The general location of much of the millions of dollars in hidden, buried, and lost treasure in Idaho is known, but the exact spot of numerous caches is yet to be found. Legends, stories, and documented history tell of gold dust, coins, bars, and raw ores, that have been hidden or lost in Idaho during and since the early mining days.
This short list of a few sites will give many treasure hunters in all parts of the state enough information to do more research in the area that interests them.
A few miles from Three Creek in Owyhee County is an area that used to be known as Rye Flats. A historian who researched and believed the following story gave me a few details on this treasure location several years ago.
A rancher named Hance lived in Rye Flats and supplemented his ranch earnings by allowing two outlaws to use his home as a hideout. He also participated in several robberies with them.
Hance’s wife left him because of these activities, and the only other person on the ranch was an orphan boy who helped with the chores. The two outlaws heard of a shipment of gold being sent from Twin Falls to Boise. Leaving the ranch, the three men robbed the stage and obtained $40,000 in gold coins. The young boy had stayed at home during the robbery.
Returning to the ranch, the three hid the money in a small cave behind the ranch house. Sometime later, the rancher and one of the outlaws had a fight in which the outlaw was killed. His body was placed in the cave with the money.
The other outlaw, fearing the same thing would happen to him, left the country.
Hance and the young boy lived quietly until the rancher became ill. Realizing that he was dying, the rancher told the boy about the cave’s location and the gold. The key to the gold box was in the pocket of the dead bandit.
After the rancher died, the boy finally found the cave, but because he was afraid of a dead man and might get into trouble over the gold, he left the cave alone and moved away. Several years later, he told the story.
My historian friend verified this information. He found there had been a stage robbery, and the boy’s story and dates agreed. Also, a rancher named Hance lived in the area. The cave is believed to be located a short distance behind where the ranch house stood, near the edge of the hills.
For the interested treasure hunter experienced in locating caves, there is almost certainly a cache of gold coins waiting in the area of Three Creek.
A prospector named Swimm discovered gold ore somewhere on the Salmon River. While prospecting, he visited a place where a storm had toppled a huge tree. A ledge of quartz honeycombed with gold, weighing $18,000 per ton, was exposed beneath its roots. Swimm staked his claim and had it recorded at Challis, but winter came before he could return to his mine.
By spring, everyone had heard of his fabulous strike. When he started to make his claim, he was followed by an army of gold seekers. After a while, he stopped and announced that he would go no further unless left alone. The hangers-on agreed to let him go in peace. He then proceeded down the Salmon River to his mine.
After several days, when Swimm did not return, the crowd set out to look for him. They discovered his horse’s tracks leading into the river, but none were coming out. After a few months, the horse’s bones were found, and Swimm’s things were found in a log jam. He was never seen again, and his great ledge of gold was never found.
In the late 1870s, gold bars were regularly shipped from the Custer mine in Custer County, Idaho. One of these shipments was intercepted by a lone highwayman on Root Hog Divide, a few miles east of the Big Butte Stage Station in Butte County.
He was tracked northward up Little Lost River but was not overtaken. He was, however, later surprised in a gambling place in Salmon City. The bandit had $5000 of the loot on his person and readily agreed to take officers to the remainder, which he said he had buried in the lava beds near the spot where he had taken it.
Upon arriving at the scene, he cleverly escaped and was never seen again. Some 30 years later, a man from New Mexico arrived with a map on which was marked the location of a cave near the old stage road on Root Hog Divide. He claimed the map had been given to him by the robber, who was afraid to return for the gold. The man left without finding the gold bars, which are presumed to be there still.
Clark County, in southern Idaho, holds the secret to a large amount of buried gold. The man responsible for burying this fortune of $50,000 was George Ives, an early-day desperado and ex-sheriff. George thought it would be better for him to join the notorious Plummer Gang, which worked in Montana and Idaho, than to stay in Boise and be a poor but honest sheriff.
In the summer of 1890, a man applied for work at the hot springs in Clark County. After several months, he told the old-timers that he was unable to find the large pine that used to be near the springs and asked them for help.
The stranger confided that while he was a guard in a penitentiary, he had been given a map by one of the prisoners. The prisoner, George Ives, had robbed a stagecoach and buried the stolen goods near the springs because a posse was chasing him.
The map showed a dry gulch north of the springs with a pine tree nearby. The gold had been buried at the base of that tree. When the search for the tree proved fruitless, the stranger gathered his map and belongings and was never seen again in that vicinity. If George Ives’ map was correct, the gold is still buried near Clark County’s hot springs.
According to an old story, a wagon load of rich gold ore is hidden in a cave between Arco in Butte County and Blackfoot in Bingham County in southwestern Idaho. The ore is worth an estimated $2000 a bag. This story is highly possible since one of Idaho’s richest early-day mining areas was in Custer and Lemhi Counties, and the ore was freighted to Blackfoot for processing.
In 1865, a freighter was driving between Arco and Blackfoot with six wagons full of gold ore when, as evidence later showed, he decided to turn over one of the wagons and hide its contents. Pack trains freighted the ore from the mines, and mine owners often negotiated with men who specialized in this business.
Upon reaching the town of Blackfoot, the freighter claimed that his horses had run away, causing the load of ore to be scattered for several miles along the trail. However, the owner of the mines followed the freighter’s wagon tracks, refused to believe the story, and had the driver arrested.
A lengthy trial followed, during which the owner testified that he believed the ore had been stolen and hidden in one of several small caves along the route. But the mine owner couldn’t prove his theory, so the jury let the freighter go free.
Although the man was watched for several years and was seen walking along the trail where it is said he had hidden the ore, he certainly never recovered it because he later died penniless in northern Idaho.
Since the 1870s, people have known roughly where $50,000 in gold was stolen from a stagecoach near Boise, Idaho, but I have not been able to find out if the gold has been found.
During the 1860s and 1870s, sections along the Boise River in southwestern Idaho were heavily covered with underbrush and small trees. Along the routes followed by stage lines, these sections were often the place of concealment for bandits and hold-up men.
Near one such section on the south side of the Boise River, approximately six miles above the city of Boise, in the 1870s, the Overland Stage from Boise was stopped by a lone bandit armed with a shotgun and two revolvers.
He made the driver throw down a strongbox that was being used to transport $50,000 in gold, but during the robbery, he suffered serious wounds at the hands of a passenger. The stage driver and his passengers returned to Boise without being afraid to follow the wounded and armed outlaw.
Heavy as the box was, and although he was seriously wounded, the bandit managed to drag it into the nearby shrubbery. The next day, a posse found the robber dead among some trees near the river, not far from the hold-up scene.
But there was no sign of the strong box or the $50,000 in gold. Since there was no indication of a hidden accomplice or partner, it is believed that the man acted alone and buried the gold somewhere in the underbrush before he died.
Although $50,000 in gold seems too heavy to have been moved very far by a wounded man, it could have been dragged for quite a distance by a horse before it was hidden. The bandit could then have thrown the safe into the river. Since no identification was found on the dead outlaw, his name or where he came from was never learned.
In 1930, a sheepherder came to Rupert, Idaho, with two Bull Durham tobacco sacks full of sand. He contacted a jeweler, advising that he had found silver particles in a streak of odd-looking sand. He thought they might be valuable and asked if the jeweler would make an essay for him.
The jeweler agreed that the metal did look valuable and that he would secure an assay for the sheepherder. The jeweler had an assay made in Salt Lake City, with the sand proving rich, producing over an ounce of platinum from the sack of sand.
The sheepherder was accidentally killed a few days before the jeweler had time to learn the exact location of the deposit. All he knew was that the sheepherder had been working in the hills south of Oakley, in the general area where the deposit was found.
The jeweler searched for the deposit several times and later took a friend into his confidence; both conducted numerous searches. The friend was an attorney, but his legal skill was useless in the field, and the two of them could not find the deposit together. Several other friends were eventually enlisted in the search, causing the story to trickle out and become public knowledge several years ago.
Since this location is only about sixty years old, there should be old-timers who can still remember the incident and give you the general area where the sheepherder had been working.
In the early 1880s, a Spanish sheepherder was taking care of a flock of sheep in the area of Squaw Meadows, north of McCall, Idaho. As he walked through the surrounding hills, he would pick up rocks to add to his collection.
On one of these hikes, he spotted some bright red rock on a wide ledge. He gathered a sackful of samples of the red rock and took it back to camp. Later, when it was time to return to the winter range to the south, he discarded the rock samples. It did not occur to him that they might be valuable. That same fall, he left for his homeland in Spain and never returned to America.
The sheepherder’s boss found the little pile of discarded rock samples at the abandoned camp the following spring. He broke open one of the samples and found wire gold running through it. He sent a letter to Spain, asking for instructions on how to find the spot the samples came from, but the old sheepherder wouldn’t reveal the exact spot, nor would he return to this country to show where it was located.
This location, with directional symbols pointing to an Indian treasure located about halfway between Kooskia and Kamiah, Idaho, on the banks of the Clearwater River, should be of interest to many treasure hunters. The details were printed in the Kamiah, Idaho, newspaper “Progress” in July 1904.
The following statement was given to a group of friends by a man named Runkel, who had worked for years in deciphering the symbols.
“For many years, numerous people have wondered what message, if any, the markings on the granite rocks within a mile of where we are now, Kamiah, meant. As you know, they are well over a hundred years old, as Mr. Harry Hayes, a Nez Perce Indian, tells me that when his father was a boy, these characters were very plain and the Indians did not know what they meant, or by whom they had been cut into the rocks. I have given the matter thought for over two years, and have corresponded with friends and interested persons in different parts of the country who have past experience at deciphering such markings with help from the Smithsonian Institute and other institutions of higher learning. After studying all this correspondence, I believe, in my opinion, I have solved the riddle at least partially, as follows: These characters on the rocks are sign language of the Toltec Indians, who formerly inhabited Mexico and were far advanced in civilization. Each character is a sentence of a story which tells of four Toltec men coming down the Clearwater in boats. Perceiving that they were nearing a settlement of strange Indians, they buried near these rocks a man’s weight of yellow metal obtained in the mountains from whence they had come. Not knowing what reception they would receive at the nearby village of Nez Perce Indians, they cut these characters in the granite rock, that members of their tribe could recover the treasure in later years. Now, unfortunately, the direction and distance from this rock to the buried treasure is lost, since the top of the rock was broken off by the railroad builders in the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and it is very difficult to find the exact spot. It is also possible that they later had a chance to take up this treasure, but this is not likely, as the engravings on the rock would then have been destroyed by them. To stop any doubts that this story could be true, during a 300-year period until 1820, Mexico was under the rule of the Spanish, and the Indian inhabitants fled to the most remote corners of the adjacent country to escape. It is therefore quite reasonable to believe that some of them should have followed the great mountain country northward until approaching winter would find them on the headwaters of the Clearwater, and so float downstream to Kamiah. The yellow metal in their possession could possibly be placer gold, with which they would have been quite familiar, before their flight from Mexico.”
Although the markers have been partially destroyed, this would still be a good place to check out with a metal detector.
A journey southwest of Boise can bring you to the Kuna Caves, a place of hidden treasure. One such treasure is believed to have been successfully concealed by an operator working the road to hold up stages and ore carts moving from the Silver City area northeast to the Boise assay office.
The road running through a canyon with many curves was ideal for these projects, and the outlaw hiding behind a rock could shout, “Stand and deliver!” to the stage while carrying a rich treasure box of silver and gold. With his gun ready, the driver then threw down the chest, and the lone bandit would throw his lasso rope around the box, make it secure to his saddle, and start at a gallop.
This one-stage driver and the passengers knew that several horseback riders were to follow them into Boise, and they waited until these riders came into view. When the men got the news of the robbery, they started after the bandit.
Knowing that he would have trouble holding the heavy box and pushing out his horse simultaneously, the bandit tightened up his rope hitch and, lowering the box to the ground, started to drag it behind him over the desert floor above the canyon and toward the Kuna Caves.
The pursuers easily followed the trail as spurts of dust made by the dragging box were easily spotted across the sage flat. But the outlaw’s horse was giving out, and when the cruel spurs were driven into him for a final burst of speed that brought him to the cave entrance, he trembled and fell on his side.
The outlaw sprang clear of the dying animal, pulled out his knife, hacked through the rope, and disappeared into the cave entrance. As he ducked out of sight, the mounted men dashed up. Realizing that the outlaw could shoot them down from inside the cave, they prudently decided to starve him out. When dawn came, they were still waiting.
Taking a vote, it was decided to enter the cave and cover the lead man with their guns. The cave was empty of both men and gold. They finally concluded that the thief knew of some secret crack he could squeeze through, although they could never discover it themselves.
However, they all agreed that he could never have made it out with the chest. Many have searched, but it is still believed that the gold is hidden somewhere inside the cave.
Caves, historically, seem to attract people with something to hide. The Shoshone Ice Caves are no exception. In the 1800s, robbers consolidated $75,000 of their loot to leave the country.
Unfortunately, they were known thieves, so a local posse and the sheriff worked together to set up a fake treasure wagon from the Lemhi diggings. Taking the bait, all the outlaws were shot down except one man, who skipped the country and never dared return.
It is well known among the old-timers that the robbers’ hoard of $75,000 was hidden in the Shoshone Ice Caves. As far as is known, it has never been found.
Another treasure is supposed to be hidden in a fissure in the weird and mysterious Shoshone Ice Caves. It consists of a hoard of gold bars taken from a freight wagon from the northern Lemhi mines. The robber, who had posed as a hired helper to earn his way from the mines to the town of Shoshone, then called Rattle Snake Gulch, killed the driver and cut the horses out of the traces.
As the heavy wagon rumbled down the incline, the three men in the back, who had thumbed a ride to town, were thrown to the wagon bed, and when they got up, they were looking down a shotgun barrel. The person with the shotgun told them to throw away the treasure chest full of ingots. He then put the chest in a canvas knapsack, cursed at them, and rode away on his horse.
The three men tumbled out of the wagon bed and hit in the opposite direction.
Later, the outlaw, who the sheriff was trailing, left for Montana. Shortly afterward, he was arrested for a crime there and given a long prison sentence. While serving it out, he became ill and, realizing that he had not too long to live, called a friendly guard and told him where he had hidden the treasure in the Shoshone Ice Caves.
Before the guard, many years had passed, and now an old and broken man arrived in central Idaho with his map. When he reached the town of Shoshone, he hired a rig and a town boy to drive him out to the caves because, from the account given to him by the prisoner, he was aware that the cache was far too heavy for him to move alone.
Leaving the boy with the team some distance from the mouth of the cave, he began his search and found the treasure. Without moving it, he rushed to the mouth of the cave to go down and summoned the boy and the team, but the excitement was too much for him, and he died on the way.
No one noticed, or saved, the crumpled map clutched in his hands. So the treasure is probably still there, the silver turning black over time.
Life was rather dull in the Lidy Hot Springs country of eastern Idaho until one day when some of the men on the front porch of the general store spied an elderly gent coming up the dusty road leading a tired old horse carrying a pack.
The traveler left for the sand hills north of the springs after he bought some food and didn’t answer a few leading questions from the local gentry. He was supposed to prospect a rise dotted with pine trees here and there.
From then on, he spent most of the time digging, but as far as the watchers were concerned, he was not doing himself much good.
From time to time, the lonely older man would come to the store, where he asked for work at the end of the season, but odd jobs were not easy to come by during the lean times of the 1890s.
One late afternoon, he came to the store and asked some chair warmers if they had ever seen or heard of a big riven pine tree in the country where he had been digging. Most of the riven pines were old trees hit by lightning that had died off or been killed by wind and weather.
When the answer was “yes,” he said that he’d gone over the place “with a fine-tooth comb,” as the saying goes, but he could never find what he considered the tree he was looking for, nor had he dug up what his map told him might be found there.
The men explained that a second lightning bolt had nearly wrecked the old tree and that someone had come along and hauled it away for firewood. The old man shook his head sadly and went back to his camp. The next day, he left, never to return.
It was then that the pioneer recalled an outlaw hoard of several thousand dollars hidden in the River Pines neighborhood and never recovered. After that, much digging occurred, but no discovery reports were ever turned in.
This is the story of a landlady who was given a treasure map by a partner of the notorious Jim Kelly, who had been caught and hanged for his part in a robbery near Mud Lake.
This man, who had been Kelly’s sidekick, had escaped and was hiding in Washington Territory. He became a roommate and boarder in a respectable house near Spokane.
As it was the fashion for most men to wear heavy beards and longish hair at this time, in the middle 1860s, no suspicion was aroused by this youngish man behind a heavy brush of hair. He was a good, quiet roommate and paid his bills in gold dust, a common enough practice for the period.
The pretty landlady never dreamed that the man who sat at her table owned $50,000 worth of stolen treasure hidden in Idaho Territory.
There is no account of why this roommate suddenly disappeared; perhaps it was a warning that trouble was at hand. Anyway, he left in the dark of the moon but also wrote a letter to the landlady with a map of the buried treasure, which he failed to mention was the robbers’ loot. He had probably decided it was too dangerous to return to Idaho and dig it up himself.
For many summers after that, a lady was observed in the neighborhood of Heise Hot Springs in Kelly Canyon. Eventually, probably discouraged, she disappeared. Someday, some lucky treasure hunter may turn up a shovel full of mud and find the $50,000 treasure. It should come up from the mud beds of the spring with a cheery glug.
Red and black are the color combinations of many gambling games, and so, naturally, there is a Red and Black in the history of Idaho’s lost and buried treasures, and they were both robbers.
Red is the storybook type of boy who selects the wrong companions, is troubled with a violent temper, and is always determined to be in trouble. Finally, he got into real trouble and had to leave home in less than 24 hours. He joined the army, but his lack of self-control put him in danger again, so he quit. He ran away to Idaho Territory, where he quickly joined a robbery group.
A few days after doing this, Red and three of the gang attempted a hold-up, and his two pals were shot down. His other pal and himself gathered up the spoils and lit out, but ahead of them were sent excellent descriptions of both men.
Now, sensing that the possibility of escape was possible for only one of them, Red added betrayal to his list of other crimes and gunned down his companion. Taking the treasure sack and tying it to the cantle of the dead man’s horse, he rode off at a hard gallop.
As they got close to Camas Creek near Jefferson County, the pack horse could no longer keep up with the fast pace or carry the heavy load. Red jumped off his horse, shot the straggler, and buried the gold, saving only enough to get him back home.
There, in confusion following the Civil War, no questions were asked, and his past crimes and army desertion passed unnoticed.
Red had come from a respectable family, and after his narrow escapes from the hangman’s noose, he concluded it was better to lead an honest life. He turned respectable and opened a country store with what gold he had salvaged. Later he married and raised a family.
Over a decade later, a man who had known him in Idaho Territory during Red’s outlaw days dropped into this little store on his way west. It was just one of those occurrences that seemed motivated by fate. Both men recognized each other.
Red urged him not to tell of his past, as he had gone straight and intended to remain so. In return, he gave the man a map of the hidden treasure, which, with pardonable dishonesty, the fellow took as a price for his silence, and lit out for Idaho and Camas, bent on digging up the outlaw treasure.
His luck was not in; after months of searching, he gave up, later dying in poverty. Somewhere in the land of the blue camas meadows lies a treasure, probably with the roots of the Indian food plant tightly coiled around the gold sack.
On a blistering day in July 1883, one of the early West’s most carefully planned hold-ups occurred in Port Neuf Canyon, where it narrows into a brush-choked turn along the river of the same name.
The plans had been changed time after time by four bandit murderers who had holed up in Ross Fork. They were Brackie Jack, David Updyke, Fred Williams, and Willie Whitmore. The law wanted each man to live in several states and territories.
The gang sent Fred Williams into Virginia City, Montana Territory, to spy out the ground. Williams had several contacts in the town who could tip him off when the next treasure stage would come through.
Williams was able to complete his mission, so he went back to meet his friends at the Sod House Station near Pocatello. He informed the bandits that the stage would pass through Port Neuf Canyon the day after tomorrow, July 26.
After a study of the problem, they decided to go immediately into the canyon and pile rocks along the side of the hairpin turn, ready to pile them up into a barricade the instant the sound of the stage was heard. Each was given a definite role to play, so they were cool and collected as they set about their grim business.
The appointed day turned hot almost as soon as the sun had swung into the sky, and they cursed as they sweated to pile the rock up to run with them on the road at the first sound of the stage. They did not want to erect a barricade until the last possible instant, lest some rancher or miner come along and alarm the area.
Crouching in the bushes, they waited quietly as Indians until the far-off sound of the stage rolled down to them. Instantly, they rushed the stones, erected the barricades, and leaped into the willows just as the coach swung around the turn.
Seeing the rock pile, the driver instantly turned his horses into the shallow river and tried to make it across. The bandits anticipated this move by opening up and looking the two lead horses in the eyes.
They immediately went down on their knees, with the driver also badly wounded under his eye and in his neck. Even though he was bleeding, this brave man jumped out of his driver’s seat and ran for cover.
Meanwhile, inside the stage, a passenger drew his gun on Willie Whitmore and shot off his finger. Willie had a savage and uncontrollable temper and started blasting into the coach time after time with his shotgun, killing four passengers. Two more made their way into the rocks.
Moving rapidly, the other three outlaws secured the treasure box and chopped it open with axes. They found gold bars stamped with the Montana Assay Office insignia, weighing 360 ounces. Sacks of gold dust and nuggets added to the haul, which, with the funds taken from the stage occupants, amounted to around 460 troy pounds of gold—an immense haul valued at $190,000.
Now the bandits were faced with the ultimate problem that balked the majority of treasure thieves, namely, how to transport the heavy gold before their horses gave out or the posse caught up with them. Also, the bandits had another casualty beside Whitmore. Williams had suffered a gunshot wound that shattered his arm.
Piling up the dead and wounded, the surviving passengers got into the stage and limped on to the next stage station, and, as the bandits had anticipated, it was not long before every non-disabled man in the country was hot on the trail.
As for the bandit murderers, they did not live long enough to enjoy their loot. It is believed that the principal treasure was secured in some hidden cave or buried. The men scattered, of course, planning to return and pick up and divide the gold later.
Meanwhile, Willie Whitmore was shot by an Arizona sheriff in a saloon brawl. Fred Williams was hanged shortly after by the Colorado Vigilantes. Three weeks after the bloody event in Port Neuf Canyon, David Updyke was betrayed by his wife for some of the $10,000 rewards the insurance company had offered for the bandits’ apprehension.
As for Brackie Jack, no record has ever been found to reveal his fate. However, it is believed that he never came back to Idaho, as it would have cost him his life if he had.
So today, with a feeble gold market, it is worth an accurate search by a treasure hunter who has the time and interest to uncover the Port Neuf Canyon Treasure.
For the rock hound, there is an exciting area to search near Goose Creek in Adams County.
In the early 1900s, a pocket of rich gold ore was discovered near the banks of Goose Creek. As a result, a mining operation was carried on at Rock Flat, between McCall and New Meadows.
This new mine began a long, fruitless search for the source of the rich ore. The initial operation ran a long shaft into the mountain, but nothing of any value appeared. The next operation moved hundreds of tons of earth, searching for the golden vein, but nothing materialized.
No more gold was ever obtained in this spot. Later, people thought that a wandering prospector must have left the promising ore behind when he camped at Goose Creek.
The mining operation, however, was not a complete failure. During the search for gold, a few yards of gravel were tested for value, and three diamonds were found. The largest was a third of a carat and of excellent quality. Before diamonds were thought to be there, the placer operation probably missed a lot of these diamonds.
In recent years, many beautiful gems have been taken from this location. The area has also turned up aquamarine, ruby, amethyst, topaz, garnet, and other semi-precious stones.
A gold cache estimated at $100,000 to $150,000 at yesteryear’s prices, which means it would be worth a lot more today, is buried near the sharp curve of the Port Neuf River about a dozen miles south of Pocatello, Idaho.
The cache has remained concealed for over a century, ever since ten highwaymen stuck up a Wells Fargo stage carrying $130,000 in gold from Montana’s gold fields to Salt Lake City, Utah.
The shipment comprised $60,000 worth of gold in the stagecoach’s strongbox and $70,000 worth of gold that seven Montana miners smuggled on board to avoid paying a high tax Wells Fargo put on stagecoaches carrying gold.
To set the background for the robbery, stands of dense timber grew on both sides of the stage road where it took place. Five bandits armed with shotguns and pistols hid in the woods on each side of the road, waiting for the stage.
Hearing the stage approach, all ten thumbed back the hammers on their guns. When the stage was a few yards off, they rushed it, blasting away without warning. Six Montana miners had been killed in minutes, the seventh critically wounded. Only the driver was unharmed.
The bandits swarmed aboard. Grunting loudly, they removed the heavy strongbox and dragged it a short distance into the timber. Returning to the stage, they pulled the bodies from it, spreading them out beside the stagecoach. All the passengers had gold, much of it in durable canvas bags, which they had concealed under their coats. More was found in their baggage.
When the bandits had carried the passengers’ gold to the timber, they forced open the strongbox. Removing its gold, they stuffed their saddlebags and cached a large amount of gold they could not safely carry. They then galloped off, expecting to return later for the cached gold.
That, however, was not to be their fate. Wells Fargo detectives were soon hot on their trail. Shortly, the outlaws were tracked down, captured, or cut down in a rain of bullets.
Not an ounce of the gold was recovered. Though authorities conducted thorough searches for it near the robbery scene, the highwaymen had concealed it so well that it remains there to this day.
The Lost Spanish Silver Mine is said to be somewhere along the St. Marie’s River. The story is that near the headwaters of the North Fork of St. Marie’s River in Idaho, a renegade Pend Oreille Indian named Louis Frenchette conducted Sol Piele in a canoe up the right fork.
They broke off native silver from a ledge, loaded the canoe with as much as possible, and took it to Spokane, Washington.
They sold the silver and prepared to return with a pack train of mules and cayuses. At St. Marie’s Mission, the renegade Indian unexpectedly refused to go further. Piele set out alone. After visiting the mine, where he loaded the pack train and was on his way out, he disappeared.
About two years later, his remains and three-pack loads of silver ore were found. At once, prospectors began trying to locate the mine but were never able to do so.
The tale of the treasure known as Idaho’s Cave with the Iron Door has been told many times. The story goes that three outlaws removed a vault door from a building partly destroyed by fire in a little town somewhere north of Logan, Utah.
They transported the door across the Idaho border and cemented it into a cave opening on the east slopes of the Malad Range. If so, the cave could be in Oneida or Franklin Counties.
The outlaws reputedly stored from $50,000 to $150,000, depending on the source of the story, in the vault for safekeeping. They then went somewhere in upper Idaho and attempted to hold up a stage carrying a gold shipment.
One was killed outright, and the shotgun guard and passengers fatally wounded another. The third bandit made good his escape from Idaho and was never seen again.
The wounded bandit told about the cave with the Iron Door, but it has never been located. Various dates, ranging from 1865 to 1890, have been given for this episode.
North of the Priest River and three or four miles below Priest Lake, in northern Idaho, Zak Stoneman, in 1888, had to unload three mules carrying gold because they died from eating poisoned weeds. He buried all the gold except what he could backpack to Coeur d’Alene.
The gold he carried into the little town created a sensation in a place used to seeing gold in large quantities. But Stoneman had pieces of gold half as large as a man’s fist. He and his cronies got drunk and stayed that way for a week. Then he got help, outfitted more mules, and went back to clean out the caches.
Large wild animals had eaten the mules’ bodies, and their bones were scattered over several acres of land. Stoneman had cleverly hidden his stashes, so they didn’t match where the dead mules were; he couldn’t find them now.
Twice more, he attempted to locate his hidden gold before the winter snows put an end to further searching. The failure bewildered his mind, and afterward, he was not remotely sure of the area where he had hidden the gold.
Around 1900, Felix Warren operated a stage line between Grangeville and Lewiston. Two coaches made the 60-mile run daily—a steep grade known as Waha led to the Camas Prairie on the southward run from Lewiston.
Customarily, the horses were rested at the top. At this stop one day, two bandits rode out of the brush with drawn guns and demanded the strongbox. The driver quickly surrendered the box, and the outlaws raced away down a road leading to Lake Creek Trail.
When the robbers were out of sight, the driver turned his stage around and flew back to Lewiston. A heavily-armed posse was hot on the trail in less than an hour.
The posse leader surmised the outlaws would head toward the breaks of the Snake River. However, he knew a shortcut that might enable the posse to head them off before they reached the remote region.
The ambush was successful.
Both gunmen were shot from their saddles, but the stolen loot could not be found. The bandits had hidden it along the trail they had covered, about 12 miles.
Wherever the gold was hidden, it has reportedly never been found.