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
One 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.
The 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, Guadalupe,
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.
Felicia 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
The 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 destination.
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
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
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 and disheartened.
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
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.
© Dana Goolsby
"In The Pines With Dana Goolsby"
July 11, 2011 Column