November 16, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.
The Superstition Mountain has served as a beacon to treasure hunters and the curious around the world. Fortunes have been made and lost in the search for the Lost Dutchman Mine, however the mine has never been found. Many claim the majestic beauty and tranquility of the region are the only treasures man will find in the Superstition Wilderness Area.
The Lost Dutchman Mine was name after Jacob Waltz, an old German prospector mistakenly called the “Old Dutchman.” He allegedly discovered a rich gold vein in the Superstition Mountain region east of Phoenix, A man named Hermann Petrasch was probably one of the most persistent seekers of Waltz’s mine. You might say Hermann was the “father of all modern Dutch hunters.” Hermann, and his brother Rhinehart, began their search for the mine with Julia Thomas in the summer of 1892.
Carl Gottfried Hermann Petrasch was born in Hennersdorf, Germany on the 24th day of April, 1864. Hermann arrived at the Port of Entry, New York, New York in the spring of 1869. He had left Germany with his father Gottfried when he was only five years old. Herman accompanied his father to the town of Whatcom, Washington. Herman’s father traveled widely throughout the West, first Washington, Montana, Colorado, and finally to Arizona. Hermann lived in Arizona almost sixty years and most of those years were spent in and around the Superstition Mountain area. Petrasch did not apply for United States citizenship until October 1938.
Hermann arrived in Arizona shortly after the death of Jacob Waltz in October of 1891. He came to Arizona at the request of his brother, Rhinehart. Rhinehart wanted Hermann to assist him and Julia Thomas in the search for Waltz’s gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. Rhinehart claimed that he and Julia had the clues to locate Waltz’s rich gold mine.
Rhinehart Petrasch had been residing in Phoenix for some time and helped Julia Thomas with her business. Some historians believe Rhinehart became a close associate of Jacob Waltz in his final days at Julia’s residence on West Jackson Street in Phoenix. Rhinehart learned a few meager clues during this period some believe, but not enough to find the mine. Waltz may or may not have mumbled out any clues in the final days of his life. If any clues were given out, surely Waltz would have given them to Julia as his caregiver during his long illness.
As the end became apparent for the “Old Dutchman” he called Julia and Rhinehart to his side, some say, and gave them the final clues to his rich gold mine in the Superstitions. This would have been fine, but Julia and Rhinehart had been celebrating a bit too much and their minds were a little foggy. This they would regret when they wandered aimlessly in the mountains searching for Waltz’s mine. Julia and Rhinehart tried to put the pieces together after old “Jake’s” death. Their first decision was to find another partner they could trust. Julia accepted the idea of inviting Rhinehart’s brother Hermann to join them in the search for Waltz’s mine. Hermann was living in Colorado at the time.
Early in August of 1892, shortly after Herman Petrash’s arrival in Phoenix, Julia Thomas, Rhinehart and Hermann Petrasch began to organize their expedition to search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Julia Thomas had purchased a team, wagon, and camping gear for their expedition into the Superstition Mountains. The group departed Phoenix before sunrise on August 11, 1892, with little fanfare. The party moved slowly along the old Tempe- Lehi Road. They spent their first night a Marysville Crossing. The next morning they turned southeastward toward Superstition Mountain and the desert flatland west of the mountains. The second day of travel eastward across the desert toward the western face of Superstition Mountain proved difficult until they found some wagons tracks. These wagon tracks lead northeast toward Superstition Mountain and the Goldfield mining area; however crossing washes became very difficult for their overloaded wagon.
Somewhere along this route the group realized they had to abandon the wagon. They spent their next night under the cliffs of Superstition Mountain, some say near the entrance of Monument Canyon. At sunrise the next morning they were packing up their two horses and decided to walk toward the northwestern end of Superstition Mountain. Julia was searching for La Sombrero, the pointed peak she said Jacob Waltz had told her about. The heat and humidity was stifling, but the three adventurers continued walking and leading their pack animals.
According to Hermann Petrasch they camped the next evening in Needle Canyon, at least he thought it was. Years later Hermann said, “We might have camped in East Boulder Canyon on the western side of Black Top Mountain that third night. The next morning we were up at sunrise again and climbed a steep ridge to a pass and walked down into a deep canyon. We could see the pointed peak old Jacob had talked about. It was here they set camp for the next three weeks as they used their clues to search the area.
Next week, Part 2