By nearly every account, Jacob Waltz found his mine, rather than discovered it by prospecting. One of his most famous clues declares that no prospector would find it, as no prospector would think to look there. So, where did it come from? There are three main theories as to the mine’s origin, which we have already touched on, the Two Soldiers, Doc Thorne’s, and the Peralta’s Mines. Could it be that all three stories describe the same mine? One path to that conclusion could be reached by investigating the Peralta family legend.
The popular story, as repeated by nearly every Dutch Hunter, is that the Peralta’s were a rich mining family from Sonora, Mexico. Sometime during the early to mid-1840’s they came north to the Salt River in what is now the Superstition Wilderness and began an extensive mining operation. Legend holds that they had upwards of eighteen separate mining claims in the area, rich in gold and silver. Initially, their presence in the mountains was tolerated by the local Apache, though the relationship soon soured. The Peraltas are forced to pack up as much of their gold and ore as they can carry, caching the rest inside their mines and surrounding areas. As the Peralta company is rushing to escape the mountains, they are led into a trap by the Apache and a running three-day battle ensues. Ultimately, the Apache annihilate almost the entire party, with only a few escaping with their lives. The Apache have no use for the yellow metal and rocks, so they cut them lose from the mules and scatter them in the desert, choosing instead to strip the party of all their gear, weapons, and animals.
While Dutch Hunters generally agree on the basic core of the Peralta legend, historians have maintained a different opinion. Most historians believe that there was no Mexican or Spanish mining in the Arizona Territory, north of the Gila River. Further confusing the issue is the massive land fraud perpetrated by James Adison Reavis, in which he claimed to possess a Peralta Land grant that encompassed most of the Salt River Valley. During his shenanigans he literally invented an entire Peralta family legacy. Even the well-respected Sim’s Ely conflated Reavis’ Peraltas with those said to be responsible for prospecting the Superstitions. So, the question stands; did the Peraltas actually exist?
Short answer, yes. Or, at least a group very similar in description. For years tantalizing evidence would appear, then fade into legend, leaving no tangible proof beyond word of mouth. There’s the story of William Edwards, a cavalry trooper in the early 1860’s that came across a multitude of naked and sun-bleached skeletons near the area now known as the Massacre Grounds. He believed he had run across some hapless Pima’s that had fallen victim to the Apache, until he found one with a gold tooth. Around 1908 a man named Silverlock and his partner Malm, came across a rotting saddle bag filled with about $18,000 in gold ore. The two began digging holes all over the Gold Field Mountains until they were thread bare and busted. Silverlock was eventually declared insane and institutionalized. Sims Ely claims to have found the high mesa where the Apache allegedly took the Peralta mules and ate them. He also claimed to have found stone corrals, piles of Mexican style sandals, camp remnants, and tree stumps where they harvested wood to shore-up their mines. Then of course, there is the case of the Peralta Stones, a series of strange stone maps found in the early 1950’s, said to lead to the Peralta’s hidden mines. Certainly intriguing, but anecdotal evidence, lacking the opportunity for scientific scrutiny.
Modern efforts have at least proven, within reasonable doubt, that Pre-Anglo Spanish and Mexican mining occurred in the Superstitions. While not exactly proof of the Peraltas per se, the location of these sites is very encouraging for the legend. In his research, Thomas Glover claims to have found proof that the Mammoth and Bulldog mines of Gold Field were Spanish mines that had been hidden, previous to their discovery. Other’s, notably Barry Storm, have claimed to have found empty Spanish mines throughout the Superstitions, though documentation is sketchy at best for most.
Confounding any serious archaeological work is that the Superstition Wilderness is designated protected by the Federal Government. Meaning that even if you found the Dutchman, it would not be legal to dig there. The only known exception was the granting of a treasure trove permit to long time Dutch Hunter, Ron Feldman. Feldman’s research led him to the east side of the mountains, far away from the traditional search areas. In addition to his years of searching, his theory was bolstered by the notes of another enigmatic Dutch Hunter by the name of Ted Cox, who claimed to have found one of the Peralta mines and a stash of bullion. In 2004, after years of negotiating, Feldman was finally granted his permit, with the caveat that his excavation take place under the supervision of a state sanctioned archaeologist and that they use only hand tools. The on-site archaeologist was able to confirm that the mine predated Anglo settlement and that it was done in the Spanish style. Sadly, no gold was recovered. Additionally, stone corrals, an arista, ore chutes, and other artifacts have been documented throughout the mountains and the historic record is beginning to reflect these finds.
As far as proving the Peraltas existed, came to Arizona, and met a terrible fate. Thomas Glover’s book “The Lost Dutchman Mine part one The Golden Dream” presents some compelling evidence, including corroboration by living Peralta descendants. Taken at face value, there seems little reason to doubt that the legend is true.
This still leaves us with a curious problem. How does Jacob Waltz fit into this? In the Holmes Manuscript, Waltz kills two Peralta peons he mistakes for Apaches and takes possession of the mine, later killing the two soldiers when they find the mine and even his own nephew when he wants to make the claim legitimate. In Sims Ely’s take, compiled from the Petrasches and Julia Thomas, Waltz was a nice guy who helped the Peralta patriarch in Mexico and was given the rights to work the mine. Both claim lineage to Peralta. But did Waltz even know about the Peraltas? All we have is contradictory second-hand information by sources that have been proven wrong or misleading on multiple points.
Which brings me back to Adolf Ruth. He may have heard the rumors of the Lost Dutchman Mine, but he came to Arizona by independently sourced information, with a specific location in mind. Was the Peralta story a known part of Dutchman lore at the time or, did Ruth introduce it? If the later is true, then we can eliminate the friendly version of Waltz, where he and his partner meet Peralta in Mexico. This makes the Holmes narrative a little more intriguing. If the mine is as hard to find and in as rough country as he claimed, it’s more likely that he came across someone working it, than just stumbled upon it. Following this path, it’s not a massive leap to believe Waltz would kill to take possession of the mine. This would also explain the secrecy and why he never filed a claim on it.
Adolf Ruth opened the floodgates for modern searchers of the Lost Dutchman Mine. Did he find it? Was he killed for that knowledge? We’ll explore the ramifications of his death next week when we discuss some of the more bizarre tales of the Superstition Mountains.