The Llano Estacado - In The Land Of Enchantment
By Joe Johnson
From Page 39
February, 1993 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 1993 Lost Treasure, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Llano Estacado!! The Staked Plains!! As mile after mile rolls by on New Mexicos highways, its easy today to forget their fearsome repu­tation in years gone by. Then you visualize yourself on horseback or in a wagon. Grass and wild flowers surround you from horizon to hori­zon.

There are very few distinguishing features to the land. Few hills even fewer trees, and virtually no perma­nent water. Your only companions are occasional hawks and crows, and the ever-present, lonesome wind. Mile after dreary mile you trudge on, wondering if you are even moving at all!!

Dying by getting lost, death from thirst, or at the hands of marauding Indians no wonder the Llano Estacado didnt begin to be really settled until the turn of the 20th cen­tury. But it holds a wealth of oppor­tunity for the modern-day treasure seeker.

Among the oldest treasures is the Folsom Point, the beautifully crafted spear heads of the early hunter-gatherers living in the Tucumcari area. Should you find one in an original site, do all treasure hunters a favor by contacting state authorities so a proper archaeologi­cal dig can be undertaken.

Your reward may not be finan­cial, but in the satisfaction of know­ing youve contributed to the stature of our hobby.


(As related in the annals of Josiah Gregg)

It is said that Coronado solved the difficulty of landmarks, the lack thereof, by setting up a series of crosses marking his route. Also, he designated one man each day to count his steps in order to determine the distance traveled. When the army left Coronado and returned to the Pecos River, they solved the diffi­culty of keeping their direction by having one man shoot an arrow to the west and following its line of flight.

Archaeologists have since deter­mined that Coronado followed the road used by generations of Indians, though the story of the crosses may still be true.

That route began in the Galisteo Basin on the Rio Grande, then ran east to San Miguel where it crossed the Pecos River, then by Bernal Spring, on across the Tecolote to Chupinas Wells, crossed the Gallinas at LaLiendre, then down the Conchas near its junction with the Canadian River and on across the Tucumcari area.

An alternate route led from the Gallinas through the Los Esteros and across to Red Lake near Montoya and down the Pajarito to the crossing of the Canadian. Pueblo ruins, tepee rings, petroglyphs and innumerable arti­facts mark this trail.

As late as the late 1860s the Kiowa and Comanche Indi­ans dominated the area of the staked plains. Fort Bascom was the staging point for leaders such as Colonel

Kit Carson after the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman, as they waged bloody war against the plains tribesmen. Fort Bascom sat at the confluence of the Canadian River and Pajarito Creek, overlooking a lovely valley. On what was then the Worley Ranch the own­ers to keep away the tourists bulldozed much of the ruins, but numerous artifacts are still being found.

Mr. Singleton, owner of the Tele-Dyne Corporation, has recently purchased the ranch. New managers have also taken over op­eration of the ranch in 1992, SO be sure to write or call to obtain permis­sion to visit.

In the winter of 1832-33, long before the Fort had accomplished its mission, a terrible calamity came upon a small party of Americans on their way home from Santa Fe. The party consisted of twelve men, chiefly citizens of Missouri. Their baggage and about ten thousand dollars in specie was packed upon mules. They took the route of the Canadian River, fearing to venture on the northern prairies at that season of the year. Having left Santa Fe in December, they had proceeded without accident thus far, when a large body of Comanches and Kiowas were seen advancing towards them.

The traders prepared at once for defense; but the savages, having made a halt at some distance, began to approach one by one or in small parties, making a great show of friendship, until most of them had collected on the spot.

Finding themselves surrounded in every direction, the travelers now began to move on in the hopes of getting rid of the intruders; but the latter were equally ready for the start, and mounting their horses kept jog­ging on in the same direction.

The first act of hostility proved fatal to one of the traders named Pratt, who was shot dead by the Indians while attempting to secure two mules which had become sepa­rated from the rest. Upon this, the companions of the slain man imme­diately dismounted and commenced to fire upon the Indians, which fire was warmly returned, whereby an­other man by the name of Mitchell was killed.

By this time the traders had taken off their packs and piled them around for protection, and now falling to work with their hands, they very soon scratched out a trench deep enough to protect them from the shot of the enemy.

The latter made several charges, but they seemed too careful of their own personal safety, notwithstand­ing the enormous superiority of their numbers, to venture too near the rifles of the Americans. In a few hours all the animals of the traders were either killed or wounded, but no personal damage was done to the remaining ten men, with the excep­tion of a wound in the thigh received by one, which was not at the time considered dangerous.

During the siege the Americans were in great danger of perishing from thirst, as the Indians had com­plete command of all the water within reach.

Starvation was not so much to be dreaded because in case necessity required, they could live on the flesh of their slain animals, some of which lay stretched close around them. After being pent up for thirty-six hours in this horrible hole, during which they had seldom ventured to raise their heads above the surface without be­ing shot at, they resolved to make a bold sortie in the night, as any death was preferable to the death which awaited them there.

As there was not an animal left that was at all in condition to travel, the proprietors of the money gave permission to all to take and appro­priate to themselves whatever amount each man could take and safely carry. In this way a few hun­dred dollars were started with, of which but little ever reached the United States.

The remainder was buried deep in the sand, in hopes that it might es­cape the savages, but to little pur­poses, for the Indians were after­ward seen by some Mexican traders making a great display of specie, which was without doubt taken from this unfortunate cache.

With every prospect of being dis­covered, overtaken; and butchered, but resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible, they at last emerged from their hiding place and moved on silently and slowly until they found themselves beyond the environs of the Indian camps. Often did they look back in the direction where from three to five hundred savages were supposed to watch their movements, but much to their aston­ishment no one appeared to be in pursuit.

The Indians, believing no doubt, that the property of the traders would come into their hands, and having no desire to take scalps at the risk of losing their own, they appeared will­ing enough to let the spoliated ad­venturers depart without further molestation.

The destitute travelers having run themselves short of provisions, and being no longer able to kill game for want of materials to load their rifles with, were very soon reduced to the necessity of sustaining life upon the roots and the tender bark of trees. After traveling for several days in this desperate condition, with lacer­ated feet and utter prostration of mind and body, they began to disagree among themselves about the route to be pursued, and eventually separated into two distinct parties.

Five of these unhappy men steered a westward course, and after a suc­cession of sufferings and privations which almost surpassed belief, they reached the settlements of the Creek Indians, near the Arkansas River, where they were treated with great kindness and hospitality. The other five wandered about in the greatest state of bewilderment and distress, and only two finally succeeded in getting out of the mazes of the wil­derness.

The Kiowa Account

(As related by an Indian to a Tucumcari townsman):

A war party led by Lame-Ole-Man met a small train in charge of a few Americans close to South Ca­nadian River, a short distance below the entrance of a southern creek, which they call Skunk-berry-bush­river. (The Pajarito?) They call Americans Hanpoke or Trap­pers~ for the reason that the first Americans known to the tribe were trappers.

Texans were considered as of a different nation and were distin­guished as Tehaneico from the Spanish Tejano. I n this instance the Americans were traveling eastward and as the place was remote from any regular trail, the Indians were at a loss to know why the whites were there.

The Kiowas attacked the train, killed several of the party, and cap­tured the money, with the loss to themselves of but one man, Black Wolf. They found a few coins upon the ground, but this being the first money they had ever seen, they did not know its proper use, and so beat the coins into disks to be fastened to straps worn attached to the scalp-lock, and hanging down behind (hence the name for money, adal hangya, literally Hair Metal).

A former Tucumcari townsman, P. H. Sisney, told an interesting sidelight to this story to Royal Prentice.

It seems that a number of years ago, Mr. Sisney was located at the Kiowa Agency in Oklahoma and there an old Indian told him of the above incident, with the further re­mark that the Indians took only a part of the silver and that a large quantity still remained at the cache. Mr. Sisney finally persuaded the Indian to show him the place and they drove to the Canadian River in a light buckboard where the Indian found a place which he believed to be the site of the battle.

Mr. Sisney relates that they did find two or three silver dollars, but not the main cache. He believed that someone had gotten there before them and found the store of silver coins.

Could be but they didnt have modern day metal detectors then.

And $10,000.00 dollars in silver coin weighs 625 pounds. Enough for more than one stash. The Americans took only a few hundred dollars, the Indians a little more.

If you would like to search for this cache, valued at several hundred thousand dollars today (1992), head to the land of enchantment, cross the Llano Estacado, spend the night in Tucumcari. In the morning head north on highway 104 to the Single­ton Ranch. Best get local directions.

Check the area close to the South Canadian River, a short distance below the entrance of a southern creek the Skunk-berry-bush-river.

Maybe the treasure is gone. But maybe part of it still waits for you or for me!!


County Clerk Office Personal. Conversations.

Morton, Dorothy. History of Quay County.

Oden, John. History ... of Tucumcari.

Prentice, Royal. History of Quay County.

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