SANTA FE, N.M. — A bronze chest filled with gold, jewels, and other valuables worth more than $1 million and hidden a decade ago somewhere in the Rocky Mountain wilderness has been found, according to a famed art and antiquities collector who created the treasure hunt.
Temple native Forrest Fenn, 89, told the Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday that a man who did not want his name released — but was from “back East” — located the chest a few days ago and the discovery was confirmed by a photograph the man sent him.
“It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago,” Fenn said in a statement on his website Sunday that still did not reveal the exact location. “I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.”
Fenn, who lives in Santa Fe, posted clues to the treasure’s whereabouts online and in a 24-line poem that was published in his 2010 autobiography “The Thrill of the Chase.”
In a 2013 Telegram story, Fenn said the chest contained “20 troy pounds of gold; a 17th-century Spanish ring with a large emerald; a bracelet with 254 rubies, six emeralds, two sapphires and small diamonds; an antique bracelet with round turquoise beads; a 2,000-year-old Colombian necklace; and a 20,000-word autobiography by Forrest Fenn wax-sealed in an olive jar.”
Hundreds of thousands have hunted in vain across remote corners of the U.S. West for the treasure-laden chest. Many quit their jobs to dedicate themselves to the search and others depleted their life savings. At least four people died searching for it.
Fenn put the chest out when he thought he was facing his own death. He told the Telegram in 2013 he buried this booty after a long bout of cancer treatment. He swore to himself, “If it comes back, I’m going to grab a pocketful of sleeping pills, take a treasure chest filled with treasure and a copy of my bio; and I’m going to walk out into the desert. Sometime they’ll find my bones and the treasure, but my bio will be inside the box, so at least they’ll know who I was.”
He said he hid the treasure as a way to tempt people to get into the wilderness and give them a chance to launch an old-fashioned adventure and expedition for riches.
Born in Temple in 1930, Fenn grew up exploring the nooks and crannies of Bell County with his father, Marvin Fenn, an avid fisherman and hunter. His father — who in later years would write a weekly fishing column for the Telegram — taught the young Forrest fly-casting, tying lures and the joys of wide-open spaces.
His father was a math teacher and later became principal of Forrest’s junior high, a situation that that created problems for the rambunctious youngster.
Forrest married his Temple High School sweetheart, Peggy Proctor, joined the Air Force and headed for Vietnam. A fighter pilot, Fenn was shot down twice and flew 328 combat missions in 340 days. Retiring from the Air Force, he spent a brief stint operating various Lubbock businesses. Then, he moved to Santa Fe in 1972 just before it started to boom as an artists’ mecca.
Fenn Gallery soon became an anchor into an evolving constellation of tony galleries, studios and restaurants along Santa Fe’s Canyon Road. While a gallery owner, he donated the massive George Bellows’ 1918 painting “Hail to Peace” in memory of his mother, Lillie Fenn, to Scott & White Memorial Hospital.
Fenn told The New Mexican in 2017 that the chest weighs 20 pounds and its contents weigh another 22 pounds. He said he delivered the chest to its hiding place by himself over two separate trips.
Asked how he felt now that the treasure has been found, Fenn said: “I don’t know, I feel halfway kind of glad, halfway kind of sad because the chase is over.”
“I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries,” he said on his website.
“Look for more information and photos in the coming days.”
Telegram staff writer Patty Benoit contributed to this report