Stationed at Chihuaha,
in 1797 during the last years of the Spanish occupation, was a priest
named LaRue. Father LaRue, while sitting with an old dying soldier,
listened while the soldier told him of a rich gold-bearing load in the
mountains north of El Paso del Norte (El Paso,
soldier explained to LaRue that the mother lode could be found by
traveling one day north of El Paso until three small peaks could be seen.
When the peaks came into view, the journey would turn east across the
desert to the mountains. In the first mountain range, there would be
a basin with a spring at the foot of a solitary peak. Upon this
mountain was to be found a rich vein of gold.
Shortly after the soldier died, Chihuaha settlement was
devastated by drought and famine. The Padre called the villagers
together asking if they would follow him north to a better climate and
more water. They agreed and the party migrated to the north. After crossing El Paso del Norte, they followed the
course of the Rio Grande to the small village of La Mesilla near Las
North of there, they sighted the three peaks and turned east across
the dreaded Jornada del Muerto desert, finally arriving in the San
Andreas Mountains. After a couple of days of exploration, they located
a basin in which there was a spring at the base of a solitary peak,
just as the old man had said.
Settling the new colony at Spirit Springs in Dona Ana County, Larue
sent the men out to search for the gold. On one side of the
peak, they located a rich vein in a deep canyon southwest of the
springs. They tunneled into the mountain and followed the vein
downward. The deeper they went, the richer the ore became.
The priest assigned dozens of monks and Indians to mine the gold, form
it into ingots and stack it along one wall of a natural cavern inside
the mountain. For two years LaRue extracted the gold from the
mountain, stockpiling it.
Word leaked into
Mexico that LaRue had set up his own little empire and he was
extracting large quantities of gold. The Spaniards wasted no
time in rounding up an expedition to send north.
a small group was in La Mesilla purchasing supplies they learned the
Mexican Army was on the horizon. Hurrying to camp, they spread the
alarm. It was one thing for Padre La Rue to leave his post without
permission of church officials in Mexico City, but it was quite
another not to deliver the Royal Fifth (or Quinta) of the gold for
shipment to Spain.
La Rue immediately set about concealing all traces of the mine.
Working day and night, knowing the soldiers were drawing ever closer,
he had his little group labor to seal the entrance to the mine.
When the soldiers finally arrived and demanded to know where the gold
came from which was used to purchase the supplies in La Mesilla, Padre
La Rue refused to answer. He died under torture, as did many of his
soldiers searched the entire area, but finding no clues, they returned
to Mexico empty-handed.
Although the historical facts suggest
LaRue was in the Organ Mountains between present day Las Cruces and
Alamogordo, his mining operation was deep in the San Andres Mountains
north of Las Cruces. It was here, according to legend that the
treasure was concealed.
of America, updated April, 2015