Over $1,000,000 was taken from the Mexican mint in Monterrey, and lies buried somewhere near Dead Man’s Springs in far West Texas. Historians call it “well-authenticated,” while those who have searched for it call it the “best-hidden” treasure in the Southwest.
The men limping into Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, attracted no attention. To all appearance they were just another bunch of traders. Their faces were heavily bearded and they were covered with dirt from many days on the trail. It was easy to see that their string of mules had come a long way, carrying heavy loads.
The mules were packing several tons of guano the men had gathered in the famed bat caves just south of Presidio Crossing on the Rio Grande. True, the bat dung didn’t glitter like precious metals of gold or silver, but it nonetheless was nothing to be sneezed at in 1879. It would fetch the men $100 a ton in Monterrey, but more important, it would give them a legitimate reason for being in the Mexican city.
Evening was at hand when the men reached the edge of the city. A pleasant breeze had started to come in off Saddle Mountain in the distance, and the streets were filled with people venturing out now that the hot sun was lowering.
The men and their pack train passed through the sandy streets, yelling and waving their arms trying to keep back the kids who darted in and out among the mules. Off to one side of the center of town they came to a large market place and unloaded their cargo. Before night they had sold the guano. After hobbling the mules nearby they set out to get something to eat. And after that they planned to conclude the rest of their business — which was robbing the federal mint.
This fearless band of outlaws was made up of members of the notorious Estrada gang, but for this operation the leaders and brains were Jim Hughes, Zwing Hunt, Doc John Neal and a killer known variously as Sandy King or Red Curley.
Plans for the robbery had been made many weeks earlier, when the gang had holed up around Fort Davis, Texas. To equip themselves for the venture, they had attacked soldiers at the fort, cutting down more than a dozen of them when they surprised them without arms. They had plundered the army post of guns, various stores and a string of husky mules.
Then they had cautiously set out across the Rio Grande, stopping long enough to load the mules with guano which would provide them with a cover when they reached Monterrey some 400 miles away.
The robbery went off without a bitch. There was no bungling. The mint was cleaned out of more than $1,000,000 without anyone in the city knowing it until long after the bandits had fled.
The badmen bad loaded up with tequila before going over to the mint. Finding a pair of guards outside, they started a conversation and gave them a few healthy swings of the fiery tequila.
“Ah!” said one of the guards, smacking his lips. “This tequila must be the finest in all Mexico. We are very fortunate that you came along.))
The other grinned.
“Si, the night is long without anyone to talk to,” he said. “We thank you very much for this social drink.”
“Wal, take another drink with us,” said Hughes. “We’re just celebratin’ a successful little business deal in town, and you fellows might as well join in.”
The guards grinned and one of them reached for the bottle. The other guard turned to the door of the mint and pounded on it. When it cracked, he told the face appear.
“Ramon, get the others and come out into the pleasant night. We have some friends and they want us to celebrate a business venture with them.”
Outside the mint the voices grew louder as the night progressed. Every now and then someone would burst into song, and there were many embraces of the Americanos from the north. It was finally agreed that in order to repay the Americanos for their fine hospitality, the guards would conduct them on a private tour of the mint.
“That’s mighty obligin’ of you”, said Doc. “I always did want to see inside a mint. Come on, fellows, let’s take ‘em up on their offer.”
As their hosts opened the door, the bandits followed them inside. Carefully, the door was closed.
“This way, amigos. Follow — ”
The Mexican never finished the sentence as the bandits whipped out their pistols and cut them down in a matter of seconds. So unexpected had been their act that the Mexicans never had time to cry out.
One of the gang members sprinted out of the mint after the mules. The others began stacking sacks of silver bars just inside the door. In a short while the mules were loaded with all they could carry. Closing the door behind them, the bandits stepped out into the darkened street and departed.
Going out the same streets through which they had entered the city, they passed a church and ransacked it of several sacks of rubies and priceless gold and silver artifacts. Then they went on through the city.
Soon they were into the open, heading for the wide desert that lay between them and the Rio Grande.
They were many miles away before the slain guards were discovered. Authorities were baffled. They had no idea who had done it. Nor did they have the faintest idea where to begin looking for the thieves.
They looked at one another and shook their heads.
Why, it was just unbelievable that the mint had been robbed!
But when they looked at the riddled bodies in their pools of blood, the empty bins of silver, there was no doubt about it. None whatever.
Keeping their eyes peeled for Mexican soldiers, the bandits took the pack train through high mountain passes and across burning desert flats. Generally they retraced the route they had taken down from the Rio Grande. But when they approached the river on the return trip, they cut off from the trail and crossed the stream at Reagan Canyon. They followed the canyon until they came to a pass which took them to El Muerto Springs, (Dead Man’s Spring) about 32 miles west of Fort Davis.
Then they set about hiding the rich trove.
But first the ringleaders had one more chore to do. Cold-bloodedly, they shot the Mexican bandits, including the famed Estrada, who had helped them pull off the spectacular robbery.
At Dead Man’s Springs the bandits excavated a large hole and temporarily buried the Monterrey silver bars. Then, taking some of the rubies from the church robbery, they rode to El Paso for some hell raising and from there rode to Arizona Territory where they committed a string of crimes ranging from stage holdups to the waylaying Of ]one travelers.
Not until 1881 — two years after they bad buried the trove — did they return to Dead Man’s Springs. With them they brought four Mexican miners they had hired to cut down through 100 feet of solid rock.
When the miners had finished the hole, they were murdered and tossed into it, along with the silver and other valuables the gang had gathered in Monterrey. Using gravel and water, the robbers mixed a sort of cement and seated the hole.
By now word had spread that they had succeeded in robbing the mint, and lawmen everywhere were hunting for them. Again they headed west, but this time none returned to the treasure site.
Before many months passed, all had come to a violent end except Hughes. He is said to have vanished in New Mexico, where, if that is where he did go, he wisely stayed. He never returned to the vicinity of the buried treasure,
Down over the years the treasure has been searched for. Researchers are convinced it lies buried somewhere around El Muerto Springs. Historians call it one treasure that is well authenticated. And treasure buffs who have searched for it call it the best hidden treasure in the Southwest, as well as one of the richest