Friday, October 8, 2010

Mysteries Of Recapture Creek Gold

In the Canyons along Recapture Creek is a pack train of buried gold along with the Spaniards and the mules who were taking it south. Or was the gold found actually part of Montezuma's Treasure?
Slowly the heavily loaded burros picked their way casually down the rocky trail as the muleteers were urging and prodding them on. The Spaniards were in a state of exhilaration and didn't want to waste any time, for this was the final part of their adventure that had lasted years. Each knowing that with each league traveled south meant that they were closer to making their dreams come true. Returning to Mexico City or Spain as a Hidalgo and rich to boot!

In the late 1750's and early 1760's the Spanish were mining gold in the southern end of the Abajo Mountains of southeast Utah. After many years of working the mine the Spaniards were closing down the mine and returning south. Some of the miners left with the treasure train, while others remained behind to finish closing and hiding all evidence of their mine. The Indian slaves were turned loose to fend for themselves.

Some time after the treasure train left the mine the remaining Spaniards were suddenly attacked by Indians, and all were killed. The Indians, after the fight, concealed all remaining traces of the mine. After their work was done they started out in pursuit of the treasure train.

The Indians caught up with the treasure train in the area between the modern towns of Bluff and Blanding Utah, near the small creek known today as Recapture Creek. The Spaniards were caught completely unaware and during the ensuing battle all the Spaniards were killed. The dead Spaniards and the gold laden dead burros were buried where they had fallen. The Indians having no use for the gold, buried it along with the dead.

Many years later the explorer John C. Fremont reported finding some gold bars and of seeing the skeletal remains of burros in this general area in the years between 1842-44.

When settlers first arrived in the San Juan River area, they were befriended by some Indians. After a period of time the Indians told them about an old Spanish mine in the Abajo Mountains and even showed some how to get to it. Evidently, a few of the settlers found the concealed mine. Near the mine they found signs and words cut into the sandstone, but the ravages of time had worn them thin and most were unreadable. It was believed that they were names and dates, and the only date that could be read was 1760. The enterance to the mine had been covered by a large rockslide that was many feet through. The settlers were hard pressed to even survive in this harsh land, and most of their time was spent in trying to survive, not chasing a rainbow. Eventually, the mine was a thing of the past, and just a story to be told around the fire on a cold winter evening.

The Indians also related to the settlers that during their grandfather's time, stories abounded throughout their peoples about the Spaniards who carried gold from the mountains to the south. Even about attacking the mine and eventually killing the members of a pack train and burying the treasure. When trading at the general store the Indians used gold to pay for supplies. It was said that the Indians never denied that their gold came from a treasure train. Through time many a white man tried to trick them into showing them the cache, but none were clever enough.

It wasn't long after this that the legend of the Snake Indian woman started to circulate in the area. Evidently, she was seen with small buckskin bags filled with gold nuggets, which she used to trade for supplies at the local trading post. Most believed that she secured her gold from potholes around the Abajo Mountains. According to Mr. Penfield, (noted treasure author), there was also a story about a law student from the east who also found gold in pot holes near the Abajo Mountains. Mr. Penfield notes that, as far as could be determined, the story was unconfirmed. Could this have been the source of the gold at Recapture Creek? Or, could the Lost John Howard Mine of more modern times be the source, could the John
Howard have been the Lost Spanish mine in the Abajo Mountains?
Another interesting theory put forth by different authors is that the gold at Recapture Creek actually came from the famous lost mine called The Lost Josephine. Some suggest that the Lost Josephine is in the Henry Mountains northwest of the Abajo Mountains and Recapture Creek, and others suggest that it's in the La Sal Mountains east of Moab, Utah.
There is a trail that runs over Bears Ears Pass that has seen such adventurers as Father Posada in the 1630's and Edgar Wolverton who traced the trail in the 1920's. Wolverton states that the trails main purpose was to service the Lost Josephine Mine. This trail runs west of Blanding to the Henry Mountains and east of Blanding is the Old Spanish Trail and Recapture Creek. One Author notes that, allegedly, the Indians buried great amounts of gold along this trail.

Another story, about the origination of the gold, is that when the first Anglo settlers arrived in the area they ran into a man who had lived in the country for a long time. There are stories of how this old man would cut gold from a small ingot in order to pay for supplies that he purchased. After a short time the settlers and the old man became more friendly toward each other and he related a story to them about how people from the Emperor Montezuma had hidden part of the treasure of Tenochtitlan here about, and that the Indians who concealed the treasure were captured at a small creek near here and hence the name Recapture Creek. The story was hard to believe, and most didn't believe it, but the fact he used roughly cast gold ingots for payment is hard to put aside. The traders who saw some of the ingots noted that the ingots looked as thought they had some sort of Spanish writing on them. Could these have been from the ambush at Recapture Creek that happened many years before?

There, as noted, have been many stories and sources concerning how the gold got there, but, one thing we do know is that there is gold buried somewhere along Recapture Creek.

In the first part of the 20th century, new interest in the story of the gold started to circulate around the area when a gold ingot was found at Recapture Creek by a cowboy. In 1905, a cowboy named Andy Laney, who was working for one of the local ranches, stopped to water his horse at Recapture Creek after rounding up some strays. As he was filling his canteen, he noticed something shining under the water. When he retrieved it, he found that it was a small gold bar. The bar was crudely cast and about eight inches long. As the story was told, Laney recognized a Catholic cross on it, but the other symbols were strange to him. Evidently, Laney wasted no time in selling the gold for around $1800 and headed for the nearest saloon in Monticello, Utah, which was the Blue Goose.

After the money was gone, Laney hooked up with a partner named Blaine and they traveled to the site where Laney had found the gold. For many weeks they looked for more gold, but to no avail. About ready to give up and go back to ranch work, as luck would have it, Blaine stumbled upon a bar that was barely covered, this was a hundred feet or so from the creek. As both men started to dig they uncovered a few more bars and a large chunk of gold. With the added wealth they headed for the nearest saloon, but this time they headed for Dolores, Colorado. At this point, as the story goes, Blaine was killed during a card game where he was allegedly cheating. Laney spent all the remaining money and when broke returned to
being a cowboy. Sometime later, near Navajo Mountain, it was reported that he was killed by some outlaws.

Some new interest resurfaced in 1964. After two relic hunters who were searching along Recapture Creek found two more gold bars, however, whether these hunters returned and found more gold is unknown.

In 1979, it was reported that, a couple who camped on the creek were also relic hunting but this time the couple was using a metal detector, and evidently, they found another gold bar.

A group from New Mexico, who were in Utah doing research for a book about the Old Spanish Trail that leads from Santa Fe into Utah, found a small cache of crudely smelted gold bars. The group reported that the bars had stamped on the date 1761 or just 61, however, there were no crown or church markings on the bars. They did note that there was some kind of two letter code of some sort. The finders believe that they have good reason to suspect that the gold was mined in Utah and was being illegally smuggled back to Mexico City. This all occurred in 1994! And Recapture Creek is on the Spanish Trail!

It seems that all information dries up after it became public that some people have found gold. Questions: Did these people go back and search for more? did they find more and just keep it quiet? Was what they found all there was? Could Recapture Creek flood strong enough to bring these small amounts of reported finds down from a larger cache? Over the last few hundred years how much has the creek course changed? All interesting questions and there are probably more, but is the nature of the quest. Finding the questions and trying to answer them.
The Treasure: Gold Bars, buried along Recapture Creek with the mules which were carrying the gold, and
the Spaniards to whom it belonged. Today's value $500,000 to $1,000,000 plus.

How To Find It:
Travel south along Highway 191 from Moab, Utah to the town of Blanding, Utah. At this point Recapture Creek runs north and south, and east of Highway 191. Between Blanding and Bluff, Utah, Highway 262 runs west to east and crosses Recapture Creek. This would be a fair starting place either to work north or south. The treasure train is buried between the two cities.

Additional research from local sources and interviews with the local people should help in reducing the search area, and a good metal detector would be a must!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting story. where did you get your information to write such a great story? I have heard of the bars before but never the story on how they came to be.