• Stephanie Maher

Sam Prentiss Legend of Buried Treasure on Santa Catalina Island, CA

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Previous Blog: The Archaeology of the Torqua Cave


Main Page: The Secret of the Torqua Cave


Ben Weston Beach

As a researcher I am constantly looking up old articles and ancient anomalies and a few of them are untrue that sensationalize the past. However, if you look at this article, Spanish Gold Lures Them, because of the detail, it is a true story. The more and more I have investigated it over the years, the clues I have found validate it's authenticity. For example, I discovered that the old Indian Cave the article is referring to, is in fact the Torqua Cave.

The Torqua Cave contains overlapping archaeological correlates that supports the fact that something significant happened within it. Spanish burying part of their treasure inside the Torqua Cave would be that significant event that turned the Torqua Cave into a place of daily ritual to a shamanic place of power.


Spanish Gold Lures Them, describes how the two Spanish Galleons wanted to hide away their treasure to prevent the pursuits of Sir Francis Drake. The Spanish made a chart to indicate where they had buried their treasure on Santa Catalina Island.


John Ryan, a direct descendant of Sir Francis Drake had tracked down the Spanish chart, and followed it to Catalina and found part of the treasure inside the Torqua Cave. John Ryan could not locate the rest of the treasure so he contacted Charles Holder to help him. Charles Holder was one of the first naturalist to excavate and study the Native Americans of Catalina.

Since the Spanish chart had only indicated where only part of the treasure was located, they could not find the rest of it. Charles Holder wrote Spanish Gold Lures Them, in 1911 because his death was drawing near. Charles Holder concealed his name as Andrew Bolton because he was sworn to secrecy. In Charles Holder's previous publications, he emphasizes that the Torqua Cave contained articles of the chase.


Charles Holder died in 1915, the same year the Tuna Club had burnt down during a horrific fire. The article Spanish Gold Lures Them, suggests that the rest of the treasure may be buried nearby the Torqua Cave “within the mountains.”


After reading the article Spanish Gold Lures Them, I began to wonder why the Spanish had only indicated where part of the treasure was located. Since the Spanish would have never found the Torqua Cave without the help of the Pimu’gnans. The Pimu’gnans occupying the Torqua Cave had to have witnessed the Spanish bury the rest of the treasure nearby. The Spanish had been relying on the fact the Pimu’gnans living on Catalina would remember where the rest of the treasure was located.


So, I asked myself, is there a legend that the Pimu’gnans speak of buried treasure? The answer is yes!


This legend comes from the interaction between an English man named Sam Prentiss, and a Pimu’gnan shaman named Turie living within the San Gabriel Mission. This is a well-known legend and written about in many history books about Catalina.


The brig Danube, coming from New York was wrecked in 1824 on the rocks near San Pedro. Sam Prentiss and other survivors made their way to San Gabriel Mission. Sam Prentiss spoke with an old Gabrielino chief from Catalina called “Turie.” He was 70 years old and near death. Turie had shared knowledge with Sam Prentiss of buried treasure underneath a tree on Catalina and drew a map to indicate where it was.


Prentiss took the materials from the wrecked Danube and made a small craft and sailed to Catalina. But he was caught in a severe storm and everything Prentiss owned was washed overboard even the treasure map. Prentiss managed to make his way to the west side of Catalina, where he had begun his search for the treasure Turie had spoke of.


For 30 years Prentiss had searched for the treasure buried underneath a tree on the west side of the island but to no avail because he had lost the map the Turie had given him. Before Prentiss had died in 1854, he shared his search for Turie’s treasure with Santos Louis Bouchette, the son of one of the survivors of the shipwrecked Danube, the same brig that Sam Prentiss had sailed.


Bouchette had continued the search and discovered outcroppings of silver, lead and gold and created a mining operation incorporated under the name Mineral Hills Mines Company. However, in 1876 he left the island with his wife on a sailboat with a few silver ore and a few provisions and were never seen again.


Could this treasure that Turie had spoken of before he died, that interested both Prentiss and Bouchette, be the same treasure described in Spanish Gold Lures Them? The answer to this can only be speculated upon and the possibility is alluring. The coincidences and clues that I have come across give credibility to the article Spanish Gold Lures Them, that merits further investigations. If the article Spanish Gold Lures Them, is true, then it adds to an important part of California History and Sir Francis Drake’s early pursuits.


Up Next: The Shamans of Santa Catalina Island


Main Page: The Secret of the Torqua Cave


Pryor, Alton, California’s Hidden Gold: Nuggets from the State’s Rich History, Stagecoach Publishing, CA, 2014, page 105-107

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