Lost Treasures In New Mexico

Lost Treasures In New Mexico

The buried treasure and lost mine tales recorded on this tape are not my creations. Several have been told before and will be told again wherever interested parties congregate. Some of these stories are based on legend, but it should be remembered that all legends, myths, and folklore, no matter how exaggerated they have become, are based on fact.

The search for gold and silver has been happening in New Mexico since 1539. With the thousands of searchers in this quest, it can be seen that there would be numerous stories of lost, buried, or hidden treasure.
Good hunting!

Before 1875, the Star Line Main and Transportation Company began the operation of a stagecoach line on a regular schedule between Prescott, Arizona, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. This line was used mainly by the United States Army’s traffic to and from Forts Wingate and Whipple.

In 1874, Samuel Wharton and another man known only as Tom held up one of the stagecoaches northwest of Santa Fe and escaped with $50,000 in gold coins and bullion (believed to have been an army payroll), and then traveled north after stealing three horses from a Navajo Indian herd.

It is believed that the two outlaws followed Largo Canyon until they reached the San Juan River near Blanco. By this time, the two felt that no posse could have trailed them this far. As they checked their back trail, they were surprised to see an army patrol of cavalry chasing them.

The two started looking for a place to hide the gold before they were overtaken. Finding a rock-shaped arch that would serve as a landmark, they buried the gold nearby. This is thought to be in the Slanes or Potter arroyos.

A short time later, the cavalry caught the two outlaws. Two Navajo guides identified them as the men who stole the three horses. Tom Wharton was arrested, tried, and sentenced to forty years.

It wasn’t until 35 years later that Wharton turned up in Aztec, New Mexico. His partner, Tom, had died in prison. Wharton spent an entire summer riding between Blanco and Aztec countryside, searching for the arch he and Tom had used as a landmark when they buried the stolen gold. Wharton left in a few months, and no record of his finding the arch or gold can be found.

For anyone interested, the search area is between Aztec and Blanco, New Mexico. Look for an outcropping of sandstone with an arch. However, it could have eroded or fallen because of an earthquake during the past 116 years. But somewhere in this area, $50,000 almost certainly waits for some treasure hunter to preserve it.

The robbery is believed to have been an army payroll because, during those Indian trouble days of the 1870s, the army would not have sent out a detachment of soldiers in pursuit of two outlaws unless it was U.S. Army gold. Also, the military must have had substantial proof of Wharton and Tom’s guilt, or they wouldn’t have received such an extensive penitentiary sentence.

Somewhere in the mountains northeast of Cimarron, in what was called the Cimarron territory, there is believed to be a cache of several cases of guns that filled a wagon.

The guns were hidden in a cave (some people think they were buried) while still packed in a protective coating of grease. If this is true, they would still be in good condition today.

The story goes that the Black Jack Ketchum gang made this cache during the early 1890s. This gang had a hideout about four miles from Cimarron. The guns may be hidden near this hideout. This same gang is supposed to have buried $70,000 in gold coins from a train robbery on July 11, 1899, near the same area in Turkey Canyon.

It is likely that somewhere in Turkey Canyon, near Lookout Rock, there is a cache of guns that would be worth a small fortune on today’s market.

It is almost certain that a lost silver mine is located near Bluewater because a Spanish waybill was written in the 1500s, which was later lost, telling of its location.

In about 1850, John M. Gunn, a civil engineer, came to New Mexico Territory from somewhere back east. He decided to live like the Indians and settled in Laguna Pueblo. He began gathering material for a history of the Laguna and Acoma Indian tribes.

In his rare book of early western history, SCHAT-CHEM, he makes mention of a silver discovery. According to Gunn’s research, an Indian agent named Thomas Griner obtained, in 1862, an old Spanish waybill, or record, that told of a silver mine near the Acoma pueblo, which was located on one of the earliest Spanish trails in the Southwest. Griner did nothing about it because he wasn’t too impressed with the old Spanish parchment. There were dozens of records that hadn’t been cataloged since the Indian revolt of 1860, and the waybill was forgotten until several years later.

During the early 1880s, the A & P Railroad had been built through Laguna territory. Matthew Daley, a timekeeper on the railroad, was making a regular trip over the right-of-way when he met an old Indian near McCarty’s Station, a railroad stop not far from Laguna pueblo, during the summer of 1889.

The Indian gave the timekeeper a piece of rich silver ore and told him a nearby hidden mine contained large quantities of the metal but would not show him where it was. Daley did not have time to search, but since he knew about the old Spanish waybill that had been around for years before, he realized there could be a silver mine in the area, but he never saw the Indian again.

Daley gave the ore sample to his foreman, William Brockman, who had it assayed in Denver and San Francisco. The two reports agreed, “the ore ran $800 and a little more to the ton.”
Brockman started arrangements to try and get mining rights on the Indian Reservation.

With a congressman from Ohio, they tried every political trick they knew to get official permission to prospect and mine on Indian land, but all these efforts failed. After several unsuccessful months of searching and political maneuvering, Brockman and Daley gave up trying to locate the silver mine.

Until a few years ago, digging scars of early mining could be seen in the area between Blackwater and Rio Puerco, in the vicinity where the Indian told Daley the silver mine was located. If it still exists, I have been unable to learn the whereabouts of the old Spanish waybill to this lost mine.

Since this mine was probably located on the Acoma Indian Reservation, the following information is invaluable to any treasure hunter contemplating a search on this or any other Indian Reservation because this law applies to all Indian lands. I quote from a letter the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent me.

“Dear Mr. Henson:

Thank you for your letter of August 28, 1980, requesting information about using metal detectors and prospecting on Indian reservations. There is no Bureau of Indian Affairs policy on using metal detectors on Indian reservations. If persons are interested in using such instruments on Indian lands, they should contact the tribe and request permission to enter their reservation to search. This is of utmost importance because, while tribal lands are under the limited administrative jurisdiction of the Federal Government, tribes have imposed restrictions governing uses and trespass on their land.” This law applies to all Indian lands in the United States.”

A treasured story that is unusual happened near Lordsburg in 1930. It is uncommon that the treasure was found and then lost on the same day.

About 1930, an aged Mexican, known only as Juan, lived on the outskirts of Lordsburg. His source of livelihood was cutting firewood. Each morning he would tell his daughter where he would be working and would return home that afternoon. When he found the sizeable Spanish treasure, he told his daughter he would work in the vicinity of Doghead Peak.

About mid-afternoon, much earlier than he usually came home, Juan was seen riding a burro towards the house. He appeared ill, so his daughter and neighbors took him to a doctor. Juan was in a coma and unable to speak by the time the doctor saw him, for he had suffered a stroke.

The doctor noticed that Juan was clutching something in his hand. He finally got Juan’s hand open and found several old gold coins of Spanish make. The doctor theorized that Juan had stumbled upon a cache of coins, and the shock had been too much for the old man. Whatever the reason, Juan never regained consciousness and died.

There has been an old treasure story told around Lordsburg for years about a Spanish treasure of gold coins somewhere in the area of Dogshead Peak. This site could be worth looking into because Juan had a pattern he followed when he worked. Some old-timers or family members in the area might still remember Juan and his working habits. Also, at his age, when he found the coins, he couldn’t have buried them too deep if he had reburied them.

Somewhere in the Rincon Range in the western section of Mora County, a rich vein of gold was said to be uncovered in a crater made by a falling meteorite in 1871. An old prospector named John Fazzi claimed to have witnessed the meteorite’s fall and found the gold vein it exposed in the crater.

Fazzi, according to accounts, staked out a claim to the site, then went into Santa Fe to file it and celebrate his good fortune. He talked too much in a saloon, and a band of outlaws forced him to agree to lead them to the crater. Fazzi stalled and led the men astray.

He raced his horse, fell off, and broke his leg to escape from them. The riderless horse, however, kept on going, and the outlaws chased it, allowing Fazzi to evade them. He was soon found by a group of friendly riders and taken to a doctor, where his broken leg was set. Complications set in, however, and he died of gangrene. Many searches were done for the crater, but it was never found.

A rich strike of turquoise that was made near Hachita in the early part of this century is puzzling because its location is documented, and turquoise was mined. Still, even the Bureau of mines and Resources of New Mexico can only place this mine as “supposedly on a mountain outside Hachita, facing east.”

In the issue of SOUTHWESTERN MINES on August 5, 1909, G.W. Robinson reported that he had discovered a rich deposit of turquoise near Hachita. He described the pocket as being 36 feet underground and that he had removed pounds of large stones. He shipped this to Jacksonville, Florida, for sale. Robinson left the area without telling anyone the mine’s location and was never seen again.

Several turquoise deposits have been found in the area during the past few years, but none that will produce the amount of turquoise that Robinson reported was still in the mine he located. The location of his discovery is still unknown.

On April 12, 1862, because of a lack of supplies, the commander of the Army of New Mexico began to lead the Confederate troops out of Santa Fe and down the Rio Grande toward Texas.

Some 30 miles north of Socorro, a council of war was held. It was decided that the retreating troops would use an old road through the Magdalena Mountains west of the Rio Grande River. Using this detour, the Confederates hoped to confuse the Federals and avoid another engagement. They would also prevent Fort Craig, which lay farther down the river.

Several hours before daybreak on the morning of April 18, the Confederates, after only a few hours of sleep, left the banks of the Rio Grande and marched eight miles in the Magdalena Mountains. Here they encamped on the banks of the Rio Salado.

But already knew they would have to abandon wagons and much other equipment to follow this rough, nearly impassable route. The following morning, to prevent Union troops from capturing the supplies, they burned caissons, wagons, carriages, and ambulances. In addition, they buried three howitzers.

To this day, those three cannons are buried about 25 miles northwest of Socorro, near the junction of the Rio Salado and the old road through the Magdalenas.

On April 28, 1861, John Giddings, in charge of the Texas Division of the Butterfield Overland Mail Company, left Stein’s Station with $30,000 bound for company offices in California. With him were six other men traveling in wagons.

A mile west of Stein’s Station, as the wagons approached Doubtful Canyon, a band of Indians attacked. All the men were killed. Several days later, a second wagon train discovered five bodies, Giddings’ and another man’s bodies were missing. They were found the next day, some distance away.

Many believe the two were separated from the others because they tried hiding the money and succeeded before the Indians found them.

The money is missing, and Stein’s Station is near the present town of Rodeo in Hidalgo County.

In the Florida Mountains of southern New Mexico, a U. S. Cavalry officer found several pouches of solid gold bullets scattered on a battlefield after a skirmish with Apaches.

The bullets were lumps of pure gold about the size of ordinary marbles and appeared to have been rounded with a hammer.

On January 27, 1877, Lt. Henry Wright of the 9th Cavalry at Fort Cummings received orders to pursue a band of Apaches heading for the Florida Mountains 25 miles to the south. He left the fort with 11 enlisted men and three Navajo scouts.

The detail scouted along the western foot of the mountains but could not find a trace of the Apaches. Climbing up one canyon on foot for a mile and a half, they finally discovered the Indians. During the ensuing battle, five Apaches were killed and four wounded, with no cavalry casualties. The gold bullets were found days later when Lt. Wright returned to the battle scene.

Why were the Apaches armed with gold bullets? Did they know of a place where gold was more plentiful than lead?

The skirmish occurred on the west side of the mountains, about a mile and a half up a canyon, but which canyon? But the Floridians are a short-range. With a careful search, a treasure hunter should find the proper canyon. U. S. Geological Survey maps (Capital Hill and South Park 1965) will aid the search. The Florida Mountains are approximately 12 miles southeast of Deming, New Mexico.

At one time, there was a rich opal mine along the border of Arizona and New Mexico. Its owners were slain while working it, and its location is unknown today.

The mine’s history began in 1879, when Tombstone, Arizona, boomed. The quest for gold and silver had come to the hot deserts of the far Southwest.

That year a party of tenderfoots from the East set out across the desert, hoping to make a big strike. They went northeast across rugged granite mountains, prospecting likely locations.

Prospecting in the Horseshoe Mountains along the New Mexico-Arizona border, they ran across a rich opal deposit. Short of provisions, they lingered just long enough to pick up some good samples, so they moved on. After all, opals weren’t gold or silver.

They went southeast to the camp of Lordsburg. They were a seedy-looking bunch by now, sorely in need of a grubstake. How to get one, they didn’t know, unless they could sell their opals.

The men spread the word they had the gems and would sell them reasonably. Two seasoned prospectors heard of their plight and went to look at the opals. The desert rats immediately saw possibilities for a profit from the opal deposit and made a deal with the newcomers. The deal was closed on the spot.

The greenhorns, loaded with supplies, left Lordsburg and were not heard of again. The two prospectors then set out to find their new opal mine.

There was one big drawback, they were going into Apache country, and the Horseshoe Mountains would be dangerous. The two prospectors found the opal deposit and started mining. There were plenty of gems, and they financed their operation by selling some. The more significant share, they salted away, apparently somewhere around the mine.

In 1885, their luck soured. Apaches raided, killing the prospectors outright. After destroying the mining equipment and the miners’ things, the Indians covered every trace of the valuable mine.

The opal mine was forgotten until 1909. Then talk about it revived in mining camps, and a few tried to locate the mine, but all failed. Lordsburg is the starting point; follow that to highway 70 out of Lordsburg to a side road on your left, leading to the community of Summit. Somewhere between here and Duncan, Arizona, is the lost opal mine.

Frank Rocha didn’t know the bloody history of Dog Canyon when he picked the spot to homestead. Even if he had known that the canyon was the site of many major battles between Indians and the cavalry, Rocha probably would have settled there anyway. He was a crusty old hermit used to taking care of himself and settling his problems.

Folks around the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico soon learned that Rocha liked to be left alone, so he was nicknamed “Frenchy the Recluse.” He built a stone cabin, planted trees, moved in some stock, and shut off the canyon with stone fences. The canyon’s cliffs kept his cattle in, and his rifle kept intruders out.

Frenchy had an ideal spot with ample water to keep his trees and stock thriving. Selling off his surplus cattle soon made him a wealthy man. With watering holes in short supply, Rocha became the envy of many a man who wanted to let his cattle graze in the infamous canyon.

One day Rocha was ambushed, and no one was ever convicted of his murder. Locally, it was believed that Frenchy had buried his money near his stone cabin, which still stands today. The canyon is located on the west slope of the Sacramento Mountains in Otero County, but the treasure is still as safely hidden as it was when Rocha was killed.

The country, about fifty miles north and northeast of Reserve in Castro County, consists of numerous valleys. In the early 1920s, two young men entered the region on a hunting and prospecting trip. One day, while drinking from a waterfall, one of the young men, quite by accident, thrust his head through the water, finding a cavity behind the waterfall. He picked up a few rocks and carried them back to camp, where he discovered they held gold nuggets.

Soon after, his partner became ill, so they returned to Magdalena, where his friend died. Being very short of money, the young man disposed of the nuggets he had found behind the waterfall.

As soon as possible, the young man who had found the nuggets returned to the country and began hunting for the waterfall. But he was unable to locate the correct one. He finally lost his mind, hunting for the gold, and was taken to an asylum.

Numerous people in that section of New Mexico have hunted for the waterfall without success. In Zuni, a very old Indian squaw claimed that these had often visited the ledge and that Geronimo’s band of Indians used to go there and get gold to trade at the Indian stores in Arizona.

This ledge’s general vicinity is between Pinon Mount and Frisco Creek, northeast of Reserve, New Mexico.

Few treasures have been buried in modern-day history, and fewer than the original person who hid the cache still lives. Yet, there is one, a treasure that staggers the imagination; and however much it may be doubted, there is much evidence to prove that this trove exists.

Suppose the estimates of bankers, a federal grand jury, and treasury agents are anywhere near correct. In that case, this “lost” treasure consists of twenty tons of gold bullion in the neighborhood of 16 to 18,000,000 good old American dollars.

The story begins in Mexico during the troubled times of the Depression of the early 1930s. As nearly as can be pieced together from rumors and published facts, a wealthy Mexican accumulated a hoard of around twenty tons of gold bullion.

This he transported to the northwestern section of New Mexico and buried or hid it in a cave. Shortly after the citizens of Mexico hid his treasure, the United States government made the hoarding and ownership of gold bullion illegal. There must have been a very valid reason, but whatever it was, the Mexican did not surrender his gold to the government.

This has given speculation to several theories.

One is that the gold bullion was illegally taken and could not have been turned in for cash. The other is that the gold was recovered from an old Spanish treasure and would have to be shared with the Mexican government.

Whatever his reasons, the Mexican waited almost ten years before approaching government officials (this was done through an intermediary, for the identity of the actual owner has always remained a mystery) to try to make a deal. The Mint, treasure agents turned down his proposal, and finally, the secret service. Almost ten more years passed before another attempt was made.

This time an officer of a bank in Ontario, California, appeared before a federal grand jury and presented legal documents showing that a trust had been set up to sell the gold to the government. But now the government was suspicious.

Not only did they want to collect the total income tax, but they first wanted possession of the gold and then demanded that the owner sue to establish his claim to the loot.

This offer, of course, was turned down by the escrow officers, and nothing has been said about the trove publicly for a dozen years. Informed officials, however, had indicated that several propositions had been tendered, and all have been rejected.

This fabulous trove is one of the most interesting of all lost treasures. No doubt there are people today who could walk right to it but dare not. Both the Mexican and American governments are aware of the treasure’s existence, and any discovery of this quantity of gold by anyone would probably be seized by the United States and a claim put in for it by Mexico.

Unfortunately, the only location is highly generic outside of the few clues that have sifted down in the past few years. But if you are searching in northwestern New Mexico, it might be wise to investigate any caves or sites that might have once been a cave.

On the old Santa Fe-Cimarron Cutoff in Colfax County, about 25 miles east of Springer, there is said to be $40,000 in gold coins buried by two pioneers in 1851. The two were traveling with a small wagon train. Each night they found an excuse to drop behind the other wagons.

Then one man would jump from the wagon and bury their gold in case the other travelers decided to rob them. None of the others ever knew where the gold was buried. The two would let the other wagons go on each morning, uncover their gold, and catch up.

Near Points of Rocks, a popular camping spot because of ample water and wood nearby, the wagon train stopped for the night. Again the mysterious pair buried their gold. However, the following day Indians attacked the lone wagon train and killed both men and nine others from the wagon trail. No one ever found the gold, though the graves of some of those killed still mark the battle site.

In 1934, one Ben Wiett, or Wiest, was prospecting for gold in the Mogollon Mountains of western New Mexico when he spotted what appeared to be the mouth of a small cave high up under the rim-rock at the head of a canyon.

The mouth of the cave opened five hundred feet up a talus slope above the canyon floor. After struggling up the treacherous incline, Ben bent and peered within the waist-high opening. The canyon was too dark to see, and Ben cut a Sotol stalk from a nearby clump and entered the aperture.

Thrusting his torch and head through the opening, he discovered more of the cave beyond. At the cave’s rear, there appeared to be another opening in the wall. Clawing at the door, he found that what he had taken as the solid rock of the mountain was an artificial rock wall that sealed the rear of the cave off from the front entrance room.

Propping the end of his torch in a niche of the rocks, Ben went on hands and knees and proceeded to carefully scoop the dust out of the area with his hands. He found beneath the dust bars of metal, ingot-like forms, each about two by three inches and a foot long, each bar heavy and with a surface blackened by time.

Ben removed two of the bars and prepared to leave, closing the opening as he departed. He then headed south towards the last windmill ranch vaguely remembered as lying in that direction. Already his tongue was swollen from a long night without water. Long before noon, he had tossed away the two metal bars he had carried out of the cave.

Becoming hopeless and lost among the wild canyons he traversed, Ben finally gave out and lay in the shadow of a rock ledge until late in the afternoon. Then, after dark, he struggled once more.
Somehow he made it through the night and, by the following day, came into a pass where a rough mountain road ran steeply. There he sank and waited.

He was found there, unconscious, that day by three transient prospectors who passed that way in their ailing Model T Ford. They carried him into their camp, which was about ten miles to the west, and fortunately, one of them possessed the sense to feed him water slowly so that he survived his near-fatal dehydration. Ben rested with them for a few days until he recovered from his ordeal and took leave without telling them where the cave was.

Ben made three attempts in later years to relocate his cave and the bars of metal that he had discarded, but without success. Somewhere in the desolate reaches of the Mogollon, Ben’s metal bars remain undiscovered, hiding under their layers of dust.

Francisco Chavez was a direct descendant of the Spanish colonization party that settled at the San Juan Indian pueblo north of Santa Fe in 1598 to become accredited as the first permanent colony in the Continental United States.

Señor Francisco, when he came to the Caballo Mountains country, was about 20 years of age, and there he remained until death came along in 1935 at the age of 80.

The late years of the 1870s were trying times for the Chavez family. So Francisco left the farm chores to his family’s poor members and went west to the minefields just across the Rio Grande from his small farm, all within walking distance.

As it turned out, virtually a mint had come to his door.

He soon directed his prospecting for the elusive “mother lode” responsible for the placers he was finding. Chavez turned his prospecting efforts to the rugged slopes of the Las Palomas Gap in search of the mother lode. He explored every cave and cavity in the Caballo Mountains range.

The man, determined to strike it rich, worked constantly. Each morning he left home with lunch in his hand and a few tools over his shoulder, walking to the Las Palomas Gap.

One night he returned to his family to show them a handful of solid gold nuggets. He had found them in a cave, scattered all over the floor like they had “spewed” out of the ground.

The richness of the discovery didn’t trouble Francisco, but something else did. If he told his story, the hordes would rush the cave, and he’d lose all his gold. So he decided to keep the secret all to himself.
Each morning he departed the little farm home and walked away in a northeasterly direction, headed for the Las Palomas Gap locality. Finally, he began to realize the following of his secret. Time was running out on him.

One day he decided to show his gold mine to the Las Viejas (the older women of the family) because he felt they could keep a secret. With everything in readiness for the precarious trek, they left the shanty on the Rio Grande and headed for Las Palomas Gap. Soon the older women began to complain, saying they could walk no farther. They finally sat down, rested for a long time, and returned home without reaching the mine.

Chavez never made another attempt to lead them to his mine, and shortly afterward, he died, taking the secret to the grave with him. The Chavez heirs have consistently searched for the lost gold mine, but it remains lost today.

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