stories are easier found than treasures.
A particularly good tale has been buried for more than a century in
the long yellowed pages of a bound volume of the Eagle Pass Guide.
"An Old Story" is the not particularly revealing headline atop the
page one piece in the Sept. 9, 1893 issue of the newspaper.
During the early part of the 19th century, the story begins, San
Antonio was "the home of many wealthy Spaniards and the commercial
centre of all northern Mexico."
The claim that San Antonio
had many well-to-do residents in the early 1800s is something of a
stretch, and Santa Fe was probably more important a city, but San
Antonio definitely was the commercial center of what would become
What gave San Antonio
vitality then was one of the same things that makes it flourish today-it
was on the main road to Mexico City. The roadway went south from San
Antonio to a point above Laredo,
then to Monterrey, Saltillo and San Luis Potosi.
On a date not given in this telling, a caravan of 30 mules left Mexico
City for San Antonio.
Each mule, the story goes, was loaded with 8,000 silver coins and
"a considerable amount of gold coin, the total amount being about
The mule train was under the command of one Captain Palacio Flores,
"a noted and trusted employee of the government." The specie shipment
was protected by some 50 well-armed guards.
They made it through the "dangerous mountain defiles" south of Saltillo,
but their luck would not hold in what is now Dimmit
County in South Texas.
Stopping at a well-known camping place on Pena Creek later
known as Grand Water Hole, the captain decided to stay for
a few days and rest his men and animals. He was only a hundred miles
or so from his destination, and he believed the difficult part of
his trip was behind him.
The first night he kept 10 men on guard, ever vigilant of bandits
or hostile Indians. The men reported nothing suspicious over night,
so the next day the captain decided not to post any pickets.
Flores and his men were taking their mid-day siesta when "a band of
brigands suddenly rushed upon the unprotected camp out of a dense
live oak thicket."
The captain and the men put up a good fight, but the raiders prevailed.
Not, however, before Flores ordered his teamsters to throw all the
silver and gold into deep water at this point of the creek.
The bandits killed all but one man, a driver named Alejandro Lajero.
He somehow managed to escape, making it to San
Antonio to report the attack.
"His story was discredited until parties to whom the money had been
consigned made an investigation and found the bones of the victims
and evidences that the bandits had made efforts to recover the wealth
from the pool," the Eagle
Pass newspaper story continued.
Those who discovered the massacre scene supposedly searched the hole
in the creek, but could not find its bottom, much less the missing
coins. It's hard to imagine a "bottomless" water hole in South
Texas, but that's the story.
While the treasure presumably stayed put, just about everything else
changed. Mexico rebelled against Spain and became an independent republic
in 1821. Next, of course, Texas revolted against Mexico and began
a near-decade of sovereignty in 1836, followed by admission to the
United States in 1845.
A few months before the story of the treasure first appeared in print
in 1893, "an eastern capitalist" and ranch owner named James L Morgan
heard of the supposedly lost loot.
Morgan went to the "mysterious spot" on Pena Creek six miles southwest
of town "and became so deeply interested in the remarkable tale that
he decided to make a superhuman effort to explore the depth of the
hole...and recover the lost wealth if possible."
As of late that summer, Morgan was reported back east "superintending
the construction of machinery and devices to be used in the [recovery.]"
Subsequent issues of the Eagle
Pass newspaper are silent on whether Morgan ever found anything.