Even though there hasn’t been much mining for gold or silver in Missouri, some of its lost mines and treasure stories are linked to the Spanish mining for gold and silver.
Other Missouri treasure stories have their backgrounds in robbing stagecoaches, trains, and banks by outlaws and treasure buried or hidden as a result of the Civil War and the bands of marauding guerrillas spawned by it. The treasure hunter will have no problem finding exciting and profitable sites in Missouri.
A good location in Missouri to check out is the Madre Vena Cave, located southwest of Pineville on the Arkansas-Missouri border. It is supposedly where a significant amount of bullion was stored. Some early accounts say it “would require several mules to haul away the gold and silver there.”
The bullion was presumably taken from the surrounding Ozark Hills, which, due to the many underground caves in the area, have been the source of numerous tales of romance and legend. But of all the stories about the Madre Vena treasure, the one about an unknown Mexican seems to be the one most people believe, even though the details may seem vague.
Before he died, the Mexican said that a map carved on a flat stone would show where the gold and silver hoard could be located. The stone was supposedly discovered around 1891 in the grave of one of the three Mexicans buried near the cave entrance.
A map was copied from the stone, either lost or destroyed. Whatever happened to it, the stone hasn’t been found since. Also, the map, the only way to get to the bullion directly, has mysteriously vanished.
It could be that both the stone and the map are intact, although most accounts say the rock was destroyed. In any case, intermittent searches have been done for the treasure, and, as far as is known, no one has found it. But it’s certainly worth a shot.
Over two hundred years ago, seven Spaniards working at a silver mine secreted their vast wealth after crudely smelting and stamping it in a cave about a mile from the smelters. After a while, they began fighting, and finally, there was only one survivor, Pedro Diego.
Diego realized he could not carry on the operations alone, so he partnered with two Irishmen, Higgins, and McCabe. Diego went missing soon after the partnership was made, and the Irishmen came to Boston a few years later with a lot of silver.
They boasted that 2000 men could not carry the silver from whence their current display had come. The Irishmen, however, did not return to the Ozarks, preferring to live a life of ease in Boston.
In 1872, a Vermont farmer named Watson Johnson sold his land and bought a few details about the mine and cave from one of Higgins’ descendants. Johnson located the mine but was found dead at its mouth the day after he entered it.
No one has ever found the treasure cave, supposedly a mile or so away. This is believed to be about eighteen miles south of Galena, Missouri, in Stone County.
Hannibal is best known as the hometown of Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens. The Clemens family moved to Hannibal from Florida, Missouri, in 1839, when Samuel was still a boy. Here, Twain experienced the adventures in the cave that he later wrote about in “Tom Sawyer.”
The cave, now known as Mark Twain Cave, is located about two miles south of Hannibal and is privately owned, but it is open to the public for an admission charge. It was initially known as Sims Cave after Jack Sims, who found it in 1819. It was later called Big Saltpetre Cave and then McDowell’s Cave, the name by which young Sam Clemens knew it.
In the 1840s, an eccentric St. Louis physician, E. D. McDowell, placed the corpse of a 14-year-old girl, said by some to have been his daughter, in a glass and copper cylinder which he filled with alcohol and suspended from a rail bridging a narrow passage in the cave.
McDowell claimed that this was an experiment to see if the limestone cave would petrify the cadaver, but it is said that his real purpose was to create a tourist attraction.
Many tales of a treasure buried in the cave originated during the Gold Rush in 1849. Clemens spent many hours searching for treasure in the cave, probably having heard the legend that the returning Forty-Niners had buried gold there.
On February 14, 1866, twelve men quietly entered the town of Liberty by different routes. They slowly gathered in the town square. While nine or ten men patrolled the street in front of the Clay County Savings Association Bank, two men entered the bank.
They held pistols at the heads of Mr. Bird, the cashier, and his son, forcing them to hand over $72,000 in specie and currency.
As the bandits rode off, Bird shouted to George Wymore, a 12-year-old student on his way to school, that the bank had been robbed. When the boy took up the cry, he was immediately shot. A posse attempted to follow the robbers but lost their trail on the wooded slopes north of town.
The loot was never recovered. Clay County residents have long believed that Cole Younger and the James Boys were involved in the robbery. On the other hand, Pinkerton detectives kept careful records of the James Gang’s thefts and never blamed them for this crime.
One of the bandits who sped west out of Liberty ahead of the rest is believed to have carried the loot. Before meeting his companions at a prearranged rendezvous, he is said to have buried the money, planning to recover it later.
When he was overtaken by the gang and could not account for the loot, it was said that he was killed and that the treasure was not recovered.
During the gold rush to California in 1849, several latecomers, on their way west, met would-be miners on their way back east. These men had spent everything they owned in an attempt to get rich in the western gold fields but had found only misery and broken dreams.
One of the latecomers, Thomas Livingston, realized this when he reached southwest Missouri and learned of the abundant lead in the area. After talking to several returning gold seekers, it became clear that a fortune could be made mining the lead in Missouri. He decided to try his luck at such a venture.
Lead mining in Missouri was not the result of recent discoveries. For more than a century, lead deposits had existed, but there was little demand for lead, so no one developed the deposits.
The Spanish were the first to mine the lead. Then settlers came, and wherever they plowed the land, they uncovered large veins of lead. They used it principally for molding bullets, digging it up whenever they ran short of ammunition.
But by the time Livingston arrived, people were starting to take the mining seriously. Prices rose, lead was abundant, and many made a good living by mining it. Realizing the potential, Livingston started prospecting. A few days later, he found a vein of almost solid lead.
Within a few months, he had more than 100 men working for him, and he fathered a town called Minersville, which sprouted overnight where he had made his discovery. It and another camp called Leadville Hollow were the largest towns in the area.
By the late 1850s, war rumors were everywhere. Livingston, a strong Southern sympathizer, told his workers, “The Union soldiers will try to take over the mine and what lead we have mined. Throw what you can into the creek and leave.”
Livingston knew that if the Union soldiers caught him, he would go to prison or be hung, so he decided to leave. Without telling his family, Livingston took a metal box containing $10,000 in gold coins, buried it near where he lived, and then disappeared.
A few months later, Livingston’s wife received a letter from him stating that he was joining the Confederate Army. He told her of the money he had buried but not its location.
Thomas Livingston was never heard from again. During and after the war, his family searched for the cache, but it was never found.
This newspaper article appeared in the “Ozark Mountaineer,” but the date and author are unknown:
“Hutton Adamson of Miller, Missouri, told of a historical legend that interested early settlers. It marked the shape of a large turkey track cut into a low limestone ledge and pointed south toward the spring.
Hutton says he can still find the mark and that the rocky ledge is near Mill Creek and Turnback on the Cliff Morris farm, now owned by Willard Morris and his sister, Audrey Wolf. According to legend, there is a deer track that points to a buried treasure cached away by early Spanish explorers.
To bear out the possibility of this being true, early settlers recall that at one time, long ago, an old Spaniard came to this country and stayed with a Prater family while he explored the valley. The Spaniard was said to have possessed an old map that he let no one see.
Then, after a time, he left, never to return and never to disclose if he located the buried treasure or if he left it unfound. At any rate, ‘The Spanish Treasure’ was talked about for years.”
This little-known treasure site could pay an interested person to check it out. Sometime in 1925, an itinerant farm worker named Ellis Trent was in Louisiana, in an unknown town. He was sleeping in a barn when the sound of approaching horses and a volley of shots awakened him. It was assumed that there had been a robbery in the local town.
The law was close on their trail, so the robbers dashed into the barn where Ellis was put up and buried the loot in the hay without noticing him. They quickly remounted and rode off. Whatever happened to the outlaws is still unknown, but Ellis got down from his sleeping place, dug out the stolen loot, and headed for home, which was Hazzah, Missouri.
Once on his way afoot, he began to worry about the outlaws and the law, for he figured they would figure out that he had stolen the loot and would soon be on his trail, which proved false. The loot was in gold and concealed in a one-gallon syrup bucket.
The bucket was almost full, so the weight soon proved to be a great problem for Ellis. He took the back roads, trying to avoid strangers. Later, he said that he had waded several icy streams and walked through several miles of woods, not allowing himself hardly any rest. This was more money than he had ever seen, and he was not taking any chances of losing it.
After a time, Ellis developed a severe cold from wading through the ice-cold water. With the gold on his mind, he ignored this and continued walking with all his strength.
Ellis finally reached a small town just a few miles from his home. Here he contracted double pneumonia, thus becoming very weak and exhausted. He could no longer carry the heavy bucket of gold, so he buried it and went home, where he was immediately put to bed.
He soon realized he was going to die, so he called his older brother to the bedside and revealed the entire story.
Ellis said that he had stopped three miles this side of town at a spring and gotten a drink; that from there, he had proceeded up a small hollow, and darkness had come upon him. He found what he described as a sheltering rock, put the gold in a foxhole under a bluff, and then placed rocks behind it.
As he turned to leave, he picked up the skull of a horse head and threw it under the shelter rock for a marker. However, none of Ellis’ family could ever locate the gold.
This is the true story of a dying man. Local research could pay off on this one.
According to an old legend, Spanish galleons, heavy with Peruvian gold, entered the Mississippi River to escape pursuing French warships. They chose to flee up the river because the deep-draughted French vessels could not follow them. This supposedly occurred in about 1800.
Hearing of Ozark gold, the Spaniards, towing their vessels, continued northward up the Mississippi. They worked several Ozark mines, and after purchasing the Louisiana Territory, they began preparations to return to Spain with their Peruvian treasure and Ozark gold. However, their vessels were destroyed during the interim by storms and hostile Indians.
The Spaniards, forced to abandon their treasure, are believed to have hidden it in an old mine, concealed the entrance, and departed overland for the seacoast and Spain. But they never got to the coast, suffering annihilating diseases and battle casualties en route.
Recovery of the treasure, reportedly in the mine about forty miles southeast of Springfield, Missouri, has been hampered by nearby Beaver Creek, a stream that has since flooded the cavern.
Here is another treasure site regarding Spanish miners. South of Springfield, in an area now mostly covered by the vast expanse of Table Rock Lake, is a region abounding in treasure stories. One of the most popular dates back more than four centuries to when Spanish explorers roamed the area.
According to the legend, they built a fort on top of Breadtray Mountain, across from where the White River joins the James River in Stone County, about 15 miles south of Reeds Spring. They mined silver from a cave in the vicinity for several years until Indians attacked, killing most Spaniards.
The few survivors sealed the entrance to the rich cave with stones and then vanished.
Early in the 19th century, this same cave, or perhaps another just as rich one, was found by a band of Chickasaw Indians who chanced to seek cover inside during a violent spring storm. Noting that the walls were of pure silver, they began working the mine, making jewelry, which they used in trade as far away as St. Louis.
When they had fashioned all of the jewelry they could use, the Indians began melting the silver to form bars. Fearing Mexican gold hunters they saw coming up the White River, the Indians carefully concealed the silver cave entrance and fled toward the west.
Nearly three centuries passed between the discovery of America by the Spaniards and its rediscovery by the Indians. Their incredible luck was the only help these early-day adventurers had in finding the treasure. It could pay an interested prospector to check this location further.
James Berry was a little-known outlaw until he helped Sam Bass pull off one of the largest train robberies the west has ever seen. It is unknown how Berry came to know Bass and win his trust, but he was one of the five men Bass trusted on this holdup.
The six men camped near the railroad station at Oglala, Nebraska, for about a week to study the situation and lay their plans. It was decided that Big Springs Station, several miles west of Oglala, would better suit their purpose, so on the day of the planned robbery, they rode over to the site and went into the woods about a half-mile away to wait until dark.
That evening, they returned to the station, quickly captured the station agent with his assistant, and placed them under guard. At 10:00 PM, the train pulled in and stopped to take on water. Immediately, the engineer and fireman were captured and marched to where the station agent and his assistant were under guard. In the meantime, the express manager had been found, and two robbers tried forcing him to open the safe.
He told them that it had a time lock and wouldn’t open the safe when the time ran out. Realizing they were powerless, Bass seized an axe and tried vainly to open the safe. Inside the safe was $200,000 in gold ingots. Looking around for something else of value, since they could not take the safe, they found some silver bullion in large bricks, but, being too heavy, they had to leave them.
In rummaging through the car, some small boxes were found. Breaking one open, $20 gold pieces began raining out. Breaking open all the small boxes, they poured $60,000 in brand new 1877 $20 gold pieces into sacks and saddlebags.
They then rob the passengers of $400 before riding into the darkness.
The money was divided a couple of days later, and Berry rode off toward Missouri with a friend. He evidently felt safe when he reached his home in Mexico, Missouri, because he walked into the bank on the morning of October 9 and deposited $2000 worth of gold coins.
He then walked to the tailor’s and ordered a new suit without haggling about the price. However, the following Monday, the gold he had deposited in the bank was identified as part of the stolen money.
On Tuesday, a sheriff, Mose Glasscock, and several detectives from St. Louis and Chicago went to Mexico to look for Berry.
After a long, tough ride, they reached the vicinity of his home, which they quietly surrounded. Sure that they would capture him with little or no opposition, the officers rushed the house, but they were disappointed to find Berry had left earlier.
A few days later, a friend of Berry’s, Bose Kazey, came to the tailor’s shop to pick up the suit Berry had ordered. Taking Kazey prisoner, the sheriff had him lead a posse of four more men to his home to wait for Berry. At about dawn, a horse was heard approaching.
The sheriff ran toward the sound and saw Berry in the act of dismounting. After ordering him to put up his hands, the sheriff was surprised when Berry started to run. Not wanting to kill him, the sheriff shot Berry in both legs with his shotgun.
Sheriff Glasscock searched the prisoner but found only $1840 on him. Berry was taken to Kazey’s house, and a doctor was sent for. But gangrene set in, and Berry died on October 18, 1877. The sheriff thoroughly searched Berry’s home, but the remainder of the money, believed to be between $5000 and $6000, was never found.
On October 15, 1879, the Mexico Ledger newspaper wrote a story on James Berry and his part in the train robbery. This story might lead to the location of a small fortune that Berry is believed to have kept hidden around his house.
The caches of Fred Burke, a gangster near Green City, Missouri, would be worth the search if they can be found. In 1926, Burke, through bank robberies in the Midwest, had accumulated about $100,000. Realizing that he would eventually be caught, Burke told his confederates that he would settle down, change his name, and try to lead a normal life.
On a cross-country trip, he stopped at a farm near Green City and obtained a job as a farmhand, giving his name as Fred White. After settling into the routine of farm life, Burke divided his loot into five packets, one of which he kept back for expenses, and buried the other four on the farm.
After several months, Burke married the farmer’s daughter and probably would have continued a normal life, but not because he had killed eleven men and had a violent temper. One day, a traffic policeman stopped him for a minor violation on a trip to Michigan to buy farm equipment. Burke panicked and shot the policeman, then returned to the farm.
A few days later, a neighbor recognized his picture on the wanted bulletin in the local post office. The authorities caught him, and he received a life sentence in the Michigan penitentiary.
Before he died in prison, Burke never told where he had cached the four packets of currency, coins, and jewelry he had accumulated during his years of crime. There is no record of any of this being discovered.
This story takes place in the northwest corner of Missouri, in Nodaway County. The little town of Barnard was settled before the Civil War, but it didn’t begin to increase in size until the war ended.
After the war, many professional men began to move their families west to seek their fortunes. One of these men was Dr. Lynn Talbott. He was a good doctor and soon became popular with the county’s citizens.
Talbott prospered rapidly and soon bought a fine home a few miles north of Barnard on the stagecoach road. His home became known as the House of the Seven Gables because of its design. His wife, two sons, Charles and Hugh, and a hired man made up his household.
In those days, the people of small towns did not have the conveniences of a bank, so money was always hidden until needed. Paper money was not in use nearly as much as gold and silver coins were, so hidden coins would last forever if buried.
As the doctor’s practice grew, he was paid five, ten, and twenty-dollar gold pieces. Years later, when he no longer needed all the money he was earning, the doctor would toss his spare coins into a nail keg. It took a long time to fill the keg, but finally, it was full to the brim.
One night, when no one was around, the doctor hid the keg of money somewhere around the area. He never told his family where he had put it, and the next day began filling another one.
In November 1869, a tragedy turned this into a treasure story. The doctor had finished supper and walked into the parlor. His wife was cleaning up the dishes, his boys were occupied with their homework, and the hired man was attending to the horses in the barn.
The doctor drew aside the heavy curtains to look at the falling snow, then to let in a bit of fresh air, he raised the window a few inches. He then decided to read for a while, so he placed the lantern by the chair near the window and sat down. A shot rang out as he sat quietly reading, and a bullet smashed into his head. The doctor was killed instantly.
His wife, hearing the shot, ran outside to see if the hired hand was injured since the report had come from the outside. The boys ran into the parlor, where they found their dead father. The hired hand was shocked when he saw the dead doctor, and he immediately rode off for the sheriff in Maryville.
Sheriff Toel returned to the doctor’s house with the hired hand to look for a clue to the murder. The sheriff looked over the scene several times but could not find the first clue. The doctor had no enemies, and there was no reason for his death.
When the sheriff left the house, he decided that it must have been an inside job, so he began planning to gain more information from the household.
Public feeling was running high in Barnard, and the people demanded that the murderer be found. One day, Mrs. Talbott answered a knock at her door. A young man she had never seen before said he had heard of her misfortune and was ready and willing to work for her to help relieve the workload around the place.
She felt an extra hand around the house might be appreciated by everyone for a few days, so the doctor’s sons led him to the woodpile, where they had started cutting firewood. The stranger worked so well with the boys that they had become friends in a few days.
He told them his name was Chandler, and he was working west.
The boys, however, noticed that Chandler acted very oddly whenever a stranger appeared close to where he was working, almost as if he didn’t want to be seen. Finally, one of the boys asked Chandler if he was running from the law because they had noticed that he always turned his back or hid when he saw someone he didn’t recognize.
Chandler finally broke down and admitted that he had killed a man back east and was hiding until he had earned enough money to head west. Then one of the boys said they had killed their father and were looking for his gold. They even offered to split the gold with him if he would help them find it.
Early the next morning, Chandler took a horse and quietly rode away. He went directly to Sheriff Toel’s office in Maryville and told him what the boys had said. After breakfast, Sheriff Toel rode out to the House of the Seven Gables and arrested the boys for the murder of their father.
Their trial was delayed for nearly a year before commencing in September 1870. On the testimony of Chandler, the judge sentenced the boys to be hung. It turned out that Chandler was a private detective from Kansas City.
The boys confessed their crimes a few days before their deaths. When asked why they had killed their father, they admitted that it was to get possession of his money. It was an unfortunate incident because the keg of coins had not been found.
Over the years, it has been theorized that the doctor probably buried his keg near the barn. He would work with several plants and trees on the weekends, so no one would have taken a second glance if they saw him digging around them.
Also, the barn was close to his house, so any prowlers could easily have been seen and heard. As far as is known, the keg of coins has never been found.
In southwestern Barry County, Frenchmen are said to have caught up with Spanish traders and stolen a huge treasure. People thought that the Frenchmen were working in lead mines in the area when they saw the Spaniards coming and setting up a trap for them.
Unable to carry away the immense treasure, the Frenchmen are said to have left the country with only what they could transport. They buried the remains in a cave along a small stream, which is now believed to have been the headwaters of Flat Creek, a few miles northeast of the town of Washburn.
It is said that a map of the treasure site came into the hands of a railroad tie cutter named Jim Woodruff. The map supposedly indicated that the cave was sealed, and its site was marked with signs carved on nearby rocks and trees. So far as is known, Woodruff never located the treasure-filled cave.
What little remains of the ghost town of Church Hollow in Cedar County rests in a triangular-shaped ground separated by Cedar Creek on the west and the Sac River on the east? It was never anything more than a small church, a mill, and a few scattered houses.
When the Civil War engulfed the area, families’ sympathies were divided, some siding with the North and others with the South. As fathers and sons prepared to join the forces of their choice, many families’ fortunes, such as they were, were buried or hidden for safekeeping.
Such was the case with three men from Church Hollow. Combining their families’ wealth, they placed it in an iron kettle, carried it some distance from the village, and buried it in the woods. The men left a large flat stone marked with some figures to lead them back to it.
After this, they marched away to join the Confederate cause. At the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, fought about eleven miles south of Springfield on August 10, 1861, two of the three men who had buried the treasure were killed. The third man survived the war and returned to Church Hollow.
All of his efforts to locate the rock marking the treasure site failed. As the years went by, the incident was all but forgotten.
The story of the lost treasure was revived in 1960 when researchers for the St. Clair Historical Society surveyed historical sites that might become inundated with the completion of a dam in the area. They located the site of Church Hollow and carefully marked it on the Caplinger Mills quadrangle map.
They also uncovered a large flat rock or the flat surface on the side of a rock cliff. Unable to remove the rock, they made a copy of its markings on paper. The researchers felt this might be the marker for the treasure they had heard about from old-timers in the area.
Since then, the marker, said to have been on the side of Cedar Bluff, has been lost, and the treasure, as far as is known, is still where the three men buried it.
Joplin is in both Jasper County and Newton County. It was built on the lead and zinc mines that helped it grow. In 1880, two men claiming to be Spanish noblemen came to Joplin. Posing as miners, they made periodic, mysterious trips into the outlying area.
However, it was obvious that they were not seeking zinc or lead.
Before leaving the area, the two strangers said they were father and son, and their name was Despennis. They told them that one of their ancestors had been with a group of Spaniards who came to the Joplin area in 1745 to start a new colony.
According to the documents in Spain, this ancestor had brought an iron box filled with jewels and money. The only person from the original group who returned to Spain was the ancestor of the Despennis family. It was he who recorded that the box of wealth had been buried along a creek.
No explanation was given as to why the treasure had been left behind.
According to those who have searched for the buried jewels, the treasure site should be on Turkey Creek. The first settlers in Joplin built their cabins on Turkey Creek near the end of Mineral Avenue. No record of the box of jewels’ ever being found exists.
Noble Hill is located on State 13, about 13 miles north of Springfield and almost on the Polk-Green County line. There has long been a story known locally of a Spanish treasure buried in this area, but details are scant.
From 1940 to 1946, a man named Mullen owned 80 acres on the top of Noble Hill. When he had the land surveyed, the surveyors from Springfield found two graves on the land. They found piles of stones that didn’t look like they were put there by nature and some flat stones with strange marks carved.
Bill Mullen, the farmer’s son, was ten years old. He recalls the surveyors and his father wondering who would be so stupid as to pile rocks with chisel marks.
It was not until years later that people began looking for the buried treasure. All efforts to locate the rocks since then have failed.
Bobby Greenlease, who was six years old, was taken from the exclusive French Institute, Notre Dame de Sion School, in Kansas City, Missouri, on September 28, 1951. His wealthy father was a Cadillac distributor dealer in Kansas City.
He paid a $600,000 ransom in $10 and $20 bills for the safe return of his son. A few days later, the murdered boy’s body was found buried in the backyard of Mrs. Bonnie Brown Heady in St. Joseph. Soon, Carl Austin Hall was implicated in the crime, and, in time, the two were duly tried and convicted.
At the trial, it came out that FBI agents had only gotten back about half of the money that had been paid as a ransom. The criminals had no opportunity to spend more than a few thousand dollars, accounting for $303,720. It was disclosed that the kidnappers had driven to St. Louis with the ransom money.
Hall had purchased two garbage cans and a shovel at a hardware store. He then rented an auto and drove to a motel in the Meramec Bottoms area of St. Louis, where he is believed to have buried the money along the Meramec River.
Up to the time of Hall’s execution for the crime, he stubbornly insisted to authorities that he had been doped and was too drunk to remember just where he had buried the money.
The theory has been presented that someone stole the ransom money from the trunk of Hall’s rented car and, knowing that the bills were marked, buried them to be recovered and passed at a later date.
Other theories have been expressed, but so far as is known, FBI agents centered their search for the missing money, 13,401 twenties and 3570 tens, along the Meramec River. No officials have ever admitted that one of these bills has been found.
A south Missouri homesteader, Charles Boucher, returned to his Howell County cabin only long enough to tell his wife, “Two men are following me. I’ll bury the money at the ponds and be back soon.”
The French hunter and furrier were never seen or heard from again, nor was his money.
In 1901, Boucher made his first trip to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, with furs and a couple of finished coats. They brought him the handsome sum of $270.
In 1902, he did even better, and as he started home, the saddlebags on his packhorse contained 400 silver dollars. But three days after leaving the fur market, Boucher noticed that two men were following him.
As he crossed the Eleven Point River, Boucher believed they were closing in on him, so he decided to continue into the night. At sunup the next morning, he was relieved that the two riders were no longer close enough to be observed.
As he moved from Oregon County to Howell County, he still thought he had gotten far enough away from those who were after him. But then, when he was only five or six miles from home, he caught sight of one of his horse riders who had been trailing him.
Boucher whipped his tired mount mercilessly, and when he reached the yard of his cabin, he called out to his wife and four-year-old daughter, “Act like you don’t know me because two men are following me. I’ll hide the money by the ponds and be back soon.”
By now, Boucher’s bony hunting dog had joined him, and he headed west with the dog trotting at his heels. When the pursuers reached Boucher’s cabin, his wife and child were busy with the evening chores. The would-be robbers asked if she had seen a man come by, and she replied that she had, but it had been some time ago.
Boucher could not have had more than a ten-minute lead. This is where the known facts in the case come to an end. The homesteader never returned, nor did his dog or horse. None of his gear was ever found or accounted for.
The Frenchman’s wife waited nervously all of the next day. She was sure he would return home safely, but still, she worried. On the second morning, when her husband still had not returned, Mrs. Boucher walked into West Plains and told the story at the courthouse.
A search party accompanied her back to the farm. Some of the men rode west to Cureall, Missouri. The fates of the participants in the chase were never determined.
The most common belief among Ozarkers who heard the story was that Boucher had been referring to some large ponds a short distance from the cabin when he instructed his wife instead of the two small ones near the cabin.
And since Boucher was so hard-pressed for time, it was probable that he tossed the money into a gulley and covered it with rocks.
However, no record of the coins’ being found at any of the ponds is known, and the $400 silver dollars still waits for some lucky treasure hunter.
During and after the Civil War, two men worked an extremely pure lead mine in the headwaters of Bryant Creek near Ava. After these men’s deaths, the mine’s location was lost and has not yet been found.
The mine first became known when a man named Poole and another man discovered a vein of lead so pure that they could mold bullets from it without refining it. With Confederate soldiers still prowling the area, the miners were careful to conceal the location of the mine and work it secretly. Poole’s partner eventually died, but Poole kept working at the mine for several years.
Some years later, Poole gave his wife instructions for the mine as he lay on his deathbed. It was several more years before she attempted to find it. Her plan didn’t work because the landscape had changed, and the most important sign, a fallen tree, had rotted away.
Although she had accompanied her husband many times, he would never take her to the mine entrance. According to her story, they would leave together and follow a road that ran through the Miller farm, and when they came to a house where the Breedloves resided, they would part.
He would ride up a hollow that began nearby, and she would continue to where the Miller Farm buildings now stand for about a mile. She also hinted that the mine must not be far off the road, as he would often be waiting on her when she reached the rendezvous site.
With the hint that the mine was not far from the road, most later searches started there. Despite several efforts, no searcher has ever reported a trace of the mine. The area where the mine is believed to be is about six or seven miles north of Ava, Missouri.
How do you lose a cave? That is what a man from Tennessee wondered as he tramped through the Ozarks in 1870. But it may be understandable if the area in question is in Shannon County, Missouri, where Sinking Creek keeps popping up and disappearing again.
The man from Tennessee had tracked a bear into a cave. While skinning the bear at the mouth of the cave, he noticed a silvery glint along the wall. He took some samples with him and later learned that he had discovered a rich vein of silver. But he became confused when he returned and could never find the silver cave again. Finally, he gave up and went back to Tennessee.
Green Carroll, who lived in the area, heard the story and reasoned that when the Tennessean had left the cave, he had traveled across the heavily-wooded natural bridge, never knowing that a creek flowed beneath his path. When he returned, he kept running into Sinking Creek and became disoriented.
Carroll and a partner started their search by crossing the natural bridge near the Current River, and soon they located the cave. Together, they mined the silver and operated a crude smelter. Carroll took frequent trips into the wooded area near the sink, usually alone, and before long, he became a wealthy man.
Somehow, both Carroll and his partner got themselves shot. Some say they fell out and shot each other. One was killed immediately, and the other was treated for a gunshot wound by Dr. Abijah Terrell. Some versions say it was Carroll, and others say it was the partner who sought medical attention.
Whichever man it was, he told the doctor about his cache of silver but not the cave’s exact location before he died.
The doctor searched and finally found a large flat stone close to Twin Springs with markings on its underside. He deciphered the inscription, which he claimed read: “Go one mile east to a gulch, where a black bum tree will be on your left.”
Dr. Terrell bought 900 acres in the Sinking Creek area and formed a mining company. For years, a search was done for the silver cave and the cache of smelted silver, but nothing was ever found. Present-day explorers have the advantage of detailed maps showing the exact location of meandering Sinking Creek and equipment that detects silver.
It’s just a matter of time until someone finds the lost silver cave and the cache of silver bars.
Geologists say there isn’t any silver in Missouri, only traces to be found in lead mines. But James Yocum would have had a good laugh if he had heard that statement. The one thing that Missouri does have in greater abundance than other states is caves, and treasure hunters are still trying to find the lost Yocum Cave in Stone County, not Springfield, Missouri.
When James Yocum and his family headed for California in 1829, they stopped in Springfield for supplies. There they befriended several Chickasaw Indians who told them of a silver mine they had been working in a nearby cave since about 1809.
The Indians had made jewelry from silver, which they used for trade goods until Mexican gold hunters came into the area. They were forced to abandon their enterprise and seal the cave to keep it from being discovered.
Then an epidemic struck the tribe, and only a few survived. Now the Indians were being moved out of the area, so they traded the secret of their silver mine to the Yocums for horses and supplies.
The Yocums found the cave with the silver vein, jewelry left by the Indians, and several silver bars. They began mining their coins, which bore the simple inscription, “Yocum Dollar.” The Yocums had no trouble spending their coins until other settlers took some money into Springfield and tried to pay filing fees on their land.
The land agent would not accept the silver dollars until he checked with Washington, which put the Yocums out of business. A team of government agents made Yocum agree to quit producing the coins and melt down the remainder. Yocum agreed.
But he never revealed the location of the cave where he had mined the silver. Not long afterward, he died, and the silver had never been found.