are taken from James M. Deem's How to Hunt Buried Treasure
One legendary treasure that has led many
astray and ruined many lives is the Lost Dutchman Mine, supposedly located in
the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix, Arizona. As with most legends, there
are many discrepancies among the various accounts. According to Helen Corbin,
author of The Curse of the Dutchman's Gold, in 1846, a man named Jacob
Waltz emigrated from Wurttemberg, Germany, to the United States.
After he became
a naturalized American citizen in July 1861, he traveled to Arizona and became a
prospector. Sometime between 1872 and 1878, Waltz and his partner, Jacob Weisner,
reportedly found gold in an eighteen-inch-wide vein of quartz. They mined some
ore and placed it in a cache near the mine. One day, while working on the mine,
Weisner was killed by the Apaches. Upset by Weisner's death, Waltz never filed a
claim for the mine. He concealed its entrance, took only the ore that he needed
to live on, and moved to Phoenix, where he lived in an adobe house on a small
farm near the Salt River.
There, he earned his living by
delivering fresh eggs to a woman named Julia Thomas, who owned a local bakery
and knew nothing of Waltz's mine. One day in 1891, Waltz discovered that Julia
was in debt and in danger of losing her bakery, and he offered to help her repay
her debts. Until the moment that he showed her gold ore worth about $1,500,
Julia thought he was a poor farmer.
Waltz told her that he would ship the
gold to a smelter in San Francisco. "I've shipped gold from Casa Grande in
the past," he said. "I'm familiar with the procedure. When the money
comes back, I'll lend most of it to you."
There's a great deal more where
that came from.... It's in a cache that we made, my partner and 1. The gold
came out of a mine, of course. I have the right to work that mine, but I gave
that up after my partner was killed. He was killed by the Apaches twenty years
ago, and I never wanted to work in the mine again. Anyway, I'm getting too old
for that kind of thing now.
He promised to share the wealth of the
mine with Julia and her adopted son, Rhinehart Petrasch. They planned a trip
into the Superstitions during the spring of 1892 to retrieve the rest of the
gold in Waltz's cache. Unfortunately, Waltz's house was swamped that summer when
the normally dry Salt River was flooded with runoff from torrential rains. Waltz
caught pneumonia from his drenching and died on October 25, 1891, months before
he could take Julia and Rhinehart into the Superstitions. Shortly before his
death, he reportedly told them that a small amount of gold ore was hidden
beneath his fireplace and he sketched a map giving the location of the mine. Not
only did they not find the mine, they were even robbed of the gold ore that
Waltz had left them.
The bare-bones account of this story has
been enough to send thousands of treasure hunters into the Superstitions, where
some have died, sometimes under mysterious and rather gruesome circumstances.
For most searchers, greed replaced common sense--except in a few treasure
One searcher who took a different
approach is Bob Corbin, who has hunted for the legendary mine since 1957. As a
child in rural Indiana, Corbin wasn't particularly interested in finding
treasure, but while serving in the Navy around 1948, he read a magazine article
about the fabled mine. The article interested Corbin enough to change the course
of his life: he decided to move to Arizona and tackle the Lost Dutchman.
A greedy treasure hunter would have made
plans to head for Arizona immediately, but not Corbin. He had obviously learned
something from the mistakes of many others. Searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine
was to become his hobby, not his primary occupation. First, after leaving the
Navy, he went home and earned a college degree at Indiana University. After
that, he completed a law degree.
Only then, in June 1957, nine years
after he had decided to look for the Lost Dutchman Mine, did Corbin move to
Arizona, ready to practice law and start his treasure-hunting hobby. On his
first weekend there, he went into the Superstition Mountains. As an
inexperienced desert dweller, he hadn't thought much about Arizona summers. He
quickly learned that the best time to prospect was winter, when temperatures
were lower and ground water was plentiful. He also learned that further research
was in order.
But he had work to do. Besides
occasional trips into the Superstitions, Corbin was a county attorney and
eventually served as the Arizona attorney general from 1979 to 1991. Even with
such demanding jobs, Corbin found time to pursue his hobby.
He and his partner, Tom Kollenborn, have
spent more than thirty years poring over documents and old newspapers, trying to
prove the basic outline of Jacob Waltz's story. During this time, Corbin went
through different phases. Sometimes he believed the mine was real, sometimes
not. Once, when he doubted its existence, he did not set foot in the
Superstitions for seven years. Now, however, the two partners' research has
convinced him that there is a mine, although it has been filled in or otherwise
Many treasure trackers would be
disappointed at not finding a gold mine after thirty years' work, but not
Corbin. What he enjoys is the search. It gives him the opportunity to get
outdoors, away from the pressures of work, and the chance to sit by a campfire,
cooking his dinner and gazing at a wide sky. After all, Corbin
explained, "you can see so many more stars in the mountains."
What's more, he has developed a hobby that
builds on his skills as a lawyer. In both instances, he sifts through evidence,
looking for facts, checking for discrepancies. He follows up on hunches and asks
tough questions. In his vocation and his avocation, he relies on his
inquisitive mind, as all successful treasure trackers should.
Corbin, Helen. The Curse of the
Dutchman's Gold. Phoenix: Foxwest Publishing, 1990.
Corbin, Robert K. Interview. 22
ŠJames M. Deem.
Originally published in How
to Hunt Buried Treasure (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1992). All rights