Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

WORLD HISTORY | July 23, 2019

Superstition Mountain Range. Source: (Wikipedia)

With the exception of the Grand Canyon, the Superstition Mountains, located to the east of Phoenix, are the most painted and photographed landmark in Arizona. However, it isn’t just their beautiful scenery that attracts this attention. According to the legends, the mountain has a history which includes hidden treasure and murder.

Superstition Mountain is 3,000 feet tall volcanic peak which is believed to have formed from a seven-mile-wide caldera. The first European explorer to discover the mountain was the Italian missionary Fray Marcos de Niza who visited it in 1639. However, it wasn’t until the late 1860s, after the Pima Indians introduced the mountain to the Salt River Valley farmers, that it earned the name Superstition Mountain. The farmers named it that based on Pima stories derived from fear of the mountain.

The Weavers Needle rock column of Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

The story for which the Superstition Mountains gained their fame allegedly occurred in 1848. According to the legend, the Peralta family from Mexico was mining gold in the Superstition Mountains and stumbled upon a fortune in gold ore. Shortly after the end of the Mexican-American War, all but one member of the Peralta family was murdered by Apache warriors before they could extract the gold.

Grave site of Jacob Dutchman Waltz. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

The legend goes on to say that the surviving member of the Peralta family told a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz where the treasure was located. Around the same time, a doctor name Abraham Thorne was providing medical treatment to the Apache and they brought him to the burial site and awarded him with a stack of gold nuggets. However, he was blindfolded and therefore could not find his way back to the site later. According to the legend, Jacob Waltz and another man named Jacob Weiser were given a map to the treasure by the surviving member of the Peralta family after they saved his life. They allegedly began mining the gold before attracting the attention of the local community.

One of many maps to the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Source: (thelostdutchmangoldmine.com)

The tale later became known as the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, with Dutchman being an American term for German rather than a reference to the Dutch. The story has largely been dismissed by historians, despite a report of someone in 1912 discovering $18,000 worth of gold ore in the area where the Peralta family was allegedly murdered. This has not stopped people from searching for it though and many of the treasure hunters don’t make it out of the mountains alive.

View from the Flat Iron hiking trail. Source: (Everipedia.org)

One unfortunate treasure hunter was a man by the name of Adolph Ruth. Ruth disappeared in June of 1931, just days after heading into the mountains with a map to the mine. Rescuers set out to find him after he failed to return to camp, but all they found was a note he had written claiming to have found the mine. His skull was found in December of that year with two bullet holes in it. Then, in January, the rest of his remains were discovered but the map was missing. His murder was never solved.

In 2010, 35-year-old Jesse Capen from Denver, Colorado, set out in search of the mine. Like Ruth, he also disappeared. His body was later discovered wedged in a crevice where many believe he fell to his death. However, the cause of death was never officially determined.

Tags: arizona | Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine | Superstition Mountains

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