El Rio de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatoir
(The River of Lost Souls in Purgatory) was first explored in the illegal Humana and
Bonilla expedition of 1539. At that time, the band was led by a
Portuguese don, seconded by a Spaniard. The group, including
priests, soldiers and miners set forth on a quest that led them into
The Spaniard could not stand to have a
Portuguese leading the party and after becoming increasingly jealous and
angry he killed the Portuguese and took over the leadership.
The priests refused
to go further with the band being led by an "evil leader” and returned
to Mexico. The rest of the group continued on to what is now
but were attacked and killed by Apaches.
More than a year
later, Coronado would again explore the area in search of Gran Quivera,
the seven cities of gold. However, his search would prove
nothing more than a frustrating one when he returned empty handed.
More than one hundred
years later, in the 1700’s, the Spaniards were transporting twelve
chests of Spanish gold coins from Santa Fe,
to St. Augustine, Florida. The money was to be utilized for payroll
and garrison expenses. The regiment, led by a man by the name of
Carrasco Rodriguez, for some reason, traveled through
rather than taking a more direct southerly route. Somewhere
around where Trinidad is today, the regiment was caught in the winter
weather where they were forced to stay until the spring. When
spring arrived, Rodriguez once again led his caravan in the wrong
direction and nothing was heard of them again.
Some say that the
Spaniards buried the chests of gold somewhere along the banks of the
Purgatory River. However, the more prevalent theory is that the
Spaniards were attacked by Indians, who took their weapons, tools,
clothing, and animals. Having no use for the gold, they probably
threw it into a cave or a ravine. This theory is supported by a
later finding of a suit of Spanish armor found along the banks of the
Purgatory River, as well as a skeleton and ancient firearm found in a
cave east of the Willow-Vogel Canyon junction in 1924.
Further tales describe the recovery of a
few gold ingots and Spanish gold coins found along trails through
Purgatoire Canyon. Another story has been told of a small
ironbound chest containing a few thick gold coins, which was found in
a cave in Purgatory Canyon sometime around 1924. Also found at
the site was an old piece of harness with well-carved, ornate silver
The man who was said to have found these
things drove a knife into a tree outside the cave, confident that he
was close to recovering the twelve chests of gold coins. However, while leaving the area of the cave, he fell and badly broke
his leg, laying there for two days and nights. In his extremely
weakened condition, a couple of people came upon him and he shared his
tale with them. Unfortunately, the man succumbed to exposure.
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