Hunter’s Rise and Fall of the Mission San Saba

One of the most important sources for the San Saba treasure legends is the 1905 book The Rise and Fall of the Mission San Saba by John Hunter. J. Frank Dobie used it, a lot, when he wrote the chapter on the San Saba Treasure in his book Coronado’s Children.

It was a limited run print for a Texas Rangers convention held in Menard that year. About thirty years later John’s son Marvin published a reprint of it. It is a hard book to find to say the least.

Well, it showed up in digital form here. That website has a number of scans of works I know are still in copyright, but this book is well out of copyright so no harm in making use of it.

Regarding Hunter’s work, I think where he was right, he was really right. Where he was wrong, well, he was really wrong. He had the Los Almagres mine being next to Menard, which it is not–it is clearly in today’s Llano county. He was not the first to write about the Tres Manos Bowie story, but he was the first to really elaborate on it, and the Tres Manos story was nothing but folklore.

But, he was the only person who saw the original ruins of the presidio before it was taken apart and wrote about it. He also visited the remains of the mission before the location of it was lost for several decades. And if it was not for this book, it may never have been rediscovered. Hunter had moved to Mexico during the Civil War to avoid conscription by the Confederacy, and when he returned from Mexico he spoke Spanish and had heard a number of rumors of silver on the San Saba. He referenced several Spanish era archival documents in his booklet. Hunter is to be ignored at one’s peril, even if not everything he wrote was perfect.

If you are interested in the legend enough to make it this far, then read that book!

3 thoughts on “Hunter’s Rise and Fall of the Mission San Saba

  1. “The Rise and Fall…” has been reprinted by a publisher in India. They swing a wide loop when it comes to copyrighted works – which is a shame. However, there is no doubt this book is long out of copyright. The hardcover reprint is a bargain at less than $12.


  2. Thanks for the link to the source of the hard copy.

    I had contacted the current publisher of the Frontier Times magazine some time ago and encouraged him to re-publish the book, even if just on PDF, but did not get a response. (But, the publisher was kind enough to allow a longish quote from the old magazine in the book.)

    I am glad that it is available again–had a hard time getting a copy 5 years ago when the book was being written. I think some of it was just folklore, but other parts have proven to be spot-on.


    1. Glad to help! I’ve picked up a couple of copies on eBay – pure luck. Based on what I’ve read about the U of Texas (I hope I have that correct!) research, recently more of Hunter’s work has proven to be accurate than was thought so for a good many years. The old issues of Hunter’s Frontier Times are fascinating – better than many “Westerns.”


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