Gold brought the white man to where the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe had roamed for centuries in Wyoming. Gold pitted the white man against the Indian and joined these two people in mortal combat.
In the vast solitudes still lie some of the gold that men buried to retrieve at an appropriate time, which never came. These lost mines and hidden caches still wait for a lucky treasure hunter.
To my knowledge, this bulletin has never been published in any treasure magazine. I quote in part from an old newspaper clipping from 1919.
“One of the most famous lost mines in Wyoming is the Lost Cabin gold mine, said to be located somewhere in the Big Horn or Owl Creek Mountains.” In 1919, the Wyoming Historical Society published an account of the Lost Cabin mine in the society’s ‘Miscellanies.’ Following is the story from that publication:
“The Lost Cabin gold placers of Wyoming were discovered and worked for three days, in the fall of 1865, by seven men who came into the region from the Black Hills country. Five of the seven men were killed by the Indians; two escaped. The two who escaped brought away $7,000 in coarse gold. Since that day, no effort to discover this locality has been successful.”
The account given by Charley Clay, an old Wyoming pioneer, formerly of Douglas, now in Washington, on March 20, 1894, is this, and it is delivered directly from the two men who escaped and gave him the gold to put in the safe at the Post Trader’s Store at Fort Laramie:
“In October 1865, two men reached Old Fort Reno at the point which is now the crossing of Powder River, in a weak and exhausted condition. They explained that they had belonged to a party of seven gold prospectors who came into the Big Horn Mountains on their eastern slope from the Black Hills of Dakota. They traveled along the base of the range, going south and testing the ground until they came to a park surrounded by heavy timber, through which ran a bold mountain stream and a few hundred yards below joined a larger stream. Here they found rich signs of the yellow metal and struck bedrock at a depth of three to four feet, where the gold was plentiful and coarse. They immediately camped, having tools and grub, which they brought by pack animals. Among their tools, they brought a big log saw and sawed enough logs to construct a flume. They also built a log cabin, with seven men working very hard. The men finished their habitation and flume in three days and began working the gold in good earnest. Late one afternoon on the third day of gold panning, they were suddenly attacked by a band of Indians, and five of the men were killed almost instantly, the other two escaping to the cabin, where they held the Indians at bay until nightfall. In the night’s darkness, they escaped without being seen by the Indians. They were on foot and took nothing with them but gold, arms, and food. From then on, they traveled at night and hid themselves during the day. After three nights of rapid and continuous walking, they reached Fort Reno and told their story. The two men then went to Fort Laramie and spent the winter. Here Mr. Clay met them, and being clerk of the Post Trader’s store, they gave him the gold for safekeeping. He put the gold in the safe until their departure. They left in the spring, determined to go back, and find a better place, went to the Black Hills, and formed a new party to go over their old trail. In this expedition, some ten or twelve persons engaged, and Indians killed all. For the next 12 to 15 years succeeding, it was unsafe to go into that region and prospect.”
I hope this information will be helpful to interested treasure hunters in Wyoming.
Sometime in the 1800s, a lone bandit used a clever ruse to rob a stagecoach near old Fort Laramie, about three miles south of the present town of Laramie in Albany County. The stage carried guards because it was transporting a chest containing $40,000 to meet the payroll at Fort Laramie.
The bandit pretended to be sick and lay down on the road so the stage would have to stop. Somehow, he managed to get the chest and waved the set on. Fearing pursuit by the soldiers, he hurriedly buried the chest near the robbery scene and marked the spot by driving a kingbolt from a broken-down wagon into the ground.
The outlaw was captured a few days later and confessed to the crime. Hoping to gain last-minute compassion, he said where he had buried the chest. He was then given western justice and promptly shot.
An immediate search was done for the chest.
When it was not found, the searchers decided that the bandit had given them false directions. In 1928, a farmer plowing along the old stagecoach route found a kingbolt driven into the ground. He knew of the buried treasure chest and is presumed to have searched for it, apparently unsuccessfully. A few years later, he died without any evidence of sudden wealth.
In the late 1890s, Jim Shaw was with a hunting party near Mountain Home in the Medicine Bow Range in the southwestern corner of Albany County. It was early fall, and light snow was on the ground. When an elk crossed the meadow ahead of the hunters and headed into the timber, Shaw told his companions to go along with the wagon and make camp on the Laramie River while he stalked the elk.
Shaw soon lost the trail of his quarry, and when it started snowing again, he returned to rejoin his party. He was picking his way down a steep hill when he slipped into a hole. In working his way out, Shaw seized a ledge, and a piece of rock broke off in his hand.
He noticed at once that it was laced with wire gold. Examining the ridge further, Shaw found it to be rich in gold. He gathered all the ore he could carry and returned to the camp.
No one slept much that night because gold fever had hit. It was agreed that the entire party would follow Shaw to the site of his find the following morning. But by morning, there was a foot of snow on the ground, and the snow was falling harder. The trip had to be postponed for several days. The party started their quest up the mountain as soon as the weather cleared. They spent ten days scouting the country for the ledge of quartz but were never able to find it.
The following year, Shaw and a companion spent a month fruitlessly searching for the lost ledge. In the next two years, Shaw made frequent and prolonged searches alone. On his last trip into the region, he encountered a bear and was severely mauled. This caused him to give up the pursuit; as far as is known, Shaw’s ledge of gold is still lost.
Bald Mountain, or Big Baldy as it is known locally, is a barren, domelike highland that rises above the black-timbered slopes of the Big Horn Mountains. Big Baldy stands south of where alternate U. S. Highway 14 crosses Sheridan County into Big Horn County.
In the 1880s, Big Baldy was the center of a mining boom where fortunes were staked on finding a legendary lode of gold supposedly once worked by the Indians. So persistent were the stories of this lode that, in 1892, eastern capitalists were persuaded to install expensive mining equipment at Bald Mountain.
When rumors spread that the lost vein had been found, miners rushed in by the hundreds, spawning the mushroom towns of Fortunate and Big Baldy. It developed that the lode had not been discovered, the bubble burst, and the mining towns collapsed. The Big Baldy Lost Mine was never found.
The Sierra Madre Mountains are a short range along the eastern slope of the Continental Divide, southwest of the town of Saratoga in the south-central section of Carbon County. Indian legends have long told of rich veins of gold in this region, and rims of placer shafts and tunnels of unknown age and origin have been found, although little gold has appeared. Many ghost towns mark it, and some prospecting continues.
Ed Bennett operated a ferry across Encampment Creek, about 12 miles below Saratoga, in the early days. One evening a bearded stranger rapped on Bennett’s caving door and then collapsed at his feet. Taking the heavy pack from the man’s back, Bennett helped him to a bunk.
The stranger was desperately ill with a fever. After several days, his condition improved, and he accepted Bennett’s invitation to stay at the cabin until he was entirely well. He and Bennett became quite friendly. When he was ready to leave, the man insisted upon paying his benefactor for his kindness.
Bennett declined to accept anything. Still insistent, the guest went to his pack and pulled out a sample bag filled with gold dust and nuggets.
Bennett acquired from him the information that he had found the gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains, which he had left before becoming snowed in for the winter and announced that he was going east. The stranger said he would return and take Bennett to the mine in the spring.
However, the man never returned. Bennett spent the rest of his active life searching for the Stranger’s Lost Mine in the Sierra Madres but was never able to locate it.
Somewhere in the Wind River Mountains, near the town of Crowheart, George Leroy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, is said to have cached $70,000. Cassidy was known to have visited the vicinity frequently.
At one time, he had a horse ranch near Crowheart. Discreet neighbors did not notice that he always sold more horses than he raised. Older residents of Crowheart say that Cassidy returned to the Wind River region to look for the buried loot in 1936, some 27 years after his reported death in South America.
Many people who knew the genial outlaw supported the belief that he did return to the United States and did a search for the loot in the Wind River region without success. The treasure is believed to be on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and permission to search must be obtained.
Slade Canyon, also known as Sawmill Canyon, is a few miles northwest of Guernsey. The canyon is named for Joseph A. “Jack” Slade, who for a time was superintendent of the Overland Stage Line between Julesburg, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
There is a persistent story that Slade, while with the stage line, headed a gang of outlaws who made their headquarters at Slade Canyon. The gang’s specialty was robbing emigrant trains of their stock and valuables. The stock was often sold back to the persons it was stolen from.
Many searches have been done for the caches of gold, jewelry, and other valuables the outlaws are said to have buried in Slade Canyon.
Slade was later hanged by vigilantes in Virginia City, Montana, for riding a horse into a general store and shooting the canned goods from the shelves.
The site of Fort Fetterman is on the south bank of the North Platte River, a few miles north of Douglas. Across the river and seven miles to the north of the fort was the inevitable Hog Ranch. Hog Ranch was the local name for the saloons, brothels, dancehalls, and gambling houses which were the natural addition to military posts on the plains.
To these places came the soldiers, cowhands, trailhands, and others to spend their pay. A small cemetery usually held the bones of the slow and the careless.
When Fort Fetterman was abandoned in 1882, the Hog Ranch was acquired by Jack Saunders and Jim Lawrence. They operated it successfully until 1886 when Saunders was killed in a flight with Billy Bacon. It is said that Saunders regularly buried his share of the income from the Hog Ranch somewhere nearby, but it has never been reported found.
This location of rich gold pockets, or potholes, in Wyoming is unusual in that part of the gold was found in the 1830s, but the place was ignored for almost forty years before any more gold was taken out.
After attending the trapper’s rendezvous in Brow’s Hole, a valley where the States of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah meet, three mountain men headed south to trap beaver.
Somewhere in what is now called the Grand Canyon of the Snake River, the trappers found potholes along the river, filled with gold that had been trapped when the water went down in low season. They took out a small amount, as this was before the gold rush of 1849, and gold had very little value; furs were what the trappers wanted.
One of the men, John Schuman, sent a quantity of the gold to his sister in Illinois with a letter describing the location in detail.
It is believed that the trappers were probably killed in Indian fights. Historical facts claim that there were several battles between the mountain men and Blackfeet and Gros Venture Indians during this period.
Schuman’s sister married a man named Tyrell, and it wasn’t until about 1870 that her son became interested in the gold nuggets and old letters with directions to the site.
In 1871, this son, Robert Tyrell, and a friend, Norman Estell, made a trip to the Snake River. Following the old letter’s directions, the two young men found the potholes.
The pair took out about forty pounds of the largest nuggets and was almost ready to leave when two prospectors came down the river bank on the run, informing the young men that an outbreak of Bannock and Shoshone Indians made it too dangerous to stay. The four men hurried downstream.
Tryell and Estell, after several days, finally reached Salt Lake City, returning to the east and home with their gold.
After getting married, Tryell went into the mercantile business. During the minor depression of 1877-1878, he went bankrupt. Feeling sure that he could find the gold again and make a new start, Tryell again headed west. After reaching the Snake River and spending three weeks in a fruitless search, he realized there had been so many changes that he could not find the potholes. Tryell then gave up his search and returned to Illinois.
A few years later, a cousin, Elmer Nastron, was told the story of the potholes. Nastron had traveled the west for fifteen years and was familiar with prospecting. He felt he could if he had the location of the gold with his cousin’s directions.
In 1887, Nastron went to Lander, Wyoming, where several old timers told him of the three trappers, who had found gold almost fifty years before in the potholes. After getting together a good outfit, Nastron traveled to the Snake River Canyon.
Reaching where he was confident the gold was, Nastron discovered that a vast rockslide had covered the bench above the river where the potholes were located.
After several days of removing part of the rockslide, Nastron found the first pothole, which panned almost $15,000 in gold dust and nuggets. The second hole produced $5,000, and the third one $2,000. After this, no more gold could be found.
Nastron moved upstream and removed more of the rockslide until he finally found another pothole that yielded almost $20,000. It was then that Nastron’s luck changed. A huge rock slipped and broke his leg. After crawling to his campsite and making a crude splint and crutches, Nastron waited a week before returning to the slide.
Even with a broken leg, he removed some of the rock and discovered another pothole worth $3,000. He then decided it was time to leave. His take was about $45,000 in gold. Working his way out of the canyon, Nastron went to Idaho Falls. After selling his gold, he settled in southern Utah and died there in 1940.
He never returned to the Snake River and the potholes that had hidden the gold. Today, in the Grand Canyon of this beautiful river, potholes with gold dust and nuggets wait for some adventurous treasure hunter.
On September 26, 1878, the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stagecoach, carrying between $250,000 and $400,000 in gold bullion that belonged to the Homestead Mining Company of South Dakota, was held up by five men at the Canyon Springs Station. The robbers got away with about $330,000 worth of gold ingots, currency, and jewelry. After escaping and dividing the gold, the outlaws separated.
Two of the bars were found in a bank in Atlantic, Iowa. It was then learned that the banker’s son, Duck Goodale, had been one of the robbers. While being taken back to Wyoming for trial, Goodale escaped.
Archie McLaughlin, one of the outlaws, supposedly buried one of the ingots near the mouth of Lance Creek in Northeast Niobrara County, Wyoming.
Part of the gold is supposed to be buried on Lame Johnny Creek near Sturgis, South Dakota. Another story tells that part of it was buried on Whoop-Up Creek near Newcastle, Wyoming.
Albert Spears, another gang member, was caught in Nebraska. He was given a life sentence for a murder not connected with the stage robbery. Spears told another prisoner that most of the gold was buried near the Canyon Springs Station because it was too bulky to carry.
Charles Carey was the leader of the gang. Vigilantes hung him in Wyoming. Frank McBride, one of the outlaws shot during the robbery, died while trying to escape. It was never learned what happened to his share of the gold.
Another robber, Gouch, was caught and confessed to the hiding place of $110,000, which was recovered. The stage company eventually recovered all but $150,000 of the gold. The locations connected with this holdup could be worth investigating.
On June 2, 1899, two masked men flagged a Union Pacific Railroad Passenger train at the little station of Wilcox, now an abandoned site about six miles north of the present town of Rock River. Holding their guns on the engineer, the bandits forced him to pull the express and baggage cars across the bridge beyond Wilcox and stop.
They dynamited the bridge to prevent the arrival of a second section of the train, due in ten minutes and directed the engineer to pull the cars two miles farther down the track. There, the bandits looted the express car of $60,000 in unsigned bank notes.
The robbery was credited to Butch Cassidy and Ezra Lay. It is said that Lay buried his $30,000 share of the loot near the scene of the crime rather than try to pass the unsigned notes. He is supposed to have made a detailed map of the site and given it to some girl. Lay later became a respectable citizen and lived in Los Angeles.
In the 1930s, he was asked about the notes. Lay declined to either deny or confirm the story that he had recovered the currency. He is believed to have never returned for it, and it is buried near the bridge.
On January 17, 1950, a group of armed men wearing Halloween masks robbed a Brink’s Inc. office in Boston, Massachusetts. The robbers took $1,218,000, the largest cash robbery in United States history up to that time. Although seven men were later arrested, tried, and convicted of the crime, only a comparatively small portion of the loot was recovered.
On June 15, 1962, Mack Ray Allen was arrested in San Bernardino, California, on a vagrancy charge. Allen told the police that in June 1950, he had hitched a ride with an older man outside of Boston. In crossing the country, Allen said the older man had shown him two suitcases in the care trunk and declared they contained $90,000 of the Brink’s robbery loot.
Allen further stated that when they reached Three Forks, Wyoming, he took a snub-nosed revolver from the car’s glove compartment and killed the older man. Three Forks, also known as Muddy Gap, is at the junction of State Highway 220 and U. S. 287, north of Rawlins. Allen said he had hidden the older man’s body in a ravine near Three Forks, buried the two suitcases of money, then taken the car and drove westward until he wrecked it.
Asked by the police why he had not taken the money with him, he replied that he knew the money was too hot to pass at that time. The sheriff of Carbon County returned Allen to Wyoming, but he could not locate the older man’s body or the buried suitcases. He was eventually released, and only Allen, who subsequently disappeared, knows whether the story he told was true.
In the early 1870s, General George Crook’s command was encamped near Arminto in Natrona County. A soldier named Addick was permitted to hunt for antelope. When General Crook was ordered to move out, Addick was missing.
Several days later, while the command was camped at the head of Buffalo Creek in northwestern Natrona County, Addick rejoined his company and reported that he had been lost. His time, however, had not been entirely wasted. He had stumbled upon a ledge of quartz-rich in gold. He had picked up a pocketful of nuggets in the stream at the foot of the ridge.
His display of the nuggets created considerable excitement at camp. Since some soldiers might desert them to prospect for gold, Addick was ordered to throw the chunks away and tell no one where he had found them.
One of General Crook’s scouts, J. D. Woodruff, made friends with Addick and obtained a reasonably accurate description of the vicinity where he had found the ledge. Soon afterward, Woodruff left his scouting job and returned to South Pass; he prospected and mined between scouting jobs.
He and a close friend, Anderson, formed a partnership with Jim Lysite, a confident Davis, and an unnamed man to search for the soldier’s lost ledge. The party was ready to leave when Woodruff announced his withdrawal from the venture.
Upon three successive nights, he explained, he had dreamed that while searching for the lost ledge, all five of them had been killed by Indians. Reading a warning from the dreams, Woodruff implored the men not to make the trip.
Anderson, Lysite, and the other two men were not to be deterred by what they considered Woodruff’s silly superstition. With Woodruff’s description of the area to be searched, the four started for the ledge.
Several weeks later, O. M. Clark, known in Wyoming as “Wind River” Clark, was prospecting a small mountain in northwestern Fremont County when he noted signs of Indians in the neighborhood and hurried to depart.
During his flight, he came upon the bullet-riddled and mutilated bodies of four men scattered along a stream, now believed to have been Badwater Creek. The dead men were Anderson, Jim Lysite, Davis, and the unnamed fourth member of the search party.
When Clark reported the death of the four men, Woodruff revealed that they had been looking for the soldier’s lost ledge of gold. Several parties immediately set out from the northern section of Fremont County to find what became known as the Soldier’s Lost Mine.
It was never found. Lysite Mountain, Lysite Creek, and the town of Lysite, all in the vicinity of Addick’s supposed lost ledge, are named for Jim Lysite.
Rock Springs was about the wildest burg anywhere, including the cattle towns of Dodge City and Abilene in Kansas. A Finn named Jacob Santala ran the most prosperous saloon in the city. He had stashed away a fortune in the few short years he was there.
On July 21, 1891, Santala was behind the bar when a stranger entered. He was pleasantly surprised to find him to be a fellow Finn. The man was Jacob Hilli, from Almy. Hilli brought $500 in gold coins and hoped to make a business deal with Santala.
After a few drinks, he got the bar owner to the side and offered his proposition. It was simple, as well. He had $500 in gold and wanted to use it to go into business with Santala. Either buy into his saloon, or the two of them would start a larger one. Five hundred dollars in those days, by the way, was quite a sum of money.
In early Rock Springs, there was only one way for two parties to transact business. There had to be some hard drinking during conferences. By noon the two Finns had drunk almost a keg of beer and a couple of flasks of whiskey. The business proposition had become lost during the drinking, with the two arguing about the best pistol shot.
Finally, Santala declared, “Jacob, there’s but one way we will settle this. Let’s go find out.”
Hilli was agreeable. It was decided that they would ride out and find a suitable target. The one to hit it first would win the other’s money.
The day being hot, they decided to concentrate on drinking as they drove out to the target site. Suddenly Santala reigned up. “See that building over there?” he asked, pointing toward the N. Six Town Mine.
Hilli squinted. He nodded and said, “I see it.”
“Okay, “said Santala, lifting the pistol and cocking it. “We’ll shoot at the padlock on the door. Whoever hits it wins.”
“We gonna shoot from here?” asked Hilli.
“Sure,” Santala replied, trying to steady his pistol.
Santala fired but missed the building by over ten feet. Hilli aimed but was weaving so severely he could hardly hold the gun. Finally, he squeezed the trigger. If he hits the padlock, it will never be known. But he had hit the building, and for minutes, the entire town of Rock Springs trembled violently.
Jacob Santala and Jacob Hilli were never seen again in the whole. Unknown to them, their target was a powder house containing 1213 kegs of black powder and 550 pounds of giant powder.
Though the search was thorough after the blast, none of the gold coins that Hilli was known to be carrying were ever found.
Gold was first discovered along the Sweetwater River in south-central Wyoming in 1842. One of the many hopefuls lured to the gold fields was Hiram McGee. A loner and adventurer, McGee often made extended forays into the wilds, chasing his dream of finding a vast gold deposit.
One day in late June 1868, he left South Pass City with his mules, heading southeast on a long, looping circuit that would take him through the Antelope Hills. On the sixth day, he entered a low, grassy valley. Halfway through the valley, he came upon a rare sight.
A massive brown boulder had rolled down the slope, struck another outcropping, and split cleanly in half. Even from a distance, McGee could see sunlight sparkling off the left boulder. The boulder was roughly five feet in diameter, and the face of each half was a pale but bright green with a translucent, waxy luster.
Before being split, the green stone was hidden by a thick crust of brown rock. Since the mineral was green, McGee surmised that it might be emerald. He chipped a football-sized chunk and several smaller pieces from the center, then hurried back to South Pass City.
News of McGee’s find spread all over town, spurred on by McGee himself. At first, the talk was of mountains of emeralds. Then an assayer examined the gems and declared McGee as a fraud. The assayer wasn’t sure what the stuff was, but it wasn’t emerald.
McGee, disheartened, left and returned to California and wound up in San Francisco in 1872, where he finally learned the truth about his stones. The pale green stone was jade and of higher quality than the best Chinese specimens.
McGee returned to Wyoming and tried to retrace his steps but was unsuccessful. Even in four years, the countryside had changed, and his memory didn’t serve him as well as it once had.
McGee’s great jade valley has never been rediscovered, but the fact that there is jade in Wyoming was proven an entire century later, in 1972. In southern Fremont County, almost 100 miles east of McGee’s lost valley, geologists uncovered a vast jade deposit worth an estimated $65,000,000.
So Wyoming’s south-central mountains would be an excellent place to start looking for jade and gold.
Colonel Stephen W. Downey lived in Centennial, a small town about 50 miles west of Cheyenne, during the 1870s. He reportedly worked a rich vein of gold somewhere nearby. There must be some truth to the story, for he once refused a $100,000 offer for his mine.
Eventually, Downey revealed that his vein had pinched out, and he left the area. Many prospectors refused to believe the rich vein was exhausted. Treasure hunters have searched for the remains of Downey’s mine ever since.
On the afternoon of June 26, 1878, the re-wheeled stagecoach raced out of Deadwood whirling a cloud of dust behind it. It was bound for Cheyenne, carrying an iron box that contained $25,000 in gold.
This was to be one of the few successful robberies. Its entire gold cargo was to be stolen, and $7,000 has still not been found.
The stage company had selected horses for their speed and endurance. As the stage turned the bend near where the road crossed the South Fork of the Cheyenne River, near the rugged badlands, the horses started running faster, and the coach swayed dangerously as the driver leaned back, pulling hard on the reins.
A band of masked men leaped from the ravine’s wall and ran to the center of the road, shotguns raised and aimed at the men in the driver’s seat.
“Stop them damn horses pronto!” one of the bandits shouted.
The driver pulled furiously on the reins, and the team halted only a few feet from the robbers. During the melee that followed, the driver was shot dead. The bandits climbed into the driver’s seat and pushed the gold iron box off the stage.
The passengers got off the stage and stood in a line. While one bandit trained his gun on them, another went down the line filling a sack with the passengers’ valuables and what little gold they had. Two others worked furiously, trying to open the chest with a hatchet. They decided to blast it with gunpowder because they could not open it. Minutes later, an explosion was in the air.
When the smoke cleared, the shattered lid revealed the sacks of gold in the iron box. But there was too much gold for the saddlebags of the robbers to hold. The rest of the bags were distributed among the outlaw band. They then fastened the sacks to their saddles and rode into the forest.
The guards took the coach to the next stop and reported the robbery and murder. A large posse was formed immediately and set out after the outlaws. Their tracks were easy to follow, and they were soon surrounded. They surrendered without firing a shot.
The posse counted the sacks of gold and then took the bandits back to Deadwood, where a check disclosed that $18,000 had been recovered. But the stagecoach had carried $25,000. Where was the other $7,000 in gold?
Diligent searches failed to uncover the gold, and to this day, no trace of it has been found. Somewhere near the Cheyenne River, a historic prize awaits someone. Today’s prize is worth many times the $7,000 it was when it vanished.
Dewey Rascombe, 27, was the only survivor of the posse-chased bunch that had robbed the J. J. Harris bank in Laramie, Wyoming, on Tuesday, May 23, 1882. They got away with $18,830 in gold coins and two bags of silver dollars, each containing one thousand un-circulated coins from the San Francisco mint.
The outlaws, four besides Rascombe, fled into the Mummy Range southwest of Laramie. But they hadn’t much more than getting into the hills before a posse led by Marshal Gabe Hahn was on their trail. Looking over their shoulders at the staff in the distance, the outlaws dispersed into the wilderness.
Marshal Hahn was a competent lawman who dispatched several men after each of the scattering bandits. Before the first light of dawn, the outlaws were dead, except for Dewey Rascombe, who had been thrown from his horse. He was sprawled unconscious on a grass meadow when his pursuers rode up.
The posse had recovered the canvas bags of silver dollars, having shot each of the outlaws carrying them off his horse. They had killed the other two, also, but neither had the poke with the bank’s gold.
“He’s the one that got it or at least had it, “Marshal Hahn said, looking down at Rascombe’s unconscious body. “We had the others in sight every dog-gone minute, and they never had a chance to hide it.”
But Rascombe had eluded his pursuers for a short while, and the way the law enforcement officers put it together, during the brief time he was out of sight, he had done something with the elk hide poke that had held the bank’s gold.
Rascombe was taken back to Laramie, where he stood trial for the robbery, refusing to tell where he had cached the gold. His trial was held in the Laramie Public School, a one-room sawn-pine structure in which grades 1 through 8 were taught. The presiding judge was the Honorable Everett Coberleigh, the First Wyoming District circuit court magistrate.
The jury consisted of 12 locals, including Rolly Grenard, brother-in-law of bank teller Ira McCloud, who had been fatally shot during the robbery.
“I didn’t shoot that pore cuss,” Rascombe testified, “and that’s the pure gospel truth.”
“If you didn’t, you would have if one of them other trash hadn’t done it first!” Grenard bellowed.
The rest of the jury nodded in agreement and found Rasbombe guilty. Grenard, the jury foreman, told Judge Coberleigh that the jury recommended, “The sumbitch be hung by his neck till he kicks off.”
Judge Coberleigh set the execution date: “First light on Friday, June 19, 1882.” This was just four days away. Rascombe dropped through the gallows trap at dawn on Friday, June 29. His neck broke with a sound like a busted stick. It was not reported if over $18,000 in gold has ever been found.
In the early 1860s, word shifted eastward of rich gold strikes in Montana Territory. This news attracted the attention of a steady flow of prospectors, one of whom was G. T. Lee. Lee was a man who dreamed of finding his fortune in the gold fields. Unlike most, Lee made a rich strike, only to lose it.
In 1877, Lee’s story appeared in R. E. Strahorn’s extensively researched HANDBOOK OF WYOMING AND GUIDE TO THE BLACK HILLS. The book contained a great deal of information on the gold rush that swept the Black Hills after gold was discovered by members of General George A. Custer’s exploratory expedition in 1874.
However, some prospectors, including Lee, had found gold in the Black Hills much earlier. In 1863, Lee and 12 companions set out from Missouri on the long trek to the gold fields of Montana Territory. Traveling to the north of Fort Laramie Road, the party came to within sight of the Black Hills in what is now South Dakota. The men decided to pause briefly to explore the hills before moving on.
In a stream in a deep ravine well beyond sight of the plains below, they found gold in such large amounts that they delayed their plans to go to Montana Territory. Over the following months, they steadily worked the gold-laden stream by simply panning it. As they found more gold, they built sluice boxes to speed the recovery.
The first winter snows forced the men to abandon their claim reluctantly, but they swore to return the following spring. Moving back down to the plains, they pushed on to Montana Territory, reaching Alder Gulch in December 1863. They soon forgot their vow to return to the Black Hills, for they found the Montana gold fields so rich that they worked them for several years.
In 1876, Lee moved to Central City. Rather than seek gold in the fields, he pursued it by opening a small shop in town. However, he had not forgotten the rich place deposit he and his companions had worked so long before.
He traveled through the gold field in his spare time and was convinced that none resembled the deep ravine. He told Strahorn that the rich placer that had yielded so much gold was still lost. Lee’s deep ravine and rich placer deposit remain lost.
Sandy-haired Ella Watson and her lover, Postmaster Jim Averill, were hanged in a gulch near the old Bothwell Ranch in Sweetwater River country of Wyoming one summer’s day in 1899. They met their fate under mysterious circumstances. Whether the lynching was intentional or not is still debated among Wyoming cattlemen.
However, no one disputes that with their deaths, no one remained who knew where the pair had cached $10,000 to $50,000 in gold and silver, which they had accumulated from stolen cattle deals. The two had been partners for several years, and at one time, Averill owned a saloon near the Bothwell ranch.
The valuable caches have lured treasure hunters over the years, but no one is known to have uncovered the cache. Averill’s saloon and Ella’s ranch would be good places to start looking if you could learn exactly where they stood in Sweetwater Valley.
Robbery in the Old West was commonplace, and hiding the loot was the only way to handle it with a bloodthirsty posse on your heels. Some of the thieves lived out their years in prison, but many of them, like “Big Nose” George Perrott, with half-a-million dollars cached away, died a violent death. He and his gang specialized in robbing gold and payroll shipments. They all died before they could spend a fraction of their loot, or so it is believed by historians.
No one knows for sure how much “Big Nose” George managed to steal, but the stages often carried as much as $10,000 in gold each trip.
One of “Big Nose” George’s caches is believed to be near Beaver Creek, Wyoming, as the gang robbed the Deadwood to Cheyenne Stage several times. He was caught and tried on December 14, 1880, and was hanged by a mob.
“Big Nose” George came to a dreadful end, but his many loot caches remain hidden in Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota, waiting for the treasure hunter to uncover them.