“Lord, deliver me from that evil man, myself.”
–Prayer of Saint Augustine
Mariscal Mountain can be a lonesome place, even with the occasional shiny four-wheel-drive vehicle careening along the dirt track below. Pointed like the blade of a double edged dagger from out of Mexico, prehistoric man likely avoided most of it, save for the river and parts of Fresno Creek.
That all changed around 1900, when one of the Solis brothers found high grade cinnabar ore along the northern tip of that dagger. Part of a pioneer ranching family headquartered a few miles southeast of here, his discovery set into motion the most complicated, convoluted, acrimonious land dispute in the lower Big Bend.
By 1903 a local customs officer by the name of Lindsay had somehow obtained possession of this heretofore mostly useless tract, and put a mine into operation. Flasks of quicksilver were soon headed to the railway in Marathon, and Lindsay soon became a somewhat wealthy man. As far as I know, the Solis family never saw a dime of that wealth.
Lindsay sold out afterwards to another group and the mine went through a series of owners. The name of the mine did the same, being first called the Lindsay, then the Ellis, the Texas Almaden and finally the Mariscal. What records exist underline the irony that Lindsay was the only one of scores of investors who actually made money here.
But that did not stop the flurry of legal suits and actions among those same scores of other men, each thinking they had found their fortune only to have those dreams dissolve because of poor surveying, poor representation, poor research and an outright swindle or two. Operations here finally shut down for good around 1944, and the National Park Service took over.
Now this area is a quiet, sunbaked shrine to those lost dreams, withering and dying away to this implacable desert. If you know where to look, scenes such as shown in this photograph lie all around, fading testaments of another time and place.
Meanwhile those shiny new vehicles continue by, manned by urbanites locked in their air conditioned cocoons with not a clue to what surrounds them on all sides.
After all, it is only an empty desert.
God bless to all,
September 4-5 Big Bend Gun and Knife Show, Alpine Texas
September 21 Sonora Texas
September 25 Kerrville Texas
October 5 Ozona Texas
November 4 Horseshoe Bay Texas
November 6 Hico Texas
Ben H. English
Author of ‘Yonderings’ (TCU Press)
‘Destiny’s Way’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘The Uvalde Raider’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’