Lluvia de Oro Notes
The following information was extracted mainly through interviews with Buenaventura Becerra in late October 2003 and also on May 19, 2004. Additional information is from various sources. I fully understand the following notes are a mishmash of material but I am sending it to people in the hopes that it might trigger more information or corrections. Hopefully, the various interested people can help each other as we try to piece together the history of this fascinating town.---Doug Rhodes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Espiridion Barrios was the first mestizo to find the mine. A store owner who spoke Tarahumara, he got the Indians drunk so they would tell him of the mine’s location.
The mine began in 1897 with initial Socios (partners) being Buenaventura Becerra, Jose Maria Becerra, and Bernardo Garcia. The Becerra brothers were both from Urique, Buenaventura was a Godson of then President of Mexico Porfirio Diaz. Garcia owned land from Realito (just below Tubares) to Descanso on the Chihuahua Pacifico Railroad.
They were bought out by a U.S. company, Miniscompis (?) for $1,000,000 (pesos). The new company brought in steam engines and supervisors from the U.S. In 1904 they installed a steam engine and water pump on the Rio Fuerte in Chorro. The water was pumped up ______meters.
Bernardo Garcia sent a bull with Tomas Belducea to the mine but Garcia was so cheap that he kept the skin, thus the Tarahumaras wanted to name the mine Toro Pelon but the Mestizos gave it the name Lluvia de Oro.
By 1904 ore from the mine was taken through the Puerto de Gringo to Chorro, the mine’s owner died there probably of the flu (Spanish Flu, epidemic in November 1918?). Upper levels of the mine yielded gold, the lower levels silver.
After the revolution, the mine was rented to the following. Alfredo Garrniz(?) (U.S.), Albert Nerbut(?) (U.S.), Paulina Vela Guerra from Los Angeles, California (possible relative of Doug Rhodes?), and Finally Germans Herman Lifer and his son Thomas Lifer operated the mine from either 1935 or 1945 to 1950 when it closed. During an interview with Carlos Silva of Urique, we learned that his father supplied the store operated by Thomas Lifer. Local people continued to get small amounts of gold for the mine for some time thereafter.
Two of the managers were Luiz Barroso Vells and Remundo Hernandez. The Graveyard below Lluvia has two graves with the Barroso name. A niña of Gustavo Barroso V. (died August 14, 1926) and that of Señora Jesus Vells de Barroso (died November 17, 1926). The graves have metal markers with the names stamped into the metal. Of interest is that the dates are in the U.S. format with month, day and year whereas the Mexican format is normally day, month, and then year.
Other names of possible interest are those of Ricardo Encinas who was 45 years old when he died on June 18, 1935 and a Jose Encinas who died the 29th of May, possibly in 1910 but the third digit of the date is questionable. These are likely ancestors or relatives of Guadalupe Encinas whose husband Francisco (Chico) Ceras was killed in 1944 when his clothing became entangled in a conveyer belt. His widow lives in Nogales, Sonora and his granddaughter Norma Cera who lives in Phoenix, Arizona has contacted us. (Note: the “s” somehow disappeared from the families’ last name when or after they came to the U.S. We hope to interview Guadalupe Encinas this summer, her memory is reportedly keen.
Another interesting grave is that of Angelito Schuter which is on the most prominent point and the lowest grave. Presumably this is an infant son, the name Schuter was mentioned by Ventura during his interview but we need further information. A higher graveyard contains names of people who died after 1935 or so, it has not yet been visited.
When the mine was closed, copper wires were carefully rolled and stored for possible future use. In 1962 Domingo Vasquez from Cd. Cuauhtemoc arrived with a bill of sale or letter from Urique Municipio President Pepe Grijalva and took 40 tons of copper from the mine. Presumably, this is the time when copper was reportedly hammered off the armatures of the Generator at San Francisco. Dominguez also took out a lot of the iron from the works. According to Ventura, he left the place in ruins. Beto Santin took some of the material out in mules. Brothers Ismael and Paulino Chavez Gutierrez took it out in burros (possible relative of Ana Maria Chavez Gutierres, wife of Doug Rhodes?). The brother’s father was Reginaldo Chavez a blacksmith who lived in El Oso, a ranchito above Metate.
Steve Wilson, of Oklahoma, has researched Lluvia and emailed me the following information: I've researched various English and American mining companies in the Batopilas and Chinipas region for a good many years, including the Lluvia de Oro. One of the richest men in St. Louis paid $1.5 million for the Lluvia de Oro in 1901. The Lluvia de Oro Mining Co. built a road 40 miles from Choix to the Rio Fuerte to boat their equipment upriver to the mine, and two different mills that were built at various times. The dam and hydroelectric plant were built in 1907. I understand that they also built a road from the river about five miles up to the mine.
Additional Lluvia de Oro Notes
The following notes supplement what I wrote the night of 25 May 2004. Perhaps they may be of some use. I know all these things are disjointed but somehow I frequently discover disjointed information has a way of coming together with other material--Doug
The graves mentioned in yesterday’s note are all on a ridge below and almost due south of Lluvia, they are spread out over at least 100 meters, most are heavily overgrown with weeds and brush. Only a few of the graves had metal markers, the rest appeared to have had something similar to plaster over concrete. The plaster dissolved over the years taking any data with it. This graveyard may be seen from lluvia and is accessible by a rough trail that ends above the house presently occupied by the Castellon family.
Use of the lower graveyard was discontinued sometime after 1936 and burials were made in a newer graveyard on a pass southeast of the mine, probably at pass of the Gringo. Francisco (Chico) Ceras is probably buried in this graveyard.
Most of the mine’s papers were stored in a house at Lluvia and were reportedly taken outside and burned as trash. About 10 years ago, Daniel Espinosa showed me a trunk full of papers from Lluvia, including a map of the mine. He was saving the papers and hoped to eventually donate them to a museum but could find no place he trusted. At the time, Daniel lived in Cienaguita with his wife Rachael. He, I believe, was originally from Reforma, she was from California. Both had worked with Cesaer Chavez of grape union fame. Rachael had health problems and they moved back to California about 6 years ago. Apparently, Daniel visited Reforma in mid-May 2004 leaving 3 days before Dave Nelson and I arrived. Where Daniel and Rachael live in California is unknown but some digging in this area may turn up contact information.
Roughly about 1970 a mining consultant visited the mine and left many survey markers painted in the mine. No other information is known.
During the revolution (1910-1922) Buenaventura Becerra was apparently singled out for being a Godson of Porfirio Diaz. Everything was taken from him and he was left in ruin. His brother, Rafael, was the haciendado of Guachera, now on the road from Reforma to Cienaguita. Rarael’s son, Buenaventura was killed in Santa Maltilde while taking a conducta of silver to Alamos, Sonora, to have coins minted. I believe this was during the revolution.
The present Ventura Becerra’s daughter Maria del Carmen Becerra Osuna lives with her husband Rigoberto Brito (spelling?) in Goodyear, Arizona. He is planning on visiting them in Arizona and may be available for an interview. Ventura keeps his papers with relatives in El Fuerte and did not have his daughters address available, nor was he certain how to spell his son-in-law’s last name.
Ventura tells us he learned about the mine from talking with his father and from reading old ledgers and papers from the mine.
Notes on La Lluvia Hydroelectric dam
About 10 August 2003 we ran the Rio Fuerte to Huites (Luis Donaldo Colosio) dam. During this trip, we camped one night at the abandoned San Francisco dam. As we were setting up camp, Carmelo Gill man came by looking for cattle, the following information comes from talking with him.
Carmelo was born in Batopilas, his father Eliseo Gill once owned the property near and until 10 years ago when it was acquired for the lake. Carmelo lives in Reforma most of the year but comes to this area to take care of his animals, they have a cabin upstream from the dam. His father, Eliseo, is of advanced age and lives in Choix,
The dam was built for hydroelectric only. The generator and other parts were winched upriver from somewhere, probably above Choix. Two holes were drilled in the rock, one on either side of the river, metal rods were placed in the holes and cables were anchored to the rods and strung across the river. Remains of a winch and two metal sleds or boats bottoms may be seen on the right (north) side of the dam near a small water pila (a structure built of concrete to store water).
A bronze plate, which has since disappeared, indicated that the generator was made in Chicago. From its construction, it appears that it was dismantled, transported and reassembled on site. Each pole (?) of the armature and stator (?) was mounted on a separate piece of steel that could be moved independently. Many years ago, someone used a sledgehammer to cut the copper away from the steel; it was then taken away and sold for scrap.
The dam appears to be made of granite and very well constructed. It has been broached by a meter-wide hole on the south side. Water also passes underneath the dam creating a deadly strainer for unwary boaters. High-water marks show that the dam is 40-50 feet under water when the lake is full.
Remains of a bridge appear downstream of the dam. Upstream from the San Francisco dam, at Chorro are the remains of another structure where water was pumped from the river to the mine at Lluvia. Unfortunately, there is serious danger of assaults and robbery from people living near Chorro.
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