Colorado is ranked third in the number of treasure sites in the United States. There are dozens of stories of lost mines, stagecoach robberies in which money was hidden by bandits, Indian raids in which the white pioneers or miners lost valuables, and bank robberies in which the money is still missing.
Also, there are an estimated 700 ghost towns, mining camps, Indian village sites, and pioneer forts within Colorado. These different locations make the state an interesting place to visit and search.
Treasure Mountain is in Colorado’s gold- and silver-rich San Juan Mountains. Find any old-timer between Lake City and Del Norte, and he will not only point the mountains out to you. Still, he will probably tell you about the times he has looked for the cave with the gold bullion, estimated to be worth five to thirty million dollars, stored in it.
A group of Frenchmen mined and hid the gold bars, totaling nearly three hundred. There were miners, geologists, laborers, and soldiers, all under the leadership of a man named LeBlanc.
The large expedition left a Kansas post in the early 1800s for the Colorado Mountains by the Platte River.
Once in the mountains, they began prospecting and exploring, looking for that one gold vein that could make them all rich. As they passed through the mountains, a small quantity of gold was mined at Cripple Creek, but nowhere could gold be found in sufficient quantities to warrant their setting up mining operations on a large scale.
Nowhere, that is, until they arrived at Treasure Mountain. There, the group found gold in large quantities and immediately set up mining operations. Whether they knew they were on Spanish land is not known. At any rate, they mined the gold and stacked the bars on Spanish soil. Fortunately, their operations went undetected, or a battle would most certainly have ensued over the possession of the gold.
As winter approached, the mine was closed, and the men walked to Taos, New Mexico, for the winter, where they were accepted and treated well by the Spanish and Indians who resided there. The winter was exceptionally cold and harsh on the Frenchmen.
One by one, they began dying from disease and starvation until over two hundred of their number had perished. Come spring, the survivors decide to return to the mine, gather up what gold they can carry, and then close the entrance and head back toward Kansas.
Unfortunately, they were plagued with bad luck. Shortly after leaving Taos, they were attacked by Indians. When the battle was over, about fifteen men were still alive. The tragic loss of many of their comrades was too much for the remaining men, so they turned eastward and started the long trek back to Leavenworth, Kansas.
Still followed by the Indians, they were attacked again when they reached the Arkansas River. Only five survived this attack. The five men, now frightened to move on for fear they would all be killed, ran into the woods, determined to stay hidden until they feared the Indians were gone.
Finally, their situation became so desperate that they drew straws, with the loser giving up his life so the others could stay alive by reverting to cannibalism. When the survivors managed to leave their hiding place and struggle overland to Leavenworth, they were forced to draw two more times.
The two survivors who struggled into the fort were dead than alive. One died a few hours later, and the sole survivor swore never to return to the mine and its gold. He had brought maps of the treasure site back with him and told anyone who would listen of the horrors of the trip.
As far as can be determined, no one could ever find the hidden gold, and it still waits for some lucky treasure hunter.
According to Indian legends, gold was discovered on Spanish Peaks in what is now Huerfano County before white men came. A Spanish story tells of three monks and several other Spaniards who stayed behind in Spanish Peaks when Coronado returned to Mexico after his ill-fated search for the mythical city of Cibola.
Two of the monks were killed by Indians. The third one, Juan de la Cruz, with the other Spaniards, forced the Indians of the Pecos to mine and brought gold from the depths of the twin mountains. After several years, Juan Cruz and his men left the peaks with pack animals heavily laden with gold, bound for Mexico City.
They never arrived at their destination, and it was never learned what had happened to them.
An incident occurred in 1811 that lends credence to the existence of these mines and legends. Gold nuggets believed to have been part of this treasure were found by a Mexican south of the double mountains, far from any mine or mineral-bearing ledges. With the price of gold today, it could pay an interested prospector to check the area of Spanish Peaks.
This lost mine story is unusual because it has been found and lost repeatedly.
A prospector came to Durango, Colorado, one day in 1905, loaded with the weight of a sackful of extremely rich ore.
He urgently needed some ready money and could not wait for the ore to be smelted and returned from the Denver mint as a coin. After having the specimens of the ore assayed, he showed the assayer’s report and offered the sackful of the ore for sale. While displaying it to possible cash customers, he related how he came by it.
When prospecting in the Bear Creek region of the eastern Nettleton district, he said, about 30 miles from Durango, he had accidentally found the tunnel of an old mine. He realized some mystery hovered over the mine, for there was evidence that it had been abandoned suddenly, and probably involuntarily, many years before.
All around the floor and outside the tunnel were heaps of gold ore of the same kind he had in the sack. The ore was very high grade, and the vein, which he did not take time to locate, being short of food, must have been only a few feet away.
Inside the tunnel were the skeletons of three men, bleached snow-white, though covered with dust. The prospector cagily avoided telling any landmarks to get back to the tunnel.
The prospector was eager to sell the ore quickly, so he could return to the mine with an adequate supply of provisions and the necessary equipment to thoroughly survey the extent of the gold vein. After selling his gold and buying supplies, the prospector left town and was never seen again.
In the late spring of 1918, Pedro Martinez visited Durango with a quantity of the same kind of ore, teeming with gold. He had the same story: tunnel, skeletons, and all. Before Martinez could return to the mine or file a claim, he fell ill with the flu and died.
In the fall of 1938, a sheepherder brought into Durango a sack of gold ore recognized by old-timers as the same rich ore brought in by Martinez. The sheepherder told the same tale, identical in all details.
Local people decided that a story checking three ways and standing up through so many years must have some basis. Several townsmen grubstaked the sheepman to lead them to the Three Skeletons Mine. The expedition was quickly begun and as quickly abandoned.
The guide could not find the way back. The mine is believed to be around Bear Creek, which flows through the eastern Nettleton district, about thirty miles from Durango.
Sometime between 1938 and 1940, three men worked on the highway a few miles north of Salida, Colorado. Work shut down for a few days, so they decided to do some prospecting in the nearby mountains to kill time.
They stumbled on an abandoned mine which looked as though the owner had either met with violence or just walked off without ever returning. They wondered what had happened, as somebody had left badly rusted tools lying in the excavation.
Maybe some prospector had just made the excavation, failed to locate ore rich enough, and walked off looking for a better vein.
Something didn’t add up, so the three workers searched for clues explaining why the mine had been abandoned. There were no graves close by to indicate that the previous miner had died. Each tool was an antique, so whoever left them there had done it long ago.
The three men took samples of ore. It looked good to them, but an assay would soon tell whether it was worth working. For unknown reasons, the samples weren’t sent to the assay office immediately, and when the returns came back, they proved the ore to be rich in gold.
However, not being miners and having good jobs, which they did not want to lose, the men followed another highway project to a different area and soon forgot about the gold. They later told the story but never searched for the mine.
Since it happened within the last fifty years, this location certainly bears further investigation. And, by doing local research, this little-known lost mine just might be found by a persevering prospector.
This “lead” is for those treasure hunters interested in solving a mystery through local research concerning a particular site.
In 1858, gold was discovered in Colorado; by 1859, 50,000 prospectors had flocked to the state. The area around Cripple Creek was one particular area that attracted many of these hunters.
When the gold was shipped from Cripple Creek, it was often sent down the Gold Camp Road on the south side of Pike’s Peak. But sometimes, however, it was sent around the north side of Pike’s Peak and through Ute Pass, a 6800-foot-high pass near Manitou Springs. In those days, it was a dark and brooding place, with pine and aspen trees overshadowing the winding trail used by travelers.
In 1873, a stagecoach carrying five passengers and $40,000 in gold entered the pass. The sun was shining, and everything seemed perfectly normal. But the stagecoach was never seen again!
The coach, driver, five passengers, team, and the $40,000 in gold disappeared. There was never any trace found of any of them.
For the mystery buff, this location should prove to be a challenge.
In late October 1903, Henry Sommers walked the trail from the Neglected Mine on Monument Mountain to Durango, Colorado, about twenty miles to the southeast. Near the head of Falls Creek, he noticed the corner of a canvas sack sticking out from under a rock. Henry had found a high-grader’s cache.
There were twelve sacks, each weighing 60 pounds. Removing the sacks, Sommers carried them about three hundred yards away, where he buried them carefully in a small natural trench.
Not wanting to leave a marker, Henry carefully noted landmarks. To the right was a white sandstone cliff, and another stood out on the left, opposite the burial site. A large dead tree was across the canyon. These three landmarks formed a triangle with the cache in the center.
After reaching Durango, he met two miners who seemed to be the high graders. Although he couldn’t prove it, Sommers felt the two men were watching him. Deciding to wait, Sommers got a job and spent the winter in Durango. By the following summer, the two high graders had left town.
Henry returned to the cache site but was unable to locate the gold. After searching for several days, Sommers gave up. He told several people about the cache and then moved on west. This would be a good location to search with a metal detector.
Look for a small ditch, probably sunken more by now, between a white sandstone cliff and another cliff, opposite each other near the head of Falls Creek, northwest of Durango.
Two brothers, Eli and Red Hansen discovered a rich vein of gold ore in Moffat County, Colorado. They worked the mine for several months, then, after concealing all signs of their work, they started out for supplies. Just as they reached the Utah state line, bushwhackers killed them.
Afraid they would be caught, the bushwhackers buried the two men after searching the bodies and finding only a small amount of gold. What gives this story a ring of truth is the statement made to a friend by an old-time farmer in the area, now deceased, named Harry Chew.
He believed the mine existed in his own words: “I’ll tell you what I found and what makes me dead sure about the mine and maybe a cache of gold because them Hansen brothers had been working the mine for quite a while. Some years ago, I was exploring a cliff in Pool Canyon.
I saw an odd-shaped rock; when I picked it up, it was a human skull. I did some more digging and found two bodies; on one skull was some red hair, the same color as Red Hansen’s. The last time I saw the Hansen brothers had been about two years before I found the bodies.
“I had been chasing a mountain lion and came across the Hansens. They weren’t friendly and seemed to want me to leave. Nobody ever heard of them anymore until I found the two bodies.”
Harry had searched for the mine and believed the Hansens had cached a lot of gold near the mine. Chew found prospect holes, shallow shafts, and several rusted picks and shovels, but he could never locate the hidden mine. Until his death, Henry Chew always believed that the mine and gold cache existed in Pool Canyon.
For years, the area around Devil’s Head, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains between Denver and Colorado Springs, was used by different outlaw gangs as a hideout.
In 1923, a forest ranger named Roy Dupree noticed an old man who had pitched a tent and seemed to be looking for something. Inviting him to the station, Dupree asked him what he was searching for. The old man told a strange tale.
He said that one day in 1870, a gang of robbers held up a government payroll near Big Springs and collected $60,000 in gold coins. The outlaws headed for the Devil’s Head area. However, before they had reached it, the posse closed in on the outlaws, and a deadly battle ensued.
The desperate robbers buried the gold under a pine tree and drove a knife into the tree as a marker. Only one of the bandits managed to escape.
The old man told the ranger that he was the man who had escaped. He said that he had been in prison for another robbery for many years. Now he had returned to look for the buried gold.
Dupree told the old man that a forest fire had ravaged the area during the intervening years. A new forest had grown up, and there would be no knife handle sticking out of these trees.
After searching for several days and finding nothing, the old man left. This would be a good place to spend a few days searching with a metal detector.
Through five generations, almost everybody in southern Colorado has heard of the rich lost gold mine high in the nearby mountains. Spaniards came up from Mexico a few years after the American Revolutionary War. They discovered an immensely rich deposit of gold in a rugged mountain peak near what is now the state’s southern border.
The Spaniards began preparations for mining, timbering a shaft, making melting ovens, and cleaning troughs. They had little more than started taking out ore when something, never explained, occurred to call them away.
They ordered their peons and Indian slaves to cover the mouth of the shaft and remove all evidence of their labor. Then destroying their trail down the mountainside, the Spaniards and their train of horses, mules, and servants left the region forever.
There is no question that the mountains and mesas of Colorado are teeming with gold, but of the hundreds who have heard this legend, many have not believed it, thinking it wouldn’t hold water. According to tradition, the Spaniards discovered the gold by accident, under conditions in which they were not equipped to undertake extensive and long-continued mining operations.
Many old-timers who have hunted this lost lode believe it lies in the rugged peaks rising west of Trinidad as the southern point and Walsenburg as the northern point. Trinidad is in Las Animas County, and Walsenburg is in Huerfano County.
Around 1700, a member of a Spanish regiment of soldiers buried between $50,000 and $1,000,000 in gold doubloons to avoid its capture by Apache Indians. The story is that an infantry regiment, commanded by Carrasco Rodriguez and carrying twelve chests of treasure, started from Santa Fe en route to a Spanish garrison in St. Augustine, Florida.
Disdaining guides, Rodriguez and his men marched in the wrong direction. Winter found them at the present site of Trinidad, where they waited until spring. Again straying in the wrong direction, they entered Purgatory River Canyon, where, according to a dying Apache’s story told five years later in a Santa Fe mission, they were set upon and murdered by Indians.
The Indians witnessed the alarmed Spaniards leaving their treasure chests but paid little heed, for they were satisfied with many horses, blankets, and rum. The treasure is believed to be still waiting for some lucky treasure hunter.
In 1857, a wagon loaded with $100,000 in gold bars and dust was winding its way from Denver to Missouri. The trail was hot, dusty, and monotonous, adding to the boredom of the men driving the wagon. The boredom ended, however, quite suddenly.
As the wagon rounded a curve, several masked men were in the middle of the road. The drivers were ordered to hold their hands high, and no harm would come to them. Neither man wanted to become a hero, especially a dead one, so they readily complied.
The bandits took the boxes holding the gold off the wagon and, thanking the drivers for stopping, sent them on their way, suggesting that they don’t stop until reaching the next settlement. Feeling lucky to be still alive, they had no intention of stopping.
The next settlement had a small military detachment garrisoned there for protection from the Indians. Upon hearing of the robbery, the commanding officer sent all the men he could spare to recover the gold. Early the next morning, after traveling hard, the bandits were spotted.
The bandits saw the soldiers coming through and rode in behind rocks to make a stand. Realizing the heavy gold would slow them down, one man was chosen to find a hiding place and bury it. Placing all the gold in a dutch oven, he slipped away from the area without being seen. Riding to within a mile of the Smokey Hill Trail near the old town of Clifford, he buried the oven about two feet deep.
To mark the spot, he carved the date into three large flat stones and placed them in the shape of a triangle with the treasure in the center.
He then rode back to the battle scene to help his friends, but he was too late. They were all dead. Scared that he would be found and killed, he turned his horse and left the area as rapidly as possible.
Nothing more was heard about the hidden gold until the late 1880s, when the lone survivor returned to try to recover the treasure. He spent days looking, but time had dimmed his memory and changed the country. He was unable to find the location. Before returning to Chicago, he told several people what he had been looking for and asked to be remembered if anyone found the gold.
No one, however, could ever locate the three stones, so the little dutch oven still waits for two feet underground to be discovered.
In the summer of 1860, two Missourians trekked to the gold country in Summit County, Colorado, expecting to strike it rich. Seasoned prospectors in the area laughed at the two young greenhorns’ inexperienced efforts.
The old-timers were surprised when the Missourians began packing large bags of strange gold-bearing white clay from some unknown source. Every night the two would disappear over the ridge, returning at dawn with their heavy bags of clay.
For every 100 pounds of clay, they pan out an ounce of gold. The other miners wondered where the rich clay was coming from, but nobody wanted to tangle with the muscular, well-armed Missourians.
Finally, Jim Jorgensen’s curiosity got the best of him. He followed the two Missourians one moonlit night while they skirted the top of Big Baldy Mountain. From there, he figured he could easily locate their claim later.
The Missourians worked until the cold winter halted all mining operations in the area. Then the Civil War broke out, and they left, returning to Missouri and never returning.
This was Jorgensen’s chance. He organized a search party, confident they’d find the rich clay deposit, but the search failed, as all have since. The exact site of this rich gold deposit remains a secret to this day, though it has to be somewhere in the vicinity of Big Baldy Mountain in Summit County, Colorado.
Around 1851, a pack train of five white men and seven mules, with five of the mules carrying two sacks of gold each, was heading eastward from California to join the Santa Fe Train in New Mexico. Circling south of what is now Durango, Colorado, across Florida Mesa into the Ignacio Mountains, the train was deep in Ute Indian territory.
Unexpectedly, the party came upon a small Indian hunting camp. The men decided to skirt the village to avoid trouble, but the smell of cooking meat led two of them to dismount and gather a supply for supper.
As the men were remounting, one horse shied, knocking over a teepee. Hurrying to catch up with the train, they did not notice that the teepee had fallen over a campfire. The camp was soon destroyed.
That night the party camped along the Piedra River, opposite the mouth of the Stolsteimer, with Chimney Rock off to the northeast.
Early the next morning, while one of the men was catching the stock, the Utes surprised the camp, killing four men. The fifth man, who witnessed the massacre, ran for cover and escaped.
The Indians rifled the camp and took everything valued except ten sacks of gold. They had no use for the gold and dumped it into a shallow ravine nearby, where it still lies, probably covered by dirt washed down by rains.
An event happened near Clifford, Colorado, in 1862. By this time, the country was becoming more populated and less dangerous. Several small short-run stage lines had been started to carry supplies between the new settlements springing up everywhere.
One such stage was making its run from Fairplay to Ute Pass. The only thing being carried was a strongbox containing $80,000 in gold coins.
As the stage pulled into the Como area, ten bandits jumped out from both sides of the road and ordered the driver to stop. Unfortunately, the driver was not about to give up the shipment to any group of bandits and gave the team a crack with his whip. Before he had time to swing his whip twice, one of the bandits shot and killed him.
The guard was not about to try anything foolish. He stopped the stage and threw down his rifle. The bandits took the gold and sent the stage on its way with the usual warning, “Don’t look back.”
The guard found help in the next town, and a posse was quickly formed and set out in pursuit of the bandits. The chase ended when the bandits were caught near the old town site of Clifford.
While two of their number buried the strongbox, the rest kept the posse busy. One by one, the bandits were killed by the posse’s extremely accurate rifle fire. The battle lasted several hours before the last bandit was finally shot.
When the posse rushed to the scene, all ten men were either dead or dying. The men of the posse searched everywhere for the gold but could not find a trace of it, and sadly enough, all the bandits died without revealing where the strongbox had been hidden.
In the summer of 1893, Tom Estes, a miner and prospector discovered a rich vein of gold somewhere on the slopes of West Needles Mountain in the San Juan Range of southwestern Colorado.
During his first summer mining the vein, Estes filled two sacks with rich sylvanite ore, which netted him $1070. The following summer, he packed a large supply of tools into the mountains, including an anvil, bellows, and blacksmith’s coal.
He came out with seven sacks of ore and told friends it had taken him only two days to dig it out. He said the remainder of the time at the mine had been spent timbering the tunnel, covering a shaft, and building a forge.
Estes also built a permanent camp, expecting to spend his summers in the mountains and returning with only enough gold for a necessary stake. Gold stored in a mountain appeared to him as safer than it would be in any bank.
Estes stayed only two weeks at his mine during the third summer. He came out with five packs of ore, which he sold for $2800.
The following winter Estes died of pneumonia. He left no map or other directions to his mine. All that is known is that the miner went up Cascade Creek into Purgatory Canyon before picking his way up the rugged mountainside on the north.
Neither the source of the rich ore he brought out of the mountains nor the gold he is believed to have stored there has been discovered.
The Colorado Rockies are noted for their rugged beauty, their ski slopes, and in the case of one of the “fourteeners,” for treasure.
A fourteener, to a native of Colorado, is any mountain over fourteen thousand feet high, and there are over 50 in the state. This treasure tale concerns Mt. Princeton in the Collegiate Range.
Years ago, when Coronado’s Spanish conquistadores were looking for the Seven Cities of Cibola, it is said that they raided an Indian village situated in a valley below the Collegiate Range.
The braves were gone when the Spaniards stole all of the gold trinkets in the village. But they returned, learned what had happened, and gave chase. As the Indians got closer, the thieves were forced to lighten their load and cached two calfskins full of gold just below the chalk cliffs of Mt. Princeton.
The Spaniards never revealed the site of the cache because the Indians caught up with them and slaughtered them. The Indians could not find their gold trinkets, which had been stolen from them.
The Cache la Poudre River (the name is French for “Hiding Place for Powder”) rises in Rocky Mountain National Park. It flows north and then turns east and southeast through Fort Collins and Greeley, eventually emptying into the South Platte River.
In the early days, when Fort Collins was a real fort, two unnamed prospectors, one an Irishman and the other a Dutchman, came into the fort regularly and cashed their supply of gold at the sutler’s post. These trips always ended in prolonged drunken sprees, after which they would quietly leave.
Each trip to the fort by the prospectors produced more gold, and it became common knowledge that the two men were working a rich mine somewhere in the area, although they never got drunk enough to reveal its location.
On one occasion, some inquisitive soldiers hired an Indian scout to follow the miners. The scout returned some days later and reported that he had followed the men straight up the Cache la Poudre for three days and had then lost their trail.
On a subsequent trip to the fort, the partners got drunk as usual and quarreled. In the brawl that resulted, the Irishman killed the Dutchman. The soldiers, now determined to make the Irishman talk, strung him up to a tree, not intending to kill him. But when the prospector was brought down, he was dead. The secret of the mine died with him.
Bull Canyon, somewhat north of the Four Corners country of southwestern Colorado, is the location of a considerable sum of treasure in gold and silver coins, gold dust, and nuggets. The treasure is well-known. Even the State of Colorado has searched for it.
The value of the cache, or caches, is not known precisely, but at least $5500 in gold coins is involved. That much is a matter of public record.
The treasure was once the secreted fortune of Henry Huff, who was shot and killed by John Keski at Keski’s house in 1917. The two men quarreled in the presence of Mrs. Keski and their two children. Carl Akers, Henry Huff’s partner and only friend was also present.
When Keski mortally wounded Henry Huff, the dying man dictated his will. He left all his possessions, including his buried gold, to his friend Akers. However, he did not survive long enough to find his hoard’s location.
When Akers tried to claim the estate as the sole heir, he found that the state of Colorado would not recognize deathbed wills and that the state claimed the inheritance.
However, it did not make any difference since not even the state could locate Henry Huff’s treasure hoard. No one else seems to have had any better luck; if they have, they have kept it to themselves. Carl Akers searched, as did others, but Huff’s gold has not been found as far as it is known.
Bull Canyon runs east of the Dolores River and is south of the Colorado towns of Bedrock and Naturita in Montrose County. Until recently, Huff’s old cabin remained standing, and the U. S. Geological Survey has a photograph of it.
A blinding blizzard caught three prospectors by surprise high in the Sangue de Cristo Range of Sagauch County, Colorado, in October 1880. The three men, S. J. Harkman, E. R. Oliver, and H. A. Melton, hurriedly sought refuge in a cave they had found near the head of Dead Man’s Creek.
Once inside, the three men lit dry pine branches for torches and began to explore their shelter. A narrow tunnel, ten or twelve feet long, led to a large room. They followed a second rough passageway into a larger room. It appeared empty until Oliver kicked something with his foot-a skull!
They fashioned fresh torches to do more exploring. In a smaller chamber with many stone ledges, their curiosity was unexpectedly rewarded. They found five gold bars stacked neatly beneath one of the ledges.
Impatiently, the men waited out the storm and returned to the camp with the treasure.
Being sure there were more gold bars hidden in the cave, each had made careful mental notes of its exact location. They were experienced prospectors, familiar with the territory, and so anticipated no problem returning to the cave the following spring.
But problems were all they found when they returned. They were sure they had located the right canyon, but somehow the cave opening had disappeared, and they could never find it.
In the early days of this century, gold and silver were still being taken out of the mines around Creede, Silverton, and Telluride, Colorado. High-grading (a fancy name for stealing) was not considered a sin unless you were caught.
This explains how some of the richest gold ore ever taken out of the Colorado Rockies-ore valued at $120,000 on today’s market came to be cached at a place called Indian Ridge near the little town of Rico, Colorado.
Two men and a boy buried the ore one summer around 1910 and could never find it again. The two men were miners, and the boy was a sheepherder, but he was important to the operation because he provided the mules to carry the 12 sacks of ore, which weighed about 70 pounds apiece.
In the dead of night, one man and the boy started with the mules. The other rode the train to the end of the line, where he planned to meet them. When he met them atop Indian Ridge, there was trouble afoot. The sheriff and others were looking for them.
Hurriedly, the ore was buried. They thought they had the place marked well but discounted the changes wrought by the high mountain winters. When the deep snow melts, it slides off the mountains and takes everything.
The markers were all gone when the three came back to find the rich ore. The miners died soon afterward, and the boy could never find the gold cache.
In the spring of 1849, Buck Rogers led a party of Illinois prospectors to the goldfields of California. When the men reached the Colorado mountains, they did a little side-prospecting to break the monotony of the long journey.
Rogers and five others found a rich strike in the Camp Fulford-Glenwood Springs area but kept it a secret from the rest of the group. Furthermore, the six men remained behind when the party resumed the trek to California.
When fall came, Rogers and his partners had accumulated a hoard of gold valued from $60,000 to $100,000, kept hidden near their camp. In the early winter, Rogers took about $500 of the hoard and set out for supplies.
Upon reaching civilization, Rogers spent two weeks with convivial friends before returning to the camp with supplies. When he arrived, he found that the camp, men, and gold had completely disappeared under a giant snow and earth slide.
Rogers never recovered from the shock. He became a broken alcoholic, drifting from saloon to saloon and babbling of the friends and fortune he had lost on “Slate Mountain,” which was unknown and probably had been named by Rogers himself. He could-and would-give only general directions to the site, and the legend of the Lost Slate Mountain grew and spread.
A few years later, a doctor obtained directions to Slate Mountain that an old miner had made when he found what he believed was Slate Mountain. He made several attempts to find the lost gold but never succeeded.
Here are the directions used by the doctor in his attempts to find Slate Mountain:
Go along Eagle River to the mouth of Brush Creek. Follow the creek five miles to the forks. Take the east branch about five miles until you come to a shift of rocks coming almost to the water’s edge. Follow the dry gulch running north until you reach a small hole dug in the ground. Continue until you come to another hole, and so on until you come to a third hole.
Blazed trees on both sides also mark this line. From the third hole, turn due north, and about 200 feet from the last tree, you will see three tall trees standing in a triangle. The trees have their tops broken off about 30 feet up. This is about 300 feet from the timberline, and the vein runs north and south on the place described.
Just after the turn of the century, a man named Hollingsworth was deer-hunting in Colorado’s rugged La Plata Mountains. While tracking a big buck, he noticed an interesting outcropping. Hollingsworth, a prospector, and miner, couldn’t pass it up and stopped long enough to break off a sample.
Weeks later, Hollingsworth happened to run across the ore sample in his jacket pocket. He had forgotten all about it. Examining it more closely, he suddenly realized it was probably the richest find he had ever made.
The melting snows had scarcely receded from the mountains before Hollingsworth was hiking up Root Creek, where he had been hunting the previous fall when he discovered his rich ledge of gold. He could retrace his steps easily, even as far as finding the remains of the buck he had killed in the vicinity of the rich ore. But search as he might, he couldn’t pinpoint the exact spot where he had found the sample.
Hollingsworth knew the outcropping was on a sharp ridge between Root Creek and Snowslide Gulch. But though he searched extensively, he could not find his lost ledge.
In 1891, the first gold mines just southwest of Pike’s Peak in central Colorado were opened, and the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor sprang up around the diggings in short order.
During this same period, America faced a severe shortage of coins, with the Western states particularly affected. Many private individuals, bankers, merchants, and assayers coined their tokens to alleviate this shortage. In 1900, a man named Joseph Lesher, who lived in Victor, began making odd octagonal tokens called Lesher Referendum Dollars.
When presented to merchants and tradesmen, these were redeemed in goods and services, and sometimes currency, when available. The coins worked well in the city Victor’s routine business, and Lesher struck more of them in 1901.
Zachary Hutton, a local cobbler, completely misunderstood the purpose of the Lesher Dollars. Instead of recognizing them as strict barter coins, he hoarded them away as though they were genuine U. S. coins. He equated these dollars with real money, believing they would always be valuable. He scrupulously saved his money just as he had done when real coins were plentiful.
Victor was still in the grip of winter when Hutton died of pneumonia in 1902. Though some people searched, two tins Hutton had stored his Lesher Dollars it could never be found.
Hutton’s store of tokens still lies in some nook amount the scattered foundations of Victor’s crumbling buildings. Now, these funny, 8-sided coins are quite rare, worth up to $1000 each to collectors.
One portion of the road from Silverton to Del Norte, Colorado, crossed Timber Hill. The hill was heavily wooded and so steep that the horses had to slow to a walk. This made it a favorite spot for those who planned to rob the stage or owe wagons.
Many are tales of treasure hidden in the area. One concerns the attempted hijacking of three ore wagons. Three scouts riding ahead of the wagons were ambushed, but one scout carried a warning back to the wagons.
The drivers threw the sacks of silver ore into a swamp not far from Timber Hill. They managed to unload two wagons, but the bandits attacked before they could unload the third wagon.
The hijackers got only the silver from one wagon. The sacks of silver ore from the other two wagons were never recovered and are believed to still be in the swamp.