Home News Vision Historically Speaking: Roswell’s Chihuahua district folk tale includes buried treasure

Historically Speaking: Roswell’s Chihuahua district folk tale includes buried treasure

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Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives The captions reads, "First Mexican settlement in Roswell" — date and location unknown.

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

We have many files and folders in the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives, which include diaries and manuscripts of those who have gone before.

Georgia Redfield is one of those and one whose writings and articles I have shared before. Today, I would like to share a piece she wrote on lost and forgotten treasures in this part of the state, as told by family members.

I do not know if the stories are true or folklore, shared from one generation to the next, but they are always interesting to read and, true or not, a part of our history. They do add color to our part of the state, if only in story.

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Redfield wrote this Jan. 6, 1936:

“Interest in New Mexico traditions of buried treasures has been greatly revived in the past few months, especially so in the southeast part of the state since the death of a very old Mexican woman of the Chihuahua Spanish American settlement in the city of Roswell. It was generally known in that district that the woman was in possession of a secret of fabulous riches buried by her ancestors during the Indian uprisings. …

Vision Editor’s note: According to The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the largest uprising was The Pueblo Revolt in 1680. Native Americans in the region — today’s Arizona and New Mexico — were named by the Spanish invaders collectively as “Pueblos.” The Spanish had established and maintained their rule with terror, beginning with Juan de Oñate’s invasion in 1598. In the year 1680, virtually all tribes in Southeast New Mexico rose as one. The revolt was successful and drove out the Spanish soldiers and authorities. It took 12 years for Spanish troops to reconquer “Pueblo country.” However, they never reconquered the Hopi, who joined the rebellion from the western part of the “Pueblo country,” which is now Arizona. The last and largest remaining Native American nation in the U.S. was the Navajo who fought against the U.S. in the 19th century. The last campaigns were led by Col. Christopher H. “Kit” Carson against the Navajos employing a scorched earth policy, destroying the nation’s food source. The last battle was fought in 1864 as part of the Navajo Wars, which led to the final major military battle between Navajo and the Americans, which resulted in deportation from their land to what is today eastern New Mexico and Arizona. The “Long Walk to Bosque Redondo” is considered an attempted ethnic cleansing among contemporary Navajo and historians.

… There was excitement and hurrying of many neighbors to the bedside of the old woman who finally died without divulging her secret to any of the eager ones waiting around her, only a few words came at the last with her frantic pointing toward the mountains, west — ‘Gold!’ she said, with her last struggling breath, ‘Much gold, jewels, silver!’ That was all, but enough to renew frantic searching for the treasure.

“Of all the legends of Spanish American people of this district, the ones of buried treasure will always be the most thrilling. It is said some of these stories have resulted in hunting and digging to such an extent that many rich fertile fields of the lazy ones, which have long lain waste, have been well prepared for planting by constant spading and now are truly yielding treasure in golden grain, hay and garden foods.

“However, there is no doubt about there being buried treasure in various localities in the state of New Mexico. Some of these will never be found. Money — gold and silver — was often buried in the early days, during the establishment of cattle camps and ranches in this state. There were no banks in those early days, no strongholds, not even locks on flimsy doors of ‘dobe’ huts or dugout camps, on the barren prairies. Life was always uncertain … and so there are legends handed down through the years of vast treasures buried by some ‘pale face’ and others by the natives.

“The Comanches and Apaches spent days and weeks trailing and watching herds of cattle brought over the waterless dry plains by the first cattle trailblazers. When the herds were sold, they were ready to pounce down and take the hard-earned gold the stockmen had, that they had broken their nerves, their health, their lost lives in the end, to gain.

“Scouts were sent ahead of herds, always, and they often rode back to report … raiders waiting on the trail. There was then a mad scramble to bury all valuables, even food and water, and the cowmen road on to meet death in combat, and those treasures still lie safely hidden, useless, through the long lean years of hardships, depressions and even famine. …

“‘There is buried treasure in Caballo Mountains (Horse Mountains) 35 miles northwest of Las Cruces,’ said Gorgonio Wilson, ‘I know this most certainly, for have I not the map on paper and the directions all written down, where to find the place? There are more gold bars, and heaped up silver and jewels than can be carted out by the truckloads.’ …

“Gorgonio’s mother was from Mexico, and his father an American from West Point, Missouri. The two met and married in Albuquerque immediately after the Civil War. Gorgonio, their son, is truthful. He has inherited this good trait of character from both parents. He has lived a good and useful life and now in his late years, he is firm in the belief of reward for the last days of his life. Reward with those riches of buried treasure, which will give him and his loved ones comforts to use in sickness, and during helpless old age.

“‘I am going to find that treasure if the Lord pleases,’ said Gorgonio, ‘and He will let me, for I now have only $3 to live on every month, for my old age pension, and I need it for my brother’s girl, Enie Garcia. Since her little muchacho came, she is not right, she wonders in her mind. She stands at her window and gazes out all of the time, but she never harms anybody. She is good and kind. She now has three sets of twins, and, God help her, I need the buried treasure bad for her.

“‘The map came to me honest. There will always be lying, and stealing, and murdering, to get secrets of treasures buried in different places in New Mexico and all over the world. It was stealing that got this secret to me, but it is clean now. I got it honest from a Spanish lady. A Mexican man from New Mexico stayed at her house in old Mexico. He told to her the secret of the buried treasure and showed her the map and the writing, which told all about where to find the treasure in New Mexico. He displeased her one day, she was bitter with him, and she stole his map and his writing and his instrument made to find the treasure, and she fled with it one night and made her way to New Mexico. She was helpless and didn’t know what to do to find her treasure after she was here. I found her in Carrizozo. She seemed to be lost and I was a good friend to her. She said to me, ‘The secret brings to me only bad luck,’ (that was because she stole it) so she gave it to me. A thief crept into my house and stole part of my instrument, but he didn’t find the map, so it can do him no good. When I have the money and can have my instrument fixed up and go to Caballo Mountain, then everything will be all right, and the poor niece, who wanders in her mind will have new dresses and good fires to warm herself by, and good food to make her strong.’

“‘When we find that treasure,’ said Gorgonio, ‘we will do such good for everybody – whenever we can.’”

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.