“Tombstone of Jacob Waltz – The Lost Dutchman”
This story begins nearly two hundred years ago, however; my story starts in 1994.
In the 1700’s there lived a soldier in the Spanish Armada named Peralta. He was a commander or Conquistador and explorer. His mission was to search the northern Spanish territories that is now the southwestern United States, for El Dorado, the City of Gold.
When Cortez conquered the Aztec nation, there were stories of gold throughout the kingdom. Peralta was commissioned with the task of finding the source of this gold.
Peralta commanded many missions from his base in the new Spanish capital of Mexico City. Peralta traveled up through the Sonoran Desert, into Tucson, up the Salt River Valley to Phoenix, on up the Verde (Green) Valley to Flagstaff, then east into Albuquerque across the high steppe desert to New Mexico, into the western pan handle of Texas, then down and back to Mexico City.
Peralta, his son and eventually his grandson, Miguel, befriended many Indian tribes in their search for this yellow treasure, and often, conquering some tribes to take the gold and the secrets of its whereabouts.
The location of the gold mines where handed down through three generations resided on clay tablets, appropriately called the Peralta Stones. These hieroglyphic symbols, encrypted maps served the Peralta family for three generations. Knowing the definitions of the symbols carved into these clay tablets would lead the owner to some of the southwest’s richest gold discoveries of all time.
“The Heart Map – One Of The Four Peralta Stones”
The gold was mined by Spanish soldiers throughout the southwest, but mainly in what is now the mineral rich central Arizona. The process was arduous at best. The soldiers would have to suffer the peril of the inhospitable southwest desert, heat, dry, rattle snakes, cactus, Gila Monsters, manual labor, and Indian attacks.
The story remained pretty much the same for nearly 100 years. Whatever gold ore was mined, was first crushed, sluiced in a Spanish arrastra, and carried in saddle bags by burrows back to Mexico City where it was split three ways. One third was sent via Spanish Galleon across the Atlantic to Madrid, Spain, the home of the Spanish Empire. The second portion was given to the Catholic church to be used in its missionary work throughout the world and the Mexican Territory. And, the third portion was payment to the Peralta family and his men.
“The Trail Map – One Of The Four Peralta Stones”
During the 1850’s while Miguel Peralta was mining gold from the hot soil of the southwest, a German immigrant by the name of Jacob Waltz (pronounced Valtz.) In Europe, there is a EWE = V, and there is a Double EWE or W. Jacob when hearing the streets of the America were paved with gold, save enough to book passage to New York and eventually worked his way to St. Louis.
Once in America, Jacob soon realized the streets were not paved with gold, yet; there was an abundance of gold in the hills of California. Jacob left St. Louis for the Gold Rush of California. Jacob found himself in the infamous Vulture Gold Mine near what is today called Prescott, Arizona. The Vulture was one of America’s richest producer of the desired yellow metal. The Vulture also attracted it’s namesakes human counterparts. It employed some of the lowest individuals from every corner of America.
“The Horse Map – One Of The Four Peralta Stones”
I visited the Vulture and also had the opportunity to visit the partially marked, but mostly unmarked graves of the men caught pocketing the small yellow stones, and many men who were only suspected of stealing from the Vulture. In the southwest desert in the 1800’s, justice, was the man with the fastest gun. There were many graves.
Jacob quickly realized he was not going to strike it rich by working someone else’s mine. Jacob continued on to California. After working several mines in California and staking his own occasional unsuccessful placer mines, disparaged, Jacob had decided to return to St. Louis defeated.
Jacob’s travels took him from southern California, across the Colorado River into what is now Yuma, Arizona, then down through Ajo (Ah-Hoe), and into a sleazy cantina (bar), somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. It was here that Jacob’s life took a dramatic turn that no one could anticipate.
“The Priest Map – One Of The Four Peralta Stones”
Several months earlier, Miguel Peralta was advised by the Spanish crown that they were in negotiations with the United States to purchase the land from Tijuana and Nogales, north. He was advised to take a troop of soldiers to the best of his mining areas, one last time, to gather as much gold ore as possible before the sale was finalized. From that date on, Peralta would no longer be allowed into the U.S. to mine gold for the Spanish crown.
Peralta took four hundred men and burrows into his El Dorado to gather his gold. During Miguel’s journeys into Arizona, Miguel had good relationships with most of the local Indian tribes such as the Pima, Anasasi, Hopi, and Navajo Indian tribes. The only exception was the Apache Indians. The Apache Indians were not of the agrarian culture like the other tribes have evolved into. The Apaches were a band of roving, stealing, warring people. They took what they needed from other tribes. The Pima who lived in proximity with the Apache were fearful of their constant attacks.
Miguel took his troop of four hundred men and rode off on his last mission to Arizona. The area the Peralta family mined was rich and consisted of eighteen separate horizontal mine shafts. These shafts also existed within an area the Apache worshipped and considered holy and sacred. It was in the area of the Apache Thunder God.
As the men rode again into the mining camps, the chief of the Apaches met with Miguel to warn him of his unwanted intrusion into their sacred area and was told to leave immediately. Peralta understanding the last of his opportunity and explained they were only to remain a short time and would leave forever. One month lead to another, and another until they were there for nine months. The relationship between Peralta, his men, and the Apaches contiguously worsened.
One morning during the ninth month, Peralta sent his courier between the camps set up at each of the eighteen mines for a progress report. When the courier arrived at one of the camps he was horrified to find that all of Peralta’s men had been murdered in the sleep. All were dead. Peralta, learning of this massacre, gathered his men, filled every saddle bag with some of the richest gold ore ever mined, and quickly headed back toward Mexico City by first following the Verde River to the Salt River.
When Miguel reached the junction of the two rivers, he looked behind and found that he and his men were being followed by the entire Apache tribe of warriors with the intent to kill them. Peralta gave the order to ride as quickly as the horses and burrows could run. Peralta reached what is today called the Massacre Grounds located at the north end of the Superstition Mountain range. Want to guess why it’s called the Massacre Grounds?
Peralta and his men where chased into an area that starts out flat but gradually changes to an uphill slope leading to a blind canyon, It was here that Peralta and his four hundred men were trapped. The Apache who were stealthful desert warriors and knew how to fight and survive in this deadly environment, quickly defeated Peralta and his men. All of Peralta’s’ men were massacred, and the Apaches chased down nearly every burrow, not for the gold ore, but for the meat. The Apache considered burrow a delicacy. The chief of the Apaches instructed the Apache men to gather all the bodies, all the saddle bags, all the helmets, swords and any trace of Peralta’s men and place them in the gold mines. They then covered the entrances of the mines with rocks, stones, and cactus to conceal any evidence of the gold mines in the hope of erasing the white mans lust for gold forever from their minds, and all but eliminating these mines from history.
Peralta, who miraculously survived, was now on his way to Mexico City to explain to the King of Spain of his defeat and loss of life and gold. Feeling battered and bruised, Peralta found himself in the same cantina with the battered, bruised and defeated, Jacob Waltz.
This one fateful evening, Peralta, while drinking excessive amounts of Tequila, was drunk and finds himself in a life and death struggle with a man with a knife. Jacob seeing this Peralta outmatched, quickly breaks a chair over the head of the man with the knife, saving Miguel Peralta’s life. Jacob takes hold of Peralta and runs from the cantina.
When daylight breaks and Peralta realizes the events of the last evening and how this stranger came to him rescue saving his life, Miguel rewards this Samaritan. Miguel explains his family’s heritage and mission to the crown. Peralta also explains the land purchase and the fact that he can no longer exploit these riches. Miguel then gifts the family Peralta Stones with a verbal explanation of their hieroglyphic symbols and the true value of the clay tablets. Waltz thanked Peralta, not realizing the true value, rode to the north, while Peralta rode to the south. The two would never meet again.
Jacob, followed Miguel’s directions north until he found himself in a small ranching town along the Salt River that is known today as Phoenix, Arizona. Only half believing, Jacob set up camp along the Salt and planned his trip into the mountains to see if what Peralta had told him was true, or only another empty dream. Jacob had nothing to loose. As Janet Joplin once sang, When you’ve got noth’n, you’ve got noth’n to loose.
Jacob followed the symbols on the tablets one after another. Each one proved to be authentic that encouraged him to the next and the next. Jacob disappeared into the mountains for several days. When he emerged, he was seen riding into town from the north, down what is now Central Avenue straight to the Assay Office where he threw two saddle bags of gold ore, worth then, over $15,000. In today’s dollars, the worth was approximately $200,000 in rich gold ore.
The news of the “Dutchman’s Gold Mine” quickly spread throughout the territory. Jacob built a beautiful new home along the Salt River at approximately 64th Street. Jacob then sent for his lifelong friend Jacob Wiser (pronounced Viser), to come and join him in Phoenix from Germany.
Several months later, Jacob Wiser met his boyhood friend in the middle of Americas southwest. Waltz spun his stories of failure and success and newly acquired wealth to Wiser’s amazement. Waltz explained how he was befriended by everyone in the territory. Everyone was now his best friend. Everyone wanted to buy Waltz a drink, and another, and another, hoping Jacob would become drunk and tell them where his mine was located. He was threatened and followed. Waltz would sometime ride out of town knowing that there was a slew of people following him and hiding in the shadows. Waltz would ride for days, often in circles, then returning home without ever stopping at a mine.
Wiser convinced Waltz to show him the location of his treasures. One evening, cloaked by darkness, the two German immigrants rode off into the darkness and into the mountains. On the second night, while the two were in camp, arrows screamed through the darkness breaking the peace of night. The two jumped to their feet and ran into the desert night.
Several days later, Waltz made his way back to the city and to the help he needed. When Waltz ran from camp, he was bare footed. After walking miles through the treacherous desert terrain and cactus, his feet were bloodied and full of needles. Waltz was lucky. Wiser took an unfortunate arrow to his chest. He stumbled out of the desert and made his way to a home where a Mexican house keeper found Wiser all but dead and nursed him for several days. Wiser died of the wound. Jacob Waltz never recovered emotionally from his loss of his lifelong friend, Jacob Wiser.
From that point on, Waltz became a hermit. Jacob never felt he could trust anyone who didn’t have an ulterior motive. Waltz seldom spoke, seldom left his home.
During the spring thaw of 1862 the Salt River flooded over it’s banks. The water rushed faster and higher each passing hour. Jacob sought refuge in the top of a small tree in his front yard this one night when he was unable to escape this fierce flood.
When dawn broke, the residents of this small city along the Salt River was shocked to find that all traces of the city had been washed away. All was gone. The city was rebuilt through the leadership and vision of one man by the name of Frank Duppa and was renamed “Phoenix”, after the Greek legend of the bird that rose again out of it’s own ashes to fly again in full glory.
“Bryan Duppa – Founder of Phoenix, Arizona”
Julia Thomas was the owner of a sundries or dry goods store that Jacob shopped at often. A receipt was found in Julia Thomas’s records where Jacob purchased a wood burning stove that later was believed to have been found at the site of the mine. Historically, Julia Thomas was a women proprietor and owner, and black, which was very unusual for the late 1800’s.
Julia, seeing the immense damage the city had suffered, asked two brothers who were friends and customers of hers, to please check on old Jacob Waltz to assure her of his safety. When the brothers arrived at the site of Jacob’s home, they found the home was completely gone. They also noticed in the top of that small tree, was the seventy two year old Waltz, tied to the branches with a bed sheet. Waltz was unconscious, and near dead. The only belongings Jacob was able to save was the Peralta Stones and two saddle bags of ore.
Julia took Jacob into her home and nurse him for more than nine months. Jacob never recovered from this tragedy. On his deathbed, Jacob, in gratitude for her saving his life, gave her the saddle bags from under the bed, worth $15,000, the Peralta Stones, and an explanation of how to interpret them. Jacob Waltz died in 1891.
“Burial Site of Jacob Waltz – The Lost Dutchman”
Julia Thomas and the two brothers decided to head off to find the gold. Julia sold her dry goods store and cashed in the gold found in Jacob’s saddle bags and headed off for the hills to find their fortune.
Their first expedition was in mid July, which was not a good time to go off into the desert in Arizona. The three nearly died. Sometime in August they staggered out of the mountains with empty hands. The threesome continued to search for the now “Lost Dutchman Gold Mine” for several years until they were completely broke. Julia spent the remaining years of her life barely surviving by selling maps the lost mine. Julia died penniless.
“A Few Of The Many Maps Sold Detailing The Way To The Mine”
The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine remained a legend for the next 100 years. Over 350 people lost their lives in those mountains seeking the riches of the Dutchman. No one has every located the mine, or been able to decipher the symbols of the Peralta Stones.
There’s the past, here’s the present.
I first became aware of the Lost Dutchman in 1993. I was showing my step son the little remote town (three buildings) of Tortilla Flats, Arizona. It had a general store, a post office, and of course a bar. It also had a flock of Snowbirds or winter visitors.
Their was a plaque on a fence that read, in two paragraphs, a brief history of Jacob Waltz and of his famous mine. It explained how Jacob would sneak out at night and venture up into the Superstition Mountains to fill his saddlebags with rich gold ore.
My son and I considered ourselves amateur explorers and have had some successes at locating many old abandoned gold mines of the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds. He challenged me with “Why don’t we find it!?”
I explained the little history I knew at the time and the impossibility of successfully locating this site when so many others have failed. The luxury of naive youth prevailed, I agreed to at least try. I believed it would be fun and educational as well.
We started by locating most every book on the subject from the local libraries. Between the Gilbert, Mesa, and ASU libraries, we were able to accumulate 28 books on the Lost Dutchman.
We split the stack in half and hit the books. What we found was major discrepancies between stories. As the tale has been spun and spun again, it was embellished, and altered, and changed sometimes to the point of not recognizing the players. We were faced with a problem. What data was real, where do we start.
I decided to add a yellow pad to our search materials and suggested that we both keep a record of events, descriptions, and directions from each books we read. When we were finished, we compiled these lists and found the common threads or common clues and recorded the number of times that particular piece of information remained part of the story. I felt that if it had a relatively high “hit” rate, it might be true. If it only appeared once or twice, it most probably was an embellishment.
This system of analyzing the data proved very interesting. There formed a pattern of historical events that I described earlier, and more importantly we found a patterned description of directions that proved significantly recurring. By recompiling this information and creating a step by step path to the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. There were problems though.
The descriptions all stemmed from Julia Thomas’ memory of Jacob’s dying words. Julia was not an explorer or even a miner. The mile markers were riddled with descriptions such as: the eye of the needle, the black topped mesa, and the Thunder God. If you knew where to start, you might know where to finish.
Over the last one hundred years the fortune seekers all headed for their starting point, the Superstition Mountain Range. I felt that due to 100 years of unsuccessful attempts, and 350 souls perishing in those mountains in search of gold, that maybe that was not the correct starting point. The descriptions though, indicated that the Eye of the Needle was clearly, Weaver’s Needle, named after one of the southwest’s first Anglo explorers, Pauline Weaver (Mr. Pauline Weaver.)
Here we go, here are the directions that we compiled and verified:
We began searching the maps of the Superstitions for topography that matched. We found the Eye of the Needle (Weavers Needle), we found a Black Topped Mesa, and we knew where the Military trail went through. The north end, where the trail entered the Superstitions was the Peralta Massacre Grounds, and the south end was of what is now called the Peralta trail head.
“Weavers Needle – Named For Pauline Weaver”
After hiking through this extremely hostile environment, sometimes from sunrise to sunset and often well into the dark, we were discouraged with our progress. We were happy, however; to return each day to the safety of our truck. But, it just didn’t fit, it didn’t feel right. I knew we would have to take a different approach. I scoured over the notes from our readings to find any new clue that would position this site with greater accuracy.
I reread a repeated quote, that when Jacob rode off to fill his saddle bags, he was seen to ride east toward the Superstitions. When he returned, once he was seen returning from the north down Central Avenue. It seemed to me that if his bags were empty and he knew he was being followed, he would ride in a false direction. When his burrow has laden down with the heavy ore, and had lost all followers, he would return by the shortest route possible, from the north.
This revelation prompted us to jump in the truck and head to the Arizona State University’s library, second only in size to the Library of Congress. My son and I ran to the map division of the library. I was in search of two things; any antique maps of the territory and A.S.U.’s division of local stereoscopic photogrametry. Is that a mouthful?
With a formal training as a civil engineer and an extensive knowledge of maps, I knew I had access to something the prospectors of the late 1800’s didn’t have access to; satellite photography of Arizona.
The Geologic Survey has photographs the United States many times over as a continuing process started by Thomas Jefferson our nation’s first land surveyor. Jefferson was commissioned with determining, now that we won our country, just what is it that we won. We need to map it.
Stereographic photogrametry is just a fancy name for two high altitude, high resolution photographs taken simultaneously from two slightly different angles so that the photos could be placed in a reader and detailed maps could be generated from them.
We went first to the antique map section to search for landmark names. I deliberately wanted to look at some of the first maps drawn during the earliest times, as some names could have changed over the century since that map had been created. I was right. There were significant differences between the maps of the 1850’s and maps of the 1990’s. Things changed.
The most important change I found was the mane of the noncontiguous mountain range surrounding the Phoenix Valley. A 1850 map labeled the entire range the “Superstitions”. These mountains got their name from the eastern section of what today remains the Superstitions due to the Apache Indians. Whenever an Anglo / European settler or occasional Pima Indian wondered into the Superstitions, often they never returned. Usually ambushed by Apaches, killed and stripped of anything of value. No one was really sure what happened. They went in but never came out.
It seemed that the westerly part of the Superstitions have changed its name to the McDowell Mountains. In 1858, after repeated and desperate requests to Washington for support from the U.S. Calvary to protect the territory settlers and ranchers from Apache Indian attacks and to protect the Pima Indian tribe from continuous attacks, the U.S. Calvary built Fort McDowell on the north side of the now McDowell Mountains along the Verde River.
Could this be a new clue? Could everyone have been starting from the Superstition Range’s location at the time of Jacob Waltz’s death, not when he arrived in Phoenix? Could it be in the “old” Superstitions?We then took the antique maps and compared them to today’s stereo photographs to see if any of the landmarks agreed, but where to start. Well, let’s start at the beginning with the Military Trail. But the Military trail runs along the Verde and Salt Rivers, 30 miles to the east. Military Trail? What about the now Pima Road? Pima Road was a trail used by the military to ride to and from Fort McDowell and the Pima Indian tribal camp. Even though it wasn’t an interstate trail, but it was a military trail.
What about the Eye of the Needle? We found that the Miner’s Needle had changed name when Weaver’s Needle became more famous. It was now called Pinnacle Peak. The first and second landmarks fell into place. The Military Trail and the Eye of the Needle, but were we stretching?
“The Eye Of The Needle – Now, Pinnacle Peak”
The third landmark was the Sombrero. We couldn’t find any reference on any map to a Sombrero, however; when we drove along Pima Road the first time we physically searched for the mine, we clearly saw the Sombrero, just north of Pinnacle Peak atop the McDowell Mountains.
Next, the Black Topped Mesa. It was called Black Top Mesa! Right on the map! There it was! We immediately planned for the following Saturday, a field trip to actually locate these landmarks.
The following Saturday we packed the four wheel drive and headed out. We drove along Pima Road all the while looking out the right windows to locate any landmark possible. First Pinnacle Peak, then Sombrero Mountain, then 15 miles later, Black Top Mesa. But, where was the next landmark, the Apache Thunder God? We eventually ran out of Pima Road.
We turned to the east, northeast. Often when the clues run out you are left only with gut feeling, intuition. We continued to an area where we believed the Apache Thunder God could be located. But, where? We didn’t even know what we were looking for.
We parked the truck and headed out on foot. We split up and separated ourselves by about a half mile so we could cover more ground. We scoured the canyons in a north westerly direction for hours without any success. Just washes, rocks, cactus, and heat, a lot of heat.
After many hours of climbing and hiking we found ourselves on the top of two mountains separated by approximately three quarters of a miles. As I looked to the northeast I could see my son and I got his attention through a war hoop I learned while working on construction sites as a surveyor to signal over the sound of the heavy construction equipment.
I got his attention and began to signal him to return to the truck, our home base, as we were unsuccessful in locating the Apache Thunder God. I was very hot, very dry, and very hungry. As I motioned for him to return, I looked past him, over his left shoulder, I noticed something off in the distance. It was about a full mile past him. It sat on the side of a very steep mountain. It was the size of a Greyhound bus standing on end. It was a rock. There were no other rocks in site, let alone balanced on end on the side of a steep incline at the top of a mountain. And, it’s natural features looked like the face on the nickel! The unmistakable nose, the cheeks, the hair in a pony tail, even the feather!
This was it. Unquestionably. The Apache Thunder God! I motioned for him to turn around. I was frantic. Look, look, I yelled. He couldn’t hear me from this distance. I was persistent. He finally turned, looked, and began jumping up and down. That’s it!
We met back at the truck and put it into four wheel drive and headed for that hill. We drove as far as the truck could take us. We got out and hiked the rest of the way on foot. This really was it. It was unmistakable.
When we reached the top of the hill overlooking the Thunder God, we found what we later identified as a 1,000 year old, Indian settlement of the Hohokam tribe that vanished from Arizona nearly 800 years ago. It was 20 or so stone foundations of rooms they presumably used in religious ceremonies celebrating the Thunder God. The settlement and Thunder God has since become a historic landmark. From this view, we could see the Military Trail along the Verde River. The Military Trail. We hit pay dirt!
I located a previously undiscovered stone in the ground on top of that mountain that had four strange indentations deliberately carved into the stone. One in the center, and the three equal distance from one another. The stone itself had been discovered in the past, but it’s purpose was not determined. I later identified it’s purpose for the historical society. With my engineering / surveying background, I quickly recognized it as a surveyor’s bench mark.
By setting up a transit on this spot, Peralta could site every one of the 18 Peralta mines locations. A transit, essentially is a telescope mounted on a graduated horizontal dial. By placing this transit over a known point and turning the scope a predetermined angle or number of graduations, the exact location of any other object could be found.
We worked our way back down into the canyon to follow the remaining clues or directions. We proceeded up the main canyon and found a very distinct branch. We continued in a northerly direction, taking the lesser of the two canyons. We hiked for several hours more but ran out of daylight, and stamina. As close as we were, we were forced to return home and postpone the most exciting segment of journey for another weekend.
Several weekends had passed before we could schedule another time that agreed with both of our schedules. But, we were ready.
We finally got the truck back out to where we left off. We proceeded north up the lesser of the two canyons for what seemed forever. We climbed higher and higher into the hot, cactus covered hills, winding as we went.
We came upon what seemed to be the end of the canyon, when we first noticed it. It was an arrastra, a Spanish arrastra. An arrastra is a circular trough about 10′ in diameter and about 1′ deep. In the center is a wooden stake where a mule or burrow would be leashed. This animal would walk around and around this trough dragging large stones that would roll across the ore smashing it into smaller and smaller pieces until the ore was nearly dust where it then would be sluiced or panned. Sluicing is where the dust is placed in a container and stirred up while water would run over the dust. The water would wash away the lighter materials leaving only the heavier gold in the bottom.
This was it. Where was the Spanish cabin? It was nowhere in sight. We combed the area until we found it, or at least the rock foundation of what was once a cabin. Another important key was the horizontal mine shaft. As we made our way around the base of the hill that rose some 200 feet higher than our already high elevation, we approached the northwest side of the hill. There it was, the 200 year old, Peralta gold mine shaft.
“The Foundation of Peralta’s Cabin”
I entered the tunnel and began walking. In the ceiling of the shaft you could see a vein of rose quartz with a coloring of the black hematite. This was the indicators of a vein that gold resided in. I went deeper in the shaft until day all but disappeared. I did have the foresight to bring a small flashlight. I went approximately 180 feet into the darkness of that 200 year old shaft. I was surprised at how hot and humid it was inside. I also was surprised at how many mosquitoes were in there. It was infested. Except for a small amount of rubble on the cave floor, there was not much to see. We reversed direction and headed back out into the daylight. Our eyes squinting to see in the bright desert sun again.
“The Spanish Horizontal Mine Shaft”
We walked around in awe as we surveyed the collection of landmarks and reveled in the history surrounding us. When we regained concentration, we knew what was left. Locate the main mine opening 150 feet above us on the steep hill.
I was the first to climb the hill while the others checked the maps. It was a difficult climb up the side of that steep grade. The rocks were loose and every step caused a cascade of loose rocks below. Only one could climb at a time. Even standing at the base of the hill was dangerous due to the falling rocks.
The loose stones were the result of more than one hundred years of mining. This is called a tailings pile and is found at all mining sites. It is the material drawn out of the mine and deposited down along the hillside, similar to the mounds of soil next to an ant hill.
Out of breathe, and precariously clinging to the loose rocks around me, I inched my way further and further up the side of that mountain moving ever closer to a landing just ahead. I approached the crest of the landing working my way on all fours. I crested the hill, stood up, and found myself looking into the barrel of a 44 magnum revolver with a very angry man at the other end with no teeth. I froze.
I knew I needed to think quick or think my last. I quickly yelled; “Hey guys, how the hell are you? Just out taking some pictures of the desert landscape and happened upon this hill. Anything here worth shooting?”
After careful consideration and a very uncomfortable silence, the gun slowly lowered and the owner said; “No, not much worth shooting here.” I finally was able to begin breathing in some very badly needed air. I casually pulled up a rock and asked what they were doing there, knowing full well they were mining. My cavalier attitude appeared no threat to them when I noticed a second man off to my right.
He approached me and introduced himself as Bill Scovel the man with the trigger finger was Ed. He asked if I knew the significance of this site and I felt it better at that moment to play stupid rather than play dead. I said; “No is there any significance to this area?”
He asked if I had ever heard of the Lost Dutchman? I explained that I have heard of him and was aware of the history of his find some 35 miles to the east in the Superstition Mountains. Bill asked if I wanted to hear a story and I asked him if I could invite my now, all but disappeared friends up to share in his story. Bill agreed and we watched as the two made their way up the hill continuously sending stones down on one another. After several minutes we were all together at the top of the hill when Bill, with Ed cautiously watching us from the side, began his tale of the Lost Dutchman. My friend secretly video taping this entire encounter.
He shared the Peralta family history, he told us of the knife fight in Sonora, he shared the research he had done over nearly a twenty year period of his live that eventually lead him to this site. He verified everything we had learned during the previous weeks that lead us to the same conclusion. We never let on that we knew exactly why he was there and that we were there for the same purpose.
Bill explained that just several months earlier, he had staked a claim with the Department of the Interior to claim the mineral rights to whatever he found. He explained that all he needed to do was pay a nominal $25 fee and work the site, dig. If he did not work the site for one year, the rights would revert to the Department of the Interior and would then be available for another stake.
I asked about two remaining questions that were still unanswered for me. Could you see the Military Trail from the mouth of the mine, and what was that Eye of the Needle at 4:00 O’clock stuff all about. Bill asked me to carefully step approximately ten feet to the east and he pointed down the canyon to a location about two miles away near a water source. He explained that was the interstate military trail that ran along the Verde River. From the Military Trail you could not identify the mouth of the mine, but the trail was clearly visible from the mouth of the mine.
Bill then asked if I knew where north was and could I face north and point in that direction. I turned to face north and quickly pointed in that direction. He then said that if I were to assume north as noon, where would 4:00 be located and could I point in that direction.
I turned to approximate four o’clock on an imaginary horizontal clock face and pointed. Bill asked that I look far off in that direction. He said look over forty miles in that direction and tell me what you see. I looked and I squinted, and looked some more. Finally, way off in the distance, I saw it. As plain as could be and exactly at 4 o’clock on my imaginary dial was Weaver’s Needle. As plain as could be. I found it. The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine!
But, where was the mine? There was only this small level area and a slight indentation in the mountain side. I asked Bill if this was really the location. Was this really covered up by the Apache Indians. Bill explained that in 1872 there was a large earthquake that hit central Arizona and obviously collapsed the opening to the mine. Quite possibly collapsed the entire mine shaft itself.
I asked why he was so sure that this was the location of the Lost Dutchman Mine. Bill paused, looked around at the rubble surrounding his feet. He picked up a rock and his mining hammer / pick and gave it a whack! He turned his back toward the sun, held this random stone up and began to move it in front of his eye as if he was hoping something would reflect from it. After a moment or two, Bill handed me the rock and said; “You tell me, is this the right location?”
I took the small broken stone from Bill’s calloused hands and looked carefully at it myself. To my amazement, there it was, it reflected a brilliant gold yellow flash as I turned it from side to side in the sun. It was gold, fleck gold! Randomly selected from the ground cover of thousands of similar stones. That stone resides in a place of honor above my fireplace.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon exchanging ideas and clues on the history of the Lost Dutchman. Bill explained many other ancient Spanish landmarks such as the “Los Gatos” or “The Cat”, a rock in the shape of a cougar or puma, or mountain lion, and many others. Bill then climbed down the hill with us and drove us to a second location several canyons to the north where he took us into another horizontal shaft near a mobile home he had been living in since his retirement from the Department of Public Works at the City of Tempe.
Bill showed us where Jacob Waltz lived while mining his ore. He showed us pieces of the wood stove that Jacob bought from Julia Thomas over 100 years earlier. Bill showed us a half dozen “nuggets” of pure gold he had found at that very site.
We spent the rest of that afternoon and well into the night exchanging stories and a building a friendship. From time to time I would hike far up into those mountains to check on Bill and to bring him food and to monitor his progress. Bill’s tenacious. Once he exclaimed to me that he would relocate that gold vein if he had to remove that entire mountain stone by stone. I believe he will.
In February of 1994, I arranged for the local NBC affiliate to film the entire story. It was great. We filmed Bill, the mine shafts, everything. The last I heard NBC was negotiating with National Geographic to produce a special. I lost contact with NBC. I haven’t yet seen a National Geographic special. It was, however; certified by the ex-governor of the state of Arizona who is the leading historian on Arizona history and especially the Lost Dutchman legend.
I wish Bill all the luck in the world. It was a great experience.
Update: Bill passed away in 1999 from a heart attack without ever unearthing the Lost Dutchman’s main mine. His son and family are now working the mine.