A Pagosa Country story of lost gold

We have been writing for some time about Summitville. There seems to have been a connection between Summitville and Treasure Mountain, Pagosa Country’s most famous story of lost gold. Part of that connection is Leon Montroy, according to this story taken from the Pagosa Springs SUN of Aug. 22, 1941, and written by Ila D. Montroy, the daughter-in-law of Leon.

“For sometime before Summitville was discovered, float had been found in Pinos Creek (which runs past Del Norte before dropping into the Rio Grande River), but no one could find its source.

“A man by the name of Ferdinand Brant discovered the lead in the early 1870s. After the lead was discovered, there were four mines sunk into it. The Little Annie and the Ida were the riches of the mines there.

“The Little Annie was owned by Senator Thomas Bowen. It was said that no white man could endure the winters there as it was so severe. In 1876, Leon Montroy, who was for several years the foreman of the Little Annie, and several others secured adequate supplies, and spent the winter there. That winter they ran the tunnel that tapped the lead of the Little Annie Mine. The gold of the Little Annie was so rich it could be seen in the cracks and crevices with the naked eye. Flake gold could be pried off the nuggets.

“Mining equipment was so poor at that time that there was lots of waste.

“Summitville, in the early 1880s had a population of about 1,000 people. It had 17 saloons, and was the highest mining camp in the state.

“After the height of the boom was over, the Reynolds mining interest secured most of the holdings there. The camp was eventually abandoned, but was started up again by Wiley and Pickens, who secured some of the leases owned by the Reynolds estate, and took out quite a little gold in the last few years.

“When mining was started at Summitville, they found traces of early workings, carried on years before, supposed to have been done by the French expedition, which was located on what is now Treasure Mountain.

“The expedition eventually made a permanent camp near what is now known as Treasure Mountain, situated between the top of Wolf Creek Pass and the old mining camp of Summitville. It was about three or four miles from the top of the Pass.

“Here, whether they knew it or not, they were in Spanish territory. It is thought that they were aware of the fact, as they were very careful to keep the object of their expedition a secret from the Spaniards.

“They are thought to have mined at Cripple Creek, Summitville, and other rich ore deposits of Colorado, as traces of ancient workings were found when these mines were discovered.

“They spent the summers accumulating wealth, hid their gold, and spent their winters in the neighborhood of Taos, N.M. It is said that during their stay in the vicinity of Treasure Mountain they mined about $5 million worth of gold. This sum was supposed to have been hidden in three separate caches, with only the officers knowing the location.

“At that time, about 140 years ago, Colorado was unknown to the white man. There were a few Spanish settlements at Taos and Santa Fe. To the north were only Indians, and for a thousand miles to the East, all were Indians, except for occasional trappers.” (Motter: Ila’s knowledge of New Mexico history seems to have been limited. There was much more settlement than she indicates.) Continued next week.

Photo courtesy John Motter
This photo, taken by the author in 1982, is said to be of the French Boarding House at Summitville. The date of the French Boarding House is not known.