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Legends of Texas

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
However many legends of other kinds there may be, the buried treasure or lost mine legend is the typical legend of Texas. Just how representative it is, is demonstrated by the varied examples in this section of “Legends of Buried Treasure and Lost Mines.” The McMullen County group well illustrates how numerous are the legends. The group is by no means unique in either number or variety. Pertaining to the country up the Colorado and its western tributaries, there are literally hundreds of lost treasure legends. Scarcely fewer legends cluster around the old Fort Stockton-Fort Lancaster country, around the Victoria-Refugio-Goliad country, around the Big Bend country, and along certain sections of the Red River country. In lumber mills of East Texas buried treasure is the frequent subject of tale and speculation. The Nacogdoches country, the San Jacinto country, the San Augustine country, the country all along the Brazos from head to mouth, to mention only a few other localities, are replete with buried treasure legends. Moreover, instead of diminishing in number, these legends are constantly increasing. The people who tell these legends represent many standards and strata of life, but the ultimate source of their legendary gold and their tales is common—Mexican or Spanish. In some of the legends the pioneer Texan, the Indian, or the negro plays a part, but in nearly all the Spaniard and the Mexican enter as both actors and transmitters. The native Texan frequently makes no distinction between “Spaniard” and “Mexican”; the wealth of legend, however, is generally Spanish. And that wealth would fade the actual riches of Potosi into paltriness. Now, how comes it that illimitable wealth is so popularly ascribed to the long Spanish dominion in Texas and to the brief Mexican occupation that intervened between the downfall of Spanish sovereignty and the achievement of Texas independence? Were the Spanish great gainers in Texas? Did Santa Anna’s armies mark their trail with gold? The facts are that the Spanish in Texas were always hard up, that the occupation of the territory was a financial loss, that Texas was occupied as a buffer, first against the French in Louisiana and then against the United States, with but little attempt at mineral exploitation and always with a drain on the treasury. The Spanish soldiers and settlers often led a wretched existence, even on occasions having to root in the ground for starches and to hunt wild berries for sugars. According to Mrs. Mattie Austin Hatcher, one old San Antonio Mexican did write that the Spanish soldiers there were rolling in wealth. “They will spend a hundred reales for a dinner,” said he, “as easily as we spend a centavo for a glass of beer.” But he was a revolutionist inflamed with hatred of Spanish tyranny. So far as we know from the records—and again I quote Mrs. Hatcher for authority—only one cargo of money ever came to Texas from south of the Rio Grande; that was during the Mexican Revolution, in 1811. An expedition of revolutionists set forth from Coahuila to San Antonio, seeking escape to the United States. They had with them a considerable amount of bullion and money belonging to the revolutionary party. They were caught in Texas and hanged, and nobody knows what became of their wealth.