The Lost Dutchman Mine
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One of the best treasure tales in the history of the
American West is the Lost Dutchman Mine. Shrouded in mystery, the mine is
not only allegedly rich in gold, but is also said to have a
curse upon it, leading to a number of strange deaths, as well as people
who mysteriously go "missing” when they attempt to locate the old mine.
For more than 120 years, the legend of the Lost Dutchman
Mine has been told over and over, growing in proportions to such an extent
that some claim the entire legend is nothing but a myth. But for thousands
of others, the mine and its legends are extremely real, hidden in the
forbidding peaks of the Superstition Mountains.
"Real” or not, the haunting tales
endure, continuing to draw prospectors to the Superstition Mountains
today, and making the story one of the most famous lost treasure tales
of all time.
East of Phoenix,
is the Superstition Mountain range, more commonly referred to by
locals, as the "Superstitions.” Standing majestically at the forefront
of this rough terrain is Superstition Mountain, a 3,000 foot high
monolith, which seemingly stands guard over the rest of its territory.
Superstition Mountain, April, 2007, Kathy
This image available for
photographic prints and
before gold was found in these ragged cliffs and mesas, the area has
been cloaked in mystery. When the Spanish arrived in 1540, the region
was inhabited by the
Indians, who considered Superstition Mountain to be sacred ground, as
it was home to their Thunder God. Led by
Francisco Vasquez de
Coronado, the conquistadors cared little about the Apache
customs or beliefs, wanting only to find the legendary "Seven Golden
Cities of Cibola.”
Learning from the
that the range did in fact hold gold, the Spaniards were intent upon
exploring the area. The Apache;
however, refused to help them, telling them that if they dared to
trespass on the sacred ground, the Thunder God would take revenge upon
them, causing tremendous suffering and horrible deaths. The
called Superstition Mountain the "Devil’s Playground.”
But the Spaniards were determined
and began to explore. Almost immediately, men began to mysteriously
vanish, to the point that warnings were given to never stray more than
a few feet away from the rest of the group. Still, more men
disappeared only to be found dead later, their bodies mutilated and
their heads cut off.
In fear, the conquistadors finally fled, refusing to
return to the mountain, which they dubbed Monte Superstition. The
legends had begun.
A century and a
half later, having heard of the rich gold to be found in the
Superstitions, Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino, whose objective was
to establish missions and Christianize the savages, was lured by the
tales. In the first decade of the 1700’s he began to explore the region,
finding several sources of gold. Though it is not known if he found the
fabled Dutchman’s Mine, his forays did produce the coveted shining metal,
adding more fuel to the legend of gold in the Superstitions. However,
these expeditions further enraged the Apache,
who then began to prey on all trespassers.
In 1748, the
Superstitions, as well as some 3,750 square miles of what is now Arizona,
were given to Mexican cattle-baron, Don Miguel Peralta of Sonora, in a
The land not only contained a rich
gold mine, but also several silver mines. This was the first official
recording of the mine’s existence. For the next century, the Peralta
family and their laborers would make infrequent forays into Arizona
bringing out loads of ore. Aware of the Apache'
displeasure, they kept these mining trips at a minimum, not wanting to
risk the ferocious Apache's
However, in 1846, four descendants of
the original grant, Enrico, Pedro, Ramon, and Manuel Peralta, decided to
make another foray into Arizona,
risking not only the "curse,” but also the wrath of the Apache.
They soon returned to Sonora, laden with gold and planning another trip.
The next year, with the Mexican War in full swing, Pedro was the only one
willing to return to Arizona,
determined to extract as much gold as possible before their holdings
became part of the United States. In the meantime, the Apache
were angry at the intrusion upon their sacred grounds. When the Peralta
miners heard that the Apache
might attack, they packed up, concealed the entrance to the mine, and with
burros and wagons laden with gold, began to make their way back to Mexico
in the winter of 1847-1848.
This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
But, they wouldn’t make it. They were
attacked by the Apache. The pack mules scattered in all
directions, spilling the gold everywhere. For years afterwards, prospectors
flocked to the area not only in search of the mine, but also in search of
Mexican gold spilled during the massacre. In the 1850’s, two prospectors
are said to have come upon three dead burros with intact pack saddles that
contained some $37,000 worth of gold.
The Peralta family refrained even more
from working the mines for the next 16 years. However, in 1864, Enrico
Peralta, leading some 400 men, ventured back into the range. It would be
his last. On the northwest slope of the mountain, in an area now referred
to as "Massacre Ground,” all but one of the miners were ambushed and killed
by the Apache.
Never again did the Peralta family venture back to the mine and all maps
and knowledge of its location were lost through the years.
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Legends of America
- The Canyon State -
Arizona's storied past reaches back
thousands of years and you will enjoy it's tall mountain ranges, swift
rivers, grasslands, sand dunes, and cactus forests. Experience the many tales
Ghost Towns, Old West Forts,
and Route 66,
to interesting people including
Native Americans, and More.