The Texas Historian, Volume 40, Number 4, March 1980 Page: 17
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Castle Gap, as seen from U.S. Highway 385
north of McCamey, is formed by Castle Moun-
tain (L) and King Mountain (R). All photo-
graphs courtesy of author.
times a week-San Francisco to Saint Louis and
return. (Other stops on the route, east of
Castle Gap, were Wild China Pond, Flat Rock,
Centralia, and Llano.) Just north of the Castle
Gap stop lie the remains of Upland, the first
county seat of Upton County.
Travelers were not limited to civilized, or at
least cultured, people. Cowboys made use of
Castle Gap when they led herds of cattle
across the dry West Texas countryside. Also an
old Comanche war trail ran through the gap,
and many tribes used the pass in their travels.
As busy as it was, Castle Gap of the late
nineteenth century was a dangerous place. In
1890, for example, a young cowboy named
Will Landrum was murdered by two Mexi-
cans who had stolen a saddle from a ranch
near San Antonio. Countless other murders
took place because of ambushes by Indians and
outlaws hidden there. This led to one of the
most fascinating aspects of Castle Gap.
There are many stories of treasure hidden in
the gap. One is that a special shipment of gold
and rifles was ambushed on its way to San
Antonio from El Paso by thieves who buried it
there. Also the "Catholic Cross" treasure is
allegedly buried in Castle Gap. Consisting of
gold bars and diamonds from the Catholic
church of Mexico City, the treasure was re-
moved for safekeeping when a revolution
threatened. Another story concerns an old
Mexican who, running from the Texas Ran-
gers, came upon some silver bars in a cave.
The list goes on and on, as far back as one
wishes to search.
One treasure, however, overshadows all
others. Five million dollars in paper money,
gold, and jewels are supposedly hidden in
Castle Gap. In order to understand the events
that led to that burial, one must explore the
history of Mexico in the 1860s.
Mexico, a country well known for its revolu-
tions, was taken over by France in May, 1863.
Napoleon III, emperor of France at that time,
wanted Mexico for its raw materials and na-
tural resources. French troops occupied Mexi-
co City, and Napoleon III chose the archduke
of Austria, Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph to be
At age thirty-two, Maximilian and his wife,
Carlotta, began a new life in Mexico City.
Both the United States and the Confederate
States closely( watched developments. Although
there was strong antislavery feeling in France,
Napoleon was known to be sympathetic to the
William McKendree Gwin, who had been
run out of the United States because of ques-
tions about his loyalty, arrived in France soon
after the takeover. He had heard of abandoned
gold mines in Sonora. which he wanted to re-
He persuaded the French minister to Mexi-
co, the Marquis de Montholon, to help him.
The marquis got in touch with Count Mercier,
the former minister to the United States, and
Duc de Morny, and enlisted their support.
Gwin then had the necessary backing to ap-
proach Napoleon III with his ideas. The em-
peror of France was hesitant but eventually
gave permission. Gwin traveled to Mexico,
jubilant with success. He met with Maximil-
ian, and the "operator and the Emperor" be-
gan making plans for the colonization and
mining of Sonora.
Maximilian's Mexican advisers were against
the plan, because they felt Gwin intended to
incite war between Mexico and the United
States. Maximilian, Napoleon's puppet, ig-
nored his advisers and, leaving the Sonora pro-
ject in Gwin's hands, proceeded to tour Mexi-
co, viewing ruins and practicing taxidermy.
Maximilian's vacation set in motion the
events which led to his downfall. Aware of the
rising dispute over the Sonora project and the
absence of Maximilian, Benito Juarez, a Mexi-
can revolutionary, began plotting to overthrow
the French government in Mexico. Gwin was
aware of the beginnings of turmoil and, in a
letter to his wife in May, 1865, he wrote,
"With... the Emperor wandering through the
country stuffing birds, public business is at a
Gwin himself, however, created quite a stir
in international politics when he announced
his choice for colonists of the Sonora region-
Californians, for mining purposes, and ex-Con-
federate soldiers. The United States pressured
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Texas State Historical Association. The Texas Historian, Volume 40, Number 4, March 1980, periodical, March 1980; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth391511/m1/19/: accessed August 12, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.