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The Candelaria bridge story is not dead yet. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the bridge but can't give you a link since it is a subscription service. Also, this morning the German Financial Times published an article on the bridge titled "Frontier Culture Roughly Sundered". Check it out at: ... 28931.html


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Hi Glenn,

Yes, I read the news article I have again and it stated that Herbert Cody Blake actually enlisted one of the uncles of the Gardner boys into the search. Blake even followed the treasure map. It would be nice to find those gold bars though!

If I get enough information I just might make a movie called "The Gardner Boys", kind of like "The Newton Boys".

Leon Metz suggested that I search the El Paso newspapers. The Gardner boys were probably outlaws who formed a gang during the late 1870s and then split into the Guadalupe Mountains. The newspaper suggested that their were copies of these newspapers which mentioned the notorious Gardners, but I would love to know where these newspapers are now.

I have heard of a gunfighter named Zeb Gardner, but again a mystery. I've also found fast guns such as Tom Gardner, a notable rancher during the Johnson County War in Wyoming, and a supposed noted fast gun named Billy Gardner, a prominent New Mexican who was killed in a "Duel to the Death" in 1902 as newspapers reported.

Their was also a notable Texas gunman named "Lige" Gardner, who worked as a timekeeper for the Southern Pacific railroad in 1901 and suffered from Bright's disease. He would often boast, "If I've got to cash - in I might as well take along some of my enemies". He was known to have killed two white men and several blacks. However, he was in Eastern Texas near Beaumont.

I am also researching my ancestor who I have wondered might have been the leader of the gang, but most gunmen were loners instead of desperadoes, plus he was never in that area.

However he lived in south Texas around Brownsville near the King Ranch, and hardly any information there either.

My ancestor, Lewis Gardner, was a sixty something year old gunfighter in south Texas. He was born about 1810 at SC, lived in GA where he married and fathered about thirteen children, farmed, owned slaves, removed to MS where he owned a farm, his wife divorced him during the Civil War, he gave her the farm and then he went to Texas. He lived in Houston County for a time where he remarried to a widow, and he made his living as a horse trader. Gardner was a notorious gunfighter and I need to find newspapers from the 1870s in south Texas. His death is a mystery. He was supposedly ambushed and killed in a gunfight with horse thieves at a place pronounced "Natchez" in Texas while transporting horses to Louisiana, but it is also stated that he spent his last years in Johnson County, Texas. He was supposed to have been described from a postcard photograph as a tall, big boned man, with a long flowing white beard, and striking sky eyes.

I did find a professional gambler named Gardner during the early 1870s in Refugio, Texas.

A lot of horse traders migrated to south Texas and Mexico to buy cheap horses, and transported the horses to Mississippi and Louisiana.

Thank you for the information and it will probably be awhile before I find anything, and I need money to travel, and since microfilm is difficult, then I will probably have to hire a researcher!

If you know anybody who has searched through newspapers from the late 1870s, for example Billy the Kid, and has read about these outlaws, just let me know.

The Gardner boys were perhaps the most ruthless desperadoes in the West if the gang actually stole over a million dollars.

Corey Gardner

Is there anyone out there that knows anything about the Gardners? If so, please join us in the discussion and see if we can help Corey find some of this. Post a comment or email me.


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Hi Glenn,

I hope and believe that the Gardner boys are real, and just the fact that Blake mentioned, or the newspaper mentioned those old newspapers, it convinces me.
I am not hunting treasure, don't have the time, patience, and money to do so. Herbert Cody Blake didn't sound like he would believe anything written by this guy named Dobie.

Herbert Cody Blake debunked just about everyone, such as Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill, and he would have ripped Dobie a new one.

Could you somehow get somebody who has come across old newspapers from the 1870s and 1880s in the west Texas area that mentions the Gardner boys?

It annoys me that people have researched every outlaw gang or outlaw character without the name Gardner. It's like the name is cursed or something. Their was a famous outlaw named Roy Gardner with a way more amazing and real tale than any other outlaw. Another was a noted Missouri horse thief named George Gardner, alias "Skoddallo" mentioned in newspapers in 1889, but can't find anything on him. Their was a very infamous outlaw named Big Phil Gardner who was the leader of a gang in the Colorado Territory, but he was gunned down in 1870 at Montana.

Their was a Gardner family in west Texas that could have been the Gardner boys. Their names were Alex, John, Peter, Tom, Charlie, and Willis Gardner. They were cattle raisers, a rough crew. These men were cowboys and Indian fighters, but only one seemed to have a bad man reputation.

These Gardner brothers were only together from 1877 to 1880 in west Texas.

Alex Gardner was a cowboy, Confederate soldier, Indian fighter, and rancher in west Texas and later moved to Arizona to raise horses.

John Gardner was a notable trail boss mentioned in "John Gardner's Trail Herd", a Texas folk song which described him as the "biggest cow - thief" and "you meet him on the square". He was a Texas Ranger, cowboy, Indian fighter, and an alleged member of the Sam Bass Gang, but by 1877 he was a family man. He was definitely a friend of Sam Bass, because Bass talked about his friend John Gardner on his deathbed. However, no evidence states he was a wanted man. Gardner wrote a short bio on himself in which he stated that he was involved in many fights with Mexicans and Indians, but would not give details as it would sound "fishy" these days. He lived his life as a rancher in Frio County and his son, Joe Gardner, was a very noted roping champion.

"Peter" Gardner was a distinguished Indian fighter, trail driver, and rancher in Frio County, Texas.
Tom Gardner was a cattle raiser and lived in Tom Green County, but married and moved back to Frio County, Texas.
Charlie Gardner was a cattle raiser and moved to New Mexico where he married in 1889, which I found interesting.
Willis Gardner died at age eighteen in 1882, strangely.

Their was also a famous army scout and Indian fighter named Raymond "Arizona Bill" Gardner, known for his tall tales. He was indeed an army scout and served with Custer, Miles, and Crook, and he claimed he had been raised by Indians, knew every Old West character, did every frontier trade, was a Wild West performer, lawman, Arizona Ranger, and many other claims. He looked kind of goofy when he was in his nineties, smiling and riding a burro, but I had seen a few pictures of him when he was about seventy and he looked like he could handle himself in a fight.

He was a very shady character aside from his military service. I read that he "reportedly" buried a treasure near Camp Grant, Arizona in 1877 from a robbery, and was sounds truthful is that it wasn't his claim. He might have had his own gang. His book, which is terrible, stated that he had a brother named Charlie Gardner who was a ranchman.

I don't know if they were known as the Gardner gang, or the Gardner boys, but some of those possible first names might help.



I don't doubt the Gardner boys were real people and if you dig deep enough, you will find some information about them. But that means you must look at more than just newspapers to find what you are looking for. Problem #1, there weren't any newspapers in west Texas in 1877 to 1880. There were newspapers in Austin and Houston beginning in the 1850's. There weren't many Anglos or towns in west Texas before 1880. Newspapers did not exist before the coming of the railroads in the early 1880's. The Marfa New Era did not go into business until 1888 and sadly most of the New Era newspapers were destroyed sometime in the 1920's. or 30's. The Alpine Alvalanche started about the same time. The Archives of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University have the Avalanche on microfilm but there is no index. The Avalanche in those days was a poor newspaper, little news, just lots of gossip about who was coming and going. Fort Davis had a newspaper, I think called the Rocket but I have never seen any copies of it. The El Paso Herald, later called the El Paso Times published from the 1880's. The El Paso Public Library has all of the Herald and Times on microfilm and has an excellent card index. I think that might be a good place for you to look. UTPB Library in Odessa has El Paso Times on microfilm but no index.

Another source you will need to examine is True West Magazine. The Haley Library in Midland has a good collection of True West Magazine and an index. The Haley Library has probably the best collection of ranching, outlaw stuff and might well be able to help. I found a few articles about the Gardners treasure by searching for Blake at But only reprints of the article you have only found. Also, the Barker Texas History Center at U.T. Austin has the largest collection of microfilm newspapers in existence. They also have a great collection of vertical files on many Texas subject. Maybe something is there.

I think the first think you should do is prepare a list of names of who you are looking for and where you think they lived. Search U.S. Census records to try to establish if these people are shown in the Census. Probably an outlaw would not have wanted to give any personal information to a census taker. Another place to look is Civil War records such as the Records of the War of Rebellion. The National Archives has an on search site. I think Records of the War of Rebellion are also now on line. You might find some things if any of these people fought in the Civil War but must know their full name and where they lived. Same for U.S. Census on line at See my links. Also look at the county histories for the counties you know the Garners lived. Example, try finding Tom Gardner in Tom Green County books and records. No reference to Gardners in Presidio, Brewster or Presidio County histories. Go to the local libraries and check their vertical files and county histories. San Angelo State University in San Angelo has a wonderful West Texas collection and has San Angelo Standard Times. Read every book you can find on the Sam Bass Gang and check the references.

Good luck on your project. It won't be easy but will be fun. However, you may find information on the Gardner Boys to be as elusive as their treasure. Don't be annoyed that other historians have not written about the Gardners. Maybe they couldn't find anything either. The historian is bound by the document, no document, no way to write a history.


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Hi, I am researching the Gardner gang. I found these outlaws mentioned in a 1928 Decatur, Illinois news article about Herbert Cody Blake, a former Wild West performer, hunting treasure buried by the bandits. Their treasure is legendary.

According to the article, the Gardner boys had robbed a smuggler's pack train from Mexico, (I believe the smugglers were Mexican bank robbers) and the outlaws stole gold bars and jewels. A box of diamonds stolen during a famous Mexican bank robbery was with the loot. The Gardner gang was forced into the Guadalupe Mountains where the outlaws buried their loot in one of the many caves of New Mexico near Carlsbad. I believe the robbery took place in west Texas.

The news article also stated that anyone hunting for a job in West Allis, Wisconsin should go treasure hunting and will get free sample newspapers that mention the Gardners. It also stated that long time residents of the Southwest remembered the Gardner boys. An uncle of one of the Gardner boys was enlisted in the search and had a supposedly authentic treasure map.

I have met two people who have heard of the Gardner gang. I have contacted every great historian and none can help. Do you know of anyone who has old newspapers that mention these bad hombres?


Corey, so happens this historian has heard about the Gardner Boys, their so-called lost treasure and Herbert Cody Blake's pretty much forgotten search for it. Below is a clipping I located. It is likely a reprint of the same article you have. This one was published in The Chronicle-Telegram of Elyria, Ohio on Friday, October 12, 1928. I think I can unearth numerous other newspaper accounts of Blake's search for the treasure over many years. Some are as recent as the 1980's. But I offer this word of caution, if you are researching this to write a story of this myth, it's a fine old treasure tale and these things are fun to delve into. However if you are doing this in hopes of finding the treasure, I advise you to not waste your time. It's just an old, much repeated story that sounds like so many of those written by J. Frank Dobie.

J. Frank Dobie started much of this lost treasure stuff many years ago in his books and he sold a lot of books doing so. He was also an old newspaper man who learned how to sell his work with stories of lost treasure. Over the years, I have come across so many of these lost treasure myths in far west Texas that I, at the moment, cannot recall a lot of them. One that does come to mind, however, is the story of Maximilian I the Emperor of Mexico's lost gold treasure pack train that was supposed buried somewhere in west Texas said by some to be along the Pecos River following his execution by Benito Juarez in 1867. Somebody had a map of the location of the treasure.

Many folks searched for this lost gold, some spending their entire lives doing so. Even one published historian got sucked into the story: namely Clayton Williams Sr. The treasure never existed in the first place; Mexico was broke at the time and had no gold. Perhaps, the Gardner boys were real people. No doubt Herbert Cody Blake was a real person. Dig deep enough and you will find out. But don't think you can find a lost treasure that never existed in the first place from this old B.S. They all have common elements used by Dobie: treasure, usually gold, somehow lost due to some unfortunate event, a vanished map that exists somewhere and somebody who knows where the map is; the kind of stuff that even today sells newspapers, magazines. This is classic J. Frank Dobie, he must be laughing in his grave.




ALBUQURQUE, N.M. Soldiers of fortune in the southwest continue the careers that entitle this section to its "legendary romance".

Herbert Cody Blake, 62, former member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, a veteran of British and American military campaigns, is searching for a perhaps mythical treasure in the Guadalupe Mountains near Carlsbad, N.M.

After months of prospecting through the tree chains of Guadalupe peaks, Blake encountered bad weather and sought help in Albuquerque for food and money to carry on his hunt before winter comes.

The Gardner boys were forced to flee to the mountains with a rich booty of gold bars and jewels, from a smuggler's pack train from Mexico. All members of the gang died, Blake believes, before they could remove their treasure. A box of diamonds stolen during a famous bank robbery in Mexico also was supposed to be with the loot.

Blake traced the history of the Gardners through old newspapers and inhabitants who had long been in the southwest. He found, he said, unmistakable evidences of the gang's activities and of the cache in the mountains.

An uncle of one of the Gardner boys was enlisted in the search and furnished a supposedly authentic map of the county where the treasure would be found. Blake located the country shown on the map after several months of wandering through the mountains and started working his way into what he believes to the hiding place when he ran out of provisions and was forced to return here.

"There's more than a million dollars in there," he said. I'm satisfied of that and I'm going back after it."

In a few days, if he is fortunate in finding the grub stake, the soldier of fortune will continue to follow the trail of the storied treasure.

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The West Texas Collection at Angelo State University in San Angelo has announced The Excellence in West Texas History Fellowship Program for 2009-2010. Applications are now being accepted for two fellowships of $40,000 each to be awarded in April 2009. Application deadline is February 27, 2009. Fellowships are for a full academic year. In addition, a $5,000 subvention will be provided to an academic press for each completed manuscript accepted for publication. Research must focus on the western half of Texas and utilize regional archives. Applicants must have completed a Ph.D or be ABD in the field of humanities. Fellows will be expected to spend the 2009-2010 academic year utilizing the regional archives in West Texas. For more information contact: Suzanne Campbell, West Texas Collection, 1901 Rosemont, San Angelo, Texas 76909, phone 325-942-2164 or email

Somewhere out there are promising candidates who will one day will make valuable contributions to the so often overlooked field of west Texas history. This fine and much needed fellowship hopefully will help make this possible. Thanks to Andy Cloud, the new director of the Center For Big Bend Studies, for making Glenn's Texas History Blog readers aware of the fellowships.


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Felton Cochran, owner and operator of the Cactus Book Shop, has just put on line a fine new web page at Felton specializes in books on Texas and the Southwest. While small, Cactus Book Shop stocks a truly exceptional inventory of Texas books in downtown San Angelo, Texas. In addition, Felton has the largest selection of titles by his friend Elmer Kelton. If you are looking for a rare or obscure Texas book, give Felton a call at 325-659-3788 or email him at Chances are he will have the book or be able to locate a copy. The new Cactus Book Shop web page also has an online catalog some of Felton's inventory on the page. Welcome to the web Felton!


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Texas Monthly has just published an article by Katy Vine in their October issue about the Candelaria bridge. Check it out at: ... ttexas.php

Also, be sure to view the Nat Stone video interviews with Abel Tellez and Johnnie Chambers at:

Thanks Katy and Nat for your fine efforts to make this issue known to the outside world!


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Celia Ann (Smith) Hill owner and operator of the La Junta General Store in Ruidosa, Texas is no longer with us. She died September 10, 2008 following a short illness. Born May 25, 1928 to Harris Seymore and Winnie Donald Smith, Celia Ann grew up on her parents ranch located on the west side of Elephant Mountain in Brewster County. In the 1930's Celia's father and his partner Homer Wilson discovered quicksilver and began mining operations with their Buena Suerte (good luck) Mine in Presidio County. Their mine operated for more than thirty years producing more than 3,500 flasks of mercury and was a large and important producer during World War II. The Smiths kept a home in Alpine for many years so their children could go to school. Celia Ann graduated from Alpine High School before completing a B.A. and M.A. at Sul Ross. She had a long career as a teacher. Celia Ann retired from the Presidio school system about ten years ago. She was an avid horsewoman and loved to ride in the Big Bend In 1982 she was the only woman to complete a trail ride from Fort Davis to Alpine in celebration of the Alpine centennial celebration. She was an avid reader and at the time of her death was writing a manuscript about her experiences in the Big Bend.


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-Felton Cochran, my good friend and associate at one of our few remaining independent book shops, Cactus Book Shop in lovely old San Angelo, Texas: greetings. I read your criticism of Federico Villalba's Texas: A Mexican Pioneer's Life in the Big Bend by Juan M. Casas on Glenn Justice's Texas History Blog. Villalba's Texas indeed takes a new turn concerning one aspect of Big Bend history, the Mexican point of view. To my way of thinking it is a subject which time has come; in fact, had it not come along in our generation it probably would never have; therein rests the problem.

Documentation concerning Mexican immigrants into the Big Bend for the 1880-1930 epoch is sparse. While Federico Villalba was a well-lettered man in both languages, the general Mexican-origin population was not. For the most part they were illiterate, in both Spanish and English language systems. The desert Big Bend is a huge place larger than some states -- and isolation was a big factor in record keeping, or the lack of it. The long distances to county record centers and regional scarcity of even Justice (JP) courts had an impact as did fear of deportation, particularly during the World War One/Mexican Revolution period (1910-20). These and other factors kept the Hispanics away from authority, even U. S. Manuscript Census enumerators in many cases.

Scholarly history rests upon documentation. That is, official documents, letters, diaries, interviews with primary-source witnesses, business records, poll tax receipts and the like. When those do not exist, the historian must work with what he/she has at hand.

As a working historian (Master of Arts with a thesis) and author of works in historical fiction I repeat my support for Casas book. I (respectfully) believe that your criticisms, intended as constructive I'm sure, fail to consider the full range of problems in completing a work such as Federico Villalba's Texas.

As you pointed out the work is certainly not "scholarly history."

Also my friend, if I read you correctly, Villalba's Texas could qualify as "historical fiction." Well, okay. "Every cobbler to his last." I know not how Juan Casas might feel, but were I the author of Villalba's Texas, calling the book historical fiction would make me grin all over. The key word, naturally, being "historical."

As to the "scholarly" approach, such a history, iterated by Spanish-speaking people who immigrated to the Big Bend from northern Mexico, probably cannot now be compiled. We historians are to blame. In our ethnocentricity we waited too long, and the old ones who could have supplied documents and first-person imagery are almost all gone to their "last home."

It took a Juan Manuel Casas to set the matter aright. God bless him.

Glenn Willeford
Cd. de Chihuahua, Mexico

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Its official, William A. (Andy) Cloud is the new director of the Center For Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross in Alpine. The center could not have found a more qualified and experienced new leader; Andy knows his Big Bend archaeology. He holds a B.A. in Archaeological Studies and an M.A. in Anthropology with focus in Archaeology from the University of Texas in Austin. A native Texan, Cloud has more than thirty years experience in Texas Archaeology serving, since 1995 as Senior Project Archaeologist, for CBBS. He has written extensively researching, writing and co-authoring more than forty archaeological reports as well as teaching anthropology at Sul Ross. In addition, he worked for the Office of the State Archaeologist at the Texas Historical Commission, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Big Bend National Park, and the Texas Archaeological Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. Andy is also the lead author for the La Junta exhibit on the website. Lots of good stuff on the site, check it out.

Also take a look at Andy's exceptional work at the La Junta sites in Presidio County:

For some of Andy's other articles see: ... p;exclude=

I have known Andy for many years and am so pleased, as are quite a few of us historians that he has been chosen to lead the CBBS. We look forward to the continued growth and success of CBBS in the future with Andy and know he will make it happen.

Congratulations Andy!


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