If any particular type of treasure and lost mine story predominates in Arkansas, it is the stories and legends concerning mines once worked by Spaniards and the treasure buried by them.
When the Spaniards retired from the territory, the Indians naturally appropriated their property, and stories abound about the mines they destroyed or concealed.
There are stories of Mexican treasure and treasure buried by outlaws, particularly by the John Murrell and Jesse James gangs. Some early explorers left the treasure behind, buried by gold-bearing Forty-Niners returning from the California gold fields.
Arkansas offers almost any type of treasure anyone cares to search for.
Here is a lost silver mine in Arkansas that has not been found. It is recorded that the Spanish had several silver mines during the early 1700s in what is now the state of Arkansas. One such mine was near the present community of Batavia in Boone County.
The Spanish worked the mine for several years but, due to Indian trouble, decided to conceal and abandon it. They planned to return when the area was more settled. Due to wars and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, none of the descendants of the original Spanish miners ever attempted to relocate the silver mine.
In 1880, an old man who appeared to be Indian and Spanish stopped at the general store near Batavia. Showing John Rea, the store’s owner, an old weathered map, the man described the local terrain and told Rea that he believed the old Spanish silver mine was located on “Pilot Knob,” a local landmark.
If this was the location, there should be a stream one hundred yards southwest of the large rock on top of the mountain. Rea assured the old man that his description was correct.
The next day, Rea, his son, and the old man went to Pilot Knob. After pacing off 200 yards north of the spring that formed the stream, the old man told Rea and his sons to dig. About six feet down, the diggers came upon a cavity with a skeleton walled up in the cave.
Rea and his son staked mining claims on all of Pilot Knob. When, after several weeks of mining and tunneling, no silver had been found, Rea and his son gave up the search and returned to their store. The aged Indian left, still convinced that Pilot Knob was the right area.
Today, very few people know of this location. But with the current price of silver, it could be worthwhile for someone to try to locate this lost silver mine.
Black Cave, or Spanish Treasure Cave, as it is often called, is just off State Highway 59, between the towns of Gravette and Sulphur Springs in northwest Benton County, Arkansas. It is thought to be the location of a mine excavated by the Spaniards during one of their early expeditions to this region. The cave was on the side of a cliff, and near it stood a large oak tree on which was carved a map.
In the early 1900s, a strange Spaniard appeared in the county, claiming to have information about a treasure buried in the cave. Naming $3,000,000 as the value of the treasure, he interested a group of men who formed an exploration company. After examining the cave for about one mile and finding nothing, the search for the mysterious Spaniard’s gold was abandoned.
When Hernando De Soto and his men left the Hot Springs area, they journeyed southward along the Ouachita River. On the way, the Spaniards met a party of friendly Ouachita Indians near Camden. Noting the amulets and other ornaments of pure silver the Indians were wearing, De Soto demanded to know where the silver came from.
The Indians shrewdly refused to disclose the source of the metal. De Soto ordered his men to search for the mine along the Ouachita and its tributaries.
Old-time prospectors say that many years after De Soto’s death, a band of Spanish adventurers located the Indians’ mine and took silver from it, thus giving it the name of the Lost Spanish Mine. The Spaniards worked the mine for several years. Before returning to Mexico, they sealed its entrance with a huge rock and destroyed its crude smelting apparatus.
In about 1900, an Indian who gave his age as the late 90s came to Hot Springs seeking eleven mule-loads of gold. He was suffering from an illness of some type and got around with great difficulty. He said that his father, Running Horse, had told him that the gold had come from the Lost Indian Mine, which the Indians had recovered after the Spanish had abandoned it.
The gold was said to have been taken away by the Indians and buried along the old Indian Trail between Hot Springs and Lick Skillet, now called Hollywood. So far as is known, the aged Indian died before he could make his find.
Jesse and Frank James, Belle Starr, and her husband, Pony Starr, are said to have robbed a bank in Missouri of $34,000. Fleeing into northwestern Arkansas over the old Butterfield Stage route, they stopped at Shiloh, now called Springdale, and made camp nearby.
Several years later, an old woman appeared in Shiloh and spent some time at the spot, apparently picking berries. She confided to an acquaintance that she was looking for a cave in a bluff flecked with reddish-colored rock. She claimed the cave entrance was closed with a large rock on which depicted the figure of an Indian head and that another rock below the large rock bore the figure of a ladder.
The $34,000 from the robbery was supposed to be buried in the cave. After several days of searching, the old woman left and was never seen in the area again.
Near Coweta Falls is a cave under a large rock bluff. Mounds found in the vicinity, along with many arrowheads and other relics, indicate that the place was once the site of a large Indian settlement, and legend says that the Indians buried a large amount of gold in the walls of the bluff.
The history of the cave, recorded in pictographs on a deer hide, was once brought by an Indian to Harrison, the Boone County seat. Drawn on the deer hide were the falls, a spring, an Indian moccasin, a snake, and a pot of gold. The symbols are said to have duplicated those on the cave’s walls. The Indians were never able to locate the gold.
Sometime after the Civil War, John Avants homesteaded a piece of land along the Cosatot River north of De Queen. The area can be located by Avants Mountain, named for the pioneer settler. Some ten to twelve years later, a stranger came to Avant’s place and asked for the assistance of the father and his several sons.
The stranger was seeking a landmark, he said, near two springs close together. He declared they would lead him to a vast treasure if he could locate the springs. Father and sons said they were familiar with the vicinity but had never seen such a place as the stranger described.
Before departing in defeat, the stranger revealed that a party of Spaniards with seven jack loads of gold had once made camp near the two springs. Here they were attacked by Indians, and the Spaniards realized that they would have to dispose of their treasure if they were to escape with their lives.
The gold, and one of the Spaniards who had been killed, were hastily buried. Then the Spaniards took flight, closely followed by the Indians. Only a few escaped to Mexico, where they told their story.
One by one, the survivors died or were killed before they could return and recover the gold.
Two or three years after the stranger’s dejected departure, two of the Avants boys happened upon a pair of springs exactly as had been described to them.
They found spikes driven into some of the trees, and strange markings were carved on others. Not realizing the significance of the signs, they did not search for the treasure. Many years later, one of the Avants boys related the stranger’s story to a nephew, who immediately recalled that he had plowed up a skeleton near the two springs.
A search was now done for the buried gold, but without success. Subsequent searches for the treasure have been done over the years, but all have failed.
This little-known treasure location certainly warrants further investigation by an interested treasure hunter.
I quote this verbatim from an old tabloid printed in September 1966:
“Back in the 1880s, a wealthy man by the name of Edgar Mason lived in a deteriorated, shabby cabin about twenty miles east of Morrilton, Arkansas. It was commonly known that he was financially well off from an inheritance, but that he was seldom seen in town. Like many people in his day and time, he did not trust banks, and the rumor persisted that a fortune had been buried at or near his old cabin site. The only person who had any association with him was a ranch hand named Weaver. Mason grew to like and respect the quiet, mild-mannered Weaver. After some time, he revealed to Weaver the tragic ill fates and dealings with his fellow men which had left him angry and disillusioned with the human race. One afternoon Weaver went over to visit Mason and found him digging in the ground near his cabin. He told Weaver that he had buried a large amount of cash which he valued at $62,000 in gold and silver coins. Weaver helped him dig, but they did not find the money. For two years, the two men dug and labored in vain. Before long, Mason became very crippled and almost an invalid. He was forced to move to Missouri to live with a sister. Weaver continued to search for the coins, concentrating to the north of the cabin near a large group of trees where Mason said that he had dug a hole three feet deep and buried the coins in a wash tub. After several years the ranch hand gave up the search, and drifted out of the area.”
As far as can be determined, this cache has not been found.
Several legends exist in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains. Few have been written about, and most have been told by word of mouth to each succeeding generation over the years. One of the most interesting is the Spanish treasure of Mill Ford Hollow. Mill Ford is located at the upper end of Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas, five miles north of Goshen.
The legend tells that a party of Spaniards came through what is now northwest Arkansas from the southwest, probably trying to reach the old Spanish Trail in Mississippi, then on to the Gulf Coast, where they could sail to Spain.
The Indians of the area attacked the Spaniards and stole the wagonloads of silver bars they were transporting. The bars were placed in the back entrance to a cave, and then the cave was sealed and camouflaged.
In 1835, because of white expansion, a treaty was made with the few Choctaw, Cherokee, and Osage Indians in the area to move west of the Arkansas boundary. At this time, the white men learned the story of the hidden cave.
As the Indians were being taken westward across the White River at the Mill Ford, an old Indian related the Spanish treasure legend to one of the white settlers who had befriended him. Since the Indian knew he could never return, he felt his friend should know the treasure story.
Pointing to a large cave down the river, one-quarter mile from the ford, he told of millions of dollars worth of silver bars buried in the cave’s back entrance by his ancestors.
Today, there are no visible signs of an opening on the back side of the ridge through which the cave originally had run.
The following incident lends credence to the story of the concealed cave. Sometime during the 1890s, two men, whose names have been lost to history, were walking on an old timber road that once ran along the back side of the ridge near where it is believed the rear entrance to the treasure cave was concealed. Two large silver bars were sticking out of the ground near the road. Rain and erosion had exposed the bars that the men took to Fayetteville and had assayed.
The report showed them to be high in silver content. Since then, numerous searches have been done for the legendary back entrance of the cave. Although the front entrance can be seen on a bluff overlooking Beaver Lake, the hidden silver bars still await discovery.
For those treasure hunters interested in old forts and towns that have disappeared, these two sites have almost certainly been overlooked.
Fort Desha in Desha County was believed to have been built by the French near the Mississippi River to protect a trading post that dealt mainly with Indians in the area. I quote this from the 1894 “12th Annual Report of American Ethnology”:
“Old Fort Desha had been square, measuring 150 yards from side to side. On the west side extends a grated or covered pathway a distance of 250 yards, ending near the former bank of the Mississippi River. The height of the wall of the fort is at present four feet.. The articles picked up here from time to time and found in the process of cultivating the soil belong both to the days of the first settlement of the country and to very modern times. There are thimbles, pipes, broken dishes, parts of pistols and rifles, pieces of silver coin, probably used as gun sights, a Chinese coin, a toy pistol, articles of Indian origin, old bullet molds, etc. The remains of an old forge were uncovered here a few years ago.”
Remember, this was before metal detectors were invented, so the old French fort is a virtual gold mine for the lucky treasure hunter who takes the trouble to relocate the site.
The first settlement established in Arkansas Territory was Davidsonville, near present-day Pocahontas, Arkansas. In 1805, John Davidson fled from New Orleans, where he had killed a man who had murdered his father. Davidson built a trading post which quickly became an important stop in river traffic. He also opened a jewelry store that became popular with Indians in the area.
Wealthy Spanish families from New Madrid moved to Davidsonville after the disastrous New Madrid earthquake. They are believed to have hidden caches of gold after they moved.
A city map of Davidsonville showed it wasn’t such a small town after all. The town covered fifty acres, with a school, church, four dry goods stores, drug store, hardware store, harness shop, blacksmith shop, barber shop, Davidson’s jewelry store, and two saloons. Then, suddenly in 1828, the town came to a sudden end. It vanished in one week.
The story is that a riverboat from New Orleans discharged passengers who carried yellow fever. The disease swept the town. Residents fled. Farmers burned the entire town to rid it of the ill vapor. Blackened timbers and bricks are commonly found today.
Three rivers, the Spring, Black, and Eleven Point, come together where old Davidsonville stood, a perfect set-up for frequent flooding. Those who returned after the epidemic decided to build elsewhere. There is no record of any of the Spanish gold or any of Davidson’s jewelry being found.
This location of an Indian cache of gold coins has the ring of truth to it because Stand Watie, the only Indian to my knowledge to become a general in the Confederate Army, said that several groups of renegade Indians, over which he had no control, did rob and pillage during the Civil War all over Arkansas, the Oklahoma Territory, and parts of Missouri.
In several instances, these renegade guerrillas were caught and either shot or hanged by members of the Union or Confederate armies.
The following incident occurred in 1863. Five Indians, believed to be guerrillas, were traveling from Western Missouri to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. They were in three wagons with contraband supplies and many gold and silver coins they had taken in isolated raids.
When they reached Bee Creek in northern Boone County, they learned that white men were following them.
Realizing that it didn’t matter which army caught them, they were as good as dead; the Indians buried two metal containers filled with the coins near the road that skirted Bee Creek. After burning their wagons over the site, the Indians slipped away, planning to return for the coins when it was safe.
All of the Indians were killed during the Civil War except one.
This man returned to where he thought he and his companions had buried the coins and burned their wagons years before. He returned several times but was never able to locate the exact spot. Finally, realizing that the area had changed and that he could never find the cache, the Indian told a man named Matthew Booth, who lived on Bee Creek, about the buried coins. This was in 1900.
The Indian then left and never returned. No record of Booth’s having found the coins, or even searching for them, can be found. So somewhere along the old road that used to go up to Bee Creek, there may be a cache of coins worth searching for.
While it seems unlikely, and several mineralogists have stated, that Arkansas is not geologically suited to hold deposits of gold, there is definite proof that different Indian tribes obtained enough raw ore to fashion ornaments that they wore and used in trade.
The secret of these gold deposits was lost when the Indians were driven into reservations further west. But gold has been found by white men. This story tells of a few who found and mined the mineral in what is now the state of Arkansas.
John Trammel was one of the first trappers to reach Arkansas in the early 1800s. He was trapped in the mountains and always traveled down the Arkansas River to its mouth, where a trading post had been established.
Trammel was not an experienced prospector, although it was his habit to gather ore samples while trapping and then have them assayed in the hope of finding something valuable.
On one of his trips, Trammel was camped about ten miles northwest of present-day Little Rock, where he picked up a quartz crystal heavily laced with gold. Selling the sample to the clerk at the trading post, Trammel was amazed to learn later that the ore sample was worth over $100.
When word leaked out about this find, a company was formed in New Orleans to seek gold along the Arkansas River at a place later called Crystal Hill.
The company found deposits of gold about four miles above Little Rock, but not in paying quantities. Trammel led the group onto Crystal Hill, where shafts were sunk, a smelter built, and gold found that was worthwhile. Unfortunately, the shafts flooded and had to be abandoned.
Thoroughly discouraged, the prospectors decided to return to New Orleans. They moved upstream to trade with Indians for much-needed supplies. Upon reaching the area of the present-day site of Dardanelle, they met a band of Caddo Indians.
Noticing that the Caddoes wore gold ornaments, the white men inquired as to the location of the gold. The Indians told them of a place four days’ travel to the southeast where plenty of the yellow iron could be found. This is believed to have been in Montgomery County, close to the Caddo River.
The party of white men decided to prospect to the southeast, and after several days, using Indian guides, gold was found in rich deposits. The prospectors began working the new area by setting up a camp with the few tools they had left.
After several weeks in which the ore proved extremely profitable, the miners had accumulated quite a store of gold. When it seemed their troubles were over, the party was attacked by hostile Indians.
During the fight, several of the prospectors were killed. The survivors were forced to retreat to the Arkansas River, leaving their mined gold behind. Heading downstream, a few of the miners managed to make it to New Orleans, vowing they would return, but there is no record that any of them did.
For interested persons, there are almost certainly deposits of gold in the vicinity of Norman, Caddo Gap, and Black Springs, Arkansas, near the Caddo River, waiting for a lucky prospector.
In 1852, a prosperous Mississippi cotton planter named John Boggs decided that slave labor was immoral. He sold his holdings and moved to the Ozark Mountains, settling on a tract of land about ten miles north of Searcy, Arkansas. Being an industrious farmer, Boggs soon increased his fortune to $40,000. He always refused to sell any farm produce unless he was paid in gold, and it was this obsession also caused him to keep all of his money on the farm.
In 1862, when the Civil War caused bands of straggling soldiers from both armies to run over and pillage his farm, Boggs decided to bury his money. According to his family, Boggs put his savings into fruit jars. One he filled with silver, and one he filled with gold coins.
He decided to bury these in a freshly-plowed garden. Due to his fear of the soldiers and guerrillas and it being after dark when he buried his coins, Boggs could never locate the money after the War.
For several years the old man could be seen digging where the garden had been and in surrounding areas, but so far as his neighbors ever knew, he never found any of the coins. The jars probably sank deeper than Boggs had anticipated. This would be a good spot to use a deep-seeking metal detector with permission.
In the late 1800s, the little Arkansas community of St. Joe held hopes of turning into one of the most prosperous towns in the South. The cause of this hoped-for wealth was a silver mine bearing ore so rich that its owner said there was enough to shoe every Arkansas mule with pure silver shoes.
Residents in and around St. Joe had long known of the mine. An Indian named Woodward had worked it for several years but steadfastly refused to indicate its location.
Some had tried to follow the Indian to the mine, but he always lost them a few miles out of town. In town, he was close-mouthed whenever the mine came up in conversation.
Then one day, without warning, the Indian let it be known that the mine was up for sale. A group of men got together and pooled their resources. They then approached the Indian and said they’d fork over the several thousand dollars he asked, but with one provision.
First, they were to be taken to the mine and permitted to inspect it to be certain it was indeed rich.
The Indian agreed. But, he said, the prospective owners were to be blindfolded during the trip to the mine. And it was to be made at night, just in case some of them slipped off their blindfolds for a peek at landmarks.
The terms were agreed upon.
At the mine, blindfolds were removed. The buyers inspected the mine, hardly able to believe their eyes when they knocked off chunks of ore and found it rich in silver. Without a doubt, the mine was worth many times what the Indian asked for it.
Back in St. Joe, the men raised the money and turned it over to the Indian, who promptly lit out for Oklahoma Territory.
Misfortune befell the new owners. Loaded down with equipment, they set out for the mine. They couldn’t find it. They hunted it for weeks to no avail. For years, generations of treasure hunters have searched for the mine around St. Joe, but no traces have turned up.
Almost any stagecoach stations throughout the West have stories of robberies, hangings, gun fights, and buried money in one form or another. Arkansas is no different than other states in this respect.
In the days of stagecoach travel, a station stood about two miles up Eanes Road off U. S. Highway 70.
The land has changed hands several times over the years. In 1934, it was owned by a man named Barker. One day while clearing his garden of rocks, Barker picked up what he thought was a rock. To his amazement, it was a bar of almost pure gold. Taking his find to a bank in Little Rock, Barker sold it for an undisclosed amount.
No one ever knew how the gold bar came to be where it was, and subsequent searching failed to turn up any more bars. Since this was over twenty years before metal detectors were used, the chances of finding more gold bars or other valuables in the area are good.
A much safer quest for a buried treasure trove can be yours in Crawford County, Arkansas. It concerns George Washington Sims, who arrived after service in the War of 1812 to establish a homestead near Shepherd Springs. You will not find this old settlement on any modern map; it just dried up and blew away years ago.
Folks tell how Sims joined the mad gold rush to California in 1849. Also, he was one of the more fortunate prospectors, striking it rich and returning to Crawford County as a wealthy man. In later years, the old prospector earned a reputation as a confirmed miser who mistrusted banks. As a result, Sims buried his fortune on his property, perhaps in more than one location.
At any rate, he was spry enough to guard his fortune until 1890, when he died at the age of 112. His corpse had hardly turned cold when grave robbers snatched his body from its last resting place, probably imagining Sims’ shroud had pockets for carrying gold. It is presumed that the old prospector’s fortune has never been recovered from his farm.
There is a story that John Murrell, the outlaw known as “The Man in the Bolivar Coat,” buried wealth near his home in Denmark, Tennessee. But more frequently, Murrell’s treasure is associated with the site of his stronghold on Stewart’s Island, in the upper end of Lake Chicot, Chicot County.
No trace of the site remains, but some of the older residents of nearby Lake Village may remember it.
This is a real authenticated treasure. The only question is, has it all been found or not? Old Jim Hawkins was a powerful and enterprising pioneer. He had a mill and a still about three miles east of Huntsville in Madison County. The place is still known to this day as Hawkins Place.
Hawkins prospered, and he was very frugal. Everyone was certain that he had buried his wealth. When old Jim died, neighbors began cleaning the place up for his heir, young Clyde Hawkins. They found an iron box in the hearth containing $11,000 in gold eagles, double eagles, greenbacks, and jewelry.
Another $8000 was found buried in three separate places in the yard. Around the old mill was found $7000 in Confederate money. Just before Aunt Ann Hawkins died in 1925, she is reported to have said that a lot of money was hidden in a place that would never be found.
Although there are several members of the Hawkins family in the Huntsville area, they no longer own the old Hawkins Place. But searches are still done for more treasure.
They tell a story of a fabulous treasure cave along Brushy Creek near Pension Mountain in Carroll County. In the 1850s, a country doctor was making his lonely rounds through the rugged, sparsely populated hills when he was accosted by a band of renegade Indians raiding the area.
He was blindfolded and taken to a cave where he was told to set the broken leg of a young Indian boy.
To the doctor’s astonishment, huge piles of treasure were all around him in the cave. Chests of Spanish coins, bars of gold and silver, and suits of ancient armor and weapons filled not one but several cave rooms.
Though badly broken and infected, the boy’s leg was set and treated. The Indians gave the doctor a handful of gold coins and returned him, blindfolded, to where they had stopped him. They vanished into the forest and did not raid any more in Brushy Creek.
The doctor kept the gold coins for years and searched for the cave without success until he died, believing it lay within a half-mile of the Brushy Creek schoolhouse.
The old William Strong tavern site is located exactly three miles north of the little village of New Castle in St. Francis County. Strong operated a ferry on the St. Francis River, along with his tavern, inn, and general store. He was a kindly old man and minded his own business.
Crowley’s Ridge is just up the St. Francis River, about one-fourth mile. In the summer of 1885, a gang of outlaws moved into a cave at Crowley’s Ridge. The cave is a large one with several rooms. The gang was small and didn’t extend their operations much over 100 miles. They often visited Strong’s tavern, hanging about and drinking while they planned their next robbery.
Early one morning, William Strong was near the outlaw cave, hunting fresh deer meat. He saw the outlaws from a distance, digging a hole in the woods back from the cave about two hundred feet. Squatting down so he wouldn’t be seen, he saw them pouring coins from a sack into a box. Strong slipped away, continued to mind his business, and told no one what he had seen.
At last, luck ran out for the gang one day in Memphis, Tennessee. Attempting a bank robbery on May 1, 1886, all gang members were killed. When news of this reached William Strong, his first thought was to try to locate their buried loot. But he was getting old and felt he had all he needed in life, so he rejected the notion.
A few years later, he told the story of the outlaw loot to a nephew just before he died. The nephew tried to locate the cache of buried coins, but there were no metal detectors in those days. It was hit or miss, so he found nothing.
With six guns blazing, a band of daring robbers shot their way out of the First National Bank in Harrison, Arkansas, in the spring of 1880, and they escaped with an estimated $5000 in large canvas bags.
The four outlaws raced west along the old stagecoach road, which wound its way past the tiny settlement of Cappa, over Gaither Mountain, and on through the town of Batavia. With a sheriff’s posse in hot pursuit, the gang continued west toward the relay station called Midway House, approximately halfway between the present towns of Alpena and Green Forest.
As the posse began to close the distance between them, the gang halted about half a mile east of Midway House. They are believed to have buried the loot somewhere near a clay bank on the south side of the road.
Shortly afterward, the posse overtook them. In the ensuing gun battle, all four of the outlaws were killed. One lived just long enough to indicate where the loot was buried, but it was never found while a search was done.
Today, the ruins of Midway House are still standing, and the old wagon road is dimly evident a few yards to the south. A bank of clay does exist between a quarter of a mile and a half-mile to the east of the ruins, on the south side of the old road. The site is in Boone County, about a mile south of Highway 65.
Montgomery County is located about 30 miles west of Hot Springs. In the southwestern corner of the county flows the Little Missouri River, and somewhere near Missouri Falls, a wash-pot is buried, which is believed to contain $60,000 in gold at yesteryear’s prices. It was originally one of two wash-pots that were buried containing gold, it is stated. The other wash-pot held $100,000 in gold and was buried in a different spot.
In about 1900, a man named Arthur C. White came to Montgomery County with a waybill to the treasure. This was the first time residents were aware of its existence. White said there were two caches and gave the above value for each. He did not say how they had come to be buried there.
Following directions given on his waybill, White recovered the wash pot that held $100,000 in gold, but he could not unearth the remaining pot and left without it. He never came back. The chances are that it is still there, awaiting some lucky finder.
At a point about 20 miles below Memphis, Tennessee, 4000 muskets destined for the State Militia of Arkansas lie buried in the muddy waters of the Mississippi River. The year was 1868, and Arkansas was in the Reconstruction Period. Crimes of all kinds were rampant, civil disorder prevailed, and general unrest led Governor Clayton to declare martial law.
He divided the state into military districts and instructed the militia to enforce the proclamation with whatever necessary means.
James Hodges was appointed as an agent to go north and purchase arms for the militia. A short time later, the cargo of muskets arrived in Memphis, where it was to be shipped by boat on the final leg of the journey.
The steamboat Hesper, under the command of Captain Sam Houston, was chartered by the governor and sent to Memphis on October 12. After the Hesper had loaded the cargo or arms, she left Memphis on October 15 for the return trip.
About 20 miles downriver, the Hesper was overtaken by the steam tug Nettie Jones. Masked men boarded her, held the crew at gunpoint, and threw their arms over the side. Returning to the Nettie Jones, they steamed away.
Captain Houston continued to Little Rock with the bad news. A few months later, the captain and the crew of the Nettie Jones were captured at Devall’s Bluff. No attempt was made to recover the lost cargo, and it still waits for some lucky treasure hunter.
Juan Terron was a foot soldier with De Soto’s ill-fated expedition up the Mississippi River and into Arkansas. Spanish records indicate that in Georgia, De Soto’s men found 35-weight pearls, plus figures of babies and birds made from iridescent shells, in 1539. The treasure was divided among the men, and Juan received six pounds of the pearls.
As the expedition moved north and west, the going got rougher. Indian attacks, lack of food, and fatigue caused the six pounds of pearls to feel much heavier, and the young foot soldier offered half his share to a cavalryman if he would carry the load on his horse. When the horse soldier refused the offer, Juan Terron opened and slung the bag of pearls in a circle over his head until it was empty.
The six pounds of pearls were valued at $12,000 in Spain then and would be worth much more today. Tradition says the pearls were discarded near Caddo Gap in present-day Montgomery County, west and a little south of Hot Springs and Lake Ouachita.
The Spring Lake casino near Hot Springs had enjoyed a busy night. Quiet now prevailed as the boss counted the take, and the employees were cleaning up for the next day’s group of hopefuls. The quietness of the work routine was suddenly shattered as the club owner bolted out of the counting room with the money box in hand and fled down the hall toward the parking lot.
Banging his way through the exit, he sprinted to his car and raced into the night. In less than 10 minutes, he was back.
As he opened the car door, he was greeted with a hail of bullets and slumped over the wheel motionless. Several employees sprang to his aid, but he was beyond mortal help. Amidst the excitement and bewilderment, the employees had just begun to wonder what brought this chaotic scene when the sky suddenly lit up in a bright glow. The casino was on fire! Was the murderer also an arsonist?
After dealing with the fire, the employees discovered that the money box, reputed to contain some $50,000 in cash and many expensive jewels, was not in the car and had never been found. Attesting to this is the fact that there has never been any evidence of the fencing of the jewelry, not even by gossip.
The facts stand out to suggest that the owner was aware of a threat of robbery.
First, he was moving the money at night. Second, he was doing it by himself. Ordinarily, when transferring money, the owner would handcuff the money box to another man and then drive him to the bank during daylight hours to make the deposit.
The owner’s family searched diligently for the treasure box, as did scores of others, but nothing was turned up. It would seem apparent that the box was cached near the casino, as the owner was gone for fewer than 10 minutes, but the steep ravines, gullies, and small canyons have proved to be a safe depository for the cache since 1923.
For more than a century, men have searched for a fabulous silver deposit along the rock ledges overlooking Ten Mile Creek, some 16 miles north of Judsonia. Highway 157 crosses this creek one mile south of the community of Steprock, where many have spent the greater part of their lives in a fruitless search for this lost loot.
It is known that the Osage Indians worked with silver in this area. Where did the silver come from? Is there a deposit nearby? These questions are being answered, but slowly. The consensus s that large quantities of silver will one day be found along the bluffs that border Ten Mile Creek. The prospect is drawing out-of-state interest, hastening the day of discovery. Perhaps you will be the lucky treasure hunter who finds the source of the Osage silver.
On October 17, 1899, a northbound train was traveling along what is now known as the Rock Island Railroad just east of Forest City in St. Francis County. The train’s strongbox was a little over $12,000 in gold, transported from West Helena to Jonesboro, Arkansas.
It became evident that news of the gold shipment had leaked out, for as the train approached the bridge over Crow Creek near Forest City, the span was suddenly blown apart by a blast of dynamite, and the train came to a halt.
As the train stood motionless, an awaiting masked man jumped into the engine cab and held the crew at gunpoint while two more masked men threw dynamite under the car carrying the gold shipment and fled to cover. It was obvious that they knew what they were doing.
The blast blew the treasure car apart and killed the two guards. The outlaws broke open the strongbox and transferred the gold to their saddlebags. They then fled to the woods.
A posse from Forest City and West Helena was soon in hot pursuit. After three days of flight, just out of range of the posse, the bandits found themselves at the forks of the White River and Cypress Bayou in Prairie County. It was here that they decided on a new strategy. They would each take a handful of gold coins for spending money and bury the rest.
They planned to meet back on Christmas Day to divide the remaining loot. Their next move was to split in different directions, and this they did.
The information gained later provides us with the outlaws’ names and fates. They were Max Perry, Roy Hutton, and Walter Drake. Perry had ridden north, and five days after the holdout, he was shot by a farmer while trying to steal a horse.
Hutton had headed south and was killed by an alert deputy sheriff in Clarendon, Arkansas. Drake had fled to the west and was captured by the sheriff of White County at Search, Arkansas. The chase ended, and two outlaws were dead within six days following the robbery. But the story continues, with Drake’s being returned to Forest City for trial.
Drake was questioned many times during his incarceration by law officials and railroad detectives as to the whereabouts of the loot, but he remained silent on the subject. While in prison, Drake contracted some unknown disease and died after serving seven years and two months of his 20-year prison sentence.
This treasured story might have ended with Drake’s death, but for Drake’s young cellmate, Billy Joe Gordon. Gordon, serving a murder sentence, had been cooped up with Drake for nearly five years. They had become good friends, and when Drake knew he was dying, he told Gordon the story of the buried gold.
At the forks of the White River and Cypress Bayou, where they had split up, they had stepped off exactly 45 paces due south from an old oak tree located about 400 feet from the forks, also due south. Here they took a short-handled shovel, dug a hole about four feet deep, and buried the gold coins.
When he was released, Gordon tried to find the treasure but could not do so, as the passage of time had caused the landmarks to change.
So, a few hundred feet south of the confluence of White River and Cypress Bayou, about four feet deep, is a pile of gold coins worth a small fortune.