Lost Spanish Treasure and Mines
Finding The Treasure Clues in Utah
Documented by Timothy Draper
THE STORY OF BURIED SPANISH SILVER AND LOST SPANISH MINES
In 2009 there was a story that was brought to my attention; a story of riches and lost history that was practically right in my own backyard. This story happened to be right up my alley because it had to do with Spanish explorations, lost mines, slavery, and 400 Spanish silver bars hidden in the tall mountains of St. George, Utah area. (I don’t know if you could say you’re a treasure hunter if words like that don’t catch your immediate attention and interest.) Needless to say, I was VERY interested and wanted to hear more.
A LOOK INTO THE BACKSTORY OF RICHES AND LOST HISTORY
I was told that a small group of Spaniards that had been following the Old Spanish Trail had ventured off into the Southwestern region of Utah and discovered a tribe of local Indians. The Spaniards decided to stick around in what is now the St. George area, and make camp. During their early stages of learning the landscape and becoming familiar with the area, they came across a few Paiute Indians. After a few days of talking and getting to know the Indians, the Spanish Conquistadors brought up the conversation of gold and silver minerals. They showed the Indians some shiny gold and then tried to convince them that they were explorers and were only there looking for minerals. The Paiutes finally gave in and pointed to the high mountains of the valley.
The Spaniards left their camp very quickly and disappeared without a trace. It is said that the Spanish Conquistadors were gone for some time, and there were only a couple of reports from other Paiute Indians mentioning of a “strange-looking people” that had been spotted now and then riding horses and were scouting around the mountains. One day, after a few months of the first encounter with the Conquistador’s arrival, the Spanish returned to the Indian’s camp. But things were different; the Spanish were on a mission and it was not a friendly visit. This time, the Spanish were aggressive, angry, and irritated, and became forceful as they started rounding up some of the younger Indians and tying them up. The Paiute Indians were confused, and scared, and wanted to stop the Spaniards, but they backed down as they saw some of their people being tied up and forced to leave their camp.
A few months went by and soon even more Spaniards started to arrive in Southern Utah and took more slaves with them to the mountains. The Spanish had hit a big vein of silver and started opening 2 extremely rich silver mines, (as is told by the local Indians.) The Spanish treated their new slaves very harshly and worked them to death in some cases. After many years, the Indians decided to fight back, and they began to organize a plan. The Spanish mining activity had become very spread out in the area and some locations were miles and miles from the others. Finally, one day, while the unsuspecting Spaniards were busy admiring their riches, the attacks from the Indians began…
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FROM THE INDIANS STORY
From what I understand, the fight only lasted a couple of days, but the Spanish were able to hide their silver bars in the wilderness before fleeing the area. At this point in the story, I had to ask, “How much silver was hidden? How many bars?” I was told that their ancestors believed there were close to 400 bars of pure Spanish Silver that were never found by the Indians after the attack. After inquiring about how they knew it had been buried, it was explained that the Spanish had used an off-trail passage of the “Spanish Trail,” and the Indian warriors had held the Spanish men in a certain spot of the wilderness for a couple of days. I was also told that the Spanish only got away because they fled with their horses very quickly; one minute they were there and then they were gone. The Spanish moved much too quickly for horses that could have been weighed down by heavy bars of silver so the best explanation for that is that it was buried.
It was explained to me that if I looked around the area of the modern-day Pinto settlement, I would start to find old history and structures that are withering away and have been lost with time, and that would let me know I was in the right area. The last part of the story that I was told was that the mines had been covered up by the Paiute and all the belonging of the Spanish Conquistadors had been tossed into the mines. Any other belongings of the Spaniards that they came across in the other surrounding mining activity areas were tossed into natural blowholes by the Indians. They wanted to erase the existence of the brutal Spanish men ever being in that area and wanted to make it exceedingly difficult for them if they ever returned.
THE SILVER BARS AND HIDDEN CACHE
The value of silver today has increased, and 400 bars would make a great treasure! Not to mention that the Spanish silver bars would be a buried treasure and would have Spanish markings on each silver bar that would be considered a ‘valuable collector’s item’ to the right people. Their value could be much more than just the value of silver itself; it could double the value because it would be deemed “recovered buried treasures”. I have estimated that if you sold the silver bars for the current silver value, 400 pure silver bars in today’s value would be around 1 million dollars and it could be even more depending on the weight of each silver bar.
TWO RICH SILVER MINES OF THE PINE VALLEY MOUNTAIN AREA
There is more to this treasure than just the silver bars. Yes, the silver bars would be a great find and plenty of money, but I also put a high value on artifacts, structures, lost mines, and the treasure symbols and clues that are usually found near a Spanish mining operation. The Indian story has told that they gathered the Spanish belongings and put them in the mines and dropped the rest in nearby nature blow holes… That would be a great find as well! There could be Spanish swords, armor, and tools, and one could only imagine other items that could be found. Those items, I would imagine would have a high value as well, but just finding the lost and concealed mines at all would be an exciting day for sure. It is for all these reasons and the simple fact that I love an adventure, that I chose to take on this story, and start researching it myself out in the field.
THE DISCOVERY IN 2010
My friend, Brandon and I spent almost 1 full year in the Pinto area looking for clues. We hiked in the snow, we hiked in extreme southern Utah heat, we hiked in downpouring rain, you name it, and we never gave up. We were determined to find something to keep our excitement up so we could have that one thing that would keep us enthusiastic about continuing our explorations. We finally had narrowed down a perimeter of almost 12 miles that we determined was important to further research and needed to explore further. It didn’t take us long; I’d guess about 4 weeks to find some old tree carvings and some rock monuments. One rock monument still puzzles me today, I have not come across anything like this at any other Spanish site that I’ve been to, and I have not figured out to this day what the purpose of placing it there was.
I’m sure that this rock monument was placed here by man, and it’s too heavy for one or even two men to have picked up to “set” it in the ground. Whoever did it, they did it for a reason, I just haven’t narrowed down what that reason is yet. I’ve always thought that it could be a burial site, or possibly it’s the site where the Spanish buried their silver bars. It could be a direction marker or even a path marker. One thing I will tell you is that this area needs more investigation, there just wasn’t anything more we could do with just the two of us. Reluctantly, we moved on and have only returned to the site one other time because we were told by another person (unrelated to the original story) to look south of the area because supposedly, 40 years ago, a rancher from the nearby area had found some strange stone formation that sounded like it could be a possible arrastra or smelter.
SPANISH TREE CARVING
This Ponderosa pine tree has been dated back close to 500 years old and it is the only one in the area for miles. That alone is interesting to me, not necessarily treasure hunting worthy by itself, but it makes sense that it would have been the perfect tree for the Spanish to use to carve treasure symbols on it to show a direction or distance. This was a common practice that was used so that other Spaniards could locate the treasure or mine area for years to come. They would navigate by using a map that had been drawn out and using natural landmarks for clues to point the person in a specific direction. Oftentimes, as you near the area of the destination, they would leave man-made clues to let the person know they were on the right path and getting closer. I performed a field test called the “finger test” in 2012 on this tree. The finger test is a way to get a rough measurement and age of the symbols carved into a tree. My results came back that the carvings were around 300 years old, which does in fact, go along with the time frame of the Paiute Indian story.
After careful inspection of the symbols, I discovered knife marks on the trunk of the tree. The bark, once it is cut, can become deformed and overgrown, but the trunk will never change. To see the knife marks, one would have to cut away the bark to see what’s underneath, but then that would destroy the symbol and the way it looks today. Before something like that can be done, the tree would have to be documented very well, so the evidence would not be lost.
For years I have wondered what I would see if I cut away the bark, but there’s always the chance that the carver didn’t carve the symbols deep enough to fully mark the trunk. It’s been a hard decision to make so reluctantly, I’ve had to put a pin in it, and have not done anything yet. I am big on the preservation of important locations and areas of interest and am only willing to alter clues in a controlled environment.
The black marks on my hand in this pic are from the finger test. I used my hand as a measurement to see how deep the symbols are embedded into the tree from the bark. The three symbols below were measured with a measuring tape and a straight edge.
6 MILES AWAY AS A CROW FLIES
After these discoveries, Brandon and I scouted the surrounding area for months and only found 3 rock monuments and the tree carvings. We also found a natural blowhole near the symbol tree about a mile away. I was told by Stephen B. Shaffer, that an old rancher had told him in the 1980s that there was an old arrastra in the same area of the discoveries Brandon and I had found. Strangely, I had a dream one night that let on that Brandon and I were looking in the wrong area and that we needed to search deeper into the wilderness; we needed to be looking further East than where we were. I felt that my dream was telling me that the clues we had found must have been trail markers to point a direction and distance. In my dream, I saw an area that we had not explored before, so the next chance we got, Brandon and I hopped in the car and drove down a dirt road that was on the opposite side of the mountain range we had been exploring and researching.
We approached an area that stuck out to me and grabbed my attention. It was odd because I had never gone down this road before, but something felt right about it and although the road did not end and continued, I felt like we should stop and look around. I pulled over, we grabbed our gear and were just putting on our backpacks when I looked up and saw it! I saw an old structure hidden in the trees and barely visible from where we were standing. There was vegetation of the wilderness growing all around it. I looked at Brandon and said, “That’s old! I don’t know what it is, but it’s old!” He looked up to where I was pointing and got a huge smile on his face. It was about a football field away from where we were standing next to the car. We both looked at each other and we both had that same big grin, the one of excitement and accomplishment. It was already a victory and we didn’t even know what it was, but we knew it was something good.
We raced down the dry creek and as we got closer, I could see the age of the structure, and the vegetation growing around it was definitely old, nothing modern. It was a circled structure with a small opening at the bottom, facing the direction of what was once a stream. At the time, I wasn’t 100% certain it was what we thought it was, but we were pretty sure it was a smelter or kiln. Once we got home, I did some thinking, and I remembered that the kilns I’d found in the past, always had rounded ceilings, but this structure did not appear to have ever had a rounded ceiling. For the next few months, I made some calls and spent my time researching similar structures.
SINCE THE DISCOVERY
I have returned to the site many times to gain more knowledge, but on one trip, I went out to see what I could find out about whether the smelter was ever in operation. The Smelter, at first appeared to show little use by looking at the rock walls inside. But the soil on the floor revealed a lot of charcoal, like a fire pit, both inside and out of the smelter. Another observation I made was that some of the rocks for the structure were not common to find in the area. In fact, we still haven’t found any of these black and grey-looking rocks in particular within the area today.
Just a few feet away from the area of the charcoal, in the dry riverbed, I found a rock that appeared to be out of place. It was in the riverbed by itself and stood out from the others, just a few feet away from the small opening at the bottom of the smelter. Once I rolled the rock over, I knew I had found what I was looking for… Proof of the smelter being used, but not only that, used to melt down minerals. The rock showed signs of slag on it, this is something you should find when the smelter has been used. For those who are unfamiliar with what “slag” is, it’s basically the stony waste matter that has separated from valuable metals during a smelting process. What would happen is they would pour out the worthless remainder of hot liquid during smelting and the separation of ore etc. and once it cools down, it gets hard and reveals strange colors and textures. I had the slag examined, and it was determined that silver was present in the slag. This was another great find and it coincides with the story of the Spanish and Indian slaves. At this point, I knew that this structure was a smelter, and there was a good possibility that it could be related to the Indian story of the Spanish.
Once you become familiar with treasure hunting and finding smelters, you will learn that smelters will usually be within 0-3 miles of the mine’s location. Because of this newfound information, the hunt was on! We had found what I ended up naming, “ground zero” and now we needed to start a radius search from the smelter. We visited the location site several times, almost every weekend for months looking for the mine entrance(s). During that time, we found more clues but one thing that I feel is worth mentioning is that we noticed, in a 3-football field-sized area surrounding the smelter, there were hundreds of old dead tree stumps that appeared to have been chopped by axes. Curiously, all the tree stumps looked incredibly old and brittle and nearly all of them were also close to the same width as each other. These “could be” perfect size for my props, or perhaps they were the trees they cut down to fuel the fire.
ANOTHER CLUE THAT POINTS TO ANOTHER IMPORTANT STRUCTURE
I fully believe this old tree stump is a follow marker. A directional indicator points the way to something that could be important and valuable. I have seen others like this one though not necessarily on a Jupiter Tree but a similar type of treasure clue, nevertheless. This was an incredibly old Jupiter tree that dates back hundreds of years. I followed the cut branch because it pointed to a canyon down the slope from the smelter. We hiked about 1 ½ mile, following the running river into the canyon. To my surprise, it appeared that we may have been following right along an old trail. It was faint, but it felt and looked like an old trail that had been heavily traveled at one time. Once Brandon, my brother Scott and I reached the mouth of an even deeper canyon, we followed it for about 2000 feet and found a rock structure that looked old. It had remarkably similar building methods as the smelter did in my opinion, and there was a faint old horse trail that continued into this narrow canyon. The rock structure looked like a possible retainer wall that was built to protect the trail from erosion.
After closely examining the structure, I still cannot figure out if it was a working platform and retainer wall, or something else… Still today I believe this trail was used and created by the Spanish and their Indian slaves, perhaps while traveling back and forth with the ore from the mine. This canyon and wall structure needs to be researched and I have not returned due to heavy vegetation and difficulty entering this narrow canyon. I will return to it again one day and I have learned and know so much more now than what I knew then. I completely believe this wall is a big clue and one that will eventually point us in the right direction of finding the lost silver mines.
FINDING A SILVER SOURCE
After finding the trail wall structure, I decided to conduct a prospecting test in the river that runs through it to see if minerals were present. Brandon and I searched around the area all day long and noticed a lot of minerals in the sandbanks of the river in many different places. We found a spot in the river that had a shiny riverbank and I used my shovel and a few tools to obtain a small sample from the topsoil. I had the sample assayed and the test results came back reporting extremely high in silver and titanium. In fact, the company I had sent the sample to, Spectro from Las Vegas, mentioned that if I only grabbed topsoil, then I needed to go back and this time dig about 6 feet in the ground and take a mineral sample from there. I have not done that yet.
He went on to explain that if we dig deeper, the test results should be much greater and if we get a higher assay test result, we should stake a claim and sell/lease the land to someone, and could make a profit. This has also not been conducted yet. I mostly just wanted to see if high amounts of silver were present in the area. I feel that once again, I had found evidence that further backed up the Indian’s story.
At this point, I felt like we had found enough information and evidence to say that we were definitely in the right area and now all we needed to do was locate the two rich silver mines. I went out and bought the equipment and supplies that I felt were necessary to be successful. Believe it or not, at the time I did not own a metal detector that I felt was worthy of the task, so I got right on that and got myself one. It completely paid off because since then, I have found artifacts in this area that are worth enough to justify my time and expenses. Unfortunately, I will not speak at this time of the artifacts I have found (for obvious reasons that many treasure hunters will understand) but I can tell you, that they go along with the Indian story enough to convince me that the mine and the silver bars are still out there somewhere.
We did find a mine, but I don’t think this one had anything to do with the Spanish because it appeared to be more recent, like in the early 1900s. History shows that a vein of coal was discovered in 1903 and mining did startup in that area. This took place a few miles up the canyon from the smelter. In many of the areas of interest I’ve worked on in the past, I have learned that if a mine from the 1800s–1900s was started up, many of those were discovered only due to someone finding ancient mine prospects or working in the same area (Spanish or even more ancient than that) and from there, they would either reopen the old mine or start a new mine where they had found mineral veins.
FINDING THE SPANISH ARRASTRA IN 2012
The arrastra in this picture has been reconstructed many times throughout the years by the Forest Service and now it is on display with a false plaque stating it was built by the pioneers. The Mormons found coal and started a huge mine in the late 1800s. The forest Service plaque is suggesting that they built the arrastra to crush the mineral to make bricks for housing and buildings nearby. I strongly disagree with the Forest Service on this one and it’s not the first time I do not agree with their claims. For one thing, I have visited many mining camps and ghost towns in the Western states and I have not seen an Arrastra anywhere else like this one. I’ve spent many years researching and exploring, and I can tell you that this type of ore crusher is of a European style. Not saying that someone from Europe did not teach the Mormons how to construct an arrastra, but it is an old method that was not used much in North America from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Just to be clear, this is not 100% fact, this is my own personal beliefs based on my own research and experience.
I hope you have enjoyed this story of treasure and lost history. I would like to help other people in their own adventures or even a continuation of mine. I try to educate those who are interested in what to learn and how to look for lost history. There are many ways stories like this can be approached, this is just one of them. From treasure symbols to lost caches, buried or hidden you can find them, and they ARE in North America. You just need to know what to look for and be in the right place by using historical research, and documents, and looking past the history you have been taught.
The Treasures in America team is still currently working on this historical site and if you have any information or would like to get involved, please contact us. To see more of our treasures sites, blogs, and videos you can follow us on social media and Youtube. If you are looking to be outfitted with the right gear for treasure hunting, please visit our online store where we can help you with a metal detector, accessories, and prospecting gear. There are many treasure hunting books and treasure hunting guides to help you get started.
Good Luck. Be Safe. Find Your Adventure.
Written by Timothy Draper | Founder of Treasures in America & Uncharted Expeditions
Edited by Brenda Dopp
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