Monday, January 27, 2014

Why the Story of the Dutchman's Lost Mine?

January 20, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

Many times the question has been asked, "Why the story of the Dutchman’s lost mine?" How did such a story get started? Some sources will tell you this is the "grand daddy" of all lost gold mine stories, dating back to the 1890s when the first article about the lost mine appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1895. P.C. Bicknell, a free-lance writer and prospector with an imaginative mind wrote the article. The Arizona Republican printed its first story about the Dutchman’s lost mine on December 7, 1895. The German prospector known as the Dutchman died on October 25, 1891, and both articles appeared about four years after his death. These events set the stage for the evolution of the "grand daddy" of all lost gold mine stories in America.

The Lost Dutchman Monument
Yes, there were many storytellers of the period that helped carry the story along its course to stardom. These names included men like Herman Petrasch, Rhinehart Petrasch, Richard Holmes, James Bark, Sims Ely, and others of this era. Julia Thomas Shaffer enlightened the story and became the first searcher of the Dutchman’s lost mine. During her search of August 1892, she unknowingly walked over the rich gold mine known as the Mammoth on the way to a pointed peak behind Superstition Mountain. Her search for the mine produced nothing. By the turn of the 20th Century the lost mine story had been well infused in the historical fiber of Arizona. By 1925 many authors were picking up of the tale. Will Robinson mentioned the lost mine in his book Alluring Arizona and of course Frank J. Dobie’s book, In The Footsteps of Coronado, published in 1931.

Actually, by 1931, the story of the Dutchman’s lost mine had been well established in the American fiber of lost mine stories. However, nothing opened the story to national publicity like the disappearance of a Washington, D.C. resident in the early summer of 1931. Adolph Ruth was reported missing from his camp in West Boulder Canyon at Willow Springs by William A. Barkley in May of 1931.

A two-month search was initiated and produced an enormous amount of publicity for the lost Spanish or Mexican gold mine Ruth was looking for in the Superstition Mountain. Many of these stories printed in the papers added credibility to the story of lost gold in the rugged mountains east of Apache Junction. The Ruth story helped create the tale of the Dutchman lost mine on a national level.

The tragic story was followed by a surge of authors writing about the area. First there was Oren Arnold, then Barry Storm, followed by Barney Barnard and many more writers of the period 1934-1952. These writers set the world stage for the story of the Dutchman’s lost mine. No, you cannot give the local Chamber of Commerce credit for creating this story to attract tourists to the area. This story was here long before any tourists visited Arizona, even before the first "lungers" came to the desert around 1900 with hopes of finding a cure for "consumption" or Tuberculosis.

Barry Storm wrote a book in 1945 titled Thunder God’s Gold. This book became the basis of a Hollywood movie titled Lust For Gold starring Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino in 1949. This movie converted many a person into a lost gold mine adventurer. I could list the names of many who followed in the footsteps of that story. Actually believing there was twenty million dollars in gold just to be picked up in the mountains. They would have to wait at the right spot for the moonlight to point out the location of the mine or cache of gold according to the movie.

Barry Storm’s book Thunder God’s Gold became the basis of the 1949 movie Lust For Gold (above) starring Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino.
 It is interesting how many devoted follower of this story exist today. It’s a story I have followed all my life and even my father before me. But, I’m a skeptic as far as the story goes. I have met some of the most honest and sincere people who believe with all their heart and soul that there is buried gold in the Superstition Mountain range. I can’t deny the fact that these mountains could hide something buried there a hundred years ago, but yet I find it difficult to believe.

There are many stories of hidden or buried gold in these mountains. Take you pick because men and women will be searching for their dreams forever. Human nature has a tendency to accept segments of our dreams and proceed toward reality.

There is a Dutchman’s lost mine because there are those in society who have chosen to honor the dreams of prosperity. Therefore, why not a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains?