Before Mexico began to fight for its independence from Spain between 1810 and 1821, Spain had made very little progress expanding north. Northern Mexico, including Texas, was sparsely populated and roads were almost non-existent. However, people found ways to trade and caravans of goods rumbled along the trails. North of Texas, the land was part of U.S. Territory, as it was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. However, the land was not yet organized.
During these years Mexican bandits were known to have preyed upon travelers in Texas, parts of Oklahoma, and even as far as Missouri. In 1819, after the outlaws had made a successful raid into Missouri, the bandits made their way to their camp on the Blue River about 10 miles north of present-day Durant, Oklahoma. In their possession was an iron strongbox containing about $105,000 in gold coins.
The robbers were followed by a group of men who were determined to put a stop to the frequent holdups. When the outlaw leader saw the mob approaching, he ordered his men to bury the iron chest by the river and the bandits began to flee. However, they were all quickly tracked down and killed by their avenging pursuers.
Afterward, a number of people began to look for the buried loot, but the iron chest and its coins, said to be worth over $1 million today, was never found. Legend says that it was buried by the Blue River in a place that had many rapids, waterfalls, and ledge drops.
Almost a century later, in March 1909 another group of searchers calling themselves the Mexican Treasure Exploration Company were digging a shaft near the banks of the Blue River ten miles northeast of Durant. However, a torrential spring rain fell heavily on the men causing at least two cave-ins and the deaths of some of the men in the shaft. By this time, the searchers were nearly out of funds and gave up looking for the elusive strongbox.
©Kathy Weiser-Alexander, December 2019.