The Lost Dutchman’s Lost House

Lost Dutchman articleThe morning of February 19, 1891 began “WITH A CRASH” according to the Arizona Republican, chronicling the largest flood the pioneer city of Phoenix had witnessed the next day, Feb. 20. Subheadlines state “Fell Many Adobe Houses Last Night” and “SEVERAL PEOPLE PROBABLY LOST”. The story details hundreds of families displaced, and the damage done to Tempe, including the railroad bridge across the Salt River washing out for what was not to be the final time.

Historical hindsight tells us the story takes no notice of who would become the flood’s perhaps most famous victim. It mentions water pouring over lower Dutch Ditch, but not the Dutch or Deutsche man, Jacob Waltz, a resident of one of the washed-out adobe houses located in the northeast corner of section 16, Township 1 North, Range 3 East—today the southwest corner of 16th Street and Buckeye. Exposure due to the flood led to Waltz’s final illness and death, rendering him unable to make his regular journey back to the Superstition Mountains and the supposed location of his gold mine. He recuperated in an apartment above Julia Thomas’s store, eventually telling his story and dying eight months later on October 25, passing from mortality to history, and from there to legend…