Lost Treasures In Iowa


Iowa is not as rich in treasure sites as several other states, but there are enough locations to keep a treasure hunter busy for the rest of his life.


Fort Atkinson and Fort Defiance are two forts in Iowa that might interest the treasure hunter.
Fort Atkinson was established in Winneshiek County to protect the Winnebago Indians. The post was abandoned in 1849 when the tribe was moved to another reservation.

The fort was located on the left bank of the Turkey River above the town of Fort Atkinson, between State Roads 24 and 325.

Fort Defiance was established in Emmet County, on the west fork of the Des Moines River, in 1862. It is now the site of the town of Estherville. It was one of the many stockades built to protect Iowa from the Indians. It was later called Fort Ingham. The old fort site is near the junctions of State Roads 9 and 4.


Somewhere northwest of Mason City, Iowa, along the banks of the Winnebago River, lies a buried treasure of gold coins.

The man who buried the gold was Thomas Nelson, a mysterious soldier of fortune who made much money prospecting in the Black Hills or taking money from successful prospectors in poker games during the 1880s.

Nelson served in the army for a time under General George Custer. He was also a prospector, a gambler, a merchant, and a ranch hand. In 1884, he came to Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, and worked at the Wheeler Ranch.

A fellow ranch hand saw Nelson counting gold coins. He had the money stacked in tall piles, the various denominations in separate stacks. He later put the gold coins in a heavy leather money belt and buckskin sacks.

Before long, reports of Nelson’s gold circulated the country. Fearing possible theft, he decided to bury the money.

Nelson later told Oliver Booth, a friend of his who lived in Grant Township, that he had buried a fortune in gold somewhere on the Winnebago River between the Wheeler Ranch and the horseshoe bend area. He told Booth he had buried the money late at night to avoid detection and was sure he would remember where the spot was. But the next day, when he went back, he could not find the spot where he had buried the gold, about three feet deep.

For the next ten years, Nelson spent days walking back and forth in an area between a horseshoe bend and Dester’s bridge. The farmer who owned the land had Nelson charged with trespassing, but a court in Clear Lake acquitted him when the farmer admitted that Nelson had caused no damage to his property.

Nelson continued to search for gold until 1898, when he left for Alaska to search for a new treasure in gold. He returned in the fall of 1900 and was reported to have been walking daily along the river during the summer of 1901.

He finally told a friend he had given up and that somebody else could have the gold if they could find it. That fall, Nelson returned to Alaska and never returned to the Mason City area. He died in Alaska in 1924.
In the early years of the 20th century, many people in the area tried to find Nelson’s lost gold, but no one ever reported finding the treasure.


In the early years of our Republic, the Sac and Fox Indians of Wisconsin and Iowa were war parties that continued to defy the white man, who, time after time, enforced new rules and regulations in the lands of the Indians. Furious battles were fought with these Indians in the early 1800s.

Between 1804 and 1832, peace treaties were established to appease the warring factions and seemed to settle the differences between whites and Indians.

The Indian chief who led the final battle against the soldiers in this area was Chief Black Hawk. His determination to keep his land and Indian independence failed with his defeat in the Black Hawk War in 1832.

The treaties issued by the young United States government were used to “buy” the land that the white settlers decided they needed or wanted. In 1832, following the long and bloody Black Hawk War, a treaty with the Indian chief Keokuk and the other Sac and Fox chiefs, Winfield Scott, and the then governor of Illinois, Reynolds, was made.

The Indians were given a lump sum of $30,000 and an annual annuity of $20,000 for thirty years. In 1833, William Harrison and five Sac and Fox chiefs negotiated another treaty in St. Louis. This resulted in an annuity of $1,000 a year, which was paid for a quarter of a century.

A dozen other instances might be cited here of money sent to the Iowa Territory to pay the Indians under various treaties and other arrangements.

The Indians had little use for any of the gold granted them. They grew their crops and hunted and fished for their meat. The only items that appealed to them out of all the innovations brought along by the white settlers were guns and whiskey.

Most of these items were purchased in moderation at the time, leaving vast sums useless to the Indians. It was estimated that over three-fourths of all the gold paid to the Indians in this area was hidden for future use. Thousands of people have been digging hard in eastern and southern Iowa for over a hundred years because they think these gold treasures are buried there.

Workers were tearing down one of the oldest buildings in the state of Iowa, the old Bonnifield log cabin near Fairfield, when they came across an old inkhorn and quill case and a musty old pocketbook, which contained a newspaper clipping and a letter.

The clipping was dated June 25, 1828; the paper was yellow with age and torn where it had been folded, and both were so faded that it was difficult to determine what they said. The letter was finally deciphered, as best it could be, and read as follows:

“Frisco, June 21, My Dear William: Wagon, has lots of time to think. money, which is buried near the old Bonnifield house. You know what I am, found out from Black Hawk,.over from Illinois. I looked.but never thought until nearly got out here. About that there map, it weren’t where the lines cross, but in the middle. Now don’t you tell anyone, but try this here plan. You see we all made the mistake of digging at the crossing marked A. That other Indian that Jim knowed more than he let on. There must be near $9000 and mebbe more, according to what Black Hawk fetched that time. Don’t you let none of those Burlington fellows see this map. Well, Bill, I wish I was there, for probably there is more cash there than we think. We will dig here for a big spell. I want to write a lot, but the stage leaves in a minute and I got to quit. Your’s J. W. P.S.: Mebbe it ain’t that house, but what other big houses could he have meant?”

This letter is quite plain. The money referred to is undoubtedly part of that paid to Black Hawk’s tribe by the United States government in return for land sold by them, either by the treaty of 1804, 1832, or some other intermediate date.

In the area of Fairfield, there is an old story concerning one cache. Three Indians were supposedly chosen to bury the coins; the number in the secreting party was three so that if anything happened to one, one would always be able to find the location. As is the irony of fate in so many treasure legends, a tribal war followed, and all three of the hiders were killed. No one else in the tribe knew of the treasure’s location.

Other legends persist throughout this section of Iowa regarding Black Hawk’s Treasure. Many believe that the Indian Chief Black Hawk spent his final days near the site of more treasure caches, both known and unknown to him.

He selected his burial site before his death. He was buried on July 15, 1881, in the Northwest Quarter of Section Two, Township 70, Range 12, in Davis County, Iowa, near the northwestern corner of the county, on the Des Moines River bottom, about ninety rods from where he lived at the time he died, and on the north side of the river. The rumors and legends of iron pots filled with gold coins in this immediate area are, more than likely, true.

The mysterious disappearance of thousands of dollars in valuable, early minted gold coins of the United States, many of which are priceless items on today’s collectors’ market, is known to be hidden in the expanse of Iowa’s treasure paradise. And so the Black Hawk’s Treasure, a small portion of which is believed to have been found in the early 1900s, remains the subject of rumors, legends, and speculation.


Beebeetown is a small town in Iowa with an unofficial population of 25 people. Now, if you look for it on a map and can’t find it, we haven’t put you on, so don’t get upset. It isn’t listed on most maps, even though the town celebrated its 100th birthday.

Beebeetown is about 10 miles southeast of the Missouri Valley and north of Interstate 80. To help draw a clearer picture, it’s about 25 miles northeast of Omaha, Nebraska, and 22 miles north of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

According to the story, it was probably a Wells Fargo stagecoach carrying the strongbox full of gold when it passed through Beebeetown on its way to Council Bluffs. The stagecoach drivers had stopped at a station three miles from Beebeetown and said they expected to be held up further down the road. They had heard something at an earlier stop along the road.

The stage continued south, and where the stagecoach trail branched off on old Fred Beebee’s property, the two drivers buried their cargo. Sure as shooting, they were held up and killed further down the trail, but they never revealed where they had hidden the gold.

Ellis Beebee, of Beebeetown, said he remembered a letter addressed to his father from Wells Fargo that spoke of the stagecoach and money. “My brother and I used to go out digging for the gold,” and Ellis also recalled the sore backs that resulted from the wasted efforts.

However, he believes he may have accidentally discovered the buried treasure. “It was when I was a teenager, and on a Saturday night, I was in a hurry to get in from the fields because I had a date, and I was just dragging the shovel along.”

It scraped on top of something metal and broke off part of an old handle. Beebee saved the metal piece. “I’d like to think it was the top of the strongbox,” but he didn’t remember the incident or return to look for the gold until much later.

“By that time, there was no telling where it was,” and he still has not uncovered the buried stagecoach cargo. But as far as anyone knows, neither has anybody else. Some treasure hunters have gone over the area with metal detectors but have not had any success to date.


One day in 1830, four bags of gold were received at Fort McKay, near where the little town of North McGregor, Iowa, now stands. It was the largest shipment from St. Louis to any frontier posts. It was to pay off white soldiers who were valiantly preserving order by holding the rebellious Indians on leashes.

When apprised of the safe arrival of the money, Col. Taylor took every precaution to safeguard it until the Indians had been driven away or pacified, when the men could be paid and allowed to return to the white settlements to spend their hard-earned money.

Calling together the command, Col. Taylor chose four of the bravest and most trustworthy men, and, after informing them of the importance of this mission upon which he was about to send them, he gave them each a bag of gold, with instructions to carry the bags to some safe place, which they should jointly select, and there hide the treasure from the Indians.

An attack being feared at any moment, the four men started at once. They never returned.

Hardly had the four men left the stockade when the Indians made a well-planned attack. The fighting was fast and furious and extended over several days. When at last the Indians had been repulsed, Col. Taylor lost no time in selecting a party and sending it out to rescue the gold hiders.

The party searched for many hours before they came across four men lying dead and entirely naked, the Indians having murdered, scalped, and stripped them.

No one knows what happened to the money, which today would probably be worth several hundred thousand dollars as collectors’ pieces.

Col. Taylor had men dig for the money for several days, but they had no luck finding it. It can be presumed that the money was buried within a few hours’ walking distance of the old Fort McKay site.


In 1903, W. W. DeLong, the postmaster of Eddyville, Iowa, got a letter addressed to “Postmaster, Eddyville, Iowa,” with a stamp from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was signed “Le Barge.” DeLong was also the editor of the Eddyville newspaper, and he put the letter’s story of buried treasure and murder in the paper.

This was Le Barge’s story:

He and two companions had struck it rich in the gold fields of the Black Hills and were returning to their homes in Illinois in the early summer of 1878. Each of them carried a gallon jug filled with gold dust and nuggets. One night they made camp at a turn in the trail about a mile north of Eddyville. That evening they settled down to a game of poker.

William Gunton was the heavy winner, and Le Barge accused him of cheating. In the fight that followed, Gunton was stabbed to death. The victim’s head was severed and thrown into the campfire, while the headless body was buried some distance away.

Afraid now that if they were apprehended with a large amount of gold in their possession, they would be accused of killing the dead man for his share, they buried the three jugs of gold in three separate locations, using the fresh grave as a center point. In the morning, Gunton’s burned head was removed from the fire and placed in the center of the trail, after which the earth was packed hard to eliminate all traces of the spot.

The two partners then went on with their trip, planning to return and get the gold later when they would be less likely to be caught.

Le Barge’s letter then went on to state that his partner had soon died, leaving him the sole possessor of the secret, but that the death of Gunton had haunted him, and he could never bring himself to recover the three jugs of gold. Stating that he was about to die, he asked the postmaster to recover the body of Gunton and give it a decent burial, with the gold to go to the men performing the rites.

DeLong, Sid Crossan, and Arthur Beamer set out to locate the gold from the letter’s description of the place, but wherever they directed their search, they were followed by curious crowds of onlookers. Finally, tired of being constantly followed, they called off the search.

Almost everyone was convinced that DeLong had perpetrated a hoax for the benefit of his newspaper.

Almost everyone forgot about the buried treasure until 1920, when a road crew was grading the old wagon trail north of Eddyville and found a burned human skull. DeLong was adamant that the skull had been found almost exactly where Le Barge had said it was.

This discovery set loose a hoard of treasure hunters who scoured a wide area around the popularly accepted treasure site, a wooded pasture north of Eddyville’s cemetery. To date, nothing is known to have been found.


The story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who won ill fame by robbing banks, killing people, and other crimes during the Depression years of the 1930s, has been retold on the screens of movie theaters across the country.

Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, Clyde’s brother Marvin, Marvin’s wife Blanche, and a 17-year-old car thief known as William Jones were camping near Dexter, Iowa, in late July 1934.

Earlier, the Barrow gang had managed to blast their way out of a police ambush near Platte City, Missouri. Following the gun battle, they made camp in a wooded area overlooking Raccoon River, about three miles north of Dexter.

Being a small town, Dexter soon learned of the strange group camped nearby. Curiosity grew when a farmhand named Henry Nye spotted two shirts covered with blood and found some half-burned bandages.
Sheriff Clint Knee contacted federal officers, believing the group might be the Barrow gang.

By Sunday night, July 23, 1934, Dexter was swarming with federal, state, and local law enforcement officers. People from Dexter were put in charge and given shotguns and rifles. Plans were made for a coordinated attack. It was hoped that the gang could be taken alive.

It was rumored that the gang had some $4000 in bank money with them, a huge sum in those Depression-ridden days, and many of the volunteers had hopes of collecting sizeable rewards. The Barrow gang had then been camped outside Dexter for three or four days, and it was hoped that the posse might catch them with their guard down.

Federal and state police notified people in surrounding farmhouses to stay inside that morning. Many of the posse members were nervous, and drinking was heavy in Dexter on Sunday night and Monday morning. A few men got so drunk that their guns had to be taken from them. As Monday morning dawned, the posse moved into the area, hoping to take the Barrow gang by surprise.

Eight state and federal agents guarded the road while the rest of the posse moved in on the unsuspecting gang. Federal agents yelled for the gang to surrender, but guns from both sides were fired before they had a chance to do so. Marvin Barrow was hit at least twice by shotgun fire and crumpled only a few feet from where he had been standing.

Jones and Clyde jumped into one of the cars while Bonnie, armed with a machine gun, leaned from the running board over the fender and began firing in every direction. Clyde headed toward the road but saw no chance to escape that way and wheeled the car around. Driving aimlessly, he struck a stump, throwing Bonnie to the ground.

Confusion was the gang’s best ally. Some posse members were shooting at the second empty car near where Marvin Barrow had fallen. Others were shooting helter-skelter in all directions. This caused the remaining posse members to have to take cover.

Running on foot through the woods, Clyde and Jones managed to escape, carrying Bonnie. They followed a fence line through a cornfield. The Feller farm, about a mile from the camp, had not been warned as other farms in the area.

Feller owned three cars at the time, but the Depression and the shortage of money forced him to put two cars up on blocks. The family used only the 29 Plymouth since they could not afford to buy license plates and pay upkeep on the other two cars.

The Fellers, not knowing who the trio was, held back when they ran toward the car, armed with their guns. Bonnie was put into the back seat of the Plymouth. Jones jumped into the front seat, and Clyde got behind the wheel. The car tore off.

Luck, at least temporarily, was with Bonnie and Clyde again. They headed north on a dirt road. The posse turned east and headed for Redfield. The 1929 Plymouth took the three members of the gang as far as Polk City, where they stole another car after hitting a telephone pole.

Marvin and Blanche Barrow were taken prisoner back and the ambush site. Marvin Barrow died three days later in a hospital in Perry, Iowa. Blanche was given ten years in the Missouri State Penitentiary for her part in the Platte City gun battle, which had resulted in the deaths of two police officers.

Shortly after her capture, Blanche said the gang had hidden some of the bank loot in the woods someplace near where they had camped. But Marvin Barrow’s wife, who wasn’t his widow then, couldn’t tell where the money was hidden in the woods.

The police kept the story of the hidden bank loot quiet, hoping the escaped trio might return for it. But this hope soon vanished as they stayed away from the area.

As to the amount, the rumor about the outlaw cache soon got out, and this rumor set the figure at $4000. It could have been more, or it could have been less. Either way, this treasure of Bonnie and Clyde joins with the growing legends of the gun-slinging, bank-robbing lovers whose careers ended suddenly and violently in an ambush near Arcadia, Louisiana.


When Tom Kelly died in 1867, a hunt began for his lost treasure chest that still goes on today. Research suggests that money is still buried somewhere on the bluff that bears his name, overlooking the Mississippi River at Dubuque, Iowa.

An extremely miserly man, Kelly left a personal estate valued at $66.93, plus assorted tools, 60 tons of lead ore that sold for $6360, and 30 acres of lead-rich bluff land. He had no bank accounts, and no cash was hidden in his small one-room cabin.

Only when “Crazy” Tom Kelly challenged his brothers and sisters as he lay dying of blood poisoning did it become clear that he had buried a lot of money on his land.

Thomas Kelly was born in King’s County, Ireland, in 1808, the son of a physician. When Thomas’ father died, the Kelly family immigrated to Montreal, Canada. The restless Tom was lured to the Midwest lead-mining center of La Pointe, later known as Galena, Illinois.

In 1829, he accompanied James Langworthy and his brothers to the shores of the Mississippi River to reopen the “Mines of Spain,” originally worked by Julien Du Buru, for whom the city of Dubuque, Iowa, is named.

When the Black Hawk Treaty was ratified in 1833, the company of miners moved their camp permanently to the Iowa side of the river. Because of lead mining operations in the surrounding hills, the camp grew rapidly into a good-sized, prosperous town.

By 1834, Kelly had invested about $300 in buying 30 acres of land on what became known as Kelly’s Bluff.

The young town had no one to consume the rich ore the miners dug out. Barges and keelboats were built to float the ore to St. Louis, then a lead-smelting center. The barges and boats, complete with a sleeping hut on one end, were also sold. The miners, richer by many thousands of dollars, returned upriver by steamboat.

When Kelly could afford the expense, he sent for his mother, brothers, sister, and the children of his deceased brother George. He established them in their own homes but continued his solitary ways.
About 1853 or 1854, Kelly longed for the excitement of a big city.

He discharged Dan Ryan, his only friend, from working the many shafts and tunnels that now honeycombed the bluff. After asking Ryan to feed the two vicious bulldogs he kept on the hill for protection until his return, he left for New York.

According to one Dubuque Times report, Kelly attracted the curious stares of the more sophisticated New Yorkers since he was dressed in miner’s overalls and a heavy woolen shirt. One man, in particular, was drawn to the frontier miner and followed him wherever he went. Finally, Kelly’s better judgment gave way to his suspicious nature, and he shot the stranger dead.

Kelly was arrested, tried, convicted of the felony, and sentenced to jail. Accustomed to freedom and being his master, Kelly could not tolerate confinement and plotted a successful escape. He never told anyone how he had accomplished the feat and only said he was jailed for shooting a man about to rob him.

Making his way under cover of night, Kelly returned to Dubuque stripped of his gold-filled money belt, barefoot, and tattered. He had been suspicious before but refused to acknowledge salutations and avoided everyone except Ryan. The loss of the gold in New York had warped his mind.

The community bankers had enjoyed a very limited amount of Kelly’s trust before his big-city adventure. Upon his return, he withdrew all of his money from the local banks. Not trusting anyone in Dubuque, he traveled to Rockdale, Iowa, four miles southwest, and had the local blacksmith, whom Kelly did not know, make a chest of iron. It measured two feet, ten inches long, twenty-two inches wide, and eight inches deep.

In early 1867, Kelly scratched his hand on a rusty nail in one of his tunnels. His miserliness and distrust of people prevented him from seeking medical attention. However, the throbbing pain that soon racked his arm finally drove him to violate his code of behavior.

The doctor Kelly consulted informed him that he had blood poisoning. Nothing could be done since the inflammation had now spread into his shoulders and neck. Kelly returned to his cabin to await death.

Elizabeth Kelly, his sister, and his brothers Pat and Will rushed to his bedside and asked him where his money was. He stared at them through fevered eyes and said, “If ye want it, look ye for it.”

Kelly died shortly after that, on May 16, 1867, after many weeks of pain and suffering. His cabin was searched, but no sign of any money was found. The accumulated lead ore at the bottom of one of the shafts, his mining tools, and a few personal possessions and properties ultimately sold for a little over $12,000. After all taxes, lawyer’s fees, and so forth were paid, the heirs shared a little over $4000.

But almost before Kelly was cold in his grave, the townspeople swarmed over the bluff, digging and searching for Kelly’s lost treasure. All knew of the chest he had made because Ryan had seen it and talked about it.

How much money could be in that large iron chest? It has been estimated that the chest could have held from $200,000 to $370,000, depending on whether it was gold, silver, or a combination of the two.

Records at the clerk’s office in the Dubuque Courthouse and newspaper files at the public library tell the story of Kelly and his treasure. The bluff is now directly behind St. Raphael’s Roman Catholic Cathedral on Bluff Street in downtown Dubuque.


Iowa has no known gold deposits, yet the elusive material has been found in five different places within the state. The earliest known discovery was made by John Ellsworth while plowing on his farm south of Eldora in 1853.

A mini-gold rush occurred, but the excitement finally died when no gold deposits or veins were found. However, gold fever started in the area again in 1857, when a man named Halcombe found gold while prospecting along the Iowa River just north of the Ellsworth farm. But again, the gold was in amounts too small to warrant mining.

For the third time, in 1877, gold was found in black sand on the banks of the Iowa River near Eldora. This time it was about seven miles upstream from the town. In this instance, the gold was proven to be of glacial origin and not native to the area.

Gold was discovered on White Water Creek in Dubuque County in 1864. The now near-ghost town of Fillmore was settled because of the gold, but it was in small quantities and proved glacial, so the miners moved west. Glacial gold has also been found in several streams near Strawberry Point in Clayton County.

There is little doubt that glacial gold does exist in Iowa in widely separated places. With the current price of gold and modern extraction methods, it could pay an interested person to investigate these areas further.


This location is unusual because two train robberies occurred at the same spot but were two years apart.

It is known that the first outlaws were chased by a posse almost as soon as the robbery was over, but when they were caught, they did not have the money they had stolen. It has never been reported as found.

The second robbery occurred at the same spot, Whiskey Hollow, almost six miles south of Muscatine. The amount of money taken in the second robbery is unknown, but figures range from $5000 to $50,000.

The bandits stopped the train, then uncoupled the engine pulled the express car, and drove them away. Taking the car and engine, the bandits went south, almost to Columbus Junction in Louisa County, where they abandoned them.

It is unknown what happened to the money from both robberies, but since the bandits were caught soon after each holdup, this site is worth looking into.


Since Jesse James spent some time here on and off during one winter, this little-known place could be interesting. It is known that the James gang kept their horses all of one winter, 1872–73, in the rural village of Weston, in Pottawattamie County.

The following spring, they derailed a train, which was thought to be the scene of a robbery in Adair, Iowa, in which an engineer was killed, and $3000 was stolen from the passengers.

It is interesting to speculate that perhaps Jesse James buried part of his robbery loot here because the location is so little known.


While there is no known hidden treasure connected with this little-known incident, it might be worthwhile to do local research on the following information.

On a weekday afternoon in 1933, seven men walked into the First National Bank in Mason City. As a crowd gathered to watch, the bandits took $52,000 from the bank calmly and efficiently.

The seven men entered two waiting cars and drove east toward Charles City. They were never caught, and it is believed that John Dillinger led the men.

From a treasure hunter’s viewpoint, the questions concerning this robbery are: Where did the gang stay before the robbery? They had to plan and pick the right time to commit the crime. Were any of the bandit’s local men involved?

This is highly possible since John Dillinger operated mostly in Illinois and Indiana. He would have had to have had someone obtain local information concerning the bank’s functions.

Part of the $700,000 that Dillinger and his gang are known to have obtained in various robberies in the Midwest may be hidden somewhere in Iowa. If nothing else, the answers to these questions should interest a local treasure hunter.


This treasure site should be of interest to a large number of people for two reasons. One is that the $11,500 that was found lends credence to the fact that more is probably still in the area because several people remember the man, Beardsly, who is believed to have hidden the money, and believe there is more hidden or buried on the property.

In 1965, twelve young boys found $11,000 under a floorboard in an old building on the property of John Rosenback, in the small community of Bayard, in west-central Iowa. The coins were auctioned off after a court ruling for an estimated $18,000.

It is believed that more money is hidden because the property owners in the 1940s were Fred Beardsly and his spinster sister. They were known to be semi-wealthy and eccentric. Mr. Beardsly willed his part of the property, but not his money, to the Red Cross before his death in 1950. His sister willed her part to a niece.

The court case and controversy between various people claiming the property, or parts thereof, caused nationwide attention to be focused on the small town. From a treasure hunter’s point of view, the correct thing to do is to obtain permission and give the old property a thorough search.


Here are several sites I do not have too much information on. You will have to do your local research on them.


Is there a treasure ship in Iowa? How could this be possible?

It depends on what one calls treasure. But there are two sunken ships believed to be on the Iowa side of the Missouri River near Modale, Iowa. These boats were carrying a fortune in mercury and whiskey at today’s prices.

Three flasks of mercury from one of these ships were found in 1954. This finding lends credence to the fact that the rest of the mercury is somewhere south of Modale.


River pirates at one time operated all along the Mississippi River in Iowa. There are stories of a cave near Bellevue where these outlaws hid the money. Also, $7000 is believed to be buried near Sabula, on the Mississippi River, put there by river pirates.


A wealthy lumberman stuffed an iron pot full of stocks, bonds, and gold coins and buried it near the Mississippi River bank at a place now known as River Front Park in Clinton. This has never been reported found. Perhaps the local library has the story on this cache.


According to a story that circulated Bedford, Iowa, in 1915, a wealthy cattle buyer had been lured to the Siam area in 1868 and was waylaid by seven men, three of whom were dead by 1915, and four surviving men who were now facing trial for murder and robbery. The four were well-known, respected citizens.

Traveling by ox-cart, accompanied by a young boy, the buyer from someplace in the East, had a trunk full of money, at least $90,000, according to some reports.

The story goes that the seven young men met the two strangers not far from Siam and either shot or clubbed the man to death, then disposed of the body by dumping it into a well. The boy tried to escape in confusion but was overtaken and killed. His body was buried in a locust grove not far from the well.

The seven men then supposedly buried the loot, making a map of the farm and marking the treasure’s location. But, unfortunately, an ill-timed fire wiped out a cabin belonging to one of the men, and the map was destroyed.

The crime went undetected until 1915, when a man named Sam Anderson hired a lawyer to get him his share of a treasure that had been found. He said he had been hired 35 years earlier, in 1880, by Dr. C. R. Huntsman and his brother, Bates, to dig for treasure, which the brothers stated had been buried for safekeeping.

They told Anderson there was a lot of gold buried on the farm—$90,000 in one place, $50,000 in a second, and $12,000 in a third. Anderson had been promised a fourth of the gold for his efforts but received nothing when an iron box containing one of the treasures was uncovered.

The Huntsmans had told Anderson that the money was from the sale of a farm in Missouri and that a map of the Iowa farm showing where the money was buried had been prepared but that it had been destroyed in a fire that burned their cabin.

When the story broke, the small town caused quite a controversy. Huntsman and three other well-known and respected citizens were involved in the murder and robbery, and all were brought to trial.

Even a dead doctor who had been well-known was involved. After several days of hearings, nobody could be found, the case dropped, and rumors began to die. However, the story was never completely forgotten.

It is thought that some of the treasure has been recovered, but still, one or more caches worth $12,000 to $90,000 are buried somewhere on the Huntsmans’ farm near Siam.

Siam, also known as Klondike, still exists today and is only a few miles from Bedford, on Taylor County Road N-26, in southwestern Iowa.


Several years ago, I was prospecting with an old-timer born in Iowa. I asked him one day why those from Iowa were called “hawkeyes” and that his state was named the Hawkeye State because of Iowans’ sharp, penetrating eyes. He stated that the natives got that name, especially when they could see and bag sage hens where others couldn’t.

About five million years ago, what is now the state of Iowa was covered by a vast forest of ancient trees and endless swamps that trapped ground sloths, giant beavers, tapirs, prehistoric horses, elephants, deer, bison, skunks, wolves, proving that animal life was once plentiful.

During the Cenozoic Era and the Pleistocene Epoch, the ice age covered the Hawkeye State with deep glacial ice sheets. This slow-creeping ice crushed all the forests and killed all living animals and reptiles.

In slowly melting, it left billions of yards of crushed rock debris to completely block the ancient Missouri River, which flowed north to Hudson Bay and changed the river channel to carry the water south to join the Mississippi River at the present location eventually.

Large peat bogs, known as the Yarmouth peat beds, formed, some of which were over 15 feet thick. When the ice all melted and the climate became warmer, as in the present corn-growing climate of Iowa, billions of cubic yards of glacial debris were left to cover the entire state with hundreds of feet of rich topsoil mixed with all this peat.

Below all this glacial muck and debris, there could be some mineralized pre-Cambrian quartz veins and dikes. A few million of the billions and billions being spent, and that will be spent, to get some American astronauts to the moon and back, could do sufficient core drilling to great depths to prove a lot of minerals buried under rich, corn-growing Iowa soil.

Perhaps it would be best to prospect for non-metallics, such as pottery clays, as well as fire and brick clays which are always in good demand.

Start digging clay beds in Appanoose, Benton, Floyd, Franklin, Gerro, Gordo, Keokuk, Madison, Mahaska, Pol, Scott, Story, Wapello, Warren, and Webster Counties.

Jason Smith

I am a Marine who now works as a Web Developer. I have five US States left to visit. I like whiskey, wine, and coffee, soaking in hot springs or in my hot tub.

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