Weaver’s Needle.  Ruth’s camp was comfortable, he had water and the temperatures were only up around 94 degrees at midday. Considering the time of the year these temperatures were very moderate.

When Barkley returned to the Quarter Circle U Ranch he found the elderly Ruth had been packed into the mountains. Barkley rode into Ruth’s camp at Willow Springs in West Boulder Canyon on June 20, 1931. After examining the camp he determined Ruth had not used the site for at least twenty-four hours. When Barkley realized the old man was missing he immediately notified the authorities. 

A search was mounted and it continued for forty-five days without a trace of Adolph Ruth being found. The search conditions for Ruth were terrible with temperatures reaching the 115-degree mark and the search was finally abandoned around the first of August 1931.

It was later reported that early on the morning on June 18, 1931, Ruth had met a man near the old brush corral south of West Boulder Canyon. This man claimed Ruth was in good shape when he saw him but walked with a limp and appeared a little exhausted. They talked about the weather and the black gnats. Ruth asked the man for directions to Needle Canyon. The man told him how to find the trail over Black Top Mesa Pass and into Needle Canyon. He also noted Ruth was carrying a small side pack, like a military gasbag, and a thermos jug. The man also noted Ruth was carrying a side arm of some kind. This fateful meeting was recorded in the man’s prospecting journal.

This individual never stepped forward during the investigation because by the time he heard about Ruth missing, the search had turned into a murder investigation. It is my contention this was the last human to ever see Adolph Ruth alive. He reported Ruth in good condition, although he thought he was unprepared for such rugged country at this time of the year. When Ruth told him he had a base camp the man wasn’t as concerned.

Ruth’s skull was discovered a few months later on December 10, 1931, by the Phoenix Archaeological Commission’s expedition. Richie Lewis and “Brownie” Holmes led this group. William A. Barkley and Jeff Adams found the skeletal remains of Ruth on the eastern slope of Black Top Mesa on January 8, 1932, about a quarter of a mile from the location of the skull.

There was no final agreement as to exactly how Ruth died, but there was a consensus that he died of natural causes and did not die from some foul deed perpetrated by some evil contriving individual. The periodicals of the period conjured up all kinds of murder and conspiracy theories. These stories were the source of the many tales that survive today. Ruth’s son, Erwin, was convinced his father was murdered for an old Spanish treasure map he possessed. Erwin Ruth was a very melodramatic individual.

It is pure fantasy to believe a person or parties known or unknown conspired at the Quarter Circle U Ranch in 1931 to murder Adolph Ruth for a treasure map he carried. If the cause of Ruth’s death was not murder then there could have been no conspiracy at the U Ranch. Again, all evidence suggests Ruth died of natural causes. Doubt was only raised when Ruth’s son, Erwin, made claims his father was murdered for a map he carried.

This conspiracy story was dreamed up to malign a lot of honest Arizona pioneers because of conflicting beliefs and interest involving lost gold and treasure in the Superstition Wilderness. The Arizona Republic printed the map found on Ruth’s body. One of these individuals was Quentin T. Cox. He had a very fiery pen and often attacked people and their ideas in writing.

Hundreds of his letters exist today and these letters continue to keep this murder conspiracy going. Milton Rose, according to Cox, was one of the conspirators in the Ruth case. Rose also had a fiery pen and countered any story that implied Ruth was murdered.

I met Quentin Cox on several occasions while employed on the Quarter Circle U Ranch in the 1950’s. He often came up to the old U Ranch and visited. His tongue was as fiery as his pen when it came to talking about certain people associated with the Lost Dutchman Mine. I would listen to his rhetoric then go about my chores. Quentin Cox had some interesting stories and he adjusted them according to his theories. It is people like Quentin Cox, Milton Rose and others who keep the tales of the Superstition Wilderness alive and going today.

The Barkleys were true Arizona pioneers who worked hard to eke a living out of this desert and the Superstition Mountains. The Barkley’s never felt guilty or haunted about the Ruth incident or anything to do with it. Old Gus had made every effort to find Adolph Ruth and help his family. No such murder conspiracy ever occurred at the Quarter Circle U Ranch. However, each decade the story changes and some people claim other preposterous statements about the incident that occurred eighty-five years ago.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Feud at Cottonwood Springs

October 10, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There are those who believe there is an unlimited supply of water. But in the 1890s prospectors, miners and cattlemen fought over small seeps and springs in the desert around Superstition Mountain. The Cottonwood Springs water feud was between a cattleman and a stable owner in the Goldfield mining camp around 1894. The story goes something like this.

When the first Mormon gold miners arrived here from Mesa City in 1881 there wasn’t much water in the area. There were no deep wells like we have today.  The legendary sources of water in those days were Willow Springs, Cottonwood Springs and a bi-annual seep known as “First Water.”

The alternative sources for water in those days was a eleven-mile trip to Bagley Flat and the Salt River or packing water from Mesa City— a twenty mile journey.  Finding water in the early days at the Goldfield Camp was no easy task and the water came at a premium. When the road was built during the early 1890’s water was then hauled to the camp from Mesa City.

The Weeks family had a spring near their place south of the Goldfield Camp and provided water at ten cents a span. That meant it cost ten cents for two horses to have a drive of water.  Water was a premium in the area and all sources of water had been claimed at that point.

The cattlemen in the surrounding hills had water sources for their cattle. Sid Lamb had a windmill and a well at Willow Springs and eventually developed the seep or spring at Cottonwood Spring.

John Richards who owned a corral in Goldfield City in 1894, decided he would haul water from Willow and Cottonwood Springs for his corral. This water was much closer than Mesa City or the Salt River, but it wasn’t long before some real problems began to arise. 

Sid Lamb wanted to prevent Richards from hauling water from his spring because of the limited supply of water the springs produced. Lamb Brothers had cattle on the range they had to protect and supply with water. Lamb and his brothers filed mill rights on both of the springs in an attempt to prevent Richards from using the water. Water was scarce and expensive in the early 1890s and led to  a feud between Lamb and Richards.

Lamb found John Richards at another one of his springs. It was at Cottonwood Springs and there was a confrontation between the two men.  Richards was cleaning out the spring when Sid Lamb and Walter Rogers rode up on him.

Lamb told Richards to leave the spring alone. He said the water was for his cattle and ordered him to get out. After an exchange of words, Richards invited Lamb and Rogers to get off their horses. Lamb and Rogers complied with Richard’s request. Lamb attempted to draw his gun, but Richards was faster.  Lamb thought discretion in this case was the better part of valor and didn’t shoot. Lamb and Rogers remounted to ride off but Richards threw a rock knocking Lamb off his horse. Lamb got back on his horse and left. He and Rogers filed a complaint against John Richards with the Sheriff of Pinal County and Richards was arrested. 

The Lamb Brothers claimed the active or permanent springs in the area for stock water. They had been ranching in this area since the 1880s.

This disagreement continued for a couple of years before an abundant supple of water was located in the Mammoth Mine. When they began pumping water, Goldfield Camp had all the water they needed and the feud ended.

Water is absolute essential for survival on the desert. However, most people take it for granted.

As Tom Kollenborn snaps this photo of Cottonwood Spring his dog cools off in the concrete tank that was added later.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dismal Valley

October 3, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Several years ago Joe Clary introduced me to the military records of the Rancheria Campaign in the Superstition Mountain area.  It was among these field reports and maps that several new names for various landmarks within the Superstition Wilderness Area were discovered. The Rancheria Campaign against the Apache and Yavapai between the years 1864-1868 eventually ended much of the hostilities along the Gila and Salt Rivers.

The region east of Tortilla Creek and west of Fish Creek Canyon formed a small alluvial flat that was once the site of the Tortilla Ranch.  Cattlemen and cowboys have used this valley for stock gathering and raising for more than a hundred years.

Prior to the cattlemen’s use of this valley, it was an important Native American encampment or farmstead.  During the 1860s the Apaches and Yavapais had a rancheria in the valley. This village was used on an intermittent basis because of the water supply. When water was abundant the Native Americans grew maize, beans and squash along Tortilla Creek.

The Apaches and Yavapais had a nasty habit of raiding their distant neighbors along the Salt and Gila River for women and additional supplies. Prior to 1860 there was very little the Pimas could do to prevent these raids.  It was certain death to challenge the Apache in their mountain sanctuary to the east. The Pimas avoided these mountains because the region was the home of their dreaded enemy.

John D. Walker organized a militia unit of Pimas and
white settlers to combat the Apache and Yavapai.
This militia was called the 1st Arizona Volunteers.
This all changed when John D. Walker settled along the banks of the Gila River, near modern-day Florence in early 1860.  Walker soon organized a loose-knit militia of Pimas and white settlers to combat the problematic raids of the Apache and Yavapai.  This militia was called the 1st Arizona Volunteers.  Territorial Governor John N. Goodwin commissioned Walker a brevet lieutenant and promised to help with supplies.

Walker’s first campaign against the Apache-Yavapai consisted of several attacks by his poorly armed and fed group of volunteers.  Even under such conditions this rag-tag militia struck hard against the Apache-Yavapai rancherias in the Pinal Mountains.  The first campaign consisted of approximately 200 Pima scouts and forty American settlers.   Camp McDowell was established along the Verde River in 1864 to control the predatory raids of the Apache-Yavapai from Tonto Basin down the Rio Salinas (Salt River) into the Salt River Valley. Units from the 14th, 24th and 32nd Infantries under the command of Brevet Colonel Bennett went into the field in 1866 and continued operations until the end of 1868.  Their mission was to eliminate hostile villages in the Tonto Basin area, the Pinal Mountains and the Superstition Mountains.

May 11, 1866, Brevet Lt. John D. Walker led elements of the 14th and 24th infantries against Apaches and Yavapais in what is known as the Superstition Wilderness today. Their mission was to destroy all Native American villages or rancherias and capture or kill all inhabitants they could find south of the Salt River, north of the Gila River and east of the Superstition Mountain. 

Walker turned southward from the Salt River at a place called Mormon Flat and then followed Tortilla Creek into the mountains.  His column first attacked a large encampment of Native Americans above Hell’s Hole on Tortilla Creek. The infantry unit killed 15 warriors at Hell’s Hole. The unit then moved up Tortilla Creek to Dismal Valley. Walker’s command attacked a large Rancheria in Dismal Valley killing fifty-seven Native Americans including several women and children. During the mopping up operation the mosquitoes were so fierce, the stench of the dead was so nauseating and the heat was so extreme the site became known as Dismal Valley. 

Walker led several other campaigns into the Superstition Mountain area during the period 1860 to 1868.  It was this involvement that led to his name being prominently attached to the story of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. 

Some storytellers believed Walker received a map from Jacob Waltz’s partner, Jacob Wisner. It was believed this map was given to Walker because of his knowledge of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Walker eventually passed this map on to Thomas Weedin, the editor of the Florence Blade. 

Joseph Clary’s work with military records in Washington D.C. opened another interesting era in the history of the Superstition Wilderness Area. His research located many new names for landmarks in the area around Tortilla Mountain and in Dismal Valley.

Prospectors and treasure hunters have always linked John D. Walker with Jacob Waltz and his alleged partner Jacob Wisner (Weiser).  It is apparent the most logical site for this link was during the military campaign of 1864-1868. The irony of this is the fact Waltz was not in the area until at least 1868. These skirmishes had already been fought. It is highly unlikely Walker came across Waltz or Wisner in the Superstition Mountain area.  It is very interesting how facts get mixed with supposition and faith. Walker was not involved with the second campaign against Apaches in the Superstition Mountain region.  Major Brown led units of the 5th and 10th United States Cavalries against the Apache in this campaign of the 1870’s.

The Walker-Waltz connection is strictly supposition and there is little or no documentation to support it.  It is just another tale about the legendary mountain range east of Apache Junction.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Dutch Hunter’s Rendezvous

September 26, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The intense interest in the Dutchman’s Lost Mine and the Superstition Mountain continues to this day. Men and women from around our nation come to Arizona hoping to find their fortunes. Most find nothing or loose their fortunes and others are lucky to get away with their very lives. Sadly, some make poor choices and death or injury is no stranger to the unprepared and inexperienced in this rugged mountain range east of Apache Junction.

Prospectors have died from extreme weather conditions, from gunshot wounds, from falls, drowned in flash floods, and from natural causes. Ironically the rugged Superstition Mountains are far safer than the streets of Phoenix or the highways of Arizona. Since the early 1880s men and women have searched these rugged mountains for gold and lost mines. The most significant lost mine stories centers around an old German immigrant name Jacob Waltz. His mine was allegedly located near a prominent landmark called Weaver’s Needle just east of Superstition Mountain.   

Maintaining a camp in these mountains can be difficult at best. The trails are rough and steep, making it difficult to deliver supplies. Also pack trains (horses or mules) are a very expensive method in which to move needed items into the wilderness. Furthermore, all camps are limited to fifteen days by forest service regulations. Camps cannot be established within a quarter-of-a-mile of a water source.  This can make camping very difficult in the dry season when water is scarce.

Interest in tales of gold and lost mines still fascinate prospectors in the 21st Century.
One can easily get disoriented in these mountains if they don’t have map reading experience. No one is immune to the dangers that exist in these mountains, however caution and common sense will protect most from serious injury or death.  Each year I am amazed at the people who become involved in the search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. There is a continuous list of new prospectors who are searching the mountains for clues. 

Many years ago a businessman and prospector named Joe Ribaudo, who lives in Lake Havasu City, decided he wanted to see the Dutchman legend carried on by some kind of annual gathering. He came up with the idea of the “Dutch Hunter’s Rendezvous.” He held the first gathering just west of Twin Buttes and south of the Coke Ovens along the Gila River east of Florence. The first gathering was small with thirteen attending in October of 2005, however there was a lot of enthusiasm for the idea. The next year, the rendezvous was moved to Don’s Camp. This was accomplished with the help of Don’s member Greg Davis.

The camp is located at the base of Superstition Mountain near the Peralta Trailhead. Each year the activity is held at the end of October. The gathering has grown. It is a gathering of individuals that are extremely interested in the Superstition Mountains and its many tales and stories. This event has attracted old timers as well as contemporaries anxious to learn the stories of Superstition Mountain.

The third year, Joe handed over the organizing of the “Dutchman’s Rendezvous” to Wayne Tuttle and Randy Wright. Greg Davis continued to make the arrangements for the Don’s Camp for the rendezvous. Joe and his wife, Carolyn, retired as camp hosts. They will still greet you and say hello.

The scheduled activities include a variety of options. Friday night includes sitting around a campfire and entertaining each other by telling stories about the mountains. There is usually a guided hike on Saturday. After dark on Saturday, everyone gathers around the large Ramada to listen to a couple of guest speakers. This gathering at the Ramada is also planned for Friday evening. I have attended for last three years and I think it was an excellent opportunity to meet a variety of people from all over the United States that were interested in our history. As I look back I should have made an effort to attend and report on all of these events. Please don’t get this event confused with Lost Dutchman Days in Apache Junction. This has nothing to do with this particular event or the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce.  Last year there were three days of this event. The interested, the curious and the very serious showed up for the event last year.  Some of the individuals drove from Texas, California, Oklahoma, New York, New Hampshire, and several other distant locations. The organizers should be proud of their accomplishment. I didn’t personally count each and everyone in attendance, but I would estimate there were about eighty to a hundred people attended last year’s “Dutchman’s Rendezvous” at Don’s Camp.

A number of old time Dutch Hunters attend, and of course they are legends in their own right. Many authors, who have published books about the Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman’s mine attend.  I am not sure who are the guest speakers this year, however I am sure they will be interesting. Wayne made a big improvement last year by adding a sound system.

The Dutch Hunter’s (Dutchman’s) Rendezvous is an open event, so everyone is welcome. This year’s event is scheduled for October 21, 22 and 23, 2016. There will be guest speakers on Friday and Saturday night at the campfire gathering.
The camp is primitive, so you need to bring what you need to be comfortable. Be sure to bring water, food, and bedding if you are spending the night. For more information you may email Joe at