By Jonathan Coronel
What could a 19th Century German prospector and a couple of modern-day Arizona
cowboys have in common? For over 100 years, treasure-hunters from all over the country have travelled to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona in pursuit of the legendary Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.
While the search for this fabled mother lode has so far turned up empty, the journey certainly hasn’t been fruitless.
Just ask Jesse and Josh Feldman, owners of the O.K. Corral Stables and partners in their family’s widely varied assortment of Superstition Mountains based pursuits.
“My Dad started the stables in 1968 about 3 miles from here. Then we relocated to our current area” in nearby Goldfield Ghost Town, Josh tells me while we saunter down the popular tourist area’s lively main street.
In addition to the stables, the Feldmans, along with some business partners, own the Mammoth Mine that their corral is now located on. And, although the family is kept busy with its stables, horseback rides, the mine, a gift shop and a nearby RV park operated by the boys’ mom Jayne, Josh and Jesse also starred in a threeyear cable TV series, “Ice Cold Gold,” in which they and a group of other hardy explorers prowled Greenland’s ice-caked glaciers for treasure.
A new adventure series, titled Lost Gold, follows the brothers on a series of excursions into some of Arizona’s most intriguing treasure hideaways.
It aired for the first time last month and may become a regular feature on the Travel Channel. So while the Feldmans thrive in a modern-day conglomerate of interconnected pursuits, the real history of the area dates back to the latter-half of the 19th Century. That
was when German immigrant and prospector Jacob Waltz purportedly found a goldmine in the Superstitions.
Upon finding 45 pounds of gold ore under his bed after his death, legends about the “Deutsche Man’s” goldmine proliferated.
The upshot was a sort of mini-gold rush to Arizona, when from about 1893 to 1897, the Mammoth Mine that the Feldmans would later come to own produced approximately $3 million worth of gold.
For their part, Josh and Jesse still engage in small-scale searches for gold in the Mammoth Mine, mostly as a hobby for the avid treasure hunters.
Though over 100 years have passed and many a treasure-hunting expedition in the Superstition Mountains has come back empty-handed, Josh says the hope for finding
the gold still attracts many a hearty adventurer—some even paying Josh and his team of horseback guides to take them out into the mountains and subsequently return to pick them up after a few days of digging for gold.
“People aren’t going out there looking for gold with heavy machinery. It’s more of a fun hobby for people to test their theory and really get into the history of the legend,” Josh tells me, before informing me of his theory of the Lost Dutchman’s treasure.
“I think Waltz probably stumbled onto a Spanish mine that was actually mainly a silver mine with gold, and picked up already-mined gold ore from there. Mining is hard work and
it seems doubtful that he could have actually mined all that gold on his own.”
Josh chocks up a lot of the legends and hearsay surrounding the Dutchman’s gold to misinformation that has persisted since the 1890s.
“I think people out here at the time didn’t want any Johnny-come-lately’s to find something they may have passed over. That’s why you had and still have a lot of people searching the
pretty much barren western region of these mountains for gold, even though the Dutchman’s mine is definitely in the eastern region.”
For Josh, treasure-hunting needs to be grounded in history, and an understanding of the context in which these treasures originated.
“My theory is that you need to put yourself in the shoes of the people at the time and understand who was politically and economically powerful in order to separate credible stories from fiction,” Josh explains.
A brief look at the history behind the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine shows how this theory could apply. For example, the woman who took care of Jacob Waltz on his deathbed, Julie
Thomas, went on a futile adventure in search of the gold which left her broke.
Desperate, she ended up selling fake maps just to make a quick buck, and sending generations of hopeful explorers on wild goose chases.
Though the difficulty of separating fools’ good from the real McCoy regarding this legend has caused many a treasure-hunter to quit in exasperation, for the Feldmans treasure hunting is a way of life.
The search for the Lost Dutchman’s gold is something’s that’s been rewarding, even if they haven’t struck gold yet, as is evidenced by Josh’s passion for his work.
“Maybe we haven’t found the Dutchman’s gold, but as a family we have found a love for the history and beauty of the Superstition Mountains, and there is definitely plenty of gold in that.”