Digging for Gold in Texas . . .
with Tracy Garrett.
“A gold mine is a hole in the ground with a liar at the top." – Mark Twain
When I began doing research for Touch of Texas, I was searching for a special type of location. It needed to be isolated, with a means of support for those who settled in the town. I didn’t want the town to be too prosperous – that eliminates some of the available conflict for a story. Also, the area had to be right for the nefarious to operate – cattle rustling, horse stealing, etc. – and have numerous places for them to hide.
I already knew my hero was a Texas Ranger, the tall, dark and dangerous type, who preferred the assignments that sent him out alone, far from civilization. My mental picture of the heroine was his total opposite, a fragile-looking woman with golden hair.
Golden? Aha! A gold mining town. But was gold ever mined in Texas in the 1800’s? The answer, it turned out, was yes. Not much, and never profitably, but there were gold mines in Texas in the 1800’s.
Most gold mining took place in the far southwest part of the state, in the area called Big Bend. There was some mining in the Davis Mountains, and also in Presidio County. The Mexicans and Spanish are said to have left behind ristras, granite bedrock milling stones, on the banks of creeks after abandoning their mining attempts. There are persistent legends of large veins scattered through the land, enough to keep panhandlers searching. Even today, panning turns up small amounts of gold around the ruins of Fort Davis.
The part of Texas I chose is a high desert area, remote, difficult to get to by wagon, but with sufficient water and wood for a town to be built. [For pictures of the area, visit photographer Diane Lacey’s site] Fort Davis, established by the United States army in 1854, was a day’s ride away, close enough to give the inhabitants of my town supplies and contact with others, but not so close that the bad guys would avoid the area. While researching the history of Fort Davis, I found mention of a wave of gold seekers coming through on their way to California from San Antonio. Their need of protection helped drive the placement of the fort. Fort Davis was manned from 1854-1891. Touch of Texas takes place in 1890.
I now had enough of a factual foundation on which to build my fictitious town. I placed the town of Lucinda, named for the founder’s persnickety wife, out in the middle of that deserted area.
From all I’ve read no one, person or mining company got wealthy digging gold in west Texas, but dig they did. And for a fiction writer, that’s all we need to create our own little piece of the past. Maybe Mark Twain had it right – although I’d rather consider myself a weaver of a tall tale rather than a liar.
TEXAS GOLD MINING RESEARCH ARTICLES:
Texas Gold Locations (user submitted listing)
Lost Gold Mines of Texas (NYTimes article)
Davis Mountains State Park (Texas Parks & Wildlife Division)