Treasure of Victorio Peak
From Kook Science
|a.k.a. Victoria Peak|
U.S.G.S. topographical map of Hembrillo Basin, focus on Victorio Peak (1981)
|Elevation||1,676.10 m (5,499.0 ft)|
|Location||White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County, New Mexico|
|Mountain range||San Andres Mountains|
The Treasure of Victorio Peak is (or was) a supposed cache of gold bullion that was said to have been stored within a cavern in Victorio Peak, a basalt outcropping in the Hembrillo Basin, part of the San Andres Mountains of Doña Ana County, New Mexico, now part of the White Sands Missile Range. The treasure is popularly known from stories about prospector Milton Ernest "Doc" Noss (1905-1949), who had staked claim to the site and apparently accidentally sealed the main shaft in a failed effort to enlarge it after having supposedly recovered a number of artifacts and refined bars of precious metal. The surviving family claims that the U.S. government later seized the huge amount of remaining treasure during the 1960s (or 70s). The the origins of the treasure and the identities of those who placed it, if it ever existed, remain unclear, though many sources have been suggested, including: the Casa del Cueva de Oro; the treasure hoards of Don Juan de Onate; a treasure cache of the Mexican Emperor Maximilian; and a treasure hidden by Padre Felipe La Rue, a Catholic missionary.
In a region full of treasure stories and legends going back to first contact with the colonial Spanish in the late 1500's, this particular treasure story looms large due not only to the almost unimaginable size of the total supposed hoard, but also since the first purported recovery events took place in somewhat modern times (1920's), and by well-documented participants with many surviving local connections. Add in the involvement, to some degree or another, of the US Army and White Sands Missile Range, home to many Operation Paperclip former Nazi party members such as Wernher von Braun, as well as several possibly-related visits and involvement by US Presidents, and the rabbit hole can become deep, indeed.
Where there is smoke, there may be fire. While Victorio Peak itself sits on White Sands Missile Range, several of the surrounding mountain ranges also have a variety of well or lesser-known stories. Some examples, where verified historical participants are indicated by (V) and legendary participants are indicated by (L), include:
- Lost Padre Silver Mine (L) - Franklin Mountains in the El Paso, TX area. Lost mine of rich silver with an entrance supposedly somewhere in view from the main church in Juarez, Mexico (formerly Paseo del Norte back before the then-Franklin, TX coopted the name).
- El Chato Nevarez, Organs (L) - Organ Mountains, NM. A lost mine of Silver and secreted church relics and other valuables. Main mine entrance located below a chiseled cross near a high, tule-choked spring somewhere in Soledad Canyon. Additional sealed silver buried in plots located nearby.
- Teso Aguirre (V) - Organ Mountains, NM. A lost mine of gold with a skeleton inside, found attempting to recover stolen livestock where a bag of high-grade gold was recovered, and which was never again found as Teso became blinded in a mining accident elsewhere.
- Padre LaRue, Organs (V) - Organ Mountains, NM. One possible location for LaRue and his small colony is near the old Spirit Springs on the East side of the mountains, with an expectation that their mine was not too far distant. Given the travel time associated with the LaRue legend, somewhat more likely than Hembrillo Basin farther to the north.
- Ben Brown's Hole (V) - Dona Ana Mountains, NM. A propsector who located a covered-up and sealed mine matching El Chato legends, whose fortunes improved and eventually retired in relative style outside of Socorro, NM.
- El Chato Nevarez, Caballo Mountains, NM (L) - A separately-dated and separately-worded waybill describes a number of different caches of silver and other valuables in the Caballo Mountains, the next range West from the San Andres where Doc Noss' main focus appeared to be; some say Noss in fact first recovered treasure in the Caballos before finding the massive cache at Victorio Peak.
- Taggart Diggings, Caballo Mountains, NM (V) - The wealthy Mr. Taggert worked with his Mexican bride relentlessly to find a large treasure described by a waybill found in a church archive in old Mexico. To further support their efforts, they also ran a crew at the base of the mountains working the Shandon gold placers, which to this day are still producing nice flakes and nuggets.
- Douthit and Ward Treasure (V) - Caballos Mountains, NM. Two local toughs who recovered gold bars multiple times from a hidden cave in the Caballos. Created enough stir to make the newspaper many times, and may have resulted in several murders. Contemporaries of Noss.
- Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza (V) - Fra Cristobal Mountains, NM. Just to the north of the Caballos is the oldest recorded mining claim in colonial Spain north of El Paso.
As The History Channel is oft to say: "some believe" that the Victorio Peak treasure may have in large part been deposited in pre-Columbian times, or even as a part of the fall of Moctezuma and the Aztec empire. The amount of gold reported by Noss and others as being inside Victorio Peak is staggering. Even though many of the surrounding mountain ranges contain large gold (such as at Hillsboro, Rosedale, Pinos Altos, Orogrande, White Oaks, Nogal) or silver (such as at Silver City itself or Lake Valley) deposits, even these may not be even close to sufficient to comprise the Noss hoard using total recorded production. Conflicting reports of artifacts recovered from or seen inside Victorio Peak cloud the issue, for sure, as there are reports of ancient swords, emeralds (often associated with South America), documents with the name LaRue on them, and even Wells Fargo strongboxes. One theory to account for this is that the local natives, likely Apaches, at one point discovered the much-earlier instantiated cache and added more modern articles to it as they were recovered. An additional complicating factor is that recovered WWII Nazi gold is rumored to have been brought back during Operation Paperclip, with some of it stashed in the much easier to access upper levels of Victorio Peak, leaving an adherent to this angle to ask: "was the fairly well-documented military recovery at the peak just a re-recovery of stored WWII plunder, leaving Noss' original find still in place deep within the peak, or did the military recover both stashes, at the same or different times?" As the regional saying goes: "quien sabe?"
- James, Henry (1953), The Curse of the San Andres, New York: Pageant Press, https://www.amazon.com/Curse-of-the-San-Andres/dp/B014U4AKZG/?tag=apopheniacs-20
- Chandler, David Leon (1978), 100 Tons of Gold, New York: Doubleday, https://www.amazon.com/hundred-tons-gold-David-Chandler/dp/0385127383/?tag=apopheniacs-20
- Koury, Phil A. (1986), Treasure of Victoria, Atglen, Penn.: Schiffer Pub. Ltd., https://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Victoria-Peak-Phil-Koury/dp/0887400604/?tag=apopheniacs-20
- Clarence, John (2011), The Gold House, Las Cruces, NM: Soledad Press, https://www.amazon.com/Gold-House-John-Clarence/dp/B01BAGWIJS
- McGaw, Bill (1962-04-07), "Out of the West: Is the Padre's Gold Treasure Buried at WSMR?", El Paso Herald-Post (El Paso, Texas), https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/12914348/
- Childress, David H. (Sept/Oct. 2009), "Treasure of the Hollow Mountain: The Saga of the Lost Trove of Victorio Peak Has Been Centuries in the Making", Atlantis Rising (77), https://atlantisrisingmagazine.com/article/treasure-of-the-hollow-mountain/ — [an excerpt from Childress's book Lost Cities & Ancient Mysteries of the Southwest (Adventures Unlimited, 2009)]