Gooch’s Folly

In the late 1800’s the treasure hunting around Menard(ville) reached a fevered pitch. People who caught gold fever were convinced that they had found the location of the treasure, or a rich mine, only to be scorned by the locals when they came up empty-handed.

One of the strangest cases was what came to be known as Gooch’s Folly. Ben F. Gooch was a wealthy stock man from the nearby town of Mason, well a nearby town as distances in rural Texas go. Sometime between 1873 and 1876 Ben, and a fellow named Cabinis, became convinced that there was a rich mine buried straight down below a hill north-west of town. The story was that the Spaniards had worked the mine before being slaughtered by the Indians. There was great secrecy surrounding Gooch’s project to sink a hole straight down to the ore. The only thing that was found, according to one of the workers after the project was abandoned, was plug of tobacco that one of them had accidentally dropped down the hole.

Moving forward a decade and a half, to 1894, a J.K. Patterson heard about a mine around Menard(ville). A man named Short told him about it. Short recalled seeing a smelter near the old Presidio when he first came to the area in the early 1870’s and he remembered that the directions to the mine were to travel 3 miles due west from a big spring above town. While they were mulling things over they met up with fellow named Johns who had a map that gave different directions to a mine.  The direction to that mine was to follow a particular dry creek north from the San Saba River. They were all in a mining mood so they set out to see just where the two lost mines were. They formed two groups, each one tracing a different route. They were sure that they were standing above rich ore when both groups converged on the very same spot. If two different maps pointed to the same spot then it had to be a sure thing.

So a project was started to dig down to the mine. After a month of digging they were ecstatic as large timbers and other surface debris were pulled out of the shaft from forty feet down. Someone had been there before! Sure had, they were re-digging the same hole Gooch had dug 15 years earlier. When a local informed them of that, they wondered why that Gooch character had not dug deep enough, and back to digging they went.  Only they did not so much as find a plug of tobacco when they gave up.

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