Monday, February 27, 2017

Lost Dutchman Days 2017

February 20, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The old prospector of lost mine fame, Jacob Waltz, left the State of Arizona quite a legacy when he died in Phoenix on Sunday, October 25, 1891.

Lost Dutcman Days includes a parade, a rousing Rodeo Dance, a carnival, Polka contest, gold panning, a Senior Pro Rodeo, and lots of good food and entertainment.
His death marked the beginning of a period of mystery, intrigue, myth and cryptic clues about a rich gold mine in the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction. Today some believe Waltz had a rich gold mine and others claimed it to be just a fable.

As we celebrate this Lost Dutchman Days we should think about all the stories these old timers left behind. Most are fiction, but some are true. Our state is unique with its many stories of lost mines, cowboys, gunfighters, miners, prospectors, lawman, ministers, farmers, ranchers, jurist, and politicians. These were the men and women who helped Arizona make the transition from territorial status to the modern state it is today.

Stories like the Dutchman mine compel some to search the deep canyons and towering spires of the Superstition Wilderness for the Waltz’s lost mine. Prospectors, treasure hunters and the curious come from far and near for a look at the Superstition Mountains and try their luck at searching for gold. However most come to enjoy the climate, scenery, tranquility and solitude of the mountains.

The first major group to take advantage of this international interest was the Phoenix Dons Club now known as The Dons of Arizona. Their first annual Superstition Mountain Trek was held in 1934. The Dons Club, in an attempt to further commemorate the history and lore of the Lost Dutchman Mine and Superstition Mountain, constructed the Lost Dutchman Monument in Apache Junction in 1938. The monument was rededicated in 1988 after standing for fifty years undisturbed by progress. Almost 400 dignitaries and citizens from around Arizona rededicated the monument on February 28, 1988, The governor of Arizona was the keynote speaker for the occasion. Thousands of families have stopped to admire the monument over the years. Many had their photograph taken with the monument in the background. Sam Lowe, columnist for the Arizona Republic recently wrote about historical significance of the monument in the lives of many prominent Arizonians including Arizona governors, legislators and historians. Recently the City of Apache Junction dedicated a bronze statue of the prospector and burro at City Hall on October 4, 2011. The prospector and burro have become the motif of Apache Junction, unique to any other community in Arizona.

The Apache Junction Lions Club so valued the legacy of the Lost Dutchman Mine story and the monument they implemented the Apache Junction Burro Derby in 1958. The Burro Derby drew thousands to Apache Junction each winter. Hollywood movie stars often became involved with the Burro Derby between 1960-1963 when they were in town filming at Apache Land.

As I recall, St. George’s Church started a Mardi Gras parade. Lost Dutchman Days evolved in 1965 under the guidance and support of Colonel Rodgers. Lulu Luebben named Lost Dutchman Days. Lulu’s husband Roy became the first officially elected Lost Dutchman. If I recalled correctly, the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce organized the event each year after 1965. This year’s event will be the 53rd Annual Lost Dutchman Days.

Lost Dutchman Days is known around the nation and world because of the notoriety of Jacob Waltz and his lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction. Each year this celebration draws thousands people to Apache Junction for fun and to share in our history. This event requires a tremendous amount of volunteer energy and ingenuity to pull off each year.

 This event is marked by volunteer dedication everywhere you look. If it were not for community volunteers, there would be no Lost Dutchman Days. It is through their efforts our community puts its best foot forward. We also need to recognize the businesses and sponsors who so strongly support this event. It is also important we recognized the resources and support committed by the City of Apache Junction since 1978, when the city was incorporated.

Recently I had to explain to an old timer how to find the burro and prospector monument in downtown Apache Junction because of our recent growth. He recalled to me having his picture taken with the burro and prospector in the background in 1939. He said, “When I had that picture taken, there was nothing between the monument and Superstition Mountain.”

I then mentioned Lost Dutchman Days to him. His reply was simple, “you mean the old prospector and burro has an event named after them. It sure pays to hunt gold in these hills friend.”

Please come out and celebrate Lost Dutchman Days with the fine people of Apache Junction on February 24, 25 and 27, 2017. This year’s celebration includes a parade, a rousing Rodeo Dance, a carnival, Polka contest, gold panning, a Senior Pro Rodeo, and lots of good food and entertainment.

If you need information about Lost Dutchman Days call (602) 982-3141.

Community events have sustained Arizona through good times and bad times. Most communities in Arizona have an annual event that attracts thousands of people to Arizona. These community events have been important to Arizona’s sustained growth and prosperity. These events bring people together to enjoy the best of Arizona, its climate, culture, scenery, and people.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Another Search for the Gold

February 13, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Some forty-three years ago I met a man named Walt Harvane who lived in Litchfield. He happened to be a friend of an old acquaintance of mine named “Rocky” Lout. Rocky introduced me to Walt at Fletcher Jones Chevrolet on Grand Avenue in Phoenix in early 1961. Walt tried to convince me he knew exactly where the Dutchman’s Lost Mine was located.  Rocky had told Walt about my experiences in the Superstition Mountains with my father. He wanted me to hike into the area he believed the mine was located in. After I got acquainted with Walt I decided to hike into the mountains with him. I was convinced he was a good man and only interested in looking for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine.

We drove my 1956 Willys Jeep Station Wagon up to the old Quarter Circle U Ranch. Clark McKay gave me permission to leave my vehicle at the ranch. Clark was the head cowboy for Barkley at the time. Walt and I bid farewell to Clark and told him we would see him in three or four days. As we walked across the cactus studded desert below Miner’s Needle I was quite apprehensive about this trip. Harvane was about twenty years older than I and he had a few extra pounds on him he didn’t need. We started the steep climb up to Miner’s Needle Summit. Our trip was two years prior to the forest service rebuilding the trail up and over Miner’s Summit. We reached the summit quite exhausted, but continued on toward the head waters of Whiskey Springs Canyon. We dropped down into Whiskey Springs Canyon and the going was a little easier, but very brushy. We arrived at the site of the old World War II trainer that crashed there in February of 1943. We took time to inspect the old biplane, photograph it and then we moved on.

Above is an example of what the Upper La Barge Box country looks like.
At the confluence of Whiskey Springs and La Barge Canyons Walt ask me if I had ever been in the Red Tank Divide country east of our present position.

I told him I had worked stray cattle from Horse Camp Spring to Red Tank Canyon when they got through the fence and onto Floyd Stone’s range. He then asked me if I knew the area around Red Tank Divide. Yes, I said again, I know the area, but not well. He then asked me if I had ever visited the old stone cabin near the base of the cliff. I told him honestly I didn’t know about any stone cabin in that immediate area. However, I did mention Brad’s Cabin where old Roy Bradford stayed when he worked his diggings in the upper portion of the La Barge Box.  These same diggings were worked by Charles M. Crawford and a partner in the 1980s.

Walt and I continued up through the Upper Box. This was a very strenuous climb up a steep and unforgiving mountain trail. This was certainly a trail to be remembered. We finally found ourselves in the upper headwaters of La Barge Canyon. Walt led me through some brush, around a few boulders and there it was. A stone cabin constructed under a large boulder.  The cabin still had a framed wooden door on it and one window had a wood shutter. I must admit I was amazed how easily Walt Harvane found this old cabin in the middle of this wilderness. His immediate discovery of the cabin indicated he had been here before. Walt later told me he had hiked into the area about fifteen years earlier and discovered the old stone cabin. The old cabin’s site was in a really rugged location and completely obscured from anyone’s view. Digging in the floor of the cabin I found an old hunting knife and a metal plate.  These were souvenirs from the past.

Above is the old stone cabin under a boulder allegedly used by J.J. Polka when he worked his ledge of gold.

Then Walt began to tell his story. Many years ago I bought a sample of gold ore from a man in Kansas City, Kansas, who told me the specimen came from the J.J. Polka Mine. Actually he said the Lost J.J. Polka Mine. Walt said he had the gold ore assayed and it ran one hundred and fifty-two ounces of gold to the ton.  Of course Walt had not shown me a sample of the ore, but he was convinced it came from this area. I recalled a story about an Indian who had some rich gold ore that came out of the Superstition Mountains, but I couldn’t remember any of the details of the story.

Walt explained the appearance of the ore. He said it was layered like sedimentary rock in alternating layers of red and black bands. I told Walt my father really didn’t believe the Superstition Wilderness Area had any rock that was conducive to gold bearing ores. Nothing would change Walt’s mind. He was convinced the ore could be found in the area. We spent three days searching the area, but found nothing. Other than the old stone cabin tucked under a house-size boulder up near the base of Squaw Teat Mountain we found nothing else worthwhile. Today this mountain is known as Coffee Flat Mountain. The one other thing I remember most about this trip was the acacia or Catclaw. This miserable plant just about ripped our clothing and skin off.

When Walt and I left the old stone cabin we hiked over Red Tank Divide and down Red Tank Canyon to Randolph Canyon then on to Fraser Canyon and Reid’s Water. From Reid’s Water we hiked back to the Quarter Circle U Ranch along the old road from Reid’s Water to the U Ranch.  I was pleased to see my Jeep Station Wagon sitting in front of the ranch.  This had been a tough four days in the mountains. We had plenty of scratches to prove what we had done. I am not sure Walt Harvane ever found what he was looking for, but I know he really believe in J.J. Polka Gold. Three months later I went to work for the Arizona Highway Department and moved temporarily to Springerville for three months.

Many years later I ran across another man who was convinced the J.J. Polka Mine really existed somewhere in the Superstition Mountains. Twenty-five years later Bob Corbin and I sat in a camp near old Ray Bradford Diggings in Upper La Barge Canyon and listened to Bob Ward talk about the J.J. Polka Mine and how rich the gold was. At the time Bob Ward was in charge of security for Charles A. Crawford while he was developing mining claims in the area. Ward was a believer in the Polka Mine. Today there have been numerous stories written and maps produced about the Lost J.J. Polka Mine.

This trip with Walt can be written up as another adventure in the Superstition Wilderness Area in search of lost gold. After all, dreams are what keep us young. Bob Corbin, Attorney General of Arizona retired, once said, “You just cannot legislate dreams.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

John Hallberg Incident

February 6, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

It was late May of 1936, when John Hallberg and his partner, Charles Williams made there way to Apache Junction. They staggered into the Apache Junction Inn to see their old friend George Curtis. Both men were somewhat ravished from the desert sun. Their skin was tanned darkly and dried. You could tell by looking at them they had spent considerable time working in the hot desert sun. The men told an incredible story to Curtis, the proprietor of the Apache Junction Inn. They told Curtis about a gold discovery they made in the mountains. The men were carrying a very worn and tattered sack with a large rock in and a few small ones. Both men claimed they had discovered a rich gold deposit. Curtis, a man experienced with identifying gold, asked to look at their sample. Curtis had also done quite a bit of prospecting himself and was aware of rocks and valuable minerals. He said he could identify gold without any problem.

It was late May of 1936, when John Hallberg and his partner, Charles Williams made their way to Apache Junction Inn (above) to see their old friend George Curtis (below right), who was the owner of the Inn.
Hallberg and Williams removed the rock from the bag and several small pieces. Curtis suggested they weigh the rock on the kitchen scales. The rock weighted thirteen pounds and the smaller pieces seven pounds. The rocks were composed of Quartz, Mudstone, and free Gold. Curtis estimated, considering the amount of gold in the specimen to be worth about $7,000 and the other smaller pieces about $3,000. He told both men they had about $10,000 in gold of course this was based on the current price of gold at approximately $35 a Troy ounce.

From this point on the story really gets interesting. The newspapers basically carry this portion of the story and the gold discovery in 1936 by John Hallberg and Charles Williams. At first it was speculated they had found the Dutchman’s Lost Mine, but both denied it was the Dutchman’s mine or remotely associated with it. John Hallberg was a prospector of reputation who had prospected the area since 1919. Many people of the period respected his opinion and his word.

However, Charles William’s reputation was more of a problem. He was a World War I Veteran who claimed he discovered gold in a cave in the Superstition Mountains in January of 1935, but became disoriented and wandered around the Superstition Mountains for several days before walking out to safety. The sheriff of Maricopa had organized a search for Charles Williams when he walked into one of their camps with a pocket full of nuggets. Eventually William’s gold was proven to be Jeweler’s gold and not natural gold. The U.S. Government confiscated all of William’s gold. Actually he was lucky he did [not] go to jail. After the adjudication of William’s case he lost the gold he claimed was his. The U.S. Government proved it was stolen gold. Some believe, including William’s wife, that he was an innocent prospector involved in some kind of crooked scheme. Whatever the case, Williams never went to jail nor did he get the gold that he found.

John Hallberg claimed he didn’t know Williams was involved in that case when they had become prospecting partners. I suppose John didn’t know much about Charles Williams when he took him on as a partner. The following information I read from a personal journal dated from this period. Again this is for what it is worth and I certainly don’t know if it is fact, however it makes an interesting closure to the story.

The “Hallberg” conglomerate, as it became to be known, is explained like this. The source of this thirteen pound stone illustrates gold can be found anywhere. According to the journal the conglomerate of gold was found in a wash flowing off the side of Superstition Mountain below the old Silverlock and Malm’s claims. This could make sense if this area was known for gold. It was always George Curtis’s conviction the stone came from the northern end of the Goldfield Mining area. There are so many different kinds of formations in this area that might be conducive to gold. However, Curtis believed Hallberg and Williams picked the sample up on somebody else’s mining claim and just walked off silently with nobody else being the wiser. Free placer gold has been known through out this entire area. I have worked fine placer gold in the extreme north end of the region. One must realize that free gold is where you find it. Some times the source can be very difficult to determine. Many a gold rush has been started with placer gold and no known source. Sometimes the source is completely eroded away and nothing remains of it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Alfred Franklin Banta

January 30, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

President Abraham Lincoln had just signed the document forming the Territory of Arizona when Alfred “Franklin” Banta first arrived here as a young man. Banta was a Prescott newspaperman and one of the earliest chroniclers of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine story and Superstition Mountain.

Banta was born in Warwick, Indiana, in 1843. He arrived in Arizona at the age of twenty. Banta’s first appearance at Fort Whipple was on December 21, 1863, when a military expedition sent by General Carleton entered Chino Valley to take possession of Arizona Territory for the United States.

Fort Whipple was later moved to a site on Granite Creek near Prescott in 1864. Banta served as a guide for the state territorial government for almost six years. During the early part of the American Civil War Banta worked for the Rio Bajo Press, a newspaper published in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Banta served as chief guide on the Wheeler Expedition and 100th Meridian Expedition of 1871. He accompanied Lt. Wheeler on this expedition when he discovered Meteor Crater. Lt. Wheeler named the crater “Franklin’s Hole” after its discoverer. The site was later known as Barinnger Crater before being called Meteor Crater.

Alfred “Franklin” Banta was a judge, a lawman, a newspaperman, a guide and a scout who accompanied the Wheeler Expedition and 100th Meridian Expedition of 1871 when they discovered Meteor Crater in Northern Arizona. Lt. Wheeler named the crater “Franklin’s Hole” for Banta and the site was referred to by that name for many years.
After the Wheeler Expedition Banta become involved with newspapers and then entered politics. He served as Justice of the Peace in St. Johns, Arizona Territory, from 1876-1877 and in Springerville, 1877-1878. He was Apache County assessor in 1880.

During the session of the Eleventh Territorial legislature, Banta was instrumental in securing the passage of a bill forming Apache County. Banta then served as district attorney of Apache County from 1879-1880 and 1889-1890. He was probate judge of Apache County from 1881-1882. President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Banta as the first postmaster of the Springerville post office. He also served as U.S. Marshall in the Arizona Territory.

Banta frequently wrote for numerous newspapers throughout the Territory of Arizona and New Mexico. He wrote about early Arizona history, his life, pioneer families and lost gold mines.

Lost gold mines were one of his favorite topics. Many of his stories and editorials made reference to the Doc Thorne story and the Lost Dutchman Mine. Banta led an expedition out of the Zuni villages in 1869 to find the Doc Thorne Mine. Partners in this expedition included C.E. Cooley and Henry W. Dodd. Banta and the party ran into problems with the Apaches in the Pinal Mountains and returned. After Jacob Waltz died in 1891, Banta was involved with several expeditions that searched for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine in the Superstition Mountain east of Apache Junction.

Banta wrote many columns about gold mines and mining for the Prescott Weekly Miner and Courier, the paper he owned. He also free-lanced for other Arizona newspapers after statehood in 1912.

Banta wrote several manuscripts about early Arizona history, however they were lost in a fire at the Prescott Courier and he never attempted to rewrite them. Much of this work had focused on lost mines and pioneer history. The last newspaper he worked with prior to his death was the St. Johns Observer in St. Johns, Arizona.

Alfred Franklin Banta was actually the earliest chronicler to write and publish stories about the Lost Dutchman Mine and Lost Doc Thorne Mine, supposedly located in the Superstition Mountains. Banta had a notable public record in Arizona and when he performed his last public service as the assistant sergeant-at-arms at the Arizona State Senate he was anxious to get out of the limelight and return to the Pioneer’s Home in Prescott. At the time of his death in 1924, he shared with only a couple of other living men the distinction of being a witness to the formation of the Territory of Arizona in 1863.

Funeral services were held for Colonel Alfred Franklin Banta at Ruffner’s Chapel, Prescott, Arizona, on Wednesday morning, June 22, 1924, at 10:30 a.m.

Dr. E. Lee Howard, a personal friend, conducted the Colonel’s funeral service. Howard paid tribute to Arizona’s “Last Scout” the earliest printer in Arizona Territory and recognized him as the dean of Arizona newspapermen.