The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is, according to legend, a rich gold mine hidden in the southwestern United States. The location is generally believed to be in the Superstition Mountains, near Apache Junction, east of Phoenix, Arizona.
The mine is named after German immigrant Jacob Waltz (c. 1810–1891), who purportedly discovered it in the 19th century and kept its location a secret. “Dutchman” was a common American term for a “German” (“Dutch” being the English cognate to the German demonym “Deutsch”).
Pedro de Peralta had been the Spanish Governor of New Mexico (in the 1600s) his family name of “Peralta.”
Historians assert that the Peralta family had a Spanish land grant and a barony granted by the King of Spain, which included a huge swath of Arizona and New Mexico, including the Superstition Mountains.
In this legend members of the Apache tribe are said to have a very rich gold mine located in the Superstition Mountains.
The Peralta Massacre is a legend that Apaches supposedly ambushed a mining expedition the Peralta family sent into the mountains.
Some carved stones in the area are referred to as “Peralta Stones” and Spanish text and crude maps on them are considered by some to be clues to the location of a Peralta family gold mine in the Superstition Mountains.
Famed Apache Geronimo is sometimes mentioned in relation to this story.
Miguel Peralta discovered the mine and began mining the gold there, only to be attacked or massacred by Apaches in about 1850 in the supposed Peralta massacre.
Years later, a man called Dr. Thorne treats an ailing or wounded Apache (often alleged to be a chieftain) and is rewarded with a trip to a rich gold mine.
He is blindfolded and taken there by a circuitous route, and is allowed to take as much gold ore as he can carry before again being escorted blindfolded from the site by the Apaches. Thorne is said to be either unwilling or unable to relocate the mine.
Were it not for the death of amateur explorer and treasure hunter Adolph Ruth, the story of the Lost Dutchman’s mine would probably have been little more than a footnote in Arizona history as one of hundreds of “lost mines” rumored to be in the American West.
Ruth disappeared while searching for the mine in the summer of 1931. His skull – with two holes in it identified as bullet holes – was recovered about six months after he vanished, and the story made national news, thus sparking widespread interest in the Lost Dutchman’s mine.
In a story that echoes some of the earlier tales, Ruth’s son Erwin C. Ruth was said to have learned of the Peralta mine from a man called Pedro Gonzales (or Gonzalez).
According to the story, in about 1912 Erwin C. Ruth gave some legal aid to Gonzales, saving him from certain imprisonment. In gratitude, Gonzales told Erwin about the Peralta mine in the Superstition Mountains, and gave him some antique maps of the site (Gonzales claimed to be descended from the Peralta family on his mother’s side). Erwin passed the information to his father Adolph, who had a long-standing interest in lost mines and amateur exploration.
In June 1931, Ruth set out to locate the lost Peralta mine. After traveling to the region, Ruth stayed several days at the ranch of Tex Barkely to outfit his expedition.
Barkely repeatedly urged Ruth to abandon his search for the mine, because the terrain of the Superstition Mountains was treacherous even for experienced outdoorsmen, let alone for the 66-year-old Ruth in the heat of the Arizona summer.
However, Ruth ignored Barkely’s advice, and set out for a two-week stint in the mountains. Ruth did not return as scheduled, and no trace of him could be found after a brief search. In December, 1931, The Arizona Republic reported on the recent discovery of a human skull in the Superstition Mountains.
“Dr. Hrdlicka positively identified the skull as that of Adolph Ruth. He further stated, after examining the two holes , that it appeared that a shotgun or high-powered rifle had been fired through the head at almost point-blank range, making the small hole when the bullet entered and the large hole when it exited”.
In January 1932, human remains were discovered about three-quarters of a mile (1.21 km) from where the skull had been found. Though the remains had been scattered by scavengers, they were undoubtedly Ruth’s. Many of Ruth’s personal effects were found at the scene, including a pistol (not missing any shells) and the metal pins used to mend his broken bones. But the map to the Peralta mine was said to be missing.
The authorities in Arizona did not convene a criminal inquest regarding Ruth’s death despite the circumstances. Blair noted that the conclusion of the Arizona authorities rejected the romantic murdered-for-the-map story”.