The History Channel recently wrapped up another inane series having little to do with history, "Legend of the Superstition Mountains." It supposedly documents a modern-day search for the fabled Lost Dutchman Gold Mine in Arizona.
I say "inane" because that sounds nicer than "absurd" or "foolish."
The show's contrived dangers and "discoveries" further taint the legitimate fragments of history behind the Dutchman legend. That history was objectively and skillfully assessed in 2004 by Northwest author Thomas Glover in his book, "The Lost Dutchman Mine of Jacob Waltz."
The Jacksonville, Ore., author and Univ. of Washington grad used scientific methods to review and assess the Dutchman tale. He presents a convincing case that while much of the tale is fiction or embellishment, many elements are true:
- Several pieces of other lost mine legends have been conflated into the traditional, romanticized Dutchman tale.
- There is, in fact, geologic evidence that gold veins exist within the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.
- There truly is a Peralta family whose Sonoran ancestors mined rich silver and gold mines in the Southwest.
- A large Peralta party was massacred by Apaches while mining in the Superstitions in the mid-1800s. Why? They had profaned what the Apaches revered as sacred mountains.
- The Dutchman was real – Jacob Waltz was born in Germany in 1810 and left census records and a paper trail of his mining work in California and Arizona.
- Waltz never had a partner named Weiser, the two never were awarded a mine in gratitude for saving a Peralta’s life in Mexico, and Doc Thorne's legendary gold was not associated with the Superstitions.
- It's possible the Dutchman mine was in fact an old Peralta mine, "discovered" twice before by other men – one who died in a mining accident, and two others who were found dead in the Superstitions.
- Waltz never made a final extraction from his mine because of failing health, possibly emphysema, and he died in 1891, seven years after claiming to have visited his mine for the last time.
- Author Glover contends that Waltz's deathbed confession, where he gave clues to the mine's location and admitted killing men to keep it secret, could well be legitimate.
- Modern ore testing done with a scanning electron microscope indicates that the gold Waltz had at his time of death – which still exists today – comes from a single, unknown source. It was not "high graded" from another documented mine.
If you’re allured by mysteries and wonder if it’s plausible the Lost Dutchman is real, don’t waste your time watching fanciful TV fare. Read the historical record with a critical eye.