From the time of the earliest Spanish voyages to the New World, the soils of Texas have inspired a continuous flow of legends and searches for deposits of gold, silver and other treasures. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was among the very first of this long line of fortune seekers in Texas.
Coronado was born at Salamanca, Spain in 1510. At the age of twenty-five, he sailed to the New World, and settled in Mexico City. There, he married, started a family, and was appointed in 1538 as governor of the province of Nueva Galicia.
In response to reports of riches at the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, Coronado led an expedition into what is now the southwestern United States and northern Texas. The expedition totaling nearly one thousand men left Mexico in 1540. After months of searching, however, the expedition found no trace of treasure. Most of the party returned to Mexico the following year, but Coronado and a smaller force continued the search. They finally returned to Mexico City, with their saddlebags still empty, in the spring of 1542.
Although Coronado lost considerable credibility during the expedition, he regained his post as city councilman on his return to Mexico City, and remained in that position until his death on September 22, 1554.
Although Coronado’s expedition failed to produce gold, it marked the beginning of an endless stream of tales of lost mines and buried treasure in Texas. These legends, some documented and others passed down only by word of mouth, inspired countless searches into the sun-baked expanses of Central and West Texas.
Rather than fade with time, the legends seemed to grow with each new wave of immigrants to the new land. By the early nineteenth century, no less notable Texan than Jim Bowie tried his luck at tracking down some of these reported treasures. Still later, in the late 1850’s, when west Texas was occupied chiefly by Apache Indians, 90-100 man expeditions continued the search for buried treasures.
The Texan’s fascination with lost mines and buried treasure has not subsided even today. It became the subject of “Coronado’s Children,” one of J. Frank Dobie’s major works in the 1930s. Interestingly, numerous books about treasure hunting in Texas can be ordered today over the internet. For a detailed list select Calgold.