THE THE LOST DUTCHMAN MINE
Jacob Waltz in New York
(Sheriff Magazine, 1967)
Mountain Historical Society)
One year before the demise of the Peralta mining expedition, as if to answer
the call of some preordained destiny in Arizona’s history, a thirty-eight
year old German immigrant named Jacob Waltz stepped off a ship in a New
York harbor. The year was 1846 (Corbin). He was one of many fleeing economic
strife and poverty of his homeland in hopes of starting a new life in America.
Jacob Waltz was born in Oberschwandorf, Würtemburg, Germany in 1808
(or, 1810). His family were farmers by trade and while there are some accounts
that Waltz studied mining before coming to the United States, no documents
have been found to support this claim. However, mining was in Waltz’s
heart if not his formal training, for shortly after arriving in America
he left for the gold fields of Carolina and Alabama. These mines had, however,
long since played out by the time Waltz arrived on the scene. Not finding
any work to sustain himself, he began to drift westward.
By 1848, Jacob Waltz had made his way to Natchez, Mississippi where he
applied for naturalization as an American citizen in Adams County. Whether
his application lapsed or was declined is uncertain, but Waltz was not
granted naturalization at that time. His true yearning remained to find
a livelihood in mining, so when a cry echoed across the young country that
gold had been discovered in California, Waltz joined the rush. Some accounts
say Waltz went to San Francisco via Panama after taking a ship from New
Orleans. A more realistic theory suggests he hired onto a wagon train heading
for the California gold fields. By way of either route Jacob Waltz is documented
as being in California during the 1850’s, working as a miner for various
In 1861, Waltz again applied for naturalization, this time in Los Angeles
where his request would be accepted. Waltz could now file claims in his
own name and, eager to begin, he joined a group of prospectors heading
to the Bradshaw Mountains in the Arizona Territory. Although persistent
accounts claim that Waltz was an enlisted man during the Civil War (1860-1865),
this was not possible as there was not enough time between documents Waltz
signed in the Arizona Territory for him to have served a tour of duty of
any length. Further, researchers have failed to find any documentation
of Jacob Waltz having served in the military, nor ever leaving the Arizona
Territory once he had arrived.
By 1866, the little cow town of Phoenix, Arizona had been officially established.
One of the town’s pioneer developers was a man named Jack Swilling. Swilling
began a campaign to clear out and reopen the ancient ditches and canals
of the Salt River Valley abandoned by the Hohokum Indian hundreds of years
before. Many didn’t believe Swilling could pull off such a scheme, but
he proved them wrong and the renewed waterways became the lifeblood of
the community. These canals first created by the Hohokum Indian and reopened
by the early pioneers are among the same waterways still feeding the metropolis
In 1868, Jacob Waltz migrated from the Prescott region to the Salt River
Valley and settled onto a section of land just south of town. Waltz set
to work digging irrigation ditches, planting crops and raising chickens
and hogs to reap a meager sustenance. It is said by some that Waltz also
hired out as a laborer on occasion, as well. One particular canal Swilling
reopened, called the ‘Dutch Ditch,’ is said to have been created in part
due to the hired labor of Jacob Waltz and several other German immigrants.
It is uncertain whether Waltz’s
one-room adobe house was already there on the land or if he built it, but
the chores of working his farm and carving out a new life and home would
have kept Waltz busy for those first years in the valley. It is unlikely
that he found much, if any, time for prospecting, although he certainly
must have felt the call to wander out into the wilds now and then to pick
at a rock or two. Jacob Waltz was 60 years old by the time he settled in
Phoenix. For a miner and prospector to live beyond 40 in those days was
considered to be a miracle!
It has been suggested by Arizona historian Tom Kollenborn, through research
of documents and interviews with descendants of pioneers, that Waltz came
into his now-famous gold ore sometime between 1872 and 1877. During that
time, Waltz was said to have been selling some of that gold around Florence.
There are very few accounts of Waltz and his gold that haven’t been embellished
through the years. One credible account comes to us through an ancestor
of a prominent Mormon family whose forefather owned a store in Mesa. The
account comes the daughter of the store’s owner who, at the time in 1884,
was a young girl. She remembered Waltz coming into her father’s store to
by supplies. This account gives a very good description and profile of
Waltz at age seventy-six:
recall the old man the day he came into our family store for supplies.
The skin of his face was parched and dry from the desert sun and hard as
leather. His beard was almost snow white and somewhat stained by tobacco
below his chin. His hands were coarse and callused revealing many decades
of hard work. He no longer stood erect, for his age was showing. His clothes
were dusty and torn but neatly in place…No one at first paid him any attention
until he went to pay for his supplies. In his wrinkled hand was a small
cowhide poke. He loosened the strings and poured onto the counter yellow
gold in a matrix of white quartz...” (Source:
Superstition Mountain: A Ride Through Time - Swanson/Kollenborn).
The above account gives many clues about Waltz, the man. The most obvious
clue is the description of his physical condition: bent with age, weathered
and callused from a lifetime of hard work. The account also mentions his
clothes as being ‘dusty and torn but neatly in place.’ He apparently cared
about his appearance, and yet, a small amount of the gold in his possession
would have bought a new wardrobe in 1884. The impression one is left with
is that of a man who, conditioned by a lifetime of scraping and hardship,
was only concerned with the essentials in life and using what he had to
the fullest. Waltz was also a quiet man keeping conversation to a minimum.
After years of observations and working as a miner, he had likely become
wary of everyone, knowing all too well the nature of a man when he gets
gold fever. Spending his first thirty-eight years struggling in his homeland
under strong German traditions had molded the caliber of the man he would
be the remaining days of his long life, and life in America had only served
to temper that mettle. When he died, it is claimed that Waltz had a fair
amount of this gold in his possession (what would later be coined the ‘deathbed
ore’), although the exact amount and worth of that ore is debated. Yet
unto his death, Waltz lived such a humble, impoverished life with so few
worldly goods as to nearly be overlooked by history. It is likely he would
have been if not for the events that followed in the wake of his death.
In May of 1887, a strong earthquake rocked the Salt River Valley. The quake
was felt as far away as El Paso, Texas. Rockslides throughout the
Superstitions changed the very landscape as witnesses watched clouds of
dust bellowing up from within range. It is widely believed that Waltz never
returned to his mine or cache after the quake because the location was
buried by rockslides, or because landmarks pointing the way no longer existed.
It is also suggested that the damage caused by the earthquake is the reason
no one has found the location since. But was Waltz’s mine ever located
in the Superstition Mountains we know today?
Several years ago, I read a brief article from 1887 that reported on the
earthquake damage at Fort McDowell, which was also shaken in the temblor.
Interestingly, this article referred to Fort McDowell as being located
in the ‘northern extreme’ of the Superstition Range. Unfortunately, I have
not been able to locate this article again in time for the first printing
of this book (as I am in Australia and my research notes are [god-knows-where]
in the States), but I will include the article in a following edition,
as well as include it on updates on my web site. Nonetheless, this reference
to the location of Fort McDowell as being in the northern extreme of the
Superstition Range suggests that Waltz may have indeed found his mine in
the ‘Superstitions,’ however, just not in the same mountain to which we
refer today. In the latter 1800’s, and even into the early part of this
century, many of the mountain ranges and canyons of the region had not
been given official names. Rather, different people knew them by different
names. Ranchers and soldiers had their own nicknames for them, while those
living in the town had still other names.
At the time of Jacob Waltz,
only Superstition Mountain and Salt River Mountains had been given proper
names. Viewed in association with the Superstition Range from 30–40 miles
away in Phoenix, one could get the impression that they were part of one
jumbled continuation of the same range. Superstition Mountain was the most
well known at that time, so it is easy to surmise that when someone referred
to the ‘Superstition Mountains,’ they may have been referring to a much
broader expanse than we recognize today, using that mountain as a general
reference point. We do this same generalizing even today. Someone may live
in Chandler or Mesa, but when explaining to outsiders where they live they
might say ‘I live in the Phoenix metro area’—Phoenix being the most well
known of the towns and cities around it. This in itself may be one reason
the location of the mines could not be found. The proper naming of those
ranges isolated the search area to a more specific, if incorrect area—Superstition
Mountain proper—rather than the previously known ‘general’ region. This
possibility becomes curious when reading through the clues Waltz supposedly
gave to find his mine, for if the Sombrero Mines are located at Red Mountain—which
may have been casually included as part of the ‘Superstition Mountains’,
the Waltz ‘Peralta’ mine may be among them and thus he never lied when
claiming that his mine was in the ‘Superstitions’.
In the year 1891, heavy rainfall caused flooding of the Salt River. The
floods consumed not only part of the growing town of Phoenix but also the
homestead of Jacob Waltz. For several days, he remained trapped in his
small adobe by the high, dangerous waters. A friend of Waltz’s, Julia Thomas,
became concerned for the old man’s welfare and sent her lodger, Rhinehart
Petrasch, and a sheriff to check on him. Waltz was found (according to
one version) sitting upon his bed just above the water line with only a
candle for heat (another version claims he was found sitting in a tree).
Rhinehart helped Waltz to a horse and together they rode back to the Thomas
home in Phoenix, where Julia put the old man up and gave him warm food
Waltz would never again return to his humble abode to live on his own.
The farm was destroyed, his home badly damaged. Waltz had also acquired
pneumonia during his exposure to the cold and wet that would require Julia’s
care for the remaining months of his life.
It is likely at the home
of Julia Thomas that the seeds of the legend of Waltz’s lost gold mine
began to take root. Julia knew well of the gold, for Waltz had given her
some of it to pay off her debts after her husband abandoned her. She assumed
that the gold he offered her then was saved from a lifetime of mining and
prospecting and at first she refused to take it, but Waltz assured her
there was plenty more where that came from. Now lodging and providing for
the old man, and perhaps fearing that Waltz may soon die, she began asking
him questions about the mine’s location. What Waltz actually revealed to
her, as opposed to what she may have later invented around the few hints
given up in, has been the subject of controversy since the old man’s death.
The story she told around Phoenix, and later to P.C. Bicknell and Sims
Ely, places Waltz elsewhere on dates when Waltz was known to have been
present at another location.
Anyone who has studied the dates of the known documents signed by Waltz
through the 1850’s until his death quickly learns two things:
1- There was not enough
time for Waltz to have participated in the adventures Julia spoke of, and
2- His ‘friend and
partner,’ Jacob Wieser, does not appear on record anywhere in conjunction
with Waltz at any time while he was alive (in Germany, in America, nor
Jacob Waltz recovered from
his bout with pneumonia for a short period in during the summer months,
but with the return of the cooler temperatures in the fall he suffered
a relapse. Waltz died on Sunday morning October 21, 1891. There are several
versions of the events that occurred the morning Waltz died. Most accounts
agree that Julia Thomas was not with Waltz when he died, for seeing that
his condition had worsened she left to fetch the doctor. (Other accounts
claim that when Julia realized Waltz was dying she began selling tickets
to towns people for one last glimpse of the old man). But Jacob Waltz did
not die alone that morning. There were two men present with Waltz when
he died. One man was Richard ‘Dick’ Holmes and the other was Gideon Roberts.
Julia supposedly discovered the two men waiting on the street outside her
adobe in the pre-dawn hours when she went to find the doctor. Concerned
for Waltz, she asked the two if they would watch over the old man until
she returned. They readily agreed. When Julia returned with the doctor,
Waltz was dead, and the two men quietly left. Later that day, she
discovered that the candle box (or soap box) of gold ore had vanished.
For a long time Julia suspected Rhinehart, her lodger, of taking the gold,
but some years later it was learned that Dick Holmes actually had the gold,
claiming that Waltz gave him the gold after telling the (long and windy)
tale of how he came into the mine in the first place. The Holmes version
of Waltz’s mine discovery varies from Julia’s version. Both versions are
riddled with unlikely events or impossibilities.
Several months after Waltz’s death, Julia announced that she would be heading
to the Superstition Mountains to find his mine. She claimed that Waltz
had revealed the location of the mine to her and that she could find it
with little trouble. However, this was not to be the case. Julia sold her
ice cream parlor to finance the expedition, but she never found the mine.
Later, to recoup some of her losses and help maintain sustenance, she began
selling copies of a map that she claimed would lead some lucky prospector
to the mine. Accompanying the map was a colorful and richly crafted tale
of how Waltz came into the old Peralta digs with the help of one of the
Peralta descendants, also named Miguel Peralta.
For a while, the rumor of Waltz’s gold created a whirlwind of interest.
Treasure seekers, armed with the tale and map Julia had sold them, often
trekked into the formidable range to try their luck at finding the mine.
By the turn of the century, though, interest had waned as new discoveries
of rich ore had been located just a little northwest of Superstition Mountain
in what would become Goldfield, close to where the remains of the Peralta
miners were believed to have been massacred years before.
Jacob Waltz had lived a long
life by the time of his death at age 83. He has been portrayed as a con
man and cold-blooded killer by some, but should the truth ever be known
it is my guess that he was just a simple, quiet man—a loner in a strange
land who kept to himself and helped people when they were down and out,
having known himself what it is like to be down on luck. The gold Waltz
is said to have had was real; some of this ore was later made into jewelry
pieces. This jewelry, which presumably contains samples of the ‘Deathbed
Ore’, is said to be in the possession of an Arizona businessman and is
accompanied by documents signed by Holmes. Recounting the day that Waltz
died, Holmes claimed that Waltz had given him the gold ore saying, “no
one deserved it more.”
Somewhere not too far from Phoenix, an elderly Jacob Waltz had located
a source for this gold and kept it secret to the day he died. While Waltz
may have been the only white man to see and take the rich gold of the Sombrero
Mines after the Peralta massacre and live to spend it, only one treasure
hunter subsequently obtained the true map to Peralta’s riches. However,
he died in the rugged Superstition Wilderness searching for it. His name
was Dr. Adolph Ruth.....
2002 - John Ramses - Oneta Vera Enterprises