The Lost San Saba Mines
Since the 1700's, stories of abandoned or lost Spanish mines and buried treasure in San Saba and adjacent counties have fired the imaginations of thousands of treasure seekers. The following items, from the San Saba News, convey well the excitement these stories generated around the turn of the century .
San Saba Mines. June 24, 1887.
Mr. A. Fitzgerald, a capitalist of Mexico, who has experience as a miner, has purchased of Mr. Rufe Hoover of Hoover's Valley, 640 acres of land for which he paid $10,000. He says the signs of gold and silver are very promising. A specimen of the silver ore may be seen at his office.
In personal interview with Mr. Fitzgerald, he informs us that he has 45 years experience as a miner, and he believes his purchase will realize millions of dollars. That the specimens indicate rich gold and silver both; that the veins being fissure veins are inexhaustible. He thinks, are at least two miles long. The purchased land is mountainous, and about 14 miles southwest of Burnet. Mr. Fitzgerald has a partner whose interest is one fourth. He will return next week with an eminent French chemist, and will begin operations soon thereafter as possible.This mine was operated once before by inexperienced amateurs, some 10 or 12 years ago. Mr. Mabry showed us a fine specimen of pure gold he took from the place.Burnet and Llano counties are wild with excitement over the discovery of valuable deposits of gold and silver recently found there. For several weeks there has been a considerable influx of prospectors and speculators, and rumors of every description have been rife. These have now, so far as Burnet county is concerned, settled down to a positiveness that gives no room for doubt. Gold is there and there is large quantities. The people are in a perfect fever of agreement, the recent developments being the talk of ever one. To particularize, then, it seems that in the Hoover Valley 15 miles from the town of Burnet, and in the same county, are situated what are known as the old San Saba Mines. These were operated long years by both the Spanish and Mexican governments but have for many decades been lost sight of. Now, it seems that Mr. Fitzgerald, a mining expert of 45 years of experience, and who has been for the past five years engaged with the San Jose mines, in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, has devoted a great part of his time to searching through the records of the Spanish and Mexican governments and was so successful in his search that he was able to locate the San Saba mines to a foot. On Wednesday last he arrived in Burnet, and was from there driven fifteen miles to Hoover's valley, and within a quarter of an hour after his arrival was on the exact spot he was looking for, and has been looking for all together eight years, having devoted three years to the study of the Spanish government records before his association with the San Jose mines.
Mr. Fitzgerald did not say much about his business there, and his silence was golden. He merely offered $10,000 cash down to the owner or owners of Hoover's Valley. The offer was accepted and the money paid. No intimation however of the full meaning of this transaction got abroad until the parties went to the courthouse to have the deed of sale recorded. Then the news spread like wild fire, and the whole country was soon a flame with excitement. Mr. Fitzgerald is now 73 years of age, and has no superior as a mining expert. Thirty-eight years ago he located the "Ducktown" mines of northern Georgia. His acute instinct in searching for mineral deposits is the result of 45 years devoted to that business, and it has never failed him. The present "find" has many times been looked over by prospectors and seeming experts, but they in each and every instance claimed only the quartz deposits. Mr. Fitzgerald came forearmed with the knowledge that the gold and silver is to be found in the iron ore deposits, and not among the quartz. These he found, and the specimens he has had assayed showed a yield of $240 worth of gold to the ton, exclusive of the silver and iron.Kirkpatrick. August 19, 1887
De W. Kirkpatrick has struck what is believed to be a rich gold deposit. It was found in his well about 50 feet below the surface. If it should prove to be the precious metal it will be a bonanza for San Saba, as the quantity seems to be abundant. John Haas. November 10, 1899
John Haas, of the Bowser country, was in our office Monday morning, and said that Dr. Kelso, the treasure hunter, is still at work in his yard, digging and blasting for a treasure of $6,000,000, buried there when Maximillan invaded Mexico in the seventeenth century. He said Dr. Kelso located the place of the supposed buried treasure by a chart he secured in Mexico. He said in the search so far a boat, a coffin, and a tray, and three hearts built of masonry have been unearthed. Mr. Haas takes the bright side of the question and says if the treasure hunters find no gold, he at least, will have one of the finest tanks in the country. The hole when completed will be 75 feet long , 55 feet broad, and from 12 to 14 feet deep, and it is where the water from a large slope will run into it. The San Saba Klondike. July 19, 1901.
John E. Haas, the gentleman on whose land the famous San Saba County Klondike is located was in San Saba Tuesday and reported that work on the Klondike was suspended last week; that camps and lot fences were taken away, leaving every appearance of an abandoned hope. In the summer or early fall of 1899 a stranger, calling himself Dr. Kelso, made his appearance in the Bowser settlement in the northwestern part of this county, and with a chart staked out a point on the home place of Mr. Haas under which, according to the directions of Dr. Kelso's alleged chart, lay buried an immense treasure, concealed there hundreds of years ago. Having located the treasure Dr. Kelso then enlisted the attention and support of several citizens of that community, promising them shares of the great treasure for their labor in helping to unearth it. Among those who took an active interest in the enterprise were the four Maxwell brothers, W.. Abraham, W.H. Johnson and his son , Joe Johnson. The latter two, though are said to have given up the task after a few months of hard work. Mr. Haas the owner of the land, was to receive one seventh of the treasure when unearthed. So, now after about twenty months of hard labor, these men are no nearer the foot of the rainbow than they were when they started. The experience is theirs, the doctor is said to be gone, and holes in the grounds of Mr. Haas's. And this hole is no little thing either; it is 130 feet long, 70 feet wide and on an average about 12 feet deep, there being one pocket about 30 X 30 and 12 feet deep. This means twenty months. Work for six men, two teams besides their board, blasting powder, and wear and tear on tools. A conservative estimate of the cost of this labor of the men and the teams at $1.50 each per day, making allowance for off days and bad weather, will reach in the neighborhood of $6,000. All this was done on the word and representation of a stranger, and now, perhaps, the men who made the long, laborious search express no regrets, yet the lesson is plain that these men could have used their time and labor on their farms and ranches to much better advantage, and doubt if another treasure dreamer and mineral rod speculator should come into their homes soliciting their aid to disturb the rock ribbed bosom of the old nature he would receive poor encouragement, and perhaps a kick on his southern anatomy that would cause his breath to stun the northern breezes. Buried Treasure of San Saba is Found. Oct. 4, 1901.
So says a story published in the News Tribune, of Detroit, Mich., in its issue of July 7, 1901. The story purports to have been written at San Saba, and it is illustrated with the scenes that are described in it, one scene being very much like the "Klondike" up in the Bowser settlement. The considerable search for "The Lost Mine,"...and for buried treasure has been made in this part of the State we all know, but that any treasure has been found we have not yet heard. Mr. N.D. Lidstone, on his trip North last month, secured a copy of the paper containing the story and very kindly remembered to bring it to the News. Below is given the story:
"The buried treasure of the ruins of San Saba, Texas for which Texans have been seeking for more than a century has been found and some of it carried away by a small party of Mexicans.
Fortunes have been spent and many lives have been lost in searching for the vast sum of gold and silver that was known to have been in possession of the old mission when San Saba was surprised by the Indians and every soul but a mother and her little babe massacred. The walls of the fort are still standing. The inclosure and the region of country for many miles in every directions is honeycombed with holes that fortune hunters have made in searching for the gold.
Several times in the last half century parties of Mexicans have visited the various ruins in the valley of the San Saba, and some of them were bold enough to admit that they were searching for the millions that their country men buried when the fierce Comanches swept over the land. Some of the people asserted that the amount lost was not less that $2,000,000; others insisted that there were seventeen burros loaded with treasure, and that it was buried at a place known to the Texans as Bowie's Fort.It is now believed that the latter was the correct theory. It was here at Bowie's old fort, or Loma Grande, that the last party searched. Here they camped for ten days, and here they dug a great hole under the wall of the old fort, and here they quarreled and fought with pistols and knives, killing two men and leaving one badly wounded.
This wounded man was found by a cowboy, and he has since told the whole story of the discovery of the buried treasure.
When the cowboys found him Pedro Sanchez, the wounded man, had in his bosom a bar of pure gold, which weighed ten ounces. He said that he secreted the gold bar about his person while helping his comrades take the treasure from the excavation under the walls of Fort Bowie. He was taken to the house of John Miller, about four miles from Fort Bowie, where he was cared for. Neighbors visited him and when his story became known the wildest excitement arose. At first an effort was made to keep it a secret.
Sanchez asserted that the man who had conducted the expedition from Mexico had said that they had found only a part of the wealth that the old padres and the governor of the province had buried in the fort. The leader was Francisco Yorba. He was a descendant of Gov. Yorba, who was in power at the time that the Indians massacred the inhabitants at Fort San Saba, and he was in possession of an old chart which, Sanchez said, was found recently in the archives of Montclava. After finding the gold bar and the coins in the dirt at the foot several citizens followed the trail of the fortune hunters to the crossing of the San Saba. One man found a small gold bar where the Mexicans crossed a small creek, and this created so much excitement that the Texans would have followed further; but when they came to consider the matter it was easy to see that the fortunate argonauts had been gone long enough to put themselves far beyond the Rio Grande.
Because few of them could speak Spanish fluently they sent for Fanny Ranes, who was raised in Monterey, through thier ready interpretation of the wounded man's words they learned the whole story, and it was enough to set them wild. All efforts now to keep the matter a secret were abandoned, and the entire neighborhood turned out with plows, scrapers, picks and shovels to dig into the ruins of Loma Grande, and they often continued their labors until late at night.This is the story of Pedro Sanchez.
"Our Leader, Senor Yorba, brought ten men with him from Mexico. He had an old chart which he often consulted after we crossed the Rio Grande. We went straight to the ruins of San Saba near Menardville, and we were surprised to see the walls of the fort still standing. We camped there one night; Senor Yorba told us that several thousand people lived there during the latter part of the last century. They enslaved the Indians and force them to work in the silver mines. The wild Indians came to the rescue of the slaves and one evening they swooped down upon the fort and massacred every soul in the place except one woman and her child. This women was in a vineyard, she ran to Loma Grande at night, carrying news of the terrible battle. The treasures of the province were at Loma Grande, and a caravan of many burros was just ready to start to Montclava.
"Yorba told us that his grandfather, who was governor, in the presence of several priests, buried about half a million in gold and more than a million in silver inside of the fort. He said he could go straight to the spot where the gold was buried, but he was not sure about the silver. It was concealed in a separate place from the gold. The chart had faded, and the part describing theologically of the buried silver was indistinct."When we found the gold everybody lost his senses. Some began to fill their pockets. They were so much elated that they opened a keg of mescal, and in a few moments many of them were wildly drunk, and they insisted on dividing the treasure on the spot. Senor Yorba tried to reason with them. He told the men that there was enough to make them all rich. There is not less than half a million in the pile, he said. If we make any mistake here the Texans will take it away from us, he added.
A big desperado named Manchata rushed to the pile of gold and began to put bars into a sack. Senor Yorba shot him dead. That started the battle. Another man was killed, and I was wounded, as I thought, fatally. I ran into a thicket where there was a pool of water. There I stayed bathing my wound until I was discovered by the vaquero Americano.
When Sanchez learned that the Texans were searching for the buried treasure he told Miss Ranes he remembered that Senor Yorba had said the Mexicans poured cement over the pile of bars after they were thrown in a hole in the ground, and that an aged priest came out of the mission and threw a gold cross and a bust of a saint into the hole.
The people who are searching for the treasure naturally supposed that the bust referred to was life size, and they have since been elated greatly, and at the same time much puzzled by the finding of a fragment of a sculptured head about the size of an orange. This was picked on by some children who were playing about the pile of dirt that had been scraped out of the fort. It was impossible to find the place in the enclosure from which the fragment had been taken. Many believe that this is the head of the saint that was buried over the silver by the aged priest.
Tradition has it that the silver was thrown into a deep well and hastily covered with dirt. Possibly the bust of the saint was thrown in the hole when it was nearly full. Careful investigation fails to discover any trace of this traditinary well. If this theory is correct the treasure hunters may have to remove the dirt to a depth of 100 feet before they uncover the silver bars.
A few days ago they formed a company to search for Spanish treasures and the Lost Silver Mines of San Saba. Fanny Ranes was made secretary of the concern and money was raised quickly to defray her expenses to Mexico, where she hopes to induce Senor Yorba to return to Texas and assist in the search or furnish such information as he may possess to the company under guarantee that he shall share alike with other members in all treasures or mines that may be discovered.
In the last century fortune hunters who have searched for the famous hidden treasures of San Saba, have confined their attention and labors to the closure around the old fort near Menardville. James Bowie, one of the heroes of the Alamo, visited this fort in 1832 and inscribed his name on one of the stone gate pillars. The Indians attacked his party, and they were forced to seek protection at Loma Grande where a desperate battle was fought, lasting several days. The treasures were under their feet if they had only been aware of the fact. Thousands of dollars have been wasted in the search for the mines and treasures of San Saba. Only a few years ago a San Antonio company sent costly machinery to the old fort for the purpose of draining the river bed and a slough. Their engineeer accomplished this work, and was repaid for his labor by finding some old brass cannon the Indians had torn from the bastions and thrown into the river.
The old Spaniards must have made rich discoveries in this region or they never would have constructed such a costly fort and dug such a wonderful canal in the heart of this Indian Country, 1,500 miles from Mexico. They never passed over the fine agricultural valleys of the southern part of Texas with the intention of cultivating the rugged, barren plateau of the San Saba. The tools found about the fort and in the bed of the river show that the Mexicans were engaged in mining. Never was a plow or a hoe found in that country, but the river bed was covered with picks, drills, sledge hammers and other mining tools.
The walls of the old fort are six feet high and two feet thick. They inclose four acres of ground. The south wall runs along the shore of the SanSaba River. A few years ago one wuld have filled a large basket with arrowheads, broken beads, pistols and bayonets in the course of one evening's walk about the fort. It is probable that the Spaniards made a desperate resistance in defense of the place, but they were overpowered by countless swarms of the Indians.
One peculiar feature about Fort Bowie interests archaeologists. The horseshoe shaped works on the top of the hill were constructed evidently by the Spaniards, but the massive stone wall lower down on the side of the mountain is believed to be the remains of an Aztec temple. The well-dressed stones in this wall are about four feet thick and often six feet long. The Spaniards found this wall, or rather two walls, forming a right angle here when they came. The early Spanish explorers, so the tradition runs, found pieces of silver and gold about this old ruin. This circumstance induced them to prospect the country, and it is said that a lucky adventurer fell upon an old trail which led to the now famous Lost Silver Mine of the San Saba."About the "Lost Mine".
Editor of the News: In your issue of October 4, 1901, I saw an article in reference to the Old San Saba Mines or Buried Treasure supposed to be located at or near the old San Saba Mission on that river. This story brought back to me an incident in Monterey, Mexico, either in 1881 or 82. I was in that city at the time and one evening while sitting on a vacant seat on the Plaza De La Colon, a place of resort for all who enjoy the refreshing air and music for which that city is noted, a very aged, but neatly dressed Mexican, or Spaniard, sat down beside me. I noticed his neat costume, and as well his intellectual appearance. I entered into conversation with him about the date of the cathedral just in front of us, which dated back to 1714 or 1716, I do not now remember which. This he informed me was the year it was completed, and that the building was, perhaps, in course of construction for 50 or more years, as is very often their custom. I asked him how long he had lived in that city, to which he answered that he was born and reared there, with the exception of a few years spent in Texas, while very young, with his father, who was engaged in the mining business. This opened the channel in which I was seeking information. I asked, "Were there ever any mines that paid worked in that country by the Spaniards?" His answer was that with one exception (El Mino Real) in Old Mexico, that the Old Mission San Saba was the richest mine owned by them. To give you an idea he said. "The company that worked it paid to the Catholic church a royalty on $2,000,000 for one year's out put. This was demanded by the church in those days." I asked him again, "What is your opinion in regard to so much buried treasure in the section?" He said, "young man, " for I was young then, "I will venture to say that including both the coin and bullion, there is more money now in the earth of Texas than is in circulation at present. I asked again, (illegible) by which one could recur a correct location or plat of any parts deposit? He answered in the affirmative and proceeded to inform me how to proceed, but as it required some out lay in money, and as my means were limited at the time, I postponed any further investigation, and as I unfortunately came to this county and embarked in the farming business, it has continued to deplete my resources until they now amount to simply an 0. I will omit his instructions; too, until some future time.
The conversation between him and me was in Spanish and he never knew but that I was one of his countrymen.Found in Menard. April 4, 1902
In the summer of 1891, an old veteran miner of some 60 years experience found in Menard country a mine, that is supposed to have been worked by the Spaniards. The mine is in the bluff of Las Moras creek on the east side and some three miles from where the stream empties into the San Saba river.
The mineral is a clay formation of different colors, but principally in a red. Yellow and pink can be seen in the mine, which is a tunnel running on a level from the mouth and at different angles. This tunnel is about 240 feet deep and cut from 4 to 10 feet wide by 6 to 15 feet deep, principally thru this clay formation. The top of this tunnel is black dirt that seems to have been wet, in time, and fried which makes a hard stuff like adobe. Under this is a layer of pulverized stuff darker in color, about 6 inches thick.
The tunnel is a two story affair, the best mineral being found in the lower compartment. This mineral can be plainly seen with the naked eye. The ore is found in immense quantities and thought to be very rich. Observer in Mason Herald.The Bowie Lost Mine. July 31, 1902
A San Saba citizen, whose name the Bulletin could not learn without risk of running across a request to not make the item public, thinks he has discovered the Bowie lost mine. There is nothing surprising in this statement, for many men before him have thought they had made the same discovery, and many men have spent months in a vain search for this mine reputed to be fabulous in its wealth. The surprising thing though, is that he has been able to so interest capitalists and speculators that they held a meeting yesterday and after listening to the discoverer wired for an expert geologist and will pursue the investigation until they learn just what there is in it. Lost Spanish Silver Mine. July 14, 1904.
The lost mine has been found, so said a dispatch to the daily papers from San Angelo a few days ago: - W.C. Jones of this city, claims to have discovered the long lost Spanish Silver mine which was said to have been worked about three quarters of a century ago by Spanish monks. The mine is located among the bluffs on Celery creek, which flows into the San Saba river. Mr. Jones claims that the mine was hidden by the monks when they were obliged to abandon it, changing the course of the creek so that it ran over the opening. Mr. Jones gives the credit for the discovery to his partner, Joe Cluff. They expect to make their fortunes by working the mine. Las Almagres, and Bowie Mine. December 10, 1908
F.M. Ramsey has returned from Llano where he sold to R.H. Downman his iron interests amounting to about $15,000. Mr. Ramsey came from California to Texas in 1873 and secured this property. At that early date he thoroughly investigated the old Mexican traditions regarding mines formerly worked by them in the Llano mineral belt. He got information from the companions of Bowie who were then living. There were Cephas K. Hammand, Matthew Doyle, also from Cabui, a Mexican who was Col. Bowie's servant. From them and also from Mexican history, Mr. Ramsey completely identified the location of two of these mines...one a very rich silver mine known as Las Almagres, and the other the old Bowie Mine. The title to the lands on which both of these mines are located has been in dispute until recently and both will soon be reopened. Mr. Ramsey, while normally a stockman, has always been a mineral crank and has recently made some very successful investments in mines in California and South America. He expects to open up some of the gold prospects in Llano soon.