Somewhere in the Tabeguache region of the Uncompahgre Plateau is a buried treasure, a small fortune perhaps, hidden in large country.
In 1893, the silver market crashed when the Silver Sherman Act was repealed. Banks throughout western Colorado saw their holdings plummet and collapse.
Delta had two banks at the time and both remained surprisingly solvent. One of them, the Delta Farmers and Merchants Bank, was chosen as the target for a mid-morning heist by the notorious McCarty brothers, Tom and Bill. Along with Bill’s son, Fred, the McCartys planned to hit the bank as soon as it opened, and positioned extra getaway horses along the escape route so they could have fresh legs to out-run anyone chasing them.
As was custom, according to Muriel Marshall in her book, “Uncompahgre,” her well-written guide to the Uncompahgre Plateau, the McCarty’s also stashed all their cash along the escape route, estimated at the time to be about $3,000 in gold coins. The plan was, if any of them didn’t make it back, at least one of them would be able to retrieve the stash.
The route was somewhere along the Tabeguache Basin. “If you can position yourself on this saddle,” wrote Marshall, referring to a geographic spot on the plateau, “so you look down the shoulder of the mountain straight south, you will be looking at it. Yes, indeed, that is a lot of country.”
Not exactly a treasure map to the buried gold. But Marshall could only give vague directions because she didn’t know where the gold was buried, either.
Anyway, things didn’t go as planned for the McCarty boys.
Tom, the eldest brother and one-time cohort of Butch Cassidy’s when they pulled a heist in Telluride, waited around back of the bank with the horses that early morning in 1893 while Bill and his son, Fred, went inside to make a hasty withdrawal.
It was Fred’s first time to go in a bank for a heist, and when cashier Andrew Blachly yelled to the back of the bank, Fred got trigger happy and shot once and missed, but shot again and “hit Blachly in the head, killing him instantly,” according to Bob Bell in TrueWestMagazine.com.
The father-son duo grabbed cash and coins and dashed out the back to the waiting horses.
Tom saw the two come out and immediately made a run for it on his horse. The other two mounted up, and Fred dropped the coin bag. Still, with about $700 in cash, they high-tailed it.
Local hardware store owner, W. Ray Simpson, ran out of his store with a Sharps single-shot rifle in his hands. His first shot, from about a block away, “blows the top of Bill’s head off,” according to Bell, and “his body stays in the saddle for a few seconds before dropping lifeless in the dust.”
Fred, thinking his father is wounded, turned to come back to help. From an estimated 100 yards, Simpson hit Fred in the head with his second shot that morning, and he was “dead before he hit the ground.”
Simpson took aim at Tom from a distance and hit a hind leg on Tom’s horse, but Tom got away.
“Tom McCarty found a hidey-hole on Fill ‘Em Up Mesa in the La Salle Mountains outlaw country,” according to Marshall. He hid for a bit, then ran off to the Pacific Northwest, but not before drawing a map for a relative, Ekky McCarty, that showed where the treasure was buried. “He never found it,” Marshall wrote.
Get your metal detectors out. Go due north of Disappointment Valley, aim somewhere toward Starvation Point, and start your search for the McCarty loot.
Speaking of gold in them thar hills. The Aurcana Silver Corporation put out a press release last week stating that they are fully funded and ready to roll.
Who are they?
They own the famous Revenue Virginius mine just southwest of Ouray. If you’ve been watching mining activity in Ouray for the past 10 years, you know that several ventures have come and gone, and promised a lot of hooey along the way as far as reviving mining in the area.
But this outfit looks like it might be the real deal.
Call me skeptical, as always, but they sure have a lot going on.
According to the press release, they have:
• All management hired and even the CEO, Kevin Drover, has relocated to Ouray,
• 130 personnel and contractors working on site,
• full funding for the site including contingency funding,
• made extensive improvements of underground infrastructure to create efficiencies,
• created a main secondary escapeway and are currently installing an elevator.
Aurcana said it is “on track to deliver a ramp up to full production in the second half of 2021.”
We’ve heard this tune before in recent years in Ouray, but never has it been sung with an entire chorus of early successes as is happening now.
What’s the price of silver these days?