The Lost Dutchman Mine is among the greatest unsolved mysteries of the West. Since the arrival of Spanish conquistadores, seekers have braved the Arizona desert in pursuit of a vein of pure gold said to be somewhere in the Superstition Mountains. Countless people have been murdered or have died in their lust for these riches.

The only true clue remains an 1890s deathbed confession by Jacob Waltz, a wayward miner, whose secret has been protected for three generations. Clay Worst, a lifelong hunter of the mine and the only living witness to its alleged whereabouts, shares his story about the treasure.

I come from a preeminent family. My grandfather John Worst was the lieutenant governor of North Dakota and a good friend of Sitting Bull. He had been a Dunker preacher in Ohio and led his congregants to pick and haul buffalo bones in what was then the Dakota Territory. My grandfather said the United States Army slaughtered the buffalo to starve the Native Americans into submission. Literally, the prairie was littered with them. He and his congregants took a hay-wagon-load of buffalo bones 42 miles to Bismarck for $12, and they piled the skulls of the buffalo on top of the wagon to make it look prettier. He then taught schools, ran a newspaper, headed a college, and got into politics.

This article appears in Issue 22 of Alta Journal.

My father was prominent too, though in his own way. He was almost Teddy Roosevelt’s neighbor. Before he left the Dakotas to get into politics, Roosevelt owned the Elkhorn Ranch, where he ranched and hunted bison. We owned the land next door, after Roosevelt had left. You could see grass waving in the wind for miles. The streams never moved straight, snaking this way and that way, always looking for lower ground to get out. Flat, beautiful prairie.

My father was the finest man I ever knew, and I just hoped that someday I could grow up to be like him. I was always so impressed with the era in which he had grown up. He was born in 1877, so he was around here in the early days. After the Spanish-American War, he followed the gold rush to Alaska. Now, that was a beach placer at Nome, meaning the gold was in the sand, and whatever he found was his until the tide came back in. He got the gold bug, and when we came down here to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona to escape the winters back home, he first learned about the Lost Dutchman Mine.

It was not the biggest mine, but certainly the most famous, at least in the United States. Dozens have died and some have killed each other to find what we believe to be the richest form of gold in the world. It is part of a hunt that has been going on for a long time in this area, starting with the Spaniards and continuing with the Apaches and later the Mexicans. It is in every way alive and ongoing today.

We were never in it solely for the gold. My dad went down to the city library on the west side of Phoenix to read everything he could about the Lost Dutchman Mine, and then he hiked back into the mountains—first on foot and later on horseback—hoping to find it.

I went with him. I was seven years old, trudging along behind my father. I remember the sight of a saguaro cactus with 12 arms, soaring over me. I had never seen or dreamed of anything so unique and so old. I also remember finding all these shiny, empty brass shotgun cartridges along the trail. I knew they were not gold, but I collected them anyway.

We spent our winters this way, hunting the Dutchman together in the Superstitions. I was in awe of my dad. Anytime you were outdoors with him, he was teaching you about the natural history of the country, about the animals, the plants. In the spring, he went back to North Dakota to operate the farm and to teach. I had just graduated from high school and wanted to stay here in Arizona and continue our hunt for the Dutchman.

My father was not upset.

“If you really believe in this,” he told me, “and you want to stay here and carry on the search alone, I’ll grubstake you.”

I never went back. I never disgraced the door of a college in my life. I became the black sheep. The only way I’d ever really amount to anything, I felt, was to find that lousy mine.

goldfield, arizona, lost dutchman mine, superstition mountains, alta journal
The Superstition Mountains are believed to be the location of the Lost Dutchman Mine.


They say the Lost Dutchman is a myth, a legend. I don’t believe that. It is true the Spaniards came through here hundreds of years ago looking for the Seven Cities of Cíbola, or the Seven Cities of Gold. It’s also believed that the Aztec king Montezuma hid gold up here so that Hernán Cortés and the other Spaniards could not find it. And ever since, hundreds if not thousands have been looking for it. There is something about the search for gold that pulls at a man. It becomes an obsession, a religion.

The Lost Dutchman may be the greatest unsolved mystery of our time, and I have spent seven years of my life looking for it. Not seven consecutive years. Add up the weekends and months over the decades, and you get seven years. Climbing a ledge, I came face-to-face with a rattlesnake, and I fended off dozens of others from my camp. On one trip, I turned around on the trail and stared down the barrel of the crack rifle of a man who simply had a crazy look on his face and seemed determined to kill me for no reason. I saw the bodies of people killed after falling off cliffs and knew of others murdered for the greed that gold can bring. Like what happened to the Joneses, the Pipers, the Burnses, and the Hawaiians.

In the beginning, I didn’t know which way to go. I only knew that sucker was out there somewhere, and the only thing that I could do was cover the ground and keep my eyes open. Oh, the enthusiasm of youth! It is only when you get a little older and begin to realize how little you know and how much you must learn before you stand even a chance of finding the darn thing. You think you’re going to be the lucky one, and there’s going to be an open tunnel entrance, and inside will be gold bars stacked up like cordwood. You don’t realize you are looking for a very small mine, and one that has been strategically buried and concealed for over 130 years.

I also consider myself the luckiest Dutch hunter, because I am the only one with the best connection to the Dutchman himself, and the last and best living connection to the Dutchman story. This is how it happened.

goldfield, arizona, lost dutchman mine, superstition mountains, alta journal
Goldfield, Arizona, with the Superstition Mountains in the distance.
Scott Baxter


After I had spent my father’s grubstake, and far more than that over the years, I started up in real estate. I didn’t set the world on fire, but every year, for a month or so, I went out with Chuck Aylor, my partner, to search the area around Weaver’s Needle, the most known landmark and popular with Dutchman hunters. One of my best sources for information was Nyle Leatham, who was a reporter for the Arizona Republic, the state’s biggest newspaper. As a reporter, Leatham knew a lot of people. He got around to meeting Brownie Holmes and interviewed him for a special on Phoenix history. As one of the elders in the community, Brownie was born in the 1890s. He had once gotten arrested for driving 15 miles an hour and still had the speeding ticket. He was that old.

At any rate, Leatham made the connection for me. He took me to Brownie’s home over near Apache Junction, and we sat at his kitchen table. After keeping quiet for so long, he was relieved to reveal his secrets.

“The biggest son of a bitch in the world,” Brownie told me, “is a man that knows something that you desperately want to know, and he won’t tell you what it is.”

Brownie was that person.

“I’ve lived with that all my life,” he said. “And my father lived with that all of his life.”

“My dad told me, ‘Whatever you do, you can’t let the story out,’ ” Brownie said. “ ‘You can loan a man your .30-30’ ”—which is a rifle—“ ‘and you can get it back. You can even take it back by force if you have to. But once you let the story out, it’s gone forever.’ ”

So Brownie swore me to secrecy.

“I want you to bring a tape recorder,” he said. “I want to sit down and tell you everything I can to put you on the Dutchman. But I know you work with Chuck Aylor. And it’s got to be understood that if you’re going to hunt the Dutchman, you’re going to do it alone.”

I agreed, and Brownie laid the whole thing on me. We had three visits. He told me everything that his father, Dick Holmes, had heard at the deathbed of Jacob Waltz, the Dutchman himself.


We don’t know much about Waltz. He was a failed miner, a laborer, a man for hire. He immigrated to this country from Germany, and he simply had the idea of finding gold. He followed the gold rush to California with the ’49ers and then went to Arizona in 1863, first to La Paz, then to Prescott, and then up into the Bradshaws, and he prospected up there for a few years. [Waltz was called the Dutchman as an Americanization of Deutsch, the term for “German.”]

It was hard work, that’s for sure. Living out in the wilderness, away from any nearby sources or supplies. You don’t just lie down in a good bed every night. He finally gave it up and moved down to the Salt River valley and the area that later became Phoenix. It was nothing but a hay camp at that time, a place where they put up hay in the river bottoms, initially for the freighters and horses at Fort McDowell, which had been built by the army to fight the Apaches.

The Apache raids were of foremost concern to the settlers and Mexicans living here. The Apaches were also believed to have been the keepers of gold and knew the specific whereabouts of treasure, like the Lost Doc Thorne Mine, a story widely circulated here and throughout Arizona.

Doc Thorne was a surgeon. He lived on the Verde River with the Apaches, which was rare, and he cared for them. Well, the Apaches wanted to thank him for his medical services, and, so the story goes, one of them told the doctor, “We want to take you to where there is gold, but we need to blindfold you, so you can never find your way back.”

Blindfolded and on horseback, Doc Thorne recalled crossing water a number of times, which he thought was the Salt River. They got into some rough mountain country, dismounted the horses, and then led him to an old mine. They removed his blindfold, and, lo and behold, there piled up on the dump was the richest, quality gold the doctor ever saw.

“Take away all you can carry,” one Apache told him.

It was cold weather, and Doc Thorne was wearing long underwear. He took them off, tied a knot in each of the ankles, filled up his underwear with rich gold ore, and knotted the garment off at the waistband. Then he straddled his horse, minus his underwear, and shivered all the way back to Fort McDowell.

Afterward, Doc Thorne did his best to guess the mine’s location.

“I was high up in a canyon,” Thorne said later, recalling an old stone corral that was built from light-colored stones and clearly not part of an Apache camp. Off to the south, perhaps five miles away, he recalled the sight of a high peak, or needle, and that was about it.

Well, with his newfound wealth, Doc Thorne bankrupted himself and nearly bankrupted his family financing his searches to relocate the mysterious gold. He failed and moved to Lemitar, a little town outside Socorro, New Mexico, and established a small family medical practice. And it was there, in 1869, that he met Corydon Cooley.

lost dutchman's mine map
Brent Hatcher


I do not know much about Cooley. He was not a mine hunter. He was a mediator, a trader, a scout. He heard Doc Thorne’s story about the gold, believed him, and organized an expedition to find it. To gather searchers, he first went to Prescott to organize what he called the Prescott Detachment. He sent riders ahead to Phoenix and to Wickenburg to organize the Phoenix and Wickenburg Detachments. And when they assembled and rode out eastward, Corydon Cooley had gathered a small army. There is no roster, but some claim he had 267 men. One of the members of the Phoenix Detachment was an experienced, hardened, and failed prospector named Jacob Waltz, the Dutchman.

Like every trip to find the gold, Cooley’s expedition was unsuccessful. The searchers came back and disbanded to return to their homes. Only the Dutchman himself remained behind, and when the rest had departed from Fort McDowell, he headed back into the Superstitions alone. Now, this would be a very foolish thing to have done, because the Apaches controlled the territory and were notoriously violent to settlers. But perhaps the Dutchman believed that one man traveling quietly alone back there would be less apt to stir up the hostile Apaches. Or perhaps the Dutchman felt some sort of impending destiny, calling him back to the Superstitions.

He found nothing. He prospected eastward, to the present site of Globe, and was on his way back to the fort when he came upon an old trail that had seen recent use. He followed it into a camp. No one was there, but there was food on the back of the fire. So he ate and he waited.

He did not wait long. At around dusk, three Mexicans came into camp. They were poorly armed, with only a pair of muzzle-loading escopetas, or muskets. The Dutchman had a modern double-barreled, breech-loading shotgun, loaded with what they called blue hustler’s buckshot.

That night, they struck a deal. The Mexicans were afraid, but the Dutchman spoke to them in Spanish and reassured them, and they allowed him to stay with them. The Mexicans said they were working a valuable mine, and if the Dutchman would stay on to help them work the mine and help defend them from the Indians, he would be generously compensated.

The next morning, they took the Dutchman up to see the mine. That night, he lay awake in disbelief. He had just seen the richest gold imaginable, and it lay in the hands of three Mexicans who had no legal title to it. The Mexicans weren’t U.S. citizens. They couldn’t file a claim on the mine. And so the Dutchman also began to feel that after half a lifetime of toiling away for the benefit of so many others, that rightfully this treasure he’d stumbled upon should belong to him. And by any means possible.

They were running low on supplies. The Mexicans decided to head back to Fort McDowell to stock up on grub. Before they left, one of them went up to the mine to put the tools away and put some brush in front of the entrance on the bare chance that somebody might come stumbling through the area. After this man left, the Dutchman seized his opportunity. He shoved the muzzle of his shotgun into his bedroll to muffle the sound and shot one of the remaining Mexicans in the back. The other Mexican probably whirled around in wide-eyed astonishment, and took the second charge of buckshot in the chest. As the story goes, both dropped to the ground without a whimper. The Dutchman calmly reloaded the shotgun, concealed himself alongside the trail, and waited.

Soon, the third Mexican returned. The Dutchman allowed him to pass and then stepped out and shot him in the back, too. He dumped their bodies in a deep ravine in the mountains, burned their outfit, and struck out for Fort McDowell on foot. In one day, this poor immigrant miner had become the sole owner of what he believed to be the richest mine in the world, but his dream was about to become a nightmare.


He kept it all to himself. Jacob Waltz’s protection was not more people and more guns. He could have filed a legal claim on the gold mine, but once the news got out, he would have been dead, and quicker than to make your head turn. So he kept it a secret for years, trekking back to his mine whenever he needed money for living expenses. He lived on a tiny farm on the Salt River outside of Phoenix, raised chickens and lived in his adobe home. He often spoke German and was tremendously private about his personal affairs.

And then the rains came. Half of Phoenix washed away in the flood of 1891, and with it went Waltz’s homestead and adobe. Now, I can’t prove any of this, of course, but the story goes that during the madness of the flood, the old man was stranded in a cottonwood tree and spent two days and two nights up there in the branches. He was saved by a young boy in town named Rhinehart Petrasch. He went to get the sheriff, who sent a boat to the rescue.

The Dutchman had lost everything and had nowhere to go. For shelter, the police directed him to the home of Julia Thomas, a local businesswoman, where the young boy Petrasch had been staying.

Thomas knew the Dutchman well. She ran a confectionery and bakery in Phoenix and had purchased her eggs from Waltz. Years before, she had fallen on tough times. Her husband had run off with another woman, taken the bank accounts with him, and left her not only alone but with thousands in debts.

The Dutchman had helped her. Before the flood, he had brought her eggs every week and spoken German to her, and they became dear friends. He paid her debts with pieces of gold and, in the very last years of his life, even shared his secret about the mine with her.

He lived in her home until he died. Now, some people claim there was a romantic relationship between Thomas and the Dutchman. This is preposterous! Good heavens, he was over 80 years old! She was in her 20s! She called him Grandpa, and as he got sick, she asked him several times about the location of the mine.

“Grandpa,” she said, “you’re not getting any younger, and you’re not really well. Don’t you think it’s time you told Rhiney and me how to go to the mine?”

“I can’t tell you,” he said. “I would have to show you because of the way it’s covered. You would have to know exactly where it is.”

The flood was in February. It was winter. In the spring, when the weather warmed up, Waltz promised, they could all trek to the mine together.

“We’ll get a light wagon and a camp outfit,” he told her and was very specific in his plans. “We’ll go out to the Board House, and we’ll have to leave the wagon there. I’ll ride one of the horses, and we’ll pack the other one.”

For Thomas and the boy, the terrain would be difficult to handle. “You and Rhiney will have to wear your old heavy clothing,” he told her. “We’re going to be packing back into some terribly brushy country.”

Even in his 80s, the Dutchman thought he could make the trip. “If I’m not able to travel, I’ll have to stay there at the Board House with the woman and the three children. And I’ll direct you as best I can. You’ll have to go over the ridge north of the Board House. It’s a full day’s ride.”

superstition mountains, arizona, lost dutchman mine, alta journal
Scott Baxter


She saw he was sinking. Into the spring and summer, his health was failing. One fall day, concerned that her visitor would die shortly, Thomas left her house to find a doctor. On the street, she bumped into Brownie Holmes’s father, Dick Holmes, then a young prospector familiar with the Superstition Mountains. He was standing with one of the Dutchman’s old neighbors, Gideon Roberts.

Time was of the essence. She told the men about the Dutchman’s failing health and, instead of fetching the doctor, whisked Roberts and Holmes back to her home to learn from Waltz the location of his fabulous mine before it was too late.

Roberts was the Dutchman’s age. He was not searching for the mine. But Holmes was young, strong, and capable. He was familiar with prospecting and mining. He had packed through the Superstitions for the army and knew the country and the landmarks. And so, on his deathbed, the Dutchman latched on to Holmes and, for the first time in his life, attempted to direct someone to his mine. It had been eight years since he had been there, and he struggled to describe a rugged area whose landmarks had yet to be named. Above all, he was remorseful.

“I killed seven people over that mine, and what did it get me?” he said. “Look at me now.”

Hovering over him, the group must have been startled to hear his confession of murdering the three Mexicans who had shared the mine with him, a pair of soldiers who had gotten too close, another prospector, and his own nephew. He’d recruited his sister’s son as an assistant.

“We argued constantly,” Waltz said. “He wanted to file a claim and work the mine openly. I didn’t want to do that.”

After one trip, the nephew vowed to expose the mine, recruit a team in Phoenix, and return to mine it legally.

“I panicked,” Waltz said. “I killed him. I shot him right square between the eyes. I put a short piece of chain around his neck and dragged him up under the bluffs, where the digging was soft and easy.”

On his trips back, Waltz feared others had discovered the mine and were mining the gold. He worked to mine away as much as he could and buried his lode so nobody else could find it.

“I made three caches,” he told Holmes. “A big cache and two small caches. I went back later and packed one of the small caches out. It’s what I’ve been living on for all these years, and what’s left of it is in the miner’s box under my bed. Dick, get it out.”

Holmes got on his knees, reached under Waltz’s bed, and removed the box. It was made from tin and used to store candles that miners needed.

Holmes struggled to lift the box up. It was that heavy.

“Open it,” Waltz said, and Holmes peered inside.

“My God, that’s rich,” Holmes said. “That’s got to be just a pocket.”

“No, it’s a vein about that wide,” Waltz said, holding his hands about a foot and a half in front of his chest. “I’m sure it runs through the whole hill, because it just cropped in the bottom of the wash on the other side of the ridge.”

He described the nature of the mine.

“It was a narrow inclined shaft, not so steep. A careful man could climb down it,” he said. “The hanging wall is a three-inch seam of hematite. It is also about a third pure gold. When I left it, I went down about six feet and left a little ledge all the way around.”

He struggled to define the route. As I said before, Waltz had not been to the mine in eight years. Maps of the area were crude and inaccurate. The majority of landmarks in the Superstitions did not have names.

One marker he did remember was the Board House. It was the first wooden structure in the area. Holmes then pressed the Dutchman for his route into the mountains.

“The First Water,” Waltz said, referring to a location along the Salt River valley. “And then on toward the reservation at San Carlos.”

San Carlos was an Apache reservation. The trail leading to it was dozens of miles long. And there were other trails along the way. How could Holmes ever know if he was going in the right direction?

“There’s a bad spot on that trail,” Waltz told Holmes. “I was afraid of it. I was loaded pretty heavy.”

On one trip to the mine, Waltz had packed a number of wooden boards onto his burrow. He wanted to install the lumber in the mine and make it easier for him to dig. But crossing the bad spot on the trail was risky, and he got rid of them.

“I unloaded the boards and threw them off into the bottom of the canyon,” he said.

He shared a few other details and then offered the 48½ pounds of gold ore in his tin box to Holmes as a grubstake, an investment to find the lost mine and presumably share the fortune with Waltz’s friends. He died only a few hours later.

After Waltz’s death, those in the house were dumbfounded. Holmes and Roberts and Thomas all sat down and wondered: Was this man telling the truth about the gold? Was he in some kind of raving delirium? Or was Waltz deliberately perpetrating the cruelest hoax in the history of the Arizona Territory?

clay worst, lost dutchman mine, goldfield, arizona, superstition mountains, alta journal
“If I came out publicly and said, ‘I think the Dutchman Mine is here,’ then camps would move back there.… I won’t share it, but I won’t take it to the cemetery with me either,” says Clay Worst.
Scott Baxter


Brownie Holmes’s father followed up on the Dutchman’s clues as best he could. He chased the mine from the 1890s until a leg injury forced him into retirement.

Naturally, the best place to begin was the Board House. The Dutchman had talked about a board house with a woman, three children, and a sack of flour and bacon they gave him the time he ran out of grub. As it happened, Holmes knew the Board House and its owner, a freighter named Matt Cavaness.

The Board House was located on the foothill base, at the mouth of Peralta Canyon, which used to be Willow Canyon. By the time of the Dutchman’s death, Cavaness had moved from the Board House to a ranch in another town. Incredibly, Holmes found him. He asked him, “Matt, did you ever meet a man by the name of Jacob Waltz?”

“Yes, I met him,” Cavaness said.

“Did he ever get anything from you?”

“Yes. One time, he ran out of grub and he rode out, and I staked him to a slab of bacon and half a sack of flour.”

Bingo! Part of the Dutchman’s story checked. Holmes now knew that the old man Waltz hadn’t been making up a bunch of stuff. And if the second part of the story was also true—that the mine was a day’s ride over the ridge north of there—then we had a starting point.

After hearing this tale from his father, Brownie started his search on the trail out to San Carlos. He rode it up and down, and there was only one bad spot. And right below that spot, down toward the canyon bottom, Brownie’s associate Tex Barkley found a couple of short pieces of lumber. Unused boards. There were no nail holes in them. Now, it’s almost too much of a coincidence. There’s only one bad spot in the trail, and the boards are below the bad spot?

I’ve got landmarks I call 85 Percenters. You can’t say they’re 100 percent, but they’re 85 percent. Those boards are 85 Percenters.

There is one landmark I call 100 percent, and I don’t want to share it. I’ll tell you why. I was back in there in the 1960s, when people were killing each other. It’s a known fact that I got seven years of my life back there hunting the Dutchman. If I came out publicly and said, “I think the Dutchman Mine is here,” then camps would move back there, and each camp would be afraid the other one’s going to get something before they get it. I won’t share it, but I won’t take it to the cemetery with me either. Let’s just leave it at that.


Another thing that Brownie Holmes told me was one of the most beautiful sights he’d ever seen, and I have seen it. It’s not something his father told him about. It’s something he discovered on his own.

“You want to be camped at Charlebois about two days after a full moon,” he said, talking about a canyon back in the Superstitions. It’s a canyon that comes into LaBarge Spring from the east.

“Boy, it is bright,” Brownie told me. “You see that moonlight creep down across the face, and it gets down into the canyon bottom, and the whole canyon is lit in a white moonlight.”

I have deliberately sat there twice, two days after the full moon. Brownie is long dead, but when I sat there and watched the moonlight creep into the canyon, it was spooky. If I had called out his name, it was almost as if he might have answered me.

There are things in the Superstitions you can’t explain. You simply feel them. You may not find the gold, but you’ll find another treasure. Now, I am not wealthy. I may not have set the world on fire. But I felt I belonged there. I would not take $10 million tax-free today in exchange for my precious memories of all of the years I spent camped back there, almost all of it alone, searching for the Dutchman. The Sonoran Desert became a part of me, and I am a part of it.•