Gold, Glory & God...
while Coronado's expedition failed to yield the great riches that they were after, it did pave the way for those that followed. Some of those that followed did find riches. In 1581, Fray Bernardino Beltran and Don Antonio Espejo, accompanied by only 14 soldiers, set off on a mission to locate mines. The company explored north and west of Tusayan and found rich deposits of silver and copper which would later become the famous United Verde Mines of Jerome, Arizona. Indians also showed Espejo a rich silver deposit near what is now Prescott, Arizona. After returning to the main trail, the company traveled through northern New Mexico where they discovered an ancient Indian silver mine that would keep the kings coffers full for the next century. El Mina del Tiro, The Mine of the Shaft. Espejo wrote of his amazement at the age and extent of this mine, and he wasted no time putting it under the supervision of his Padres.
"I found their mines and with my own hands I dug ore from them which is said, by those who know such things, to be very rich and contain much silver."
Upon Espejo's return to Chihuahua, there was great excitement caused by his reports and by the pack train of bullion and ore samples he brought back. Many illegal mining parties went off in search of the rich mines.
An especially interesting account of illegal mining parties was that of Juan Humana and Francisco Bonilla. This party traveled north in 1593 and went through present day Colorado where they turned westward into northern Utah and explored a great mountain range there, probably the Uinta Mountains. From here they turned north into Wyoming where an argument broke out over leadership of the party and Humana killed Bonilla. A priest that was with the party refused to follow a murderer and returned to Taos to report the incident. Meanwhile Humana managed to obtain a large amount of gold somewhere "200 leagues north of Taos". Upon their return trip, they were attacked and massacred by Indians in Colorado.
After the priest arrived in Taos, soldiers were dispatched to arrest Humana and his miners. They found the massacre site, and because they died without a priest to give them last rights, their souls were forever doomed to purgatory. The river canyon where they died was named El Rio de los Animas Perdilos en Purgatorio. Today's Purgatory River.
Juan de Onate was a wealthy mine owner who's sole objective was to find more rich mines. He petitioned for permission to explore the land of Teguayo and agreed to pay for the soldiers salaries and all expenses except for "six cannons, two dozen coats of mail and two dozen harquebuses". Onate's personal gear included twelve suits of armor, and twelve saddles.
On January 26th, 1598, Juan de Onate led 130 soldiers, eight priests and a small band of Indian slaves along the old trail north. Also taken were 83 carettas (wagons) and a herd of 7,000 cattle. Many of his soldiers had their families with them for they intended to establish colonies and missions along the way. Near present Salidas Colorado, Onate saw many places where extensive placer mining had taken place. Apparently by illegal mining parties.
Near the "Four Corners" area, Onate established San Gabriel Mission and a settlement called San Juan de los Caballeros. He soon sent out Captain Marcos Farfan to locate mines. Farfan was successful as described by Onate:
"Six Indians from ranches in the mountains joined Captain Farfan and the next morning they took him up to a mine which was at a great height, although they could go up to it by horseback for the Indians had opened up a road. There they found a shaft three estados in depth, from which the Indians extracted ores for their adornment and for the coloring of their blankets. In the mine there were brown, black, blue, and green ores. The blue is so blue that it is understood that some of it is enamel (turquoise). I have been told that the silver there is the best in the world. The mine also has a very large dump where there are many good ores."
Records reveal that this ore contained 11 ounces of gold and silver per quintal (220 oz. per ton). Farfan immediately began mining this deposit using genizaros (Indians that were living in Spanish fashion) as foreman, and captured Ute's as laborers. Juan de Onate took 80 soldiers and two priests 200 leagues further north in search of more slaves to labor in the mines. His search took him into the Great Basin where he engaged in a great battle with the Ute Indians. He lost 13 of his men including one Captain Juan de Zoldivar, but his men killed 700 Indians and took 600 more as prisoners.
Onate was not only exceedingly cruel to the Indians, he wasn't much better to his own men. In a fit of anger he murdered Captains Aguilar, and Alonzo Albornaz. Onate soon received a notice that he was to return to New Spain immediately. On his return trip, he inscribed his name on Morro Rock in New Mexico on April 16th, 1605. When he returned to New Spain, he was removed as Governor for his cruelty to the Indians, exiled to Spain and ordered to pay a fine of 6,000 ducats. Onate was eventually pardoned in 1624, at the age of 75, and given the title of Inspector of Mines and Lodes. He never returned to New Spain.
The first half of the seventeenth century saw a peak in expeditions to the northern frontier. In June of 1604, Fray Estevan de Perea and Fray Bartolome Romero explored far into the Great Basin province. In 1618, the Maestre de Campo, Vincent de Saldivar set out with 47 well equipped soldiers. Records report that he traveled through a land of fire to the French lands of "Aca-nada". Fray Geronimo Zarate Salmeron made two expeditions to the land of the Yutahs, in 1621 and once again in 1624. His "Relacion" is among the first descriptions of Utah and the Ute Indians. He described the Indians of the region as being of the Guasvatas nation, the name of the high mountains in which they lived. In the interpretation of his Relacion, Guasvatas was corrupted into the phonetic Wasatch. The mountains of that region still bear that name. Father Alonso Benavides explored the northern provinces between 1625 to 1629. In 1630, he recorded that he had found "A very great treasure of mines, very rich and prosperous in gold and silver, as well as deposits of fine garnets".
One of the best descriptions of the land of Teguayo was written by Fray Alonzo de Posada in 1686 as part of a special report to the Council of the Indies. Fray Posada had served in New Mexico from 1650 to 1660, much of that time "in the most remote parts of the province." Posada described Teguayo as being "those lands north of the Rio San Juan and west of the Rocky Mountains", while Quivira was located "east of the Rockies". The trail from Santa Fe passed by a high mountain called "Sierra Blanca" and beyond the Rio San Juan, into the land of the Yutahs. The Yutahs live near a great lake of salt and are comprised of several nations.
"From the Rio San Juan, which runs west for 70 leagues and is possessed by the Navajo nation, the trail passes into the land of the Yutahs, a warlike nation. Crossing this nation for 60 leagues in the same northwest direction one comes to some hills, and traveling through that country for another 50 leagues, more or less, one arrives at the great lake in the land Indians of the north call Teguayo. The Mexicans call the lake Copalla, according to their ancient traditions the place where all Indians, even those of Mexico, Guatemala and Peru originated."
Fray Posada discouraged the settlement of Teguayo because of it's remote location "...they will be so far away from the Kingdoms peopled by Spaniards. Neither can wagons go there because of the difficulties of the land, cut by many raging rivers and rough mountains." Although official permission to settle Teguayo was denied, many miners and slave traders still made the journey because, by this time the fines that were levied against those who did so were minor ones, which amounted to little more than a fee to trespass. It had been six years since the great revolt and the desire was great to reoccupy the northern lands.
Copyright © 1999 - 2011 Lost Treasures Of Utah. Reproduced with permission.