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
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