By Timothy Rawles / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
Arizona’s Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. The name sounds so mysterious and legendary. In fact, it’s both. And almost two centuries later the title still holds intrigue over explorers and followers of Pinal County history.
It all started in The Superstition Mountains which have today become a popular Arizona tourist attraction. Although it’s not clear how the mountains got their name, the most popular theory is that of mystery itself. Back in the 1860s farmers in the Salt River Valley were growing and cutting hay for the U.S. Army.
These ranchers heard stories from the Pima Native American tribe about an evil one named Hauk. The native Americans feared the mountains believing that Hauk’s spirit still walked the earth. The farmers took the Pima’s fear as superstition and hence the nickname was given.
According to the Lost Dutchman State Park website: “Pimas and ‘Apaches’ (some of whom may have been Yavapais) occupied parts of the region. However, the name ‘Apache’ came to be closely associated with the Superstitions, and the mountains became an Apache stronghold in the 1800s.”
Although the Apaches are often blamed for the bloodshed that would soon befall the Peralta family, it's always been a mystery and never been proven.
The Peralta family had mining rights to the area in the 1840s. The clan was becoming wealthy which quickly circulated around the mining community. They would travel back and forth to Mexico carrying huge amounts of gold.
In 1848, as they made their way back to Mexico with the precious metal, they were ambushed and all but three of the large party was killed. The spot of the slaughter is now known as the Massacre Grounds and the Superstitions were now cursed.
With the remaining members of the Peralta family now south of the border, rumors circulated about maps and first-hand experiences working the mine. Some treasure maps allegedly appeared over the years but mysteriously vanished when prospectors and treasure hunters inquired about them.
It’s also been said that some lucky explorers found the mine but met with disaster soon after and they couldn’t relocate it. This is how the legend of the “lost mine” began.
Thirty years later a man named Jacob Waltz and his fellow voyager Jacob Weiser were reported to have found it. Waltz was nicknamed the Dutchman even though he was of German descent. The two men worked the mine and according to legend hid some of their valuable loot in the Superstitions. Lore has it that some of that treasure is buried somewhere near Weaver’s Needle, a historic milestone.
Weiser was murdered, although no one knows for sure if it was the Apaches or by Waltz, “The Dutchman,” himself.
Waltz died in 1891 in Phoenix after failing health. His caregiver, Julia Thomas is said to have been told the location of the mine before Waltz died. But to this day the “lost mine” has not been found, and those who try never fare well. Some fall victim to foul play or are killed which perpetuates the theory of a mountain curse.
Over the last 70 years, Hollywood has taken interest in this story. The 1949 film Lust for Gold starring Glenn Ford as Jacob Waltz hit the silver screen.
The History channel is currently streaming a reality series called Secrets of the Lost Map which follows a team of explorers as they navigate the mountains armed with clues and maps looking for the $200 million prize.
For the casual traveler, The Lost Dutchman State Park is a place for hiking and observing the flora and fauna. The most popular attractions are the Peralta Trailhead, and the Peralta Canyon.
If you decide to visit the park, you are visiting one of the most legendary sites in all of Arizona. And whether or not you believe in the “curse,” keep in mind you might be walking near a treasure that has yet to be found.
For more information on The Lost Dutchman State Park visit their website.