By Tom Kollenborn, 1984
John Henry Pearce was truly an interesting pioneer of the Superstition Mountain and Goldfield area. His charismatic character endeared him to those who called him friend.
Pearce was born in Taylor, Arizona, on January 22, 1883. His father founded and operated Pearce’s Ferry across the Colorado River near the western end of the Grand Canyon. Pearce’s father had accompanied John Wesley Powell through the Grand Canyon in 1869.
John Pearce began his search for Jacob Waltz’s gold in 1929, shortly after arriving in the area. When John first arrived, he built a cabin on the Apache Trail about seven miles northeast of Apache Junction. Before moving to his Apache Trail site, John mined three gold mines and hauled his ore to the Hayden mill on the Gila River. He sold his gold to the United States government for $35.00 an ounce. During the depression his claims around the Goldfield area kept food on the table for his family.
All the years John Pearce lived on the Apache Trail he also maintained a permanent camp deep in the Superstition Wilderness near Weaver’s Needle in Needle Canyon. He operated this camp from 1929 to the time of his death in 1959.
John traveled the eleven miles to his camp by driving his truck to County Line Divide, then he would hike or ride horseback to his Needle Canyon Camp. Actually, Pearce had two mines in the Superstition Wilderness – one near his Needle Canyon Camp and the other located near Black Mesa Ridge. The mine John worked for many years on Black Mesa Ridge contained no gold, but did produce silica. He wanted to build a road to the mine on Black Mesa, but could never obtain permission from the government.
My father and I spent several days with John Pearce looking over his property in the late 1940’s. Father felt John had a good deposit of silica, but believed it wasn’t prudent to build a road to this site because there were so many other equally good sites outside of the wilderness for claiming.
John Pearce told my father a story about a man who had once worked for his father. The man, John claimed, was an [actual] survivor of the infamous Peralta Massacre of 1847. According to John, the survivor’s name was Leonardo Torres. Torres told John’s father there were only 48 people, including eight women, at the site of the ill-fated massacre. He said all of the Mexicans had been to the mine and had worked it. John always claimed the Peralto Massacre, not the Peralta Massacre as some called it, occurred on the northwest slopes of Superstition Mountain. Torres told John’s father the massacre was not over gold, but over women and the killing of game.
Torres’ story goes something like this. “I was up before dawn rounding up stock when the Apache devils struck. I made my get-away on a horse before the Apache knew I was even gone. They were so thrilled with the success of their attack they didn’t even look for me. There was nothing I could do for the others.”
Torres eventually made his way back to the villages along the Santa Cruz River and told the story of the massacre. Torres tried for several years to organize a group of men to return to the Apacheria, but he found no takers.
Before Torres died he drew a map with the general directions to the rich mine he said he worked as a youth in the Superstition Mountains.
John Henry Pearce believed his father’s story and continued to search for that mine until his death. He died from injuries suffered in a head-on collision west of Bush Highway (Power Road) on Friday, January 12, 1959. John spent almost thirty years searching for the old Dutchman and he certainly believed it was out there.John D Walker and the Map