History Courtesy of Tom Kollenborn and the Superstition Mountain Historical Society
Does the Dutchman’s Lost Mine exist? To answer the question we must examine the history and various documents about the region closely.
Superstition Mountain and the Dutchman’s Lost Mine are synonymous with Arizona lost mine lore. We must first ask ourselves is the Dutchman’s Lost Mine a myth or is there some truth to this lingering tale from the past? Probably the most difficult part of this question is the separation of fact from fiction.
It is told a prospector named Jacob Waltz had a rich gold mine deep in the rugged mountains east of Apache Junction. The story tells of a German prospector who made periodic trips into the Superstition Mountains and returned to Phoenix with quantities of bonanza gold ore. This old prospector braved the dangers of the marauding Apaches prior to the 1886 surrender of Geronimo at Skeleton Canyon.
Barry Storm, an early author on the subject of lost gold mines, believed Waltz had found a rich mine abandoned bye the Peralta family of Mexico. Other writers suggested it was gold hidden by the Apaches after they massacred a group of Mexican miners. Today, some prospectors believe Waltz’s mine and a Peralta cache are one and the same.
Alfred Strong Lewis, in his manuscript, Rain God’s Gold, theorized the Peraltas or Spaniards worked the rich goldfields four miles northeast of present day Apache Junction and were massacred by the Apaches as they were preparing to leave the area and return to Sonora in 1847.
Lewis’ scenario contradicted Storm’s theory. Alfred Strong Lewis was a mining engineer who was totally convinced the Goldfields were the source of Jacob Waltz’s bonanza gold ore. This theory continues to linger unproved today.
To study the story of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine we must first examine the facts and tales about Jacob Waltz, the alleged owner of the mine. Furthermore, we must establish his existence and actual role in the story. To do this requires extensive research in national, state, county and municipal records.
Jacob Waltz, according to documents, was born near Oberschwandorf, Wuttenburg, Germany around 1810. No church baptismal records support this, but his age on several census records do. He immigrated to America around 1839, arriving first in New York City. Waltz then traveled to the goldfields of North Carolina and Georgia. He arrived in Meadow Creek, North Carolina hoping to strike it rich. The Meadow Creek area had been well established by the time Waltz arrived. Like many foreigners he had been misinformed about the area. It is highly likely he moved on to Dohney, Georgia again hoping to find work or a vein of gold to work. From Georgia he traveled to Natchez, Mississippi. The goldfields of North Carolina and Georgia had taught Waltz he had to be a citizen of the United States to stake a mining claim. Realizing this, Waltz filed his letter of intent to become a citizen of the United States on November 12, 1848, in the Adams County Courthouse in Natchez, Mississippi. Waltz soon made plans to travel west to the goldfields of California.
Jacob Waltz arrived in California about 1850. His name appears on several California census records. He prospected and worked as a miner in the mother lode country of California for eleven years. It was on July 19, 1861, in the Los Angeles County Courthouse, Jacob Waltz became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. Waltz worked as a miner on the San Gabriel River for a man named Ruben Blakney. It was probably here he met Elisha M. Reavis, later to become the “Hermit of Superstition Mountain.”
Waltz departed California in 1863, with the Peeples-Weaver Party or a similar group of prospectors headed for the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona Territory. Waltz was one of the earliest pioneer prospectors in the Bradshaw Mountain area. Waltz’s name appears on the Gross Claim which was filed in Prescott, Arizona Territory on September 21, 1863. His name also appears on a special territorial census taken in 1864.
On this census Waltz is listed as a miner, 54 years of age, and a native of Germany. Waltz’s name also appeared on a petition to territorial governor John N. Goodwin soliciting a militia to control the predatory raids of hostile Indians in the Bradshaw Mountains. Jacob Waltz’s name also appeared on the Big Rebel and the General Grant claims in the Bradshaw Mountains. Waltz was very active in the Bradshaw Mountain area between 1863-67.
Jacob Waltz moved to the Salt River Valley in 1868 and filed a homestead claim on 160 acres of land on the north bank of the Salt River. It is from here Waltz began his exploratory trips into the mountains surrounding the Salt River Valley. If Waltz had a rich gold mine or cache he had to have discovered it on one of these prospecting forays. Old timers claim Waltz prospected every winter between 1868-1886. Waltz died in Phoenix, Arizona Territory on October 25, 1891, in the home of Julia Thomas. Clues attributed to Waltz, both during his lifetime and as a deathbed revelation, have not yet resulted in finding the source of his gold.
Jacob Waltz did exist. There are many government documents that support the fact Waltz lived in Arizona Territory from 1863-1891. The question still remains. Did Jacob Waltz have a rich gold mine in the Superstition Mountains?
Shortly after Waltz’s death Julia Thomas, Rhinehart and Hermann Petrasch traveled to the Superstition Mountains to locate Waltz’s rich gold mine. After several weeks in these rugged mountains Thomas and the Petrasches returned to Phoenix empty handed and broke. Disappointed and broke Thomas produced several maps with misinformation on them. She sold these maps hoping to compensate for her losses.
The Petrasch brothers and their father hunted for Waltz’s mine for the rest of their lives. Julia Thomas was the first searcher for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. The rapid growth of the Dutchman legend may be largely attributed to Julia Thomas and P.C. Bicknell.
Many Arizona pioneer historians believed Julia Thomas gave an interview to Pierpont C. Bicknell, a free lance writer and lost mine hunter, shortly after her return from the Superstition Mountains in September of 1892. Bicknell probably paid her a token fee for the story. Ironically Julia Thomas and the Petrasches walked over the rich gold deposits at Goldfield in September of 1892 without discovering them. The rich Black Queen was discovered in November of 1892, and the rich Mammoth Mine was discovered on April 13, 1893. The Mammoth Mine produced about three million dollars worth of gold bullion in four years.
Pierpont C. Bicknell , more than any one person, may be responsible for the tale of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. P.C. Bicknell was the earliest writer to associate Weaver’s Needle, the Peraltas and Jacob Waltz with the Dutchman’s Lost Mine in his writing. Bicknell’s first major article on the Dutchman’s Lost Mine appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on January 13, 1895, revealing several clues to the location of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. These clues closely paralleled those to which Julia Thomas often alluded to.
Bicknell may have also been responsible for the variety of names Weaver’s Needle has had. He called the needle Needle Rock, Sombrero Peak and El Sombrero in different articles he wrote about the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. Actually Weaver’s Needle is a prominent pinnacle that towers over much of the region east of Superstition Mountain and had played a major role in the legend of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. This famous landmark was named after Pauline (Paulino) Weaver, a mountain man, guide, prospector and early Arizona pioneer. Weaver first visited the area in 1825 when the region was still part of Mexico. Weaver’s Needle appeared on military maps as early as 1853, making it one of the oldest Anglo-American named landmarks in the Southwest. Weaver’s Needle appeared on maps almost two decades before Superstition Mountain did.
There is little doubt among historians that Peirpont Constable Bicknell took a writer’s liberty to exaggerate the truth in much of his written material about lost mines. Any separation of fact from fiction must start with Bicknell’s published works.
It is doubtful that Barry Storm or Oren Arnold thoroughly researched Bicknell’s early work on the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. Since 1895, thousands of periodicals have appeared on the Dutchman’s Lost Mine and much of the legend can be traced back to Bicknell. Bicknell may have had the earliest impact on the legend itself, but Barry Storm embellished all works he found on the Dutchman, Peraltas or Jesuits. His work impacted the thinking of more contemporary prospectors than any other individual except for the man who perpetrated the infamous Peralta Stone Maps.
The one book that probably had the greatest impact on contemporary prospectors and treasure hunters in the Superstition Wilderness Area was Barry Storm’s Thunder God’s Gold , published in 1945, by the Southwest Publishing Company. Storm suggested in his book, Waltz’s mine was one of the eight Lost Peralta Mines. Storm struggled desperately to link the Dutchman’s Lost Mine to Spanish lost gold in the Southwest.
Barry Storm’s first book, Trail of Dutchman, was published by Barry Goldwater and most of the photography was done by him. Storm used Goldwater’s money and also used his first name. Storm’s real name was John G. Clymenson and he used Barry Storm as his pen name. Storm was one of the most celebrated writers and promoters of the Lost Dutchman Mine and the Peralta Mines in the early 1940s up to the early 1960s. His stories and tales fired the imagination of an entire generation of lost mine hunters.
The two hundred and forty-two square miles of rugged terrain found in the Superstition Wilderness makes it a difficult task to systematically search or prospect the region. Most professional geologists will insist there is little geological evidence to suggest a rich gold deposit could exist in these volcanic mountains. Jacob Waltz, the alleged owner of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine, claimed his mine was located where no other miner or prospector would search for gold. A recent US Geological Survey could possibly support this clue Waltz left behind. The application of the mercury vapor test over the Superstition Wilderness Area found the region to be highly mineralized. The report is indicative of deep seated mineral deposits. Who knows for sure, maybe one of those highly enriched mineralized bodies reached the surface by way of an intrusion. This report could explain why a man would devote his entire life to searching for gold in this land of barren ash and basalt.
Since 1891, more than one hundred and thirty-seven people have claimed to have found the Dutchman’s Lost Mine. The first claim was made on December 7, 1895. The story of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine was well rooted in pioneer history long before the first tourist visited Arizona.
Fake maps, lies and imagination formulate the foundation of many tales told about the Superstition Mountain region. During the past three decades investors have lost millions of dollars to unscrupulous con men and promoters. The naive investor should not take the written word of authors or periodical chroniclers without knowing their credentials. Authors often take a writer’s liberty to tell a story. Oren Arnold once said it all, when he said, “Don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.”
No landmark in the history of the Southwest has generated so many interesting tales of lost gold and resulted in more deaths than Superstition Mountain. According to some, Weaver’s Needle serves as monument to those who have searched and died for the gold of Superstition Mountain.
Prospectors and treasure hunters continue their search of this vast mountain wilderness for gold and lost treasure. Stringent rules for prospecting have limited their activity in recent years, but still they come to search for gold and lost treasure. The United States Department of Agriculture closed the Superstition Wilderness Area to mineral entry, at midnight, on December 31, 1983, to comply with the National Wilderness Act approved by Congress in 1964.
The clues to Waltz’s gold mine still ring clear through the towering peaks and deep canyons of the Superstition Wilderness Area. No miner will find my mine. To find my mine you must pass a cow barn. From my mine you can see the military trail, but from the military trail you can not see my mine. The rays of the setting sun shine into the entrance of my mine. There is a trick in the trail to my mine. My mine is located in a north-trending canyon. There is a rock face on the trail to my mine.
These and many other clues have fired the imaginations of men and women for more than a century.
Just maybe it is not so much the finding as it is the searching.