by Ira Kennedy
Seeking legendary silver mines in La Lomeria, or the Hill Country, a Spanish expedition led by don Bernardo de Miranda, lieutenant-general of the province of Texas, set out from the presidio of San Antonio de Bejar in February, 17, 1756. Known as the Miranda expedition, the twenty-three adventurers were under orders from Governor Barrios to locate two silver mines rumored to be in the area. Miranda did find one, known as Cerro del Almagre or the Hill of Red Ochre; and in the process he came within sight of Cerro de Santiago or the Hill of the Sacred One. At least one historian has suggested Cerro de Santiago might have been Enchanted Rock, while others discount the possibility.
e have no record, written or otherwise, for any Indian designation of Enchanted Rock. During the historical period beginning with the Spanish, most guides were Native Americans who spoke Spanish. Cerro de Santiago is Spanish for Hill of the Sacred One. Ending with an "o" makes "the sacred one" masculine, thus we can say, the "sacred man." Among Native Americans anything sacred is said to have, or be, medicine. Therefore, if we were to conjecture on the Indian name for Enchanted Rock we could surmise it was Hill of the Medicine Man, or Medicine Man Hill.
This article is not likely to settle the matter conclusively; however, there is compelling evidence to support the claim that the Cerro de Santiago was indeed Enchanted Rock. If so, in Mirandas journal and subsequent report we find the first mention of Enchanted Rock in historical records. From the time of Mirandas discovery in 1756 to the present, lost silver mines and Enchanted Rock have become synonymous with La Lomeria.
To understand this conclusion we must follow Mirandas journey, by way of his journal, day by day. Only those facts relevant to this search are excerpted from the journal. No facts contrary to this conclusion are omitted.
FEB. 17: "From two in the afternoon until sunset we traveled north, and we arrived at the waterhole they call El Paredon, about four leagues from the Villa."
The Villa de San Fernando was the eighteenth-century name for San Antonio. Miranda and company traveled north generally following the route of present-day Highway 281. The Spanish league was about three miles. However, Mirandas leagues were "guesstimates" which varied between two to under one mile per league depending on the conditions of the terrain, weather, and the condition of his men and horses.
FEB. 18: "I commanded the march to proceed north because the knowledgeable ones assured me that the almagre was discovered approximately to the northwest. Having traveled most of the day on the cited course with difficulty, over very rocky dry creeks and a road of rough cobbles," the expedition covered a distance of six Miranda leagues and camped "at the pass known as Payayas" near Cibolo Creek.
The "knowledgeable ones" were possibly three civilians hired by Miranda: Andres Ramon, Joseph Miguel Seguin, and Christobal Chirino - all of San Antonio - and Joseph Antonio Caraveo, a Spanish-speaking Apache guide.
FEB. 19: On the third day, "having left the pass of the Payayas and going past the Balcones, we arrived at the river they call Alarcon (known today as the Guadalupe). This was an effort because of the many hills and rocks, the many arroyos formed by the hills, and some thickets that contain valuable cedar and oak timber." Miranda estimated the distance traveled at six leagues.
FEB. 20: On the fourth day they encountered "difficulties produced by continual showers After many hardships because of the many hills, arroyos, and brush, we arrived at a creed generally known as Arroyo Blanco (the Little Blanco)." Miranda estimated they covered eight leagues.
FEB. 21: On the fifth day the expedition Miranda pressed forward "in spite of the many rains," until they "encountered a creek with much water, good level ground on both banks, and much rock and wood, all useful." Miranda names this creek San Antonio de Ahumada. It was, in fact, the Blanco River. This day Miranda and company traveled "four or five leagues."
FEB. 22-23: On the sixth day "notwithstanding the very heavy and continual rains crossing many swollen creeks and thickets of cedar and oak timber, at a distance of eight leagues we arrived at the Arroyo de los Pedernales where we remained that day and the following, the twenty-third, because the heavy rains did not allow us an opportunity to leave."
FEB. 24: On the eighth day of the expedition "Because all the terrain was full of obstacles, many of the horses were tired and footsore from the numerous rocks, and we halted for the night at the pass of the Conde Marrubio, six leagues from the Pedernales."
FEB. 25: On the ninth day they crossed a creek call San Miguelito (White Creek) and a stream known as San Miguel (Sandy Creek). "We arrived late because of the broken country and poor condition of our horses, leaving its examination for the twenty-sixth day. This almagre must be about twelve leagues from the pass of the Conde." It is worth noting that Miranda did not estimate the distance he traveled that day - he estimated the distance he traveled plus the distance to the almagre. On the following day Miranda discovered that the Cerro del Amalgre was a quarter-league from his camp.
FEB. 26: "Having made camp on a creek they told me was also call San Miguel, about a quarter of a league before reaching the almagre, I commanded that the examination be made " (The second San Miguel was Honey Creek, a tributary of the Rio de las Chanas or Llano River. The Cerro del Amalgre is located on present-day Riley Mountain.) "All day was spent in this activity, and a tremendous stratum of ore was observed."
FEB. 27: "I commanded that the work be continued on the cave of almagre, to which I gave the name and commanded that it be called San Jose del Alcazar. I also commanded that on the following day six soldiers be furnished to explore for a long distance off to the west, as it was not feasible to continue the march to examine the other places, because most of the soldiers were now nearly on foot with the horses tired and footsore, and of those who accompanied me there was not one who was able to serve as a guide to discover the other Almagre Grande." (Miranda was in search of two almagres, or silver mines; and it is apparent from this entry that the knowledgeable ones did not accompany Miranda on this leg of the expedition.)
FEB. 28: "In said camp of San Miguel on the twenty-eighth day of said month and year, I the Teniente General, in virtue of what was commanded in the preceding entry, went out toward the west accompanied by six soldiers to examine all the land possible And having traveled until nearly two in the afternoon we saw the high hill they call Santiago. As it was not feasible to examine it because some of the horses of those who accompanied me were now tired, it was necessary to omit this objective and return to camp."
In Mirandas Report which was filed after his return to San Antonio he stated that "Leaving (the camp of San Miguel) toward the west, there are mineral veins again, although they are much scarcer than at San Joseph del Alcazar. I saw these for most of the ten leagues that I traveled until sighting the high hill they call Santiago (Cerro de Santiago, Hill of the Sacred One), not being able to proceed onward for the reasons cited in the (journal) of the twenty-eighth of February (emphasis mine).
FEB. 29: (This was a leap year and there is no entry for this date. Mirandas omission or mistake has lead to considerable debate as to whether or not he returned to the camp of San Miguel on the 28th or 29th.
In the entry of the 28th he simply states he returned to camp. It should be remembered that during the month of February the days are shorter, and with tired men and horses it is doubtful he could have reached the camp of San Miguel before nightfall. Mirandas report and journal taken together specifically state that he saw Cerro de Santiago at two in the afternoon and due to the condition of their horses they were unable to proceed onward and returned to camp. A reasonable conjecture is that a few members of his party made camp before two in the afternoon while Miranda and another member or two of his group explored a little further. This certainly fits with his pattern of exploration.
Previously, Miranda never traveled more than eight leagues in a given day. On those occasions he had more men and supplies. On this excursion he had fewer men and supplies, but the horses were extremely exhausted. It seems unlikely, to say the least, that he could have traveled twenty leagues that day. A careful reading of subsequent events shows that on those occasions Miranda specifically states "I returned to the camp of San Miguel." It is also significant to remember that Miranda went on this excursion without the knowledgeable ones, or guides, and that he had to describe Cerro de Santiago upon his return. Of all the landmarks in the area, only Enchanted Rock can be described with any certainty. According to some historians who choose to attribute Cerro de Santiago to some other unnamed landmark, Enchanted Rock is southwest, not westerly which Miranda stated as his direction of travel. However, virtually due west of Riley mountain on a ridge near present day Oxford one can see Enchanted Rock to the south, which is in keeping with Mirandas journal. One other fact worthy of mention is that the Miranda expedition occurred in the winter when the sun sets further to the south.
MARCH 1: "I with only four soldiers explored all of the Arroyo de San Miguel (Honey Creek) as far as its junction with the river they call Las Chanas, which I examined as far as its junction with the Colorado, on whose banks I slept The following day (March 2) without crossing the Rio Colorado I commanded that the examination be continued northwest between these two rivers (present day Kingsland). In these activities I spent all of this day. The next day (March 3) I returned to the camp of San Miguel "
MARCH 4: "In said camp of San Miguel having seen the examination made and it not being feasible for me to do anything further in a matter of such great importance for the reasons already given and having lost provisions because of the great amount of rain, I, the Teniente General, commaned that we return to the Presidio de San Antonio "
Following his return, Miranda filed a report to Jacinto de Barrios y Jauregui, Governor of Texas, dated March 29, 1756. In this document Miranda wrote: "The mines that are throughout the Cerro del Almagre and all its slope are so abundant that I guarantee to give a mine to each one of all the inhabitants of this province of Texas "
Despite such grand predictions, the ore that Miranda brought back to be assayed proved to be of low grade, and the project was abandoned. Several years later a presidio and mission was established near present-day Menard on the San Saba River. The officer in charge of the presidio had ore shipped from the mine on Riley Mountain to the San Saba presidio. There he had the ore smelted down, again without promising results.
This series of events led to legends of a Lost San Saba Mine which inspired individuals such as James Bowie, and institutions such as the German Immigration Society, to explore La Lomeria in search of lost Spanish silver mines. In this respect, Mirandas expedition was one of the most important historical events in the Hill Country, and the first historical mention of Enchanted Rock - Cerro de Santiago.