One plausible explanation of the rumors of silver around the San Saba Presidio is that silver ore was mined at Los Amalgres, in today’s Llano County during seasons when the Comanche and Apache were away, and the ore hauled back to the San Saba Presido for smelting the other parts of the year.
Silver-bearing slag was found just outside of the San Saba Presidio. And the area would be ideal for a smelting operation: running water, lots of wood for charcoal, away from the tax man in San Antonio, and most importantly a stone fortress that the natives never breached. But, as hard has as people have looked for it, no silver ore of any significant quantity has been found around the old Presidio.
But, if ore was taken back from Los Amalgres and refined at the Presidio, that would account for the stories of silver in that area. And if someone asked where one was mining the silver, why not say at the old Presidio? That would keep Los Amalgres out of the picture.
Had the opportunity a few weeks ago to visit what may well be the Los Amalgres Mines near Pack Saddle Mountain in Llano county. It was hotter than hot, and every night I had to pick out cactus needles with a pair of pliers, but it was worth it.
One mine, on the top of the mountain, was from the 1920’s. A cable had ran from there to the base of hill where the remains of a large smelter stood. A bucket ran up and down to deliver ore. The mine shaft went straight down into the mountain. I could not see the bottom of it. The walls were solid with granddaddy long leg spiders. The story was that it was a new mine, not an extension of an old mine, and that some silver did come out of it, but it played out or at any rate did not cover the costs.
There were older mines there, as evidences by large rocks in the spoils piles. Small rocks tend to mean dynamite. These rocks were large. One of the mines went back a ways and split into a Y. Nothing in there but spiders, crickets, and two mice.
The more interesting mine went into another side of a hill and included a vertical shaft of fifty feet ore more in depth. Did not have climbing equipment or a gas monitor, so passed on going down it. Still thinking about if it is worth the risk or not. Some people have gone into it recent years. It is thought that this was a Spanish shaft that was re-worked sometime later by Anglos.
One more vertical shaft ended in water, and the land owner said that he once pumped the water out and some timbers were visible.
I did not see any traces of left over veins in the mines — maybe they dug it all out. It is hard to see them as just prospects as that was a whole lot of digging just to look around.
Otherwise, there were some actual prospects. The fellow who arranged the visit (who is working on a book of his own, that touches on these mines and gives some reasons why these really could be the Los Amalgres Mines described by Miranda) suspected that they were prospects done as per the Spanish Mining ordinances. As part of filing a claim so many prospect holes had to be dug. They were about five feet square and five feet deep, more or less.
No remains of a Spanish era smelter were found, although we did not have the time or the permission of the various land owners to scour the countryside looking for such evidence. It is said that there were the remains of a smelter in the area before a highway paved it over. It is too bad it was lost before it was at least documented and examined by historians and archeologists.
Llano country truly is a geological wonderland: a layer of limestone pushed up by mineral bearing rock. A little bit of everything is there: gold, silver, tungsten, mica, rare earth minerals–if it exists it is probably there. The problem is the little bit part. It has a little bit of everything, but not a lot of any one thing. Attempts at silver and gold mining in Llano County have come and gone over the years, and some of them may have sold more mining stock than dug up good ore.