Entertainment Magazine: Arizona: Saddlebrooke: History

Saddlebrooke’s History That You Don’t Know

By W. T. “Flint” Carter

The area where the Cañada del Oro River feeds out the west side of the Santa Catalina Mountains has been studied, explored and documented. The area is rich with history and legend.

When the Motorola Executive Institute gave part of that area to the University of Arizona for the BioSphere, an archeological survey dated nearby carvings, between 4-6,000 years old, overlooked miles of pre-historic irrigation canals for farming. Ancient canals for farming had been found.

The first documentation on the area - and of a particular mine - was in 1880 by an article in the Arizona Weekly Star. The story also mentions a lost city right in the mighty Cañada del Oro. Read more about the Iron Door Mine.

By 1903, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody began mining in the area. He built roads near Oracle, hauled milling equipment, and believed to have found a rich deposit at a lost mine in Camp Bonito. At one time, 200 miners were employed to mine the backside of the Catalina Mountains.

In 1911, below the BioSphere, George Stone Wilson started the Linda Vista Guest Ranch, formerly called Rancho Linda Vista. It was Arizona’s first guest ranch with two old adobe houses. One building is believed to be Mission Santa Catalina of Jesuit origin.

The property was acquired through back taxes from the Samaniego family- whom the western ridge is named- Samaniego Ridge. The Samaniegos started the Hispanic Rights Movement.

Marino Samaniego, born in 1844 in Sonora, Mexico, was a prominent Tucson pioneer. He arrived in Tucson in the mid-1860s and became a freighter, cattle rancher, merchant and a successful Hispanic public official during the territorial period in the 1890s.

Samaniego was one of the founders and president of the Alianza Hispano-Americana, served on the first Board of Regents for the University of Arizona, and served as President, Vice President and Director for the Arizona Historical Society. He served four terms in the Territorial Assembly, on the County Board of Supervisors, on the Tucson City Council and as Pima County Assessor.

In 1917, Wilson let Harold Bell Wright stay at the Coronado Camp, just over the Samaniego Ridge to the east of Saddlebrooke.

This is where Wright had composed the book “The Mine with the Iron Door.” The novel was made into one of Arizona’s first Western movies of the same name. It was filmed at the local Linda Vista Ranch in 1924. The subject was redone three more times for a total of four full-length motion pictures. It was the only movie with multiple spin-offs on a single topic until the Star Wars series.
In 1936, the film was re-shot in Hollywood under the same name. It was remade in 1955 and titled “The Secret of Treasure Mountain.” In 1968, it was released under the title “McKenna’s Gold.” This version was filmed in Canyon de Chey.
Harold Bell Wright became Tucson’s largest charitable benefactor. He started the local indigent health care program. He set up a tent city for tuberculosis victims at the present site of the Tucson Medical Center. He also wrote plays, especially for Tucson that brought in top actors. Proceeds went to charities. Wright also donated the furniture for St. Mary’s Hospital. And, in the true Western fashion, his son Norman went on as a writer to help Disney create Bambi, Fantasia and the Wonderful world of Disney.
The Tucson Kiwani’s Club, a charity supported by Wright, was to erect a 30 foot marker at the entrance of that mine, but no records remain of where, or if, it was placed.
In 1972, I purchased an acre with a chicken coop located between two old adobe buildings from Burton Holly. Holly was the man who put up the famous Hollywood sign to subdivide the Southern California area for development.
When Holly owned the ranch it had an orchard of rare delights. There was a tree planted by Luther Burbank for Rita Hayworth’s martinis. This tree, and an orange tree, is all that survives today.
Holly had purchased the property from Lloyd Golder who told me that the inner Cañada del Oro area had saloons, hotels and was largely populated at the turn of the 20th century.
In the early 1970s there was a 350-acre lake in the area with a much different development in mind. Holly told me that after the film was made and the Depression over, more than 10,000 people were making a meager days living from the great Canada del Oro- Canyon of Gold- stream.

On a more noble note, it was not mentioned before that Motorola's ownership of the area originally belonged to the Countess of Suffolk, a concert pianist. It was called Casa del Oro, or House of Gold. The countess and Dr. Lachner, a dentist from Tucson, was first to build on top of the hill overlooking the now Saddlebrooke. He used the gold and silver from the area in his practice in Tucson.

Also notable was that Ira Hays, of Iwo Jima fame, helped dig the countess' well, as told to me by Buster Bailey who hired him to do the job.

Little did I know this was a key geographical spot. It is the largest riparian area on Mt. Lemmon and it was the main road from El Paso to San Diego before mechanization.
After purchasing the chicken coop, a natural stone incorporated earth sheltering and black sand iron into the structure was built. It was documented as Arizona’s first solar heater and cooler museum by the Governor’s Office in 1986. Sadly, though, I lost ownership of the property.
So, in 1990 I went back to Illinois to care for my aging parents and initiated a toxic site clean up of the water in my hometown. This set a precedent that led to the dredging of the Hudson River, I’m told. Exposure to the toxins is all I got. But, at least the town has clean water for future generations. I returned to Arizona in 1996 to continue researching the Iron Door mine legend.
I had later displayed an educational exhibit on the Iron Door Mine at the Tucson Gem Show. To be noted, there is a ride at Old Tucson called the Adventure of the Iron Door. Also, a restaurant on top of Mt. Lemmon uses the name Iron Door.
My decades-old collection of large mineral specimens and artifacts will help finance a planned museum. This will be able to continue research on the history of the area and the Iron Door Mine legend. But, those toxins are now taking a toll on me and it’s getting harder to maintain this heritage. This museum collection is important to preserve. It is history.
The support of the Saddlebrooke community can make a difference. A movement to save the Mission Santa Catalina and preserve the history of the area is ongoing.

William "Flint" Carter is available to speak to groups about the Old West, Southwestern legends, mining and other subjects. Almost of of his work, found throughout these pages, are available for sale. Call Flint n Tucson, Arizona at 520-289-4566 for more information. Visit William "Flint" Carter's web site.

Saddlebrooke Index

Tucson Entertainment Magazine

Arizona Entertainment Magazine Home Page

© 2010-2011 EMOL.org Entertainment Magazine. All rights reserved.

"Ballads of the Santa Catalina Mountains" CD

Listen to songs and ballads on CD about the Iron Door Mine, the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Old West and Arizona prospector and historian Flint Carter. $9.95. Call 520-289-4566 for more information and to purchase directly. Mention the Iron Door web site.

Tours, Legend, Jewelry and Artifacts

Explore displays of over 1,000 Old West artifacts and specimens from the surrounding area with Flint Carter. Learn about Western legends. Call Flint at 520-289-4566. Mention the Iron Door web site.

Mt. Lemmon jewelry grade silver ore in quartz

Flint Carter, a Tucson, Arizona miner, has samples of "Cody Stone" mined in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Southern Arizona. This stone is jewelry grade silver and quartz ore, and weighs 8 pounds or more. It also contains scheelite and fluoresces. Valued at $5 a carat. This particular piece is the second largest specimen recovered. Extremely rare. There is a 40 page provenance of the object, including an assay by the University of Arizona and opinions from the Gem Institute of America and other sources. More samples of Cody Stone.

The Mine with the Iron Door: A Romance (1936)

Movie Poster from the 1936 film The Mine with the Iron Door - Movie Poster - 11 x 17 Poster for the Mine with the Iron Door movie. Stars Richard Arlen, Ceclia Parker and Henry B. Walthall. Poster measures approx. 11 x 17. Rolled and shipped in a sturdy tube. This poster is from The Mine with the Iron Door (1936).

Printed Edition of The Mine with the Iron Door. (The Collected Works of Harold Bell Wright - 18 Volumes) (Library Binding) Library Binding: 338 pages. Publisher: Classic Publishers, Language: English. ISBN: 158201891X.

Digital CD Edition of Mine with the Iron Door: A Romance, The (CD-ROM Edition). The CD-ROM contains 338 pages. Publisher: Classic Books; 1923 edition (December 15, 2007).

"MacKenna's Gold" (1969)

Starring Gregory Peck and Omar Sherif

Attempting to do for Westerns what his Guns of Navarone had done for World War II action epics, director J. Lee Thompson crafted Mackenna's Gold as a lavish, absurdly ambitious variation on Erich Von Stroheim's Greed, resulting in a last-gasp Western so eager to encompass the genre's traditions that it turns into a big, silly, wildly entertaining mess. Gregory Peck surely had more serious intentions when he signed on, and he brings prestigious gravitas to his glum role as Marshall Mackenna, who gets shanghaied into searching for the gold-filled canyon of an elusive Apache legend. The rest of the 1969 film labors to undermine Peck's respectable demeanor; how else to explain Omar Sharif as a Mexican villain, Julie Newmar as a hot-blooded Apache temptress (with underwater nude scenes that were celebrated in Playboy magazine), and a jaw-dropping finale that's so ridiculous it's impressive in spite of itself?--Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

DVD edition of MacKenna's Gold. Studio: Sony Pictures. DVD format. Release Date: July 11, 2000. Run Time: 128 minutes.

Poster from Mackenna's Gold - Movie Poster - 11 x 17. This poster measures approx. 11 x 17. Rolled and shipped in a sturdy tube. This poster is from the movie Mackenna's Gold (1969).

Printed book edition of Mackenna's Gold A Five-time Spur Award-winning Author. Somewhere in 100,000 square miles of wilderness was the fabled Lost Canyon of Gold. With his dying breath, an ancient Apache warrior entrusted Glen Mackenna with the location of the lode that would make any man - or woman - rich beyond their wildest dreams. Halfbreed renegade and captive girl, mercenary soldier and thieving scout - brave or beaten, innocent or evil, they'd sell their very souls to possess Mackenna's gold. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. Avon Books (Mm) (June 1988).

Watch video on-demand from Amazon.com of MacKenna's Gold.

Walmart @ Saddlebrooke

Shop online and pick up in store with Walmart Site-to-Store at The new Walmart.com Home Page

(Left: Original art wortk by Flint Carter. 5" x 7" original, $500
Copy prints $10 each plus $5 shipping.
See more Flint original art.)