Thar’s Gold in Them Hills

In 1871, Jakob Walz walked out of the Superstition Mountains East of Mesa, Arizona and began paying for drinks with gold nuggets of amazing purity. Walz was a German, but it was common to call Germans “Dutch,” probably because the German word for Germany is “Deutschland.” A little mispronunciation and you’ve got Dutch. (The Pennsylvania Dutch are of German descent, but I’m digressing.)

Superstition MountainsWalz died in 1891, with two saddlebags of gold under his deathbed, and the secret location of his mine revealed only to the woman who was caring for him at his death. The mine became known as The Lost Dutchman Mine, and for the next 200 years strangers and experts have failed to find the mine.

It has never been located, and is shrouded with mystery and the stories of vanishing people, mules, and equipment. The mine was first mentioned by the Apache, who said it was protected by the Thunder God.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was told of a mountain with much gold by the Apaches in 1540, when he came North, seeking The Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. They warned him off, with the result that the Spaniards began to search for the gold. The advance party vanished, and when the search party found them, they had been murdered, and lay strewn about, decapitated. The rest of the men refused to go into the mountains, and they became known as the Superstition Mountains. There is some discussion around the question the descriptions of the mountains. Some sources claim that there is only one Superstition Mountain, and the rest are Chihuahuan Mountains, but the people around here call the big range that’s visible to the East of Phoenix Theimages.jpeg Superstitions.

For the next 300 years, there is little history about the mine. The next person to search for gold in the Superstitions actually found it. Don Miguel Peralta was the scion of a wealthy family of Sonoran ranchers. He’d paid attention in history class, and knew that Coronado had been searching for gold. Peralta found the mine, but needed more men and supplies. He noted the sombrero-shaped rock foundation near the mine, and returned to his ranch. (All of Arizona belonged to Mexico in those years.)

The gold expedition returned and Peralta mined gold with his crew, but without asking the Apaches for permission. Peralta and his crew were warned, but didn’t act fast enough. There was an attack before the men could abandon the mine, an attack that left mules, miners and gold scattered on the valley floor. Peralta has hidden the mine entrance before the attack, and while people found the sacks of gold left in the massacre, the mine was never found.

Paulino Weaver, an explorer, came across the sombrero-shaped figure, but thought it looked more like a needle. He scratched his name on it, and the rock formation has been called Weaver’s needle since then.

The Lost Dutchman Mine has never been found, although many experts, including miners from the nearby Silver King mine, looked thoroughly over a relatively small area watched by the Weaver’s Needle. The gold may still be there, waiting for the right person to come along.

–Images: Mountains, Quinn McDonald. Weaver’s Needle,

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at