There is a little-known (outside of Texas) legend about Jim Bowie's additional purpose for being at the Alamo at the time of the famous 1836 battle.
This tale assures us he was defending the fabulous gold and silver treasure he found at the Lost San Saba Mines. It was intended to finance Texas independence from Mexico.
Are there any facts to support this story? Possibly.
In 1753, an expedition seeking a site for an Apache mission led to the discovery of Los Almagres Mine (later called San Saba) in what is now Llano County. It was famed to be rich in silver and gold. The mission, however, was destroyed a year later, and constant Comanche and Apache attacks made further hunts for the treasure a deadly risk.
We know that around 1832, Bowie lead two separate expeditions into the hill country north of San Antonio. Did he find the mines? Rumors abounded that he led a pack train of seventeen burros laden with treasure. Some assumed that when all seemed lost at the Alamo, he ordered his men to hide the treasure.
Too much to believe? More recently, after a radar scan over the Alamo revealed something odd buried underground, the Archaeology Department at St. Mary’s University agreed to oversee an excavation project. Permits were granted for a dig 15 X 15 feet. Historically valuable artifacts were found, but no treasure.
So, was the treasure real? Two first-hand accounts add more weight.
In 1838, a story appeared in the New York Mirror, about Ms. Webster, a white woman who escaped from the Apaches. She told of gold and silver mines and brilliant stones like diamonds (certainly quartz crystals).
Later in the century, using the original chart from his great-grandfather that mapped the mines, Franciso Yorba led a band of Mexicans to the mine. It was at Bowie's old fort, Loma Grande. They camped for ten days and dug a great hole under the wall of the fort.
One witness, Pedro Sanchez, asserted that a frenzy broke out after discovering a mound of gold and silver bars and coins.
Sanchez was shot, but escaped with a gold bar and several gold coins in his shirt. When the cowboys that treated him found the gold, it set off a new round of searches.
The hunt continues. One journalist reports he has heard these stories for more than three decades. On occasion, a secretive miner will show up with "bars of silver the size of the largest Hershey bars and five times as thick."
Panning for Texas Gold by Ira Kennedy
San Saba Lost Silver Mine
For centuries, an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon has mystified humans. Great balls of fire descend from the skies to the earth, or bounce across horizons the world over.
Sometimes referred to as angels, ghosts, or UFO’s, science still struggles to explain what causes these brilliant objects.
Laboratory experiments can produce effects that are visually similar to what science calls “ball lightning,” but it is still unknown if they are creating the same phenomenon.
In 2002, the Missile Defense Agency financed Dr. Paul Koloc’s research, hoping to harness the power associated with the light into an EMP bullet that could take out enemy missile systems. As far as we know, he was unsuccessful.
Though the true nature remains unknown, public sightings and photographs document these usually harmless spheres.
They have been known, however, to explode, sometimes with fatal consequences, leaving behind the odor of sulfur.
View dramatic photographs capturing this phenomenon:
Mysterious Staircase in Loretto Chapel
This glorious spiral staircase seems to hang without support - a work of sheer genius, if not a certifiable mystery. It has no nails, no pegs and no central post.
Its maker? That is the fun part.
The chapel's original architect died before revealing how the nuns were to climb to the choir loft of the lovely new chapel in a dignified manner. The ladies prayed fervently for nine days, after which a rough-looking man walked in and took the job.
Using only primitive tools, warm water, and wood foreign to the area, (that no one saw delivered), he asked to be left alone for three months. At the end of that time, the man disappeared completely, leaving the nuns to believe that Saint Joseph had materialized to help them.
Eager to solve the mystery, author Mary Jean Straw Cook, cited that a death notice in The New Mexican newspaper in 1895 proved the builder to be a French immigrant. However, after studying her findings, the dead man was deemed by many to be too young.
The impossibility of the design spurred speculation from the beginning, and the wood, though thought to be spruce, has not been adequately tested to ascertain its origin.
So, we have a genius of a builder with no name, who never stuck around to get paid, a complex design from 1872 that today's architects still study, and the mysterious appearance of the wood. The nuns believed it to be a miracle. What do you think?
I like the miracle story.
Read the arguments against the mystery
Read the arguments against the arguments
Connect with me:
Look under RV Adventure tab for more pics and recipes
Travel & Mystery blog:
Get fascinating glimpses into Cheryl's travels and the historical facts that infuse her stories. Click Subscribe