DID THIS CROSS PROTECT AN ANCIENT SPANISH SILVER MINE by Alan Soellner
On 4/9/17 we visited Ben Traywick, the Tombstone, Arizona historian and author of hundreds of articles and books on the old west. He was about 90 at the time of our visit and was then writing a new book on Geronimo. His home/shop was crowded into every corner with artifacts and relics of the past.
I commented on the large number of ancient Mexican carvings and effigies lining many shelves. Ben said it was time to sell some so I poked around and in one dusty corner I found an ancient cross fashioned into an oval background 8 ½” wide, 11” long and about ½” thick with rounded edges. Taking the cross off of the wall, I asked him what the story on it was.
Mr. Traywick just smiled and said I had picked the most curious item in his shop. It seems that many years ago he was friends with an old engineer and miner called Wayne Winters in Tombstone. Winters was prospecting just across the Mexican border when he was jumped by a javelin or wild pig. Wayne actually jumped over the pig when he saw it dart into a curious hole on the side of a slope.
When he examined the hole he realized that someone had mixed adobe and crushed rock to stucco over the opening. With his pick he pried enough of the cover loose to crawl in. Once his eyes adjusted to the gloom he saw a hand carved tunnel going back into the hill. On the wall was this cross made of the same crushed rock and adobe, hanging from a wrought iron nail driven into the rock. It was almost as if the cross was guarding the site.
Winters was a good enough prospector to see that there was sliver ore everywhere to just pick up. However, he had one problem- the mine was just on the Mexican side. He remembered he had a Mexican buddy that he might be able to enter into a partnership with, so he would contact him once the mine entrance was covered back up. He noted several very old, hand forged picks and other tools on the floor of the mine and Spanish markings on them. He noticed designs chiseled into the walls in the form of stars, crescent moons, diamonds, and other symbols. Could this be an old Conquistador mine that was rediscovered by elements of the KGC? Did the new wealth help finance the South’s war efforts? What happened to suddenly cause the mine to be hidden once again with the tools left in place?
Winter’s Mexican buddy readily agreed to the terms and once the contract was signed; his friend went for the silver and never gave a penny to poor old Wayne Winters. “So much for the partnership.” The mine ended up being tremendously rich and was written up in an early treasure magazine. When Wayne was very old and near death he gave, what he thought was the mine’s protective cross to Ben Traywick out of friendship and said it was the most precious possession he owned. Ben kept it all these years but now, at almost 90 years old, had to start letting things go to a new home. A close examination reveals that at one time this plaque was smooth and was fired in a kiln for stability. This ancient relic hung in place for so many years that the glaze has begun to wear off and only the cross on the front has any sheen. The back, although grainy, also has some shine.
We were fortunate enough to be allowed to get this cross from Ben and are now its new custodian, and that we made a new friend, I wish we knew the history of this hidden Spanish silver mine. We will continue to investigate its location and the magazine article it was in.