Buried Treasures in North America Lost Dutchman Mine

About buried treasure in North America, history of the Lost Dutchman Mine, account of previous searches and location in New Jersey.


The Lost Dutchman Mine

Jake Walzer, the "Dutchman" for whom the mine is named, claimed that it was worth $100 million. Since his death, at least 1,000 searchers have combed Arizona's Superstition Mountains looking for those millions, but all in vain.

How It Was Discovered: There are two popular versions of how the mine was originally found. The more romantic one tells of a disconsolate Mexican who, rejected by the girl he loved, was wandering through Arizona when he came un-expectedly on eight veins of rich gold ore. Loading himself up with all he could carry, he went back to his village in Chihuahua, Mexico, and dazzled the home folks with his new wealth. He also won back his girl friend's heart. More prosaic and also more likely is the tale of three prospectors, the Peralta brothers, who found the mine and returned to their village bearing gold. However the gold was discovered, more than 100 villagers went to get it, loading it on mules to bring it back. In 1848 they were ambushed by Apaches, who were furious that a mountain they considered sacred was being plundered. The Indian women concealed the veins of gold with dirt. In the 1870s, Ramon Peralta, who had escaped death during the ambush, and two companions rediscovered the mine. Shortly thereafter, the three met a German named Jake Walzer, whom the Indians called "Snowbeard," and told him about the gold. It was a mistake. The unprincipled Walzer promptly killed them and took the mine for himself. From then until he died in 1891, the mine was all his; on his trips there, he played hide-and-seek with those who tried to trail him and he always won the game.

In 1877 the "Dutchman" retired to an adobe hut on the Salt River outside Phoenix, where he devoted himself to raising chickens and grapes and to excessive drinking. His main confidante was a mulatto woman, Julia Thomas, who ran an ice cream parlor; he had a mutually helpful liaison with her, which may or may not have included sex. He gave a map and directions to the mine to Julia and to another friend of his, a German baker. He told them the mine consisted of one 18-in. vein of rose quartz rich with nuggets and another quartz vein that was one-third gold.

Previous Searches: In spite of Walzer's map and directions, and three months of searching, Julia Thomas and the German baker never found the mine. They thought that possibly it had been buried during the earthquake of 1877. In 1914, $18,000 in gold ore was found near the spot where the Apaches ambushed the Mexicans in 1848. The Phelps-Dodge Corporation once backed an exhaustive search for the mine by a group of geologists and prospectors, but with no significant results.

Since the death of Walzer, 20 people have died as the result of accidents or murder while looking for the mine, giving rise to a legend that the Indians have cursed all who might try to desecrate their mountain. Others say that the entrance to the mine is guarded by pygmies or that an old prospector who found it shoots all who come near.

According to treasure hunter Ken Krippene, the secret to finding the mine lies in the symbols carved by Mexican miners on cliffs within a 5-mi. radius of a peak called El Sombrero. Interpret the symbols, he says, and you'll likely find the gold.

How to Get There: To reach the Superstition Mountains, which are 40 mi. east of Phoenix, follow U.S. 60 to Apache Junction where the Apache Trail (state route 88) begins. Follow Apache Trail north past the mountains. At certain times of the year, some say, you can see the gold glittering in the mine, which faces west.

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