Richard (Dick) James Holmes was born July 18, 1865, near Fort Whipple in the Arizona Territory. He was twenty-six when he and his friend, Gideon Roberts, came to the house of Julia Thomas to watch over a dying Jacob Waltz. Sometime during the night of October 25, 1891, the Dutchman, in his dying words, bequeathed some forty-eight pounds of rich gold ore and the location of his mine to him, if you believe Dick Holmes.
The Holmes narrative has always been a problematic one for me. Clearly, Holmes came away with the gold and his story was backed by Roberts. Everything else that comes down from Dick Holmes is either second hand or mired in obfuscation. When considering the totality of Dutchman lore and sleuthing through the Holmes story, a somewhat clearer picture appears, enough to suggest that there is some truth to be found.
Holmes’ story paints a much darker version of the Dutchman than Julia Thomas and presents a different set of clues. The substance of those clues is passed down largely from his son, George “Brownie” Holmes, and from a dubious document known to Dutch Hunters as the Holmes Manuscript. We will discuss both Brownie and the manuscript at greater length in another chapter. It is for this reason that it is almost impossible to know what, if anything, Dick Holmes heard from the Dutchman.
Let us suspend our disbelief and look at the major claims of Holmes’ version of the story. According to Dick Holmes, the mine was on the west side of the Mountains. Waltz acquired his mine by killing the former owners, generally said to be Mexican descendants of the Peralta family, a name you will hear a lot in future installments. Waltz killed anyone that got too close to the mine or threatened its security, including, in one story, his own nephew. Holmes followed Waltz into the mountains once but was discovered, a fact used to illustrate that the men knew each other before the deathbed incident. Most interesting, in my opinion, are clues that match up with the Thomas and Petrasch clues. Those being that there is a rock in the shape of a man (a rock face, according to Petrasch) where he leaves the trail to get to the mine. Also, that there is a ruined, stone house on the opposite side of the canyon from the mine.
Dick Holmes searched for the mine for years until his health would not allow it, then he passed the mantle to his son Brownie. If there is one theme shared by them, it was their incredible paranoia and mistrust of anyone interested in finding the mine. One can only assume that, if there were real clues passed down from Waltz, that Holmes would have shared them with his son, even if what he told everyone else was tainted. One thing I believe, for certain, is that if either Dick Holmes or his son found the Dutchman’s mine, they would not have told a soul.
A noteworthy gap in the Holmes camp is Gideon Roberts. It is generally reported that Roberts was much older than Holmes and died shortly after the events of October 25. I’ve heard a few varying accounts about the man, but none of them offer much satisfaction. Most books on the subject omit him entirely other than crediting him as being in attendance. There have even been accusations of false information in published accounts. His is certainly one account that I would very much like to hear.
Dick Holmes story is a tough pill to swallow as we are dependent, mostly, on Brownie Holmes’ word on the matter. According to him, his father did not lie and that is the end of the discussion. The Holmes family were true Arizona pioneers and were well respected in the community. That respect carries through to this day, where you will seldom hear an ill word spoken about them.
I think most authors on the subject would have to agree that Holmes stole the gold. From there on, it’s a slippery slope as to what to believe. One indisputable fact is the forty-eight pounds of ore that Dick Holmes walked away with and it had to come from somewhere. In my opinion, that is the real wealth of this story, unraveling that mystery. Dick Holmes died on October 31, 1930, almost 39 years to the day of Waltz, taking the secrets of the Dutchman’s last words with him.