Monday, February 26, 2018

The Lost Dutchman Days

February 19, 2018 © 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.

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 claim the story is nothing but 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, jurists and politicians. These were the men and women who helped Arizona make the transition from territorial status to the modern state it is today.

The 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. Also, many hike and ride the old trails of the “Wilderness.” 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 the 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 recall 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 of 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 recognize 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 23, 24 and 25, 2018. 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 480-982-3141.

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 12, 2018

In the Beginning

February 5, 2018 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Wilderness Area and Superstition Mountain in particular have been an attraction to human kind for more than a millennium. First came the Native Americans who found the region conducive to their way of living and lifestyle. They were primarily hunters and gatherers. Primitive agriculture had not been developed in the beginning. The introduction of growing wild plants and corn didn’t occur for another thousand years or so. Still, hunting and gathering prevailed for another millennium or more. Once their nomadic way of life began to diminish, primitive forms of agriculture were developed with various wild plants. The introduction of beans, squash and corn from Meso-America helped to stabilize the Native American population in the region. The region offered numerous caves for shelter. Their ruins, such as pit houses, cliff dwellings and temporary shelters were a mute testimony to their early occupancy of this rugged mountain region in Central Arizona.

Death was no stranger to these early inhabitants of this mountain wilderness. Many lost their lives to accidents, attacks from animals and other warring groups that mounted raids against their mountain homeland. Of course, these deaths were pre-historical, without documentation. The excavation of a couple of sites adjacent to the wilderness area suggests some of these early Native Americans died from wounds caused by an adversary. An Apache Junction resident was excavating for a pool in his yard when he came across a burial site on his property. The skull that was found in a grave had severe damage from blunt force trauma. The ulna and radius bones of the arm and the clavicle bone of the shoulder had sharp knife marks indicating an attack that was defended with the individual’s arm. These injuries were probably the results of a battle with a raiding party member or members that ended in the demise of this individual several thousand years ago. This Native American was probably one of the earliest people to die in this vast mountain wilderness we call the Superstitions today.

The western facade of Superstition
Mountain discouraged pursuers who
tried to find Apache-Yavapai.
The Superstition Mountain region has a long history of missing people, suicides, homicides, accidental deaths and injuries. The earliest recorded history of these events occurred when the U.S. Army Infantry Companies were sent out to Camp McDowell to quell the raids of the Apache-Yavapai who lived in the Superstition Mountains (Salt River Mountains) and Pinaleno Mountains (Pinal) in the 1860s. The U.S. Army armed and effectively used the Pimas against the Apache-Yavapai during this era. Several hundred Apaches and Yavapai were slain in their Rancherias or villages throughout the Superstition Mountains. These areas included Pinyon Camp (near Weaver’s Needle),  May 11, 1867; Dismal Valley (Tortilla Ranch area) March 14, 1868; and Tortilla Creek near Tortilla Flat later in 1868. Tortilla Creek was later called “Bloody Tanks.” Also several small villages were destroyed, and all the males where clubbed to death by the Pima Scouts. The Pima Scouts captured Apache-Yavapai women and children and then forced them into slavery. The Pima Scouts clubbed all young boys, non-combatant men and old men to death. Armed Pima scouts and soldiers shot those who tried to escape.

Major John Brown led the 5th and 10th United States Cavalry units on a campaign against the Apache-Yavapai in the Superstition Mountain region and the Pinal Mountains between 1872-1874. Many of the skirmishes were fought around the Reavis Valley. One battle was fought from March 8-17, 1874, with men of the 10th U.S. Cavalry and the Apaches. Many Native Americans died during these campaigns of annihilation.

These were the first deaths in the Superstition Mountain area that was accurately documented and recorded by the United States Army.

Sadly, deaths still occur today, but in a very different way. Earlier deaths were part of a campaign of destruction and annihilation by the United States Army and the Pima Scouts.

The other side of the coin was that the Apache Yavapai preyed on the Pimas for hundreds of years. When the Pima finally allied with the United States Army, the Yavapai were totally defeated ending their predations and hiding in what we call the Superstition Wilderness today.

Above is an 1864 sketch map of the Superstition Mountain region that I have marked with today’s place names.
Probably the most important military trail into the Superstition region was the First Water – Charlebois Trail, also know as the First Water Trail. This was the first water for animals after leaving the Salt River near Blue Point and heading southeast toward Salt River Mountain (Superstition Mountain in 1860s). Riders and hikers use many of the military trails today in the Superstition Wilderness. “Trails of the Superstitions” are as historical as many place names and were used by Native Americans, military, cattlemen, miners and prospectors long before the Superstition region became part of the Tonto National Forest and the Superstition Wilderness.

The wilderness has historical meaning to everyone who has ever experienced it in any way.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Cactus Thorns and Tall Tales

January 29, 2018 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Ellsworth “Barney” Barnard was an old salty pioneer of the Arizona desert who lived at the base of Superstition Mountain since the late 1930’s. He came here with a vision to build a guest ranch for dudes. Through hard work and sweat, sometimes not his own, he constructed the once famous B – B Guest Ranch on the slopes of Superstition Mountain. He was one of Apache Junction’s earliest pioneers belonging to an honor roll of those who suffered the hot summers before the advent of cooling or air conditioning. Could you imagine living through summer months in this desert without any kind of cooling?

Barney was a man known for his tall tales. Some people will say he was the biggest windbag in all of Arizona. Others will tell you he was one of the great pioneer storytellers of the Southwest and a noted authority on the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. He or his heirs published a booklet on the subject of Jacob Waltz and his mine for some twenty-one editions from 1954-1977.

Wayne Ellsworth Barnard was born August 8, 1886, in Manchester, Delaware County, Iowa. Stories have it he left the sanctuary of his strict Presbyterian home at the age of 16 to begin his wanderlust way of life. He wanted to wander the West and find his final niche in life. Sometime around 1906, Barnard arrived in Mesa, Arizona Territory looking for a job. He then walked toward Goldfield, searching for a cow outfit where, he had been told, he might find work. According to Barnard’s own story, he became lost in the desert and after wandering for several hours, he found a water seep near the base of Superstition Mountain. Liquid gold, as he called it, saved him from perishing from thirst on the desert.

Barney Wayne Ellsworth Barnard
in uniform during World War I.
Barnard joined the United States Army in September of 1917 at the Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. He served with the “Fighting 77th Army Division” during World War I. He was thirty-one years old when he shipped overseas. He saw combat action at Verdun and was wounded. Barnard returned to Arizona permanently in 1933. He first squatted on five acres of land just south of Lost Dutchman Blvd. and then homesteaded it in the 1940s.

Barney established the B-B Guest Ranch and Resort in the late 1930’s and entertained service men from Williams Army Air Base in the 1940’s. He would strum his guitar, sing and tell stories. A veteran of World War I himself, he enjoyed entertaining service men during World War II. When Barney had a couple of coins to rub together, he was off on a journey chasing his family genealogy. You might say Barney Barnard was a pioneer in the travel trailer vacations. He had his trailer, painted with a logo and signs advertising the B-B Guest Ranch and Superstition Mountain. He also promoted Apache Junction with its clean air and mild winter climate. He was Apache Junction’s national ambassador of goodwill for many years during the 1950’s. He traveled from Maine to Washington promoting the region.

Barney Wayne Ellsworth Barnard at his
B-B Ranch in the desert near
Superstition Mountain.
Barney Barnard was a charismatic individualist who liked people to gravitate toward him, but he always wanted to be able to distance himself when it was desirable. When his visitors and friends listened to his stories and tales they soon realized here was a man who had found his niche in life. He cherished these opportunities to tell stories and tales about the mountains. He personified the American West and the cowboy. Barney, his life and love for the West, placed him in an immortal hall of fame, not one you can visit, but one you can visualize each time you look at Superstition Mountain. His memory and pioneering spirit will never be forgotten. Remembering Barney Barnard is recalling the nostalgic western past of Apache Junction’s lifestyle when cowboys and miners visited the old Apache Junction Inn and bar.

Barney was also a community minded individual. He provided the resources for the Apache Junction Volunteer Fire Department to buy their first pump truck from Williams Air Force Base. He was active with the volunteer fire department for several years. He also was active with the Apache Junction Business Club in 1960, which eventually became the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce. Barney also owned, maintained and operated a water company for several years. He married in his later years and had a son he proudly named Barney Barnard Jr.

Barney’s final days were spent thinking about and recording his life story. He died at the Phoenix Veteran’s Hospital on April 17, 1963, at the age of 77. Barney will be remembered as one our first and earliest storytellers. He dared to be different and strike out on his own searching for his own private niche in life. Success in life he found beneath the facade of Superstition Mountain and in the shadows of the old Dutchman’s haunts.