Lost Gold, Silver and Tall Tales

By Tom Kollenborn

The Superstition Mountain range has attracted the interest of humans for more than a millennium. First it was the Native American who did hunting and gathering on the slopes of these rugged mountains. Petroglyphs, such as those in Hieroglyphic Canyon, reveal the success of their hunts for mountain sheep and deer along the slopes of these mountains.

The slopes also produced an enormous amount of legumes, such a Mesquite, Ironwood, Palo Verde and Acacia in the spring. Grind holes can be found in numerous locations in the foothills of the mountains. These legumes were an important supplement in the diet of the early Native Americans who lived in this area.

One of the earliest cultures to take advantage of this region were the Hohokam, who also were responsible for the irrigation systems along the Rio Salinas and Gila. The prospector looking for gold followed the Native Americans and pushed them out with the help of the Army.

Yes, both gold and silver were found in the area. The first big mining operation was the Silver King Mine north of modern day Superior in 1875. This was followed by discovery of silver in Globe and gold in the Superstition Mining District west of Superstition Mountain in 1892.

The miners and teamsters followed the prospectors. The first cattlemen brought herds in from Montana and Texas to feed the miners, teamsters and merchants. Yes, gold was found between Superstition Mountain and the Orohai (Goldfield) Mountain, but none in the Superstition Mountains. According to several mineral surveys, there are no zones of profitable mineralization within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area as we know it today.

Grave of Jacob Waltz, Pioneer and Military Cemetery, west of downtown Phoenix

Today, we still have many prospectors and treasure hunters pursuing the legendary Dutchman’s lost mine in the Superstition Mountain region. This search for gold or treasure in the mountains continues each and every year. Each year there are new searchers claiming to have found the legendary mine. Each year a new film company tells the story of the Dutchman’s lost mine in such a manner that people want to continue the search.

Documentaries, books and periodicals all create interest among those who dream of riches. I have always said you would have a better chance winning the lottery than finding the Dutchman’s mine. It would be a better investment to buy lottery tickets than investing money in the Dutchman’s lost mine.

Why does anyone hunt for the Dutchman’s lost mine? Is it “something for nothing” riches, or is it the adventure and the search that is so attractive to modern man who lives in an urban environment. The need for adventure is important to some who search for lost gold and lost mines. The Southwest is filled with such stories and tall tales. You might say Frank J. Dobie is the father of the modern gold and treasure hunter. His book, “Coronado’s Children,” published in 1931, has guided many a treasure hunter for the past seventy-five years.

You might call Dobie’s book the “Bible” of treasure hunting in the American Southwest. Hundreds of books have followed and further confused the lost gold and treasure scene in the American Southwest.

Nothing has impacted the Dutchman lost mine story as much as the disappearance of Adolph Ruth in 1931. The story of Ruth’s disappearance focused national news on the Superstition Mountain range and the story of lost gold and the legendary Dutchman’s lost mine.

In the mid-1980’s, the Attorney Generals of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah formed a task force to fight gold and silver, lost mines and buried treasure scams. Two Arizona residents were indicted and prosecuted in Arizona. One was Robert Jacob, and the other was Marshall Ott.

Jacob conned money out of investors to open his phony mine in the Superstition Mountains. Records indicated Jacob relieved investors of more than nine million dollars over a period of six years. Jacob was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.

Marshall Ott was convicted of conning a religious investor out of thousands of dollars. He was also convicted and served several years in prison at Florence, Arizona. Yes, these legends have created a lucrative market for con-artists to separate investors from their hard earned money.

While there are con-artists out there, there are also many honest people who believe they have solved the riddle of this lost mine and someday will find it. They have every right in this world to follow their dream, and I support them in their search for their dream. I’ve always said, “Today’s adventures are tomorrow’s memories.”

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