Apacheland and more

buffalo soldiersLiz and I serve on the board of SACA – the Superstition Arts and Cultural Alliance. Dedicated to promoting the arts and artist in the East Valley, specifically Pinal County.

This past weekend we assisted with an event sponsored by The Superstition Mountain Museum.

The museum is a must-see destination when you visit Apache Junction, one of several. Beside the focus on the Lost Dutchman, the museum is rebuilding a Gold Stamper Battery. You ask, what is that? Good question.

gold stamper batteryA stamper battery was used to crush ore into powder, so that gold flakes could easily be separated.

It was a huge machine with heavy iron stampers on the end of pistons that pounded ore into dust.The photo I am showing here is over a year old, and much work has been done towards restoration, with the intent of making it operational. I can’t wait to be there the day they fire that mother up.


The museum also features the Apacheland Barn. The Apacheland Barn was part of the Apacheland movie ranch – where many of the westerns you know as a child were filmed. Everyone has seen Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. An episode of Bonanza was filmed here, as were episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel.

There is a small western reproduction town on the grounds, and gunfight re-enactments are regular events.

The museum has a gift shop chock full of books on local history, and the museum (an affordable $5 per person) has unique artifacts from native American tribes from the area, and displays with information on the many characters that inhabited Apache Junction and the Superstition as late as the 1970’s, before the city was incorporated, and still had tinges of the old west.

Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the museum featured the art of Ted DeGrazia, an Arizona native. DeGrazia lived in AJ during the 1970’s, and was a fixture in the town. An impressionist painter, he is known as the “most reproduced artist in the world”. He apprenticed under Diego Rivera. In 1976 he burned hundreds of his paintings in public rather than give one damned dime to the government in taxes, protesting the inheritance tax. The story made the Wall Street Journal, People Magazine and other mainstream publications. There are rumors that he buried a cache of his art in the Superstition Mountains so that auditors would not be able to document them.

His sons and immediate family sponsored this showing of works that have not been seen in years, and insisted that the opening reception be free to the public. They paid for a VIP reception (Friday night) with excellent wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Saturday’s event featured his son’s band and a showing by local Buffalo Soldier re-enactors. There is not enough room to expound on the history of the Buffalo Soldiers. Created after the civil war, the Buffalo Soldiers were all-black infantry and cavalry regiments. They served only west of the Mississippi and fought in every campaign, with honor, In fact the Buffalo Soldiers has a lower desertion rate than the white regiments, and earned more medals of honor in the last decade of the 1800’s than white regiments. This, while being provided with inferior horses and inadequate food and supplies.

I talked to one of the re-enactors, the gentleman on the right side of the photo above. His uncle was  Buffalo Soldier, and he has been doing educational re-enactments for forty years now.  I suppose now I need to find some good books on the subject.

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