You can't visit the Superstition Mountains without hearing many legends. The most famous of these is the story of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. (I know this is rather long but I was so fascinated with the story I couldn't cut it any shorter.) At the left are some of the treasure maps to the lost mine that are at the Museum.
The first man to discover the gold of the Indians on Superstition Mountain was Don Miguel Peralta. He discovered a vein of rich gold here in 1845 while searching for the treasure described to Coronado.Before he returned to Mexico for men and supplies with which to excavate the gold, he memorized the surrounding territory. He described the mountain’s most outstanding landmark as looking like a “sombrero”; thus he named the mine the “Sombrero Mine”.To others, the peak, or spire, looking more like a finger pointing upwards and it has also been referred to as the “Finger of God”... except to early white explorer Pauline Weaver. He used the rock as a place to etch his name with a knife and subsequent prospectors discovered the etching and dubbed the landmark “Weaver’s Needle”. The name stuck and nearly every reference to the lost mine uses the Needle as a point of origin.Peralta returned to Mexico and gathered men and material to work the mine. Soon, he was shipping millions of pesos in pure gold back to Sonora. It was obvious that this was a gold strike like no other.
Meanwhile, the Apache were angry over the Spanish presence on the mountain and in 1848, raised a large force to drive Peralta and his men from the area. Peralta soon got word of the impending fight and withdrew his men from the mine. They would pack up all of the available burros and wagons with the already mined ore and return home. Because he planned to return someday, Peralta took elaborate precautions to conceal the entrance to the mine and to wipe out any trace that they had ever worked there. Early the next day, he assembled his men and prepared to move out.... but they never had a chance. Taken by surprise, the Apache warriors attacked and massacred the entire company of Spaniards. The pack mules were scattered in all directions, spilling the gold and taking it with them as they plunged over cliffs and into ravines.
For years after, prospectors and soldiers discovered the remains of the burros and the rotted leather packs that were still brimming with raw gold.The area, dubbed “Gold Field” became a favorite place for outlaws and get-rich-quick schemers, who spent days and months searching for the lost gold.
The next discoverer of the Peralta mine was a man named Dr. Abraham Thorne. He was born in East St. Louis, Illinois and all of his life, longed to be a doctor to the Indians in the western states. Early in his life, he was befriended by the frontier legend, Kit Carson, and when Fort McDowell was founded in Arizona in 1865, he arranged for Thorne to become an army doctor with an officer’s rank.At this time, fighting between the whites and the Apache was often fierce. The Indians were being besieged by the Army but it would not be long before cooler heads would prevail and President Abraham Lincoln would create a compromise in the area. He proposed a reservation along the Verde River, near Fort McDowell, which could serve as a sanctuary for the Apache.
It was here, in an area known unofficially as the “Strip”, where Thorne came to live and work amongst the Indians. He soon made many friends and earned respect from the tribal leaders, caring for the sick and injured, delivering babies and teaching hygiene and waste disposal. In 1870, a strange incident would take place in Dr. Thorne’s career. Several of the elders in the tribe came to him with a proposal. Because he was considered a good man and a friend of the Apache, they would take him to a place where he could find gold. The only condition would be that he was to be blindfolded during the journey of roughly 20 miles. Dr. Thorne agreed and the Indians placed a cloth around his head and over his eyes. They led him away on horseback and at the end of the journey, the cloth was removed and he found himself in an unknown canyon. He would later write that he saw a sharp pinnacle of rock about a mile to the south of him. Treasure hunters believe this was most likely Weaver’s Needle. There was no sign of a mine, but piled near the base of the canyon wall (as if placed there for him) was a stack of almost pure gold nuggets. He picked up as much of it as he could carry and returned home. He later sold the ore for $6,000 and became another strange link in the mystery of the mine’s location.
We should clear up one popular misconception about Jacob Walz (or Waltz) and it’s that he was not a “Dutchman”. He was actually from Germany and born there in the early 1800’s. He came to America in 1845 and soon heard about the riches and adventure that were waiting in the frontier beyond New York. His first gold seeking took him to a strike in North Carolina and from there he traveled to Mississippi, California and Nevada... always looking for his elusive fortune. Walz worked the gold field of the Sierra Nevada foothills for more than ten years, never getting rich, but turning up enough gold to get along. By 1868, he was in his fifties and wondering if he was ever going to find his proverbial “mother lode”.
The Indians had nick-named him “Snowbeard” because of his long, white whiskers and it isn’t hard to picture him as one of those grizzled old prospectors who were so common in western films.That same year, Walz began homesteading in the Rio Satillo Valley, which is on the northern side of Superstition Mountain. Soon after he arrived, he began to hear stories from the local Indians about supernatural doings around the mountain, about a fierce god... and about vast deposits of gold.
Most stories about Jacob Walz say that he spent the next 20 years of so prospecting for gold around the Arizona Territory. He often worked for wages in other men’s mines while he searched from his own fortune. It was during one of these jobs that he met Jacob Weiser and the two “Dutchman” struck out on their own and vanished into the land around Superstition Mountain. Not long after, they were seen in Phoenix paying for drinks and supplies with gold nuggets. There have been a number of stories about how the men found the “lost” mine. The most accepted version of the story is that they were given a map to the mine by a Mexican don whose life they saved. The man was said to have been Don Miguel Peralta, the son of a rich landowner in Sonora, Mexico and a descendant of the original discoverer of the mine. The Dutchmen saved Peralta from certain death in a knife fight and as a reward, he gave them a look at the map to the mine. He was later said to have been bought out of the mine by Walz and Weiser.
At some point in the years that followed, Jacob Weiser disappeared without a trace. Some say that the Apaches killed him, while others maintain that Walz actually did him in. (As you can see, there is a lot of speculation to the legend). But Walz was always around, at least part of the time. Long periods would go by when no one would see him and then he would show up in Phoenix again, buying drinks with gold nuggets. It was said that Walz had the richest gold ore that anyone had ever seen and for the rest of his life, he vanished back and forth to his secret mine, always bringing back saddlebags filled with gold.
Whenever anyone tried to get information out of him, he would always give contradictory directions to where the mine was located. On many occasions, men tried to follow him when he left town, but Walz would always shake his pursuers in the rugged region around the mountain. By the winter of 1891, an old Mexican widow named Julia Elena Thomas, who owned a small bakery in Phoenix, befriended the aged miner. Apparently, they became romantically involved and Walz promised to take her to his secret mine “in the spring”.... but she never saw it. The Dutchman died on October 25, 1891 with a sack of rich gold ore beneath his deathbed.
Immediately after word reached town about Jacob Walz’s death, a number of men who had heard the Dutchman speak of the mine over the years rode out for the mountain in search of the mystery. They never found it... and in fact, two of the prospectors, Sims Ely and Jim Bark, spent the next 25 years searching in vain for what they called “The Lost Dutchman Mine”.The search has since fueled more than a century of speculation. Theories as to the mine’s location have filled dozens of books and pamphlets. Literally hundreds of would-be prospectors have searched the Superstition Mountain region and most have come home with little more than sunburns......
But there are also many who have not come home at all.
But there are also many who have not come home at all.
There is no way to guess just how many people have died in pursuit of the Lost Dutchman Mine. Some who have disappeared may have just quietly slipped away, unwilling to admit that they failed to find the treasure.... while others may have gone in secretly and never came out, their names recorded as a missing persons case somewhere. The death toll of the legendary Peralta Massacre varies between 100 to 400, plus there are the murders attributed to the Dutchman, Jacob Walz himself. He is alleged to have killed at least two men who found his treasure trove and is blamed for the death of his partner, Jacob Weiser, and others. There are also a number of people who were slain by the Apaches after they were found searching the mountain for the mine. .