Modern-day license plates for vehicles in the State of Chihuahua proudly proclaim, “El estado más grande,” or, in English, “The Largest State.” The biggest state in Mexico contains vast hot deserts, rugged pine-covered mountains and to this day, much unexplored terrain. Throughout its history, from the times of the Aztecs to the Spanish Empire to the modern nation of Mexico, Chihuahua has always been on the fringes, a Mexican equivalent of “The Wild West.” As a result of this, the state is home to many legends. Many of the legends involve stolen loot and hidden treasures. Are some of these stories true? Here are five lost treasure stories from the State of Chihuahua.
Legend of the Old Mine and The Treasure of the Spanish
Once the Independence of Mexico was formalized in the year of 1821, Spanish troops withdrew to the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico. However, within the territory of the new nation of Mexico many Spaniards remained, who for years had enjoyed living in New Spain and still remained loyal to the Spanish Crown. Spain did not immediately recognize the independence of Mexico so many Spanish-born inhabitants of the land had remained hopeful of a Spanish reconquest of Mexican territory. Because of the fear of a reconquest, the Mexican government passed the Law of Expulsion in 1827 to kick out any Spaniards from Mexico. To give greater strength to the federal law, in the year 1829 the Chihuahua State Congress issued a decree for the expulsion of the Spaniards which was promoted and signed into law by the Governor of the state, José Antonio Arce.
In compliance with the expulsion decree, a group of Spaniards who had their land holdings and business interests in different parts of the State of Chihuahua was ordered to leave the country. Most of them had high economic status since they owned mines, farms, orchards, cattle, shops and property. It is said that this group of Spaniards, upon their imminent departure from Mexico, collected a large amount of treasure, in coins and jewelry, and hid it in a mine near the City of Chihuahua, located behind the hills called Nombre de Dios. Legend only refers to the site of the stash as the “Old Mine”. The exact location where the treasure was hidden was only known to two of the Spaniards, who had contributed the most money. The intention was that one day the gold and jewels would be used to finance the reconquest of Mexico, and then the men would return to their lands and businesses. After hiding the treasure, the Spaniards based in Chihuahua were repatriated to Cuba which at that time still belonged to Spain. In July 1829, Fernando VII, once restored as King of Spain after the French invasion of 1808, attempted the reconquest of Mexico and sent Isidro Barradas in command of nearly four thousand soldiers to accomplish that goal. It was thought that this group of soldiers was enough, since they expected the population of Mexico to rise up to join them in support. Within this battalion were the two Spaniards of Chihuahua who knew the location of the treasure, and their intention was to pay the soldiers and mercenaries with their loot once they made it to the north. However, the expedition failed and was quickly defeated near the coast in the State of Veracruz. Among those Spaniards who died were those two from Chihuahua who knew the exact location of the burial of the treasure, so it could never be found.
Descendants and relatives of the group of Spaniards who were expelled, stayed to live in the State of Chihuahua, and knew the history of the hidden treasure, but they did not know of its exact location. They only knew that it had been hidden in the Old Mine, in the rugged hills of Nombre de Dios. For a long time, they dedicated themselves to trying to find it, and even created stories of the hazards of the abandoned mines in the area to try to keep treasure hunters away. To this day, the Spanish treasure remains undiscovered.
Legend of the Apache Treasure on El Águila Mountain
Throughout most of the 18th and 19th Centuries the Apaches attacked transports of gold and other valuable metals going from the mines located in the Sierras to the capital city of Chihuahua or to the US-Mexico border. In the same fashion, on the American side of the border, the Apaches attacked trains and other conveyances that transported gold and silver. Because of their frequent attacks, the Apaches managed to accumulate huge amounts of precious metals and other valuables. They hid their loot in a secret central location that was only known to Apache Chief Victorio and some of his closest advisors. The sum of their decades-long accumulation amounted to several million dollars between bars of gold and coins. At present the stash would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, some say perhaps even a billion.
In the time of the height of the Apache attacks, in the Pecos Texas region there was a transport company, which had a chain of stations and was dedicated to the transportation of people, mail, and large amounts of valuables. Big Foot Wallace was one of the drivers in this company and had Josiah Peacock as his companion. During one of his routine trips the Apaches attacked the stagecoach and in a matter of minutes they killed the passengers and Big Foot Wallace, the person in charge of the stagecoach. They robbed the horses and wounded Peacock when the stage fell on him and crushed his leg. Peacock was then taken prisoner by the Indians. The Apaches and their prisoner rode non-stop to the mountains of Tres Castillos where they were considered safe from the Texas Rangers and Mexican soldiers. The captive’s injury was not serious and was treated by a young Indian woman named Juanita who was the daughter of the Apache chief Victorio. On several occasions Victorio tried to kill the prisoner but Juanita prevented him because she had fallen in love with him. Juanita told Josiah Peacock that all the gold and valuables the Apaches had stolen were stored in a large cave in the Eagle Mountains. She also let him know that the entrance to the cave was very well concealed with small-sized rocks, so they had to enter crawling. Juanita assured him that she had gone to the cave many times with her father and had seen hundreds of gold bars, many sacks containing other kinds of gold coins, as well as chests full of currency, gold jewelry and various other objects made of silver and gold. Juanita explained that her father told her that they would need about fifty mules to transport the treasure they had accumulated over the decades. On the first opportunity he had, the prisoner escaped and dedicated himself to finding the treasure in the Eagle Mountains in the State of Texas but could never find it.
In 1880, in the Battle of Tres Castillos, Mexican forces commanded by Colonel Joaquín Terrazas defeated the Apaches, killing many including the Apache chief Victorio. More than sixty of Victorio’s warriors and eighteen women also died, including Juanita. Among the dead were the only ones who knew the exact place where the treasure was hidden. In 1895, Josiah Peacock met Peace Compton who was looking for gold, and for more than fifteen years they searched for the cave of the Apaches. In 1929, an aging Compton told the story to Miss Myrtle Love who was a Spanish teacher in Isleta, Texas. Miss Love became the only person to know of the treasure after Compton’s passing in the 1930s. From the time of Victorio’s daughter nursing the young American to the time of the story told to the schoolteacher, some of the details of the Apache treasure were lost in translation. When Juanita told Peacock that the treasure was in the Eagle Mountains, she was referring to the Sierra del Águila located on the Mexican side, and not to the Eagle Mountains located in Texas. For decades people had been searching for the treasure in the wrong place and it is for this reason that the tons of loot has never been discovered. So, the treasure of Apache Chief Victorio is located in Chihuahua, in a highly hidden place. In the many years that have elapsed, the entrance to the cave is most likely to be even more hidden than it was before, especially owing to the desert region where it is located.
Legend of the Treasure of Miñaca
According to legend, sometime in the 1800s, an excellent midwife lived in a small town, near where La Junta, Chihuahua is currently located. She attended to the women in the region who were going to give birth and assisted them during childbirth. At that time there were almost no doctors in that area, so this midwife was very much in demand by the inhabitants of the entire town and other distant places.
One day, in the early morning, a group of Apaches appeared at the home of the midwife and requested her services. She was surprised when she saw this group at her door, because at the time the Apaches were very feared for committing robberies and murders. Scared, the midwife initially refused to answer the knock at her door. After a few minutes, the strange visitors broke down her door and forcibly took her away, so she had no choice but to accompany them. They blindfolded her, put her on a horse, and took her to a very remote place located on the top of a mountain. At the mountaintop, they took the blindfold off the midwife and escorted her into a cave where there was an indigenous woman who was in labor. The midwife realized that the girl was apparently the daughter or close relative of the chief of the tribe, since everyone involved was very attentive to the young woman. The midwife attended the woman and although the labor was difficult and full of complications, in the end mother and baby were fine. The Indians were very happy and celebrated the event, especially since the baby was a male. After her work was done, the midwife realized that the cave in which she stood there were great treasures, consisting of gold items, jewels as well as coins, surely product of the many assaults these people had committed over the years. In gratitude, the Chief of the Apaches gave the midwife several gold items from the surrounding treasure. Later, they returned her safely to her home in town.
The midwife did not know exactly where they took her, but she suspected that she went to the hill of Miñaca because it is the only mountain of any size in that area. Ever since the time of the fateful birth, there has been a legend that there is a great treasure in in a cave somewhere on this mountain. It surely amounts to a large sum of money, because with her tiny piece of the treasure, the midwife purchased a large tract of land, built an impressive ranch house and bought several head of cattle. The descendants of the midwife still live on this magestic rancho and no one knows if the cave full of treasure has ever been discovered.
The Treasure of the Sierra de Gasachi and the Legend of The Night Flashes
The old Villa de la Concepción, today the city of Guerrero, Chihuahua, was for many years the commercial and political center of the Sierra Tarahumara. A mining office existed in that town which took care of all things connected with mining activity, such as: filing mining claims, mineral analysis, tax payments, purchase of tools and other things. For that reason, miners from throughout the surrounding area came to Villa de la Concepción. Because the town was a hub for all sorts of things connected to the mines, many miners had houses, warehouses and properties there, and Villa de la Concepción served as a place where miners stored gold and silver extracted from their mines before sending their products to Chihuahua City.
At the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, the town of Villa de la Concepción, Chihuahua was attacked by a group of insurgents, who took the city gradually. Before the attack, reports came from the town of San Isidro that the insurgents were coming. In a hurry, a group of miners gathered together a massive amount of gold and sent several trusted men to take it out of town to hide it. They picked a secluded place in the Sierra de Gasachi, which has the second highest elevation in the State of Chihuahua with a maximum height of 3,060 meters. The men successfully fulfilled their mission, but when they returned to Villa de la Concepción they were attacked outside the city by the Revolutionaries and died during a fierce battle. Later, after the fighting ceased, the gold owners went to look for the men whom they entrusted to hide their wealth, not knowing they had died in the skirmish outside of town. Their search broadened to the Sierra de Gasachi, but no one could locate the men or the spot where they stored their gold.
Gold is still hidden somewhere in the mountains that make up the Sierra de Gasachi. Nowadays some people of the ranches of the municipality of Guerrero, claim that on the dark and moonless nights, at the top of the Sierra de Gasachi you can observe the flashes of the light of a miner’s helmet and say that is the place where the gold is buried, waiting to be found by someone.
The Treasure of Pancho Villa, in the “Ojo de la Gloria”
During the Mexican Revolution in 1914, after the Battle of Ojinaga, Pancho Villa set up camp outside the town of Aldama, Chihuahua. Villa created the camp next to the Church of Santa Ana de Chinarras, located just at the entrance of the forest of Aldama. The troops rested there for a few weeks or months, to take care of their wounded and to recuperate from the fierce battle they had won in the border city of Ojinaga. A group of indigenous people belonging to the Chinarras tribe provided various services to the famous General, mainly related to the preparation of food, cleaning, and tending to the horses. On one occasion the “Centaur of the North” ordered the Indians to carry a very large and heavy trunk to bury in a secluded place known as “Ojo de la Gloria”, which is located southeast of Aldama. Apparently, the heavy trunk contained gold, silver and jewels, loot that Francisco Villa had taken from the great landowners of that time. The value of the treasure amounted to several hundred thousand pesos. The intention of General Villa was to bury the trunk and later unearth it when he needed the money to buy weapons across the border in the United States.
The Chinarras Indians carried out the order to the letter and buried the trunk in the place indicated, precisely establishing the place for the loot to be easily located later. However, on the way back, one of them reasoned that if they returned, Villa would kill them all because they knew the place where the trunk was buried. Halfway back to the camp they decided to flee to the United States through the Presidio, Texas border crossing and never returned to Aldama, Chihuahua. Villa could not locate the exact place of the burial and gave up the search after a few days. At that point he probably thought that the Chinarras had run off with the treasure. The trunk is still hidden somewhere near the “Ojo de la Gloria”, waiting for someone to find it. Descendants of the Chinarras Indians based in the United States learned about the story and have recently tried to find the lost treasure of Pancho Villa but to no avail.
The huge state of Chihuahua has many legends of lost treasure. Are some stories real and some just tall tales? Perhaps vast wealth is stashed in the rugged mountains and inhospitable deserts of this great state, waiting for just the right people to find it.