The Lost Dutchman

‘ This story is a true folklore story, at least for Arizona, and like all folklore, at least I believe, it has molded and changed over generations. This is the permutation that I learned and now recall… which is certainly probably not even close to the original form of this tale. In Arizona, back in the mid-1800s, there was a miner, a gold miner. This takes place in an area called the Superstition Mountains, directly east of Phoenix. Beautiful red rocks with huge buttress cliffs. On the north side, there is a place called Weaver’s needle which is a huge spike of sandstone sticking out of the desert. When the Apache’s lived in this area, there was a Dutchman and his partner… he was German and not Dutch, but back then everyone referred to Germans as Dutchmen. The Dutchman was portrayed as being an old, grizzled man with a long beard and a mule or donkey with saddle bags and a pickaxe. They were out prospecting for gold, and the Apache were living in this area. The Dutchman and his partner had gone into this area that the Apache considered sacred… a sacred burial and hunting ground. No one was supposed to go in there, but the Dutchman and his partner did. They found gold and created a gold mine. At one point, he and his partner brought out a few of the gold nuggets to have them assayed and confirmed that it was real gold, not fool’s gold. It turned out to be 100% 24 carat gold… so they went back to the mine and began mining out all of the gold. They buried the treasure nearby and took as much as they could. The legend has it that the Apache found out about this and killed the Dutchman and his partner for invading their sacred lands. The Dutchman and his partner never told anyone where this mine was, and awhile later, the remains of the Dutchman was found, but never of his partner… The idea was where was the mine? So, legend has it that the mine was found within the shadows of weaver’s needle. We don’t know if its morning shadows, evening, afternoon… For many years, people would go searching for the gold mine and treasure, and often when the prospectors got close to finding this mine, they mysteriously disappeared. The Apache would tell no one what truly happened… that they know nothing about this… but hundreds of people went missing. The legend goes that the ghosts of the Dutchman and his partner would kill and hide the prospectors when they got close to the gold.’ – PB

When PB was growing up, him, his brother, and his dad would go hiking and camping all around the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. His dad would tell them stories about the lost Dutchman… PB recalls that he cannot remember if they were the stories his dad learned growing up, or perhaps they got mixed up with stories he had mixed ups from the tales told during campfire nights with the scouts. PB’s dad would tell him this story whenever they would go camping in the shadows of Weaver’s Needle, and of course PB would get up to go look around for the gold mine. He grew up learning about this legend, and everyone in his scout group did too. He would often tell and recount these tales on hikes and around the campfires with his friends while being at the Superstition mountains.

While I have been to the Superstition Mountains many time growing up, I had never heard this legend before, but I knew of many ghost stories surrounding the history of the Native American peoples who lived in this area of Arizona. This piece of folklore fits well into the oral tradition that much of folklore embodies. This tale has been passed down throughout diverse communities for over a century. It combines cultural beliefs and important historical characteristics allowing for the imagination of story tellers to further spread and most definitely adapt this tale, as PB recalled his version is most likely very different from the one he heard decades ago, and especially from the original narrative. This legend also uses the supernatural to provide moral understandings for the disappearances of many and the cultural significance of the land. This piece of folklore has been an integral part of the folklore surrounding this part of Arizona, and the seemingly well-named Superstition Mountains. It is a tale I will now pass through to my peers and family when going back to visit this beautiful desert.