• Stephanie Maher

Insight of the Mysterious Article Part 2: The Riveting Possibility of Treasure Near the Torqua Cave

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

To view previous article Click Here: Insight of the Mysterious Article Part 1: Charles Holder is Andrew Bolton


Click here to main web page: The Secret of the Torqua Cave of Santa Catalina Island


Even though the Torqua Cave is labeled as cave by archaeologists today, it is in fact a rock shelter because it is a shallow cave-like opening and is situated directly on the border of a thrust fault between blueschist on the lower plate and greenschist above. The rock shelter is part of a prominent rock outcropping that looks like huge spires. I must emphasize again that archaeological sites are protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy, and it is forbidden to vandalize sensitive sites like the Torqua Cave. If you must visit the site, I highly insist that you approach the rock shelter with humble respect and do not vandalize, destroy, dig, or litter within the parameters of this site. It would be devastating to the Gabrielino/Tongva if the Torqua Cave is disturbed because it is their cultural heritage that connects them to Catalina Island.


The Torqua Cave fits the description of the “cave” in the article, Spanish Gold Lures Them. To recap, the article describes three Spanish Galleons of the 16th century, fleeing from Sir Francis Drake while sailing south along the California coast during a heavy storm. Sir Francis Drake plundered one of the three Spanish Galleons. The remaining two Spanish Galleons anchored at Ben Weston beach and unloaded their treasure.


The Torqua Cave is where the Spanish had buried part of their treasure and marked the location on a chart. They did not mark where all the treasure was buried. The chart and part of the treasure was intended to mislead and discourage Sir Francis Drake from finding all the treasure. Drake inevitably caught up with the two Spanish Galleons while sailing out into the Pacific and discovered that they were empty except for that Spanish chart. Drake did not follow the Spanish chart to look for the treasure because conditions were favorable for travel and his ships were already loaded with treasures from his previous acts of plundering. There was also a chance that Spanish Guardships would be arriving soon since they protected the Galleons loaded with treasures sailing along the Spanish-Manila trade route.


Drake sold the Spanish chart back to the Spanish government where John Ryan, a descendent of Sir Francis Drake, had tracked it down in a library in Spain, after having read through his old family archives. John Ryan followed the Spanish chart to the Torqua Cave and uncovered part of the treasure, the decoy meant to mislead Sir Francis Drake from finding all the treasure. John Ryan connected with Andrew Bolton (a fictitious name meant to conceal the identity of a famous man living in Los Angeles) to find the rest of the treasure buried nearby the Torqua Cave. The two men assumed that the Pimu’gnans, the Native Americans, had witnessed and possibly helped the Spanish bury all the treasure because the Spanish would not have found the sacred Torqua Cave without the help of the Pimu’gnans. Both men assumed that the rest of the treasure is buried nearby the Torqua Cave in the mountains.” I realized that Andrew Bolton is Charles Holder after reading his publication about Santa Catalina Island and his descriptions of the Torqua Cave.


The Torqua Cave is called a cave because it was first documented as a “cave house” by Charles Holder in 1901 in his book called An Isle of Summer, on page 20. In the book, Charles Holder explains a “twenty-minute walk north-west from the Eagle’s Nest camp brings one to a veritable cave-dwelling of the California Stone Age – a cave house used by one or more families possibly thousands of years ago. It is small with an overhanging ledge of rock, and upon the face can still be seen strange figures in red paint taken from the ledge near the isthmus cave. A small cave or indentation nearby was used for cooking, and traces of smoke could be seen when I first visited it. The floor of the cave has been partly filled in with soil, and in and about it and vicinity I have found number of implements in stone and shell, while in front of the entrance, partly covered by cactus, can be seen a large deposit of abalone shells which must have been brought from the coast a mile or two away, and which were carried up to the cave which stands on the divide high above the canon that winds its way to the sea.”

Since it was in 1901 that Charles Holder first mentions the rock shelter, it makes sense to assume that John Ryan, followed the Spanish Chart to part of the treasure inside the Torqua cave before 1901, at least 11 years before the article Spanish Gold Lures Them was published in 1911. John Ryan must have discovered the location of the Torqua Cave when following the Spanish Chart and sought out Charles Holder, an expert at the time of the ancient townsites of Catalina, to help him find the rest of the treasure because Charles Holder was one of the first to excavate on Santa Catalina and was knowledgeable and passionate about the Pimu’gnans.


Charles Holder also mentions the rock shelter twice in his documentary called The Channel Islands published in 1910, a year before the article Spanish Gold Lures Them was published. On page 28 he states: “I have located many ancient townsites on Santa Catalina. One was at Empire, one at Howland’s; there is another on the coach road, a mile beyond Eagle’s Nest; and not ten minutes’ walk from the latter, up the hill and on a great divide extending down from Black Jack, and near the summit, is a typical cave of the Stone Age. When I first saw it, its entrance was choked with cactus growing on a heap of abalone shells (Haliotis) which had been brought up from the sea a mile or more. The cave is large and deep enough for a small family and faces the south. On the side were red marks, a sign of some kind. Near this cave was a smaller one, doubtless used as a kitchen, and the smoke on the rocks could still be seen. The cave was two or three hundred feet from fresh water. In and near it I found a number of interesting implements.”


The second time Charles mentions the Torqua Cave in his book The Channel Islands is on page116: “Just over the divide running down from Mt. Orizaba, which can be followed to the sea – a mile away – a lofty rock with pinnacle-like top-rises. It would not be suspected as a cave dwelling but as the driver stops the team, the party ascend the slope and find beneath the rocks a most interesting example of the Stone-Age of California. In front of the entrance to the cave is a pile of abalone shells brought by the natives from the sea, and on the floor of the cavern have been found implements – stone arrow heads, spearheads, drinking vessels of abalone, shells, and ornaments of mother of-pearl – in fact, many articles of the chase, and of the domestic economy of the cave-dwellers. The cavern, despite the size of the superincumbent rock, was very small, capable of affording shelter to perhaps ten. How ancient the habitation is cannot be told; but it is one of scores of town sites, mounds, kitchen-middens that mark these islands. They are of profound interest to the ethnologist.”

What is interesting to note, is that Charles Holder explains that the “cavern” had “many articles of the chase and of the domestic economy of the cave-dwellers,” as if he meant to say that there had been articles that would interest treasure hunters, as well as artifacts of the early inhabitants found within the Torqua Cave. This statement seems to support the article Spanish Gold lures Them, and that “Andrew Bolton” is in fact Charles Holder.

I am suggesting that Charles Holder is describing the “part of buried treasure” that John Ryan had uncovered inside. The Banning Brothers where the authorities of the island at and discussed with John Ryan and Charles Holder the terms of excavation and removal of the riches, like the article describes. Knowing that Charles Holder was a well known man and writer, It seems logical the Banning Brothers and John Ryan may have had told Charles Holder to keep the findings within the Torqua Cave a secret, which is why Charles had to go under an anonymous name of “Andrew Bolton” in the article Spanish Gold Lures Them, making it seem like a correspondent of the LA Times was responsible for the leaking of this secret.

What is more compelling and convinced me that Charles Holder is “Andrew Bolton” is CHarles Holder's fictional book The Adventures of Torqua published in 1902. The book describes the Torqua Cave as a place where a Pimu’gnan boy named Torqua had led two Spanish boys to hide away from Spanish soldiers who had been given orders from the Spanish King to send the boys further north to a faraway mission. In the middle of page 193, the book describes the Spanish, from a sinking galleon, bringing a box of gold doubloon, “part of the treasure,” into the Torqua Cave with the help of the three boys: "Torqua broke open a box filled with doubloons and coin, part of the treasure. They made three or four trips with the canoe that day, piling the goods on the beach, taking them up to the cave at night."



This part of The Adventures of Torqua is irrefutably similar the article Spanish Gold Lures Them. I believe that John Ryan found a small box of gold doubloons inside the Torqua Cave and Charles Holder had helped John Ryan try to find the rest of the treasure but to no avail. He became inspired by the findings and decided to write about it. He concealed his identity as Andrew Bolton in the article Spanish Gold Lures Them because he made a promise to keep the riveting possibility of treasure buried nearby the Torqua Cave a secret.

This part of The Adventures of Torqua is irrefutably similar the article Spanish Gold Lures Them. I believe that John Ryan found a small box of gold doubloons inside the Torqua Cave and Charles Holder had helped John Ryan try to find the rest of the treasure but to no avail. Charles wrote the book Adventures of Torqua because he was inspired by his own discovery of the Pimu'gnans and also the findings of part of Spanish treasure inside the Torqua Cave by John Ryan. He concealed his identity as Andrew Bolton in the article Spanish Gold Lures Them because he made a promise to keep the riveting possibility of a vast amount treasure buried nearby the Torqua Cave a secret.


What also gives me the chills is that there is a curious 13 at the bottom of the page of 193. It is striking that on page “I 13” that Spanish Gold Lures them was also published.


Some might ask, Why call is the Torqua Cave called the Torqua Cave? Charles Holder did not come up with the name. The name "Torqua Cave" does not come up anywhere in his books, not even in the book The Adventures of Torqua. Charles Holder first called it a cave house in 1901. It was in 1973 that a yachtsman had reported the rock shelter to UCLA. The yachtsman was the first to call the site the Torqua Cave. He apparently found it as he toured the island when he was informally recording evidence of prehistoric occupation and artifacts. However, I have a feeling the yachtsman had been interested in the chase.


Many of the words used in the article Spanish Gold Lures Them was used by Charles Holder in his books such as "leaping tuna", "buccaneers" and even mentions Drake as someone who may have visited the island: “In following years Santa Catalina, from its prominence and beauty, and fine harbor at the isthmus, undoubtedly received many visitors – perhaps Drake, Woodes, Rogers, Shelvocke, and the buccaneers and adventurers of the time…”[1]


I believe Charles Holder largely wrote Spanish Gold Lures Them to preserve the knowledge that he was instructed to keep secret. Charles Holder was indeed famous like the article describes; a plaque is dedicated to him in Avalon in front of the Tuna club that he had founded in 1898. John Ryan had found “claim” or a box of gold doubloons inside of the Torqua Cave and told Charles Holder because of his excavation experience on the island, making him a good candidate to help find the rest of the treasure.

Charles Holder had sworn to keep the chase secret but his death was drawing near and he didn’t want the chase to die with him, so he left clues in his publications to for people to find and continue the search for lost history.


Just the fact that Charles Holder mentions “many articles of the chase were found in that cave,” suggests that other artifacts besides those of the Pimu’gnans were found in the rock shelter. There is something undoubtedly significant surrounding the Torqua Cave based on Charles Holder’s documentation and its connection to the article Spanish Gold Lures Them, and the recent archaeological discoveries conducted in the 70’s and the pictograph analysis completed in 2016.


Charles Holder had died in 1915, four years after the article Spanish Gold Lures them was published, the same year that the Tuna Club had burnt down in the Avalon fire of November. The fire is believed to have been of criminal origin[2]. The Banning Brothers lost millions of dollars and eventually sold the property of the Island to William Wrigley Jr. 1919, and the search for buried treasure near Ben Weston was forgotten until now.


I have thought about the possibility of the article Spanish Gold Lures Them to be a fake and made up by Charles Holder just to draw in visitors to the island, but it does not seem like that after reading his books. The many intricate details in the article does not seem like it could have just been made up. Charles Holder had to conceal his identity in the article Spanish Gold Lures Them, because he was sworn to secrecy about John Ryan’s findings within the Torqua cave and the riveting possibility that the rest of the Spanish treasure is buried nearby.


Up Next: The Archaeology of the Torqua Cave


To view previous article Click Here: Insight of the Mysterious Article Part 1: Charles Holder is Andrew Bolton


Click here to main web page: The Secret of the Torqua Cave of Santa Catalina Island


[1] “An Isle of Summer” 1901 by Charles Holder p.10

[2] www.gendisasters.com/california/22683/avalon-catalina-island-ca-fire-destroys-hotels-half-town-nov-1915

64 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All