© Cornish Mexican Cultural Society

Building on Cornwall's International Heritage


The Cornish Mexican Cultural Society

Sociedad Cultural Cornish Mexicana

The Great Trek

of the Transport Party

28th May 1825 to

1st May 1826


28th May 1825 - 1st May 1826

The new company organised a Transport Party to move the machinery and equipment needed to work the mines from Cornwall to Real del Monte whilst the first party surveyed the mines, negotiated for mules and men to both assist the Transport Party when it arrived and to make roads where there were mule tracks, the traditional form of transport in Mexico, and to improve the roads that existed. The leader of the road repair party was to become one of the many who lost their lives through yellow fever. There was 1,500 tons of equipment including 9 steam engines with their large boilers, 5 for pumping, 2 for crushing ore and 2 for use in powering saw mills; various pumps; large cast iron pipes to connect the pumps to be placed at the bottom of the mines with the surface; iron works, tools and implements the largest pieces and engines were from Perran Foundry Company of Perran and Harvey's Foundry of Hayle.


To transport the equipment 150 heavy-duty military wagons were purchased from the British government. The wagons were government surplus following the end of the Peninsular War. In 1825, some months later than planned, the machinery was loaded onto four ships, the Melpomme, the General Phipps and the Harriet which sailed for Veracruz and the Courier which headed for Tampico. The Melpomme arrived off Veracruz on 28th May 1825 and the other two ships in June but they found that the castle of San Juan de Ulúa was still held by the Spanish so they anchored near the island of Sacrificios and landed their machinery on the open beach and surf at Mocambo. One of the group, John Buchan, kept a diary of the journey.


The Transport Party's progress is best told in Buchan's own words. ... 'we had the very difficult task of landing our machinery on the open beach and then transporting it through the jungles to our first depot at Sta. Fé .......Whilst doing this the sickly season commenced and the yellow fever made sad ravages amongst both English and Mexicans. We fought hard against all these difficulties and by the end of August all our machinery was landed and the greater part moved inland to Sta. Fé. ........ Everything was now abandoned and we retreated to the higher and more healthy position of Jalapa ..... This fearful campaign had cost us the lives of just one third of our officers, one half our English workmen, and of those who escaped nearly all had been at death's door.


The number of Mexican's who perished we had no means of judging, but I should estimate them at not less than one or two hundred' 'We hired the Hacienda of San Lucas Martin, about 3 miles from Xalapa, and made that our next headquarters, for nursing the sick, recovering our mules, and repairing the wagons and harness preparatory to our next campaign after the rainy season. ..... On the 13th February (1825) .... we took to the road on our second transport campaign. .... our second depot, the Hacienda of Encero, situated at the foot of the great ascent to Xalapa, but being some 4,491 feet above sea ..... and therefore considered to be quite out of the region of the yellow fever. We immediately commenced with 50 wagons, 550 mules and 120 men, to remove all our heavy machinery (some 350 tons) from our old station to Sta. Fé. This required four journeys with our whole force over very bad roads, but by the end of March, to our great joy, this heavy task was successfully completed.'


A reporter from the Oriente de Jalapa wrote a letter on behalf of members of the Transport Party that was published in the paper on 25th September 1825. The convoy had reached Jalapa after passing through the mosquito-infested rain forest extending inland from the coastal plain. Heavy and continual rain had turned the road into almost impassable swamps. The letter reported that the convoy had left Santa Fé on the 31st August and reached El Encero on 6th September after spending two entire days on the bad road at Manantial where several mules were lost. The third depot selected for the convoy was the Hacienda de Guatemape, near the town of Perote, 7,400 feet above sea level. To reach the hacienda the convoy had to cross some very steep mountains rising to 8,500 feet above sea level. Buchan's diary continues ' These difficulties were, however, quite new and varied to our late work.........At the beginning of April we commenced this ascent from Encero, with a convoy of 53 wagons, having each 2 drivers and some 9 to 12 mules. In all with spares (there were) some 550 mules and 120 men and carrying 100 tons of machinery ...... including two powerful steam engines for pumping, with their large boilers, and columns of iron pumps for reaching the bottom of the mines ...... a small engine for working saw mill lathes &c. Also a large pair of shears with necessary tackles for unloading and reloading the heavy iron machinery from the wagons when these got upset or got fixed in the sand or bogs of the road, or to pull our load up the very steep portions of the road, which were too steep for the mule draft.


After great labour and many accidents we conquered this great ascent, and our convoy reached Guatemape on 8th April, after three days rest, proceeded on our last stage to deposit this valuable cargo at the silver mines of Real del Monte. In this portion of our journey we did not anticipate any very great difficulties ...... But ''as man proposes and God disposes'' the rains commenced unusually early this year, and were ushered in by a tremendous storm on our second days journey ...... torrents of water tore up deep gullies which required much labour to render them passable, while the plains became vast lakes where our heavy wagons frequently sank to their very axles. .... many of the wagons stuck so deep in the mud that they had to be unladen to extricate them, and this often occurred two or three times a day with the same wagon. Many got upset and some washed a considerable distance in crossing flooded water courses, as may be supposed, our progress was very slow.'


The first engines arrived at Real del Monte on 1st May 1826. 'After a few days delay at Guajolote to rest our mules and to make alterations in the very steep road ascent from this farm, we made our grand entry into Real del Monte on the first of May' 'It was a lovely day and crowds of Mexicans from near and far had assembled to welcome the first entry of a steam engine into any of the mining districts of Mexico. Bells were ringing, bands playing and everyone in holiday attire. Truly it was a day of rejoicing and triumph to the Transport Party who, after so many difficulties from climate, mountains and floods, had at last succeeded in transporting it from the Gulf of Mexico to Real del Monte at an elevation of 9,000 feet above the sea.' And so started the rebuilding and modernisation of the district's mining industry. The Cornish miners had brought the Industrial Revolution to Mexico ! By the 1830's the Cornish community at Real del Monte and Pachuca had increased and now included the Cornish wives and children of many of the miners. As time went on many of the miners made the district their new home, marrying into local families.

The first engines arrived at Real del Monte on 1st May 1826. 'It was a lovely day and crowds of Mexicans from near and far had assembled to welcome the first entry of a steam engine into any of the mining districts of Mexico.  Bells were ringing, bands playing and everyone in holiday attire. Truly it was a day of rejoicing and triumph to the Transport Party who, after so many difficulties from climate, mountains and floods, had at last succeeded in transporting it from the Gulf of Mexico to Real del Monte at an elevation of 9,000 feet above the sea.'