The Buried Treasure of Texas Hill Country
Paris Permenter and John Bigley
man in soiled clothes quickly throws another shovelful of dirt over his
shoulder. His face glistening with the sheen of sweat, he works faster and
faster, listening all the while for distant hoofbeats. He can't let anyone
see him--he has something to hide.
has more buried
than any other state, with 229 sites within the state's borders. The total
value? An estimated $340 million. And much of this
lies under the rugged oaks and rocky landscape of the
Hill Country. There are many stories behind this area, some that have been
told for generations and many that may remain secrets taken to the grave
by the original
The search for buried Hill Country
begins at its edge, in the community of Round Rock. Here,
Sam Bass hid from the law until a final shootout with the
Rangers on July 19, 1878.
Bass was in Round Rock making plans for a bank robbery. Before he
died; however, many say that he hid much of the loot from his train,
stagecoach and bank robberies somewhere in the area.
One of the most common tales is of a loot hid in an old tree by the
The legend began several years after
Bass' death, when maps leading to the alleged
appeared. The location was said to be in a hollow tree on what is now
Sam Bass Road, about two miles west of Round Rock. A tree similar
to the one described on the map was spotted by
and chopped down--only to come up empty. Optimistic
seekers still wonder--could earlier searchers have chopped down the
Sam Bass legends are not the only
stories flying around Williamson County. One
story dates back to an ancient Spanish document regarding an old
Spanish mine, located somewhere near Burnet. According to an Austin
American story in the early 1920's, a "pack train of burros
carrying 40 jackloads of silver was pursued by a band of
Indians and ... the men in charge of the pack train buried the
silver near where the town of Leander is now located."
No one's found the Spanish silver cache, but some
seekers in this area have struck gold--or gemstones, as the case may
be. In 1925, W.E. Snavely of Taylor, who had hunted
for 60 years, found a ruby arrowhead weighing 15 karats, along with
many other gemstones.
Heading west, back into the heart of the Hill Country, lie a number of
sites. Longhorn Caverns, outside Burnet, is said to be the home of
more than one
trove. One tale involves who else but
Sam Bass, who allegedly used the cavern as a hide-out following
nearby robberies. Today the main opening of the cave is called the
Sam Bass entrance. No
treasure has been found, but even today, parts of the 11-mile
cavern are still being explored.
Another Longhorn Cavern tale involves the
search for a
supposedly buried on Woods Ranch near Burnet. After years of
searching, one of the
hunters went to seek the advice of a palmist, whose cryptic
recommendation was to dig "under the footprint." There was speculation
that this "footprint" might be a foot-shaped impression on the ceiling
of one of the Longhorn Cavern rooms. The crew dug below this
formation--only to find a container shaped hole below the surface.
Where there had once been a metal container--and possibly a
was only a rust-lined hole.
Sam Bass Gang.
photo courtesy City of Roundrock, Tx and Robert G. McCubbin, Jr.
L-R: Sam Bass, Joe Collins, John E. Gardner, and Joel Collins
Moving west to Llano, we're once again on the trail of
Sam Bass. Allegedly, the robber hid canvas sacks marked "U.S." and
filled with gold in a cave on Packsaddle Mountain. Some say the
was found by a Mexican laborer, hired by a local rancher to cut fence
posts on Packsaddle Mountain. According to one version of the story, the
rancher went to look for the laborer when he failed to return to the
ranch. All the rancher found was a cave, and a piece of canvas sack with
"U.S." imprinted on it. Another version of the story says the gold still
lies hidden somewhere in the mountain.
Packsaddle Mountain is also the home of the Blanco Mine, named for a
Spaniard who found the location long ago. According to J. Frank Dobie's
book Coronado's Children, the mine was rediscovered in the 1800's
by a Llano settler named Larimore. While hunting, Larimore discovered the
old mine--with its contents of lead and a high percentage of silver.
1860, Larimore took a last trip to the mine with a man named Jim Rowland.
The two men hauled out several hundred pounds of the metal, shaping it
into bullets. Larimore, who was leaving the country, declared that he
would hide the mine so well that no other person would ever find it.
Supposedly, he diverted a gully directly into the mine, filling it with
silt. Rowland carved his initials on a large stone marking the entrance to
the mine, then covered it with earth. Where it remains today.
Llano County is home to other buried
sites, including $60,000 in gold and silver coins buried by
Sam Bass near the community of Castell in the western part of the
Bass buried the loot on a creek bed, marking the spot with a rock in a
fork of a tree.
The trail of
Sam Bass continues to near the state capital, where he allegedly
buried $30,000 in the community of McNeil. No
was ever recovered, and today there is little remaining of the original
McNeil, located in the northern part of Travis County near Round Rock.
treasure of all, some say $3 million dollar's worth, is said to be
buried in Austin. According to one source, this money, part of the Mexican
payroll in 1836, was stolen by the paymaster, a general, and seven
privates. The men took the loot near where Shoal Creek empties into the
Greed set in, however. Two of the privates murdered their co-conspirators.
Before long, one of the privates had killed the other. The remaining
returned to Mexico, then found he was unable to come to
again. He made a map of the site, showing that it was buried five feet
underground, close to an oak tree with two eagle wings carved on it.
Another source claims that the
was nowhere close to $3 million, actually only about $80,000 in gold
coins. The story changes--instead of a Mexican payroll it substitutes
Confederate money in the hands of
who were afraid the Capitol would be overrun toward the end of the Civil
War. According to The Rising Star Record (May 12, 1927), the
was purloined by workers on April 13, 1927. Working on the banks of Shoal
Creek, a crew of eight men worked on a forty foot tunnel for over eight
months. When questioned, they replied that they were working on "the
foundation for a new bridge" and, later, "the foundation of a fine house."
A guard was kept on the tunnel at night.
On the night of April 13, "a box was lifted from the square cut chamber
between the rocks, for the next day the workmen were gone and the blasting
has ceased. Curious throngs soon found the dark tunnel and with lights
discovered traces of the large wooden box that had laid beneath the dirt
for more than 60 years."
The Shoal Creek
may be gone, but plenty of others lie beneath the surface of the Hill
Country. With permission from private land owners, anyone is free to take
a pick and shovel and, like generations have done in the past, search for
Paris Permenter and John Bigley, 2006
Paris Permenter and John Bigley are a husband-wife team of travel writers
and guidebook authors based in the Texas Hill Country. Paris and John edit
TexasTripper.com, http://www.texastripper.com an online guide to travel in the Lone
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