Reports of Gold in the Guadalupes goes all the way
General Lew Wallace, Civil War Hero and
Governor of New Mexico, who claimed that he found an ancient document in the
Palace of Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. The document indicated that
Indians had guided Spaniards to a gold mine in the Guadalupe Mountains.
This was back in the 1600's. Supposedly all the Spaniards who knew where
the mine was were killed in an Indian uprising. So this story does not
give many clues, expect that the mine is in the general vicinity of the
Guadalupe Mountains. Today, when we hear of the Guadalupe's we naturally
think of the distinctive Guadalupe Peak. As I think about this story
though, I am not sure how broad this area might have been, at the time
the document was written. In my mind, the term Guadalupe Mountains might
have referred to a general area, not as specific as what think of today.
There are a number of spurs, or smaller ranges coming off of Guadalupe
This story was pretty widely distributed in the
1800's, and during the latter half of that century there were people
actively looking for this lost Indian/Spanish mine. If you have ever
visited the Guadalupe Mountains, the first thing you probably noticed is
how beautiful they are. They just sort of pop up out of the desert. The
second thing you probably notice is how remote they are. The only two
towns of any size nearby are Carlsbad, in New Mexico, and Van Horn, in
Culberson County Texas. Both of the towns are some distance away. So, in
the late 1800's this would have been an even more remote, and
inhospitable place. In particular, large areas south of the Guadalupes
have no water to this day.
During the latter part of the 1800's, the area was active with Indians.
The Apache were among the last Indians to submit to life on the
reservation, and the area of the Guadalupe mountains was one of their
last haunts. Their chief,
Geronimo, often claimed
that the richest gold mine in the western world lay hidden in the
Guadalupe Mountains. I heard once of a frontier family moving out to a
ranch south of the Guadalupe Mountains in the late 1800's. As they were
approaching a watering spot, they saw an Indian jump up from beside the
watering hole, jump on his horse, and ride off. When they approached the
watering hole themselves, they found a gold nugget there beside the
water. They speculated that it had been dropped by the Indian. This
story would also reinforce the idea that there was gold in the area, and
that the Apache knew where it was.
While there were many white prospectors looking for
the mine, Ben Sublett is believed to have found it.
Sublett had been prospecting in various places in the
West. At one point he ended up near Monahans Texas. Sublett's wife died, in the 1870's. His family lived in a
tent in Monahans, and he did odd jobs to try and support his family.
Sublett then began to prospect in the nearest mountain range of any
size, the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas. Sublett continued to
prospect the Guadalupes, with little or no luck. It is possible he
was helped by, or at least friendly with the Apache. He eventually
moved to Odessa Texas.
Sublett became the town character of Odessa because of his non-stop
search for treasure. Few took him seriously until one day he
showed up in Odessa with a pouch full of gold and buying drinks for he
There are many eye-witnesses in Odessa at the time that reported seeing
Sublett's gold and his free spending on drinks for the whole town.
It is well documented that over the remainder of Sublett's life, he
always had gold, and whenever he was running low on money, he would
disappear for a few days and then reappear with more gold. It is
reported that he generally would bring back about $1,000 dollars of gold
at a time, which would be about 3 years salary for a working man of that
There are countless stories of people trying to track
Sublett and find the location of his secret mine, but it is generally
believed that no one ever successfully followed him.
When Sublett would disappear, he might be gone for
only a few days, and he might be gone for months. Some confusion
has been generated over the fact that on occasion Sublett would leave,
and return after only a few days with Gold. As a result, people
have speculated that the mine must be further east of the Guadalupes,
since he would not be able to make it all the way to the mountains in
the time he was gone. It is much more likely that he would
periodically make a trip to the mountains, retrieve a large horde of
gold, and then "hide" it somewhere closer to home. With this
system, Sublett would minimize the chance of anyone finding his mine,
and his short trips out of town were not a major expedition to the
Guadalupe's but likely a leisurely camping trip to wherever he
had his horde stashed. Worst case, someone would only be able to find
his horde, and not the mine that was the source of his wealth. It
is possible that he had gold cached at different locations in the area,
or even at various caches between the Guadalupes and Odessa.
It has been reported even that a banker in Midland
paid a person to track Sublett to try and find the location of his
mine. It is generally believed that no one successfully followed
Sublett to his mine.
Sublett held his secret closely, and appeared to be
somewhat bitter, even after having found the mine. He had worked
hard to find it, and appeared to be bitter over the prospect of anyone
sharing in the gold that had not paid the dues that he had.
Even so, on occasion, Sublett would share some
"clues" with his friends or acquaintances. It is reported that he
once gave specific directions to Mike Wilson, and that Mike Wilson
actually found the mine, brought gold back to town, and went on a
drinking binge. After the binge, he forgot the location of the
mine, and was never able to find it again. As I hear this story, I
wonder if he was actually taken to the mine itself, or possibly just one
of the smaller chaches.
It is also reported that on occasion, Ben Sublett actually took his
small boy, Ross to the mine. There are stories from people living in the
area that Ross could be seen wandering the Guadalupe Mountains vicinity
searching for the mine that his father had taken him to as a small
child. There are no reports that he was ever successful in locating the
Sublett died in 1892 and is buried in Odessa.
These are the "Facts"
as generally accepted today among treasure hunters:
Ben Sublett was a true, historical figure, not a
Ben Sublett had an unexplained, significant
source of wealth.
Ben Sublett lived in West Texas, in Monahans, and
Ben Sublett would sometimes disappear from town,
and would return with gold.
The source of the Gold was likely a lost Spanish
or Indian Mine.
Sublett likely had a "special" relationship with
the Apache Indians. He frequented the area of the Guadalupe
Mountains in a time when the Apaches were still hostile in that
The Gold Mine is likely somewhere in Culberson
County Texas, or in Southern New Mexico
The Gold Mine is likely in the general vicinity
of the Guadalupe Mountain Range.
All of these facts have been widely reported and