Friday, October 17, 2008

San Antonio, TX and $47,000 in Buried Loot

It was the winter of 1899 and Charles Beeler had been a wagon driver for Wells Fargo & Company for several years. It just so happens that on what would turn out to be his last day on the job for Wells Fargo Mr. Beeler made off $50,000, a retirement fund so to speak. I know, the title of this article only said $47,000. Have patience and read on.

On this fateful day Mr. Beeler was tasked with driving $50,000 in gold and currency from the express office in San Antonio, TX to the Southern Pacific Railroad station and see it loaded onto the pay car. Well, he never made it to the railroad station, heading south out of town instead.

Charles Beeler claims that when he reached a ranch “a few miles below San Antonio” he stopped and buried all but $3,000. See, $47,000, you just hade to wait for the explanation. Mr. Beeler stated that he placed the gold in tin cans and buried it on the ranch property and “carefully marked the spot” where he buried it. It was his intentions to head south into Mexico until all of the brew-ha-ha blew over about the theft and then he would return to the ranch and retrieve his retirement account. He used part of the $3,000 in currency he had to purchase a horse from the ranch where the money was buried and he headed on his merry way. On a personal note, I’m puzzled here, if you just made off with $50,000 then why buy a horse? Why not just take one from the wagon you just stole the gold with? Maybe being a horse thief isn’t what he wanted to be known for.

Well, anyway, after buying his horse he headed for the Mexican border but before he made it to the border he was stopped by a local peace officer that recognized Mr. Beeler from a description that was given after the robbery. Old Charlie was able to bride his way out of arrest with $100. He even got directions to the shortest way across the Rio Grande and the border. I guess back then $100 would still buy you service with a smile! Once he crossed the border and traveled several more days Charlie’s luck changed. He ran into some Mexican bandits who stole what he had left of the $3,000. It seems the leader of the bandit group also recognized Charlie Beeler from a wanted poster and wanted the rest of Charlie’s money. As luck would have it, it was all down hill from there.

Charlie, in an effort to save his life, told the bandit leader that he had buried the rest of the money on a ranch near San Antonio so the band of bandits headed that way with Charles Beeler in tow. As the bandits headed toward the U.S. border they were besieged by the Mexican authorities who arrested everybody and turned Charlie Beeler over to the U.S. authorities.

Charlie Beeler spent the next five years in jail and was even sued by Wells Fargo to recover the money. They won the suit but didn’t receive any money. While in jail the Wells Fargo Company kept a close watch on Charles Beeler’s wife in the event he had told her where the money was hidden. Apparently he didn’t because she never made a try for it.

After getting out of jail Charlie was shadowed by detectives working for Wells Fargo in hopes that Charlie would try to recover the money. They apparently kept tabs on him for several months before giving up. Prior to going to jail Charlie had told the Wells Fargo Company that he had buried the gold and even took them to the ranch where he buried it but once he got there he couldn’t find his carefully marked spot and the gold was deemed as lost.

For what it’s worth, the information about the gold, how it was buried and the circumstances following the burial came directly from Charles Beeler and the Wells Fargo Company. In 1910 Charlie was working for the St. Louis Brownsville & Mexico Railroad and had given up on any hopes of ever finding the remaining $47,000.

So much for carefully marking a spot! I guess if it was really carefully marked then Wells Fargo would have gotten their money back and you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

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