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Searching for the Gold of the Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains

Searching for The Gold of the Lost Dutchman Mine in Superstition Mountain

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The Lost Dutchman Mine is said to be a rich goldmine located somewhere in the southwestern American state of Arizona. Generally speaking, this mine is claimed to be situated in the Superstition Mountains, described by one source as “a collection of rough terrain that has gained the name of a single mountain” which lies to the east of Phoenix, the Arizonan capital.

For some, the Lost Dutchman Mine is just a myth, one that perhaps grew over time until it defied belief. Others hold a firm belief in the existence in this mine. Using the clues found in various stories, many have attempted to seek out the lost mine, though it seems that none of the treasure seekers have found it yet. Some have even lost their lives in the pursuit of this treasure - leading to claims that the mine is cursed.

The Golden Legend Surrounding the Lost Dutchman Mine

There are many stories about the Lost Dutchman Mine, as they have been accumulating over the years. In one of these, the origin of the legend is traced back to the 16th century. It says that in 1540 a Spanish expedition to find the ‘Seven Golden Cities of Cibola’ was launched by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. The expedition is said to have arrived in the area of the Superstition Mountains, which was by the Apache Indians at that time inhabited. They learned from the natives that there was gold to be found on the mountains.

The Coronado Expedition 1540–1542.

The Coronado Expedition 1540–1542. (Public Domain)

The locals, however, refused to help them in their quest, as they believed that the mountains was the home of the Thunder God, and therefore sacred ground that could not be trespassed on. The Spanish were adamant, and went up the mountains, despite being warned that they would be punished by the god if they were to do so.

As they were exploring, the men began disappearing mysteriously one by one. They were later found dead, with their bodies mutilated, and decapitated. The remaining Spanish fled in fear and dubbed the mountains ‘Monte Supersticion’ (Superstition Mountain.’)

Spanish Francisco Vázquez de Coronado Expedition (1540 - 1542)

Spanish Francisco Vázquez de Coronado Expedition (1540 - 1542) (Public Domain)

The next part of the legend speaks of a Jesuit priest by the name of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, who is said to have arrived in the region around 150 years after de Coronado’s expedition. The priest’s objective was originally to establish missions and to Christianize the natives. However, when he heard about the gold in the Superstition Mountain, he too began searching for it. It seems that the priest did find gold, though it is unclear if it was from the fabled mine.

Peralta’s Family

In 1748, the area now known as Arizona (along with the Superstition Mountain) was given by Spain as a land grant to a Mexican cattle-baron by the name of Don Miguel Peralta of Sonora. The first official recording of the Dutchman Mine is found in this story.

In the next century, the Peralta family extracted gold from this mine. Over time, their activities on the Superstition Mountains angered the Apaches, who began attacking the goldminers. Eventually, the Peraltas stopped venturing onto the mountains, and all the maps and knowledge of the mine’s exact location were lost.

Nevertheless, news of the mine spread far and wide, attracting treasure hunters to the region. The Apaches dealt with them just as they had dealt with the Peralta family.

Apache Medical Payments a Mystery Mine

It seems that the Apache knew where the gold mine was located, as demonstrated by the next story. In this tale, a U.S. Army surgeon by the name of Dr. Abraham Thorne was taken to a mine by the Apache as a reward.

Thorne had been stationed in Fort McDowell, north of Phoenix, where he interacted, and was on friendly terms with the Apache. The doctor allegedly cured some Apaches of an eye disease, and they wanted to reward him. Thus, being blindfolded, the doctor was taken to a mine, where he was told to take as much gold as he could carry, which he did.

However, Thorne’s greed cost him his life, as years later, he would return for more gold on his own. Thorne managed to find the goldmine, as he had taken note of a strangely-shaped rock formation as his blindfold was removed. Although he managed to take the gold, he was killed by the Apache on his journey home.

The Superstition Mountains at night. (Leslie Rogers Ross /Adobe Stock)

Waltz and the Rise of the Lost Dutchman Mine Story

In the late 1860s, a German prospector by the name of Jacob Waltz settled in Arizona during the Gold Rush. According to one version of the story, Waltz met a man by the name of Peralta, who told him about his family’s mine, and gave him temporary deeds to it. Together with his partner, Jacob Weisner, Waltz began mining the gold.

Waltz left the mine to get more supplies, and when he returned, Weisner was found dead. Fearing for his own life, Waltz took as much gold as he could carry, covered everything up, and returned to Phoenix. It seems that he never returned to the mine, and he died in 1892.

Another variation of Waltz’s story is told by John Handley, “he ran across three Mexicans working a gold mine deep in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. With deadly force, he took the mine from them and lived off it until his death in 1891. But he never revealed the location of the fabulously rich mine he carefully concealed in the rugged mountains.”

Either way, following Waltz’s death the mine was called the Lost Dutchman Mine, as ‘Dutch’ and ‘Deutsch’ (German) are said to have been pronounced the same by English speakers in America.

One tale of the dangers associated with the Lost Dutchman Mine came from George Johnston, who searched for the treasure in the 1950s and worked for the Superstition Mountain — Lost Dutchman Museum. He told this story of one of his treasure seeking expeditions in the 1950s:

“I took my two boys on a hike into the Superstitions, hoping we could find the treasure. After a while, my son spotted somebody watching us. I kept seeing a reflection behind us from something metallic, like a rifle or pistol. I am sure somebody was stalking us. Folks had claims all over those mountains and would commonly fire warning shots to scare trespassers — or even now and then murder those they thought were seeking the Dutchman’s gold. Nobody went in unarmed.”

Nonetheless, the legends of this mine have continued to attract treasure seekers to the Superstition Mountains, some of whom have lost their lives in the quest for this elusive gold mine.

Top Image: Lost Dutchman State Park - Superstition Mountains at Sunset. Source: Craig Zerbe /Adobe Stock

By Wu Mingren


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Adrian Johnson's picture

Dan Welch, a mining engineer, after 15 years of searching and examining historical clues, has found the Lost Dutchman Mine near the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.  His website tells how he did it:  you may need to look up several geological terms, but the story of his search is fascinating. 

Adrian Johnson's picture

Dan Welch, a mining engineer, after 15 years of searching and examining historical clues, has found the Lost Dutchman Mine near the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.  His website tells how he did it:  you may need to look up several geological terms, but the story of his search is fascinating. 

I can tell you this much, as a treasure hunter, amateur with a metal detector and knowing of this story and so many others these places are highly guarded and you can get your kazoo shot off.

I live in Florida and there is most likely more treasure underground than above in this state.

Thanks for asking Veronica. The Superstitions are aka The Superstion Wilderness Area a part of the Tonto National Forest so any Apache guarding them are Federal park employees and there are probably at least a few. As far as any worthwile amounts of gold there it's highly questionable if there ever was any and since it's now a wilderness area we will probably never know. A few silver mines in the area were at one time were quite productive but very little gold.

so I guess my questions are - are there still Apache guarding the place ?
- does the government or state guard the place ?
- there is obviously gold there so if they don't guard it,  why not ? 
- who owns the land - Apache people ?


dhwty's picture


Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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