Saturday, April 28, 2012

Squandered Wealth

Another snipit from my book, "Dead and Buried in the Southwest Desert".

"What goes up, must come down. While each mining town enjoyed the wealth and growth which brought many businesses and families, they all eventually were brought down by greed, outlaws, bandits, Indians, murder, natural disasters, and the harsh elements which the southwest deserts brought. These once booming mining towns are now virtual ghost towns from fires, floods, and dried up mines. Today, you will find a few residence still living in these places. The towns are surviving from the many tourists who are interested in the history, want a wild west experience, or to check out the rumors of the many ghosts that still seem to live in these small desert settlements."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oatman: The Massacre, Town and Haunted Hotel

In 1851, the Oatman family embarked on a long journey to California to find a better life.  When they entered the Arizona Territory, the Oatmans and other members of their party met with all kinds of difficulties.  After their supplies were about exhausted, some in the group decided to stay in Tucson, but the Oatmans and a couple other families decided to push on. 

Here is a link to a post I did about the massacre. 

Olive Oatman
In the late 1800’s, in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, and near where the current town of Oatman is located, Olive Oatman was rescued from the Mohave Indians who acquired her in a trade from the Apache.  In honor or this brave girl, the town was named after her.  The town started as a small mining camp with a few tents scattered about.  In 1915, two miners struck it rich with a gold vein worth around 10 million dollars.  Within a year, the word got out and Oatman’s population hit over 3,500 people.

In 1921, the town met with disaster and most of the town’s buildings were destroyed by fire.  Luckily the Oatman Hotel survived the fire’s rage, but the majority of the town was gone.  Three years later in 1924, the United Eastern Mines and the town’s major employer, shut down the mine for good.  By 1941, because other cheaper metals were used for the war materials, the U.S. Government had the rest of Oatman’s mines cease all operations.

With the entire settlement’s mine closed you would think this would be the end for Oatman. It was Oatman’s location along Route 66 kept the travelers passing through the town.  Oatman enjoyed the traffic and visitors, but in 1953 a new highway was constructed and the entire town was bypassed.   By the 1960’s, Oatman was almost empty and looking much like a ghost town.

Today, because of its history and the growth of nearby Laughlin, Nevada, Oatman has been revived and visited by many tourists.  Roaming around the streets of the town are wild burros that are rumored to be descendants from the pack animals let go by early prospectors.  These burros are protected by the U.S. Department of the Interior.  People are told to be cautious around the donkeys because they are wild and who knows what they might do if provoked.  Weekends in Oatman, visitors are entertained by Wild West shootouts, and many other celebrations.  The town celebrates the Route 66 location with “Route 66” signs all over the place and souvenirs for the tourists.  One of the things you will notice while visiting the Oatman Hotel is all the one-dollar bills on the walls and ceiling of the bar and restaurant.  The say there is thousands of dollars adorning the inside of the hotel.

The Oatman Hotel is famous for many things from who used to lay their hats there to the claims of ghosts roaming around the building.  The hotel was built in 1902 and is the oldest two-story adobe structure in town and all of Mohave County.  Many miners, politicians, lawmen, outlaws, and movie stars stayed in the lavish rooms.  After being married in Kingman on March 18, 1939, Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel. The remoteness of the place was one of the reasons Gable kept coming back to the hotel.  He also enjoyed playing poker with the miners.  Today, visitors and staff have heard laughing and whispering coming from the unoccupied room the two stayed in.  One claim is when a photographer took a picture of the empty room, an apparition of a man appeared in one of the photos.  Other ghost seen in the hotel is that of an Irish miner named William Ray Flour.  The story is told that his entire family died on the way to American and he was so upset that he began drinking heavily.  He ended up drinking himself to death, died behind the hotel, and his body was found two days later.  The staff just buried him in a shallow grave right where he died.  His ghost has been seen in his old room and the hotel staff has named him “Oatie”.  Oatie likes to play pranks such as opening windows and pulling off sheets in his old room.  People have reported hearing a bagpipe sound coming from his former room as well as feeling a cold spot with it is very hot outside.

The hotel seems to have lots of other playful spirits in many of its rooms.  The bar had reports of money being lifted off the bar as well as glasses floating in air.  Witness have claims of lights turning on and off by themselves, the sounds of creepy disembodied voices, toilets flushing in empty bathrooms, and footprints which appear on recently cleaned floors.  The Oatman Hotel no longer takes in guests but still serves as a museum, restaurant, gift shop, and much more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Old Tucson Studios

Initially built in 1938, Old Tucson Studios is located west of Tucson, Arizona and built as a movie studio/theme park.  The studio was modeled after 1860’s Tucson for a movie titled, Arizona.  In 40 days they managed to construct 50 buildings for the movie.  Countless movies and television shows, such as Little House on the Prairie and High Chaparral (1967-1971) were filmed on site in the dusty desert studio.  In 1960, the studio was accessible to everyone and presented the crowds with historical tours, Wild West shootouts and amazing stunt shows.  

There was a bit of a gap between the movies “Arizona” being filmed in the studio before others would follow.  From 1945 until the mid 1990’s, Old Tucson Studios was cranking out many movies and had famous actors such as John Wayne gracing the dirty streets.  Wayne starred in at least four movies made there; Rio Bravo, McLintock, El Dorado, and Rio Lobo.  Many structures were added to accommodate these movies.  By 1968, a large soundstage was constructed to meet the demands and keep up with other larger studios.  In the 1980’s, Three Amigos was filmed there, and later the television show, Young Riders was also shot there as well. 

The studios was a hotspot for many westerns filmed in Arizona, but a fire on April, 25, 1995, almost demolished all of the sets, but did destroy the soundstage, and 25 buildings.  Many valuable items were gone by the fires rage such as a copy of a short film about the history of Old Tucson Studios, behind the scene footage of several actors, costumes (Little House of the Prairie wardrobe) and memorabilia.  Over 300 people were in the park when the fire began and had to be quickly ushered out. Because of the wild winds the fire spread like crazy, this arson suspected blaze could not be controlled.   Many wooden buildings were just temporary and had no sprinklers in them.  The liquid propane and gunpowder on the grounds made it imperative that the fire be put out immediately.  The firefighters were having trouble with all the nasty elements which were fighting their attempts.  To make matters worse, water was in short supply.  

After the fire, most of the studio was rebuilt, and 20 months later, Old Tucson Studio was able to open its doors to tourist once again.  They made the main street wider, and added new buildings.  By 2003, the studio only opened its doors from 10am to 4pm, and concentrated on seasonal occurrences.  It is the place to be in October for the studio’s Halloween event.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hell for Gold

Here is a little snip-it from my book, "Dead and Buried in the Southwest Desert".

What would bring families and individuals to the southwest desert? The dry climate and unforgiving terrain certainly wouldn’t be the attraction for any human in their right mind. It was the minerals found in the dry soil such as gold, silver, and copper that drew the money hungry opportunist. It was the greed or hopes for a better life which lured the many folks to the barren desert to seek out their fortune. The threats of Indian attacks, overbearing heat, and the lack of water didn’t discourage these determine individuals. Near each successful mine a town grew bustling with businessmen, families, soil doves, lawmen, and of course, the outlaws. Not all these towns were safe, especially during their heyday. Each town and some individuals enjoyed the wealth that the mines brought them. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Buffalo Bill Cody

He gained fame for his Wild West shows and was also an American soldier as well as a buffalo hunter.  He was born William Frederick Cody on February 26, 1846 in Iowa Territory.  As a youngster, his family moved from Iowa to Canada, and then to Kansas in 1853.  At the tender age of eleven, he worked as an ox-team driver, and by 14 he was a pony express rider.  Later, in 1867, Cody succeeded in becoming a buffalo hunter where he was given the moniker of “Buffalo Bill”.  It is told that he sought after and killed over 4,000 buffalo.  Cody also served in the U.S. Army as a scout and earned the Medal of Honor for his service.  He was an important figure in the U.S. expansion west and waged war in 16 battles against Native Americans.

Buffalo Bill Cody saw how interested people were in live shows with a Wild West theme.  He planned the cowboy shows and even employed talent such as Annie Oakley.  He took these shows to Europe, Great Britain, and all over the United States.   The shows became as famous as the man himself.  In 1896, Cody founded the town of Cody, Wyoming and was instrumental in the success of the settlement by using his money for an elaborate irrigation system, funding businesses, and mines.  He is remembered today in the town with his name sake and places such as the Buffalo Bill Historical Centre, The Buffalo Bill Dam, and the Buffalo Bill State Park.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Slide Rock

When I was little, my family would take a vacation to Fort Tuthill, a place where military families could rent a cabin or trailer.  Fort Tuthill is located between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona.  We would usually stay a week and take a day trip to the Grand Canyon and/or Slide Rock.
We would pile in the car and take the drive down the winding two lane road to the bottom of the canyon.  Back then, we parked along the road and hiked down a thin path to get to the creek.  Today, there is a parking lot where you have to pay, and the path is much wider.  My brother and I would put on at least three pairs of pants with our swimsuits underneath.  We learned that after descending down the smooth rock slide for several hours, it would wear a hole in our bottoms.  The water was ice cold at first and it wasn’t long until you got used to it.  Right after you slid down the slide, you immediately tried to get out.  The rocks along the edges in the water were very smooth which made getting out a chore.  You would usually end up floating down stream before being able to scamper out.  It was always a blast.  We always slept in the car back to Fort Tuthill.

Slide Rock State Park got its name from the natural water slide formed by the slippery bed of Oak Creek.  It is located in Oak Creek Canyon and only 7 miles from Sedona.  In 1907, Frank L. Pendley developed the land and obtained a title under the Homestead Act in 1910.  He created an irrigation system which watered his apple orchard.  The road through the canyon was finished in 1914 and Pendley took advantage of the traffic and built the tourists cabins for them to rent.

On July 10, 1985 the Arizona State Parks acquired the park and two years later Slide Rock State Park was dedicated.  On December 23, 1991, the Pendley Homestead Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  His apple farm is still maintained today.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stephen King’s 11/22/63

I have enjoyed many of Stephen King’s earlier novels and the movies made from them, but he went through a period where his stories were just not interesting.  Last week, I had lunch with my friend Pam and she was telling me about a Stephen King novel she was reading called, 11/22/63.  She said this very thick book was so good she could not put it down, and read it in a couple of days.  The book was published on November 8, 2011, was a number-one bestseller, on the list for an extra seventeen weeks, and was nominated for the 2012 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel.

(from Wikipedia) Although the novel contains science fiction and alternate history elements, the majority of it is historical fiction dealing with real-life events and people between 1958 and 1963. The novel is a departure for King since it required deep research to accurately portray the late 1950s and early 1960s. King commented on the amount of research it required, saying "I've never tried to write anything like this before. It was really strange at first, like breaking in a new pair of shoes.” 

The book was not something King thought of just recently, the idea came to him eight years after John F. Kennedy was murdered, November 22, 1963 (my little brother’s 3rd birthday).  He was going to release the book at the same time as his novel “Carrie”, in 1971, but the book took too much research and he wasn’t ready for something that time consuming.  In an open letter from Stephen King in a magazine, he explains his idea as a possible comic with the story unfolding like this:  “I’d like to tell a time-travel story where this guy finds a diner that connects to 1958, where you always go back to the same day.  So one day he goes back and just stays.  He leaves his 2007 life behind.  His goal is to get up to November 22, 1963, and stop Lee Harvey Oswald.  He does, and he’s convinced he’s just FIXED THE WORLD.  But when he goes back to 2007, the world’s a nuclear slag-heap.  Not good to fool with Father Time.  So then he has to go back again and stop himself, only he’s taken on a fatal dose of radiation, so it’s a race against time.”

My friend told me much more of the story with my urging, and I was totally captivated.  If you like a story about time-travel, with a little bit of history, a love story, and messing with space-time continuum (as Doc Brown would say), then you would love this book.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic: 100 Years Sunk But Not Forgotten

Titanic, April 10, 1912

RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on 15 April, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City.  The sinking of Titanic caused the deaths of 1,514 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.  She was the largest ship afloat at the time of her maiden voyage.  One of three Olympic class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line, she was built in 1909 and finished in 1911 by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.  She carried 2,224 people. (Wikipedia)

I am not going to give you a long history about the ship, its passengers, and the tragic night when it sank.  I just wanted to acknowledge the anniversary and say a little prayer in remembrance of those who lost their lives on that dreadful night.

Titanic Captain Edward Smith, 1911
Titanic bow June 2004

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bisbee: The Inn at Castle Rock

Located in downtown Old Bisbee and at the foot of Castle Rock sits the historic hotel, The Inn.  The Inn at Castle Rock was built in 1895 is a gorgeous place to spend a night or two in Bisbee and the location of the historic Apache Springs Well.  Bisbee’s rich and fascinating history started at the foot of Castle Rock, the pass to Tombstone Canyon.

In May of 1877, Lt. John A. Rucker, some men from the Sixth Cavalry, and Jack Dunn, a civilian tracker were told of a special spring well by the Apache Indians.  While enjoying the tasty water from the well, they saw a dim green color on the rocks along the hillside.  They knew this was a sign that lead, copper and even silver could be in the area.  They had to wait three month to file any claims because of their responsibilities to the military life.

The Muirhead House was built over the spring and named after Bisbee’s first mayor, John Joseph Muirhead.  It was the largest wood structure in Bisbee and used as a boarding house for miners.  Sometime in the 1930’s the mayor died and his wife took over operations of the house until 1948. The building was then turned into apartments until the 1980’s when Jim Babcock bought the place.  Its doors were closed in 2007 and two years later Chris Brown bought the inn, changed the name to The Inn at Castle Rock, and has been renovating the place ever since.  He would like to restore the inn to the beauty it once was when it was first built.

Bisbee is a town with many ghost stories.  People have seen apparitions in homes, hotels, businesses, and on the streets of town.  The Inn at Castle Rock has its own ghost stories as well.  A female ghost has been seen wandering the inn.  The story is told that she was shot by accident when a soldier’s rifle went off while he was cleaning it on the front porch.  The shooting was documented in the paper.  Perhaps her spirit is looking for answers to why she was shot.  Many other strange occurrences have been documented by the guest of the inn.  There is a large book with all the stories is sitting in the lobby for all to see.  When you spend a night in Bisbee and stay at the Inn, don’t forget to share any paranormal experiences you may have.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tombstone: Marshal Fred White

 He was born Frederick G. White sometime around the year 1849.  Many just called him Fred and he would go down in history as the first “town marshal” of Tombstone when Arizona was a territory and the town was just new.  It was on January 6, 1880 when White was elected when Tombstone only had around 1,000 residents.  He died from an accidental shooting while in office when he was only in his early 30’s.  After his death, Virgil Earp took over as marshal of Tombstone.  Some people say that the spirit of Fred White can be seen lingering around the street where he was shot.

In movies, White was seen as an old gentleman, with a not so pleasant disposition and not conforming to the standards of what a lawman should be.  Many would say he was well liked and had the respect of not only the Earps, but the Cowboys as well.  It was told he had their cooperation when having to arrest any members of the Cowboys.  You would think that with “Curly” Bill Brocius nasty behavior they would be mortal enemies, but the stories told are that they actually got along.  So how did Brocius accidentally shoot White to death?

History says that on October 28, 1880 some of the members of the Cowboys were in town consuming lots of liquor, were rowdy, and shot their pistols up to the night sky.  White dealt with each of them, surrendering their weapons without confrontation.  When he met up with Curly Bill, he found him extremely drunk and shooting his gun off.  White demanded his pistol and Curly Bill handed it to him barrel first.  When White snatched the weapon, it discharged and shot him in the groin area.  Wyatt Earp, who witnessed the shooting, pistol-whipped Curly Bill and knocked him unconscious thinking he shot him on purpose.  Wyatt and his brother Morgan eventually arrested him for shooting Marshal White.

Curly Bill was said to have regretted shooting White and that it was an accident.  White lived for only two days after the shooting.  He died in October of 1880 and just before his death he testified that the shooting was an accident.  He noted that the gun was half cocked and because Curly Bill was so drunk he never noticed it.  Because of White’s testimony, all charges were dropped against Curly Bill.  White was buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery (old city cemetery) in Tombstone.  A sign stands at the site where Marshal Fred White was shot by Curly Bill Brocius.

Tombstone, Allen Street, 1882

Monday, April 9, 2012

Canyon de Chelly

On April 1, 1931, Canyon de Chelly National Monument was recognized as part of the National Park Service.  The lengthy uninterrupted terrain is found in the northeastern part of Arizona, inside the border of the Navajo Nation.  The more than 83,000 acres includes floors and rims of three major canyons, maintained ruins of early native tribes, and amazing rock formations.  

The steep walls of Canyon de Chelly were carved by the ever changing harsh weather of the desert.  For many centuries, Canyon de Chelly provided a home for the Navajo populace.  With its rich soil, many streams, plants, and animals who roamed the lands, the families who lived there felt safe from the world around them.  In 1806, Lt. Antonio Narbona’s military attacked the unsuspecting Navajo people and lead to their defeat.   The Navajos were escorted to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico.  Today, Navajo families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in the canyon.

Although Canyon de Chelly park responsibilities are administered by the National Park Service, the Navajo Tribal Trust Land is exclusive owners of the Navajo Nation and canyon community.  To visit the floor of the canyon, you must be escorted by a park ranger or official Navajo guide.  One place this regulation is not enforced is the White House Ruin Trail.  Canyon de Chelly’s most unique rock formation is known as Spider Rock.  This configuration is made of sandstone and is a 750 feet tall slender structure and can be seen for miles.  “According to traditional Navajo beliefs the taller of the two spires is the home of the Spider Grandmother.”

Canyon de Chelly

White House Ruins

Spider Rock

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Apache Kid

Sometime in the 1860’s, Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl was born on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona.  After being kidnapped as a young boy, he wound up in Globe doing odd jobs while learning English.  His name was hard for many to pronounce, so it was shortened to simply, the Kid.  Under this name, he would be known as a White Mountain Indian scout, a renegade, and the most violent Apache next to Geronimo.  While he was a teen and still living in Globe, he was taken care of by Al Sieber, the Chief of the Army Scouts.

In 1881, en enlisted in the US Cavalry as a scout and was able to find the trails the Apache hunters used the most.  Because of his extraordinary talents, he was promoted to sergeant in July of 1882.  In 1885, while in Huasabas, Mexico, he escaped being hung while involved in a drunkin’ brawl.  He was fined twenty-five dollars, and sent back to San Carlos.  This seemed to be the beginning of his troubles.  In May of 1887, he was left in charge of the scouts when several officers left the San Carlos post on business.  The Kid threw a party and brewed up liquor called, tizwin.  Many became very drunk with a fight breaking out between the Kid’s father and another scout named, Gon-Zizzie.  The Kid’s father was killed so the kid retaliated and killed Gon-Zizzie and his brother, Rip.  All the scouts involved were disarmed and arrested until the incident could be investigated.  Shots rang out before anyone could be arrested, the Kid, along with others were able to escape.

The Apaches had sympathy for the renegades and helped hide them from the lawmen.  The Kid and four others surrendered when the soldiers backed off and were found guilty of mutiny and desertion.  They were sentence to death by a firing squad but eventually the sentence was changed to life in prison to later ten years incarceration.  They were set free on October 1889, but infuriated Apaches had new warrants issued for the men, and once more they were on the run.  After being rearrested and then escaping again, the Kid was accused of crimes such as rape and murder, but there was never any solid proof of his involvement.

There is lots of mystery about the year the Kid really died.  Most documents report him being killed in 1894 with different people claiming they killed him.  One story is he was killed in a shootout between Apache renegades and Mexican soldiers, while another claimed to kill him while he was rustling their cattle.  Some say he was still alive in 1899 and living amongst the Apache while others said he was still cattle rustling as late as the 1920’s.  The Apache Kid is reported to be buried high in the San Mateo Mountains of the Cibola Nation Forest and only a marker stands as a grave for the Apache Kid.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

You Just Never Know.....

.....what you will see on the road.  Here is some of our interesting finds:

A french fry man in Miami, AZ.
A bathroom in the middle of the desert.
Bath tubs in the middle of an abandoned mine.
A giant rooster on the side of the road.
Awesome old signs with amazing abandoned buildings.
Monuments for dead cowboys. (Tom Mix)
Amazing small towns.
Interesting rock formations. 
Bizarre abandoned businesses.