Here are some Photos shared by TomM of the ride he led last Saturday.
The story of a lonely Arizona pioneer named Gold Tooth Pranty
Fred Pranty was a rancher, prospector, hunter, and Arizona pioneer whose story was lost throughout history. He lived a solitary life in the Sierra Ancha mountains and was known as the greatest mountain lion slayer in the territory. He was said to have graced everyone’s dinner table and was a cheerful, joyful man who never bothered anybody. He was described as a medium built, fair complexion, finely educated man, and nobody could understand why he was out prospecting.
Fred was born Christopher Fredrick Prante to Ernist and Mary Prante on December 22, 1861, in Friendship Indiana. Fred and his family lived a rough life in Indiana. After suffering from years of depression, Fred’s father committed suicide. Mary Prante was left widowed with ten children.
She sent her two oldest sons to meet with her brother in Puru, Nebraska. She gave them the entire family savings to purchase land for a new settlement. The boys left with cash and returned with nothing. The Prante family would continue to live a rough life for the next ten years.
Fred’s story began when he was 17 years old. In 1879 Fred’s mother once again attempted to resettle near her family in Puru, Nebraska. Mary commissioned Fred to drive the family’s cattle to Paru, but once again, she was let down. Fred never arrived, and his family thought he had been killed.
Little did they know, he took off on his own and would become one of Arizona’s early pioneers. His whereabouts were unknown for the next 12 years until he eventually showed up in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.
One 2 December 1924, he told the Wilbanks Family that he was going on a 10 day prospecting trip in the Sierra Ancha Mountains. That was the last time anyone saw him.
One afternoon while staring over a bluff on Sheep’s Basin Mountain, two prospectors Dudge and Albert Greer, spotted Fred’s skull from above the bluff. His remains were found showing the devastation of time, weather, and the varmint he hunted. A bullet hole in the skull and broken leg bone suggested he took his own life to ease the agony of pain. Fred Pranty died at the age of 62 years old.
His revolver and miners pick was found nearby and was used to identify him. Fred’s signature marking, three dots identifying his tool were evident. Carrel Wilbanks was called to serve on the coroner’s jury and agreed. He presented a hammer that Fred had given him years earlier with the same three dots. Carrol Wilbanks also confirmed the revolver found, indeed, belonged to Fred Pranty.
His bones were loaded in a burlap gunny sack and taken to the justice of the peace in Payson. There, they sat in a jail cell for 14 years. Fred wasn’t put to rest until May 27, 1938, when Hal Greer was elected Justice of The Peace. Hal Greer cleaned house at the old jail. After discovering Pranty’s remains for a second time, Hal Greer ordered his remains to be buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetary. His remains were put in a coal can and buried just inside the gate near a large oak tree.
To learn more about the story of Fred Pranty, you can read more about him at The Arizona Backroads Website: