Lost Dutchman Mine
Few stories of the old west are as famous and as enduring as the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Mine. Like many legends, this one is based on some factual evidence enhanced with a lot of exaggeration and bit of downright fiction. After 100 years, the story is still believed by many, and still entices quite a few adventurers into the Superstition Mountains in search of the Dutchman's gold.
His name was Jacob Waltz
The legend is centered on Jacob Waltz, a Prussian born immigrant who arrived in the USA around 1840 and settled near Saint Louis, Missouri or Natchez, Mississippi. After gold was discovered in California in 1848, he apparently joined the wave of "forty-niners" heading west and braved the perilous journey across the untamed lands to the gold fields. Little is known about Waltz's life for the next 21 years except that he apparently did not find his fortune. He settled in California and became a naturalized citizen of the USA at Los Angeles in 1861.
In 1862, the fifty-two-year-old Waltz arrived in the wild and sparsely populated territory of Arizona. At that time, civilization in Arizona consisted of a few widely scattered towns and army forts plus several Spanish missions and pacified Native American villages. The fierce and unvanquished Apache Indians roamed the deserts and mountains killing any intruders they happened to encounter. Phoenix was a wild west frontier town along the Salt River with a small garrison of army soldiers to protect its inhabitants from the roving bands of marauding Apache. Gold and Silver had been discovered in parts of this wilderness.
© Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The rugged and forbidding Superstition Mountains begin about 30 miles east of Phoenix.
He prospected for gold in Arizona
Jacob Waltz "prospected" or searched for gold and silver in the rugged mountains and scorching hot deserts of the Arizona territory. He was probably financed by local investors who often provided a "grubstake" or sufficient food, supplies and mining equipment to support an extended quest in return for a share of any wealth discovered. Many prospectors traveled with a "sidekick" or mining partner/companion for safety. At times, Jacob Waltz traveled with a sidekick named Jacob Weiser.
According to the legend, Jacob Waltz appeared in Phoenix sometime during the 1870s with many bags of rich gold ore. He drank heavily, spent money lavishly and bragged about his great gold find. He had found the richest gold mine ever. It was worth millions of dollars. He steadfastly refused to reveal its exact location but implied that it was in the Superstition Mountains.
Few men returned alive from the Superstition Mountains
The rugged and forbidding Superstition Mountains begin about 30 miles east of Phoenix. In those days, few men ventured into the Superstition Mountains. Those who did were rarely seen again. A few mutilated, headless remains were all that was usually recovered. The Superstitions were the sacred lands and the fortress home of the fierce Apache.
This next part of the legend is difficult to understand. For at least a decade after his great windfall of gold, Jacob Waltz lived a very modest life around the Phoenix area with little display of riches. He died on October 25, 1891 at the age of 81 in apparent poverty. His final days were spent under the care of Julia Thomas, an Afro-American woman who owned an ice cream parlor in Phoenix.
The legend of the Lost Dutchman mine began after his death
Less than a year after Waltz's death, the Phoenix Gazette newspaper printed a story about the strange behavior of a Mrs. E. W. Thomas, former owner of Thomas' ice cream parlor in Phoenix. She reportedly quit her business and embarked on an extended search for a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. Thus began the myth of Jacob Waltz's lost mine. People began referring to Waltz as "the Dutchman" a term often applied to German immigrants. It is based on the mispronunciation of "Deutsch Mann". The story of "the Lost Dutchman's Mine" spread rapidly.
Over the past hundred years, thousands of people have gone into the Superstition Mountains searching for the Dutchman's mine. Some never returned. At least, seven gold seekers were murdered in these mountains. No one ever found the Dutchman's gold mine.
© Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Jerry Gargalione, proprietor of the Goldfield Bed and Breakfast would be happy to rent you a room in Goldfield and regale you with tales of the Dutchman's gold.
No one ever found the Dutchman's gold
Some people think that Jacob Waltz never had a gold mine. They suppose he may have stolen the gold or won it gambling. Some people think he may have stumbled upon a bit of the legendary Peralta gold. Others even believe he found the fabulously rich lost Peralta gold mine of previous legends. Many people still think that the Dutchman had a rich gold mine in the Superstitions, and that he took its secret location to his grave.
Prior to 1848, the Arizona territory belonged to Mexico. According to early legends, two wealthy Mexican landowners named Peralta had financed many prospecting expeditions into the Arizona territory and eventually discovered a rich deposit of gold in the Superstition Mountains. They mined the gold and shipped ore back to Mexico via mule trains. On their last expedition, Apache warriors surprised the mule train and massacred all of the Peralta workers. The Indians had no use for the shiny yellow rocks, but they prized the tasty flesh of the mules. The warriors supposedly scattered the gold ore upon the ground and took the mules. During Jacob Waltz's life, many people told stories of the lost Peralta gold and the lost Peralta mine.
No one knows the truth about the Dutchman's mine. Did he find a rich deposit of gold in the Superstition Mountains? Did he find the Peralta mine or find some of the scattered Peralta gold? Is it all just a myth?
You can still search for the Lost Dutchman Mine
You can visit the Superstition Mountains and search for the lost Dutchman's mine. The Superstition wilderness area lies about 30 miles east of Phoenix just past Apache Junction and near the reconstructed mining town of Goldfield. Lost Dutchman State Park with its campground lies at the foot of the mountains. Jerry Gargalione, proprietor of the Goldfield Bed and Breakfast would be happy to rent you a room in Goldfield and regale you with tales of the Dutchman's gold. The best time to visit this area is late fall through early spring when the temperatures are more bearable. Intense heat and lack of water makes the Superstition Mountains inhospitable and dangerous during the summer. Be careful! There are still a lot of crazy gold seekers crawling through those rugged mountains.
Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: The Lost Dutchman Gold Mine