There’s (some) Gold in Them There Hills

Tales of lost mines are part of the Texas Hill Country heritage. The legends persist at least in part because there have been virtually continuous mining operations in the Central Mineral Region since the time of the Spanish arrival in the Hill Country. Burnet, San Saba, Llano, and Gillespie counties have all been sites where prospectors have dug for fortunes in silver and gold. Detailed maps today show two creeks just to the north of Enchanted Rock bearing the names Gold Mine Creek and Silver Mine Creek.

by Ira Kennedy

 

 

 


 

One of the earliest "owners" of Enchanted Rock was Sam Maverick who bought the property for its imagined mineral potential. At the time (1844) rumors of gold and silver mines in the vicinity of Enchanted Rock found their way into print-particularly in Stephen F. Austins promotional booklet published in 1831, and William Kennedy’s, Texas (1841). Kennedy was a British diplomat whose two volume book was the book on Texas, and very influential in its day, especially in Germany. The Fisher-Miller Grant, purchased by the German Emigration Company, was located between the Llano and San Saba Rivers -- the very heartland of the legendary lost Spanish mines.

During the Civil war several residents of Llano county panned for gold in Sandy Creek earning less than a dollar a day for their efforts. Even Gail Borden, the founder of the Borden milk company once owned a gold mine on Sandy Creek.

In Indian Depredlltions in Texas by J. W. Wilbarger (1889), is an account of the last Indian fight in the Hill Country, which occurred on Packsaddle Mountain in 1873. The story is related by a prospector looking for an abandoned Spanish mine on Packsaddle Mountain. The prospector had separated from the rest of his group who were headed up to the San Saba to search for another lost Spanish mine. The narrator had explored the San Saba area before and was certain his friends were wasting their time.

In 1887 gold was found in a drilling core in Llano county and attracted numerous prospectors to the area. The Heath Mine, located five miles northeast of Llano was opened in 1896 after gold was discovered there. In Mineral Resources of the Llano-Burnet Region, Texas, by Sidney Page, published by the Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. (1911), the author reported the results of twelve gold and silver mining operations in Llano county. "It must be said, however, that in general the quantity is so small as to be valueless from the standpoint of a mining enterprise. Results of many assays made of specimens said to contain gold were decidedly discouraging," Page wrote.

During the early 1990s I was personally shown two bars of silver about the size of a Hershey bar and six times as thick, and a small nickel-sized piece of gold which were extracted from a mine in Llano County.

In 1976 The Highlander newspaper in Marble Falls published a story by David Crowder on Enchanted Rock. "There is another story of a tunnel which goes completely through the mountain. (Charles) Moss says the old-timers who supposedly knew its location have all died off and though he has personally searched the other caves and crevices for the tunnel, he has never found it.

‘"One old fella about 80 said he knew where it was so I took him up there to find it but he got all turned around and didn’t know where he was," Moss said. Recently another story came to our attention which relates to the preceding one written by Crowder. A native of Llano County, now in his late forties, was told by his grandfather, who was a prospector in the area, that there is a cave at the base of Enchanted Rock. According to the story, the cave was sealed up by the Spanish to conceal a wagon-load of silver. So, if you find a wagon-load of Spanish silver at Enchanted Rock just remember: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

 

 

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