Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier. By Patrick Dearen. Foreword by Elmer
Kelton. (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1988.
Pp. xviii+216. Foreword, preface, maps, illustrations, notes, index.
The Pecos frontier, the land roughly delineated between San Angelo
and the eastern edge of the Davis Mountains in far West Texas, is a
land whose history and folklore have become so intertwined as to be
Patrick Dearen proves himself a worthy successor to J. Frank Dobie
in Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier. He concerns himself with six places
in West Texas and the history and folklore of each. The six places are
connected loosely by geographic proximity and a common theme of
The places included range from natural features to an 1859 house to
a gold mine that may or may not exist. Castle Gap, a break in a mesa
twelve miles east of the Pecos River in Upton County, was traveled by
Spaniards, California gold seekers, surveyors, cattle drovers, and oth-
ers, leaving behind rumors of gold and various other hidden treasures.
Horsehead Crossing was used by cattle drovers, emigrants, and stage
lines to cross the treacherous Pecos River. Juan Cordona Lake is a vast
brine lake where people from Mexico to Central Texas once mined for
salt. The Sutlery at Fort Stockton, perhaps the oldest building in town,
houses El buto (a dark shape or specter). The Lost Wagon Train was a
burned wagon train, perhaps that of returning California gold seekers,
presumably hidden by the sand dunes near Monahans. The Lost Mine
of Will Sublett was a mine, or perhaps an illusion, searched for by West
Texans for years.
Dearen spent years traveling the Pecos frontier, talking to its people,
researching its sources. The result is a finely crafted book combining
oral history with material from written records. Dearen treats his sub-
ject with respect. In dealing with hidden treasure and ghosts, he is nei-
ther credulous nor cynical. He obviously enjoys writing about treasure
hunters, past and present. One of the most engrossing accounts in the
book is that of the Lost Gold Mine of Will Sublett. In it Dearen recounts
with perception the effects of hidden treasure on those who search for
it without success. Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier is an enjoyable and
well-written addition to the history and folklore of West Texas.
Sul Ross State University JUDITH A. PARSONS
Elmer Kelton and West Texas: A Literary Relationship. By Judy Alter. (Den-
ton: University of North Texas Press, 1989. Pp. 161. Introduction,
conclusion, bibliography, index. $19.95.)
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/. Accessed September 3, 2015.