“The property Gramps bought run all the way up to the base of the San De Cristo range, stopping right about there, midway up that little mountain pass shown as the Mosca Pass. The Mosca Pass was a favorite pass for Indians coming thru the mountains from the great sand dunes area. Now let me tell you about Tom Sharp. ”
“Tom Sharp, a distant cousin of mine, built a trading post at the base of the pass on this side. See that X there? A little place of about 160 acres that he bought from the family in a hole-in-the-wall place called Malachite. Malachite is a beautiful mineral found in abundance there. This was a popular spot for many a traveler – including the settlers who were heading over to the San Luis Valley – and the Ute Indian raiding parties who used this valley as their hunting grounds. ”
Gunny reached into a drawer and pulled out an old picture of an old Indian dressed in military clothing. “Sharp traded the Indian furs and hides for old military clothing and provisions. Have you ever wondered why you see photos of Indians wearing these old military outfits? The reason is due to old Tom Sharp. The Indians loved the uniforms and he would even import old British, Confederate and Union uniforms from back east, just to trade them.”
“Now here is the interesting part. It was written that Old Tom didn’t trust banks and a couple of prospectors had discovered gold in Pass Creek, not too far from the trading post. Naturally, they used the gold for trade. They also discovered copper in the area and Sharpe being the entrepreneur he was, build a stamp mill for the copper, close to the trading post. Copper was almost as valuable as silver. In addition, according to some old records I found, the Indians often came in with Spanish gold pieces of both cobs and minted coins. It’s important to know that Indians didn’t use gold. The fact that they had it – interested old Sharp.”
“Long story short, a couple of years back, when I was going through the old family archives and stuff that has been handed down to me over the years, I came across a bible – a very old bible. Inside were names, dates, birth and death records, every thing that had been recorded up until around 1929. In fact, the last entry in it was November 26, 1929 and that entry was in someone else’s hand. It was at this point that I learned the bible had belonged to Tom Sharp. The last entry was apparently his caretaker or nurse; because that was the day he died. The date was noted under his name. Up until that point, he had done most of the notations – almost 70 years worth. Prior to that, I assume it was either his mothers or his fathers.”
“I don’t buy the story that they placed $40,000 in greenbacks, wrapped in oilcloth, and three cans of gold dust. I believe the gold and cash was already in someone’s hands.”
“You mean Tom Sharp,”
“Right, good old war hero Tom. Tom Sharp served the Confederacy well during the Civil War but received many wounds for his efforts. He was mustered out of the Confederacy early in the war because of the wounds he received. And you are right; they didn’t get mustering out pay back then. Hell the confederacy was barely able to keep the war effort alive. They say Sharp spent several years after that, traveling all over the West. I think those several years were actually the months he ran with the Reynolds Gang. He was a loyal confederate soldier and it would stand to reason he would buy into stealing to keep the confederacy alive.”
“No one writes about why he chose to settle down in the Upper Huerfano Valley, where what remains of Malachite, but I think the explanation is obvious. He thought the last remnants of the gang had been killed in the war, so it was safe to now unbury the treasure, open up the trading post and live comfortably for the rest of his life. When they found copper in the area, more the better. He expanded by building a stamping mill for the copper miners.
Sharp’s Trading Post did a huge business. Heavy, ox-drawn wagons brought in huge quantities of goods to serve a wide area. Then, after 1876, they confined the Ute’s to the nearby reservations and Tom Sharp got more and more active in the Cuerno Verde Livestock Association. In addition, he was into the breeding of fine racehorses. He imported prize ponies from Kentucky, England and France to crossbreed with rugged Indian ponies he brought down from Idaho. That takes money. More money then you make from trading. Hell, his breeding programs for cattle and horses received national attention all by itself. He became one of America’s best-known stockmen. The reason why this is important is the question that comes up,”
“You mean like the most obvious one – where did he get the big money, the amount necessary to buy expensive horses.” Vince said.