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Speaking of Texas: Lost Gold of the Palo Duro

Rumors of buried treasure in the Panhandle

Campers in Palo Duro Canyon State Park wake up to panoramas that seem straight from the Old West. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

By Clay Coppedge

Visitors to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, south of Amarillo, might marvel at its splendid isolation and tranquility, but the setting was not always so serene. Palo Duro was the last Comanche battleground and a favorite hideout of the notorious Comancheros. Hundreds of sensational stories have rolled out of this rugged land, some of them true. One story revolves around thousands of dollars worth of gold and includes greed, murder, revenge, and grim irony—all the elements of a rip-roaring, Old West yarn. It appears to have originated with the legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight.

Bill Green, curator of history at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, says the tale is typical of the lost-treasure stories that abound in Texas history and folklore. “Goodnight was a good storyteller, and this is a good story, perfect in that everybody who would have known where the gold was had died,” says Green. “There was no one left to dispute it.”  He credits J. Evetts Haley’s 1936 biography of Goodnight with introducing the tale to a wide audience.

From the August 2009 issue.

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