The legends of the Lost Silver Mines of the Hill Country date back to the mid 1700s, alternately referred to as the San Saba Silver Mine, the Llano Silver Mine, the Los Almagres Mine and the Spanish Silver Mine. The stories appear to possibly involve several locations of buried treasure in the same general area. The following is intended to be a high level look at the mystery.
Back in the days of Spanish rule, an expedition was scouting the area searching for minerals and treasure, such as silver and gold. North of the San Saba River near the current day towns of Llano and Menard, they found a natural cave opening and inside the cave, were the beginnings of what appeared to be a vein of silver. The location and the discovery were reported back to Spanish authorities in Mexico City. The leader, Don Bernardo de Miranda, had brought back a sample and requested permission to set up a presidio (fortress) to protect the area and to begin developing the minerals he had found.
Miranda did not get to enjoy nor develop his find, since he was transferred elsewhere before he could return to the San Saba. Though a presidio was established, it was not adjacent to the mine. The mine was not developed, according to all accounts, and after fierce and successful attacks by the Comanche, the presidio was abandoned, reoccupied after a short interval and finally shut down completely around 1770.
Another rumored find nearby was that of the Lipan Apache, who had brought silver to trade in San Antonio many years later. Hearing of the Lipan Apache treasure, Jim Bowie, having moved to San Antonio in the late 1820s, accompanied by several others including his brother Rezin Bowie, became interested in the area and finding the source of the treasure. Jim Bowie is said to have befriended the Lipan, even living with them for a while and having negotiated for the right to develop some of the silver prospect around 1831. Bowie returned to San Antonio to obtain and arrange for supplies for his own expedition.
Some accounts have Bowie locating the mine and beginning to develop it while others say that prior to beginning his search in earnest, during a battle, in which a Lipan Apache warrior named Tres Manos and Bowie individually were said to have fought. After the battle, Bowie was not able to complete his expedition before he had to leave the area. Bowie was killed in early March, 1836 at the Battle of the Alamo.
The legend continues with the story of an anglo by the name of Harp Perry who is said to have mined silver in the same general area as far back as the 1830s. Perry and his associates were believed to have successfully developed his find and extracted a small fortune in silver before his party was attacked and driven from the area by the Comanche. Continuing the legend, Perry escaped from the Comanche, married and lived in Mexico on his accumulated wealth for many years until his money ran out. Near the end of the Civil War, Perry returned to Texas, but after twenty or so years it had changed so much that he could no longer find his former mine. Perry then left the area and was killed in a trail drive accident soon afterward.
Other details mention a rancher named Beasley who supposedly found the mine by chance while searching with a group of other anglos for a party of Comanches who were suspected of stealing horses. Like the others, Beasley left the area intending to return. When he did, Beasley could not locate the landmarks he remembered.
Books and stories have been written by various individuals. C. F. Eckhardt’s “The Lost San Saba Mine,” J. Frank Dobie’s “Coronado’s Children,” “The San Saba Mission” by Robert Weddle and several others.
Many of the stories have common themes, including first finding the mine, leaving the area for some time, then returning and being unable to locate the mine or mines again, sounding like the main points of a recurring dream. The treasure caves remain undiscovered, but add to the folklore of Texas.
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