Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"A Ghostly Place"

The words "gold mine" in any brochure get my attention, so when the opportunity to visit the area of the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine presented itself, we were there.

"There" is the Lost Dutchman State Park, about 50 miles east of Phoenix and 3 miles north of Apache Junction, AZ. The focus of the Park and the legend is Superstition Mountain (left) in the Sonoran Desert. It was unusually cloudy and "uncomfortable" the morning we visited the park.

When Francisco Vasquez de Coronado reached this area in 1540 seeking the legendary “Seven Golden Cities of Cibola," the local Indians told him that the mountain held much gold, although they refused to help the Spaniard explore it. They feared the “Thunder God”, who was said to dwell there and who would destroy them if they dared to trespass upon his sacred ground.

When the Spaniards tried to explore the mountain on their own, they discovered that men began to vanish mysteriously. It was said that if one of them strayed more than a few feet from his companions, he was never seen alive again. The bodies of the men who were found were mutilated and with their heads cut off. The terrified survivors refused to return to the mountain and so Coronado dubbed the collection of peaks, Monte Superstition, which explains the origin of the infamous name.

The mountain became a legendary spot to the Spanish explorers who followed and was regarded as an evil place.

Don Miguel Peralta discovered a vein of rich gold here in 1845 while searching for the treasure described to Coronado. As his mining operation increased, the Apache grew angry over the Spanish presence on the mountain and in 1848, raised a large force to drive Peralta and his men from the area. Peralta learned of an impending attack and prepared to move out. But they were taken by surprise, and the Apache warriors massacred the entire company of Spaniards.

The pack mules carrying sacks of gold scattered throughout the surrounding desert. The last case of anyone finding the bones of a Peralta mule was in 1914. A man named C.H. Silverlocke showed up in Phoenix one day with a few pieces of badly decayed leather and about $18,000 in gold concentrate.

In 1870, Dr. Abraham Thorne, who was considered a good man and a friend of the Apache, was blindfolded by the Apache and taken to a place where he could find gold. When they reached a canyon, Dr. Thorne saw a stack of almost pure gold nuggets. He later sold the ore for $6,000.

The "Dutchman," Jacob Walz (or Waltz), who was actually from Germany, was mining in the area from 1868 to 1888. During this time, he met and worked with Jacob Weiser. Both would periodically appear in Phoenix with some of the purest gold nuggets townspeople had ever seen. Walz would give conflicting stories about where his mine was located and was able to elude those who would try to follow him.

The Dutchman died on October 25, 1891 with a sack of rich gold ore beneath his deathbed.

Over the next century, several unexplained deaths of those searching for the mine have been reported. That information coupled with this advice given to those searching for the Lost Dutchman gives one pause:
"Do not go onto the mountain alone. Go in pairs at least and go armed. Shoot only to protect your life.

The Lost Dutchman Mine is still out there somewhere in the rugged hills of Arizona, just waiting for someone to return and claim its prize.

But is something else waiting out there, too? Perhaps the prospector named Joe Dearing said it best when he described the general area of the mine as 'the most God-awful rough place you can imagine . . . a ghostly place'.”

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