Texas is a standard for mythical tall tales and legends. So, it comes as no surprise that Texas holds the national corner on stories of lost treasure. An estimated 229 sites, with $340 million in undiscovered riches, are reputed to exist in the state. All one needs, it seems, is to know where to look. Concealed gold mines, buried pirate hoards, faded maps with missing print, and Mexican silver bars stacked to the ceilings of unnamed caverns; if you can dream it, you can find it or something very much like it.
The Lost Bowie Mine
Drive west out of San Antonio towards the small town of Menard, and you are following a trail blazed by James Bowie and his brother Rezin. The two brothers and their party set out from San Antonio in November of 1831 to seek the famed Los Almagres Mine, rumored to be located near the Mission San Saba in Indian Territory. The Bowie expedition was suddenly attacked by a large raiding party made up of Tawakoni, Waco, and Caddo Indians. Outnumbered 14 to 1, the Bowie party managed to survive with the loss of only one man. Nevertheless, the attack forced to return to San Antonio without any gold. Still undeterred, they immediately began preparations for another expedition. The Bowie brothers set out for San Saba again a few months later, taking a larger force with them. They wandered around for several months in the San Saba area, only to return empty-handed. The attempts to find the lost mine (some say silver, some say gold), were unsuccessful. However, they did succeed in one respect: rumors of gold in the hills launched generations of Texas treasure seekers out into the country surrounding Menard. There are still hunters out there today, chipping at rock outcroppings anywhere from Brady to Llano. A long trip, deep into the hill country near San Saba, especially in the fall when the air is cool and the pecans are ready, with plenty of stops to view the rolling hills, can provide another sort of treasure for those who fail in the quest to discover the Lost Bowie Mine.
Ben Sublett’s Gold Mine
Rumors of a lost gold mine in the Guadalupe Mountains date back to the 1600s. Allegedly, a document was created by Spanish explorers purporting to describe how Indians led them to a vastly rich, hidden mine. Many searchers read the report in the 1800s and set out for the Guadalupes in search of the mine. No one is believed to have been successful until a prospector named Ben Sublett, who was the butt of jokes in the town of Odessa because of his relentless search for the Guadalupe mine, began appearing in town with large amounts of gold. He would regularly disappear into the mountains, sometimes for days, sometimes for months. Each time he returned with more riches. Many attempted to follow Sublett to discover his cache, but no one was able to outwit the wily old prospector. He took pleasure in dropping clues for his pursuers, successfully frustrating many with tantalizing glimpses into the possible location. His son, Ross, claimed his father showed him the mine when he was a child. Unfortunately, he could never recall the location despite countless hours spent trying to retrace the path. Sublett was as enigmatic with his secret as the Guadalupe Mountains themselves, stark walls of rock that rise seemingly inexplicably out of the flat desert surrounding them, stretching above the dust and heat like beacons from a foreign land.