Lost Treasures in the Old West

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Lost Treasures in the Old West

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The Pearl Ship of Juan De Iturbe (1615)
Always reported close to the sand hills west of El Centro, CA., the Pearl Ship might be the same ship as the Lost Galleon (see – below). However, the descriptions seem to describe a Spanish ship more the size of one of Columbus’s small Caravels. The story goes that in 1615, Spanish explorer Juan De Iturbe sailed a shallow-drafted caravel up the Gulf of California and a high tidal bore carried him across a strait into Lake Cahuilla, which was in the process of drying up. Unable to sail out again, Iturbe beached his craft and made his way back to the nearest Spanish settlement, leaving behind a fortune in black pearls.
This ship has been seen and lost several times and there are several stories about the ship having been partially looted. Tiburcio Manquerna, a mule driver of the de Anza Expedition* was said to have removed some the pearls in 1774 (only what he could carry) and fled the expedition with his booty. An El Centro farmer named Jacobsen, supposedly found a very small chest of jewels, which he quietly sold in Los Angeles sometime around 1917.  The legend also claims he used timber from the ship to build pig pens. The Pearl Ship is rumored to have been seen as recently as the 1970s.
Fifteenth-century records from New Spain (Mexico) indicate that the De La Cadena family did have a pearl diving monopoly in Baja California…
*(see: Wk. 39, 09/29/1775)

A mine? A treasure?KS (1757)
An 1757 map of Louisiana (DuPratz), indicates a gold mine at the mouth of the Little Arkansas River*. Then again, maybe it wasn’t a mine, but a buried treasure? That version of the tale says: a small party, traveling from New Mexico, had a disastrous fight with local Indians (Wichita’s maybe?) and all but one were killed. This lone survivor supposedly buried valuable items and a large amount of money, then made good his escape. It’s said that Jesse Chisholm guided a party to the confluence in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the treasure (1836). Numerous others followed with the same result.  {001}
*Today, within the city of Wichita, KS. I would venture a guess that the earth in the area of these claims has been pretty well turned over as the city grew, probably more than once. Maybe one of the old time floods, of the two big rivers there, got the goods? – Doc

The Lost Blue Bucket Mine – OR  (1845)
In the summer of 1845, Oregon-bound emigrants, led by one Stephen Meek, attempting to follow his newly minted “Meek Cutoff”, became lost; near the Malheur River… or was it near Bear Creek in today’s Crook County… or maybe somewhere between Wagontire Mountain and the south fork of the Crooked River? Anyway, one evening, they camped near a dry stream bed of potholed lava. They sent some young adults/children/a girl, from the wagon train to dip water from the potholes. Along with the water in their blue buckets, these young explorers brought back a few shiny rocks. When asked, “Was there much of it?” One said, “We could have filled one of these blue buckets”. “Copper” someone opinioned and most of the stones were left behind.
Of course, Years later, one way or another, the surviving stone (s), maybe it was Mrs. Fisher’s nugget… or was it that family’s drawer full of “souvenir” stones (?); they are, at long last, recognized as large placer gold nuggets. No one could remember quite where they had been (they had been lost, ya’ know).

Crooked River Map Oregon - Lost Treasures in the Old West

Crooked River, OR

John Day River Map - Oregon - Lost Treasures in the Old West

John Day River, OR

Many have searched, but none have discovered the “lost mine”. If the lode exists, and considering the possible locations referenced in the legend (s), the area of potential interest along the Meek Wagon Train trail between the present day cities of Vale and The Dalles in Oregon, comprises some 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2. You won’t have any problem finding more information about this great old Western Legend in today’s Baker City, The Dalles or Vale, Oregon. Today, three mines in the U.S. bear the name “Blue Bucket”, but all, even the one in Grant County, Oregon, are not the real, “Lost Blue Bucket Mine”.  (see also: The Originals Index – TrailsThe Meek Trail & Wk. 02, 01/08/1889 – Stephen Meek)  {001}

The Peralta Mine – AZ  (1848)
Superstition Mountains – Old lost Spanish mine; numerous variable legends.
The miners were driven out/killed by Indians, including one last desperate attempt to escape with a pack string carrying high grade ore from the mine. Ambushed and killed, the pack animals killed or dispersed into the desert and left where they died. Some have allegedly been found; the skeleton of a pack mule, still wearing the rotting panniers, spilling high-grade gold ore back to the desert. The Indians having no use for any of it, hid the mine and the gold.

Holdup Gold – CA  (1853)
$40,000 buried in the Trinities (CA)
by George Skinner  (Rattlesnake Dick & Co.)

Gold Bars under a ledge – CO  (c. 1859)
Late in the fall, headed to Denver from Central City, a miner seeks shelter from a storm in Clear Creek Canyon and finds a hoard of gold bars. He can only carry one to Denver for assay. The next spring he can’t relocate the place…

Reynolds Gang Treasure – CO  (1863-64?)
Many years after the event, John Reynolds the last survivor of the gang (1863-64), lay dying of gunshot wounds suffered during a horse theft in Taos, New Mexico. He related an old conversation and the drawing a map for outlaw friend, Albert Brown. He either gave or showed a map to Colorado lawman, Detective David J. Cook. In his autobiography (1897), Cook quotes Reynold’s conversation with Alfred Brown as follows:
“Jim and me buried the treasure the morning before the posse attack on Geneva Gulch. You go up above there a little ways and find where one of our horses mired down in a swamp. On up at the head of the gulch we turned to the right and followed the mountain around a little farther, and just above the head of Deer Creek, we found an old prospect hole at about timberline. There, we placed $40,000 in greenbacks, wrapped in silk oil cloth, and three cans of gold dust. We filled the mouth of the hole up with stones, and ten steps below, struck a butcher knife into a tree about four feet from the ground and broke the handle off, and left it pointing toward the mouth of the hole.”
After Reynolds died from his wounds, Brown and his partners traveled to the South Park area, trying to find the treasure. When they arrived at the site, they were disappointed to find that a forest fire had destroyed many landmarks. While they found an old white hat that supposedly belonged to the decapitated Owen Singleterry, a headless skeleton, and horse bones in a swamp, they were unable to find the rocked-in prospect hole. Brown and his partners made three more attempts to find the treasure, but finally gave up and returned home. Albert Brown later died in a drunken brawl in Laramie City, Wyoming Territory.
By all accounts, the money remains buried somewhere in the South Park (CO) area.

Lost Pegleg Mine – CA
(see: Wk. 41, 10/10/1801 (1866)

Custer Treasure Monument by Moncure - Lost Treasures in the Old WestCuster’s Gold – MT  (1876)
1. Was it an Army payroll, hidden by Custer’s hard pressed troopers? Historic records indicate that a pay wagon of $25,000 in silver, gold and bank notes accompanied the soldiers into the field (was it because commanders were worried their men would blow it all on booze, gambling and girls if they were paid before their march, or did they want to be able to pay them off after a successful campaign?). This alleged payroll and the soldiers personal items (watches, lockets, rings), were never recovered from the battlefield, and few such artifacts have appeared over the years.
2. Was it gold nuggets given to Captain Grant March of the steamboat Far West on the evening of June 26 by three men; Gil Longworth, a wagon driver, and Tom Dickson and Mark Jergens, his guards. (the day after Custer’s death, still unknown to Marsh). They were carrying a shipment of gold nuggets from Bozeman, Montana, to Bismarck but Longworth was worried that he would be attacked by the Sioux. Marsh accepted the gold but he too was afraid of Indian attack and had it buried ashore that very evening, a half mile up the Little Bighorn from the Yellowstone. The Bozeman men were killed by Indians a few days later.  The Far West became involved with the survivors of the Custer debacle and March never did return for the gold.
Or, was it a $375,000 shipment of gold bars from Williston which the Far West was to deliver to Bismark after taking supplies upriver to General Terry. But when 52 wounded men were brought on board to be taken to Bismark, this time, March has to bury the gold ashore, to make room for the wounded and the firewood to make the voyage. He does return for the gold and even finds the correct location on the east bank, where they had harvested firewood some twenty miles up the Little Bighorn; but a large mudslide has covered the burial site and they can find nothing.
4. “I remember years ago, when my grandfather was alive, he spoke about a time when his grandfather’s grandfather was in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. After the battle, Sitting Bull and his people went north towards Canada, Crazy Horse and his people went south. This band came to The Stronghold, located in the Badlands of South Dakota – there Crazy Horse told his people to gather together all that they had taken from the battle field. After gathering all the items, he divided the items onto four buffalo hides and told four of his best warriors to ride in each direction (east, south, west and north), a day’s ride and bury the items. My grandfather was told that there were numerous items which included coins, rifles, sabers, clothing, buttons and anything the women had found. This is a story that very few people know about. Those that did know have since passed on. I consider myself lucky to hear stories like the ones my grandfather used to tell.” by Scott Wolter – 2014

Is any of it real? There’s more, much more…
(see: Wk. 26, 06/25/1876)

The Lost Ship in the Desert – CA  (c. 1860’s) aka: The Lost Galleon
or The Spanish Galleon…
“…an ornately carved Spanish galleon, complete with crosses and broken masts, mostly buried in the sand several miles from the nearest water…” Charley Clusker (1870).*

Salton Sea - Lost Treasures in the Old West

Satellite image of the Pacific Ocean, the Salton Sea, the Colorado River,
Laguna Salada and the northern end of the Sea of Cortez

The stories began just after the Colorado river flooded in 1862. Colonel Albert S. Evans reported seeing it in 1863. “A half buried hulk in a drying alkali marsh or saline lake, west of Dos Palmas, California, 40 miles north of Yuma, AZ” was reported in the Los Angeles Daily News of August 1870. Some claimed it was visible at a distance of several miles from a mesa that lay between Dos Palmas and Palma Seca, CA. (Not particularly well mapped in 1870, the names may also be given as: Soda Springs, Indian Springs or Bitter Springs.) Expeditions sent find the ship, returned empty handed. Perhaps the ship had vanished into the mud and sand of the vast desert once again; or as some old timers claim, it now rests beneath the waters of the ever shrinking Salton Sea. Some say the ship could be Sir Thomas Cavendish‘s ship, Content (last seen 11/17/1587), filled with pirate plunder… or is she possibly the Iqueue, manned by Spanish mutineers who vanished without a trace (c. 1700’s)?
Other suggestions, perhaps a bit further afield, have included: a ship from the navy of King Solomon; one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, a warring people from the Indian Ocean, the Chinese Treasure Fleets commanded by Admiral Zeng He (1404 -1430). Of these, it does seem possible that the Chinese were on the west coast of North America before Columbus arrived in the east.

* Charley ventured out into the desert again to visit the ship once more, but this time, he never returned…
(see: Wk. 46, 11/12/1870 & Wk. 48, 12/01/1870 for Charley’s story.)

A mountaineer, storm-stained and brown
from farthest desert touched the town
And, striding through the town held, up
Above his head a jewell’d cup.
He put two fingers to his lip,
He whispere’d wild, he stood a-tip,
And lean’d the while with lifted hand,
And said, “a ship lies yonder dead,”
And said, “Doubloons lie sown in sand
along yon desert dead and brown,”
Joaquin Miller 1875, The Ship in the Desert,
Roberts Brothers – Boston

The Ferry Boat or River Schooner in the desert…
These tales appear to be efforts to explain or debunk the Lost Galleon stories…
Maybe, it was an abandoned ferry or a steamboat that broke away during a Colorado River flood and ended up high and dry in the vast sands of the river delta (1872). Maybe, it was a schooner that gold seekers, wishing to search the more inaccessible portions of the Colorado River, built in Los Angles and hauled through the desert by a mule or ox team until the animals perished, leaving the boat forever sailing in the concealing soft sand (Martin Vise, 1881). Maybe, it was a  small ferry (a two-man sweep) which was built away from the river in a place a hundred feet or so above sea level, where a source of wood was found, and that a team of six (or more) oxen perished attempting to haul it through the sand to the Colorado River near Los Algodones, MX (1889).
Of course, the problem with all of these versions, is that there is no treasure!

The Viking Ship, or the Serpent-Necked Canoe  (c. 1900’s)
The Mexicans and Indians who live near the Laguna Salada basin in the Colorado River delta region, seem to have originated these stories sometime around the beginning of the twentieth century.  The ship, is consistently described as an open boat with round metal shields on its sides, somewhere in the badlands fringes of the Laguna Salada; south and east of Mexicali, MX.
One Myrtle Botts, a librarian from Julian, CA, had an encounter with an old prospector (c. 1933), who showed her photos of what she called a Viking ship. He gave her and her husband directions to the location, However, an earthquake prevented the Botts from following the prospector’s directions to locate the ship. Julian’s Pioneer Museum, (which inherited Myrtle Botts’ papers), also inherited those directions. (Treasure? What treasure..?)

Reno Gang Loot – (c.1868)
These boys were train robbers. Pretty good ones too, they amassed a fortune that could be worth a million $’s in today’s devalued funds. Thing is, they never got to spend much of it. Ten of ’em got lynched and the sole survivor went to prison. There are three grave sites in the Seymour, ID city cemetery, one for each John, Sim, and William Reno. However, a least one local legend says that the bodies aren’t actually there. Maybe, the bodies and the loot are somewhere on the old farm that belonged to a sister? Today, there is a winery on the old Reno property, the sister’s house and outbuilding are long gone, and the land is plowed and used to raise a crop every year. Permission to dig for supposed treasure is hard to come by. Hope dies hard in Jackson County and other sites have been proposed. Perhaps the most unusual is the rumor that the ill-gotten gains were actually sunk deep in the east fork of the white river. Some still search and the money has never been found.  {001}
PLAYERS – Timelines – Timelines M-Z – Reno Gang Timeline

Skeleton Canyon Massacre Loot – AZ  (08/01/1881)
Were there any “leftovers”? Did the Red Sash Gang bury anything?
It seems improbable, but local legend claims maybe they did…
(see: Wk. 31, 08/01/1881)

Black Bart Loot – CA  (c. 1880’s)
Did  Bart bury any loot?
(I doubt it, his robberies supported lifestyle. – Doc)
(see: The  Originals Index – Timelines Index – Timelines A-L Index – Black Bart Timeline)

The Legend of the Swamper Tombstone, AZ (1880’s)
The Grand Hotel in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, had hosted such famous personalities as Wyatt and Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday and Red Sash Gang members Billy and Ike Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, as well as numerous others. It required a large staff to operate this impressive institution.
In his own special bedroom, located in the dark basement, lived a trusted and honest employee whose accommodations were included as part of his wages. This janitor and odd job man, was known by all as “The Swamper”. In this private haven where he could enjoy peace and solitude away from the hustle and bustle of the hotel and where no guest was invited, he also nursed his passion for silver. It turned out that the basement was deep enough below the surface of the ground to afford entrance into  the catacomb of mine shafts which ran underground beneath the hotel, as well as most of Tombstone.
Over a period of years, “The Swamper” spent many lonely hours tunneling from a secret entrance in the basement, into those mine shafts. When his digging was completed, he had gained access to a thick vein of silver.  There, over time, he extracted his personal fortune in silver nuggets. It is unknown if “The Swamper” spent his silver, …or if he hoarded it in an unknown niche somewhere on the premises of the old Grand Hotel. The mine entrance is still a prominent feature of the basement under the Hotel’s bar. It should be noted that the hotel burned to the ground 05/26/1882*.
In modern times, several workers of today’s “Big Nose Kate’s Saloon”, swear they have seen a ghost wandering the halls and stairs. Photographers have caught the ghostly image of an unknown being on photos which can be seen on a postcard of the saloon’s interior. It has been suggested that the ghost is indeed “The Swamper” and perhaps  he yet guards his hoard, which may still be buried somewhere in the rebuilt, legendary building.  {001}
Wk. 36, 09/09/1876 – Grand Hotel
Wk 21, 05/006/1882 – The Great Tombstone fire

Lost Dutchman’s Mine – AZ

(see: Wk. 43, 10/25/1891)

Lost Nigger Mine – TX
(see: Wk. 29, 07/19/1899)

The Dimmick Hoard – CA  (1901)
A theft of $30,000 from the San Francisco Mint
by employee (assistant manager) Walter Dimmick.
This was only $20 gold coins, all dated 1900.
Six bags of coins, 54 pounds, never recovered.
Far too identifiable, I think these were most likely melted down. – Doc

Train robbery in CA (c.1870’s?)

Stagecoach Robbery – CA  (c.1870’s)
75,000 buried, outlaws killed.

Knights of the Golden Circle.  (c.1880 – 90’s)
Various alleged hoards, mostly in the southeastern U.S.
Unlikely in the West. – Doc
(see: References – DictionaryKnights of the Golden Circle)

Certainly one of the best “documented” Western treasure tales.
Way to big and convoluted for The Reader, this is just a taste…

The Great Underground Citadel of the Grand Canyon  (1909)
“The latest news of the progress of the explorations of what is now regarded by scientists as not only the oldest archaeological discovery in the United States, but one of the most valuable in the world, which was mentioned some time ago in the Gazette, was brought to the city yesterday by G.E. Kinkaid, the explorer who found the great underground citadel of the Grand Canyon during a trip from Green River, Wyoming, down the Colorado, in a wooden boat, to Yuma, several months ago.” Etc., etc.
Arizona Gazette, Monday evening, April 5, 1909
Here is just a taste of this wonderful tale. The claims include: “…the race which inhabited this mysterious cavern, hewn in solid rock by human hands, was of oriental origin, possibly from Egypt, tracing back to Ramses.” “War weapons, copper instruments, sharp-edged and hard as steel.” “…the idol, or image, of the people’s god, sitting cross-legged, with a lotus flower or lily in each hand. The cast of the face is oriental, and the carving this cavern. The idol almost resembles Buddha, though the scientists are not certain as to what religious worship it represents. Taking into consideration everything found thus far, it is possible that this worship most resembles the ancient people of Tibet.” “…Upwards of 50,000 people could have lived in the caverns comfortably. One theory is that the present Indian tribes found in Arizona are descendants of the serfs or slaves of the people which inhabited the cave. Undoubtedly a good many thousands of years before the Christian era, a people lived here which reached a high stage of civilization.”
“I was journeying down the Colorado river in a boat, alone, looking for mineral. Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon, I saw on the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation about 2,000 feet above the river bed. There was no trail to this point, but I finally reached it with great difficulty.
Above a shelf which hid it from view from the river, was the mouth of the cave. There are steps leading from this entrance some thirty yards to what was, at the time the cavern was inhabited, the level of the river.”
G.E. Kinkaid (1909)
And so much more… did I mention the mummies? Thing is, it was all taken over by the Smithsonian scientists, the artifacts removed and the cave sealed and concealed. Nothing has ever been published and the whole thing hushed up. Its almost like it never existed at all…
Of course, this is the sort of thing that could upset everything we think we know about history. Not only that but “Ancient Alien Theorists” are pretty sure the builders/inhabitants weren’t Indians anyway. As with the next article, perhaps some caution is indicated for those who seek the truth of this one…

And the granddaddy of ’em all…

Montezuma’s Treasure, the lost wealth of the Aztec’s.  (c. 1520’s)
Early Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortez and his band of looters murdered Aztec Leader Montezuma IX (aka: II)  in June of 1520 and made their panicked escape from the city of Tenochtitlan July 1st. Later, as the Aztec Empire was collapsing (1521-22), legend has it that a large group of the wealthy and powerful escaped to the north with fabulous treasures of the realm; silver, gold, cultural and religious relics. They are supposed to have traveled to their ancestral lands in the American Southwest and, in the end, buried the treasure and never returned for it. The search for the hoard has spanned nearly 500 years, from Mexico City to Kanab, UT; the current “hot spot”. You will need to learn about the “Peralta Stones” (1956) and the “Fifth Tablet” (1982). A few see Aztec signs and symbology here and there among the rock art in the southwest…
Some caution is indicated, in that, in addition to the real dangers of the unforgiving desert itself, it is just possible that this particular treasure is dedicated to/owned by and/or guarded by, Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent.

Quetzalcoatl telleriano - Lost Treasures in the Old West Quetzalcoatl in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (16th century).

It does happen. There are certainly lost treasures out there.
This one wasn’t on anybody’s list…

Saddle Ridge Hoard
Largest ever found in the U.S.

Saddle Ridge Hoard can - Lost Treasures in the Old West

This can and seven others were probably the original burial method for the 1,427 gold coins. Photo: U.S. PD 2013 Kagin’s Inc.


Saddle Ridge Hoard coins as found 2013 - Lost Treasures in the Old West

Photo: U.S. PD 2013 Kagin’s Inc., loose gold coins as found.


Accidental find of Gold Coins in California in 2013. No one knew anything about this hoard before its discovery. Face value: $ 27,980; coins date from 1847 to 1894. Numismatic value conservatively estimated at $ 10,000,000+. The U.S. Government agrees it is not stolen government/mint funds. It might be a buried outlaw heist, if so, unidentified. Likely a personal stash. A Knights of the Golden Circle hoard? (unlikely)

Coin grading and certification revealed that over a dozen of the coins are either the finest known or tied for the finest known specimens in the PCGS Population Report.

The collection includes:

1866-S $20 Double Eagle/no motto valued at around $1 million
1866-S $20 Double Eagle/with motto PCGS MS62+ (finest known)
1877-S $20 Double Eagle PCGS MS65 (tied finest known)
1888-S $20 Double Eagle (four) PCGS MS64 (tied for finest known)
1889-S $20 Double Eagle (two) graded PCGS MS65 (tied for finest known)
1894-S $20 Double Eagle PCGS MS65 (tied for finest known)

 OWDR 1856-S Double Eagle reverse - Lost Treasures in the Old WestOWDR 1856-S Double Eagle obverse - Lost Treasures in the Old West
This coin is a tad earlier than any from the hoard.
Don’t we wish we still minted these beautiful coins?
Photo: U.S. PD 2013
Coin: James B. Longacre
Image by Lost Dutchman Rare Coins


Other references:
Wk. 08, 02/21/1857 – Spanish Piece of Eight
Wk. 44, 11/04/1904 – Indian Head Eagle $10
Wk. 52, 12/28/1933 – calling the gold!
The Originals – Trails – Oregon Trail Half Dollar
See also:
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – Mining Minerals
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – Gold Rushes
Photo Gallery Index – Mining Photos – Silver Rushes
The Originals – Lost Treasures in the Old West – Hoaxes


 There’s plenty more out there, GOOD LUCK!

barbed wire divider2 - Lost Treasures in the Old WestEnd: Lost Treasures in the Old West

{001} C 06/17; E 06/17: F 08/13; P 07/17

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