Lost Treasures in the Old West

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Lost Treasures in the Old West

A 49er and his mule - Lost Treasures in the Old West

A 49er and his mule
Photo: U.S. PD pre-1923

Here we take a look at some of the stories of lost treasure, of one sort or another in the Old West. Sometimes it’s hidden loot from outlaws, caches by Jesuit priests, secret organizations, failing governments or Indian tribes. Lost mines usually involve gold, silver or other valuable metals, occasionally diamonds, precious stones or minerals. Sometimes there is a faulty map (occasionally called a “waybill”) which shows the location of the treasure. The stories explaining the loss of the valuable commodity are wildly varied…
This list gives some of the more common reasons explaining the loss:

The mine/treasure is discovered/buried in a difficult/dangerous/remote, in time or location situation, and upon returning to the area it cannot be found again.
The discovery is made or the mine worked, by a recluse who refuses to divulge the location, and dies without revealing enough information.
The discoverers are killed by hostile natives. Sometimes the natives hide the entrance to the mine, re-bury the treasure/take all or a portion for themselves…
Maybe its a mine, worked by native peoples, enslaved or for themselves, who refuse to divulge the location to others.
The discoverer dies of hunger, thirst, or exposure shortly after the discovery and his body is found with some indisputable clue to the mine/treasure in his possession: rich ore, identifiable money, a map, etc.
A landslide/cave-in or a flood, natural or man-made covers or alters the location beyond access or recognition.

In the New World Spanish colonies, many of the mines, now “lost” were worked by natives under the “direction” of Franciscan or Jesuit “padres”or by the priests themselves. It seems that these “holy” men were always as least as interested in acquiring the gold and and silver from the land, as they were in saving the souls of the indigenous people they so often exploited. Before their sudden expulsion in 1767, the mines were often hidden/the locations disguised, either by the priests themselves or the native workers left behind. Then too, the padres’ had made it clear to the Indians that there were curses on the mines that would cost the life of anyone revealing the secret locations.

These circumstances, singly or in combination explain most instances of loss. There are, no doubt others, more bizarre and macabre. The results are the same. Some of these stories/legends are fantasy, others are real and their treasures are still out there, waiting to be found…

The Treasures
40 entries as of 01/01/2020

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