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The Lost Dutchman goldmine may have been filled in by Apache squaws

Posted in Adventure, America, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 27 June 2012

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This edited article about the Lost Dutchman goldmine originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 742 published on 3 April 1976.

Cowboy under attack, picture, image, illustration

More than a score of men have died looking for the Lost Dutchman goldmine in Arizona. Picture by Stanley L Wood

It was the summer of 1876, and a fiesta was being held in the small town of Arispe, in the Mexican State of Sonora, when Jacob Waltz and Jacob Weiser came riding down the dusty main street. Being aimless adventurers, with no appointments to keep, they decided they could do worse than stay for a few hours and join in the fun. It was a decision which was, ultimately, to cost them dear.

After wandering round the town, they went into a bar, where a card game was in progress. They were about to make their way over to the bar, when a well-dressed man in black, and obviously Mexican, rose to his feet at the card table and loudly denounced the man at his side as a cheat. At this, the other man rose and promptly plunged a knife into the Mexican’s shoulder. Whereupon, Weiser, being a man who disliked violence of that nature, hit the attacker on the back of the head with the butt of his revolver, and knocked him unconscious.

Weiser and Waltz then assisted the stabbed man back to his home where they made him comfortable. His name, he informed them gravely, was Miguel Peralta, and he was the owner of a gold mine, which lay in an area covering some thousands of square miles of territory.

It was at this point that Peralta gave a heavy sigh. There was, however, he explained, a problem. The area was now part of the newly established territory of Arizona. Worse still, the mine itself lay in a mountainous region infested by hostile Apaches. All the same, he intended to set off for the region with some of his faithful peons. He looked earnestly at the two men who had come to his aid. He knew there were enormous dangers, but if the two gentlemen would agree to accompany him, he would give them a share of the gold.

Waltz and Weiser saw no reason to mistrust Peralta, and after his wound had healed they set off with him over the border, accompanied by a strong force of peons. Crossing the Gila River and the desert that lay beyond, they entered a maze of mountain defiles, and eventually reached the mine, where they worked for several weeks. Waltz and Weiser’s reward for their labour was a share of the gold, valued at 30,000 dollars.

It was at this point that Peralta stated that in view of his debts, he desperately needed their share. In return he was prepared to give them a document signed by himself, authorising them to return when they wished, when they could take as much gold as they wanted within reason. Rather surprisingly, considering they had gold in their hands, the two friends agreed to Peralta’s terms.

They returned in due course, and it was then that everything began to go wrong.

As they approached the mine on foot, they saw two dark-skinned figures moving among the rocks. Thinking them to be hostile Apaches, they fired point blank at them, only to discover to their horror afterwards that they had shot and killed two of Peralta’s peons, who had obviously decided to do a little gold digging on their own account.

Hurriedly burying the Mexicans, the partners set to work, with such success that within the space of a few weeks they had cached a most satisfying quantity of gold near the mine. It was then they found that one of the pack mules had got to their flour sacks and ruined them. Faced with this emergency, Waltz decided to go back for fresh provisions. He left, estimating that he would be back within four days. It was the last time the two men were ever to see each other again.

Weiser waited four days, and there was still no sign of his companion. On the fifth day, the Apaches came. Shooting his way through a shower of arrows, he reached his horse, and galloped off, hotly pursued by the Apaches. His horse was eventually shot from under him, and he himself was wounded, but he still managed to get to the Gila River. There he was found in a dying condition by some friendly Indians, who took him to the house of Dr Walker. He expired there, convinced that Jacob Waltz had been ambushed and killed on his way back to the camp.

But Waltz had been merely held up by a series of minor setbacks, including having to wait for fresh flour to be ground at the mill. He arrived back at the camp and found it a shambles and his companion gone. Convinced that Weiser had been killed, he collected some of the gold and made off into the hills. He wandered aimlessly from place to place for a number of years, but eventually he was drawn back to the area, where he became friendly with a Mrs Thomas, whom he helped out of her financial difficulties by settling her debts with some of the gold ore he had taken from the mine. Two years later, he died, but not before he had given Mrs Thomas a rough idea where the mine was.

It is at this point that the true mystery of the Lost Dutchman mine really begins. Mrs Thomas never found the mine, and the search was then taken up by a rancher named Burke, and it was he who gave the mine the name of the Lost Dutchman, in memory of Jacob Waltz. Burke spent twenty-five years searching for it, and never found it. Scores of other hopeful prospectors went off in search of it through the years, with no better success.

Strangely, more than a score of men have died, looking for the mine. Two young soldiers who claimed to have found the mine, returned to it, and one of them was later found murdered. The other was never seen again. The skeleton of another man was found with two bullet holes in his skull. As late as 1947, a man named James Cravey went off in search of it, and was reported missing until his headless skeleton was found the following year.

Today, the legend of the missing Lost Dutchman mine is kept alive, perhaps not too seriously, by a club in Phoenix, which conducts an annual mock search in the mountains, in which hundreds take part.

But there seems to be no reason to believe that the mine never really existed. The stories that Waltz and Weiser told could not have been figments of the imagination. The real truth lies perhaps in a story told by an old Indian named Apache Jack, who gave an account of the Indian attack on the mine. In view of the trouble caused by the existence of the gold mine, the Indians decided to discourage further visitations to it by filling it in. The squaws collected all the loose rocks in the neighbourhood and hurled them into the hole. The surface was then smoothed over until no trace of the opening remained.

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