Learn more about America’s most famous hidden mine

Quick notes

  • The lost mine is somewhere in the Superstition Mountains

  • It was named the Lost Dutchman’s mine for a German immigrant, Jacob Waltz

  • A man named Adolph Ruth may have been murdered for the mine’s location

In the Superstition Mountains, near Apache Junction east of Phoenix, Arizona, a legendary gold mine is supposedly located. The Lost Dutchman is America’s most famous lost mine, and many people have risked their lives searching for it.

The story of the missing mine started when the Peralta family moved to the area in the early 19th century to try their luck at mining. They found gold in the 1840s but were ambushed by a local tribe of Apaches. Legend tells that they were attacked while on a mining expedition in 1848, and only a few survived to tell the tale.

It is thought that Apaches stole the gold and hid it in the mountains. All traces of the mine were covered up. Although there has been no proof that the mine exists, from then on, many people have joined the search for the hidden gold.

Who was the Lost Dutchman?

A German immigrant, Jacob Waltz, is supposed to have discovered the mine in the 19th century and became known as the “Lost Dutchman.” At the time, the term “Dutch” was used for people from the Netherlands and Germany. Born in 1810 in Württemberg, he first appears in American records in 1848. Waltz began prospecting in California in the 1850s. He was living in Arizona in the 1860s and did mine for a living. There is little evidence that he had any success.

Unsplash / Matt Seymour

Legend says Waltz was helped by a descendant of the Peralta family to locate the hidden gold. Some say a man named Jacob Weiser aided him, although no trace of Weiser exists. However it occurred, in the 1870s, the mine was worked, and Waltz found the gold that had been hidden in the Superstition Mountains.

Jacob Waltz moved to the Salt River Valley in 1868 and purchased a 160-acre farm on the north bank of the Salt River. Extensive flooding devastated the farm in 1891, and Waltz contracted pneumonia. He died in 1891 and, on his deathbed, he confessed to his neighbor, Julia Thomas, who was caring for him, where to locate the mine. It was even said a candle box containing high-grade gold ore was found under his bed.

Julia Thomas became the first searcher for the lost mine. Along with members of the Petrasch family, she searched the mountains but found nothing. After spending all her money, Thomas made a living from selling maps of the supposed location.

The sad demise of Adolph Ruth

The tales of the Lost Dutchman mine might have passed into history if it wasn’t for Adolph Ruth, who decided to find the gold in the summer of 1931. Ruth’s son, a lawyer, had helped a man called Pedro Gonzales with a legal matter and in return, was given some old maps. Gonzales claimed descendant from the Peralta family and said he had information on the whereabouts of the mine.

The 66-year-old Ruth stayed at the ranch of Tex Barkely as he prepared for his expedition. Barkely feared for his safety and repeatedly told him to give up the search, and his fears came true when Ruth failed to return from a two-week trip to find the mine. A skull with two bullet holes was found six months later. A further search found the rest of his remains and effects, but the maps were gone.

Although there has been no proof that the mine exists … many people have joined the search for the hidden gold.

Ruth’s family believed he had been murdered for the maps that had led him to the Lost Dutchman mine. A note found in his checkbook claimed he had discovered the mine and included directions. The note ended with a Latin phrase translating to “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Ruth’s untimely demise did nothing to dissuade further searchers. Over the years, many people have tried to find the Lost Dutchman’s mine, and several have lost their lives searching for gold hidden in the Superstition Mountains. The mine’s location remains a mystery to this day.

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