Both stories tie the mine back to the Peralta family of Sonora, Mexico. Both versions are full of riddles about unnamed places and vague references to common natural features. And both stories involve murder, betrayal, and misfortune.

But neither has led anyone to the mine. Even the people who supposedly heard the details from the Dutchman's mouth couldn't find it, though Thomas, Petrasch, and Holmes all searched extensively, as did their kin.

The fact that nearly every detail associated with the mine is hearsay has done nothing to dampen interest in it. Just ask 75-year-old Tom Kollenborn. Having spent the last 35 years chronicling "The Supes," Kollenborn is the most prolific author about, and the most quoted source on, all things related to the area and its missing mine. A retired teacher and former Fulbright Scholar, Kollenborn takes a levelheaded approach in a recent column:

Robert Cooper
Jamie Peachey
Robert Cooper
SSR volunteers have driven a rugged road to reach the trailhead where Jesse Capen's Jeep was found.
Jamie Peachey
SSR volunteers have driven a rugged road to reach the trailhead where Jesse Capen's Jeep was found.

"Now you ask me, is there a Dutchman lost mine somewhere out in the rugged Superstition Mountain region? I have dreamed of finding this mine, but I have never found any evidence that really suggested the mine existed. Everything is based off subjective hearsay. Actual facts about the lost mine just don't exist."

Truth is, legendary lost mines were clichés even in the Dutchman's time. A blurb from an 1892 edition of the Arizona Daily Gazette, a short-lived Phoenix newspaper, barely restrains the reporter's mocking tone about the very first Dutchman hunters, Julia Thomas and Reiney Petrasch:

A Queer Quest in Search of Gold: Another 'Lost Mine' Being Hunted for by a Woman

Mrs. (Julia) Thomas, formerly of Thomas Ice Cream Parlor, is now in the Superstition Mountains engaged in a work usually deemed strange for a woman's sphere. She is prospecting for a lost mine, the location of which she believes she holds the key. But somehow, she has failed after two months work to locate the bonanza, though aided by two men. The story about the mine is founded upon the usual death-bed revelations of the ancient miner usual in such cases.

The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine may have ended up another footnote in Arizona history if it weren't for retired Washington veterinarian Adolph Ruth.

Ruth went missing in 1931, just after the start of the Great Depression. Though a little more grandiose, his backstory is similar to Jesse Capen's: A naive outsider becomes obsessed with the mine, underestimates the dangers of the Superstitions, and goes into the mountains alone. Then, predictably he turns up missing, and a massive search is launched.

Ruth's story ties back to the Peraltas. While on a business trip in Mexico, Adolph's son Erwin was given a map to several rich American mines from a Mexican facing either imprisonment or execution, depending on which tale you believe. Erwin shared that map with his father, who became obsessed with finding the mines, crippling himself in a fall while hunting for one hole in California. Even with a bum leg, and with his son too busy to help him, Adolph Ruth wanted to search for a mine in Arizona's Superstition Mountains. He went out alone, stopping at a ranch and talking freely with some men about his map, apparently unaware of the intrigue surrounding this particular mine and assuming the men to be simple, harmless cowpokes.

Upon his arrival in the desert, Ruth wanted to immediately hunt for the mine, even in the June heat. Despite discouragement by a local rancher, Ruth hired two cowboy prospectors to pack him into a canyon that matched the one on his map. He was never seen alive again, though searchers did find a slip of paper where he'd written "Veni, vidi, vici" — Latin for "I came, I saw, I conquered." Despite an exhaustive manhunt, Ruth wasn't found until an expedition to document unexplored Indian ruins turned up his bullet-shattered skull under a palo verde tree a few months later.

Arizona's backwoods justice system refused to even open an inquest into his death, despite international attention from newspapers, which brought an unexpected consequence: His unsolved murder turned out to be a boon to the area, re-establishing a legend and sparking a blaze of interest that's still smoldering.

No one knows exactly how or when Jesse Capen became interested in the Lost Dutchman Mine almost 80 years later. Jesse was a loner, says his mother, Cynthia Burnett, and the intrigue around the mythical mine apparently put this tendency into hyper-drive.

Actually, Capen reluctantly told Burnett he was headed to Tonto National Forest for a month only after she pushed him for information while altering a sleeping bag to comfortably fit his well-padded, 6-foot-4-inch frame. Keep in mind that at 2.8 million acres, Tonto National Forest is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined — so that wasn't much to go on.

"He's been looking at this area since 2000. We found pictures [that] he had taken, which were developed on November 1, 2000, so we know for sure that he went three times, and he could have gone more," she says. "He never, in his whole life, mentioned the Lost Dutchman Mine to me . . . One time I asked him if he'd been reading any good books lately, and he said, 'Yeah, but trust me, Mom, you wouldn't be interested in this.' And I said, 'Well, give me a try,' and he said, 'No, these aren't the kind of books you read.' I just let it go; I wasn't going to pry anymore."

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My brother, a friend & myself took a hike in the superstition mountains once back in 1971. we had barely started walking when we saw this rocket ship @ the top of a cliff (we thought, a space ship - someone must

b playing a joke). We left the trail & headed 4 the base of the cliff, hoping that once there we'd find a way up. At the point directly below the ship we found a hidden waterfall (no way up at all). The waterfall was spilling into a circle of small river rocks. And going immediately underground. There was no pooling of the water @ all. We didn't touch it or walk on the rocks. We were so spooked we took off back to our car. When we could we looked back to c if the rocket was still there. It was not. I would love to hear of others experiences in those mountains. I have never been able 2 forget what happened to us & have never been back there.


Great article. I have been lucky enough to have been taught by knowlegable freinds how dangerous these mountains are.


This is a very interesting article but the idea that the Superstition area is a particularly dangerous one is silly. There is a certain romance associated with the range which some find important to nurture. The stories of stick-weilding miners and squatting prospectors are, of course, apocryphal, as are the tales of the lost mine itself. Likewise, the danger from the exceedingly sparse population of mountain lions in the range is by all measures nonexistent and anyone who packs a firearm into the wilderness against the advent of a shootout with one is either ignorant or operating a couple of raisins short of a fruitcake. I have hiked extensively in the Superstitions and I have often seen these pistol-packing nimrods. I suppose one should allow them to indulge in their adolescent Wild West fantasies, but they still leave me rolling my eyes a little. Nothing is sillier (even squatting prospectors or lurking mountain lions) than a paranoid, Stetson-wearing nudnik shivering with fear and packing a six-shooter in this rugged but friendly wilderness.

Jonathan  McNamara
Jonathan McNamara

How is looking for a lost gold mine any different from the constant search for material wealth modern society seems to place us all on?

C W Williamson
C W Williamson

There is a certain pity I feel for people as ignorant as you who think that nothing bad will ever happen to them. What happens when you or your dauhter are hiking with a couple of girlfriends and you come upon some maniac squatting out there? You would be really wishing you had a gun at that point, because chances are the maniac DOES have one. And guess what, there are no police out there either friend!

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