Gold Prospecting in Texas
May 5, 2018 | Tom Ashworth
Gold Mining in Texas
I have always been attracted to gold prospecting, treasure hunting, metal detecting and gem collecting. Gold Prospecting in Texas can be hard to do. There are only a few places you can find gold in Texas, but there is a history that dates back to the 1750’s. Most people say that the 1st discovery was on Riley Mountain.
The Spanish discovered silver on Riley Mountain, near present day city of Llano back in 1756. Since then rumors created a mini gold rush to the state of Texas.
In 1838 the New your Mirror published an article about a prospecting trip on the San Saba River that included a mention of “Holy Mountain” or “Enchanted Rock” near the head waters of Sandy Creek. I have personally panned in Sandy Creek a few years ago and find a little gold.
That same year, Comanche Chief Buffalo Hump camped at Enchanted Rock with the White captive Ms. Webster and her two children. After her escape two years later, she told of gold and silver mines, and brilliant stones the Indians possessed that looked like diamonds. The ‘diamonds’ were actually quartz crystals which were found in the area and were, for the Indians, sacred objects. Mrs. Webster’s stories simply confirmed what the Texans already believed: there was gold and silver in the Texas hills.
A British diplomat named William Kennedy visited San Antonio to write about the tales of Texas. Kennedy’s book, Texas: The Rise, Progress and Prospects of the Republic of Texas, published in 1841, made Texas a tourist destination in the 1840’s. His book retold rumors of gold and silver mines in Texas.
Back around the turn of the century a newspaper article was published in San Antonio which was typical of the many legends of lost mines in the area of Llano and San Saba Counties. According to the article D.F. Brooks, “says he has discovered on Riley Mountain, west of the Packsaddle group in Llano County, an old Mexican or Mormon gold mine, and the remains of an old smelter a half mile west of Honey Creek and three miles west of the Packsaddle Mountains. The ledge, he says, is a true fissure, forty-five or fifty feet deep. The mine has a six-foot entrance, and both the foot and hanging walls are “pockety”. In the center an eighteen inch pay streak of decomposed sugar quartz is yellow as gold itself.”
The quantity of gold Texas has produced has been small, but I have found some good spots around the Llano region to run a small dredge. Private Property in Texas must be respected. The following counties contain gold:
- Bastrop County – All Exposures of the Eocene Aged sediments appear to contain finely disseminated gold particles. The gold hunter must use a geological map to locate this auriferous formation.
o Gazley Creek – All along Gazley Creek, in the gravel deposits of the Eocene Age, you can pan some very fine gold. I panned this creek several years back and found about 3 colors per pan average. Dig Deep.
- Blanco County – Gold has been found in a few locations.
o Walnut Creek – The area along Walnut Creek, just south of the Llano County line, in Cambrian conglomerates worked briefly in the 1890’s for placer gold.
- Brewster County – has a rich history of mining.
o The Lost Negro Bill Mine is supposedly located near Reagan Canyon.
o The Lost Ranger Gold Mine is said to be located near Yellow House Peak.
o The Lost Spanish Blanco Mine is also said to be located near Yellow House Peak.
o The Lost Phantom Mine is thought to be located in or near Juniper Canyon.
o A black ledge of gold ore is said to be located in or near Paisano Pass.
o The Lost Haystack Mine is said to be located northwest of Alpine.
o The Lost Gideon Gaines Mine, and a cache of gold ingot from the mine, is located in the Chisos Mountains.
- Caldwell County – All Exposures of the Eocene Aged sediments appear to contain finely disseminated gold particles. The gold hunter must use a geological map to locate this auriferous formation.
- Gillespie County – UT Austin panned gold out of the Sandy below the Enchanted Rock state park, this info found in a book “The Lost San Saba Mine” by C.F. Eckardt. They panned out a couple of hundred (1974ish) dollars of gold. Also was a small mining operation in the northeastern part of the county, about 20 miles from Fredericksburg. This info from UT Bureau of Economic Geology.
- Culberson County – below are a few locations where gold can be found.
o The Lost Quick Killer Mine is thought to be located near Finlay Peak. May also be in Hudspeth County.
o Geronimo supposedly had a gold mine near Finlay Peak. May also be in Hudspeth County.
o The Lost Sublett Mine is said to be located in the Guadalupe Mountains.
o The Lost Apache Gold Mine is located near Manzanita Spring.
o Lucius Arthur’s Lost Mine is thought to be located in the Guadalupe Mountains.
- Gonzales County – All Exposures of the Eocene Aged sediments appear to contain finely disseminated gold particles. The gold hunter must use a geological map to locate this auriferous formation.
- Howard County – All watercourse and terrace gravel deposits have placer gold potential. Exposures of Pre-Cambrian metamorphic rocks in quartz veinlets and pegmatites have minor gold showings. You will need a geology map of the area.
- Hudspeth County – These places may contain gold:
o The Lost Quick Killer Mine is supposedly located near Finlay Peak. May also be in Culberson County.
o Geronimo supposedly had a gold mine near Finlay Peak. May also be in Hudspeth County.
o The Lost Eagle Gold Mine is supposedly located near Eagle Flat.
o The Lost Policarpo Mine is supposedly located in the Guadalupe Mountains. May also be in Culberson County, TX or Otero County, NM.
o Snively’s Lost Mine is said to be located in the Eagle Mountains.
- Irion County – Area exposures of iron stained, decomposed limestone has assays that show presence of minor amounts of gold.
- Llano County – You can find gold in most locations along the Llano River.
- Mason County – In the north part of the county in the Mason Mountains, in the basal gravel and sand deposits of Cretaceous age, especially in the ancient valleys and channels, are possible natural concentrations of placer gold worth prospecting for.
- Presidio County – The Presidio Mine operated from 1880-1942 and was the producer of 90% of all the gold recorded in Texas. The mine was mainly a silver, lead and zinc mine with a byproduct of gold. Other area mines are the Chinati and Montezuma which were worked for lead and silver with a byproduct of gold.
- Taylor County – All watercourse and terrace gravel deposits have placer gold potential. Exposures of Pre-Cambrian metamorphic rocks in quartz veinlets and pegmatites have minor gold showings. You will need a geology map of the area.
- Uvalde County – All limestone exposures have minor gold showings.
- Williamson County – North of Georgetown 20 miles, in weathered outcrops of iron stained limestone, the assays made in 1883 showed presence of good values of gold. This is some real fine gold.
The Lost San Saba Mine
Texas has had numerous old mine tales throughout the years. Probably the most famous is the “Lost San Saba Mine”. The Lost San Saba Mine, believed to be located somewhere within the Menard-San Saba-Llano triangle in the Texas Hill Country, has been the king of Texas treasure stories for more than 200 years.
The story of the Lost San Saba Mine started when Bernardo de Miranda y Flores, a Spaniard, sent a dispatch to Madrid from Texas. He talked about the discovery of a massive rich vein of silver. The note said, “The mines which are in the Cerro Del Almagre (a hill of red ocher) are so numerous that I guarantee to give to every settler of the province of Texas a full claim.”
The Spanish then established a mission near Menard on the western San Saba River and a presidio was established a few miles away. A presidio is a garrison, especially a fortress of the kind established by the Spanish to protect their holdings and missions. The mining was said to be profitable until 1758, when Indians attacked and destroyed the mission. It was abandon after that.
The lure of the silver continued, though, and many searched for the mine, or mines, or hidden caches of silver ingots believed left behind by the Spaniards. The most famous seeker of the treasure was Jim Bowie, who would later find glory in a crumbling mission called the Alamo. He, his brother Rezin and nine other men left San Antonio in 1831 to retrieve the silver. According to some stories, Jim Bowie wanted to use the windfall to help fund the Texas Revolution.
While meandering toward their goal, the adventurers were attacked by more than 100 Indians at Calf Creek in McCulloch County in a skirmish reported to be about 30 miles east of the old mission and presidio. The greatly outnumbered troops took cover, and in the ensuing battle the Texans lost one man, while 50 or so Indians were killed. The Bowie party made its way back to San Antonio, but subsequent historical events prevented a return attempt to seek the fortune.
Short-story writer William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, worked in the Texas General Land Office in Austin in the late 1800s. Information he gleaned there led him to search for the Lost San Saba Mine and to write the short story “Buried Treasure.”
ENCHANTED ROCK COUNTRY
Detailed maps of the Enchanted Rock area indicate, not far to the north, two creeks which feed into Sandy Creek—one is Silver Mine Creek, the other, Gold Mine Creek. Located five miles northeast of Llano is the legendary Heath Mine. Discovered in the early 1890s the mine was in production from 1896 to 1899. During the Civil War several residents of Llano County panned for gold in Sandy Creek earning less than a dollar a day for their efforts. Even Gail Borden, the founder of the Borden milk company once owned a gold mine on Sandy Creek.
According to Roselle M. Girard, “A little gold has been found in the Llano uplift area of central Texas. It occurs in quartz veinlets that cut through some of the Precambrian metamorphic rocks of Llano, Mason, northeastern Gillespie, and west-central Burnet counties.” [Texas Rocks and Minerals.]
“As any placer miner knows, all of the little gold-bearing veinlets and stringers, when eroded over a broad area, can produce enough gold to form important accumulations in placer gravels. Such is the case in the area of the Llano Uplift. Gold can be panned from numerous creeks and gullies in the region. Whenever a stream course flows across outcrops of the Packsaddle Schist, there’s a good chance for finding specks and flakes of gold. Several areas are especially noted for placer gold. The Llano River flows through the region and gold can often be found in bars and banks of the river. In addition, gravels in tributaries of the river, such as the Little Llano River, Pecan Creek, Babyhead Creek, and San Fernando Creek are known to carry gold values.
“Sandy Creek, south of Llano is noted for its placer gold… Tributaries of Sandy Creek, such as Walnut Creek, Comanche Creek, Coal Creek, and Crabapple Creek are also noted for their placer gold. —”Gold in Central Texas,” by Edgar B. Heylmund PhD
If you are like me and love getting outdoors, gold panning is a great family hobby. Hope to see you on the creek!