Richard J. “Dick” Holmes, an Arizona native born at Fort Whipple in 1865, played a prominent role in the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine.
Holmes once stated he trailed Jacob Waltz into the Superstition Mountains in an attempt to find his mine, but gave up near Tortilla Creek when he realized Waltz knew he was trailing him. Several months later, Waltz warned Holmes never to trail him again or he would kill him. Several accounts, including his own, placed Holmes at the deathbed of Jacob Waltz on the morning of October 25, 1891, at the home of Julia Thomas, in Phoenix, Arizona Territory.
The Holmes family was well-known in the territory and around Phoenix. They had been involved in cattle, mining and other economic activities. Richard J. Holmes’ son, George “Brownie” Holmes, supposedly wrote a manuscript prior to his father’s death in 1930 about the famous Lost Dutchman Mine.
John Lindley Higham gave a copy of this manuscript to the Arizona State Department of Library and Archives in 1962. Higham claimed the manuscript came to him by some mysterious carrier. He also claimed the only purpose of the manuscript was to exonerate “Brownie” Holmes’ father’s name. His father, Richard, was actually accused of stealing the gold ore from beneath the cot of Jacob Waltz while he lay there dying in Julia Thomas’ home. Holmes claimed Waltz gave him the gold cache. Higham, at least, had the accurate date for Waltz’s death. You would have to wonder about a man, Richard Holmes, who would trail another man in an attempt to locate his rich mine. What if Holmes had found Waltz’s mine? What would he have done? This is the man who claimed Waltz gave him the rich gold cache from beneath his deathbed. This is also the same man accused of stealing the candle box of rich gold ore from Waltz by Julia Thomas and Rhinehart Petrasch.
Higham may have been right when he claimed the manuscript was written primarily to exonerate Richard J. “Dick” Holmes from any blame involved with the theft of Waltz’s cache. “Brownie” may have written a manuscript for the [sole] purpose of protecting his family’s reputation. My father, George W. Kollenborn, met “Brownie” the first time when he worked for the Barkleys. I can’t say for sure when that was, but probably just prior to World War I. They often talked about going into the mountains together and looking for the source of the placer around Tortilla Mountain, but it never happened due to my father’s busy schedule. “Brownie” told my dad several times that his father never did a dishonest thing or anything that would bring shame on the Holmes family name. This statement convinced my father, if “Brownie” had ever written a manuscript, it was for the purpose of exonerating his father, not for the purpose of leading anyone to the Lost Dutchman Mine or providing the necessary clues for locating the mine. The question still remains to this day did George “Brownie” Holmes actually write a manuscript?
After Richard J. Holmes died on October 31, 1930, his son became the solitary searcher for the Dutchman’s Mine in the Holmes family. Several years later William A. Barkley told my dad that Brownie had given up his search for the Dutchman because he broke his foot. Brownie wasn’t sure the foot would ever allow him to work the mountains again. Holmes began to look for a partner at this point. He wanted somebody he could trust and share his information with about the mine.
Holmes grew very impatient with one of his early partners and began a search for another. He found a true partner in Clayton West of Fairfield, Montana, a very honest person, and a man of his word. I am not sure when Clay became Brownie’s partner, but I would guess sometime in the late fifties or early sixties. Clay attested to the fact Brownie Holmes never authored a manuscript of any kind. Between 1966-1980 Brownie talked to a lot of Dutch hunters, including Richard Peck, Chuck Aylor, Alva Reser, Monty Edwards, John Salinsky, Quinten Cox, Jim Butler, John Paul DeSilva and many more I’m not familiar with.
The many conversations I had with Brownie Holmes, he sounded impatient and wanted somebody to dedicate all their time to the search. I am not sure whether Brownie was looking for more information or was enjoying the attention and popularity. I talked to Brownie many times in person and on the phone. He was always interested in my father and Bill Cage’s views about his father and the mine. Brownie never shared his information except with his closest confidantes. I was certainly not one of his confidantes, although he told me some very interesting things over the years. I learned from several different audio tapes just who Brownie had visited with over the years. Brownie often allowed people to tape their conversations with him. I have acquired audio tapes from many different old timers and their conversations with Brownie Holmes.
Just how [much] George “Brownie” Holmes actually knew about Waltz’s mine is somewhat questionable. Yes, he knew what his father had heard and observed, and Brownie made several trips into the Superstition Mountains with his father. His father pointed out many of the landmarks associated with Waltz’s mine.
Yes, his father had been a contemporary of Jacob Waltz, and it is apparent Dick Holmes knew Jacob Waltz to some degree. Did Dick Holmes follow Waltz into the Superstition Mountains? Nobody knows the answer to that question except Dick Holmes and his partner. A reasonable summation of this information would lead a reasonable person to believe Dick Holmes never followed Waltz to the location [of] his mine. If he had, Holmes would have been a rich man after Waltz’s death in 1891.
[Part II – November 3]
The early history of the Lost Dutchman Mine is so confused with misinformation it is difficult to separate the facts from the fiction. The principals involved have often confused the available information with lies, misinterpretations and misinformation. It is quite possible Pierpont Constable Bicknell interviewed Julia Thomas for his story that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in January of 1895. Holmes often said Julia Thomas and Bicknell made up the clues when he wrote his article. If this is true, then only the Holmes version of the mine’s location is valid. It is difficult, though, to believe only Richard Holmes knew Jacob Waltz as a friend.
Waltz was a neighbor of the Starrar brothers for almost three decades. Julia Thomas must have been some kind of friend because she was his final caregiver. It is my guess the only reason Waltz was at Thomas’ home was because nobody else would care for the old man in his condition near the close of his life.
Again, the question arises: why would Waltz give Dick Holmes the gold under his bed in Julia Thomas’ home instead of giving it to Julia Thomas, the person who had cared for him? This certainly is an important unanswered question.
The disposal of Waltz’s cache beneath his deathbed is the nagging anomaly in this story that continues to haunt the Holmes family. A close reexamination of all remaining facts fail[s] to find any reason why Waltz would have given Holmes the cache. Old prospectors of the period often had a gold cache of nuggets or high grade [ore] stashed away for a rainy day. Waltz, more than likely, was no different. The gold in Waltz’s cache may have come from a variety of locations, including California, the Bradshaw Mountains, Goldfield and other unknown sources. Recent relevations continue to claim his gold came from an unknown source or matched gold samples from yet another unknown source. You have to ask yourself again, why would Waltz give his cache to a man who tried to follow him to his mine?
The Holmes and Waltz’s gold cache stories are unmistakably entwined with each other. If you believe the Holmes’ story, then you must believe the story about the gold cache under Waltz’s deathbed.
Now let’s revisit the Holmes manuscript story. George “Brownie” Holmes was very proud of his Arizona pioneer family status. Honesty and integrity meant everything to the Holmes. Growing up as a young man in Arizona Territory, he had heard several stories about gold beneath Jacob Waltz’s bed and how his father had supposedly stolen it. The source of these stories was Julia Thomas and the Petrasches, Holmes believed. It was because of Thomas and her ravings that “Brownie” found it necessary to write some kind of rebuttal. This rebuttal supposedly came in the form of a manuscript, according to one source. If Holmes indeed wrote the manuscript, he certainly would have reasoned all information in the manuscript would have to be accurate or none of it would be taken for the truth or believable. It is because of this reasoning I find it difficult to believe Holmes ever wrote a manuscript. Holmes would have never revealed information about Waltz’s mine given to him by his father if he believed it to be true.
There are at least three manuscripts floating around that have been attributed to George “Brownie” Holmes. Many years ago I acquired a very old copy of a manuscript supposedly written by “Brownie” Holmes. It was only about eighteen pages long and had been written on an old, worn out typewriter. The paper had turned totally yellow indicating the manuscript was at least twenty years old, but probably more like forty years old. I estimated the age of the manuscript to be somewhere between twenty and thirty years old.
Richard J. Holmes died on October 31, 1930, and I certainly believe the manuscript was written prior to Brownie Holmes’ discovery of the skull of Adolph Ruth in the Superstition Mountains in December 1931. I don’t necessarily believe Brownie Holmes wrote this manuscript, but it is possible. However, to say Richard J. Holmes wrote it would be strictly conjecture. Maybe the question should be, did Richard Holmes write a manuscript or talk somebody into writing a manuscript that would absolve him of any wrongdoing and not reveal any important information about the location of Waltz’s mine?
It is interesting that a recent book written about the Holmes manuscript accepts the Higham deposited manuscript as the one written by George “Brownie” Holmes. The old, yellowed manuscript I received many years ago was more than likely written by a Holmes. The question would be… which Holmes? It might have been written by Richard J. “Dick” Holmes, or at least dictated to him to a typist, and George “Brownie” Holmes may have tried to rewrite the original manuscript.
There is another popular scenario out there about a ghostwriter writing the manuscript for “Brownie” Holmes. This ghostwriter could have been a reporter named Kenningson, who worked for the Arizona Republic. My research indicates “Brownie” never had much money and it is difficult to believe Holmes hired a ghostwriter. Did Holmes trade secrets about Waltz’s mine for a ghostwriter’s talents? Again, I doubt very much “Brownie” Holmes shared any secrets about what he knew or had learned from his father about Waltz’s mine.
“Brownie” Holmes denied being the author of any surviving manuscripts attributed to his father or himself up to the time of his death [on] April 11, 1981. Holmes appeared on a television documentary titled Arizona’s Lost Gold in 1979 and discussed some of his involvement with Waltz’s mine. It appears the Holmes descendants sided with Dr. Thomas E. Glover and accepted the Higham manuscript as the true works of Richard J. Holmes and his son George “Brownie” Holmes. Ironically, even after George “Brownie” Holmes’ death there is still controversy. This is not the end of the story, but only the beginning.