Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000 Page: 10
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A-BURNING PYRE WHICH IS COMPOSED OF LEAD ORE WITH WOOD 1
B-WORKMAN THROWING ORE INTO ANOTHER AREA. C-OVEN-i
D-OPENINGS THROUGH WHICH THE SMOKE ESCAPES.
LA ^ fter learning of a purported silver strike in Central Texas,
the Spanish provincial governor, Jacinto de Barrios y Jauregui, dispatched
an emissary to assess the validity of the apocryphal claims. Similar stories
had circulated for decades but had never been confirmed, and Barrios eagerly
sought confirmation. The governor appointed Bernardo de Miranda y
Flores to lead the expedition, investing him with the title of lieutenant general.
Miranda had previously visited silver mines in Nuevo Leon in northern
Mexico and was considered well qualified to judge the merits of the
newly reported riches. With a small mounted company of Spanish soldiers
and civilians and a Native American interpreter, Miranda set forth from
what is now San Antonio on February 17, 1756, and returned on March 10,
1756. Throughout this interval, Miranda maintained a daily record of his
route and observations. His relatively detailed journal and subsequent formal
report of findings have survived and provide a fascinating portrait of
early life in Spanish America.
The principal destination of Miranda's fact-finding tour was a site known
as Cerro del Almagre (also called Los Almagres) located north of San Antonio
near the Llano River. Almagre is a Spanish word roughly corresponding
to the English term ocher, and Cerro del Almagre may be translated as
the "Mountain of Ocher." Ocher is a type of rock consisting of concentrated
iron oxide minerals that are sometimes associated with ores of precious
metals. A mine had been opened at Cerro del Almagre three years
before Miranda's expedition, but it had not been operated extensively.
Guided by other members of his party, Miranda reached the Los Almagres
mine on February 26, 1756. After the mine was cleared of rock debris,
Miranda collected a small number of ore samples, which he later submitted
for assay. The assay results were poor, but Miranda remained convinced
that silver bullion could be extracted in large quantities. In his report to
Governor Barrios, Miranda stated that the amount of ore was so great that
a mine could be given to every inhabitant of the province of Texas. His
conviction was shared by others, and sporadic prospecting and mining efforts
continued at Los Almagres and elsewhere in the region until Mexico
won independence from Spain in 1821. The real story of Los Almagres was
then all but forgotten.
During the next two centuries, Spanish silver mining in central Texas
became the stuff of legend. One still-persistent tale connects the Los Almagres
mine to a Spanish frontier mission* and military presidio established near
the San Saba River at present-day Menard in Menard County. The mission,
known as Santa Cruz de San Saba, and its presidio had been established in
part to secure a foothold in this region of reported mineral wealth, but the
mission was destroyed by Indians in 1758, and the presidio was abandoned.
Legend eventually connected the region's supposed silver riches to the mission
itself. In 1829, Stephen F Austin, the Father of Texas, published a map
showing a silver mine at the mission site. This entirely mythical mine became
known as the Lost San Saba Mine. Rediscovery of this "lost mine" was
the dream of many would-be treasure hunters including Jim Bowie. When
HERITAGE * 10 * FALL 2000
A-TIMBER PLACED IN FRONT OF THE SHAFr. B-TImBER PLACED AT THE BACK OF THE
SHAFT. C-POINTnD STAKES. D-CROSS-TtMBEHS. E-POSTS OR THICK PtANKS.
F-IRON SOCKETS. G-BARREL. H--ENDS OF BARREL. I-PIECES OF WOOD.
K--HANDLE. L-DRAWING-ROPE. M--ITS HOOK. N-BCKET. O-BALE OF THE
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000, periodical, Autumn 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45391/m1/10/: accessed June 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.