Old West Myth & Fact Archives

Searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

When Jacob Waltz died on October 25, 1891, he became either the world’s greatest prankster or the world’s greatest secret keeper.   Although during his life his last name was spelled a number of different ways, we simply know him as “The Dutchman”… the man who discovered the “Lost Dutchman’s Mine” in the Superstition Mountains, just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
Actually, tales of the existence of treasurers in the Superstition Mountains go back to when Mexico owned the area.   Long before The Dutchman there were stories of others bringing out gold….and many other people disappearing, supposedly killed by Apaches, who were protecting a sacred area.
 
A variety of stories are told about how The Dutchman found the gold mine…. and each of them involves an Apache or Apaches taking him to the area.
 
Supposedly, Jacob Waltz went back into his mine on several occasions during his lifetime, each time being careful to cover his tracks.  Although The Dutchman lived a very modest life, any time he needed large sums of money, he seemed to be able to come up with tin cans full of gold nuggets.  Records show that he cashed in at least $250,000 worth of gold.
 
Even to this day, there are people who spend their whole life searching for the Lost Dutchman’s mine.  Maps guaranteed to be the location of the mine regularly appear.
 
Even in modern times, people who go into the Superstitions disappear.   And if their bodies are found, they’re often without a head.
 
The Superstition Mountains where the Lost Dutchman mine is located is now right next to freeways and housing developments, yet it remains one of the Old West’s most tantalizing mysteries.

They Had Three Shootouts!

At the ripe old age of sixteen, Texan Bud Frazer joined the Texas Rangers. Ten years later he was elected the sheriff of Reeves County.

One of his deputies was a man named Jim Miller. Miller is considered by some historians to be the deadliest gunman of the Old West. He was a dapper little man who was quiet and never cussed. Yet he usually operated as a hired gun killing nameless men who were buried in unmarked graves.
 
It seems that while a deputy under Frazer, Miller shot a Mexican prisoner. Supposedly the prisoner had information about Miller stealing a couple of mules. Sheriff Frazer fired Miller. Later Miller was appointed the city marshal of Pecos, Texas. A feud between Frazer and Miller went on for about two years when on April 12, 1894 the two men engaged in a shootout. In the process Frazer shot Miller in the arm, and unloaded his pistol in Miller’s chest. Miraculously, Miller survived.
Eight months later the two men met again. This time Frazer shot Miller in the right arm and left leg. Frazer then shot Miller two more times in the chest. But Miller didn’t go down, and Frazer ran off in confusion.
Bud Frazer began wondering what it would take to kill this man. After all he had shot him at least a half dozen time in the chest. Then Frazer discovered the reason Miller survived the shootings. Both times he was wearing a steel breastplate. 
 
Two years later the two men met a third time. This time Jim Miller got off the first shot… a shotgun blast to Bud Frazer’s face. I guess Miller was concerned that Frazer might have started wearing a breastplate.
At the ripe old age of sixteen, Texan Bud Frazer joined the Texas Rangers. Ten years later he was elected the sheriff of Reeves County.

One of his deputies was a man named Jim Miller. Miller is considered by some historians to be the deadliest gunman of the Old West. He was a dapper little man who was quiet and never cussed. Yet he usually operated as a hired gun killing nameless men who were buried in unmarked graves.
 
It seems that while a deputy under Frazer, Miller shot a Mexican prisoner. Supposedly the prisoner had information about Miller stealing a couple of mules. Sheriff Frazer fired Miller. Later Miller was appointed the city marshal of Pecos, Texas. A feud between Frazer and Miller went on for about two years when on April 12, 1894 the two men engaged in a shootout. In the process Frazer shot Miller in the arm, and unloaded his pistol in Miller’s chest. Miraculously, Miller survived.
Eight months later the two men met again. This time Frazer shot Miller in the right arm and left leg. Frazer then shot Miller two more times in the chest. But Miller didn’t go down, and Frazer ran off in confusion.

Bud Frazer began wondering what it would take to kill this man. After all he had shot him at least a half dozen time in the chest. Then Frazer discovered the reason Miller survived the shootings. Both times he was wearing a steel breastplate. 
 
Two years later the two men met a third time. This time Jim Miller got off the first shot… a shotgun blast to Bud Frazer’s face. I guess Miller was concerned that Frazer might have started wearing a breastplate.

Mountain Men Battle Indians

  In 1822 William Ashley advertised for men to go up the Missouri River and trap for pelts. The trappers were to spend the winter alone, and then Ashley would come back up river in keelboats, the next spring, and pick them up along with the furs.
  When Ashley arrived the next spring, on May 29, 1823, he was met by Jedediah Smith, and was told the trappers needed horses. On May 31 Ashley and his men went to a nearby Arikara Indian village in order to trade for the needed horses.
 
The next day Ashley got 20 horses from the Arikara in return for gun powder and shot… a trade they were later to regret. In the middle of the fourth night there, one of two men who were staying in the Indian’s village came running out screaming that his partner had been killed. It’s not known if it was part of a plan or there had been a problem, but at the break of dawn the air was filled with arrows and just traded bullets, fired from behind the stockade. The horses were the first to die. Using the dead horses as shelter, the mountain men yelled for the boats to come ashore and pick them up.

 
Finally, Ashley was able to get a couple of skiffs up to the shore. It was every man for himself. Those who didn’t make it in a skiff were washed downriver. Finally, with the survivors aboard the keelboats, they drifted downriver about 25 miles before they pulled ashore to take inventory.

  There were 13 men dead or missing. Eleven were wounded. Their horses were dead, and they had provided the local Indians with enough fire power to keep them out of the area for some time.

Frank James Surrenders

   Six months after a member of his own gang shot Jesse James in the back, and after committing at least twenty robberies, on October 5, 1882, Frank James, Jesse’s brother surrendered to Missouri governor Thomas Crittenden.
   At the ceremonial surrender, Frank James said, “I want to hand over to you that which no living man except myself has been permitted to touch since 1861, and to say that I am your prisoner.” With that Frank James turned over his .44 Remington revolver, holster and cartridge belt.
 
   Now, prior to this Frank James had entered into negotiations that were to determine the outcome of his surrender and later trial. He had written Governor Crittenden asking for amnesty because the hardships he had endured as an outlaw were worse than a prison sentence. He also maintained that others committed many of the crimes of which he had been accused.
 
   Governor Crittenden had replied that he could not give amnesty… but if Frank James went on trial and was convicted, he could give him a pardon.
 
So Frank James went on trial for murdering Frank McMillan, a passenger who had been killed during a train robbery a year earlier. After seven days of witnesses, and two days of legal arguments, Frank was acquitted. It seems the case against him had mysteriously collapsed.
 
   After his acquittal, Frank James returned to a normal life and spent 32 years in a variety of jobs, including a four-year tour with a theater company, and six years as a doorman at a St. Louis burlesque house. His last years were spent on the Missouri homestead where he grew up, charging tourists 50 cents to view the cabin in which he and his brother were born.

Jesse James’ Home Fire-Bombed By Pinkertons

   In 1874, Jesse and Frank James were robbing banks and trains to the point that the railroads decided to hire the famous detective group the Pinkertons to hunt them down.  But, the Pinkertons, in spite of their numbers and skill, weren’t having any luck rounding up the James boys. Then late in 1874 one of their agents, John Wicher was found dead close to the James home. The Pinkertons were convinced that the James’ or one of their people had killed him, and they decided to raise the ante.
 
  Receiving information that Jesse and Frank were visiting their mother in Kearney, Missouri, on January 26, 1875, the Pinkertons surrounded the James home with the idea of catching Jesse and Frank.  In the process, they threw an incendiary device into the house to illuminate the interior.  But it exploded.  Unfortunately, it blew off the arm of Jesse and Frank’s mother and killed their little brother.  In addition to this, neither Jesse nor Frank was there.
  Although the Pinkerstons never acknowledged that they were responsible for the bombing, everyone knew they did it.  Realizing they had overplayed their hand, from this point forward the Pinkertons developed a low profile in their search for the James Brothers.
  The bombing convinced everyone that the James Brothers were innocent victims of the powerful railroads.  The Missouri legislature even came close to passing a bill that would give amnesty to the Jameses.  And Zerelda Samuel, their mother, was always willing to make public appearances, showing her missing arm, and giving a melodramatic speech about how the evil railroads were persecuting her innocent sons.
 
  It worked too.  Because farmers throughout the region hid and protected the James Brothers, so the Pinkertons were never able to come close to catching them.
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