Chapter Three: Jacob Walsh
In 1891, Frank Criswell, my partner, and myself bought the Superstition Cattle Ranch from George Mariar estate, known as the ML Ranch, and took possession early that year. My partner attended the first roundup, and as it was a very bad cattle year (on account of drought) turned the management over to me, which I retained until I sold my interest to him about the year 1912.
Scarcely had I taken charge until there were rumors and very indefinite stories about there being a very rich gold mine over the mountain, in the Superstition range, but nothing that a cattle man would pay any attention to. As I was riding the range about six miles west of the home ranch in August 1892 or 1893, I met some campers near an old well belonging to the ranch, and they proved to be a colored woman by the Name of Thomas and a young man about 18 years old by the name of Rhiney Petrach, whom Mr. and Mrs. Thomas had adopted. Mr. Thomas was German, and all three spoke the German language. I had a speaking acquaintance at the time with all three as I had met them in their bakery in Phoenix. I think it was the only bakery and ice cream parlor there at that time. It was generally known in Phoenix that Thomas had run away with another woman, and that Mrs. Thomas No. I and the boy Petrach were still running the bakery. So I was somewhat surprised to meet them camped near the Superstition mountain, as it was very hot and an extremely desolate country to camp in. I asked them why there were camped there, and she replied that they were out on a vacation. I invited them to come up to the house as they at least would have shade. She replied that they were going back in a short time, so I rode on up the canyon, following their buggy tracks, and they had gone up the canyon toward the Superstition mountains, as far as it was possible to go with a horse and buggy, and much farther than I thought was possible. At that time, I did not know that they had closed shop in Phoenix for good, but such proved to be the case. Afterward, Mrs. Thomas and the boy were frequently seen by the cowboys, camped first at one water hole, then another, over in the main Superstition Range, but always with saddle horses and pack animals. One day, they came by the ranch, and there were four in the party. The other two proved to be the brother, Herman and the father of the two boys or men, known as old man Petrach, and that they had just arrived from Montana. Shortly after that, the party came by the ranch and stopped over night. There seemed to be more or less dissension amongst them, and Rhiney told me that they had been looking for a gold mine but could find no trace of it; that he had written his father and brother in regard to it, and they had concluded that Rhiney and Mrs. Thomas knew nothing of mining or the mountains, as as the man were both prospectors, they decided they they had better go to Phoenix, and then go up in the Superstition mountains and find it. Rhiney said that they had made a thorough search and that he was going to quit, as he and Mrs. Thoms had blown in all the money they had and they were all getting pretty grouchy, and that if I would say that I would do what was right with them in case I found the mine by his description and information he would tell me the story and answer any questions that he could; that as I was going to be riding the mountains, I might unravel the story and possibly find the mine; that he knew it was there, and he believed it to be the richest gold mine in the world. I told him all right, and to go ahead with his story. This was in the evening.
He said that in the late 80s there was a Raymond excursion going to the Pacific coast over the Southern Pacific railroad and they stopped over at old Maricopa and took the stage for a visit to Phoenix, and among them was a soda fountain manufacturer who sold to Thomas an ebony and marble fountain for twenty-five hundred dollars, five hundred dollars down. When the first payment came due, Thomas instead of making the payment skipped out with a white woman, and as far as Rhiney knew had never been heard from. There was an old German who had forty acres of school land and some chickens, and who had often sold his eggs to the bakery. He would frequently have a chat in German with Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and the boy, so when Helena (first name of Mrs. Thomas) realized that Thomas had actually skipped out with another woman, she went crying up to old Jake's adobe house just east of Phoenix, and told him that she did not know what she would do, as she owed a whole lot of money, and that Thomas had taken all there was belonging to them with him when he skipped; and that they owed two thousand dollars on the fountain and quite a flour bill, and several others, and that she had no money to pay them with. This was early in 1891. Old Jake stepped to the door of his one-room adobe, placed one foot in front of the other, handed Helena an old pick and told her to dig there. She did so, unearthing an oyster can in which was about eight hundred dollars in gold nuggets. Old Jake said, "Take it Helena; this will do you until I can come down to the bakery and we will go over the bills together." Helena replied, "No, no, Jake, I don't know when I can repay you." And he said, "Now, now, don't worry as I have fifty more of these buried around." So she took it, and paid some of her smaller bills; and that when she and Jake went through the affairs, they found that there were some seventeen hundred dollars of bills, beside the two thousand on the fountain. They both said that Jake squared all of the bakery accounts. After Thomas skipped, old Jake was quite a frequenter at the bakery and was familiar with the earnings. One evening sitting out on the porch of the house, he told them about having a rich gold mine in the Superstition mountains, and that there was no need of their working so hard for just a living, and that if they would listen he would tell them where it was and how he became the owner.
The Dutch Jake Story:
His partner, Jacob Wiser, and himself were prospecting in the sixties in the state of Sonora, Mexico, and one evening they came to a ranch and asked a Mexican whom they saw if they and their burros could camp there for the night. He said he did not know, but that he would go and see the Don. He returned and told them that the Don wanted to know if they were Americans. He had told the Don that they did not talk like Americans but were white men. "Well, tell them they can camp and for both of them to come up and see me this evening at seven." Which they did. The Don asked them what they were doing, and they said "Prospecting." He asked if they had found anything, and they told him they had not. He wanted to know if they were Americans, and they said they were naturalized citizens. The Don said that he was getting an expedition together to go up into the United States to a mine that had been in possession of their family for several generations, a grant of sole right to Miguel Peralta (who was his grandfather) and his heirs, to a mine in certain territory, describing the corners, three of which were natural, and the other was a monument of stone laid in mortar of mud (which is the same in Mexican) ten feet square and eight feet high, and built like a pyramid. The three natural corners are easily found, but the fourth corner he had been informed by an Apache Indian, was torn down by them, and it must be so as it was never found. He wanted some Americans in his party, as his title to the mine was simply a sole right to mine within certain described boundaries and not a deed of conveyance and percetuity; that it was not recognized by the United States; that if they would go with him, he, Peralta, would give them a third of what he took out. They agreed to go, and they went up into the Superstition mountains, had a brush with the Apache Indians on the way out, and two were wounded. Upon their arrival at the Peralta ranch in Sonora, their share of the spoils was a little over thirty thousand dollars. I failed to mention that there were twenty-one in the party (eighteen peons). Don Peralta proposed to give them a bill of sale to the mine for their share of the gold. They accepted the bill of sale and came back to the mine. As they were about to camp, they heard some one breaking rock up the canyon. So they took their guns, a double barrelled muzzle loader shot gun, loaded with buckshot, the other a muzzle loading Sharp's rifle, and crawled up to within sight of the tunnel, and there were two naked men (all but a gee string) whom they thought were Indians. They each selected his man and fired. Both were killed, but when they went up to them, they discovered that they were two of the peons that were in the party that came up on the previous trip. They buried them, mined about three weeks and went back to Peralta. They found that Peralta had been to Mexico City during their absence, had been gambling heavily and was in debt. He asked them how much gold they had, and they told him about sixty thousand dollars. He said he needed money badly and if they would let him have the sixty thousand that he would give them a mortgate on his ranch, with good interest. After talking it over, they decided that they did not want a mortgage, but would take his note, as they said they could return to the mine and get more. So they took the note and stuck out again for the mine. After their arrival there, they concluded that they were going to run out of grub, so Jacob Walsh took the burros and went down to Adamsville (just below Florence) where there was an adobe grist mill and a king of general store kept for the Pima Indians; in fact, a kind of trader's store. Walsh said he was gone three or four days. Right there, the first doubt of the story entered my mind about his telling the truth, as I could not understand how a miner having made two trips to this same deposit just previously, should go in there with a shortage of grub, but the explanation to this comes later in the story.
Upon his return to the mine, he found his partner, Jacob Wiser, stripped naked and his new hickory shirt hanging on a bush near by with his Masonic pin sticking in it. Doubt No. 2. I never knew an Apache Indian to overlook any kind of shirt, much less a new hickory shirt. The camp in general was shot up and destroyed; that the handle of the frying pan was broken off and three bullet holes through the pan and many other utensils destroyed by bullets.
Doubt No. 3, for if there was one thing in the world that an Apache was careful about, and sparing and jealous of, it was ammunition, and for them to waste it on frying pans and coffee pots was entirely out of the question in my mind. He said that he buried his partner, walled up the tunnel, rolled dirt and rock over it and took the frying pan without a handle with the bullet holes in it; that there were mountain peaks just west and above the mine, and that he placed this frying pan with four small rocks in it on the center peak, and that if we would go down the peak due east, we would find the mine. The center of four was another stumbling block. I have inravelled all other discrepancies, but this one still remains, and the only solution to it is that he may have said three; that no cowboy could ever find it, which I take it to mean that one cannot ride a burro to it, or within sight of it; and for some reason, there is an interruption in the trail going to it, as a cowboy will go anywhere that a trail leads.
Jacob also said that no prospector would fin it, which I take to mean that it is not a mineral formation. In fact, he said it was not, and that he had never seen anything like it and that it was very difficult to find; that the trail that went over the mountain to the mine was mounted with two little rocks placed upon a larger rock, or some other conspicuous place.
He would always start the subject of the mine whenever he found either Rhiney or Helena idle and up at the house, and appeared provoked when he thought they were not paying attention. He would chide them and say, "When I am gone, you will wish you had listened to me."
Jake was about eighty-six years old and evidently was not expecting to live long. In early March, 1891, he told them that he did not think they could find the way to the mine, and that he had better get a couple of ponies and a couple of burros, a wagon and some grub, and go with them as far as the new board house, where there was a woman and three children, and that was as far as he could go. From there on, it would have to be on horseback, and he thought he could show them the trail over the mountain looking from the house, and they must wear their oldest clothes because the brush was bad.
Old Jake said that he had been to the mine but once since he left it and came to Phoenix and that was fourteen years after he walled up the tunnel, and that everything was just as he had left it, and he did not disturb anything.
The reason I am so sure he was referring to the Bark and Criswell ranch is that Matt Caveness and his wife built the big board house in 1877, and took his four draft horses as he had a contract to haul ore from the Silver King mine to Pinal where they were building the mill some five miles from the mine. Mrs. Caveness and the three children stayed at the ranch and ran a dairy. She sold butter at Pinal and the King, some twenty miles away, and got as high as a dollar a pound. As there was no other woman or children, or board house in that entire country, there is not much doubt as to the new board house he was referring to. Also the trail over into the Superstition mountains was monumented in just such a manner as old Jacob described. At this board house, the wagon road ended. Mrs. Cavaness told many cattle men that she frequently sold flour to the Apache Indians, and that they always paid her in gold nuggets; and that one time, an Indian came to the house about ten o'clock in the morning and asked her for some flour, saying that he would go over the big mountain and get the gold. She refused the flour, telling him to get the gold first. He rode up the trail over the mountain and returned before sundown with the gold. Will Whitlow, a neighbor cattleman, was present at times when she was selling to the Indians, and he said that she sold a milk pan full of flour for about ten dollars worth of gold. She told the same thing to many others.
Jake finally got his outfit together, loaded the wagon with grub, and they were planning on starting the next day, but that night the great flood came down Salt River and in the morning water was covering all of lower Phoenix. Helena told Rhiney that he had better go and see how old Jake was situated. When he got to the house, he found Jake standing up on his bed in about six inches of water. The boy took him on his back to Helena's house, and finally Jake will all his effects moved there and stayed until he died in the summer of 1891. He lived several months after the flood but was never able to go to the mountains. He could sit out on the porch at times, and when he did he would point to the Superstition mountains and say, "The mine lies right over there."
Among his things that were moved over to Helena's house was a soap box, very heavy, with leather hinges, a hasp and a lock, which he always insisted should not be opened, but was to remain under his cot. Everyone thought it contained ore, but no one knew. When Jake was passing away, he kept murmuring "God forgive me; I had to do it," and then he would repeat it, and those around him supposed he had killed his partner, Jacob Wiser. There was an old prospector by the name of old Germany, who would drop in and see Jake, and Jake would say, "Tell him to go out; I don't want him here." He gave Rhiney three small pieces of ore and said they were from the mine. Rhiney got hard up, pounded two of the pieces up, washed the gold out and got some eight dollars for it. Jake died without any of them going to the mountain to look for the mine. When they went to the funeral, the soap box disappeared, and Helena and Rhiney each suspected the other with making away with it, but both were innocent, and it is not necessary to the story to mention the name of the guilty party, so I will pass it.
It was some time before Helena and Rhiney could dispose of the bakery and go look for the mine. Their first trip was the time I mentioned in the first part of this story. Rhiney told me that the first time Helena and he went over the mountain to look for the mine, she got lost on top of a mountain, and as it was sundown she became frantic; that there were quite a number of the dry rattle weed up there and that she got up on a large rock and stopped there all night. She carried a small 32 revolver and a box of cartridges. As dark was overtaking her, the rattle weeds began to rattle and she mistook them for rattlesnakes; so she stayed on the boulder all night and fired all her cartridges away at the snakes.
This practically is the story I got out of Rhiney that evening, and by morning, I had a list of forty-one questions that I asked him. Some he answered "yes" or "no", and some he did not know. I kept the questions, changed them about and asked him the same questions again and wrote the answers, about three months after questioning him the first time, and he only varied in one question; and that was the time Jake said it took him to go to Adamsville and back. The first time it was three or four days; the last time it was four days. At that time, it was quite important, but as the story unravelled it made no difference.
Rhiney made several trips with the party after that. Sometimes Herman was off on his own hook, but the old man Petrach was always one of the party. Sometime after Rhiney had told me the story, Helena, the old man, and Rhiney came from over the mountain on horses that were miserably poor and one that they were packing. They came to the ranch about sundown and asked if they could get some hay and grain for their horses and something to eat for themselves. They said that a dollar and seventy-five cents was all the money they had and that they would like to keep that so as to buy some grub and hay in Mesa, some thirty-five miles towards Phoenix in the Salt River Valley. I told them they would have to do their own cooking, as we had had our supper, and that the horse feed was down in the granery, and for them to help themselves which they did. They stayed all night and struck out in the morning for Mesa.
They camped there that night, and during the night the handbag that Helena always kept in her possession disappeared. Who got it, or where it went, I do not wish to say. The handbag contained Jake's parchment map of the mine, and how to get to it, Peralta's note to the two Jakes for sixty thousand dollars, bill of sale to the two Jakes to the mine and Jake Walsh's naturalization certificate.
I saw no more of them for a long time, but Pete showed up shortly after that, and I hired him to keep the water holes clean, attend to the pumping, and do other odd jobs, but not as a cow hand. I let him have little Billy, a horse that was perfectly sound, but none of my cowboys could make him work. If a cowboy was riding Billy and took after a cow, it was just simply impossible to make him get within roping distance of the animal you were after. He was the gentlest horse I ever saw. you could crawl under him or between his hind legs, or lie down on him when he was lying down, and he would never move. None of the cowboys would have him in their mount.
Pete being some sixty years old, I thought that Billy would be just the horse for him to ride between water holes. Pete had been working for quite a while and I supposed he and Billy were getting along all O.K. as I had seen Pete take his soap box, get upon it, and from there put his foot in the stirrup and give a lunge and land somewhere on top of Billy, then scramble into the saddle, which was all right with Billy. I was writing in the house on morning, when I heard a commotion in front of the open door. I looked up and there lay Pete with the box upset and the saddle on top of him. His nose was beginning to leed, and Billy was standing there with his head turned looking at the wreck. He came to me and said, "I quit." I said nothing but had hard work trying to suppress my laughter. "I want my money. I did not hire out to break bronchos, and that is all I have done since I have been here." I was so full of laughter that I stepped out of the door to where Billy was standing and he had never moved. I looked at the saddle and Pete had forgotten to cinch him. He didn't even put the latigo through the ring.
So I had to take Billy and go down the canyon to the well and pump. The first little hill I came to on the trail, Billy positively refused to go down, and no amount of spurring would feaze him. He could kick up behind, but couldn't buck a little bit, so I got off and started down the trail to a mesquite tree, and along came Billy following me down. I walked to the tree and got a good club and by that time we had arrived on level ground. I got on and everything was lovely, until we came to another hill that we had to go up. Billy stopped and he would not go up, pound as I would. He would buck like a cow. If I hadn't been in a hurry, it would have been funny. When I got back to the house, Pete was there, and I coaxed him to stay; that I would get him another horse, a gentle one, but he refused to have any other and said that he would conquer Billy or quit the cow business. So Pete worked for me for about a year and finally got Billy as fat as a hog, and Pete had to walk both down and up hill.
One evening we were alone and Pete was in a particularly good humor. He asked me if I had ever seen old Jake's naturalication paper, and I told him "No." So he got up, went to his old trunk and handed me the naturalization certificate of Jacob Walsh, a German naturalized in New Orleans in 1846.
Quite sometime later Helena married a man by the name of Shaffer, a resident of Salt River Valley, and I don't think she made any more trips to look for the Lost Dutchman. But Pete made frequent visits to the Superstition mountains until he passed on. I remember a bright moonlight night about eleven o'clock. I heard the most unusual noise coming down the trail from over the mountains and toward the house. I could not make out what was coming, so I prepared as warm a reception as I could for whatever it was, and waited. It would go klinty bang-klinty bang, bang, bang, then all in chorus, and louder and closer. When the human calliope arrived, it was old Pete, and draped all over him were frying pans, coffee pot, tin cups, plates, etc. and some bedding and other camping equipment. The explanation was that the Apache Kid and his squaw had been seen by Pete that day, and that they had visited his camp, taken what little grub he had and then kicked things around generally. Pete concluded to immediately move, but under no condition could he think of leaving that five dollars worth of camp equipment to the tender mercies of the Apache Kid; hence the external decoration of old Pete. Herman, the older son, hunted with his father sometimes. When funds ran short, he would go to work in the mines of Globe or Miami, and after his father passed on moved up to that country, making a yearly trip for the Lost Dutchman. Always independent and honest, I could depend upon anything he might tell me.
Now, in regard to the monumented trail: I have followed it over the mountain without difficulty, and then the monuments could not be found for about two miles, when we found them along a trail where cattle did not travel, thence over a divide into the horse country, where the monuments failed us again, but led us to a much more significant feature of the story: that is, the cut mesquite timber. Helena and Rhiney said that Jake told them that there were two pits at the mine about 75 feed deep and like distance across the top; that they were lined with mesquite wood and would drop about six feet, then an offset of about a foot, and so on down to the bottom. Upon every offset, there would be a toe ladder, a stick of timber with notches cut in it that the peons would climb by placing their toes in the top with a rawhide sack on their backs and a strap around their foreheads, the sack filled with ore. It really was astonishing to see how fast men who were used to that kind of mining could come up from the bottom with a load of about one hundred pounds. Now, those pits took considerable mesquite, and we positively have found where they were cut, and they could not have been cut for any other purpose that we can conceive, and they were all cut with an ax, a tool that Apache Indians never used. The cut timber must have gone down, as the cutting is on top of the mountain and covers quite a large area. We have been working on the cut timber for several years, and we have found where they had quite a camp at one time, just to cut and pack the wood. They must have left it in a hurry, as we found a lot of small horseshoes (new), several kegs, gone to staves and hoops, as there is no water there, and other evidences of a camp. Now, we think we know very nearly where the wood left the mesa and that will be our next attach this winter. Jake also told them that at times Juaquin Murietta, the bandit with his gang, would join with the Peralta outfit and come to the Superstition mountains and to the Peralta camp as a mutual protection; and that at the camp they had a Mexican race track, and that Murietta's outfit would run horses against Peralta's. He said they would skin the Peraltas out of all the money the had, and that Murietta had a silver mine somewhere beyond and they would move on to his mine for a load of silver ore. I have undoubtedly found that camp and the race track.
I forgot to state that upon the death of Jake, the ground around his house was most thoroughly dug up, but nothing found.
The foregoing is practically the story of Jacob Walsh, with the wheat separated from the chaff as near as it is humanly possible to do.