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Victorio Peak Treasure - Page 3

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White Sands New Mexico, photo NM Film OfficeIn the Fall of 1939, Doc wanted to enlarge the passageway into Victorio Peak so that the treasures could be more easily removed. Hiring a mining engineer by the name of S.E. Montgomery, the two went into the mountain to blast out the shaft.  The engineer suggested eight sticks of dynamite, to which Noss heatedly disagreed, claiming the mountain was too unstable. However, the "expert” won the argument. The blast was a disaster, causing a cave-in, collapsing the fragile shafts, and effectively shutting Doc out of his own mine.

Doc tried several times to regain entry into his mine, but the shaft was sealed with tons of debris. All attempts failed, leaving him an embittered and angry man, which caused problems in his marriage. Noss soon deserted Babe and in November 1945, a divorce was granted. Two years later, he married Violet Lena Boles, which would further complicate ownership of the treasure rights for years to come.

Now, instead of having thousands of gold bars to draw from, Noss had only a few hundred that he had hidden in the desert. Becoming desperate for cash, Doc along with a man named Joseph Andregg, transported gold bars, coins, jewels, and artifacts into Arizona, selling them on the black market. For nine years, Doc attempted illegally to sell his gold, but it was difficult finding buyers.

In 1948, Doc met Charles Ryan, a Texan involved in drilling operations and oil exploration in West Texas. Noss made an agreement with Ryan to exchange some of the gold bars for $25,000 to reopen the shaft. Meanwhile, Babe Noss had filed a counter-claim on the entire area. Denied entry by the courts until legalities could determine the legal owner of the mine, Doc feared Ryan would back out of the deal. Sensing a double-cross by Ryan, Doc dug up the gold that was to be used in the exchange and reburied it in place where Ryan was unaware.

The next day, March 5, 1949, Ryan arrived to the area, insisting that they discuss the problem of what happened to the gold. However, Noss demanded to see the money before revealing the new hiding place. Ryan hinted that if Noss did not reveal the whereabouts of the gold, Doc would not live to enjoy it. An intense argument ensued and Noss headed toward his car. Ryan, fearing Doc was getting a gun, fired a warning shot in Doc’s direction, demanding that Noss back away from the vehicle. Noss refused to obey and Ryan fired again, hitting Noss in the head, killing him instantly. Just twelve years after discovering the treasure, Doc Noss died with just $2.16 in his pocket. Ryan was charged with murder, but was later acquitted.


As the years passed Babe Noss held onto her claim at Victorio Peak, occasionally hiring men to help her clear the shaft.  However, it was a slow process and in 1955, the White Sands Missile Range unexpectedly expanded their operations to encompass the Hembrillo Basin.


Babe began a regular correspondence with the military requesting permission to work her claim, but she was always denied. From that moment onward, every attempt of Babe’s to clear the rubble from the plugged shaft met with a military escort out of the area.


This was the beginning of long legal battles over the ownership of the claim. The military claim stemmed from a statement made by New Mexico officials on November 14, 1951 which withdrew prospecting, entry, location and purchase under the mining laws, reserving the land for military use only. However, disputing the military claim, New Mexico officials stated that they leased only the surface of the land to the military. Further, they stated that underground wealth, in whatever form it took, belonged to the state or to any legal license holders.


Becoming even more complicated, a search of mining records failed to turn up any existing claims – including that of Doc Noss. Additionally, the actual land where Victorio Peak is located was not owned by the State of New Mexico, but rather, by a man named Roy Henderson who had leased it to the Army.




The dispute was finally worked out when a federal court issued a compromise of sorts, which stated the Army would continue to use the surface of the land, but no one would be allowed on the property without the Army’s consent. In effect, no one could mine the treasure, and that included the Army and Babe Noss.


Even though the military refused any of Babe’s efforts to work her claim, it apparently did not refuse other military personnel from exploring portions of Victorio Peak. Two airmen from nearby Holloman Air Force Base would later say that they had found the gold cavern from another natural opening in the side of the peak. The soldiers, Airman First Class Thomas Berlett and Captain Leonard V. Fiege, said they had found approximately one hundred gold bars weighing between forty and eighty pounds each in a small cavern. After the discovery, Fiege told several people that he had caved in the roof and walls to make it look as if the tunnel ended.


Neither man being familiar with laws governing the discovery of treasure on a military base, Fiege went to the Judge Advocate’s Office at Holloman Air Force Base to confer with Colonel Sigmund I. Gasiewicz. Now there were two military commands involved.



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