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Old 09-01-2008, 09:58 PM
Location: Universal City, Texas
3,109 posts, read 9,050,410 times
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Several days ago I mentioned to wCat that back around 1990 I had read about a place called Dead Man's Tank. The story goes that a rancher was building his stock tank when he discovered a human skull. He called the local sheriff and when the sheriff arrived he got very skeptical and was looking at the rancher like, "why did you kill this guy?" Then they noticed an arrow head embedded in the skull. Rancher was off the hook. Word got out and university anthropologist got involved. They dug around the tank and it just got more mysterious.

The university people uncovered three buildings, more bodies and there was a metal smelter. The site was dated to the 1680's. Who were these people?

Current thought is that they were Frenchmen who were looking and found silver in the area and they were smelting the silver when attacked by hostile Indians. How did the French get to Atascosa County in the 1680s, before San Antonio was discovered? It still remains a mystery. Traces of silver have been found in the soil. It was turned into a stock tank after the research was complete.

I have some photographs that I'm going to share with you that I took in 1990, but bare with me. I have forgotten the name of the rancher and its specific location other than it was in Atascosa County.

Here they are. Photos of ranch house and rancher and the stock tank where the buildings and bodies were located:

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Old 09-01-2008, 11:31 PM
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Interesting story, GY. Not sure you told me, however. I would have remembered that one. Any other kitties on board?

Found an article on Dead man's tank by google....said it was near "Turkey Creek"....ring any bells to bring back a memory?
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Old 09-02-2008, 10:01 AM
Location: Universal City, Texas
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wCat, that is the same story. I forgot that it occurred back in 1928.
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Old 10-16-2013, 03:41 PM
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That rancher that found the skull
was my great grandfather. His name was Dick Wiley.
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Old 10-16-2013, 06:31 PM
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this are absolutely awesome pictures shows real down to earth moments in time that passed by.
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Old 10-17-2013, 02:24 PM
Location: San Antonio, TX
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There's some info out there on this...

Atascosa County Texas: 1936 School Annual

However, this is not the most interesting mystery of Asascosa. "Dead Man's Tank" on Dick Wiley's place three miles west of Christine is the greatest mystery this county has to offer. Henry Yelvington gave a very good account of this place in an article in the San Antonio Express of December 30, 1934, and the following is quoted from it: "Probably one of the surest bits of evidence that this easterly road was the original Laredo and Monterrey road, was the finding a few years ago of 69 skeletons of men, women and children in one spot where a settlement existed on the banks of a small lake, or rather a slough, about three hundred yards south of the marking of the old road. Dick Wiley, whose place is about three miles west of Christine, was putting up a dam in the slough to make a tank, when plow and scraper began unearthing skeletons. This was back in 1928. "He had workmen proceed carefully and before the tank was completed there was a huge pile of human skeletons. The 59 were found whole, but most of the bones crumbled when air struck them. There was the skeleton of a baby which apparently died in its mother's arms. Several of the skeletons had arrows in them. One arrow was found sticking in the jaw-bone of one of the skeletons. Most of the bones were confined in a small area of what had apparently been the main room of a fortress of logs, but several were scattered about in other places. As the entire plot was covered by two feet or more of dirt, there is no telling how many more might be found if the entire locality was excavated. Pieces of pottery also were found. And the great logs of the walls of a room 20 by 100 feet in which most of the skeletons were piled, were unearthed whole, many of them having the bark on, but they crumbled when air struck them. Some of the skulls of the skeletons were crushed, and all evidence indicated that the Lipan Indians, who were known as the most skillful and probably blood-thirsty of all Texas Indians, wiped out the colony. So far as I have been able to ascertain, this settlement has never been definitely identified, but I have been told that Clement Hoyt, who wrote something about the find in 1930, had received a letter from Spain containing the information that the skeletons were these of Spanish settlers who founded a settlement there, even before the Padres came to San Antonio, and were working mines "three days' journey" from the settlement, when the Indians made their fateful raid. According to this information, the mines were on "the river' three days' journey away and the ore was brought back to the settlement where it was smeltered. This is partially borne out by the fact that bits of slag, such as comes from ore, are scattered in the soil all about the place. But no mines or indication of mines have ever been found on any river "three days' journey" away, for three days' journey by burro, as ore was carried in those days, would not be more than 60 miles. That might put the mines up or down the Nueces river, but not along the route of the old road. Whether the ore was gold or silver was not mentioned. The writer took some of the slag to an assayer but he could not tell what kind of metal had been taken out. Another feature of this settlement is that even today may be seen distinctly the outline of a moat dug around the small island on which the fortress was built. About a quarter of an acre is completely surrounded by water which reaches a depth of several feet when the moat is filled. The tank built by Mr. Wiley confines water in the moat even now. The island is higher than the land around, showing that the dirt from the ditch was placed on the island. The place where the building stood is bare ground nothing growing there even now, though thick underbrush covers practically all the other part of the settlement.

There are some large oak trees in the place and some old markings on the trees. According to Mr. Wiley, one of the Mexicans working on the tank with him, rushed to one of the trees when he first uncovered the skeletons, and found the old markings. He then began to give his version of the killing. He said his people had heard of the place for many generations, but had never known before where it was, only that somewhere in that area many, many years ago the Lipan Indians had wiped out an entire colony. He refused to work on the tank any more unless Mr. Wiley had a priest come and bless it, but there being no priests for miles around, he had to let the Mexican go and put another on the job."
Small Town Research Project


Cheers! M2
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Old 10-17-2013, 04:43 PM
Location: San Antonio, TX
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Sorry, that Atascosa County Historical Commission website doesn't work, I couldn't even find an archived copy of it. I got it from a Pleasanton Express article last December, which stated that "during the October meeting, members listened to a recorded interview from 1963 with land owner Mr. Dick Wiley. Conducting the interview were J. Taylor Brite and Wally Deatwyler."

I guess they didn't check it before publishing...

However, they do have a Facebook page!

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