Superstition Gold and the Lost Dutchman Mine

Written by on November 8, 2009 in Southwest Legends - 1 Comment

The Superstition Mountains have always been shrouded in mystery. The Native Americans who inhabited the area said the mountains were the home of the Thunder God, who was said to protect a great treasure. Since the 4,000 foot cliffs of the Superstitions rise up out a flat plain and seem to breed thunderstorms, it is no wonder the Native Americans believed it to be the home of the Thunder God. The land was sacred and they refused to trespass there. Those who did were punished by the Thunder God. They never spoke of what great treasure the god protected, but it’s a good bet it was gold.

In the 1840s, when the land still belonged to Mexico, the Peralta family lived near Sonora, Mexico, but ranged all over the territory. Don Miguel Peralta was an extremely successful cattle rancher, with more than 500 people working for him. Legends say that his daughter seduced a man and then accused him of improper advances. The young man fled into the Superstition Mountains, where he supposedly stumbled upon a large gold deposit. He offered to take the two Native American trackers who were following him to the site. Both he and one of the trackers were killed while crossing a raging river swollen by rainwater. The third man made it back to tell the tale.

While there is no historical evidence to back up this tale, the Peralta family was said to have made many trips into the Superstitions and removed large quantities of gold. Don Miguel Peralta called it the Sombrero Mine — he was always able to remember the location because of the strangely shaped peak that reminded him of the pointed cone of a sombrero hat — a location that was probably near what today is called Weaver’s Needle. On the last trip, the Apache Indians, outraged by the invasion of these sacred lands, attacked the mining party. Two versions of the attack exist. In the first, the Peraltas were massacred except for one member who escaped to tell the tale. In the second version, there were two parties of miners, the Gonzales group and the Peralta group. In this version, the Apaches massacred the Gonzales group, while the Peralta group retreated to Goldfield Mesa and then rode to freedom carrying a fortune in gold, but they covered or buried the mine entrance before they left.

The next link in the mysterious gold chain is to Dr. Abraham Thorne. Thorne came West to Arizona with one purpose in mind, to be a doctor to the Native Americans. He was well respected by the Apache tribal leaders. One day, several tribal elders came t him and offered to lead him to a gold mine, but only if he agreed to ride blindfolded the whole way. This Thorne did and when the blindfold was removed, he found himself in a deep canyon. The only landmark was a sharp pinnacle of rock to the south (again, probably the volcanic plug of Weaver’s Needle). Thorne saw no mine entrance, but piled near the canyon wall was a heap of nearly pure gold nuggets. Thorne took as much as he could carry and eventually sold his windfall for $6,000.

And now we come to the Lost Dutchman Mine. In the 1870s, Jacob Waltz, a mining engineer, moved to Mesa with his Native American wife, Ken-Tee. People thought he was a Dutchman (from Holland), but he was, in fact, a Deutscheman (from Germany) — hence the mistaken name of the Lost Dutchman Mine. He and a partner, Jacob Weiser, spent a few years prospecting in the mountains without much success. Then their luck changed. According to the story, they had stopped in Arizpa, Mexico, to enjoy a fiesta that was taking place. They were watching a card game, in which a descendent of Don Miguel Peralta was playing. The game escalated to a fight during which Waltz and Weiser saved Miguel Peralta’s life. In gratitude, Peralta either drew them a map or led them to his father’s lost mine.

At some point, Weiser was killed by Apache Indians while his partner was away. After that, Waltz became paranoid, both about the Apache, and about anyone else finding the mine, which goes a long way to explaining why he never exploited it. Over the years, dozens of people tried to follow or make friends with Waltz, but he remained secretive and slipped away unnoticed from time to time to revisit the mine. Upon his deathbed, he gave directions to a woman (possibly his lover). He told her that the mouth of the mine could be found on the spot where the shadow of the tip of Weaver’s Needle touches the ground at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. Despite months of searching during all seasons, she never found the mine’s location.

It is very likely that the Peralta Mine and the Lost Dutchman Mine are one and the same, but that doesn’t explain the mystery of Goldfield.

Goldfield Hill was not that far from the site of the Peralta Massacre. Mining Prospector Charles Hall began looking around the area and began to question to the story about the Peraltas retreating to the mesa. He became convinced that the mesa was the site of the mine itself. After buying up the mineral rights, Hall sank a shaft vertically in the center of the mesa and found high-grade gold concentrate. Many people were convinced that Hall had found both the lost Peralta and the Lost Dutchman Mine and that the mystery had been solved.

Hall took millions of dollars in gold out of his Mammoth Mine, until the Thunder God exacted his revenge. One day a great storm blew up over the Superstitions, not an unusual event. However, this storm turned into the grandfather of all storms. Huge waves of water poured off the Superstition Mountains and crashed over the Mammoth Mine site, utterly destroying it. Hall didn’t bother to clean out the mine after the disaster — he made his fortune and was satisfied.

In a final chapter, fairly recently, a man by the name of Alfred Lewis stumbled upon a large boulder that covered the mouth of a tunnel. The bracing timbers were constructed of ironwood, worked in the way the Spanish fashioned and shaped ironwood in the 1800s. He and three partners bought the mining rights to the area. While clearing the tunnel, they found chunks of broken high grade ore, pointing to the fact that they had discovered both the Sombrero mine and the Lost Dutchman Mine. They took more than $40,000 in gold out of the mine until the shaft abruptly stopped. Deciding to push on, they broke through a wall of rock into another tunnel. It turned out to be one of the tunnels of the Mammoth Mine.

So was the Mammoth Mine also the lost Sombrero Mine and the lost Superstition Mine? Has the mystery been solved for years? If so, where did the nuggets presented to Dr. Thorne come from? Do the Apache yet maintain the secret of the Thunder God’s treasure? Many believe the Lost Dutchman Mine (and the Sombrero Mine) are still out there, not to mention vein of yet undiscovered gold.

Here’s where the real mystery arises. The Superstitions were formed by volcanic activity, but, according to geologists, not the kind that produces minerals like gold. So how and where did this amazing gold come from? In rare cases, a volcano may form a vent to the surface to allow gas to escape, and under the right conditions, once the vent begins to cool, minerals (like gold) can condense in the vent. This may be what brought gold into the area. So the question is, are there more of these unlikely vents out there?

Then again, maybe the Apaches are correct in their belief that the Thunder God placed the treasure there for safe keeping and his secret will remain safe forever.

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