Book Review: Coronado’s Children

J Frank Dobie

I finished my first read-through of storyteller and folklorist J. Frank Dobie’s Coronado’s Children around mid-February and enjoyed it. I posted a review on another site but began a re-read of the first fourteen stories covering the Lost San Saba Mine to facilitate an on-going discussion relating to the historical James ‘Jim’ Bowie, his search for the San Saba, and the subsequent, and some say same find that came to also be known as the Bowie treasure mine.

Bowie, it seems, was quite the character and consummate adventurer.

Of Bowie, Dobie writes, “Flaming above all the other searchers {for treasure} is the figure of James Bowie. It is a great pity that we have no biography of him such as we have of Davy Crockett. This biography would tell—often with only legend for authority—how he rode alligators in Louisiana; how, like Plains Indians chasing buffalo, he speared wild cattle; how, with the deadly bowie knife, he fought fearful duels in dark rooms; how he trafficked for black ivory with the pirate Laffite on Galveston Island; and then how he came to San Antonio and married the lovely Ursula de Veramendi, daughter of the vice-governor of Texas. Bowie was a master of men and slave to fortune. He was willing to pawn his life for a chance at a chimerical mine, and he asked no odds. Out on the Nueces and Frio rivers, far beyond the last outpost of settlement, he prospected for gold and silver. In his burning quest for the fabled Spanish mines on the San Saba he engaged in one of the most sanguinary and brilliant fights of frontier history.”

The book, published in 1930, does a wonderful job of capturing old tales and legends of lost mines and undiscovered treasures in a style and voice of those who lived and died in and before Dobie’s time. Many, it seems, perished in vain searches for wealth in the deserts, mountains, and vast terrain of the American Southwest. Many more of these reputed treasures, legend and folklore claim, are guarded by spirits and ghosts. The book includes some treasure maps and extensive, colorful, and sometimes humorous narrative relating stories of treasure hunters, suspected lost mine locations and clues to other valuable, lost treasure. I have no doubt it is a must-have reference for anyone interested in writing historical fiction related to Texas history, treasure hunting in Texas, and the legends and stories of treasure and treasure hunting in the American Southwest.

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