Through the years we have been told many stories of
hidden treasure in the mountains of the Sierra Madre. We know of many
who have spent much time seeking the gold and silver of these great
treasures but they remain lost. I am reminded of the words of my
father after his experience with a group that came down and he took
them to find a fabulous treasure. "To work a gold mine you need a
million dollars if you had a million Dollars you wouldn't need the
gold mine". My brother Donn went with them on that expedition and he
has told me that they really suffered physical pain and much anxiety
but never did find the elusive treasure.
As I have heard the many stories of lost buried
treasure I have decided that the earth has claimed its treasure
and will not relinquish it. In my wanderings through the Mountains I
have found and enjoyed the real treasures. The beauty of the forests,
flowers, streams and canyons. The peace of the high mesas and the
sound of the Gobbling of the Turkeys and the howling of a lonely wolf.
What greater treasure than the Rainbow Trout of the cold clear streams
and a griddle full of fried turkey breast and tenderloin of
I was often reminded of the verse in the Book of Mormon
: Mormon 1: 18 "And these Gadianton Robbers who were among the
Lamanites did infest the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof
began to hide up their treasures in the earth; And they became
slippery, because the Lord had cursed the land, that they could not
hold them, nor retain them again".
It seems that this curse has held to this day as far as
the great lost treasures are concerned. I will proceed to relate a few
of the stories.
The early Spaniards, after the conquest of Mexico, went
through the country and found many rich mines and began to work them
by enslaving the Indians and forcing them to work the mines. Two very
rich ones were the Guaynopa mine and the Tayopa mine. The Guaynopa
mine is well known and is located in the deep Graynopa canyon that
flows into the Rio Aros. The Tayopa mine is famous for it's great
wealth and for it's being lost.
A group of explorers came down from the Phoenix Az.
Area and we took them for a weeks pack trip into the Sierra Madre. We
camped on the Chuhuichupa River in a beautiful camp just below where
the Toro creek runs into the river. As soon as we got there I noticed
one of the leaders get out his new pan and go down to the river and
began to pan for gold. That night around the campfire this leader told
us the following story:
The Tayopa mine was very rich in gold and silver and
the Spanish set up a mill and foundry to smelt the gold and silver
into bars to facilitate the transportation of these bars back to
Spain. The Catholic Priest came in and built a church so the Spaniards
could worship and for the conversion of the Indian slaves. Mainly I
think for the collecting of the tithes of the mine for the church,
these to be sent back to the Vatican in Rome. As time went on
transportation became a big problem and some of the mule trains of
gold and silver bars never arrived at the coast to be loaded onto the
waiting ships. So there was quite a back log of shipments that were
stacked just inside of the mine. The Priest built a special cellar
under the church and stored the portion for the church in this vault
under the church. His treasure was made of not only gold and silver
bars but also of gold crucifixes and statues of silver and gold. At
this point our story teller brought out a book and read the long list
of what there was stored under the church in the vault. We were all
impressed by the fabulous amount of treasure that had accumulated.
This list was from the list that the Priest had sent back to Rome
detailing the Tithes that he had collected for the Church.
The story continued: One night some wandering Apaches
secretly contacted the Indian slaves and told them that they would
come on a certain night with guns and weapons and help them kill the
Spaniards and free the slaves. True to their promise the Apaches
came and armed the slaves. They killed all of the Spaniards and the
Priest and put all of the bodies in the mine. They then covered
up the mine entrance and destroyed the buildings.
According to history there was a general uprising of
the slaves in all of the mines about this time. After things had
settled down the Spaniards had not heard anything from the ones that
had been operating the Tayopa mine. They sent a party to go see about
the mine and the men who were running it. The problem was that none of
them had ever been to the Tayopa mine consequently even though they
spent many days searching they could not find the mine or their
companions that had been stationed at the Tayopa.
The Catholic Church put out a list of the treasure that
belonged to the Church and offered a great reward to entice
adventurers to find and recover the treasure for the church. Many have
searched through the years but the great and fabulous treasure still
remains the lost mine of Tayopa.
The Story teller ended his story by saying that surely
the mine must be somewhere near our camp because we were in the heart
of the Seirra Madre Mountains. The next day while riding around the
country, from a high point I asked him to look over the vast country.
He looked and in every direction could see high ridge after high ridge
and deep canyon after deep canyon until they faded in the blue
distance. I think at that moment he gave up his illusion of ever
finding the lost mine of Tayopa.
Soon after this experience I walked into a little curio
shop in Casas Grandes owned by a friend. He had displayed in his
window some old Spanish bridle bits and spurs that looked like they
had rusted for many years. After visiting With Mr. Resan I asked him
what he knew about the lost mine of Tayopa. He immediately became
excited and said that he had recently almost found it and wanted to
return and find it. Then he told me his story.
We were in Bavispe Sonora and we found a woman who was
a granddaughter of one of the slaves that had worked in the Tayopa
mine. She told us that the story of their deliverance had been handed
down to her and that she had been told where the mine was located. We
formed an expedition to go recover the treasure. We traveled many days
up the Bavispe River and into the canyons of the Seirra Madre. Finally
we came to the place where our guide said was the place where the mine
was hidden. Our provisions were gone and we faced starvation if we did
not return directly to the nearest settlement. We only searched a few
hours and then had to leave. We did find some rusted iron that could
have been part of the mill.
As far as I know Mr. Resan has never returned to find
the lost Treasure of the Tayopa mine. I suspect that he thinks that he
could never find that place again without his guide of the other
During the next few years each summer we would go on
trips and for convenience would store our camp equipment and saddles
and Aparejos in a house owned by Hilven Cluff that he used for
storage. Each trip we would pass by Pacheco and visit with Hilven and
Helen and pick up our equipment. On our return through Pacheco we
would drop off our equipment and leave it stored so as not to have to
haul it to Dublan and back again.
On one of these trips while visiting with Hilven he
asked me where we were going this time. I told him that we were going
to pack down the Chuhuichupa River. We would go on down past the
Huerta and the narrows to camp near the cave of the Cuarenta Casas. He
then said that the next trip that we should travel in that part of the
country that he wanted to go with us. He then asked me if I had heard
about the lost Tayopa Mine. I told him yes that I had heard about it.
He said that it should be not far from that part of the country.
He then related the following: We were living on the
old cluff farm and us boys a Dad were working the big farm and
harvesting good crops and running quite a few cattle.
My father was a farmer and never was interested in
mines or buried treasure. One night he had a dream and in this dream a
man came to him and took him southwest from Pacheco through the
mountains. As they traveled father recognized all of the mountains and
canyons that he knew and was familiar with. Soon they came into
unfamiliar country and finally came to a place where the beautiful
canyon opened up. The man told him this is where the lost Tayopa mine
is and this is where the church was and showed him exactly where every
thing was buried. Then he returned him to his bed. The next morning
Dad said nothing to the family about the dream. He thought it was just
Some time later he had the same dream, the same man
came and took him through the mountains and showed him where the mine
was and where every thing was buried. The next morning he related his
funny dream to his family. Hilven said that he and the other boys got
excited and tried to persuade their father to go with them to find the
lost treasure. But Dad insisted that we had to finish harvesting
first. That year the snow came early and we were still harvesting in
the snow so our expedition was off for that year. The years passed
with plenty of work to keep them busy. Finally when Dad was not
feeling well we persuaded him to guide is to find the Tayopa mine. We
packed up our provisions and traveled over the country that Dad
remembered. Dad was growing steadily worse and finally said that he
could go no farther. We were on a high ridge and he pointed to a
distant canyon and said that as he remembered the mine was in that
They returned a fast as they could to Pacheco and took
their father to Colonia Juarez in a pick up and then rushed him on out
to the U. S. He was operated on for advanced Prostate Cancer and never
recovered. Hilven finished his story by saying that he would like to
see if he could find that canyon. Soon after that the Ejido people
invaded the lands in Pacheco and after a long struggle and land fight
Hilven and Helen had to sell their loved home and lands and orchards
and leave Pacheco to never to return to live there.
One day we were going down the Chuhuichupa River. I was
leading the pack string of mules. Our party was strung out behind with
Yagui our Cowboy and companion on most of our trips at that time
bringing up the rear. He rode up to catch up with me and told me look
up at the camyon walls at the "cinchos" that ran all the way
along the side of the steep canyon walls. These cinchos were narrow
strips of level ground that ran the whole length of the mountain, with
a cliff above and a cliff below. There must have been 4 or 5 of these
on that side of the canyon. A pack mule kicked at one of the men that
had tried to pass her in a narrow place and Yaqui returned to his
place in the line.
That night sitting around the campfire near the
Cuarenta Casas Cave, Yagui told me the following story: "My brother in
law was working on the roundup for Emilio Perez and they
were working this part of the country. Emilio told them all to watch
our for a big black wild bull that they had not been able to corral
for years and if anyone saw him to be sure and try to bring him in. My
brother in law was riding the high country back where we had come and
he jumped the big black bull. The wild bull ran down and entered one
of those Cinchos and my brother in law hurried after him intent on
taking him in. It was late in the afternoon and its was sprinkling a
little. As he progressed along the cincho it got rather brushy and he
dismounted to lead his mule through brush and trees. In a narrow place
he ducked down and looked to his right to see a deep cave. In the cave
he saw a lot of Aparejos lined up and many bundles lined against the
wall of the cave. In the opening near him he saw and old Spanish
rifle. He was afraid the bull would get away so he just picked up the
rifle and hurried on his way. With the help of some of the other
cowboys they corralled the bull. That night my brother in law told all
the camp his story and showed the rifle as proof. Emilio as the boss
took the rifle and said as soon as we get through with the roundup we
will go find the cave.
The round up lasted about a month and at the end they
all went in search of the cave up on the cinchos. They searched and
searched but they never did find the cave. Yagui hinted that his
brother in law might have not wanted to take them to find it because
Emilio took the rifle and it ended up in a Cantina in Casas Grandes.
Yagui said that if he had a few hours he was sure that he could find
that cave. I then explained to our party that the Aparejos were what
the Spaniards used as pack saddles to transport the gold and silver
from the mines to the ships on the coast. Maybe this was one of those
mule trains that never reached the coast. Needles to say that Yagui
never had the time to go look for it while we were in the vicinity. So
the cave up on the cincho is still lost.
I received a phone call one day from a man in Phoenix,
Az. He said that he had a friend who was an apache and that this
friend wanted him to organize and expedition to go dig up a very rich
buried treasure. This treasure was a big box of twenty dollar gold
pieces that consisted of a big payroll. The apaches had attacked the
stagecoach and killed the people in it and had taken the gold down
into the Sierra Madre and had buried it. The man asked me if I would
take them into the Sierra Madre Mountains to find the gold. I told him
to find out what part of the Sierra Madre it was buried in and I would
arrange the trip if it was within reasonable distance. Later he called
back to say that it was buried in the Chihuahua Sierra Madre at the
foot of a big burned pine tree. I kinda laughed and asked him which
mountain and which burned pine tree. He said that he didn't know and
that he would get back to me. Later he called back and said that his
Apache friend had called off the trip because of some trouble in his
family. I said to myself that there could be a thousand burned pine
trees come and gone since the days of the stagecoach.
The story that is common knowledge around the mountains
is the story of Lupe the Apache girl. She was caught, taken prisoner
and raised by some people in the mountains. She married a man in Hop
Valley and they lived at the bottom of the hill as you come into Hop
Valley from Casas Grandes.
Don Panchito Peña told me this story and showed me
where they lived.
At their wedding Lupe presented her husband with some
gold coins as her dowry. In later years her husband became quite a
drunkard and would use up all of their money drinking. Lupe would take
a little lunch and go out into the mountains for three days and return
with some gold coins. These were exchanged for food and drink.
Two young men in the little town found out about
this and decided to follow Lupe and retrieve what was left of the
treasure. The next time she left they followed secretly, they thought.
Lupe led them into the mountains and lost them and they didn't get
back until two days after she had returned with her coins.
The story is vague about the value of the coins and
what kind they were or how she managed to exchange them into Mexican
One day Yagui and I were on our way to the Cebadilla to
get the horses and mules ready for a trip. As we passed the white
house at the entrance to Cave Valle we saw Don Miguel Lopez out in his
yard and stopped to visit with him a while. He asked us where we were
going and we told him and he commented that he didn't even know where
that was after living his whole life in the mountains. The he said,
"Oye Kiko, you know the mountains so well and you travel so much you
would be the one to go get that treasure". Then he proceeded to tell
me about his "Tesoro".
There used to be a Peddler that came through here
selling his wares and he would always stop here and stay with us
before going on his way He became a good friend and always enjoyed our
confidence and liked to stay here a few days to rest up. One day he
came and stayed with us and told us that we were his dearest friends
and that he wanted to confide in us about a rich treasure he had
He said that he had just crossed the swinging bridge
over the Rio Aros and had traveled about a half an hour along the
trail when he saw a "Quiote" that was just right to cook and eat. He
got off his horse and tied up his pack mule got out his Machete out of
it's scabbard and went down the steep side hill to cut the Quiote. The
Quiote is the big asparagus looking stem that the century plant sends
up for seed before it dies and when roasted over a fire has a good
taste and many people like to chew on it like cane.
When he chopped the Quiote off it fell straight down a
little cliff and stuck up in some soft dirt at the base of the cliff.
He went around and descended to the base of the little rock cliff.
When he pulled his Quiote out of the dirt it left a gaping hole. He
dug some of dirt away and found a big cave. Inside he found many sacks
of what he said was a very rich ore. And there were many mining tools
in the cave with the sacks. He thought to himself that his mule was
loaded and that he would have to come back with some help
the retrieve this rich find.
So he told Don Miguel I want you and your boys to go
with me and bring back all that there is there and then we can work
the mine together. Don Miguel went on with his story: The next morning
the Peddler went on to Williams ranch and sold a lot of his wares. He
went into the cantina and began drinking. Late that night he tried to
walk back to stay with Don Miguel and family but passed out on the
way. It was very cold that night and the next morning they found him
frozen to death on the way back.
He then told me that now that I knew about it and knew
where it was that I could go and find it. Yagui and I both laughed and
commented, asking Don Miguel how we could know how far a half an hours
travel was on whose horse. and in what direction and on which trail
and from which of the swinging bridges over the Rio Aros. I think
seeing our point helped ease Don Miguel's disappointment. Some day
someone might happen on to the old Peddler's mine but I doubt it. It
seems these lost treasures become slippery and may never be found.
Then there was the lengendary loot of Lofty
Loftus hidden somewhere near his cave back on the other side of Arco
When I was a young boy, on a trip to Chuhuichupa, I
remember going out in the back of Cliff Whetten's house and visiting
with Lofty Loftus for a while in the evening. He was soft spoken and
very polite but I will quote from Doc Hatch's book for his description
of this Character.
Doc Hatch wrote. "Yes, sir, That's my name Loftus, Mr.
Lofty Loftus", He proclaimed in his self introduction when he first
appeared at one of the two little adobe stores in Chuhuichupa. Not
only did his unusual name pique our interest but also the fact that he
paid for the coffee, beans, lard and canned sardines he purchased with
an old U. S. gold coin. "Yes, Sir, Lofty Loftus That's me". If he ever
had a name other than that he kept it strictly to himself during the
twenty five years he live among the Mormon people of the region.
He was small in stature not more than five feet four
when he stood erect and fixed you with his penetrating yellow green
eyes. Dripping wet he would not tip the scales at more that 115
pounds, however he was man, all sixty four inches of him. As he told
me on several occasions, "Back in the Tombstone days I was full of
vinegar and had a full set of tail feathers". According to him he and
Tombstone Arizona were at their peak simultaneously.
Although not a braggart, as he solemnly reminisced
about his harrowing life, he easily stirred our imaginations.
Occasionally he would speak to someone about episodes in his shadowy
past, misdemeanors that ran the gamut from abandoning a select
boarding school for boys to cattle rustling, stagecoach and train
robbing, bank hold ups and gun battles with rival bandits.
Nevertheless, in all his story telling he never dropped more that a
hint or two about his identity or where he was actually from. He
became to all of us a legendary and picturesque character.
He spent most of his time alone amidst the vast expanse
of pine covered peaks, ridges, and canyons around Chuhuichupa. His
favorite abode, he said, was a big cave on the mountainside
overlooking "Possum Hollow". This hermitage was at the base of some
high cliffs, the only approach being from the front and up a steep
incline. His "Home" was equipped with a battered frying pan, a
blackened Dutch oven, a large keg for water, a few odds and ends of
dishes and gear for his two horses. End of quote.
I will go back to the rumors concerning Mr. Loftus.
Rumor had it that he had come into Mexico with two companions. All
three mistrusted each other and could not even go to sleep for fear of
being eliminated. On the way one was shot when he suddenly reached for
the Coffee pot. Since Lofty was the only one that arrived in
Chuhuichipa apparently he was the fastest one on the draw and he
brought with him all of the loot which he hid very secretly somewhere
in the vicinity of his cave. Many times when he would return from his
infrequent trips to town for provisions he would find evidence of his
cave having been searched.
On many occasions Lofty thought that he was about to
die and wanted Doc to make out his will. On examination Doc would
assure him of his good health so he would put off the making of his
As I remember Herman's story, Doc Hatch finally got the
secret from Lofty by administering Truth serum to him on one occasion.
After his death they went to find what was left of his cache but
apparently they had not gotten the right information and could not
find the elusive gold.
If any of you have a desire to search for treasure in
the sierra Madre This information is as accurate as you will likely
We love you all and hope you are enjoying your lives as
you go along. Life is so short that we must live it each day or we
will come to the end and have regrets, but unable to go back and live