In 1880, Alexander “Boss” Shepherd, the last territorial gover- nor of the District of Columbia, packed up his family and, in the remote village of Batopilas, at the bottom of Copper Canyon, developed one of the richest silver mining operations in the world. Fifty-seven years later, his son, Grant, published a book, The Silver Magnet, recounting tales of growing up in Batopilas. The following excerpt from the book describes the church at Satevo and the tales of treasure buried by Jesuit priests upon their expulsion from the New World, in 1767, by King Charles III of Spain:
Mexico formerly the big holiday of the entire year was Holy Week, Semana
Santa. Three days' holiday for all, and a whole week for those who were
more pious and, also financially able to go without work for that length
of time. It was a popular time for picnics, and the favorite place for
these was Satevo.
“Satevo was a charming location where the gorge widened out, giving
a broader space in the canyon between the river and the red and yellow
porphyry bluffs that towered above Satevo for many hundred feet and practically
enclosed this small spot on two sides. Here was the very old and very
beautiful church built by the Roman Catholic Fathers more than two hundred
“This gem of a church at Satevo with its arched dome, its two-bell
tower—one of them is marked with dates proving them to have been
cast in Spain before Columbus discovered Española, always inspired
me, even as a young boy, with a feeling that never could be put into
“My first picnic at Satevo was in 1883. Even then the crypt beneath
the High Altar had been broken into and the niches on either side, where
the bodies of holy men had been entombed, were torn down and their remains
strewn about the floor. This piece of desecration had been perpetrated
by vandals who hoped to uncover gold or silver hidden there. The only
treasure was the spring sunshine splintering its long arrows of gold
on the arched dome.
“You will doubtless recall that when it was decided to expel certain
orders for real or fancied wrongs, the plans for the expulsion were laid
with greatest secrecy. There was to have been a concerted action on a
stipulated day in all parts of Mexico, in order that the confiscation
might be a thorough one, that they might secure all the treasure amassed
by the orders for the benefit of the Federal Government.
“The Fathers were forewarned and they succeeded in gathering together
a large quantity of their treasure and conveying it out of the country.
Nevertheless, they were forced to bury huge amounts of gold and silver
in various forms. This was done because although the men who were leading
the confiscation failed in complete surprise, the information came to
the Fathers not very long before the zero hour. That which was sent away
had to go shipped through channels unknown to all but a trusted few,
and it had to be carefully disguised. All this took time, and when the
fatal day arrived there was still some treasure in Mexico belonging to
the orders, some unmoved and some in transit on the trails. This had
to be hastily buried or otherwise disposed of, and for many, many years
it was the cause of interminable search and excavations.
“There is no doubt that many hiding places were found and rifled
of their contents; but most of these discoveries were never publicly
“When I was a little boy I used to love to look at the shelves
in the room on the right-hand side of the High Altar. This room had served
as a library, upon them were still a few ancient tomes, one or two adorned
by exquisitely executed illuminated work. When I returned there a few
years later, all these parchment books had disappeared. They were of
great historic interest, were written by hand in Latin, and contained
records of the church at Satevo and its monastery.
“Unfortunately [the buildings] were partially destroyed at the
time of the expulsion, and the rains during the decades that followed
did the rest.
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