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 venison.
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 expedition.
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 a dream.
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 Canyon.
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 Peņa 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 money.
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 found.
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 Canyon.
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 will.
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 find anywhere.
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 it over.