Superstition Mountains Goldfield-Pioneer Districts


map to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine

Arizona's Superstition Mountains has long been shrouded in mystery and is the source of many stories and tales about lost gold, whether be it the famous Lost Dutchman Mine, the Peralta Mines or the Jesuit Treasure. Many stories surround not only the lost gold in this vast, rugged mountain range, but also about those who searched for the areas hidden treasures, be it man or woman. Greed for gold led many a man to his death in this forbidden, attractive and beautiful range for more than 100 years, as there is a mystical aura that can posses the soul.

Although some would lead one to believe the Spanish named this mountain range as they called it "Sierra de Espuma", meaning mountain of foam, it is more so attributed to the Pima Indians, who in the 1860's relayed to local farmers that they feared the mountains, the farmers translated this fear to mean superstitious, thus Superstition Mountains. This name first appeared on U.S War Department sketched field maps in 1870 but in the 1860's military maps referred to it as Sierra Supersticiones. The mountain range was regarded as religious shines for the Apaches and was the setting of many bloody battles between warring tribes before the coming of the white man but these mountains also became a formidable sanctuary, a last vestige for the Apache, who refused to become reservation Indians. They often used the twisting canyons and impenetrable maze of rocks which defied the efforts of the military for over 20 years.

The first visitors to the area were the Spanish in 1539 as they could see it from the Gila River, but at that time failed to explore it. Later in 1582, during the Espejo Expedition discovered gold and silver. In the following years Spanish, then Mexican prospectors searched the area for mineral wealth and other discoveries were made though not of great significance. American prospectors arrived about 1849; most were just passing through, on their way to California.The first big gold rush came to area in 1858 when the Gila diggings were discovered. In the end though, copper would far exceed both gold and silver, however if not for the adventurous settlers, men, women, cattleman, cowboys, prospectors and miners, the mountain range would not have the rich history we know today.

The most famous miner and legend was Jacob Waltz, the lost Dutchman, who was not Dutch, but rather German, arriving in America from Germany in 1840 and settling in Arizona in 1860. He prospected in and around the Bradshaw Mountains, from Prescott to Crown King, but his name does not appear on any claims after 1865, none particularly in the Superstitions. He arrived in the Phoenix area in about 1868 and was one of the Valleys first settlers. During his final years, he found himself in complete poverty and had deeded his home to a neighbor, Julia Thomas and in exchange she agreed to care for him for his remaining years. Julia Kahn (or Korn or Corn) was originally from Louisiana, born in 1862, her parents had immigrated from Germany to America in the 1840's through the Port of New Orleans. Contrary to contemporary writers, she was not Negro or mulatto, most documents indicate she was not of color as she married Emil Thomas in Colorado City, TX in 1883 and historians doubt a marriage of mixed race, as such was not accepted in this period of American history. Emil and Julia arrived in Arizona in 1885, operating a confectionary and bakery shop together until their separation in March 1890. She filed for divorce in August 1891 and continued to operate the shop as sole proprietor. Waltz spent his last months living with Julia as he had been rescued and his home had been inundated by a disastrous flood in February 1891. This event was ultimately the beginning of the end for the old prospector as he had suffered from exposure and never regained his health, eventually he succumbing to pneumonia in October 1891. It was during these final days, Julia claimed, that Jacob had revealed to her his gold hoard in the Superstitions, passing on many clues as to the whereabouts of his fabulous mine. After his demise she relayed the information as best she could remember to a trusted friend and neighbor Rhinehart Petrasch. Soon after the death of Mr. Waltz, Julia sold her profitable bakery to finance her search for the mine. She asked Rhinehart to accompany her on the venture, to which he agreed, providing his brother Hermann could go along with them. Had it not been for the brief publicity generated by this unlikely crew of prospectors, the legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine might have died then and there. Gold fever obliviously outranked common sense for the crew as they took off for the expedition in August 1892, during the hottest part of the summer, and eventually they returned to Phoenix defeated by the vast wilderness, heat, and lack of water. They had spent several weeks searching the ravines and canyons near Weavers Needle and Bluff Springs Mountain, all to no avail. In July of 1893 she married Albert Schaffer and she produced and began selling maps showing the approximate location of the lost mine as well as sold her information about the Lost Dutchman Mine to Piermont Bricknell, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and the story was published January 13, 1895. She died at the age of 55 on December 17, 1917.

Julia may have been the first to search for the Dutchmans gold mine, but certainly she was not the last , maybe only, the most well known. The most awful irony of the fruitless expedition was that they had directly passed through the area where the Black Queen and Mammoth Mines were discovered less than a year later in 1863 by four other men. The area had originally been worked by Spanish miners but had been rediscovered by American prospectors in the 19th century. The first claim had been filed in early 1883, but in 1893 the biggest strike was made as a massive rainstorm had eroded the earth and exposed a large, rich deposit of gold-bearing quartz, right over an area that had been heavily prospected. The ore body became known as the Mammoth Mine and soon a boom town nearby named Goldfield sprang up. (The most well known Madame Kate Elder, A.K.A "Big Nose Kate" was known to be in the area 1882, after her break up with Doc Holiday, leaving Tombstone behind her. She operated a hotel and brothel where she met many of the prominent citizens in and around Superior and Globe.) The mine, unfortunately, flooded out in 1897 and Goldfield faded away. In 1949, the old mineshaft was discovered, covered over by huge rocks, rich pockets of gold ore still remained.


Superstition

Two prominent features within the famous Superstition Mountain range are Weavers Needle, a narrow pinnacle rising up to an elevation of 3648 ft, named after mountain man and prospector, Paulino Weaver, and Miners Needle three miles to the southeast. Both pinnacles have been associated with the Lost Dutchman and Miners Needle has been connected with at least two other lost mines in the area.

One lost mine is attributed to an old prospector known only as Wagoner, who lived in the old ore milling town of Pinal. This mill served the rich silver mines around nearby Superior and surrounding area. Wagoner observed many examples of rich ore coming into town and soon began prospecting, eventually working his way to the rugged Superstitions. He spent a great deal of time in the range. He found himself in the northern end of the range and decided to cut through to the southern end, using La Barge Canyon as his trail. He soon found himself at Miners Needle, continuing south he made the discovery of his life. Along the southern slope of the range he stumbled onto an outcrop of rose quartz abundant with gold. He instantly began working and filled his packs, and returned to Pinal City where is sold his nuggets and celebrated his good fortune. He returned to his outcrop, as he knew where to find gold in this range, always entering just north of a ranch, present day Queen Valley. He moved out of the territory, but had concealed his mine with rocks as so nobody would find it, unfortunately he never returned and nobody has ever found his treasure. What happened to him is a mystery.

Another lost mine legend centered near Miners Needle is that of the Peraltas, which in some versions intertwines with Jacob Waltz, portraying several different outcomes. One version is that the Peralta family made several expeditions to the Superstition Mountains from Sonora Mexico in the late 1840's through the early 1850's and travelled with the Gonzales group. In what turned out to be their final expedition, the two groups were attacked by Apaches, the Gonzales group completely massacred and the Peralta group survived making it back to Sonora, loaded with gold, but another version is that only one survivor of the Peralta group escaped and returned to tell the story of the ambush. Either way there was evidence of a battle between the Spanish and Apaches in the area of the reported massacre. Since the turn of the century, remnants of mining equipment, high grade gold, old guns, weapons and gear have been found. Stories include details on how the Peraltas buried rich mines with rocks to hide their discoveries, while others claim the Apache removed all evidence of their activities by filling holes, mines and tunnels with dirt and debris. Another more sinister tale says that Jacob Waltz and his partner Jacob Weiser had been befriended by a Mexican gentleman while in Sonora and had agreed to take the partners to a mine worked by the Peralta group that he called Las Minas Sombreras located in the Superstitions. After taking some of the gold, the Mexican returned to Mexico and soon after Weiser was killed by Apaches; in another scenario he was murdered by Waltz. However, there seems to be no evidence that Jacob Weiser even existed or that Waltz had been in Sonora but some do believe that the Peralta Mine and the Lost Dutchman mine are one in the same. In 1952, the infamous "Peralta" stone tablet "maps" were found by a man on vacation with his family. The stone maps have been authenticated by more than one archeologist as being more than 100 years old, but the symbols and signs on them have yet to be accurately interpreted.

Mining History

In the 1960's a full fledged feud broke out between two individuals, both seeking the almost mythical Lost Jesuit treasure. The story goes that in the mid 1700's Jesuit padres had been keeping gold and silver from King Charles III of Spain. Knowing that they were going to be facing expulsion and replaced by the Franciscans, they loaded up the loot (chalices and crosses and the like of pure gold and silver) from the churches and missions in Arizona and Northern Mexico and hid it in the Superstition Mountains, in a cave, believed by some to be at the base of the Weavers Needle. They had been seen entering the range loaded down with many pack animals and exiting with almost nothing. The feud revolved the quest to find this treasure between Ed Piper and Celeste Marie Jones. Celeste claimed to have "visions" which guided her to Weavers Needle, while Piper had been told the story of the Jesuits and the treasure by an Indian Chief in Oklahoma where he was raised. The Chief had told him if he ever had the desire to search for a treasure, Arizona, in the Superstitions Mountains was the place to be and to look for a mountain that looked like a sombrero, at its base was a cave and there the treasure would be. Piper ended up at Weavers Needle. The two grubstaked over one another constantly creating contempt. Celeste, a black ex-opera singer, believed the treasure was accessed from the top of the needle and Piper believed it was at the base. Reportedly the two even had a few gun fights, in one incident a sniper for the Jones camp grazed Piper in the head and later Piper fired upon a member of Jones' crew, killing a man. Later he was exonerated and it was determined to be a case of self defense. Piper died of cancer in 1962 and in 1963, Jones abandoned her quest after her hired geologist fell to his death climbing Weavers Needle. His assistant Ray Gatewood, was so panicked by watching the fateful event that had it not been for two local prospectors who heard his screams for help, a mile away, he may have died too.

This large majestic mountain range that attracts gold hunters and treasure seekers rises about 3,000 feet above the desert floor and dominates the eastern side of the Salt River Valley. In the summer months, water can be more precious than gold as temperatures can often reach 119 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The towering spires and deep canyons were formed by a volcanic upheaval 17-29 million years ago during the Tertiary period of geologic time. The mountain formed during a tectonic maelstrom the result of which formed a massive caldera nearly 7 miles in diameter. Once the lava cooled, magma pushed the center of this caldera upward forming a mass of igneous rock. The region was broken by eastward trending faults and the hypogene copper deposits were formed. The mass, roughly a thousand feet higher then it is today, eroded away over the last few million years by water and wind leaving behind the mountain as we see it today. The placer geology of the area focuses on a Precambrian schist, granite and other intrusive rocks. These older rocks are part of the main North American crustal plate, and have been brought to the surface in the area by geologic uplift. While there are some younger tertiary volcanic rocks such as rhyolite, dacite and basalt cover the hills and mountains to the west, the older Precambrian rocks are underneath. Many of the most productive districts are underlain by Precambrian schist known to prospectors as the Pinal schist. Precambrian to tertiary age gold bearing quartz veins and veinlets within the schist and granite rocks provide the gold which erosion has concentrated into the placer deposits. There are some nice gold-quartz specimens to be found in the area. Along most of the washes the coarsest gold tends to be found in the upstream portions of the wash, while in the lower reaches of the wash fine gold predominates with loads of black sands (magnetite). The gold is widespread at many washes in this area, and many smaller tributary gullies and ravines have been worked for their placer gold. Rediscovery of these smaller washes has led to some excellent discoveries by prospectors armed with metal detectors. Areas which present good potential for prospecting can be identified by selecting the areas where the Pinal schist outcrops.


Mammoth Mine-

First discovered in 1893 and rediscovered later. It is a former underground gold, silver and copper deposit. Production noted from 1916-1930's by the Sunset Mining Company (claims were named Sunset). In 1943-1944 owned and operated by G.B Hoganson and in 1948 by David C. Hartley. Workings include one 175 foot shaft, one 75 foot shaft and one 64 foot shaft with a 600 foot long tunnel. Mineralization is the Battle Ax vein, hosted in diorite and related east/west trending faults fissures.


Palmer Mine-

A former gold, silver and copper mine on the southwest edge of the Superstition Mountains that first produced in 1900. Operators include Superstition Saga Mining Co; Ray Thompson; J.W Thomas; J.T Corn; the Superstition Consolidated Mining Co., which filed 22 claims in 1923 and Ralph F. Palmer in 1942. Mineralization is a vein deposit in brecciated material adjacent to a fault with copper and gold values in quartz stringers. Workings include a shaft, at least 215 feet deep; 6 feet of crosscut and 40 feet of drifting in 1942.


Magma Mine-

Old Silver King Mine- Located in the Pioneer district has, over the last 2 years, produced more than $270,000 in gold. The district, prior to 1932 had produced about $2,056,000 worth of gold, most of which was a byproduct of copper mining.


Gold Eagle-

In the early days this mine produced some gold and silver-bearing copper ore. A production of 99,120 pounds of copper, 1,040 ounces of silver and 188 ounces of gold was reported in 1907. In 1920 the property was obtained by the Lake Superior and Arizona Mining Co., This company drove a few thousand feet of tunnels and sank a 1,400 foot incline. In 1932, T.D Herron and C. Laster leased the mine and opened large bodies of gold ore. To the end of 1933, these lessees shipped 7,000 tons of ore to the Magma smelter. During the first 5 months of 1934 their production of gold and silver amounted to more than $100,000 and by May of 1934 fifty men were employed. As a rule the gold is spongy to fine grained and occurs erratically distributed. According to Mr. Herron, the ore mined contained generally an ounce or more of gold and an ounce of silver per ton.

This area of the Goldfield and Pioneer mining districts in and around the Superstition Mountains is no doubt a highly mineralized caldera abundant in gold that has not yet been found, either by new discoveries or the discovery of the lost mines. It is a treasure trove in the magnificent theater of nature and even for those who made fruitless efforts to strike it rich, they had at least been given the privilege to have found a beautifully mystic place in which to search.

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