The History Press
Uriah U. Tyler Rachel Moore Tyler
The best of the treasure stories I have collected has to do with the Tylers, a 19th century San Bernardino pioneer family that purchased one of the two first homesteads in Mill Creek Canyon. Uriah Tyler was a very early pioneer in San Bernardino who came to the valley in 1847 from New York State. He purchased a portion of the old Lugo Rancho in San Bernardino in the 1850s. He was a member of Henry Washington’s survey team on the peak of Mount San Bernardino, which established the San Bernardino Meridian. Uriah drove the mail between San Bernardino and Los Angeles and operated the only butcher shop in the valley. He became Justice of the Peace and the County Assessor after the departure of the Mormon Colony. In 1892, Uriah’s widow, Rachel Moore Tyler, and her son George W. Tyler purchased their ranch and orchards in Mill Creek Canyon from the Peter A. Forsee estate. Thereafter, the prime spot in the lower canyon that is now Mountain Home Village was known as the Tyler Ranch.
Rachel Tyler operated the large, beautiful property along the creek as a resort for eleven years. Her son, George, was one of the principals in the Mill Creek Sandstone Company at the time. This week’s strange true tale belongs to him.
In June of 1913, George Tyler cut down a hillside on the family ranch in San Bernardino and moved earth to fill in lower ground when he made some bizarre discoveries. The first thing he unearthed was a giant skeleton. Then, upon further digging, he found a vault made of slate stone. Inside the vault were Native American artifacts and clay jars filled with an immense quantity of gold. According to the account in the San Bernardino newspapers, “The location of the strange find is at the corner of Second and Arrowhead, along the bank of Warm Creek and at a low depression, which, at one time, was on a
George W. Tyler
sloping hillside.” The measurement of the skeleton estimated that the man would have been more than eight feet tall. The bones of his body were intact and facing south, but his head was missing. Several of the old pioneers from the pioneer society came to view the find and conjecture on it, as did the oldest Mexican citizens in the community. Their ideas about what it all might have meant are fascinating.
Several of the pioneers said that they believed it was an Indian burial ground, and three of them, “Brothers” Thomas, Miller, and Brown, (no identifying first names), “stated that they were present and attended Indian funerals along this bluff.” The presence of the vault mystified some. “Brother Thomas thought it was a contrivance of Mr. U.U. Tyler, pioneer butcher, for making lard and melting tallow. Brother Cox thought it was an old sweat house used by the Indians, which they would spring from into the brook close by for curative purposes.” The rest of the pioneers who came to gawk and squawk believed it to be a vault built by the Lugos or other rich Mexican period dons to keep valuables in as there were no banks to secure them at the time.
The oldest of the Mexican residents in the city at the time concurred with the idea that it must have been beneath one of the Lugo homes located there. They also reported the discovery several years before of a giant head a short distance away from the site where the skeleton was found. They assigned the headless state of the skeleton to warring tribes taking trophies from enemies. Ghost stories and old legends revived and spread rampantly through the city.
The Lugo homes on the rancho were owned by Jose del Carmen Lugo, Jose Maria Lugo, Vicente Lugo, and Diego Sepulveda. The Lugos were the sons of Antonio Maria Lugo, one of the wealthiest of the land grant owners. It was said that he could ride from San Diego to Sonoma and never leave his own land. His sons sold the 35,000-acre rancho to Charles Rich and Amasa Lyman for the San Bernardino Mormon colony. $16,000 of the price was paid in $50.00 gold pieces.
In response to the assertion that the vault belonged to the Lugos, “Mr. Tyler says that one of these old ranch houses of the Lugos stood exactly over that spot as nearly as he can remember, as he plainly recalls the remains of such a house when he was a boy. The Tylers have owned the property where the find was made for 58 years, Mr. Tyler looking up the record yesterday. His [step]father purchased it from Lyman & Rich, they having purchased it direct from the Lugos, the latter getting it as a grant.”
From an anthropological and archaeological point of view, the find was a bit of a bust. After measuring the skeleton, Tyler put the bones in a box. As hundreds of people showed up to see the astonishing discovery, they took souvenirs from the box until nothing was left of the giant skeleton. Little was reported about the “Indian artifacts” found at the site. The reports did include some interesting geological information. “The vault where the pots were found is an object of much curiosity. It is built of stone slabs, the stone itself indicating that it came from Little Mountain north of the city, there being no other stone around here like it.
Ultimately, George Tyler spirited away the jars of gold so quickly that no one could guess at the gold value. Eyewitnesses said it was substantial. Though he lived a long life, passing away 30 years later in 1943, George never disclosed the treasure trove's extent. Today, the location of Tyler’s astonishing find is in the vicinity of the Superior Court of California of San Bernardino and Meadowbrook Park.
Copyright 2020, Shannon E. Wray. All Rights Reserved. No reprints in whole or part without permission.