Of Golden Dreams and Humbugs

 (It's this edition of Curt Gentry's book that I have in my possession marked up with many hand-written notes and drawings from an old timer.)

My friend and small-scale gold mining veteran "Rattlesnake" Jim made a highly interesting comment on one of the posts in my series on Arizona's golden past. I'm going to discuss Jim's premise in greater detail here and lay out a few thoughts I'm certain will infuriate those "true believers" in that will-o-the-wisp known as the Lost Dutchman Mine.


As a long-time treasure hunter as well as a small-scale gold miner I've researched and studied many tall tales related to gold mining. The legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine in Arizona's Superstition Mountain wilderness area is one of those. If you don't know about this particular treasure legend of lost gold I suggest you get online and read its history since I'm not going to rehash that ground here. Some of you may find it interesting that I even have in my possession hand-written notes and drawings inside a copy of Curt Gentry's book on the subject that I picked up in an old bookstore back in the early 1980s. These notes and diagrams were scattered throughout the book's pages and on the inside of its front and back covers and are highly interesting. In fact, I'm sure most Lost Dutchman fanatics would love to get their hands on these notes and drawings, because they contain assertions that might lead them to Jacob Waltz's (supposed) rich gold find in the Superstitions. The old timer who wrote and drew in my book copy states unequivocally that he and he alone knows where the gold is in the Superstitions and even has drawn over some of the photos in the book pointing the way to his "mine." This unnamed old timer evidently wrote (and drew) all this stuff for a younger male relative who apparently was about to start his own search for Waltz's gold in the Superstitions because the old timer warns him in the book's front piece about the dangers involved. Anyway, I know I digress somewhat here but thought I'd throw this into the mix.

(Jacob Waltz, the "Dutchman," in his younger years.)

Not Conducive to Gold Formation

"Rattlesnake" Jim holds that Waltz's rich gold ore might have come from the Vulture Mine near Wickenburg. Remember, the Vulture was probably the richest lode gold strike in Arizona's mining history. Descriptions of the rich gold ore passed off to local merchants in Phoenix by Jacob Waltz are very close to the photo of Vulture ore I posted. Here's one thing to consider in all this. The Superstition Mountains are about 50 miles east of Phoenix, Arizona (where Waltz sold his ore and later died in 1891) and Wickenburg and the Vulture Mine are about 65 miles to the northwest. So, as you can see, they are very close in the distance Waltz would have to travel to get more of his rich gold-in-quartz ore. It's quite possible that Waltz high-graded ore from the Vulture Mine or, alternately, had stumbled upon a smaller ledge or blowout in the Wickenburg area that carried similar ore. After all, as you've already learned, the Rich Hill and Wickenburg areas were (and remain) highly mineralized for precious metals. On the other hand, I've not come across one shred of scientific evidence that shows any real gold mineralization within the Superstitions themselves. In fact, I can't think of one U.S. Geological Bulletin that emphatically states that the Superstition Mountains are suitable for the formation of any great measure of gold, placer or lode. The geology of the Superstitions is simply not conducive to the formation of gold. If there were (historically speaking) large deposits of gold or rich veins in the Superstitions those would've been mined relentlessly by the old timers, just as Rich Hill and the Vulture were. It's simple logic. Yet there were never any real prospecting or mining activities in the Superstitions UNTIL the lost Dutchman Mine legend emerged. Go figure.

 (A purported piece of Waltz's rich ore.)

Time and Distance

On the other hand, the Wickenburg area is just the opposite from a geological standpoint. Granted, some gold mineralization can be found further south and east of the Superstitions but the historical record does not point out any extremely rich areas of ore on par with the chunks of gold-in-quartz that Jacob Waltz sold in Phoenix or showed to those around him at the time. It's said that Waltz would disappear from Phoenix for anywhere from two-three days to a week or more before returning to the city to sell his "finds." It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce the reason for these trips or the possible location(s) he was traveling to. It's all about time and distance. Another possibility is that Waltz stumbled upon old mine workings or a stash of ore that were the result of the Peralta family's mining efforts near the Salt River or at other locations some distance from the Superstitions. It's a well-known fact that the Peraltas came up from Mexico and mined gold in Arizona long before Jacob Waltz ever came on the scene. The Peraltas faced extreme difficulties in their mining efforts just as the Anglo miners did who arrived in Arizona later on. Large on this list of difficulties were the Apache Indians. It's my contention, right or wrong, that Waltz gathered up rich gold ore at some location within a few days travel from Phoenix, but it sure as hell wasn't the Superstition Mountains. The Lost Dutchman Mine is one of the biggest will-o'-the-wisps to ever come down the pike. It's total bunk in my mind. This is my angle on this particular legend and I'll maintain it despite all the books written to the contrary, the glassy eyed legions of true believers, and all the exploration, prospecting, and deaths associated with these activities in the Superstitions. As an additional note, even the most hardcore believers in the Lost Dutchman and tons of rich gold ore hidden in the Superstition Mountains are shit out of luck anyway. Even if all they believe in so fanatically is true, they'd play hell getting it out. You see, the Superstitions are now a state recreation and off limits to treasure hunting and mining activities.

(A Peralta "treasure" map...one of many out there.)

A Kernel of Truth?

It's true that golden dreams die hard. The Lost Dutchman is a classic example of this. So after I publish this post I can sit back and await the inevitable attacks via e-mail and blog commentary from the hard-core true believers out there. It happens every time I broach this subject and state my perspective. Am I absolutely correct in my denial of the existence of this legend? Of course not. But it helps in these sorts of things to apply more logic and less emotion. Do I believe that a kernel of truth exists in every treasure tale or legend? Yes, I do. In the case of the Lost Dutchman that kernel of truth is the fact that Jacob Waltz DID get his grubby hands on high-grade gold ore. But I'll bet you dollars to donuts that ore DID NOT come from the Superstition Mountains and I wouldn't waste one dollar or a minute of my time chasing down a humbug as big as this legend. And what about the old timer who marked up my Comstock edition of Curt Gentry's book, The Killer Mountains? He makes some interesting points, but in the end he didn't strike it rich in the Superstition Mountains either. Otherwise, why would he be guiding and warning his young relative in those mark ups?

There it is...

(c) Jim Rocha 2016

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. Hello JR, I've been gone guiding hunters and haven't read your Arizona gold posts yet. This one how ever is kinda fun. I think most of these "lost treasure" stories were dreamed up over a few drinks in a bar somewhere to impress gullible folks and get them to buy the story teller a few free drinks. Some of course are true, at least partly. They had a TV show about this not long ago that was kind of fun to watch. At least more so than some stupid sit-com with that damn laugh track. What ruined the show for me though, was that their so called "expert" lives right here in Salmon,Idaho. A long ways from Arizona. I know the guy well and I don't think too highly of his "skills".
    Your book is interesting. If it were me, I'd take a camping trip out that way and check it out. Not with high hopes of finding the mine, but just in the interest of curiosity and exploration of new country. Fun is fun, even if you don't strike it rich! If you don't expect to find anything anyway, you win when you find some place you have never been to before. Gary


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