Enchanting Stories of New Mexico - Episode 37 - Buried Gold and High-Flying Dreams

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Episode 39 - Buried Gold and High-Flying Dreams

Michael Swickard here. Welcome to Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces. Our award-winning Hatch Green and Red Chile is from locally owned farms in Hatch, NM, The Chile Capital of the World. Today is World Green and Red Chile Day. It runs January 1st to December 31st each year. Every day is Chile Day.

I like New Mexico history. Especially when there might, I said might maybe be gold coins that anyone could find if they looked in just the right place. Where is that? I don’t know, but the story is that there are about 50,000 dollars in gold coins buried somewhere near the San Juan River near Blanco, New Mexico. Now Blanco is about ten miles east of Bloomfield.

The story I got was that two men in about 1874 found out that a stagecoach was carrying the payroll for the federal people at Fort Wingate and for those working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Must have been lots of them to add up to $50,000 in gold coins that was said to have been taken. I was also trying to figure out how much that weighed. Never mind, it is a story told in New Mexico, so I will take it as such. Back to the story.

Well now, these two stage robbers, Tom Horton and Sam Wharton stopped the stage in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico as it was headed toward Albuquerque. They held a gun on the stage crew and took the box holding the gold coins and then rode south to throw the lawmen off but it didn’t work because back then there were very good trackers who could see that the outlaws went south to the first hill and then turned Northwest toward the Bloomfield area. Where they were going we don’t know but that was the direction of travel. To make things worse, they had stolen the horses they were on from a group of Navajo ranchers so the ranchers were keen to get their horses back. As they were at the San Juan River near the small settlement of Blanco they were surprised and dismayed that they could see the dust of pursuit by obviously either lawmen or the military. Turns out it was the military. The box of gold was slowing them down, so they buried it on the side of a hill and covered their tracks.

Their horses were tired, not used to such a long ride so the law caught up with them. They were tried and convicted and sentenced to a long stay in a New Mexico Jail. They were moved in 1885 when the first New Mexico Territorial Prison was built just south of Santa Fe. And there they were for a while dreaming of those gold coins that they touched years earlier and then hid. So far, they had not heard that anyone had found them so when their time was up they would go back and find the gold. Alas, for them, Tom Horton died of tuberculosis so there was just Sam Wharton who moved to Aztec, New Mexico after release and spend all his spare time quietly riding the area around Blanca, New Mexico. Aztec is about fifteen miles from where Sam thought the gold coins were buried. Years later he died with no money. And friends, this just might be a tall tale of New Mexico or there might be a bunch of gold coins in a box buried in the side of a hill. No, I’m not going to look for the gold coins, but you can.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

It is someone’s birthday everyday and I would like to give you time to get ready for a celebration in New Mexico. Current New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s birthday is October 24th when she will officially be 64 years of age. She is the 32nd Governor of New Mexico. She was a member of New Mexico’s Congressional 1st district from 2013 to 2019 and was elected Governor in 2018 and reelected in 2022. So a big Red and Green Chile from Hatch Birthday wish for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham October 24th.

Speaking of New Mexico Governors, we just missed former New Mexico Governor Jerry Apodaca’s birthday on October 3rd. He was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Out of 50 Territorial and State of New Mexico Governors, Jerry Apodaca was the one and only Governor of New Mexico born in Las Cruces. It would have been his 89th birthday though he died earlier this year at age 88. He was the 24th Governor of New Mexico serving from 1975 to 1979 where he was term-limited out of office. At one time he ran an Insurance Company in Las Cruces before he became involved in politics.

Partly personal. In 1983 or 1982, I can’t remember exactly, I was a lobbyist in the New Mexico Legislature for the University of New Mexico. The reason I was tapped to be a lobbyist for UNM was that then president of the university, John Perovich knew me from my working as the Television Director for Instructional Media Services on the main campus and had commented that I wore Cowboy boots while directing.

Yep, that is true. He called me to his office and said that he needed someone who looked western to represent UNM to the representatives from the east side of the state who also wore Cowboy style shirts with snaps and Cowboy boots.

Now the only reason I mention that is that one of the people in Santa Fe told me an interesting story about former Governor Jerry Apodaca that I cannot find today but I believe I wrote a column about this some time in the past. Here’s the story which is at least second hand, but golly, it is a good one. It seems Jerry Apodaca was what some would call a fitness person who jogged and did physical fitness stuff. He decided to run a marathon and with his security detail went to New York City to run the New York Marathon. Which year? I don’t know. Anyway, Governor Apodaca was out jogging in New York City a few days before the big marathon and was stopped by a policeman who asked for his ID. Jerry said he didn’t have an ID, but he was the Governor of New Mexico. Now the story I got was that the policeman said, yeah and I’m Amelia Earhart. They took Jerry Apadoca into the police station where everyone there had a red face and couldn’t wait to apologize. Even Hugh Carey, Democrat Governor of New York apologized to Jerry, and they had a few laughs. One time I was interviewing Jerry Apodaca and I asked him about this story, and he just smiled but wouldn’t comment on it.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

I was asked the other day about the first military use of that newfangled machine, the airplane. Well, that was in 1916 after the Pancho Villa raid on Columbus New Mexico March 9th, 1916. General John Pershing was sent to pursue Villa and his followers into Mexico. U.S. Secretary of War Newton Baker ordered the 1st Aero Squadron to Columbus to provide reconnaissance and communication for General Pershing. And the 1st Aero Squadron was the very first group of flyers to fly for our country. The squadron was tasked with sending all aircraft, pilots and support personnel to Columbus, New Mexico as quickly as possible.

By March 13th the squadron left San Antonio Texas by train and arrived on the 15th. They flew their first sortie the very next day. They had eight Curtiss JN-3 Bi-planes, eleven pilots and 82 support men. It was a good plan that did not consider the New Mexico and Northern Mexico weather and landscape. Quickly one crashed and a couple others were broken. Seems these planes and pilots were not used to the Spring winds which were full of dust. The area that they were attempting to fly above was above the flight ability of these Curtiss Bi-planes and again the wind was beyond the operating wind speed of the airplanes.

They looked good to the newspaper reporters, and the sound of the engines made people smile but as a tool of General Pershing, they were a washout. They had 90 horsepower and the propellers which were wooden and laminated happened to delaminate in the heat and wind. Within a short while they were down to two airplanes and those were ordered to Columbus for repairs. They kept trying airplanes and finding that they couldn’t stay in the air in the wind and that the different airplanes were too underpowered to do anything of use. Finally, there were twelve Curtiss R-2s sent which were much larger airplanes and had a 160-horsepower engine. But these were problematic since they were hurriedly constructed and fell apart.

In all there were 51 airplanes of various makes and models sent to Columbus and the military learned a lot without being of much use to General Pershing, but with the coming American participation in the First World War, all was not lost. The Punitive Expedition ended in February 1917 a little less than a year after it started and all airplanes were sent to San Diego and San Antonio. The pilots of these airplanes were very much trained and ready to go to France to join the war, flying French airplanes. But that’s another story.

Michael Swickard here with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico sponsored by the Fresh Chile Company in Las Cruces, N M. Hit subscribe to automatically get these podcasts.

Speaking of Sun-Dried Hatch Red Chile, it is one of the best tastes of the Fresh Chile Company. Now with it getting more into the Fall and the nice taste on a cooler day of Posole, well now if you are making posole, this Sun-Dried Hatch Red Chile is what brings out the best taste of New Mexico.

The Fresh Chile Company has a new product that can take a good Hotdog and make it Extraordinarily Great. It is a taste sensation which combines Mustard, Pickle Relish, Medium heat Jalapeño and Sweet Onions. This condiment in a jar has lots of flavor and a very nice kick to it with medium heat Jalapeño. The name you will find in the Fresh Chile Company website is Hatch Jalapeño Mustard Relish.

One thing that happens when people live in Las Cruces or is in our slice of paradise. They can come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop at 1160 El Paseo Rd, Suite D7A in Las Cruces, NM. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Come by the Fresh Chile Company Gift Shop. There is a big sign over the entrance saying The Fresh Chile Company.

This is Michael Swickard with Enchanting Stories of New Mexico brought to you by The Fresh Chile Company. Thank you for your time today. We will have lots of News and stories about New Mexico for you on these Podcasts, If you have something or someone you want me to talk about, write to: michael@freshchileco.com

Have a great rest of your day. Oh yes and eat plenty of that good Hatch Valley Chile. Like I always say, “Some Chile is good, more is better as long as it is Hatch Valley Chile.” Bye for now.

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