Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Strange Case of Adolph Ruth and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

                                   The Superstition Mountains of Arizona

The year 1931 saw one of the best known, best publicized and most investigated deaths in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains, the death of Adolph Ruth.  Adolph Ruth was a sixty-seven year old retired government employee and amateur treasure hunter. Adolph Ruth’s story began not in the Superstition Mountains but in Mexico.  His son Erwin, a veterinarian, who was a cattle inspector in Mexico, helped eradicate the cattle tick problem plaguing Mexican ranchers.  He helped the Gonzales family who were so grateful that they gave Erwin Ruth some old mining maps.  These maps had been in the Gonzales family for many generations, and showed the exact location of a number of gold mines in the United States.  Erwin who had no interest in the maps passed them along to his father Adolph.  One of these maps showed the location of an old mine in the Superstition Mountains.

Adolph Ruth was familiar with the hardships of prospecting in the desert.  He had previously looked for the Lost Peg Leg Mine in California.  In 1931, he came to the Superstition Mountains to look for what he believed to be the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.  It should be noted that Ruth was talkative.  He showed his map to any and all who were interested, and talked authoritatively about how HE was about to find the Dutchman’s Mine.  Ruth hired guides and horses and was packed into the mountains around June 14 by two cowboys.  He set up camp at Willow Springs in West Boulder Canyon.  This was the last time anyone saw Adolph Ruth alive. 

After six days, the cowboys’ boss, Tex Barkley, went looking for Ruth. Upon arriving at Ruth’s camp, Tex Barkley could tell that no one had been there for at least a day and reported Ruth missing.  A reward was posted and search parties combed the mountain fruitlessly for the next month.

In December, a skull with two holes in it was discovered near the three Red Hills by an archaeological expedition. It was the skull of Adolph Ruth.  The story of Ruth’s death was headlined by the Arizona Republic and went national.  Sensational stories alleged that Ruth had been killed for his map. Ruth’s son, Erwin, was convinced that his father had been murdered.

The rest of Ruth’s body was found the next month, in a small tributary on the east slope of Black Top Mesa. Ruth’s treasure notebook was also found at his original campsite.  In this notebook, were written these cryptic words, “Veni, Vedi, Vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”).  Did Adolph Ruth discover the Dutchman’s mine?

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