Lost mine

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

The Lost Dutchman Gold Mine (also known by many similar names) is reportedly a very rich gold mine hidden in the Superstition Mountains, near Apache Junction, east of Phoenix, Arizona in the United States. The land is a designated Wilderness Area, and mining is now prohibited there.

The mine is named after German immigrant Jacob Waltz ("Dutchman" was a common, though inaccurate, American slang term for "German," derived from the German language word for "German" – "Deutsch"). It is perhaps the most famous lost mine in American history: Arizona place-name expert Byrd Granger notes that, as of 1977, the Lost Dutchman story was printed or cited at least six times more often than two other fairly well-known tales, the story of Captain Kidd's lost treasure, and the story of the Lost Pegleg Mine in California. Robert Blair notes that people have been seeking the Lost Dutchman mine since at least 1892, while Granger writes that according to one estimate, 8,000 people annually made some effort to locate the Lost Dutchman's mine. Former Arizona Attorney General Bob Corbin is among those who have looked for the mine. Others have argued the mine has little or no basis in fact and is a legend, though as noted below, Blair argues that all the main components of the story have at least some basis in fact.

According to many versions of the tale, the mine is either cursed, or protected by enigmatic guardians who wish to keep the mine's location a secret.

Other Lost Dutchman mines

Blair writes that "[t]here have been at least four legendary Lost Dutchman gold mines in the American West, including the famed Superstition mine of Jacob Waltz. One Lost Dutchman mine is said to be in Colorado, another in California; two are said to be located in Arizona. Tales of these other Lost Dutchman mines can be traced to at least the 1870s. The earliest Lost Dutchman mine in Arizona was said to have been near Wickenburg about north-west of the Superstition Mountains; a "Dutchman" was allegedly discovered dead in the desert near Wickenburg in the 1870s alongside saddlebags filled with gold. Blair suggests that "fragments of this legend have perhaps become attached to the mythical mine of Jacob Waltz. What would seem to be a crucial detail is also in dispute, as some allege that the so-called "mine" is actually a mine in the Superstition Mountains, or is instead a hidden stockpile of gold ore and/or bullion and/or coins.

There are also similarities between the stories associated with the Lost Dutchman mine and the Lasseter's Reef story in Australia.

Stories about the mine

Granger writes that "[f]act and fiction blend in the tales", but that there are three main elements to the story:

"They are, first, tales of the lost Apache gold or Dr. Thorne's mine; second, tales about the Lost Dutchman; and, third, stories of the soldiers' lost gold vein ... [t]he most complete version of the Lost Dutchman story incorporates all three legends." As noted below, Blair argues that there are kernels of truth at the heart of each of these three main stories, though the popular story is often badly garbled from the actual account.

In 1977, Granger identified 62 variants of the Lost Dutchman story – some of the variations are minor, but others are substantial, casting the story in a very different light from the other versions. Keeping in mind that there are sometimes considerable variance between the tales, below is a brief summary of each of the three stories identified by Granger.

The story continues to evolve: one recent theory suggests that the mine is really a secret treasure cache belonging to the Knights of the Golden Circle, a Confederate secret society that was active during the American Civil War.

Lost Apache gold, or Dr. Thorne's story

In this story (actually two interconnected stories), members of the Apache tribe are said to have a very rich gold mine located in the Superstition Mountains. Famed Apache Geronimo is sometimes invoked in this story. In most variants of the story, the family of a man called Miguel Peralta discovered the mine and began mining the gold there, only to be attacked or massacred by Apaches in about 1850 in the supposed Peralta massacre. Years later, a man called Dr. Thorne treats an ailing or wounded Apache (often alleged to be a chieftain) and is rewarded with a trip to a rich gold mine. He is blindfolded and taken there by a circuitous route, and is allowed to take as much gold ore as he can carry before again being escorted blindfolded from the site by the Apaches. Thorne is said to be either unwilling or unable to relocate the mine.

The truth about the Peralta Mine

Blair insists that the Peralta portion of the story is unreliable, writing, "The operation of a gold mine in the Superstitions by a Peralta family is a contrivance of 20th century writers". A man named Miguel Peralta and his family did in fact operate a successful mine in the 1860s – but near Valanciana, California, not Arizona. The mine was quite profitable, earning about $35,000 in less than one year; Blair describes this as "an unusually good return" for such a small gold mine to earn in such a relatively brief period. As of 1975, ruins of the Peralta mine were standing.

However, the Peralta Mine eventually became unprofitable and after the money was gone Miguel Peralta eventually turned to fraud. Dr. George M. Willing, Jr. paid Peralta $20,000 to the mining rights for an enormous swath of land – about in southern Arizona and New Mexico – based on a deed originally granted by the Spanish Empire in the 1700s. Trouble came after Willing learned that the deed was entirely bogus. Despite his efforts, Willing was never able to recover the money he gave to Peralta.

Blair argues that this Peralta story (well known to Arizona residents) eventually incorporated the Lost Dutchman story, in a severely distorted version, following the renewed interest in the Lost Dutchman's mine in the 1930s.

The truth about Dr. Thorne

Another detail which casts doubt on the story is the fact that, according to Blair, there was never any Dr. Thorne in the employ of the Army or indeed of the Federal Government of the 1860s. According to Blair, the origin of this story can be traced to a doctor named Thorne who was in private practice in New Mexico in the 1860s. Thorne claimed that he was taken captive by Navajos in 1854, and that during his captivity, he had discovered a rich gold vein. Thorne related his claims to three U.S. soldiers in about 1858. The three soldiers set out to find the gold, but without success. Over the decades, this true tale was gradually absorbed into the Lost Dutchman's story.

The Lost Dutchman's story

This tale involves two German men Jacob Waltz (or Weitz, Weitzer, Walls, Welz, Walz, et cetera) and the other called Jacob Weiser. However, Blair argues that there is a strong likelihood that there never was a second man named Weiser, but rather that the single man Waltz was, over the years, turned into two men as the legend of the Dutchman mine evolved. Blair contends that this story can be divided into "hawk" and "dove" versions, depending on if the German(s) are said to behave violently or peacefully. In most versions of the tale, Waltz and/or Weiser located a rich gold mine in the Superstition Mountains (in many versions of the story, they save or aid a member of the Peralta family, and are rewarded by being told the location of the mine). Weiser is attacked and wounded (whether by marauding Apaches, or by a greedy Waltz), but survives at least long enough to tell a man called Dr. Walker about the mine. Waltz is also said to make a deathbed confession to Julia Thomas, and draws or describes a crude map to the gold mine.

See "Historical Jacob Waltz" below for more information about the miner whose deathbed confession was the beginning of the legend of the Lost Dutchman mine.

Stories of the soldiers' lost gold vein

In yet another version of the tale, two (or more) U.S. Army soldiers are said to have discovered a vein of almost pure gold in or near the Superstition Mountains. The soldiers are alleged to have presented some of the gold, but afterwards to have been killed or to have vanished.

This account is usually dated to about 1870. According to Blair, the story may have its roots in the efforts of three U.S. soldiers to locate gold in an area of New Mexico, based on an allegedly true story related to them by Dr. Thorne of New Mexico; see above.

The historical Jacob Waltz

Blair cites ample evidence of the historical Jacob Waltz, and suggests that there is additional evidence that supports the core elements of the story as related above – that Waltz did in fact claim to have discovered (or at least heard the story of) a rich gold vein or cache. But Blair suggests that this core story was distorted in subsequent retellings, comparing the many variants of the Lost Dutchman's story to the game of chinese whispers, where the original account is distorted in multiple retellings of the tale.

There was a Jacob Waltz who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. The earliest documentation of him in the U.S. is an 1848 affidavit Waltz declared himself to be "about 38 years old". A man called Jacob Walz was born in September 1810 in Württemberg. Blair suggests that this Walz was the same Waltz who later came to be regarded as the legendary Dutchman, and that he changed the spelling of his surname to better match the phonetic pronunciation.

Waltz relocated to Arizona in the 1860s, and stayed in the state for most of the rest of his life. He pursued mining and prospecting, but seems to have had little luck with either. In 1870, Waltz had a homestead of about near Phoenix where he operated a farm.

There was catastrophic flooding in Phoenix in 1891, and Waltz's farm was one of many that were devastated. Afterwards, Waltz fell ill (he was rumored to have contracted pneumonia during the flooding). He died on October 25, 1891, after having been nursed by an acquaintance named Julia Thomas (she was usually described as a quadroon).

Blair suggests that there is little doubt that Waltz did in fact relate to Thomas the location of an alleged gold mine. As early as September 1, 1892, The Arizona Enterprise was reporting on the efforts of Thomas and several others to locate the lost mine whose location was told to her by Waltz. After this was unsuccessful, Thomas and her partners were reported to be selling maps to the mine for $7 each.

The death of Adolph Ruth

Were it not for the death of amateur explorer and treasure hunter Adolph Ruth, the story of the Lost Dutchman's mine would have likely been little more than a footnote in Arizona history as one of hundreds of "lost mines" rumored to be in the American West. Ruth disappeared while searching for the mine in the summer of 1931. His skull – with two bullet holes in it – was recovered about half a year after he vanished, and the story made national news, sparking widespread interest in the Lost Dutchman's mine.

In a story that echoes some of the earlier tales, Ruth's son Erwin C. Ruth was said to have learned of the Peralta mine from a man called Pedro Gonzales (or Gonzalez). In about 1912, Erwin C. Ruth gave some legal aid to Gonzales, saving him from almost certain imprisonment. In gratitude, Gonzales told Erwin about the Peralta mine in the Superstition Mountains, even reportedly passing on some antique maps of the site (Gonzales claimed to be descended from the Peralta family on his mother's side). Erwin passed the information to his father Adolph, who had a long-standing interest in lost mines and amateur exploration. In fact, the elder Ruth had fallen and badly broken several bones while seeking the lost Pegleg mine in California; he had metal pins in his leg, and used a cane to help him walk.

In June 1931, Ruth decided to finally try and locate the lost Peralta mine. After traveling to the region, Ruth stayed several days at the ranch of Tex Barkely and prepared for his expedition. Barkely repeatedly urged Ruth to abandon his search for the mine: the treacherous terrain of the Superstition Mountains could be difficult for experienced outdoorsmen, let alone for the semi-lame, 66-year-old Ruth.

However, Ruth ignored Barkely's advice, and set out for a two week stint in the mountains. Ruth did not return as scheduled, and no trace of him could be found after a brief search. In December, 1931, The Arizona Republic reported on the recent discovery of a human skull in the Superstition Mountains. To determine if the skull was Ruth's, it was examined by Dr. Aleš Hrdlicka, a well-respected anthropologist who was also lent several photos of Ruth, along with Ruth's dental records. As Curt Gentry writes, "Dr. Hrdlicka positively identified the skull as that of Adolph Ruth. He further stated, after examining the two holes [in the skull], that it appeared that a shotgun or high-powered rifle had been fired through the head at almost point-blank range, making the small hole when the bullet entered and the large hole when it exited".

In January, 1932, human remains were discovered about three-quarters of a mile (1.21 km) from where the skull was found. Though the remains had been scattered by scavengers, they were undoubtedly those of Ruth: many of Ruth's personal effects were found at the scene, including a pistol (which was not missing any shells) and the metal pins used to mend his broken bones. But the map to the Peralta mine was said to be missing.

Tantalizingly, Ruth's checkbook was also recovered, and proved to contain a note written by Ruth, wherein he claimed to have discovered the mine and gave detailed directions. Ruth ended his note with the phrase "Veni, vidi, vici.

Authorities in Arizona did not convene a criminal inquest regarding Ruth's death. They argued that Ruth had likely succumbed to thirst or heart disease (though, as Gentry writes, "[o]ne official went so far as to suggest that [Adolph Ruth] might have committed suicide ... While this theory did not ignore the two holes in the skull, it did fail to explain how Ruth had managed to remove and bury the empty shell, then reload his gun, after shooting himself through the head. Blair notes that the conclusion of Arizona authorities was rejected by many, including Ruth's family, and also "those who held onto the more romantic murdered-for-the-map story".

Blair writes that "the national wire services picked up the story [of Ruth's death] and ran it for more than it was worth", possibly seeing the mysterious story as a welcome reprieve from the bleak news that was otherwise typical of the Great Depression.

Other deaths and disappearances

Since Ruth's death, there have been several other allegedly mysterious deaths or encounters in the Superstition Mountains, but it's unclear how many of these can be regarded as reliably reported.

  • In the mid-1940s, the headless remains of prospector James A. Cravey were reportedly discovered in the Superstition Mountains. He'd allegedly disappeared after setting out to find the Lost Dutchman's mine.
  • In his 1945 book about the Lost Dutchman's mine, Barry Storm claimed to have narrowly escaped from a mysterious sniper he dubbed "Mr. X". Storm further speculated that Adolph Ruth might have been a victim of the same sniper.

The mine in fiction

"The Death's-Head Mine" (2001), admittedly inspired by the legend of the Peraltas, their fabulous gold mine and its destruction by the Apaches, it tells the story of a fortune in gold and three generations of men who rode at adventure to el norte.

The MacGuffin in the Sherlock Holmes novel Sherlock Holmes and the Crosby Murder by Barrie Roberts is a map to the mine. According to this story it is being kept secret by the Apaches, who fear the area may become a boomtown.

In a Scrooge McDuck story by Don Rosa, McDuck was given a map of the "Peralta Mine" by Jacob Waltz in 1890. However, because Scrooge then believed the Lost Dutchman to be a real Dutchman rather than a German, he didn't believe the map to be real and only kept it because it was written on the back of a poster about his Uncle Angus's wild west show. Once he tells the story to Huey, Dewey, and Louie and one of them confirms Waltz to be the so-called Lost "Dutchman", he goes to Arizona with them and Donald Duck to find the gold and finds it, but learns it belongs to Pima Indians. Scrooge gets $10 million dollars as reward.

Dr. Scott Simmerman of Performance Management Company developed a board game loosely based on the myth of Jacob Waltz that sets up a 20-day (2 minutes each) team building program that has been used since 1993 for organizational development. The exercise, called The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, has a theme of tabletops working together to "mine as much gold as we can." The exercise is about collaboration, but most teams choose to compete, making for an interesting debriefing.

The adventure game, Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine is based loosely around the myth of the Lost Dutchman's Gold; the protagonist, Al Emmo, sets out to locate the mine and recover its riches for "Rita Peralto". Another computer game, Lost Dutchman Mine, was released for the Amiga, Atari ST and DOS computers in 1989.

The 1949 movie Lust for Gold, starring Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino, is about the search for the mine by Walz's grandson, played by William Prince. Most of the movie is a flashback in which Ford himself plays Jacob Walz. The Peralta Massacre is also depicted in a shorter flashback toward the beginning.

The 2006 thriller, 'Event', written by David Lynn Golemon, a former US Special Ops member, also references the lost mine and its discovery in the Superstition Mountains. Although, the discovery of the mines comes near the finale of the novel, the story is actually about the Roswell Incident of 1947 and a subsequent, second flying saucer crash some 50 years later.

The mine in music

"Dutchman's Gold" was a chart hit in 1960 for Walter Brennan.

"Superstition Gold" (1983) was inspired by the legend of the Lost Dutchman. Written by DoubleTake (twin brothers Dave Hage and Dennis Hage. It was the first known record album to use a treasure hunt technique where clues to find $10,000.00 in gold were "buried" inside the music. Additionally, the brothers wrote a companion book that humorously looked at the Lost Dutchman legend, called the "Official Goldbuster Guidebook".

References

External links

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