State Treasure - Colorado

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 41 of the April, 2010 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2010 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


Colorado’s Lost Regiment
OTERO COUNTY – In September 2008, Janet Warford-Perry, (Lost Treasure, “Questions & Answers”) aptly wrote… “One thing is for certain, Purgatory Canyon has been a route traveled for centuries, and no doubt contains relics of days gone by.” She couldn’t have been more accurate.
The historic period of Colorado’s Purgatory Canyon dates to Spain’s exploration and mining era in the New World, beginning with the Humana-Bonilla Expedition in 1539.
Further supporting Warford-Perry’s claim is the fact that Spanish specie, ingots and a portion of a leather harness ornately decorated with Spanish silver has already been recovered from Purgatory Canyon.
In 1924, a skeleton with ancient Spanish armor and a firearm was found inside a cave, either along the banks of the Purgatory River in a nearby cave or inside a cave in the adjacent Vogel Canyon, depending on which version you’re reading. The site is said to be near the tiny ghost settlement of Higbie.
But ancient relics aren’t the only treasures connected to Purgatory Canyon. According to author Bonnie Marie DeWolfe, one legend involves 12 chests of Spanish gold specie that became lost after a Spanish regiment mysteriously vanished in the 1700’s.
The regiment, under the command of Carrasco Rodriguez, was caught by a severe winter storm and forced to camp near present-day Trinidad.
The Spaniards were transporting the gold from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to San Augustine, Florida. Why Rodriguez opted to depart the established southerly route and take a longer route through Colorado is a mystery. Regardless, the regiment remained encamped there until spring.
DeWolfe claims when Rodriguez left Trinidad that spring he proceeded in the wrong direction. Some time after leaving Trinidad the entire regiment vanished.
Though no evidence exists to support the claim, it is reputed that the regiment may have disappeared roughly 67 miles northeast of Trinidad, in present-day southwest Otero County. There, along the banks of the Purgatory River, the 12 chests of gold were buried for unknown reasons.
One explanation is that Indians massacred the regiment and the gold was buried prior to the attack to keep it safe. Or if the Indians did take the gold they could’ve scattered the specie throughout the wilderness. There is, however, no evidence of a massacre having occurred in this area.
What became of the lost regiment and 12 chests of gold remains a mystery.

The Lost Estes
Mine & Treasure
SAN JUAN COUNTY – Tom Estes was a prospector who discovered a rich vein of gold during the summer of 1893. Old timers have handed down this little known story as part of Silverton’s local folklore for generations.
Estes was a lone miner who first appeared in Silverton just before the winter of 1893 with two sacks full of sylvanite ore that he sold for $1,070.
Towards the end of spring 1894, Estes purchased an anvil, bellows, blacksmith’s coal and a large variety of tools before packing into the mountains and returning to his mine. When the prospector later returned to Silverton he had packed out seven sacks of ore. Those who knew Estes claim the man told them that he’d taken the ore out in just two days, and spent the rest of his time building a forge, timbering his tunnel and covering a shaft. He had also erected a permanent camp, intending to stay for extended periods during the summer.
Estes did not trust banks and kept a practice of leaving his gold in the mine and coming into Silverton with only enough gold for a necessary stake. The third summer Estes stayed at his mine for just two weeks and packed out five packs of ore, which he sold for $2,800. That winter he died of pneumonia.
Estes left no map or directions to his mine. It was known he would follow Cascade Creek to Purgatory Flat then head northeast to his camp and mine somewhere on West Needle Mountain. Years later, Estes’ permanent camp was found with a Dutch oven, his forge and the shaft he’d covered. But no trace of his mine or his treasure has ever been found.
LOST! Baby Doe’s
Matchless Mine Treasure
LAKE COUNTY – The story of Baby Doe’s lost treasure is all but forgotten now; it appears in Lost Treasure for the first time. I have little on this lead, but here it is.
Baby Doe, as she was known, died in 1935 at her home near Leadville from hypothermia. Many believe the widow, who lived on her deceased husband’s mine property until her death, had cached away her own hoard of silver.
She was known to be both a hermit and miser, to the extent that she would not buy coal to heat her home. She simply froze to death one night and her cache to this day has never been found.
The Matchless Mine is located about one mile northeast of Leadville.

The Mystery of Devil’s Head
DOUGLAS COUNTY - Devil’s Head is located in the foothills between Denver and Colorado Springs. For years this site was regarded as being off the beaten path; local Indians have many myths linked to Devil’s Head, and its remote location made it a perfect hideout for outlaws who frequently used this huge rock anomaly when laying low from the law. According to one report, in the early 1870’s $60,000 in gold eagles was buried there by outlaws as a posse was closing in on them.
The story goes that a band of outlaws pulled off a government train robbery near Big Springs and got away clean with the $60,000 in gold eagles. They rode to a wooded area near Devil’s Head intending to hide out, but lawmen in this region had become familiar with the hideout and were racing to reach the site hoping to apprehend the fugitives.
A lookout spotted the approaching posse and alerted his comrades. It was decided to bury the loot right there and flee until things cooled off.
After burying the gold they sunk a knife into a nearby tree to mark the site and rode into history. Conflicting accounts claim the train robbers were soon killed by pursuing officers; another account states the banditti were never caught and never returned to the area. Either way it is agreed the outlaws did not return to the area for many years.
The incident was long forgotten until 1923 when an old man was spotted camping near Devil’s Head. He was observed for several days combing the area very closely although no one knew why. One day he caught the attention of Forest Ranger Roy Dupre who started keeping a close eye on the old man.
Soon after, a severe storm hit the area and forced the old man to seek shelter at the Ranger’s Station. At first the old timer kept to himself and said little. But Dupre was determined to learn more. Politely the ranger kept at him until the old man gave up the story. He admitted to being one of the robbers who held up the train at Big Springs. He confessed he’d tried to locate the tree with the knife stuck in its trunk, but had all but given up.
Then Dupre told him that a forest fire had burned down most of the trees in that area long ago and that the woods around Devil’s Head were new growth. Once the storm passed the old timer returned to his camp, gathered his belongings and left the area.
Dupre reported that the old man had concentrated his search around the Windy Pass area. Over the years, Dupre admits to searching the area looking for an old, charred knife blade that he never found. No known recovery has ever occurred.
Devil’s Head is about 50 miles southeast of Denver. The USFS maintains a lookout at the summit. To reach the site you must drive roughly 10 miles on a well maintain gravel road. If you wish to hike to the summit be prepared for a two-mile hike and steep inclines.

Sources:
DeWolfe, Bonnie Marie, Fascinating Colorado – Treasury in Purgatory, Unknown, Self-published, Public Book Shelf, http://www.publicbookshelf.com/history/colorado-travel/
Hayward, J.R, “Lost Ledge in Colorado,” December 1969, True Treasure magazine, p. 37.
Perkins, Sally A., “Lost Slate Mountain Gold,” February 1971, True Treasure magazine, p. 37.
Eberhart, Perry, Treasure Tales of the Rockies, 1961, New York, N.Y, Ballantine Books, Inc, p. 184-186.