The gold and the precious and semi-precious stones in the hills of Montana have given the state the epithet “The Treasure State.” Montana has produced more sapphires than any other state in the nation. It has extensive commercial deposits of green, yellow, red, and aquamarine sapphires.
The cornflower blue sapphires of Yogo Gulch are gems of great value. There are a lot of rubies, garnets, agates, and other semi-precious stones. There are also a lot of less valuable stones that offer prizes to rock hounds who look for variety and unusual features.
The ghost towns in the state are magnets for relic hunters. After discovering gold, a miner’s camp sprang up around every gold deposit, only to be abandoned when the ore was exhausted. Many of these old camps are now weed-covered piles of rotting wood and a few old, simple mining equipment.
Here is a little-known treasure site in Montana that is relatively modern. There are people still living in the area who can remember this story of a cache of gold coins that were accumulated between 1868 and 1917.
In 1866, a man calling himself Alemzo Yerdon went from New York to Montana and was one of the first to find gold at the Confederate Gulch in Meagher County. He was popular with the women and soon became engaged to marry a wealthy widow.
On the day he was supposed to get married, Yerdon just walked into the nearby hills and became a hermit. No one ever found out why. He settled in a small cabin on Beaver Creek and worked several gold claims, which paid him well.
Yerdon didn’t trust anyone. He took his gold nuggets and dust to Helena, where he always obtained gold coins, which he buried near his cabin. During the freezing weather, Yerdon bought his supplies on credit, saying his assets were frozen until the spring thaw. This is what led to speculation that he had buried his coins.
Yerdon has been supposed to have hoarded gold coins for over fifty years. He spent only what he had to, and it has been estimated that he buried, in one or more places, over $100,000.
On New Year’s Eve in 1918, when Yerdon had not been seen for several days, a miner went to his cabin and found it completely burned. Yerdon’s charred body was just in front of the door. The possibility of finding Yerdon’s cache, or caches, of coins, made the property sell for $15.00 an acre instead of the customary $3.00 for land in the area when his estate was probated in the Meagher County Court.
The homestead was sold at a public auction in 1919 for only $1000. The money Yerdon was suspected of having buried has never been found. There is no way of knowing for sure, but the gold coins were likely buried near Yerdon’s cabin on Beaver Creek because he only left his claims when he went to Helena or bought supplies.
Most Montana history students say that Deer Lodge County was the first place gold was found, but some believe that Beaverhead County was the first. When gold was found in 1862 on Pioneer Creek in Beaverhead County, there were signs that people had been mining there much earlier.
This evidence backs up the old story that five people looking for gold came to Pioneer Creek in 1806 or 1807. These prospectors had heard of gold in the area from a hunter with the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The hunter is supposed to have learned of the gold from a friendly Indian. Accompanied by a few of this friendly tribe, the prospectors located gold on Pioneer Creek, near what later became the mining camp of Pioneer.
The Indians warned the prospectors that they were in a hostile Indian country and would be killed if they were found. When the prospectors insisted on staying and mining the rich placers, the friendly Indians left.
After mining all the gold they could pack on their ten horses, the prospectors started off the territory. Somewhere near the Big Hole Battlefield National Monument site, they were attacked by hostile tribes. The heavily laden horses stampeded, scattering their sacks of gold in the forest.
Four of the miners were killed. The fifth hid in the bushes until the savages left the scene. Although badly wounded, he managed to reach the camp of some friendly Indians.
Before he died, he said the attacking Indians had left the sacks of gold where they fell from the horses. The friendly Indians carefully searched the sacks when they returned to bury the four slain miners, but they found no trace of the scattered gold. The mystery of its disappearance remains to this day.
After making a fortune in mining on Grasshopper Creek during the excellent gold boom at Bannack, Joseph K. Knoles returned to Dillon in Beaverhead County. In 1872, he became a hermit, living in a crude cabin at the edge of town.
One day he had a friend write to his sister, daughter, and son-in-law, asking them to come to see him. He confided in a friend that he knew he could not live long and wanted to tell his family where his fortune was buried.
By the time Knoles’ relatives arrived, he was dead. They searched the cabin and the land around it but found nothing. It is presumed that his treasure is still hidden. Some people believe that Knoles may have buried it at one of the camps where he had previously lived. Others contend that he would have taken his fortune to Dillon when he moved there.
Newhart was once the hub of all the surrounding mining towns. It was home to 4000 people. Today, the population is only about 150. Rich silver deposits were found in the Little Belt Mountains near the town in 1881, with some lodes yielding as much as 500 ounces per ton.
Among the many prospectors attracted to Neihart in its boom days was August Smedberg. One day during a snowstorm, Smedberg traveled along Jefferson Creek at the base of Yogo Baldy Mountain. He stopped to rest beside a large tree that had blown down.
In the hole where the tree roots had been torn out, he picked up a sample of ore, which he gave to an assayer in Neihart. Smedberg left town immediately afterward and stayed away for several weeks. When he returned, he found that the assayer’s test on his ore showed some gold and a fantastic 2.600 ounces of silver per ton.
When Smedberg returned to Jefferson Creek to stake his claim, he could not find the fallen tree. He searched alone for months for his lost silver lode. Finally, Smedberg told his secret to a friend, and the two searched together for almost twenty years without success.
One day Smedberg disappeared from Neihart. Sometime later, his body was found beside Jefferson Creek. He had tied a stick of dynamite around his neck and ignited it. To date, no one has found Smedberg’s great lode of silver.
The trading post of Fort Browning existed because of its fur trade with the friendly Gros Ventre Indians. When the hostile Sioux attacked the Gros Ventre more often, furs almost stopped coming to Fort Browning. In 1868, the people who worked at Fort Browning invited all of the Gros Ventre who lived nearby to a Thanksgiving Day feast to fix this problem and get more goods to trade. The Indians arrived at the post in large numbers, including an older man known only as Neepee.
Particular attention was paid to Neepee because it was believed that he knew of a rich gold deposit in the Little Rockies, a small range of mountains on the Blaine-Phillips County line north of Landusky.
After the feast, Neepee showed appreciation by presenting the post commander with a bag filled with gold dust and nuggets. When the white men tried to find out the source of the gold, the Indians would only say that death was the tribal penalty for revealing the secret to any white man.
A white man named Joseph Huntus, commonly known as Buckskin Joe, is reported to have learned of the mine’s location, but he was killed by the Indians when he found it. A party of trappers near the approaches to the Little Rockies found his body.
Neepee died in 1876, and the secret of his gold deposit died with him. Later, gold was found in the Little Rockies, but not as much as Neepee had said or, like the samples the old Indian had brought to Fort Browning.
When gold was found on Fish Creek, it caused a boom that turned Highland City into a bigger city than Butte. Among the thousands attracted to the area was a man known only as Butler. Butler was called “Beastly Butler” because of his untidy appearance and filthy cabin.
Butler stood out because he was quiet and thrifty in a camp where people were known to spend a lot of money and misbehave. Instead of throwing his money away on women and whiskey, he placed his daily accumulation of gold in the empty tin cans where he had purchased food. He is said to have cached near his one-room cabin on his claim.
One day, Butler’s mind caved in and crushed him to death. His few close friends said he had, at times, boasted of a hundred or more cans of hidden gold. He had declared that when his mind was exhausted, he would dig up all the gold he had buried and return to the East.
Immediately after his burial, prospectors searched his gold tin cans but found none. Perhaps they are still there amid the ruins of Highland City, now a complete ghost town south of Butte.
If a treasure hunter could find the old stream bed of Gold Creek, about forty miles west of Helena, he could be richer by 25 sacks of gold ore.
In 1856, François Finlay, a French Canadian, found gold in the bed of a stream, later named Gold Creek. Finlay moved west because there was not enough gold to stake a claim.
Sometime later, two brothers, Grant and James Stewart found gold in the same area that Finlay had. The two set up a camp and planned to stay and explore the area. But this was Blackfoot Indian territory, and the Indians wanted the brothers out of it.
After several skirmishes with the Indians, the brothers decided it was best if they left. They had accumulated 25 sacks of mixed gold dust and ore. Deciding to bury the gold and return for it later, they carried the bags downstream to the forks of the creek.
Here they buried the 25 sacks in five different places on the left bank of Gold Creek. Each hole was spaced roughly six feet from the other in a circle. The brothers then left, planning on returning when the Indian threat was over.
It wasn’t until 1862 that they could return to Gold Creek. When they searched for the 25 sacks of ore, they were surprised to find that the stream had changed its course in the six years they had been gone. The old stream bed was now covered with overgrowth.
Since there was no Indian threat, the brothers started mining again and quickly had a good operation. They didn’t waste time looking for the 25 sacks of buried ore because there was plenty more where it had been mined. Their camp grew into a small placer mining town as other miners came to the area.
For the treasure hunter armed with a metal detector, it could pay to search the left side of a smaller stream that flows into the bed of Gold Creek in Powell County, Montana. He might be lucky and find 25 sacks of gold ore buried years ago and never recovered.
Somewhere east of Deer Lodge, Montana, there is almost certainly a rich vein of gold waiting to be relocated.
In the early spring of 1873, an old prospector, Tom Springer, wandered into the Deer Lodge area in quest of his fortune. A few weeks later, after wandering around the nearby hills for a while, he returned to Deer Lodge. This time, he was carrying a bunch of gold-filled quartz.
From there, he pounded out enough free gold in a hand mortar to stake him to a month-long spree of whiskey and women. When the older man sobered up, he approached Samuel Scott, who owned the Scott Hotel, and asked for a grubstake.
The old prospector explained to Scott that he had found a rich gold vein in the mountains east of Deer Lodge. Scott agreed to loan the prospector enough for a grubstake.
Several weeks later, the old prospector again appeared in Deer Lodge and had a quantity of rich gold-bearing quartz. During his time in Deer Lodge, Sam Scott did his best to find out from the old man where his rich “glory hole” was located.
For the next several months, the old prospector was seen leaving Deer Lodge, trudging eastward into the nearby Rocky Mountains. He returned with just enough gold each time to take him on a month-long binge. Several attempts were made to follow the older man into the mountains, but he was always able to lose his persistent followers. Sam Scott was never able to get Springer to tell him where the gold was found.
One day Sam Scott realized that he had not seen the old prospector for quite some time, and he set out in search of him. Traveling eastward, he followed Bagg’s Creek to where it merged with Cottonwood Creek. From here, he continued in an easterly direction to the peak of a large mountain that overlooked the mining town of Emery. Starting down from the far side of the hill, he suddenly came upon the old prospector sitting beside a log.
When he called out to the older man, there was no response. Scott walked over to the old prospector, and Scott tapped him on the shoulder. Tom Springer slowly slumped to the ground. He was stone dead, the apparent victim of a fatal heart attack. His pockets were bulging with samples of rich gold-bearing quartz.
Although several searches have been made for this lost lode in the mountains near Emery, as far as is known, it has not been found.
There is supposed to be a cache of $100,000 in raw gold somewhere around a tall rock called Robbers Rock near McCammon. The story is that, in the summer of 1865, four outlaws followed a stagecoach past Hell’s Half Acre, three and a half miles up Portneuf Canyon.
They stopped the stage with a sudden burst of gunfire that killed four people and hurt the driver. The outlaws robbed the bodies and baggage of at least $100,000 in raw gold.
After the robbery, the gang headed south and decided to camp just off the stage road near where the town of McCammon now stands.
Before the robbery took place, the stage passed a freight train. The train arrived at the robbery scene about an hour after it had occurred. The stagecoach’s horses were unhitched, and eight men pursued the outlaws. Just after nightfall, they saw the campfire of the outlaws and jumped them. One bandit fell fatally wounded, but the others managed to escape.
The wounded outlaw, Jack Murphy, was recognized by a freighter who had seen him around the Salmon River camps. He asked Murphy where the gang had buried the gold and the identities of the others.
Murphy refused to talk before he died.
One of the outlaws who got away from the fight was later caught and hanged. Before dying, he said that the gang had buried the gold during the gun battle and did not have time to retrieve it before fleeing from the area. As far as is known, the gold is still there.
The first deposits of silver found in Montana were discovered in 1865 by a prospector named Esler. A mining camp named Montana City, which was later changed to Argenta, was established. In 1867, a vein of almost pure silver was found, and $50,000 in roped nuggets was mined before the vein was exhausted. This silver was put on a stagecoach bound for Bannack.
About a mile outside Argenta, the stage was stopped by a man with a shotgun with a wagon blocking the road. The driver and five passengers were ordered from the coach. The bandit forced the passengers to load the wagon with silver.
When this was done, the gunman told the stage driver to load up and go on. As the stage began, one of the passengers, an Argenta storekeeper named Silas Maudsley, noticed the bandit’s brightly colored black and yellow socks and remembered it was the only pair he had ever had in his store. He had sold them to a miner named Harry Baldour.
When the stage driver returned to Argenta, he told the storekeeper about the robbery, and the storekeeper said that Baldour was the thief. The sheriff, with a posse, captured Baldour in his tent on the outskirts of Argenta. At his capture, Baldour had been drawing a map of the ravine east of Argenta with the heading, “silver in the middle.”
Taken to jail, Baldour refused to tell where he had cached the silver. The next morning, he was led to a tree outside the camp, and a noose was thrown over a limb and then fastened around his neck. Once again, the sheriff told the prisoner he could leave the area if he told where the silver was.
Baldour laughed at him, thinking the sheriff would not hang him because no one was killed during the robbery. But this was a fatal mistake. The sheriff and other miners were in no mood for any foolishness. Without another word, Baldour was jerked off his feet and hanged.
The silver was never found and is believed to be buried in a ravine within a mile east of the mining camp. $50,000 worth of silver in ore form is quite a load. This cache just might be found with a deep-seeking metal detector.
The money from a train robbery in Hell Gate Canyon on June 16, 1904, is believed to be still buried near the old water station where the robbery occurred, near Barmouth, Montana. When the train stopped to take on water, two masked men overpowered the train’s crew of three, dynamited the express safely, and got away with a sack full of currency, jewelry, and gold coins.
A posse lost their trail and gave up the chase. However, a railroad special agent, Jack Hindman, was determined to catch the two bandits.
Alone, he kept up the chase and learned that the outlaws had abandoned their horses and escaped Hell Gate River in a rowboat.
Hindman reasoned that the two robbers, with a large amount of money to spend, the exact amount was never made public, would probably attract attention by spending it wildly somewhere. He told police in a wide area, and they soon told him that two strange men were going on a spending spree in Spokane.
Speeding to Spokane, Hindman learned that one of the suspects, John Christie, had disappeared, but he arrested the other, George Hammond, and found evidence that Christie and Hammond were the robbers.
Denying any knowledge of the robbery at first, Hammond finally cracked and confessed.
Christie was then arrested in North Dakota and brought to Spokane. He said that before their flight from the robbery scene, they had buried most of the haul because they feared a mishap in the rowboat and intended to recover it later.
Both men consistently refused to say precisely where the money was buried near Barmouth, even when taken to the crime scene. Many searches have been done for this treasure, but it is believed never to have been found.
During the summer of 1878, John Hays worked a small placer claim about half a day’s ride west of Philipsburg, Montana. The claim was in a gulch along a small stream that emptied into Rock Creek.
Most of the miners from the initial rush had left in the belief that the stream had been worked out.
However, a few individuals were willing to work harder and dream a little less than most other miners. These men would work streams and hit pockets of gold that the dreamers had passed over in their rush to skim the surface and gain instant riches.
John Hays was of that breed of men who believed that hard work would be rewarded. He took his time, worked hard, and covered the streams carefully. This was how he came upon the old claim up the gulch from Rock Creek. The returns from his labor and perseverance were good, and he lived in a small cabin near the stream that the first miners had built in the area.
During the late spring and early summer, Hays had taken quite a bit of gold from the stream. He cached this gold near his cabin and claimed it. When he needed provisions, he would take a small amount of his gold, leaving the large cache hidden, and ride into Philipsburg.
Hays was returning to his cabin on July 11, 1878, from Philipsburg, where he had gone for the Fourth of July celebrations and stayed over to visit and stock up on supplies. As he made his way up the Rock Creek Trail toward his cabin, a band of renegade Nez Perce Indians was hidden near where the west fork of Rock Creek flowed into the mainstream, watching him.
The Indian band consisted of thirteen renegade warriors led by Yellow Wolf, a nephew of Chief Joseph. As the Indians watched the white man ford Rock Creek, the leader decided to rob and kill him later.
The next day, Yellow Wolf and two braves approached Hays as he worked his claim while the rest of the warriors remained hidden in the trees. Yellow Wolf told Hays a tale of a place where there was much gold to gain his confidence while another Indian grabbed his pistol from its holder.
In the turmoil that followed, Hays managed to kill one warrior by crushing his skull with a rock; a few minutes later, Hays died silently the same way.
The Indians then ransacked the cabin and searched for Hays’ hoard of gold, but they could not find it. The gold that Hays buried near his cabin, as far as is known, is still waiting for a lucky searcher.
Crazy Sal was a prospector in the final days of Last Chance Gulch, which later became Helena. Her real name is unknown, but she was crazy as a loon. She was found dead in her cabin with a couple of gunny sacks filled with 50 pounds of gold, each missing. Many men hunted for Crazy Sal’s secret gold, but none ever found it.
A story says that $100,000 to $150,000 in gold was buried at Lower St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier County. In 1872, the Donald Gregg family settled just south of the international border. Gregg found a nugget of gold and panned it. In 1874, Basil Dobbins arrived and began to pan gold on his own.
In the fall of 1875, the Greggs and Dobbinses decided to go to Fort Benton. Mrs. Gregg, three children, supplies, and a tent were loaded in the wagon with the gold. North of Lower St. Mary’s Lake, four outlaws came upon them. Dobbins opened fire on the road agents who gave pursuit. He and another outlaw were killed.
Reaching the lake, Gregg managed to kill another outlaw, but one of his horses was wounded. The Greggs were forced to stop. He told Mrs. Gregg and the children to run to a trapper’s cabin some distance away.
The two remaining outlaws did not attack Gregg until just before daybreak. Gregg killed one more and wounded the fourth, who fled.
Two trappers and Mrs. Gregg arrived back at the scene in daylight and found Gregg underneath the wagon, dying. “I have the gold out of the ground, and it is safe,” he said quietly to Mrs. Gregg. He died without another word. Mrs. Gregg and the trappers searched the surrounding area but could not find where he had buried the gold. As far as is known, the gold is still buried near Lower St. Mary’s Lake.
The Two Sleeps Lost Gold Mine is thought to be located in the vicinity of Mosby, on State 18, at its crossing of the Musselshell River. Indians are said to have brought gold from this mine to trade at Fort Musselshell, about 35 miles north of Mosby.
All but one of the Indians who knew the secret location of the mine were killed in a skirmish with the whites. The lone survivor would only say that the mine was “two sleeps” from the military post. Prospectors thoroughly searched the area along the east bank of the Musselshell, just below Mosby, but it is unknown whether the mine was ever found.
There may be a huge stash of gold dust and nuggets buried near the famous or infamous Robber’s Roost in Montana. Robber’s Roost was used by thieves and road agents when gold was mined in Alder Gulch. It was next to the old stage road between Virginia City and Twin Bridges.
Henry Plummer buried the gold. While Sheriff Plummer led one of the most capable bands of road agents in the history of the Old West, Plummer’s share of the stolen goods from many stagecoaches and uncounted miners leaving Alder Gulch was in the cache.
The Montana Vigilantes were organized in late 1863. John S. Lott drew up the Vigilante Oath in the back of his store in Nevada City, a short distance down the Gulch from Virginia City.
The sign used by the Vigilantes was “3-7-77.” It was generally believed that this signified the size of a grave, three feet wide, seven feet deep, and 77 inches long. But no man who received one of these signs ever took the time to find out precisely what it meant, choosing instead to leave the territory as soon as possible.
Plummer was hanged at Bannack on January 10, 1864, by a vigilante group that included John S. Lott, Wilbur F. Sanders, William Owsley, and John X. Beidler.
When Plummer realized he would be hung, he threw his arms around Owsley, offering him “his weight in gold” if his life were spared. As the rope was placed around his neck, he again embraced Owsley, saying, “Bill, I will take you over to Robber’s Roost, where I have $300,000 in cached dust.” Oh, God, I tell you that it is within a hundred yards from the corner of the corral.”
Plummer’s offer was not accepted.
It was well into the present century before Owsley revealed what the doomed sheriff had told him. He believed that Plummer was telling the truth. Owsley went on to become one of Butte’s first mayors. In later years, he was affectionately known as “Uncle Bill” Owsley.
When asked if he had ever looked for the gold, Owsley admitted that he had kept the place dug up for the next five years. He said he went to Robber’s Roost for several weeks each year and dug. But he finally gave up, not knowing which corner of the large corral Plummer had referred to or in what direction.
People didn’t pay much attention to his digging because every prospector and miner who hadn’t struck it rich in Alder Gulch was always digging up the countryside, looking for new placers.
Owsley, as stated, felt convinced that Plummer had spoken the truth and said in 1929 that he had kept tabs on the place and did not think the gold had ever been found. In fact, up until that time, he was the only one, to his knowledge, who had ever tried to find it.
On May 28, 1863, six prospectors were running away from Indians when they stopped for the night in a small gulch in southwestern Montana. The next morning, they found gold nuggets in the gravel of a nearby stream.
The next day, they ran quickly to the small town of Bannack to get supplies. There, word got out about what they had found. When they returned to the gulch on June 2, they were followed by every prospector in town.
When the miners began panning the sand and gravel in the river, they noticed many dark red stones rattling around in their gold pans. The stones resembled rubies, so the name of the river was changed from Stinking Water River to Ruby River. Later, however, when someone found time to have the stones analyzed, it was discovered that they were garnets.
But the name stuck like a cocklebur to a saddle blanket, and today there is a Ruby River Reservoir and a Ruby Dam. The area is 80 miles south of Butte’s famous copper mining town.
The gold is gone now, but the garnets are in great abundance. Rock hounds have the most success when hunting them along the river south of the town of Alder, along the shore of Ruby River Reservoir, and near the dam.
Occasionally, the garnets will be found as individual stones, but most often, they will be embedded in small pieces of a lighter-colored rock-like material. The best time to search is immediately after a rain when the reflections from the cleansed garnets are most likely to catch your eye.
There is a lost mine known as the Lost Keise, but its location has puzzled many old prospectors. John Lepley and George Keise worked together to run a cattle ranch near Helena. In 1865, Keise left to do some prospecting. He was not heard from again until the following spring when he boarded a Missouri River boat at a landing near the confluence of the Milk River.
In Fort Benton, Keise displayed $3000 in gold dust that he said he had taken from a placer operation up the river. He persuaded friends named Keefe to build a flatboat while he returned to Helena to get his old partner, Lepley. They would all go by flatboat to his claim to work it.
Even though Lepley liked ranching more than prospecting, he returned to Fort Benton with his former business partner. From the river bank, Lepley watched the flatboat, heavily laden with supplies, swing into the stream and wave farewell.
It was the last time anyone had heard of Keise and Keefe, and their fate remains a mystery to this day. Lepley spent six years searching for the placer, which Keise had told him was of such richness and extent that they would all be wealthy in a few months but without success. As far as is known, the placer has never been rediscovered.
Cooke City is about three miles south of the Silver Gate, the northeast gate to Yellowstone Park. It is a former mining camp that almost died when the mineral wealth in the surrounding mountains was depleted.
However, the town managed to survive and is now a resort town, catering to tourists in the summer and hunters in the fall. Still in evidence today are the log cabins and other ruins of the old mines.
Legend has it that a boot full of gold lies buried about three miles east of Cooke City and just a few hundred yards off Highway 212. Around 1880, according to the story, two prospectors were returning to the East after making their fortunes in gold at Virginia City, Montana. Fearing road agents, they traveled along old Indian trails rather than the main routes.
Despite this caution, however, they were followed and attacked by thieves. When one of the partners was killed, the other pulled off one of the dead man’s boots, filled it with gold, and buried it. After quickly carving a code on a nearby tree, the only survivor of the group went east and never returned.
Some years later, three of his nephews arrived in Cooke City with a map.
Although the tree with the cryptogram was found, they were unsuccessful in their attempt to find the gold buried by their uncle.
There has been much digging in the area over the years, but to this date, no one is believed to have recovered any of the treasure.
According to reliable reports, somewhere in the valley of the Little Big Horn in Montana lies a lost cache of over $25,000 in gold and silver coins and bills. This cache represents the army payroll plus personal funds of 261 men of the U.S. 7th Cavalry, killed by Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indians on June 25, 1876, along with their ill-starred leader, Brevet Major General George A. Custer.
According to new information, there was a time when three men knew where the cache was. However, for reasons known only to himself, each left it undisturbed, and today the long-missing money still lies just where war-crazed Indians put it that fateful day over a century ago.
The only eyewitness to the battle is the Sioux Chief Gaul, whose story appeared in St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press, July 18, 1886.
According to Gaul, he led one group of braves across the river to attack from one side while Crazy Horse attacked the other side. “The soldiers fought on foot while trying to hold their horses. When the horses reared, it disturbed the soldiers’ air.
The soldiers were very brave but did not fight smartly. Sitting Bull did not fight. He made medicine for us in his teepee. All of the white men were killed in one-half hour.”
Years later, an Indian named Spotted Hawk told of the soldiers’ looting after the battle. “After the fighting was over, the women and children went up to the battleground. There, as usual, was mutilation of the dead. I was then seven years old.
I went with a group of children a little older than me, and we began to take from the slain whatever we wished. Among other things, we tried to make off the clothing, cutting loose the waistbands of the soldiers to remove their trousers.
While engaged in this work, one child ripped up a waistband and noticed pieces of green paper, some small and some large. We thought these were pretty and, looking further, found that almost every man’s waistband contained some. We did not know then what this was, but since the men had hidden it, we thought it must be precious, so we took it back to the camp.”
What tribal elders did with all this money, Spotted Hawk did not know.
It is also known that Major William Smith, a paymaster for the Department of Dakota, had paid the 7th Cavalry Regiment four months’ pay in silver coins, gold coins, and U.S. Treasury or bank notes just shortly before the battle. The payroll amounted to slightly over $25,000, with some of the men and officers already having in their possession personal funds of both large and small amounts.
Today, more than $25,000 in silver, gold, and bills, hidden by the Indians after the fatal battle at the Little Big Horn, still lies unfound and waiting for some lucky treasure hunter.
A new form of treasure hunting is fast taking over the large state of Montana. It is sapphire hunting, proving to be a profitable pastime and a true treasure hunt for entire families.
The history of sapphire stones in Montana goes back over a hundred years to 1860. Early-day miners in the region surrounding the present-day mines were continually irritated to discover these stones plugging their sluice boxes. The stones were angrily cast aside.
Later, the industrious Chinese laborers found a good and practical use for these pretty but unwanted stones. They used them to gravel the dirt roads!
It wasn’t until 1865, during the “Last Chance Gold Rush” in Helena, that a prospector named E. Collins recognized the gems for what they were and pointed out their immense value. From that year on, prospectors kept a watchful eye out for the gems while doing their gold hunting.
For several years, sapphire hunting proved a profitable venture, but gradually, the larger mining interests took over the sapphire business more and more. As the mines closed, one by one, sapphire hunting became a forgotten pastime.
It was not until a few years ago that a great revival of gem hunting came about throughout the state. A cattle rancher not far from the mining companies decided to combine cattle with gems, and he purchased some dredged tailings from the mines.
However, the most recent and significant discovery is the sapphires in the ore vein near Utica, Montana. This is owned by a group of men who plan to mine the stones in a big way. This deposit of sapphires may yield upward of $60,000,000 worth of these precious stones.
The stones can be found in almost any part of the state, with the dredge tailings of the Missouri River bed and gravel deposits being very good places to look. Several large discoveries have been made near Helena, Lewiston, Utica, and Philipsburg.
Sapphires are always blue, but they can vary into 360 shades, from the palest light blue to a very deep, dark shade of blue.
Two men, who helped in a robbery that resulted in a large amount of gold being buried and lost, will not be named in this story. They were naive and trusted the wrong person. The robbery did them not a single bit of good. Instead, they both served ten years of hard labor in prison near Deer Lodge, Montana Territory, and after their release, became respected members of society.
It was at the Sheep Creek Stage Station in the late fall of 1873 that the robbery took place. A half-breed named Rugg had charge of the horses at the station. His duty was to hitch fresh horses to the coach while the guards, passengers, and drivers ate.
Rugg’s two partners were farming in the vicinity and doing poorly. While trying to sell produce and an overabundance of hay to Sim Estes, the manager of Sheep Creek Station, they became acquainted with Rugg.
The acquaintance ripened into friendship, and the pair broached the possibility of robbing the stage from the half-breed. However, most of the stages were heavily guarded, and they kept delaying their attempt to hold up the stage.
Then one day, Rugg learned of a shipment of gold. He came up with robbing the stage while everyone was eating. He would cache the gold, temporarily, at a spot known only to the three. The other two would then remove the gold from the spot and rebury it from the staging station.
Rugg knew he could not leave the gold at the station. If the guards checked the shipment before leaving, he would be a dead man if it was found missing. Of course, his two friends were delighted with the idea he had set forth, especially as Rugg was to do all the dangerous work.
The stagecoach pulled into the station that day, and the driver, guards, and a lone passenger entered the station to eat. Both guards left the gold unattended, for who would think of a robbery right under their noses and at a stage station?
When they were out of sight inside the building, Rugg, who had been making the pretense of changing the teams, quickly dragged the iron-bound box containing the gold from the coach. He used a hammer to break the padlock off the hasp, moved the gold into a box, filled it with rocks to make it look like the gold was inside, put the padlock back on, and put the strongbox back in the same place on the stage.
The guards returned and merely glanced at the box. They did not bother to check further because it was still locked.
As agreed upon previously, the two farmers took the gold to the selected spot and buried it.
The theft was not discovered until the stage reached Eagle Rock, a changing station in Utah. At first, the guard blamed the driver but finally thought of the Montana stop and the opportunity they, themselves, had provided for the theft. They decided it could only have been the half-breed stock tender. As fast as horse flesh could carry them, they returned to Sheep Creek Station.
Here they resorted to the threat of hanging, and they did string Rugg up, not once, but three different times, letting him down only when they were afraid of actually killing him.
Rugg knew he would be subjected to severe treatment when the gold was discovered to be missing, but with the stoicism of his Indian blood, he suffered their abuse and had an answer for each of their questions. Finally, they released him.
The three men responsible for the robbery didn’t return to the site where the gold was buried due to the excessive publicity attending the theft. They knew they could not account for such a sudden increase in wealth at that time.
Rugg remained in the employ of the stage company for nearly a year and a half, all the time cautioning his two partners about the stupidity of uncovering the gold and using it in any manner.
One day Rugg disappeared from his job. His partners immediately went to the site where they had buried the gold after learning of his disappearance. As they feared, it was gone. From all indications, it had been gone for some time.
Soon tales of wild spending by a half-breed from Montana Territory reached the ears of Wells Fargo detectives in San Francisco. They followed up on the stories and captured Rugg amidst one of his drunken sprees.
Rugg named his accomplices and informed the company detectives that he had buried the balance of the gold within a half-mile of Beaverhead Rock. He would not tell which direction from Beaverhead Rock. He did say he had moved the gold from its original spot right under the noses of officers and guards of the stage line.
This revelation caused the detectives to increase their enthusiasm to make Rugg reveal the exact burial spot. Unfortunately, they became too enthusiastic and fractured his skull. Rugg died without regaining consciousness, taking his secret with him.
Sheriff Bray of Beaverhead County arrested Rugg’s two accomplices, and they were tried at Bannack. The trail was long, as the company was certain the two men also knew where the gold was cached.
The fact that they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, reveal the location of the buried loot was the major reason given for the stiff sentences they received.
For years after their release from the territorial prison, the two men were harassed by company detectives and other officers; all of them were certain that the two ex-convicts knew right where the gold was buried. But apparently, they had no more idea than anyone else. Rugg had been the only one who knew the secret, and he was dead.
So somewhere near Beaverhead Rock lies buried the remainder of this stolen gold. It should be a considerable sum, for $24,000 worth of gold was unaccounted for at the old price of $18 an ounce, and it’s now worth at least twenty times that amount.