Some years after the Butterfield stage line was discontinued in 1861, a cattle rustler moved into the old abandoned stage station at Vallecito on the Southern California desert. He also was reported to be a bandit who acquired much gold by robbing miners from the rich California fields.
Eventually, he decided to get out of the country with his loot, and sent his wife to Mexico City to buy a home for them. During her absence he was killed in a runaway accident.
A Diegueno Indian woman kept house for him during his wife’s absence, and it was through her brother that the story of the lost gold of Vallecito became known. This Diegueno woman reported that shortly before his death, the rustler had taken two large ollas filled with nuggets, and had ridden off on a white horse across the Vallecito valley toward the southwest. From the doorway of the old station the woman later saw the horse standing on a knoll in what was then known as Potrero canyon. More recently the place has been known as Treasure canyon. Later the rustler returned without the ollas.
After the death of their employer, the Indian woman and her brother planned to search for the gold, which they were sure was buried in the Potrero. However, she was bitten by a rattler and died. Her brother thought it was a bad omen, and left the country.
The rustler’s wife returned, and also spent many weeks searching for the gold without success. Then she disappeared. Years later Alexander MacLeod, of Los Angeles, on a prospecting trip, became acquainted with an aged Indian, and from him learned the story of the lost gold. MacLeod’s informant was the brother of the woman who saw the rustler ride into Potrero with the ollas.
MacLeod had made one trip in search of the treasure with a doodlebug. He had excavated a deep hole at the point where the bug indicated it might be buried, but his grub ran out, and he had to give it up.
Many treasure seekers have gone to California’s Vallecito valley in quest of hidden wealth. Many things can happen to a tenderfoot when he goes in search of lost gold. But the treasure still lies somewhere in the canyon, waiting for some lucky prospector to find.