sidebar menu icon


SUBLETT, WILLIAM CALDWELL (ca. 1834–1892). William Caldwell Sublett, West Texas pioneer who discovered gold in the lower Pecos River region, the son of Caldwell and Nancy Sublett, was born on September 25, around 1834, in Tennessee, possibly in Franklin County. He grew up in what was then Belton County, Alabama, where his father served as sheriff in the 1840s and 1850s, and nurtured a dowsing ability as a youth. He first moved to Texas after the winter of 1857 and served as a Texas Ranger in Capt. Edward Burleson's company from January 20 until September 9, 1860. After eighteen months somewhere on the frontier he returned to the settled part of Texas to find the nation torn by the Civil War. He joined Gordon's Regiment, First Arkansas Cavalry, Confederate States of America, on August 4, 1862, and was cited for gallantry in the battle of Fayetteville, April 18, 1863. After the war he married Laura Louisa Denny and moved to St. Louis, Missouri. He returned to Texas by July 1870 and took up residence in Bowie County, where he farmed intermittently the next four years. His wife died in 1873, leaving their three children in his care. After late 1874 he moved them to West Texas and took up buffalo hunting. About 1880 Sublett became an advance water scout and supplier of game meat for the Texas and Pacific Railway, which was pushing westward from Fort Worth. In early 1881, while operating from the temporary railhead at Colorado (later Colorado City), he discovered gold dust and nuggets somewhere in the Pecos River country at a site he contended was a mine; he would not divulge the location. He lived briefly in Granbury in the early 1880s before becoming one of three men to settle Monahan (Monahans) in 1883. By 1887 he had moved to Odessa, where he assumed two Ector County homesteads in the next two years; he sold one and fulfilled occupancy requirements for a patent on the other. Throughout the 1880s and early 1890s Sublett made periodic trips to his gold source but continued to live frugally enough that he paid taxes on only $265 in possessions in 1891. Repeated attempts to track him to the site of the mine or wrench directions from him failed, and the location of his gold went with him when he died in Barstow, Ward County, on January 6, 1892. His son, Rolth (or Ross) Sublett, became chief among the many who later searched for the Lost Sublett Mine. Rolth claimed that as a boy he once accompanied his father to the site, which he believed lay in the Guadalupe Mountains or in the Rustler Hills of Culberson County. All efforts at finding the mine have met with failure.

Patrick Dearen, Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1988).
Patrick Dearen

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Patrick Dearen, "Sublett, William Caldwell," accessed October 20, 2017,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.