The Ben Sublett treasure holds a special place among lost treasure accounts in that there seems to be no doubt at all that he did find a lot of gold nuggets from a source that he returned to numerous times. He died without anyone knowing how to find his source of gold. Since then people have spent their lives looking for the gold in the Guadalupe Mountains and the surrounding area that are North East of El Paso Texas. This writer accompanied a small group of lost mine hunters to a trip to the Guadalupe Mountains in 2021. And why would not people look for it? Gold is, or at least was, surely there.
There are two main theories of where the gold came to be there. One is that it was a large placer deposit, a natural phenomenon, in the bottom of a crevasse that could only be reached by a long rope or ladder. The idea being that it was put there by nature, and various people or peoples found it, harvested it, and lost it over decades or longer. The other theory is that it was not a natural occurrence but rather was a bag of gold, mined in some far away place, that had been stolen from a stage and the bandits hid it in a canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains and never made it back. Ben found the bag, and between that finding and the end of his life, basically took all of it. Leaving only a rotting Wells Fargo bag.The account of a bag of gold hidden by bandits is well described in Patrick Dearen's book Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier.
As to the natural gold theory, it was probably first described by L. H. Davis, when he gave a history in the El Paso Times newspaper in 1912. This colorful fellow was a cow puncher who knew both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. Not unlikely if he worked in the Texas Panhandle and around Las Vegas, NM. Around 1879 he fell in with some Colorado prospectors. They worked their way south through New Mexico near the Sacramento Mountains (near Cloudcroft, NM). Their base of operations was in the Mescalero reservation. While there Davis met the daughter of Don Juan, the daughter of the Apache chief. They both spoke Spanish and they fell in love. The chief forbid them to marry, so they put it off to a future day. In the midst of that, the girl showed Davis some gold nuggets her father had retrieved south of there, near the Texas line (i.e., in the Guadalupe Mountains). She told him to go south to the Russell Hills to a seep spring, and a mile and a half away there would be a crevasse about sixty-feet deep. The gold would be in the crevasse. Davis and his companions searched off and on for a few years, finding all the landmarks except for the crevasse.
Several years later, in 1892, Davis was in Midland, TX and who came into town but Ben Sublett, with bags of gold from his new-found source of wealth. Sublett and Davis compared notes and Sublett, according to Davis, said he had heard the same legend about the crevasse, and that was the basis for Sublett’s search. Davis ended the story stating that both Sublett and Don Juan were both dead and he was about to go to a reservation in New Mexico to meet up with the chief’s daughter to ask her about the gold’s location before one last treasure hunt. There is no record of Davis finding the gold, but we can hope that Davis and his old sweetheart maybe found something in each other worth more than gold.
David Lewis wrote this article. His author page can be found here