In June 1939, on the occasion of his golden wedding anniversary, 75-year-old Henry Smith reflected on the happiness he had found in life and something else he had not found—a lost mine.
He’d spent a fair amount of time in his younger years looking for it, but he never found it. Smith had not wasted his time seeking the granddaddy of all lost Texas mines, the Spanish silver works Jim Bowie supposedly discovered in the early 1830s somewhere near the old mission in Menard County. Folks are still searching for that mine, but the other old mine pretty much has been forgotten. It was a lead mine
Llano County pioneer Billy Nard discovered the vein and began working it in the 1860s. With the Indians taking advantage of the fact that most of the menfolks were off fighting Yankees, lead was particularly important in areas prone to moonlight raids. In fact, when Comanches came calling, lead was worth more than silver or gold.
No prospector, Nard made a simple living as a bee and commercial deer hunter. He wasn’t interested in bees per se, but they led him to honey combs. He gathered and sold honey along with venison.
Nard molded bullets from the melted ore and shared the lead with his neighbors at no cost. A man could live without honey, but at this stage of Texas’ history, bullets were no luxury.
Unfortunately, that death came sooner than Nard or anyone in his family expected. Indians killed him, but not directly. With one of his boys and his brother-in-law (Henry Smith’s uncle), Nard was hunting wild hogs on Silver Creek, a tributary of Sandy Creek, when Indians surprised the party.
Two days later, untouched by arrow or bullet, Nard died, probably of a heart attack triggered by the shock of the encounter coupled with the exertion of his run.
The location of his lead honey hole died with him.
After Nard died, his widow and children moved in with the Smith family. When Henry Smith got old enough to prowl around by himself, he tried without success to find the mine. His best guess, based on where Nard had his cabin, was that the ore vein was somewhere near Sandy Creek. Others said it was near Cedar Mountain while some maintained the mine was along Honey Creek.
Written by Sidney Page based on field work he and several other geologists did in 1908-1909, the report is not ambiguous on whether lead ore (galena) could be found in Llano County. Not only the did geologists locate deposits of galena, they noted evidence of old mining activity at each of the two locations they discovered.
One of those well could have been the mine Nard had succeeded so well in keeping hidden.