Ben Sublett and the Lost Gold Mine of Guadalupe Peak

In his book Unsolved Mysteries of the Old West, Jameson asserts the claim that Ben Sublett found a rich crop of gold ore in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas in the 1880s has been verified. The location of this mine, though, has been a subject of debate since Sublett’s death in 1892. Sublett says he found a canyon amongst the limestone cliffs in the Texas desert where a simple “rake of the hand through the gravel” was sure to yield a fistful of near-pure gold nuggets. Sublett even showed the location of the mine to a number of people, though none were ever able to find it in subsequent searches.

Reports of Gold in the Guadalupes goes all the way back to General Lew Wallace, Civil War Hero and Governor of New Mexico,  who claimed that he found an ancient document in the Palace of Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. The document indicated that Indians had guided Spaniards to a gold mine in the Guadalupe Mountains. This was back in the 1600's. Supposedly all the Spaniards who knew where the mine was were killed in an Indian uprising. So this story does not give many clues, expect that the mine is in the general vicinity of the Guadalupe Mountains. Today, when we hear of the Guadalupe's we naturally think of the distinctive Guadalupe Peak. This story was pretty widely distributed in the 1800's, and during the latter half of that century there were people actively looking for this lost Indian/Spanish mine. The only two towns of any size nearby are Carlsbad, in New Mexico, and Van Horn, in Culberson County Texas. Both of the towns are some distance away. So, in the late 1800's this would have been an even more remote, and inhospitable place. In particular, large areas south of the Guadalupes have no water to this day. 

During the latter part of the 1800's, the area was active with Indians. The Apache were among the last Indians to submit to life on the reservation, and the area of the Guadalupe mountains was one of their last haunts. Their chief,  Geronimo, often claimed that the richest gold mine in the western world lay hidden in the Guadalupe Mountains. While there were many white prospectors looking for the mine, Ben Sublett is believed to have found it. Sublett became the town character of Odessa because of his non-stop search for treasure.  Few took him seriously until one day he showed up in Odessa with a pouch full of gold and buying drinks for he whole town. There are many eye-witnesses in Odessa at the time that reported seeing Sublett's gold and his free spending on drinks for the whole town. It is well documented that over the remainder of Sublett's life, he always had gold, and whenever he was running low on money, he would disappear for a few days and then reappear with more gold. It is reported that he generally would bring back about $1,000 dollars of gold at a time, which would be about 3 years salary for a working man of that day. There are countless stories of people trying to track Sublett and find the location of his secret mine, but it is generally believed that no one ever successfully followed him.

It is reported that he once gave specific directions to Mike Wilson, and that Mike Wilson actually found the mine, brought gold back to town, and went on a drinking binge.  After the binge, he forgot the location of the mine, and was never able to find it again. It is also reported that on occasion, Ben Sublett actually took his small boy, Ross to the mine. There are stories from people living in the area that Ross could be seen wandering the Guadalupe Mountains vicinity searching for the mine that his father had taken him to as a small child. There are no reports that he was ever successful in locating the mine. Sublett died in 1892 and the location of his mine went with him. In 1958, Bill Burrud presented an expose about Sublett's lost mine in an episode of Treasure...

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