January 26, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.
The Superstition Wilderness Area contains many uniquely named landmarks. East of La Barge Canyon and north of the Upper Box in La Barge Canyon is a mountain known as Herman Mountain. Down in La Barge Canyon below the “box” just above the confluence with Whiskey Springs Canyon is located a small cave known to many as Herman’s Cave or Petrasch’s Cave.
When I often hiked these mountains during the winter months of the 1960s I spent several nights in Herman’s old camp in La Barge Canyon.
Herman Mountain was named after an old Arizona prospecting pioneer name Hermann Petrasch. He arrived in Arizona Territory in the early 1890s. He worked as a young man for Emil and Julia Thomas in Phoenix. Julia Thomas was a caregiver for Jacob Waltz in his final years. Waltz, some said, had a rich gold mine in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Waltz died in the home of Julia Thomas on October 25, 1891. Rhinehart Petrasch was with Julia when Waltz died. Many old timers believed Waltz gave clues to Julia and Rhinehart before his death. Soon after Waltz’s death Julia Thomas and Rhinehart planned a trip into the Superstition Mountains to search for the mine. Rhinehart convinced Julia that his brother Hermann would be a lot of help on such a prospecting expedition. Julia Thomas and the
Petrasch brothers, Hermann and Rhinehart, made a trip into the Superstition Mountains in August of 1892 believing they could find Waltz’s rich gold mine. It was a futile search under the worst of conditions. Temperatures were well above 105 degrees and the humidity was bad. And to make things even less tolerable was the problem of black gnats and insects. This was the Petrasches first trip into the Superstition Mountain range. The two young brothers would spend the rest of their lives probing the canyons and mountains of the Superstition range in search of the old Dutchman’s bonanza.
Rhinehart Petrasch, Hermann’s brother committed suicide in Globe, Arizona in 1943 ending his search for the Dutchman gold. Hermann continued his search for another decade eventually passing away at his cabin on Queen Creek near the Martin Ranch in November of 1953. Hermann loved to play the fiddle and was very good at it. Helen Martin, Billy Martin’s wife, said old Hermann use to go with them to the dances in Superior and played his fiddle. Prospectors, miners, adventurers, storytellers, authors and many other stopped by Hermann’s cabin on Queen Creek. Hermann always had a good story to tell, but he never shared those clues he believed were keys to the location of the old Dutchman’s gold. My father stopped and visited with Hermann many times between 1939 and 1952. We often made trips from Christmas, Arizona through Superior to Glendale, Arizona to visit my mother’s sister. My mother would occasionally bake Hermann an Apple pie. My dad would deliver it while we sat in the car. Of course he would visit with Hermann for a half-hour or so and then we would be on our way.
Prior to 1940s old Hermann spent many days prospecting the Superstition Mountains. He often worked for the Cleman’s Cattle Company repairing water holes. He was also good carpenter and worked on the old Reavis Ranch house in 1936. Hermann would work for the cattlemen around the area then spend a few weeks prospecting the mountains. Sometime around 1939, Bill Martin Sr. helped Hermann establish his American citizenship so he would become eligible for Social Security. Hermann eventually received a very small check from Social Security and was able to survive in his small cabin along Queen Creek.
The Petrasch name has always been a significant part of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine story. What the Petrasch brothers actually knew has always been controversial. Did Waltz reveal any information about his alleged mine to Julia and Rhinehart is still a big question today. The “great schism” in the Lost Dutchman story lies with the split between the Petrasch families and the Holmes families that dated back to the time of Waltz’s death in 1891. Shortly after Waltz’s death the Petrasches believed Dick Holmes stole Waltz’s gold ore that the old man kept under his bed in a candle box. Holmes always claimed old Jacob Waltz gave him the gold ore. This resulted in a strong separation between the two families even to this day. Interesting enough there are landmarks in the Superstition Wilderness Area named after both the Petrasches and Holmes. And again maybe the mountain was named after old Herman Petrasch. It could have been named after some cattle drover named Herman. However, I am willing to bet it was named after Herman Petrasch because of the 1956 USGS Topographic Survey in area and the collecting of names from local ranchers.