All that glitters is not gold. -English proverb
Everyone loves a mystery.
What if the treasure promises gold? Lots of it. So shiny and valuable. sigh
Veins, nuggets, scales, or grains. We love it all. Gold is valuable and highly sought after. We use it for coins, jewelry, art, and industry. While it is widely distributed in nature, it’s usually in such small amounts it’s not worth extracting.
This article is about a missing treasure of gold. Or it could just be a myth, we don’t really know. But it is one of the most popular lost treasure stories in America. The legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine.
Many have dedicated time and resources pursuing the lost treasure. Others have lost their lives. Now, I love a good lost treasure story as much as anyone, but that is quite extreme.
(If you want to read more about solving mysteries and puzzles, see related: The secrets of puzzles)
So what is all the buzz about? Read on to find out.
Basic Facts about the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine
Who is the “Dutchman”?
Jacob Waltz, also known as Jacob Walzer or Jacob Walz. He was a German, not actually “Dutch” but “Deutsch”, born around 1810. He immigrated to the United States around 1850 and eventually became a naturalized citizen. After roving about America for a few years, he ended up in Arizona around 1863. He stayed for the remainder of his life.
What is the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine?
Jacob Waltz allegedly found gold and took the secret of the location to his grave.
Where is this “lost mine”?
In the Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix, Arizona.
Why is it a big deal?
It’s a lost treasure! The legend includes gold, murder, cryptic maps, and clues. It is irresistible.
A nice introductory video from Arizona State Parks…
Legend surrounding the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine
There is complexity surrounding the lore of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. Most of the “facts” have just been stories passed on from person to person with little verifiable evidence. As you can imagine, the stories have evolved over the years. Whether it was originally based on fact or something completely fabricated, I doubt any of it resembles the truth anymore.
There have also been opportunists trying to make a buck on the story. Journalists trying to break the big story. “Entrepreneurs” selling secrets and maps. The list goes on. I present a few aspects for you to ponder when trying to make sense of the legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine.
The Superstition Mountains are in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona about 35 miles east of Phoenix. The area was formed from the buildup, collapse, and erosion of millions of years of volcanic activity. The rocks consist of tuff, breccia, granite, dacite, basalt, and conglomerate.
Geologists and miners will tell you that lava rock doesn’t hold potential for big deposits of gold. A previous survey done by the U.S. Bureau of Mines pronounced the area non mineralized. There is a slight possibility of “chimney” mines which is when volcanic vents fill with minerals outside of the volcanic rock. As humans know, Mother Nature does what she wants.
It has been stated, however, that the eastern half of the Superstition Mountains may have more potential for minerals. Most legends of the lost mine refer to the western lava-rock side. All this talk aside, there has been gold found in the area. Hmmm.
Peralta family ties
This story has many variations, this is just one version.
The link to the Mexican family of Don Miguel Peralta begins with land. The story is that he was given a 5 million acre land grant from the King of Spain and vested with the title “Baron of the Colorados.” The land contained parts of Arizona and New Mexico, including the Superstition Mountains.
The story continues that the Peralta family found and mined gold in the Superstition Mountains. Mining operations were going well, but there were increasing problems with the local Apache Indians. Deciding to stop traveling through the area, they decided to make one last trek.
They took many men with them to carry back as much fortune as possible. They were returning to Mexico with their haul when, according to legend, the Apaches intervened. The Peralta crew were all killed. All except for 2 of the Peralta children, Ramon and Miguel Junior, who escaped. Following the “Peralta Massacre,” the Apaches threw all the gold back into a mine.
Miguel Junior then befriended Jacob Waltz through a card game cheating scandal. Miguel Junior then told Jacob Waltz about the mine. Seeing as Miguel Junior never wanted to return to the mine, he made a deal with the Dutchman. Miguel Junior gave him the mine as payment for helping him with one last extraction of gold from the mine.
This all makes for a nice story. However, there is never any evidence that the Peraltas were ever in the Superstition Mountains. Or of the massacre. Also, the grant of land from the King of Spain? One of the biggest fraud cases ever brought to the United States courts.
The Peralta Stones are 3 sandstone slabs and 1 quartz heart-shaped stone. The stones have engravings on them. Many have thought they may be linked to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. However, many things about the stones point to the fact that they are a hoax.
The questionable nature of the stones begin with numerous unverifiable stories of origin. Experts believe the rocks were milled with modern equipment before they were inscribed. The smooth and uniform inscription was obviously made using modern tools, not hammer and chisel. The language and lettering is not colonial Spanish. The geometric shape of the heart rock wasn’t even used in the colonial Spanish culture.
As for dating the stones, there was a claim that an expert had dated the stones to over one hundred years old. Conveniently, the “expert” wasn’t able to be found to verify their claim. Also, dating rock and rock art is extremely difficult especially recent history. The error alone nullifies the estimate.
Needless to say, the Peralta Stones are just a dreamed up moneymaking scheme. Anyone seriously attempting to make sense of all the hype should steer clear of anything Peralta Stones related.
Mine or cache
When you are looking for something, it is helpful to know what you are looking for, right? In the case of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, no such help is available. There is debate as to whether the lost mine is truly a naturally occurring mine or merely a cache of previously excavated gold.
Several factors in the debate:
• The area is not geologically likely to contain a large gold mine.
• If the gold was the Peralta gold, it may have already been excavated when found. Thus it would be a cache.
• There have been accusations that Jacob Waltz was a thief. Stories have him being fired from the Vulture Mine for suspicion of gold theft. If this is true, perhaps the cache is stolen goods.
• He supposedly left cryptic clues alluding to a cache.
Claims of discovery
Since we don’t really know exactly where or what the mine is, we won’t really know when someone finds it. It isn’t like there will be a plaque in it displaying “Home of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine” or anything.
IF it exists, perhaps it has already been found. There have been up to several declarations a year claiming they found it. Most claim it is exactly where the Dutchman said it would be. Where is the proof, you say? Well unfortunately, the mine was worked out. In mining terms that means it costs more money to get the gold out than it is worth. Possibly true and possibly fiction, but definitely a good story.
Of course, some say they have found the mine still full of riches. They are more than happy to sell you a map so you can go seek your treasure. They may also offer to sell you shares of the development of the mine. How nice of them to share their spoils with us complete strangers, huh?
Maps or rock art
The area of the Superstition Mountains had been inhabited before Europeans “discovered” it.
Before the Apache were the Pimas, the Maricopas, and the Papagos. Before them were the Hohokam and the Salado. Before them, there were nomadic bands of people passing through the area. You can see the evidence of these cultures in the landscape.
Many gold prospectors have imagined that the ancient rock art left by these groups are maps. Maps to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine left by the Peralta family or others. Make of that what you will.
The words of a dying man
We don’t know a lot about Jacob Waltz. The stories can’t even get his name straight. We know he was born in Germany and found his way to America. He moved around trying his hand at mining. Some paint him as a recluse and others as a drunk, but that is just speculation. He died of pneumonia around 1891.
Since there was no evidence of the mine, what we do know of the lost mine is based on what he said. The things that he did say were quite obscure. It is unknown if he was intentionally telling tales or was just a poor communicator. I imagine that it probably is hard to give good directions with no permanent landmarks and seemingly endless similar terrain. But the clues he left are fascinating to prospectors, professional and amateurs alike.
One of the people privy to his clues was Julia Thomas. She cared for him until his death. The rumored relationship ranges from friends to lovers. Here are his deathbed statements made to her regarding the mine:
• It is an 18 inch vein of rose quartz heavily impregnated with gold nuggets.
• There is a second vein of hematite quartz with 1/3 of it pure gold.
• A mile from his hideout cave there was a rock with a natural face looking east.
• To the south was Weaver’s Needle.
• Follow the right of 2 canyons, but not far.
• The mine faces west.
• As certain times of the year the sinking sun shines between two high ridges and the gold shines.
There are other clues that he supposedly gave. These may be other versions of what he told Julia Thomas or something he told his drinking buddies at the saloon.
• It was the richest mine in the world.
• One could not find the mine without finding the cache. One can’t find the cache without finding the mine.
• It is extremely rough terrain and one could be almost on top of it without seeing it.
• No experienced prospector would look here.
• It was within sight of Weaver’s Needle (or he had to climb up to see the Needle)
• The entrance was concealed.
• He could see the “military trail” from Fort McDowell through the mountains, but the mine could not be seen from the trail.
• The main entrance was funnel-like with a vertical shaft following the vein down with an added tunnel as an alternative entrance that had been closed up.
• There were old treetrunk ladders inside the shaft.
• Above the mine was a cliff like a horse’s head.
• A paloverde tree with one limb pointed directly to the mine.
• There was slab of lava rock with a hole through it which one could look directly at the mine.
• Across the ravine and facing the east is a rock shaped like a face that looks down on the mine.
• Across the ravine from the mine there is a cave.
• It is a short climb to the top of the mountain from which the tip of a tall, sharp peak can be seen to the south.
• Go to the head of a deep, narrow north-south canyon. The canyon with the ruins of a stone house at its head.
Make sense of that? Even if one or many of the clues were true, there was an earthquake in 1887 that altered the landscape. So perhaps the clues are meaningless afterall.
As I mentioned earlier, legend tells of the Peralta Massacre. Since the times of the Jacob Waltz, there has been violence associated with the mine. One story even has Jacob Waltz himself shooting his alleged partner Jacob Wiser.
There are stories of gold hunters being shot at while in the mountains. I don’t know if the stories incent or scare potential prospectors. Those hungry enough may rationalize that there wouldn’t be a threat if there wasn’t anything to hide.
I do believe unexpected things happen in the Superstitions. It is an extreme environment. If you have people inexperienced in that climate, they could run into trouble. So it isn’t a surprise that some unexplained things occur. But who knows, if people are desperate enough they can do crazy things. Money is a powerful motivator. Or as some believe, perhaps the area is just cursed.
Local economic interests
There is more than a little incentive for the local community to nurture the mystery surrounding the lost mine. In 2016, the area will celebrate the 52nd annual Lost Dutchman Days. The multiple day celebration activities range from a rodeo and parade to a dance.
It isn’t just a few days that celebrate the lore of the area. Ghost towns, museums, and restaurants all incorporate the culture of the gold mining days. Of course, it is all good, clean fun. But there is real money being spent and made here. I can’t say that I blame the locals for taking advantage of an opportunity when they see it.
Visiting tourists love it. It was great fun when I visited the area, especially because that climate was so new to me. Just use your head when you open your wallet or decide to enter the mountains. People often have to be rescued from failed mountain excursions. Eek!
What would you do?
Does the thrill of the hunt call to you? Do you believe any of these legends or clues? If so, which ones? If you want to learn more, please you the Resources section at the end of the article. There is a lot of good information there.
Given the opportunity, would you spend some time looking for a treasure of any kind? The Lost Dutchman Gold Mine is just one of many hidden treasures in the world. There are others that even have reliable details.
It is fun just to think about it. What would it feel like to make such a find? What would you do with the treasure once you found it? Does the thought of a found treasure or a scientific discovery thrill you more?
Personally, I would rather make a find related to scientific discovery. How it would help our understanding would be great, plus naming rights! What a legacy. Also, you hear about how winning the lottery ruins people’s lives.
(See Related: How the Lucy fossil and others can help us today)
Let me know how you feel about it in the comments.
Black, Harry G. The Lost Dutchman Mine: A Short Story of a Tall Tale. Boston: Branden, 1975. Print.
Conatser, Estee. The Sterling Legend; the Facts behind the Lost Dutchman Mine. Dallas: Ram Pub., 1972. Print.
Gold quotes from Notable Quotes.
Jacob Waltz “Lost Dutchman” Exhibit from Superstition Mountain Museum
Jennings, Gary. The Treasure of the Superstition Mountains. New York: W.W. Norton, 1973. Print.
Lost Dutchman’s Mine from Apache Junction public library
Lost Dutchman State Park from Arizona State Parks
Penfield, Thomas. Dig Here!: Lost Mines & Buried Treasure of the Southwest. Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited, 2004. Print.
Peralta Stones and Lost Dutchman Gold Mine from DesertUSA
The Lost Dutchman Gold Mine from Skeptoid.com
The Lost Dutchman gold mine found? from UnexplainedMysteries.com
The Lost Dutchman Mine: One of America’s most haunting mysteries from PrairieGhosts.com
The Lost Dutchmans Gold Mine (DOCUMENTARY) from Youtube
Wikipedia contributors. “Gold.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 12 Oct. 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.