Arizona’s Lost Dutchman Mine
Is gold hidden in the rugged Superstition Mountains of Arizona?
Jacob revealed the gold ore he’d stashed
The Superstition Mountains in Arizona cover 160,000 acres of desolate, rugged terrain. According to legend, somewhere hidden in these mountains lie the richest deposits of gold in America—the Lost Dutchmen’s Gold Mine. The exact location of the Lost Dutchmen’s Mine remains a mystery. It was supposedly discovered by a German prospector named Jacob Waltz in 1876. Today, the lost gold would be worth over 200 million dollars.
According to historian Tom Kollenborn, the Superstition Mountains were an unlikely place to strike it rich:
“Jacob Waltz was a student of mining and he knew what he was doing. The old timers were very, very astute to the fact of geology. They knew what they were looking for. If you’re going to go out in these mountains anywhere and look for gold, you really want to go places where it has been found. Superstitions would be an exception. You wouldn’t go in there.”
But Waltz did prospect in those rugged mountains and apparently he was rewarded. When Waltz was 80 years old, he decided to hide his mine to protect it. He dug a hole six feet deep at its entrance. He then laid in two rows of logs and topped them with dirt and stones. Waltz, who was nicknamed “The Dutchman”, bragged that you could drive a pack train over the entrance to the mine and never know it was there.
Several months after Waltz closed up the mine, he got pneumonia and was taken to the home of his friend, Julia Thomas. According to Clay Worst, a member of the Superstition Mountain Historical Society, it was on his deathbed that Waltz revealed he had gold from the mine stashed under his bed:
“And he said, that’s what I’ve been living on all these years. They took out the box, they opened it and their comment was my god that’s rich. He said, it’s a vein. He said there’s enough in sight to make millionaires out of 20 men.”
As his end drew near, The Dutchman gave Julia and a local miner, Rhinehart Petrasch, clues to the mine’s location. But Waltz died before he could give them a map that showed exactly where the mine lay. According to Clay Worst, the only directions Julia and Petrasch had when they ventured into the mountains were the verbal clues Waltz had given them on his death bed:
Walt drew a map of where to find the gold
“He said the setting sun shines into the entrance to my mind and glitters on the gold, so it must have faced to the west. He said you take the first gorge on the south side from the west end of the range. He said that you can see Weaver’s Needle to the south, from above my mine. Julia and Petrasch were so anxious to get in the mountains, they actually went in mid-summer when the mountains were hotter… And it must have been a real ordeal for them.”
Julia invested everything she owned into the expedition, but she returned penniless and never attempted to return to the Superstition Mountains. Rhinehart Petrasch continued to search for the mine for the next 50 years. But when he realized he would never find it, he took his own life.
Walt should have been discovered with a backpack
Almost 100 years later, a modern-day treasure hunter claimed that he had found the mine. His name was Walt Gassler. Using clues handed down from Jacob’s death-bed description, Gassler had spent most of his free time looking for the legendary mine. But when his health began to fail, Walt contacted two other prospectors. One was Bob Corbin, who was then the Attorney General of Arizona:
“He wanted to get together with me so that we could perhaps go with him and continue looking for the mine and with his directions after he had died. And he gave me his notes as well as a map as to where his camp was and where he believes the mine to be.”
Two months later, Gassler called Bob’s partner, Tom Kollenborn, a local historian. According to Kollenborn, Gassler claimed that he had finally located the Dutchman’s mine:
“Walt Gassler was convinced that the mine existed from the clues that he had. Some of those clues he would not reveal. And the next morning, his wife took him out to the trail head and dropped him off.”
Walt hiked alone into the Superstitions, never to be seen alive again. Three days later, his body was found by a ranch-hand, Don Shade. An autopsy proved he had died of a heart attack.
Then, one month after Walt’s death, Tom Kollenborn had a surprising visitor:
“He said he was Roland Gassler, Walt Gassler’s son. And he says, well you know my dad found the Lost Dutchman in the Superstitions and he got out this gold and showed it too me. It looked very similar to the gold that allegedly came out of the Lost Dutchman mine.”
Roland wanted to use the map and notes in Tom’s possession to retrace his father’s steps. Tom obliged Roland and gave him the manuscripts. Two months passed and Tom never heard whether Roland’s search was successful. Then one night while giving a lecture, Tom was approached by a different stranger who claimed he was Roland Gassler:
“And my jaw dropped 10 foot to the ground, because it wasn’t the same guy. I said I ought to ask you for a driver’s license or something. I said you’re the second Roland Gassler I’ve run into in the last couple months.”
The man showed Tom an ID that confirmed he was indeed the real Roland Gassler. It became clear that the first Roland Gassler was an imposter who only wanted Walt’s map. But where did he get the gold ore sample? When Walt died, the Sheriff’s report listed a backpack among his belongings. But the real Roland Gassler never received it. Don Shade, the man who found Walt’s body, also remembered seeing the backpack, and he noticed a stranger in the area that day:
“There was another man in the area at the time. When Tom Kollenborn later gave us a description of the man that came to him and showed him some gold, it jibbed up with the man that we saw in here.”
When Jacob Waltz died, he left a trunk of ore, a list of clues, and a legend of lost treasure which has captured the dreams of three generations. The Superstition Mountains have been reclassified as a federally owned wilderness area. Some believed that the fake Roland Gassler may have been in the mountains when Walt died and stole the backpack with its precious ore. If the mine were found today, by the fake Roland Gassler or anyone else, all the gold would belong to the government. But this does not prevent modern prospectors from still searching for the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine.External Link: The Supersition Mountain Museum