A. S. Lowery signed on with the Texas Rangers in 1875, the state
paid its frontier lawmen $30 a month.
At some point during Lowery’s half-year of service with famed Capt.
Leander H. McNeely, an old Mexican man came to him seeking help.
His son had been stabbed to death, the man told the Ranger. If Lowery
could catch the killer, the old man continued, he would make the
Back in those days, peace officers routinely supplemented their
pay with rewards offered for the arrest of wanted criminals. But
the grieving father offered the Ranger another sort of incentive:
a map leading to a horde of lost silver.
The old man told the Ranger the treasure dated to 1825, when as
a youth of 13 his family and a few others came from the border to
what is now Caldwell County (the closest community back then was
Gonzales) to mine
for silver. He said the second shaft they dug revealed a vein of
silver ore near the later community of Iron Mountain.
The miners had produced 43 bars of the precious metal when a rider
informed them that hostile Indians had been seen in the area. Knowing
they did not have enough manpower to defend themselves, the miners
sealed the shaft with two large flat stones they covered with smaller
rocks and brush and then started packing to leave the area the following
Unfortunately for the miners and their families, the Indians attacked
their camp that night. All the men died and the women and children
were taken captive. He had been one of the captives, the “viejo”
continued in his account to the Ranger.
The 13-year-old eventually escaped from the Indians and settled
near El Paso
where he married and raised a crop of children, including the son
who got murdered.
Just how seriously Lowery took the old man is not known, but the
Ranger’s descendants later claimed he caught the killer. Lowery
made the arrest when the man identified as the murderer crossed
the Rio Grande into Texas near Del
Rio to attend a Diaz y Seis celebration.
When he learned that the Ranger had apprehended his son’s killer,
who reportedly got life in prison for his crime, the old man looked
up the lawman and handed him a crudely drawn map to the old mine.
Lowery (state records show he served from June 22 to Dec. 20, 1875)
must not have put much stock in the document. His nephew, Harvey
King, said in a 1937 newspaper interview that Lowery never made
any effort to find the treasure. But in his dotage, the former Ranger
got to thinking about the long-ago incident.
In the early 1930s, King told his uncle that if he would give him
the map, he would try to find the treasure. If he succeeded, he
said, he would split it with him 50-50.
“He refused,” King told the reporter, “saying he would visit me
in a few weeks and we would make the search [together]…but about
the time he was to arrive I received a telegram he had died.”
The wire came on Oct. 1, 1930.
King either got the map from someone else in the family, or got
an oral rundown on the vicinity of the supposed mine, because he
visited the site in 1935.
He had no trouble finding a rock smelter and an old mine shaft that
had been closed with dynamite. He saw signs that someone had been
digging in the area, but found nothing.
King died in 1951. Various people have tried to find the silver
since then, but if anyone ever succeeded, it went unreported.
the story of the supposed Caldwell County silver mine is probably
just another folk tale, there is one major difference in this one.
Most treasure stories lack any physical evidence, save for the holes
dug in search of supposed caches, but in this case, there are traces
of the mine. Or something old. I got permission to visit the site
back in the mid-1970s and found a few pieces of slag, the waste
product of a smelting operation.
A researcher who gained access to the site in 2002 documented what
appeared to be a horizontal shaft called an adit and the remnants
of an L-shaped smelter constructed of cut sandstone. Someone using
a metal detector found a few pieces of metal in the area, but no
The major problem with the site has to do with metallurgy. It would
have taken tons of ore to produce 43 bars of silver. All the slag
from that would have been near the smelter, but there is very little.
Even though it does not appear that any precious metal came out
of the mine, no one has been able to determine the purpose of the
smelter. Since some iron ore can be found in the area, it might
have been an early-day iron works. But again, where’s all the slag?
Unless someone stumbles on the silver, the real treasure of Caldwell
County can be found in nearby Lockhart
– the barbecued brisket and sausage at Kreuz Market.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" June
18, 2009 column