In the year 1600, an expedition of several hundred men set forth from the City of Mexico. Their goal was a fabulous deposit of placer gold from which the Indians had been reported to have collected an immense amount of pure gold from the surface of the ground. The party traveled north over the Devil’s Highway to a point where the little town of Tubac now stands.
They remained at Tubac for several weeks, refreshing themselves and their animals, then headed northeast over the old Spanish trail that lead through Doubtful Pass. This trail crossed the desert north of where Lordsburg now stands and continued on to the eastern part of New Mexico and the placer deposits.
Old records show that the mines were worked for a number of years. A visita (branch) of the church was established at the camp and accounts sent back to Spain indicate that the placers produced more than $30,000,000 in gold.
The old Spanish custom of enslaving the Indians and forcing them to work in the mines was resented by the Indians and they secretly planned a revolution that would free them from oppression. So while the Spaniards spread the doctrine of Christ and collected gold, the Indians succeeded in organizing their forces. In the year 1616, they suddenly attacked the camp and killed most of the Spaniards. The few who survived barely escaped with their lives.
Except for the “Royal Fifth” which was sent immediately to his Majesty, the King of Spain, the millions in placer gold that had been collected during the 16 years that the mines were operated was left buried in a secret hiding place in or near the old camp. No effort on the part of the Spaniards was ever made to reopen the mines until the spring of 1800, just 184 years later. At that time, San Antone organized an expedition to relocate the old placer diggings.
The expedition set forth from the City of Mexico. After several months of travel to the northwest they rediscovered and relocated the placers for the Crown of Spain. Because of the small number of men in his party, San Antone was unable to work the mines. He did succeed, however, in getting out of the Indian country with about $2,000,000 worth of gold.
He headed for a mission down on the coast where he planned to obtain assistance so he could return with a larger force and reopen the mines. Stakes were driven frequently as the party crossed the plains to serve as a guide to the mines when they returned.
After overcoming many difficulties the party finally reached the place where the city of San Antonio, Texas now stands. It was here that San Antone fell ill and died. Indians and desperadoes murdered the rest of the party for the gold they carried when an attempt was made to reach the coast. The stakes which had been driven along the trail had been knocked down or destroyed by buffalo, and once again the mine was lost.
Copies of church records brought from Spain by a former governor of Baja, California indicate that some $25,000,000 to $30,000,000 in placer gold still lies buried somewhere around the placer diggings, possibly in an underground room below the church. Yellowed maps left by the Spaniards indicate that the fabulously rich diggings were located somewhere along the headwaters of the Rio Prieto (Black River).