For over 120 years treasure hunters have been searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. There are many questions regarding the mine. There is a common myth that it does not even exist, and is a dying man’s “last laugh”. My myth will be to either prove or disprove the question on could such a mine exist. This paper will look at evidence on the subject of the mine, as well as compare it to other “lost mines” so we can look into the idea of lost treasure and how that could affect the reality of the Lost Dutchman’s existence.
The legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine starts with a rich Spanish gold mine nestled in the Superstition Mountains near Flagstaff owned by a rich Spanish family with the name of Peralta. The Peralta’s supposedly refined the gold there, then transported it to Mexico for the crown. There are many theories, but one theory is that the Peralta’s mule train and mining crew were killed by Apaches in the Peralta Massacre for desecrating the home of their Thunder God. The Peralta’s survived, and on Miguel Peralta’s return to Mexico, he stopped at a bar in Arizona. A struggling German miner named Jacob Waltz had traveled across North America to mine in California. After his failing at mining in Arizona, he traveled to Missouri, where he gained his citizenship. He then went to Arizona to mine. At a bar in Arizona, his life and luck would change. He saved a man’s life who was about to die in a knife fight. That man was Miguel Peralta. Miguel gifted him his family’s secret map to the mine that was recorded on stone. These stones were called the Peralta Stones. These stones led Jacob Waltz to the mine in the Superstition Mountains. Jacob Waltz would travel to Flagstaff once or twice carrying large amounts of gold. He later turned to farming, while keeping his mine secret. He later died of pneumonia under the care of Julia Thomas. He told her the location of the mine, but neither she nor anyone since Jacob Waltz has been able to locate the mine. Jacob Waltz became known as the Lost Dutchman, even though he was of German descent.
With this information, we must first look at if these people are real, and would fit the description of the people in the story. Facts indicate that Jacob Waltz was real. Immigration records show that Jacob was born in Oberschwandorf, Wurttemberg, Germany in 18086. According to the records he arrived at New York on the ship Ville De Lyon on July 13, 1839. Jacob Waltz filed for and was naturalized for citizenship in 1848 in Natchez, Mississippi. Jacob Waltz died on October, 13, 1891 and is buried in Phoenix, Arizona. I found proof of his gold, in a receipt for 50 pounds of gold to his sister in Lawrence, Kansas1. I found Julia Thomas to be real as well. She apparently owned a business in Phoenix and is buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Phoenix. She owned a bakery/ice cream parlor in Phoenix. There are pictures of the bakery. I also found her marriage license to E.W. Thomas2. There are immigration records of the party that she looked for Waltz’s gold with. They were the Petrash family. I could not find any information on Miguel or any of the Peralta’s other than their cherished family stones, which have been found and dated back to an accurate date.
So why hasn’t anyone found the elusive gold mine in the Superstition Mountains? For starters, the mountain range is 250 square miles of steep terrain with jagged rocks, scorpions, rattlesnakes, cactuses, and high temperatures. You can imagine trying to scale around steep rocks in the desert heat while watching for rattlesnakes. Another reason is lack of information. There are countless maps and stories that tell the location of the mine. Everyone who has been able to exploit making a fake map for profit pretty much has. And since Jacob Waltz’s directions were handed down via word of mouth in a secretive fashion 124 years ago, the chance of using any sort of directions at all is a long shot. Not only that, but there are a handful of other mines in the Superstition Mountains. The Peralta Stones indicate up to 8 different mines in the Superstitions alone. There is a phrase on one of the stones that says, “I go 18 places.” suggesting that there could even be up to 18 mines or caches around the mountains.4 There has been many mines that have been found in and around the mountains. Geology may have changed and covered up the mine. Erosion is constantly changing the rock faces there, and earthquakes are to thank for much of the terrain change as well. Other than the Superstition’s menacing terrain, there is competition between treasure hunters, making a consensus on the mines whereabouts unlikely. There has been many mysterious deaths, mostly murders, in the mountains which many attribute to the Thunder God’s curse.
The Lost Dutchman’s Mine myth poses a concern for geologists as well. Geographically, the Superstition Mountains are not composed of rocks that would suitable for containing valuable ore. With that being said, there are other mines in and around the Superstition Mountains. There must be some reason for them being there. Jacob Waltz supposedly said that the mine was in a spot a miner wouldn’t think to look. If the mine were to be found who would even know that it wasn’t played out. Maybe Jacob Waltz had already taken all the gold.
Misconceptions about lost gold in the west definitely play into the magnitude of this myth. The fact that still, every year, hundreds of “Dutch hunters” travel into the rugged terrain known as the Superstitions to look for this mine. Lost mines have been found, but they are almost always played out and worth nothing. Some people spend their entire lives searching for lost treasure. In this case that lost treasure could be nothing more than a giant conspiracy theory. People look for treasure all across the west, and many have used that for exploitation. Many have possibly made stories to send treasure hunters on a wild goose chase. Looking for lost treasure in the West is usually someone’s wild pipe dream that never pays out. The truth is relying solely on someone’s word of mouth is never a good idea, especially when it comes to finding a mine over a vast expanse of land.
So, if we look at what we know, we can begin to grow our own assumptions on whether the mine’s existence is possible or not. From my research, I can show that there is proof that Jacob Waltz and Julia Thomas existed. I was not able to prove that Miguel or any of the Peralta’s were real, or that their precious family stones belonged to either them or Jacob Waltz. The stones were found in the mountains and fit the time period, but much information is to be desired regarding the relation to Waltz or Peralta. I described how hard it would be to find such a mine in the vast amount of land, and how easy it would be for such a mine to be concealed in its expanse. I have discussed how word of mouth has distorted and complicated the statement of the location and clues, and how anything related so should be discredited. Geology suggests that such a mine doesn’t exist, or at least in the Superstitions. Given the information that I have pieced together, I would say that the myth of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is definitely plausible, but would be difficult to confirm until it is actually found.
Author: Rye Kern
1Corbin, Helen “The Bible on the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine and Jacob Waltz: A Pioneer History of the Gold Rush” Wolfe Publishing Company, Prescott, Arizona, June, 2002 pg. 121
2 Corbin, Helen “The Bible on the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine and Jacob Waltz: A Pioneer History of the Gold Rush” Wolfe Publishing Company, Prescott, Arizona, June, 2002 pg. 126, 127
3Corbin, Helen “The Bible on the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine and Jacob Waltz: A Pioneer History of the Gold Rush” Wolfe Publishing Company, Prescott, Arizona, June, 2002 pg. 121, 122
Minnigerode, Fitzhugh L. “Lost Mines Exert Lure: In the Southwest Tales Persist of Vast Treasures Hidden in the Mountains” The New York Times. June 11th, 1939.
3Molnar, John “Treasure of the Thunder Gods.” The Toronto Star February 12th, 2000.
4Kesselring, Robert L. “Peralta Stones Map and the Stone Crosses” Desert USA, website
5Unknown. “Jacob Waltz the originator of the Lost Dutchman Mine” Under the Hill Saloon, July 27th, 2003
6Unknown. “The Search for Jacob Waltz” Americandownunder.com, website
7Safko, Lon S. “Strange Conversation.” No Title August 27th, 2004