Kollenborn: Truth from Fiction

By Tom Kollenborn

Most historians accept the story that an old prospector named Jacob Waltz created one of the most popular legends in American Southwestern history. Storytellers will tell you he spun yarns and gave clues to a rich lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains.

However, historians will claim Waltz was a very quiet and secluded individual preferring his privacy. These clues and stories attributed to Waltz continue to attract men and women from around the world to search for gold. The search for gold in these mountains is pure fantasy to many; however, others believe this legendary mine is as real as the precious metal itself.

Who was this man who left this lingering story of lost gold in these mountains? The story of this mine remains the legacy of this old German prospector.

Jacob Waltz was born somewhere near Oberschwandorf, Wurttenburg, Germany, sometime between 1808 and 1810. The exact date and place of his birth is still controversial. The precise date of his birth has not been documented with baptismal records or any other type of documentation. To further confuse the issue here, there was more than one Jacob Waltz born during this period of time.

His childhood was quite obscure, because few records remain about his early life in Germany. There are no documents or records that Jacob Waltz had any formal education. There are certainly no records that prove he was a graduated mining engineer, as claimed by some writers.

I have a very close friend who lives near Baden-Baden, Germany, named Hemut Schmidtpeter. He has researched Jacob Waltz for the past twenty years or so.

The name Jacob Waltz is quite common in Germany, and this fact alone confuses research on the topic.

Ironically, some of the most damaging information about Jacob Waltz was passed on to Helen Corbin when she wrote her book titled “The Bible On The Lost Dutchman Mine and Jacob Waltz.”

This information was passed on to her by a researcher named Kraig Roberts. Experts in documentation studied these records and found them to be altered. Did Roberts alter them or somebody else? Nobody knows for sure.

Since the Olbler transit records have been “proved to be altered,” it appears in all probability Waltz may have entered the United States through the port of New York or Baltimore as originally proposed by Jerry Hamrick. The Obler ship passenger’s manifest was definitely altered with the addition of Waltz’s name and others.

Now we can only rely on the existing facts. Waltz did sign his “letter of intent” in Natchez, Mississippi on November 12, 1848, to become a citizen of the United States.

Waltz filed for his naturalization papers in Los Angles, California, and became a citizen of the United States on July 19, 1861.

He soon traveled to the Bradshaw Mountains near Prescott. Waltz staked three mining claims there between 1863-1868. Waltz also signed a petition for Arizona Territorial Governor Goodwin to form a militia to stop the predatory raid of the local Native Americans on miners and prospectors in the area.

It is highly unlikely Waltz spent any time around the Vulture Mine or Wickenburg. He did settle on a homestead on the north bank of the Salt River. He filed papers on the homestead in March of 1868.

Waltz farmed a little and raised a few chickens. He was known for selling eggs in Phoenix. He prospected the mountains around the Salt River Valley.

Did he have a rich gold mine? It is not very likely he did. After his death in 1891, his legacy began to build with the many stories written by newspapermen and authors. Many had a story to tell and didn’t care how they told it.

Fiction replaces fact, and we have the story today that is told around campfires and in cafes around Apache Junction. Wherever there is a gathering of individuals interested in lost gold mines, you will find the story of the Lost Dutchman mine.

This story is still alive and doing well some one hundred and twenty-five years later.

1 Comment

  1. Researching for JacobWaltz’ origins,I had visited Walddorf Vicarage near Haiterbach in Württemberg,where I was shown the Oberschwandorf Church Register containing an 1804 entry pertaining to the birth of one Johann Jacob Walz on July 11,with an annotation of having left his home for America with his second wife and his seven surviving children out of ten on June 8,1846. So much for just one Jacob Wal(t)z out of several who had emigrated to America in the 19th century according to the Württemberg Emigration Index. A register of local families (Ortssippenbuch) of Oberschwandorf mentions the man’s nephew Cornelius,son of his brother Thomas emigrating to America in May 1867 and drowning.

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