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Colorado Lost Treasure, Treasure Mountain, Dead Men Tell No Tales

Updated on October 16, 2015

Treasure Mountain

Treasure Mountain located in the Elk Mountain Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Treasure mountain is located in the Raggeds Wilderness area of the Elk Mountains, which contains 65,019 acres of land and was designated in 1980. It's boundaries are the Crystal River, Schofield Pass, Kebler Pass and Colorado 133, from the north, east, south and west, respectively. The northwestern corner of the Raggeds Wilderness is occupied by the Raggeds Range, a subrange of the Elk Mountains. The center of the Raggeds Wilderness is dominated by twin Treasure Mountain and Treasure Mountain massif. Finally, the southeast corner is occupied by the Ruby Range, another subrange of the Elk Mountains accessible from the town of Crested Butte, Colorado.

Colorado Rocky Mountains

Photo by Kurt Reifschneider of Midnight Wind Photography
Photo by Kurt Reifschneider of Midnight Wind Photography

Treasure Tales, Growing Up In Colorado

I grew up in Southwest of Denver, Colorado in a tiny suburb of Sheridan, Colorado and I was lucky enough to have the Colorado Rocky Mountains just minutes away to the west for my playground.

As a young man in Colorado with an interest in all things about nature and the romance of history of days gone by, I would always hear the tales of outlaws, gold mining towns, ghost towns, Indians, trappers, mountain men, cowboys and of course the biggie lost treasures.

In those days before the advent of computers and cell phones I had to do my research the old fashion way by going to your local library, I would spend countless hours devouring books on Colorado history and my favorite of course were those about lost treasure.

I found during those snowy winter days in the local library a few sentences in regards to the story of Treasure Mountain. Now I present what I have found for you my reader and that little kid that resides in you that loves tales of lost treasure.

Napoléon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte Tie To The Colorado Wilderness

I once read a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte, "Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily". The famous French Commander was all about the glory, his glory. Napoleon Bonaparte knew that to achieve glory on the scale that he wanted to achieve glory and the building of his empire that there was a cost, a huge financial cost. Bonaparte saw the New World as a means to an end and that the New World could finance his growing empire. With that thought in mind Napoleon Bonaparte, always the doer, sent expedition's to the New World not to conquer for there were no army to gain glory but to find the ever elusive gold. Gold, in which he could use to finance his quest for never ending "Glory".

Napoleon Bonaparte Search For Gold Begins

In the very late 1700's Napoleon Bonaparte's expedition of 300 men and 450 horses left what is now present day New Orleans to travel into the remote west and unexplored wilderness in a search for gold.

They would set up an outpost at present day Leavenworth, Kansas and gathered enough raw material and food to continue on their march to the Rocky Mountains in present day Colorado.

With high hopes and the blessing of Bonaparte that would continue west, little did they know that the ill-fated expedition was doomed.

Once they reached the east side of the Rockies they began to prospect for gold with little or no success, the expedition turned south and set up a camp and base of operations several miles east of what is now Wolf Creek Pass near the town of Summitville.


FINALLY! GOLD

Looking for ravines that would act as a natural sluice when it rained or when the snow melted during the spring the expedition finally found what they were looking for ...GOLD. As experienced miners they knew that the gold came from higher up and that the bottom of the ravine was just a catch all. The source or mother lode of gold was somewhere up the mountain, somewhere up Treasure Mountain.

As they explored the ravine up the mountain they would have several men dry pan for gold as they made their climb. They continued on in this manner for several days until they did in fact find the source, A rich vein of gold for their taking. Gold to support their Emperor who was waging war across the sea in his quest to conquer and to claim glory.

For weeks and months they mined the gold and spoke of the riches and accolades and position's of power that their Emperor Bonaparte would rain down on them when they returned with the riches back to their native France. Little did they know that would not happen.


Primitive Gold Bar

By All Accounts The Expedition To Fund Bonaparte Wars Was A Success

By all accounts of journals and the survivors of the expedition the French miners had accumulated a vast amount of gold, I have read in different places during my research that the dollar amount of the gold in todays standards was in between 30 to 60 million dollars. By any standard an unimaginable wealth. The French melted and formed the gold into easier to manage primitive gold bars. As they packed the gold and hunted for food to begin the long road and their journey back home, they did not realize that something was amiss, something out of kilter in the surrounding mountains, something that was going to prevent that gold from ever leaving Treasure Mountain.

Indians

What the French did not take into account were the native Indians, more likely than not the Ute Indians. The French believed that the Indians were fearful of them and by having such a large force of 300 men that they would be impervious to attack. It was this thought process that would be their undoing.

During the mining operation the French had captured several male Indians to be used as forced labor, and several females to be used as the men saw fit. The whole time that the French were on Treasure Mountain the Ute Indians who were battle hardened against other tribes were gathering in large numbers and making ready for battle, Indian style. The Indians fought more of a guerrilla style fighting that the French had never seen before. This type of fighting was more suited for heavily timber areas such as which surrounded Treasure Mountain.



Ute Indian Attack

The Battle For Treasure Mountain Begins

There really is no accounting why the Indians attacked the French, the Ute's at the time had no concept of gold. Could it have been to recapture the few Indian slaves that were being held by the French? I think more than likely it was a combination of things, but I think the deciding factor was the 450 horses the French had along on the expedition, horses were valuable to the Indians, more so than the gold that the French carried.

The French were taken completely by surprise when the Ute Indians started to attack. The Commander of the expedition immediately ordered the gold to be hidden and buried in three different locations. He also tasked his map maker to make two maps in regards to re-locating the golden treasure so it could be retrieved later.

The battle lasted for more than a day as more and more Frenchmen fell to the tomahawks and arrows of the Indians. It was not long before so many of the French had been killed that the Indians over whelming out numbered the remaining French.

Of the original 300 men only a handful numbering 20 to 25 men were able to make it east to the foothills of the Rockies. That rest had been slaughtered on Treasure Mountain. Some of the horses had been killed in the onslaught, the horses that had not been killed were now property of the Ute Indians.

Thinking the worse was behind them and that the had outrun the Indian horde to the foothills the French made camp to treat the wounded. This would also prove to be a deadly mistake. For on the morning of the second day they were attacked again. The slaughtered continued, but five men were able to find cover and hide as the Indians brutally killed the remaining members of the expedition.

The commander who held the treasure maps was mortally wounded and knowing his hours were limited gave the two maps to one of the remaining five a man named Le Blanc.

Winter Claims More Of The French Lives

Five, Then two, Then One Sole Survivor

The five men started to make their way east to the outpost near present day Leavenworth, Kansas, hoping to reach it before winter sets in. Once again the hands of time and fate were stacked against them as three more of the men succumb to wounds and the winter weather.

Only Le Blanc and one other man made it to the outpost and the other man died within days, leaving Leblanc and the holder of the two treasure maps as the sole survivor out of 300 men and 450 horses.

Le Blanc after recuperating from his wounds and the ordeal at the French outpost made the long journey back to France, he was able to present the treasure map to the French government and to his Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte. Only one map, he kept the other for himself.

50 Men Simply Vanished

Photo by Kurt Reifschneider of Midnight Wind Photography
Photo by Kurt Reifschneider of Midnight Wind Photography

The French Try To Reclaim The Gold

Several years later another expedition of fifty men was formed to try and reclaim the lost treasure on Treasure Mountain. With one of the maps of hidden treasure drawn by the map maker before he died, they set out following the exact trail that the ill-fated first expedition.

This expedition was manned by battle hardened French soldiers ready to fight if needed the Indians. As they made their way into the wilderness, they sang songs of bravery and war. They were equipped to handle anything or anyone that stood in their way of the retrieval of the lost treasure.

After passing through an outpost that is now Taos, New Mexico the troops, the gold seekers were never heard from again. All fifty men, horses and equipment disappeared into the Colorado wilderness. Even to this day there has never been any trace of the vanished men.

Were they too attack by the Indians and wiped out to the last man? Did they succumb to some sort of sickness? Or did they find the gold and keep it for themselves? We may never know the truth.


Is The Lost Gold Still There Waiting For You?

Of course, this story has more questions than answers. What ever happened to the map the French government had? Did Le Blanc ever return with his map? Did Le Blanc retrieve the gold? If not, what ever happened to his map? What happened to the second expedition? Did the second expedition actually locate and retrieve the gold and simply disappear with it?

Over the years there has been several attempts to locate the lost gold that was buried in haste on Treasure Mountain and if someone ever did find it they never told anyone.

This story as the gold has been lost to the passage of time. 300 or maybe 350 men have been known to have lost their lives for this treasure of immense wealth. If you ever decide to seek out the gold, you the treasure seeker have to ask yourself "Do you feel lucky?"

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    • kurtreifschneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Kurt James 

      3 years ago from Loveland Colorado

      Thank you pstraubie8 for your kind words and of course the Angels. Gold down through the ages have destroyed many of those that seek it, my home state of Colorado, have countless of such stories. Sometimes I just don't have the time to be able to write about them, but, I do try my best.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      What a story

      It would seem that greed caused the demise of many in this story...how sad that is.

      Perhaps one day that gold may be found and if so hopefully it will go to those who really can use it.

      Angels are on the way to you today ps

      shared g+ pinned Tweeted

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