The Lost Treasure of Mission Dolores

April 5, 2015 | By | Reply More
A view of San Francisco from Yerba Buena Island. (W.H. Dougal/David Rumsey Historical Map Collection)

A view of San Francisco from Yerba Buena Island. (W.H. Dougal/David Rumsey Historical Map Collection)

One of Yerba Buena’s earliest legends arose out of the Mexican Government’s secularization of the California missions in 1833.

The padres at San Francisco’s Mission Dolores hastily packed the altar cloths, silver implements, gold, and jewels into chests and out them aboard a sloop for shipment to Spain.

The vessel had scarcely left its anchorage, according to the tale, when a severe storm struck, nearly swamped the craft, and finally piled it up on the north shore or Yerba Buena.

Although some lives were lost, the treasure was kept intact and buried on the island for safekeeping.

Suspicion arose that some members of the crew had wrecked the vessel purposely in order to seize the mission’s wealth, but it may be that the plotters themselves were the ones who were drowned in the attempt.

At any rate there is no record that the treasure was recovered, and presumably it still safely rests in its legendary hiding place.

Yerba Buena and Yerba Buena Island in the 1840s.

Yerba Buena and Yerba Buena Island in the 1840s.

From that time on the treasure buriers came to the island in such a steady stream that it seems remarkable they did not spade up each other’s jewels.

The next treasure tale took place shortly after the mission treasure was buried.

An American whaling ship, making its way around the Horn en route to the North Pacific, stopped at the port of Callao on the coast of Peru to take on water and found one of the customary revolutions in progress.

Members of the embattled wealthy class pleaded with the captain of the vessel to take their valuables on board for safety reasons until the revolution was over.

The captain obligingly took two barrels of coin and a large casket of jewels. The revolutionists continued to hold the upper hand, however, and the American skipper, according to his story, grew tired of waiting.

Impatiently, he hoisted anchor and headed north, intending to stop again on his way back. Putting in at San Francisco Bay, he decided to deposit the treasure until his return from the artic whaling grounds.

One dark night the skipper chose two of his crew, swore them to secrecy, and set out in a small boat for one of the bay’s islands, where they stashed away the Peruvian loot.

One of the two crewmen, however, a native of the West Native Americans, named Charles Stewart, jumped ship and remained in the bay area.

The vessel never returned from the artic. Although the island in question was popularly supposed to have been Yerba Buena, Stewart, who enjoyed retelling the tale, never revealed the exact hiding place. He maintained that as a man of honor he could not be expected to violate his oath.

 Daguerreotype of San Francisco harbor (Yerba Buena Cove), in 1850 or 1851, with Yerba Buena Island in the background.

Daguerreotype of San Francisco harbor (Yerba Buena Cove), in 1850 or 1851, with Yerba Buena Island in the background.

A number of other buried treasures of Yerba Buena did not remain buried for long.

During the 1830s and ‘40s, for example, the tangled thickets on the island slopes were supposedly used by smugglers as a temporary repository for opium and other oriental contraband, where it remained until it could safely be picked up by agents ashore.

And in one of the devastating fires which swept shanty-built San Francisco during the Gold Rush looters reportedly made off with large quantities of the yellow metal and buried it on Yerba Buena, but most of it was eventually recovered by the police.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Curiosities, Fog City - City of Fog

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: