In late 1867 the 1868 Texas Almanac was published. On page 83 there was a most curious article written by one J. A. Quintero. I can not help but think that the San Marcos men, who visited the area around the San Saba River in late 1868, had read that article.
Jose Agustin Quintero (1829 – 1885) was quite a character. Born to a Cuban father and an English mother in Cuba, he became a lawyer in Cuba and supported the revolution there. He was arrested by the Spaniards, but escaped Cuba after being sentenced to death.
He ended up in America. In 1856 he became the editor of a newspaper in San Antonio. When the Civil War started, he joined the South. He was sent to Mexico as a secret agent. He spent a lot of time in Matamoros opening a trade route where cotton was shipped out–about 20% of all cotton exported during the war. Ironically, much of that cotton ended up in the textile mills in the North via middlemen. The Mexican governor, interestingly enough, was interested in seceding from Mexico and joining the Confederacy.
After the war Quintero became a lawyer and then a journalist in New Orleans. In 1867 he was appointed Consul for Costa Rica and Belgium, but just before that he wrote the article that appeared in the Texas Almanac.
The article was mostly a series of letters that were supposedly written by minor officials in the Mexican government in the 1820’s. They were given to Quintero in 1863 by Don Manuel Rejon, a Mexican government official who was executed about a year later by the Mexican government when the political winds shifted. Quintero’s introduction to the letters said that Emperor Iturbide had an interest in the mines, and the director of the military academy in Monclova had written a report, but it was not acted on when Iturbide lost power in 1823.
The letters claimed that the mines were 45 leagues north-west of San Antonio, in the “San Saba hills,” and that they were of untold richness. The name given for them was Los Almagres. The article ended with a Sebastian Rodriguez, of Monclova, claiming to have visited the “San Saba Hills” and to have seen the mines himself in 1822.
It is really anyone’s guess as to what it all means. For one thing, if a secret agent of the Confederacy had intelligence that there were immense silver and gold mines 45 miles north-west of San Antonio, may that not have been of interest to the Confederates? The Confederacy, at that time, had a POW camp at Fort McKavett, about 20 miles away from the future city of Menard. Use captured troops for miners, and fund the war effort–what is not to like about that plan? Did the Confederates ever mount an expedition to the San Saba? There does not seem to be any record of it.
Why did not Quintero himself form a syndicate and mount an expedition himself after the war? The Comanche were still a problem, but not so much that Menardville was not already taking shape even before Fort McKavett was reopened with federal troops in 1868.
Whatever the story is behind the article, if it was not the reason the San Marcos men to the San Saba in 1868, it at least motivated them.