As we have read the Book of Mormon it reminds me of the people
that anciently inhabited the Sierra Madre Mountains. Not being
satisfied with the theories of the Archeologists I have supplied
myself with a theory of my own. You all can provide one probably as
close to the correct one as anyone.
I have long been intrigued with the puzzle and the
mystery of the ancient inhabitants of the beautiful Sierra Madre
Back when our children were growing up we loved to go
into the mountains every summer. We would pack up all of the family
and even some friends and go for a week's pack trip into the Sierra
Madre Mountains. We would make camp in some remote canyon and spend
our time fishing and hunting and just riding through the beautiful
mountains. When you are riding a surefooted horse or mule it gives you
the freedom to see, observe and enjoy all of the interesting
surroundings and scenery.
Every where we rode we could see the signs and remains
of thousands of ancient terraces. In every canyon we could see where
at one time the ancients had beautiful farms and gardens on each side
of the stream. Every available space was terraced to make level places
for planting their crops and gardens. Every little ravine and draw on
the steep side hills were terraced from top to bottom. Many were still
intact while others had been washed out and were barely
Surely these beautiful terraces were not made by the
fearful people who dwelt in the remote caves and hidden places. Who
only felt safe in their small dark rooms with no windows and the only
access a small keyhole door where no one could enter without being
invited. To try to solve this puzzle we went to the Book of
After the coming of Christ the people multiplied and
lived in peace and prosperity and filled the land from the north to
the South and from the east sea to the west sea.
"And they had all things common among them; therefore there were no
rich or poor, bond and free, but they were all made free and
partakers of the heavenly gift".
...and surely there could not have been a happier people among all the
people who had been created by the hand of God.
"And now, I Mormon would that ye should know that the people had
multiplied insomuch that they had spread upon all of the face of the
land, and that they had become exceedingly rich because of their
prosperity in Christ."
After reading of these people we could imagine those
happy people toiling in the sunlight building for the future. Toiling
to make gardens and little farms. Working together to move huge
boulders into place in the walls of their terraces. Planting their
gardens and little patches of food crops. Ingeniously providing for
the rain to water the gardens without washing away the precious soil.
How long were they used perhaps a hundred years or more then the evil
of war and contention came into that peaceful land and gathered men
women and children out of the remote corners of the mountains. Taking
with them their precious food and animals into the protection of the
walls of the cities.
There in the walled up city they had to use all of
their precious food supply including their goats sheep and cattle.
Even their horses and mules and Burros to be eaten one at a time to
hold off starvation. The siege from without the walls was sustained by
the ferocious enemy until they had used up all of their own food
supply and the wild game for miles around and as far as they could
forage for anything that would sustain strength and life. For those
without there was no time or inclination to plant and nurture the food
on the beautiful Terraces. While those within could only remember and
dream of some day returning to their happy homes in the mountains.
Near the end after tens of thousands had been hewn down
I will quote the words of Mormon that great Nephite General:
"and behold they came to battle against us and every soul was filled
with terror because of the greatness of their numbers. And it came
to pass that they did fall upon my people with the sword and with
the bow and with the arrow and with the ax and with all manner of
weapons of war. And it came to pass that my men were hewn down, yea
even my ten thousand who were with me. And I fell wounded in the
midst: and they passed by me and did not put and end to my life. And
when they had gone through and hewn down all my people save it were
twenty four of us (among whom was by son Moroni) we having survived
the dead of our people. Did behold on the morrow, the Lamanites had
returned to their camps, did behold from the top of the hill Cumorah
the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down being led in the
front by me. And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who
were led by my son Moroni".
Mormon continues telling of each general and their ten thousand. They
were Lamah, Gilgal, Limhah, Jeneum, Cumenihah, Moronihah, Antionum,
Shiblon, Shem, Josh, plus ten more who had fallen with their ten
thousand each. These were the fighting men who had fallen with their
Women and children.
And Moroni says later:
"and now it came to pass after the great and tremendous battle at
Cumorah, behold the Nephites that had escaped into the land
southward were hunted down by the Lamanites until they were all
destroyed. And my father also was killed by them and I even remain
alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people."
"And behold also the Lamanites are at war one with another; and the
whole face of the land is one continual round of murder and
bloodshed, and no one knoweth the end of the war."
After reading these events we could imagine a man
gathering his family and kindred and fleeing to the south to seek
refuge and protection in the remote caves of the Sierra Madre. There
to build their dark rooms with only a keyhole entrance that would be
easily protected even with a good club. We have seen many caves that
were completely walled up except for one little keyhole door as
entrance to the whole big cave filled with dwellings.
I remember especially one big cave that the only access
was a little trail along the cliff that led to one little keyhole
door. Inside was a spacious cave with dwellings on one side with space
for food storage on the other and in the middle was a big rock basin
about twenty feet across and about two feet deep that could be filled
with water to last for a long time. Along that same cliff back in the
corner of the head of the canyon there was another bigger cave that
was all walled up except for a little keyhole entrance. This one
contained more dwellings and plenty of storage space but no water
basin. However there was a constant drip of water coming from above
just outside the door.
In our imaginations we could see that after they had
settled down in relative peace they began to spread out and build in
the open where they could accommodate larger populations. Also they
would begin to plant their crops of corn and build places of storage.
In many caves we found that they built Olla shaped storage bins with
grass and willows plastered on the outside and inside with clay making
a smooth surface on the outside so that the rodents could not get into
their grain. Most of these storage bins were about 4 or 5 ft. high
with the opening on the top being big enough for a man to get in or
out and easily put in the corn or take it out.
In the case of the big Olla cave in cave valley the man
went bigger with his storage bin. It was about 10 ft. high and about 9
ft. in diameter. He necessarily had to build it with poles through at
intervals to provide a ladder to climb in and out of the storage bin.
It was plastered very smooth on the outside and inside and shaped to
keep out the rodents. A very ingenious method of storage. He didn't
make it any higher because it is as high as the cave ceiling would
permit and leave just enough space to enter and store the grain.
In cave valley there is also a big mound that once was
a big dwelling. It is located on flat area well above the river. This
indicates a big population besides the many cave dwellings in that
part of the river valley.
Once we were camped over on Black Canyon, one day we
climbed up to a big mound that was located on a promontory. We were
intrigued with the many evidences of a happy people living there many
years ago. Naoma and I counted 29 Metates and quite a few little
Molcajetes scattered around the big ruin. We walked over to the east
side of the ruin and looked almost straight down to the Herradura and
the river. In my minds eye I could see the graceful Indian maidens
going down the steep trail with their pitched lined water baskets
balanced on the heads. We could almost hear their gay laughter and
chatter as they socialized on their way to the river for water.
We could see how the Herradura (horse shoe bend) was
formed. As the river anciently wound around the ridges that came down
to the river from the high mountains on either side it formed big
horseshoe bends along it's path. In this particular ridge their was a
low place. When and extra big flood came down it washed through the
ridge leaving the big horseshoe bend high and dry. After years of wind
and rain the good soil collected in the bend and provided a beautiful
horseshoe farm in which to plant excellent crops in the good soil. On
one end of the horseshoe we found the graveyard where undoubtedly
these people brought their dead to this lovely peaceful place to lay
them away. The graves were marked with rocks and were lined up in
straight rows presenting a peaceful, cared for place where their loved
ones were laid to rest.
Around 1200 A. D. or 1300 A. D. all of these dwellings
seemed to have been abandoned. This is the mystery that awakens the
imagination. What made them disappear? Was it war again or was it a
great drought in the land? Or was it migrating farther south for
religious beliefs in following their Priests or leaders? There is no
sign of war. There are no arrow heads as there are farther north where
the wars raged. Why then would these peace loving people leave their
established homes their gardens and their peaceful mountains?
While I was teaching Seminary in the Academia Juarez I
checked a book out of the library entitled Pioneer Stories. Among
others I read the following story. Written by someone who lived as a
boy in Colonia Pacheco.
He wrote as follows: As a boy in Pacheco I went with
the other boys down the river with our cows. We ventured farther and
farther down river until we came to cave valley. One day while
exploring the surrounding country to see if we could find some caves
that we had not visited, we went up a little canyon and found a cave
that was very well hidden behind brush and trees a little above the
canyon floor. We went in and explored each room but were curious about
a room in the back that had no door. We pounded on it and it sounded
hollow. We then got a sharp pole and proceeded to break a hole in the
wall of that room. Finally when they had a hole big enough they
decided that I should be the one to go in as I was the littlest and
would fit more easily.
They put me through the hole with some difficulty and
as I came down to the floor and the light came through the hole, I saw
a girl sitting there. I had trouble getting in but I surely didn't
have any trouble getting out. My appearance and hasty retreat
frightened the other boys as I yelled there is a dead girl in there.
We all hastily gathered up our cows and drove them home. About a month
later a professor from some university came to town asking about caves
and dwellings. Of course the story spread about what I had seen. The
professor came to see me and offered me a whole dollar if I would take
him to the cave that we had found. The offer of the dollar decided the
matter and we went to cave valley and I took him to the cave. He
proceeded to make a bigger hole with the tools he had brought with
him. Once inside he found a mummified girl sitting just where I had
seen her. She had long blonde hair and blue eyes and had on a blue
velvet dress that was beautifully decorated with beads and designs.
She had necklaces around her neck and rings on her fingers but the
ends of her fingers were worn off where she had tried to claw her way
out of her dark prison. By her side were two beautiful ollas, one
still had a few squash seed in it but the other was empty. It had
probably contained water. The professor carefully wrapped the precious
mummy and took me home and left town hurriedly.
Now the questions. Who was this beautiful girl? Was she
a princess or something? Was she a prisoner or was she walled up for
protection and was intended to be rescued? What was happening that
would bring on such drastic measures? Who could be so cruel or so
concerned for her protection? Was she different from the others of her
people? Well your answers are as good as mine or even as good as the
professor that took her as far as that goes. I guess about the only
way to find out is to ask them if we happen to meet them some day.
I some times wonder if those ancient people still
inhabit their ancient dwellings or do they just come back
occasionally. What do you think?
Yagui our cowboy on the ranch for many years told us
the following story in all earnestness and truth. He was a very honest
and truthful man and had no reason to lie or cause a sensation. He
told us as follows:
I was working on the roundup for Emilio Perez and two other cowboys
and I came down into the Segundo de Mayo canyon and camped on the
bank of the steam near a cave dwelling that we had known for years.
After supper we were lounging around the campfire resting from the
hard days ride. All was quiet and peaceful and we had all been
raised as cowboys in the mountains and were doing what we loved to
do. We heard some horses approaching and heard voices and we thought
that some of the other cowboys were coming to camp with us. Instead
of coming to our camp we heard them go up to the dwelling and could
hear them talking in low voices. Yagui said to his friends, "Lets go
see who they are and what they are doing". Both of his companions
refused saying that they didn't want to have anything to do with
those Animas (spirits). Yagui continued: I sure didn't want to go up
there alone it just didn't seem right. After a while and
considerable talking in low voices that we could not understand we
heard the horses leaving and were all relieved and went to bed. I
couldn't sleep for a long time for thinking of what we had heard.
The next morning we went up to the dwelling and examined the ground
all around and even down where we had heard the horses cross the
creek and could not find any tracks Yet our tracks were plain to see
everywhere we walked.
Don Panchito Peña spent nearly all of his life in the
mountains. As a boy he herded goats alone in the rugged mountains
south of the Rio Aros. As a young man he had his own pack train of 30
mules and freighted supplies and machinery to the mines in those
rugged mountains where there were no roads only very rugged trails. He
always lined out his mules early and made camp about 3:00 in the
afternoon. He spent his afternoons making his own Teguas or Saddles
After marrying Don Cirilo Perez' sister he went to work
for him taking care of the cattle on the old General's ranch. He was a
man that could braid a beautiful Riata from a cow hide or take an ax
and build a cabin in 5 days with a shingled roof and all. He told us
the following story:
I was camped on the beautiful mesa up on the bluff on the west of
the Black Canyon River. I was milking cows and making cheese, this
was to help tame the cows and make a little extra money with the
cheese. After the milking was done and the cheese all in the press I
would sit in the shade of a big tree in my camp and sew the leather
goods that I always made to keep me occupied. As soon as I would sit
down to sew I began to hear voices talking. At first I would get up
and go try to find out who was talking but soon decided that it must
be the people that used to live there in the many mounds of ruins
that dotted the mesa. At first I would listen and try to understand
what they were saying but could never understand any of the words
just the voices talking in low pleasant tones. Soon I came to like
to hear their pleasant voices and it kept me company. I was never
afraid for I knew they were good people and probably visiting each
other in their old home.
Well enough of the unsolved mysteries of the Sierra
Madre Mountains. For this time. Maybe you can give me some of the