Texas is full of legends, mysteries, and folklore. Just beneath the surface of
the Pineywoods, buried treasure is said to be scattered. There may not have been
pirates roaming about the region, but over the years plenty of booty was left
behind in East Texas. |
of the many fortunes left behind is believed to be in southern Anderson County.
Mexican gold bars, gold coins and jewels have eluded treasure hunters for well
over a century, but some still believe there is buried treasure in Elkhart,
Today, little remains of the pre-Civil War settlement known
as Pilgrim Community just outside the city limits of present day Elkhart.
An old church and an even older graveyard bring back dim memories of days gone
by. A replica of a Spanish mission has also been erected on the property in recent
years. Pilgrim Church was reputed to be the first Protestant church in Texas.
tales of buried treasure in Elkhart
originated deep within the heart of Mexico.
A powerful and wealthy Mexican landowner and politician had a beautiful daughter
named Felicia. Felicia had fallen madly in love with a peasant boy, which her
father found to be a disgrace to the family name; Cortez. Felicia’s father was
furious after learning of her love affair with the peasant. He was so angry that
his own daughter had defiled his family name and embarrassed him that he tied
the boy to a fence post and beat him to death and banished his daughter from his
home land. |
To ensure that Felicia could no longer bring shame upon him
or their family he sent her to a convent within the Mission
San Francisco de la Tejas, near the Neches
River in East Texas. The mission
had been established to convert and serve the local Indians. A convent had also
been added, and approximately a dozen nuns resided within the mission.
Cortez financed his daughter’s journey to the north with a chest of jewels, and
the remainder he ordered to be donated to the mission upon her arrival.
Felicia did not have any interest or desire to become a nun and live at the convent
at the mission in East Texas. She
had already formulated a plan to make a new life for herself, not her father,
in Texas. She envisioned herself building a fine
home on some land in Texas and raising horses. She
believed she could become an influential force in Texas
as her father had been in Mexico.
night before she left Felicia took enough of her father’s gold bars and gold coins
to load down five burrows. The next morning she set out on her journey with five
faithful servants, five pack mules, and her new wealth.
journey was long and hard. Day after day, Felicia and her small party trudged
across the rugged desert terrain. After several weeks of hard travel Felicia and
her crew crossed the Rio Grande into Texas; however,
the journey was far from over. Soon they would have to cross the Nueces, San Antonio,
Colorado, and finally the Trinity rivers.
Not long after Felicia and her
band of followers crossed the Trinity River she ordered her servants to set up
camp. The next day when Felicia awoke she informed the group that a search for
the perfect place to settle would begin. The group was in no big hurry after their
long journey and wandered slowly through the Pineywoods searching for a perfect
site for their future home.
According to legend, the group was weary from
their long journey and decided to stop and take a little nap. As the group was
basking and napping in the warm Texas sun, they suddenly fell under attack by
a band of Indians.
The Indians emerged from the nearby woods. War whoops
and screams filled the air, along with dozens of arrows aimed for Felicia and
her crew. One of the servants was killed immediately by an arrow through his neck.
Felicia and her remaining servants returned fire on the Indians with their muskets
and drove them back into the woods.
The Indians began to rally in the woods
to launch a second attack on the group. The Mexicans quickly began to gather rocks
and logs to construct a crude fort to shield them from the Indian’s arrows. As
Felicia’s servants hurried to build a structure to protect them Felicia was searching
frantically for a place to hide her fortune.
The Indians attacked the
group again, but were repelled once more. This time one Mexican was severely wounded,
and two Indians perished. As the Indians retreated, Felicia ordered one of the
remaining servants to help her bury her fortune near the edge of their camp.
and the servant knew the clock was ticking as they hastily buried the treasure
in a shallow trench. Just as the two were covering the gold bars and jewels with
pine needle and other forest debris, the Indians attacked for the third and final
time. Felicia disappeared into the pine forests as her servant rushed to the aid
of his friends. Felicia fled quickly knowing her few servants could not hold off
the large force of Indians. Felicia knew that she had to find the mission. As
she ran deeper into the pines, she could hear the screams of her faithful servants
as they were slaughtered by the Indians.
Felicia wandered eastward through
the Pineywoods for three days, until she finally found the Mission
of San Francisco de las Tejas, located in the area known today as Weches.
senorita stumbled into the mission with tattered, blood soaked clothing and frightened
out of her mind. She had waded through deep creeks, through the thick dark pines,
undetected by other Indian tribes in the area, and finally arrived at her original
For three months, Felicia could not speak of the attack and
did not mention the buried treasure. Some believed Felicia had no memory of the
bloody tragedy she witnessed. Others believed she was waiting to recover in the
safety of the mission until she could return to the area where she had buried
her fortune, then carry out her original plan to build a home and start the finest
horse ranch in all of East Texas.
Legend holds that Felicia found true happiness at the mission while she
was waiting to recover. After living at the mission for several years, Felicia
entered the order of nuns at the convent where she spent her days.
Felicia returned to Mexico and reunited with the family she had been estranged
from for all those years she was in East
Texas. She lived out the rest of her days in Mexico
as a nun. Before Felicia died, she confided in one of her relatives about the
events that took place after her father banished her to East
Texas. She also told her relative about the buried treasure and sketched a
detailed map of its whereabouts far away in the pines of East
Felicia’s relatives stored the map away with other family treasures
and keepsakes. It was many years before someone stumbled upon Felicia’s treasure
map stored away in an old family trunk. As the descendants studied the map and
the descriptions scribbled on the map, the old Cortez buried treasure story they
had heard their entire lives took on a new meaning. The family was excited and
immediately formed a search party to travel to East
Texas and reclaim their family fortune.
map told of a land far away in East Texas
that was a wild unsettled pineywood wilderness. Yet, when the Cortez family finally
arrived, at the turn of the century, in the early 1900’s, it was now a settled
location full of homesteads and farms. Much had changed in East
Texas since Felicia had buried her fortune in the shallow trench in Elkhart.
While the Cortez family did not have hostile Indians to contend with,
the curious eyes of settlers who had established the area stared holes through
them as they wandered about looking for the areas Felicia had described. They
excavated and argued for several days around the area believed to be the site
Felicia described. Their dig yielded no Mexican gold bars, coins, or jewels. The
Cortez family left East Texas empty-handed
Stories of Mexican buried treasure spread like wildfire
throughout East Texas. People came
from miles around with shovels in hand to dig for the Mexican fortune; however,
Felicia’s fortune was never found.
|Locals tell tales
of a ghostly nun who roams about the old historic Pilgrim Cemetery near
Elkhart. Some say
this feminine apparition is Felicia Cortez and she is guarding her fortune of
gold bars, coins and jewels. |
No one has ever taken credit for the discovery
of Felicia’s fortune, but locals still reminisce about the buried treasure near
Elkhart, Texas and
those who visit the old Pilgrim Cemetery are always on the lookout for a determined
seniorita who guards her family fortune.
The Pines With Dana Goolsby"
July 11, 2011 Column
from Texas' Past | East Texas
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