Gold Panning in the Ouachitas

Friends, recently we had an inquiry about gold panning in the Ouachitas. I can get only a little more specific than what I said in the Arkansas Gold Rush post on this site.

Old timers who were alive in the 1880s “gold flourish” as it was called, told us kids stories of several people finding gold in the streams around our homestead. The tributaries of the Ouachita, Cossatot, Little Missouri and Little Saline in Polk County have the possibility of finding a few colors and in a couple of those streams, tradition holds, nuggets were found.

Reminder needed here is most of the clear, cold spring fed streams in the high mountains are under the protection of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Meaning you can’t do “nuttin” in those waters. No dredging, sluicing, digging of any sort. This protects the little leopard darter and some small mussels that can’t stand muddy water.  

Little of the land in the Ouachita National Forest is private and most of that owned by non-residents who use it for vacation homes. Almost all private land is posted and guarded with cameras. All it takes is a picture of you on the land to get a conviction for criminal trespass.

My suggestion for finding the most likely place to find flour gold or perhaps a few colors is to read the post mentioned, and get old maps of the area to locate the names of the mining camps from the 1880-1915 era.

The most minerals found in Polk County come from the Novaculite (Arkansas whetstone) geological formations. This area is generally Southeast of Mena. The belt trends Southwest to Northeast. This same region is called by the State Geologists; “the Silver belt.” It begins just west of Little Rock to across the Oklahoma state line and actually almost to Atoka, OK.

Several producing silver mines were reportedly operating in this belt for over a century. Also found in this region are lead, antimony, copper, turquoise, cinnabar, barite, bauxite, manganese and the only producing diamond mine in North America, near Murfreesboro on the southern edge of the silver belt.

One tin deposit was claimed almost due east of the Shadow Mountain RV park on U.S. 71. I remember visiting that prospect way back when some of my kin were trying to make it produce. I think the old digging is on private property so I won’t get more specific here.

Once a the owner of a auto repair shop near Mena showed me a small vial of colors said to have been panned in Mine Creek east of Shady near the old CCC camp. This fellow is a genuine nice guy and I don’t doubt his word.

The only gold I ever saw coming from Polk Co…..for sure?.. was a bean sized nugget with gold in a dark gray matrix found by Isom Avants in a small creek near his home. The branch is now called “Nugget Branch” by old timers in the county. Another nugget was said to have been found by Polk County Surveyor, Jim Wood while deer hunting just over the mountain from where Isom made his find, on the north side of Fodderstack Mountain. He was searching for blood where a wounded deer crossed a small branch when he saw something shining in the water. I know this caused quite a stir of activity resulting in some manganese mines being developed up a southern fork of the little unnamed stream. This stream joins Brushy Creek north of Sugartree and east of Smokerock mountains. There is an old mining mill site located at the junction of these streams. Ruins of an old concrete bridge and some big tailings piles make this easy to find. Just beware of hippie school bus dwellers running around there naked as has happened in the past.  It’s a long hike up the canyon to where the nugget was said to have been found, however that location is west of the divide separating the waters of Brushy from those of the Cossatot drainage.

I suggest anyone venturing into these mountains obtain a good Topographical Mapping program so waypoints may be uploaded to a good GPS.  My recommendation would be Delorme Topo software.

Delorme software works wonders for our treasure hunting and even allows John and I to work treasure depositories without ever leaving our office. A good field man with camera, compass, maps and a good GPS is all we require to work KGC/*** treasure sites.

If I can find a digital copy of the map drawn by the Arkansas State Geologist in 1884, I’ll post it on this site. It will be very helpful for locating old mines and prospects in western Arkansas.

As many of you know many of my ancestor’s families produced prospectors, investors, miners who worked the mines of Pike, Polk, Howard, Sevier and Montgomery Counties for many years. Some of my umpteenth Great Grandpa’s brothers were among the first Anglo-Americans to settle in Southwest Arkansas a decade before it was a state.

 I’ll throw in an anecdote here about an old family tradition. It started back in the 1600s around Jamestown, VA. One of my ancestors told his family, “It’s time to move, I can smell smoke from someone’s fireplace.” This tradition was followed though Virginia to Pittsylvania County, then to North Carolina in Buncombe, Co., to Hawkins Co. Tennessee, to Owsley Co. Kentucky, finally to the Ouachitas in Southwest Arkansas.  Most Brewer’s were great woodsmen, hunters, trappers and miners. So if you wonder why I’m a Hillbilly now you know.

Have Fun!

And if you write please include a name. Seldom do we answer anonymous inquires. We don’t mind helping most people but there are some we prefer to leave stumbling around trying to learn treasure hunting. They deliberately try to confuse others by screwing up the facts.  Crossed rifles…What a joke!

Public Lands for the People

This post is for all Americans involved in outdoor activities and Public Land Use. Our rights to use public land are being threatened on a grand scale.

Treasure Hunters, Prospectors, Relic hunters, or anyone who loves the outdoors, Please read the newsletter. Joining this group(PLP)is so important to all of us. If you are concerned about your rights to use public lands, read to the end and sign up.

Newsletter from Public Lands for the People (PLP) read it and join, they have the manpower to help our hobby and secure it’s future. Public Lands for the People
 
Thank you much, Keith Wills
checkout: www.wwats.org if you care about the future of our hobbies!
 

 

 

 

 

Smoke Rock Treasure, A Mystery

Most of the information in his story came from a fascinating old mountaineer named Isom Avants. Isom was a third generation descendant of pioneer families who settled in the Cossatot valley.
    I too, knew Isom most of my life, my Uncle Odis Ashcraft was his neighbor and a very close friend. The Avants and the Ash crafts grew up together and as adults worked side by side in the mines and log woods. Isom searched for the Cossatot treasures most of his life. He knew more about Spanish treasure buried in the Ouachitas than anyone, except the people who buried it.
    As a youngster, I sat spellbound as Isom and his brother Ed told treasure stories at the dinner table or on the front porch of their mountain home near the Cossatot River. 
   Later, when I was grown, Isom allowed us to pitch our deer camp at the edge of his property at the base of Avant’s Mountain. We continued to camp there even after Isom moved to Mena in the late 50s or early 60s. Each year Isom and Ed visited our campfire relating memories from 70 plus years of living at Avant’s Mountain.  Isom had a fondness for good “moonshine” whiskey and we always had a half gallon on hand. The whiskey guaranteed entertainment for a few hours. Ed seldom said anything but backed up what Isom told by nodding his head or pointing his finger at his brother and saying “right, right”. Isom knew every story and legend in the Ouachitas. He knew about every treasure hunter who ventured into the Cossatot/Brushy region from Civil War times to the present. It was no wonder that everyone searching for treasure sought help from Isom.  Most of what Isom told was about Spanish Treasure but Albert Pike’s gold and outlaw treasure was also mentioned.  Portable cassette recorders had not been invented when I last talked to Isom, but I would have given anything to have another chance to record his stories. At that time it didn’t cross my mind to take notes so all I relate must come from old memories. Isom’s nephew and my lifelong friend Bob Tilley have some knowledge of Isom’s stories as they were related to him by his mother, Isom’s sister.
Bob Tilley and I agree on the fact that Isom would never have told a stranger any factual information about a treasure. He was talkative, but sent many a treasure hunter on a wild goose chase. Many, if not most, of the native highlanders in the Brushy and Shady communities were kin to the Avants. Many of them also sought buried treasure. Still most of the secrets they held went to the graves with them. Apparently the family intended to, “keep it all to ourselves”. 
    Today treasure hunters can still be seen hiking the ghost trails of the Ouachitas. Hardly a week passes that some treasure hunter doesn’t run up and down the Cossatot River seeking buried treasure. Rumor has it some treasure has been found but proving it would be hard to do.
     A decade ago, even the world’s most famous treasure hunter, Mel Fisher was seen in the Ouachitas.  Mel and Dayne Chastain were in Mena on business and since I knew them both they invited me to breakfast and spent a couple of days together.
At first Mel claimed he was not treasure hunting but was involved in a gold mine speculation. Mel was involved with a company called Equity AU and was said to have providing collateral for a gold refining mill near Mena.
After I learned more of what was going on, I realized the gold mine and ore refining mill were a cover story for a major treasure hunt.
A major clue that the operation was a treasure hunt came when Equity AU purchased a property right in the center of a legendary treasure site. For nearly a century, this private property surrounded by National Forest, was the focus point of a Spanish treasure legend. The 70 or so acres bought by Equity AU was in fact the very property controlled by my Uncle and his family since the 1930s. It was Edna Ashcraft Lawrence that sold the land to Equity AU. Edna was W. D. Ashcraft’s daughter. She married Dan Lawrence and they’d owned the property since about 1935. Uncle Odis and Aunt Bessie Brewer Ashcraft lived there from 1932 until 1936 when Dan and Edna bought the land. This was the property which was the center of my hunt for Confederate (KGC) gold.

After spending a few days in Mena, Mel Fisher returned to Key West, with a copy of our “The Bible Tree” video. The Bible Tree is now the most famous treasure map tree in America and still stands near the property Mel was involved with. Coincidence? No, Mel was privileged to KGC documents indicating treasure was buried in the Brushy area. When he learned I had been working on the same treasure stash for about 40 years he wanted to know what I had learned. Of course I wouldn’t reveal anything to him until we talked terms of partnering. Mel was battling cancer at the time and losing ground. After getting back to Florida he and I exchanged letters and phone conversations, but nothing was agreed to. Within a year or two Mel succumbed to cancer and his treasure hunt/Gold mining venture quickly came to an end.
Decades ago in these beautiful Ouachita Mountains three young boys were taken prospecting by their favorite Uncle. As they hiked up a hollow, beside a clear swift creek, Uncle Odis pointed to a depression in the ground. This is where the “Mexican” is buried, he told the boys. As they continued to walk, the mountaineer explained that the grave was that of a treasure hunter, murdered in 1884. The man that killed him was born and lived on the very homestead, where the Uncle now lived.
Still Hollow, the canyon where Osborn (some say Raymon)  Vanatta’s grave is located, is surrounded by a rugged old mountain with a enigmatic past. It’s steep, heavily forested slopes are accented with strange rocks coated with a black, soot like deposit.
This mountain, the deep narrow canyon over which it towers, and a beautiful spring fed stream flowing through a narrow gorge, share in common, the name “Smoke Rock”. The name is used here both as a noun and a adjective, for the whole area surrounding the mountain and soot black cliffs on nearby hills are collectively referred to as Smoke Rock. This fascinating terrain is the setting for several of the strangest, Spanish treasure stories ever heard, in or out of Arkansas. Of course, one wonders why such an isolated mountain in Arkansas would harbor such tales of Spanish mines or buried treasure.
    Looking at the geology of the Smoke Rock vicinity is reason enough to consider the plausibility of such stories. Many minerals have been discovered in the area, including gold and silver. Some of which were mined paying quantities.
    The gorge through which Smoke Rock creek flows appears to follow a major fault line and the mountain is one of the very few places in the Ouachitas that volcanic, or igneous rock can be found.

In 1882, a foreigner one day appeared in the Brushy community. Reportedly he was also looking for a mine or treasure buried near a clear stream, the path to it marked on trees and rocks, the signs being arrows, turtles, Indian heads and other carvings. (newspaper article)
The key, to finding what he was looking for, was locating an old tunnel or cave with the entrance sealed up many years before.
 This man, named Osborn (old timers called him Ramon or Raymond) Vanatta, and said he was from Mexico. He was described as a “Castilian Spaniard” standing well over six feet tall, and in a holster on his hip carried a big six shooter. The “Mexican”, as everyone in the community called him, announced he would pay well for some men to help him locate “a lost gold mine.”
 
The treasure hunter was, on several occasions, observed studying a leather map, it’s lines and symbols drawn by branding with a hot object. The map was kept very secret and would be quickly put away if anyone approached. Only a couple of his most trusted employees ever got to view it.
Vanatta referred to the mountains in the vicinity by their names on his map. These names began to be used by the men who worked with him, and in turn were adopted by residents of the community. Today, only natives of that community still use them. They are not to be found on Forest Service maps. Some of the strange names are Church Mountain, Queen’s Hill, and Gold Hill. (Notes interview with Aunt Edna Lawrence 1989) 
Some of the men who worked with the “Mexican”, lived in the towns of Janssen and Cove. They were Captain J.H. Ward, a Confederate veteran, skilled in construction work and mining. Two brothers, George W. Wagnon, a doctor or pharmacist who later owned a drug store in Cove, and Marion A. Wagnon who lived west of Janssen in the Cecil’s Chapel community. These brothers both lived comfortably in years following their work with Vanatta. They were both older men and may have been treasure hunting just for adventure.  Traditions states that Marion was the powder monkey in charge of blasting and George supervised a crew of laborers. (Newspaper article on part of this legend)  
  Vanatta began his treasure hunt near what later became Camp Wilder. He started by drilling a small tunnel into the bank on Little Brushy creek, but found nothing. Abandoning that place, he moved further up the creek and dug under another bank. It seemed to the men who worked for him, he was obsessed with digging into every place an earth covered bank was found on a clear creek. Later, he put forth great effort to drain a large swamp  on the south side of Smoke Rock mountain. Soon he abandoned this place too. 
THE MURDER OF VANETTA, A SPANISH TREASURE HUNTER
     After nearly two years of examining the stream banks of all the creeks in the area, Vanatta finally decided to search a mountain near Big Brushy, close to the mouth of Smoke Rock Creek. When driving a tunnel into the mountain there, a powder charge opened an old tunnel which ran parallel to the new tunnel. The Spanish dug tunnel was not visible, because the entrance had been cleverly concealed decades earlier. Inside, they found very old mining tools, including, drills, shovels and picks. These were later identified as 17th century Spanish. Some of these tools made headlines in a newspaper when they were stolen from the man Vanatta had hired to identify them. (Newspaper story of Deputy Sheriff being sent to Texarkana to recover the tools.)
 Believing he had found the right area, the “Mexican” dismissed most of his help and concentrated on searching Smoke Rock mountain and it’s creek valley

One extremely hot day in June 1884, Vanatta was seen returning to his cabin, leading his well lathered black mare. The saddle bags were loaded so heavily that it appeared they would tear apart.  The young wife of W. H. Hatfield noticed the bulging saddle bags when the Vanatta passed her on the trail. The Hatfield family had kept an eye on the strangers work for two years and now it seemed he had found something.
 The story, as written in 1884 by a newspaper reporter, was a family named Hatfield had a quarrel with the “Mexican” over a mining claim. Vanatta wanted the family to move so he could dig near where their cabin stood.
When I was a boy I was shown The BIBLE TREE which stands only a short distance from that Hatfield cabin. Treasure carvings on that tree indicate a chest of treasure was buried on the mountain just across the creek from the cabin site.(Documents on hand and John Hatfield’s grave stone, carvings on trees etc.)
 After being seen by the Hatfield woman, Vanatta scolded her and in a very threatening manner vowed, “I am going to clean out you people on Brushy Creek, if your spying and snooping around my work don’t stop”.  The woman ran to her brother-in-law’s home, in tears relating the threat to him, Tandy Hatfield, a lad of seventeen or eighteen years of age, was furious over his sister-in-law being threatened and vowed to challenge Valetta’s threat. Emphasis was placed on the fact that Vanatta had recently purchased a new Winchester repeating rifle. Bought supposedly with the intention of using it to settle the dispute.(William Hicks taped interview)
(Note: no record of any mining claim filed by Vanatta exists. He was not prospecting for minerals, but was a treasure hunter hired by a group of investors, “searching for a fortune in Spanish treasure.” (quote from him in newspaper article)
Soon the quarrel with the Hatfield family came to a deadly conclusion. 
 Tandy, because his older brother was in Texas, decided to solve the problem once and for all. Tandy approached a neighbor named John Eubanks asking to borrow his new big bore hunting rifle. At first Eubanks refused but when promised a half of deer when the rifle was returned, he consented.
  Before daylight the next morning the boy was hiding in the rocks above where the “Mexican” had been working on the previous day. Soon the big man showed up and dropped into his trench to begin the day’s work. The stillness of that hot morning was shattered by shots from the large .40-60 caliber Maynard rifle, fired twice by Tandy Hatfield. The heavy bullets tore into the Spaniard’s back, cutting a perfect “X” through his upper torso. (Taped interview with William Hick’s.)  My brother Jack found one of the 40-60 Maynard cartridge cases with a metal detector, behind a large rock above Vanatta’s tunnel, proving the story is true.  A second empty case from the same rifle was found at the old John Eubank’s home site. 

No doubt, Osborn Vanatta died instantly.
It was a couple of days before the bushwhacking was discovered by George Wagnon. He found blood and a fresh grave, a few hundred yards down the canyon from the murder site.
 When the sheriff was notified and went to question the boy, Tandy Hatfield admitted the killing, saying it was justified in self defense. Still, he was arrested and arraigned on charges of first degree murder on August 28, 1884. Just how it happened is not clear, but Tandy was freed from jail, some say a shyster lawyer named Max Patridge arraigned bail.  Others, who should have known, as they were alive at that time, claim Tandy escaped jail and hid on Hanna Mountain for several years with aid from his family.  He raised fruit and vegetables on the side of the mountain irrigating his garden with water from what is still known as “Tandy Hatfield’s” spring. Another story told around Shady has some of Tandy’s family or friends assisted him in a jailbreak and him escaping to Mexico, or New Mexico.  (On tape William Hicks)
 From an interview with John Eubanks grandson; several years later Eubanks, who loaned Tandy the rifle received a letter from him but it was not signed except for a large “X” made exactly like the paths the bullets made Vanatta’s body. The letter was kept by the family for many years and its believed the letter, the rifle and a match box made from fired cartridges are still in the family.  (Tape of William Hicks) and (Carl Lawrence in Mena)
For many years, Vanatta’s murder has troubled me. During the past 62 years, I have visited the grave many times and pondered what I was told about the event. Around 40 years ago I discovered, what I believe, was the real motive for the murder. Vanatta was killed at the entrance to an old treasure vault. I believe he found some of the treasure.
When I located this tunnel it was almost resealed by erosion of the mountainside. Positive I had found the treasure; I enlarged the entrance and crawled inside to find the tunnel empty. I believe the mine was worked again by miners in the 1900s, but the Spanish work is still evident. (Photos and tunnel still there)

After the Vanatta’s death one of the men that had worked with him continued to search for the Smoke Rock treasures.
    Captain James Ward would spent many years treasure hunting and prospecting in the valley. He spent thousands of dollars moving earth and drilling tunnels into the mountainsides. It is not known if he ever discovered any treasure.  He did however develop a manganese mine with the purest lode of that ore ever found in America. (Mining claims and newspaper articles)  
      Ward died on Sunday morning October 24, 1896, (from obit) leaning back in a cane bottomed chair on his porch at Hatton, Arkansas.
Here begins another chapter in the Smoke Rock mystery.
On December 31, 1896 a large group of heavily armed men camped outside of Smoke Rock canyon. They were anxiously waiting for sunrise New Year’s morning. They were there to take advantage of a law allowing the restaking of any mining claim which did not have the assessment work completed on it the previous year. At the signal of a dynamite blast, the crowd made a mad rush to restake all of Ward’s mining claims in the Smoke Rock area. The Sheriff posted deputies to prevent bloodshed as they argued over the claims.
The would be treasure hunters wanted the right to work Vanatta’s and Ward’s old diggings. All of which had been controlled for years by Ward, who paid armed guards to protect his work sites at all times. The courts spent a great deal of 1897 deciding the rightful ownership of the newly filed claims. (Mena Star article)
From then until 1932, little documentation can be found on persons searching for Smoke Rock’s treasures. Although plenty of stories both from newspapers and oral tradition tell of an active gold rush during this period when hundreds of prospectors roamed the region searching for gold and silver.
In the surrounding mountains  prospecting  continued for years and numerous mining claims were filed on minerals found in the area. No doubt most of these claims were cover for treasure hunting activities.
A man named William C. Dobson is the next in the line of treasure hunters to come to Smoke Rock mountain, he or one of his kin may have at one time worked with Vanatta and Ward, for he was born in the town of Cove in 1866, and lived in the county for many years.
   He returned to Polk County from the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, where he’d pursued the Lost Dutchman Mine for several years. He and his wife Laura arrived at Grandpa, W. D. Ashcraft’s place on Brushy, on a Sunday morning in the spring of 1932.  After staying a few nights with the Ashcrafts, they moved to a miner’s shack across Smoke Rock Creek from Queen’s Hill.  Two of the Ashcraft boys guided him to the mountain he sought. (Uncle Odis and his cousin Bud. same story by all Ashcraft’s)
The description I have of Mr. Bill came from several people who knew him. The old man had a large growth on the back of his neck which allowed him to wear any size of hat since it could only fall down to the growth. He constantly chewed tobacco and the juice ran out both corners of his mouth, dribbling on his shirt and overalls. He was very energetic and went everywhere in a hurry.
 William Dobson, Mr. Bill as he preferred to be called, searched up and down the creeks looking at signs on Beech trees before finally deciding to dig around the base of Queen’s Hill.
 He repaired the old cabin near the mouth of Smoke Rock creek and then went treasure hunting. He would work long hours every day even Sunday.
 In 1933, he asked my Uncle and his Father to go to Mena, the county seat of Polk County, to sign as witness to his filing a claim on his diggings. Dobson’s claim covered an area from the base of Queen Hill on the South side of Smoke Rock Creek to the Southeast side of the Little Smoke Rock Mountain on the North side of the creek.
 Bill Dobson and his wife depended on their neighbors for transportation and much of their food. They bought milk, eggs, and butter from my Aunt Bessie Ashcraft and later her Sister-in-law Edna Lawrence. One day while visiting Edna, Mrs. Dobson confided in her that, Bill had an old map, drawn on lambskin, which showed that an immense treasure of Spanish Gold and Silver bars were buried somewhere near their cabin and that they would soon find it. (Aunt Edna 1989)
 Gene Stevenson, who worked for Dobson, also saw the map at Ernest Nelson’s home near Hatfield. It was an old map drawn on leather. After showing the boys the map and explaining what they would be doing at the treasure site, Dobson hid it somewhere in the barn on the Nelson place.)
 Mrs. Dobson passed away in 1936, but Bill continued to search for the Smoke Rock treasure for several more years.
      Dobson hated to leave his work, but occasionally would go to the little town of Hatfield, about 12 miles west of his claim, to purchase supplies and hire help. Sometimes he would spend the night in town with a local merchant named Tutt Harris, and then ride back to his diggings with Jimmy Harris when the supplies were delivered.
  When digging under the cliffs of Queen’s Hill, the old man found a rusted metal helmet, and later a large machete type of sword, badly rusted and the handle missing. (These finds were given or sold to a man named James Slote, who ran a small private, sort of museum near Hatfield, and they remained there until his death a few years later, then since have disappeared.)  
  These finds only whetted Dobson’s appetite for treasure and he hired a full crew of local boys to help him with his work. Raymond and Bud Ashcraft and Odell Lawrence from the Brushy area, Jimmy Harris, Gene Stevenson, Dave Stone, Gene Foley and others from Hatfield.
 Old Dobson also had some partners in his venture, a man named Hamilton initially filed an adjoining claim in the area, later he transferred his claim to Bill Dobson. Others named Dobson were also involved. A son, Joseph Dobson, was a world famous pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and is believed to have funded the treasure hunt. Someone named C. L. Kenworthy was a partner for several years. (Evidence discovered in my research on these partners, leads me to believe that Kenworthy very likely found at least some of the Smoke Rock treasure, probably without Bill Dobson being aware of it.)  
   In the end, it was, only Bill who continued to search for the treasure. He worked in the area for nearly fourteen years, with winter breaks to return to Arizona in pursuit of other treasures.             
Then on June 7, 1946, while a young hired hand named David Stone, was working near the cabin. Bill was at a new site up Smoke Rock creek a few hundred yards away. Around lunch time Dobson was heard yelling and came running toward camp. When he reached the foot bridge crossing Smoke Rock creek, he lost his balance and fell into the stream. As the younger man pulled the old treasure hunter from the water, he was told by an ashen white, almost incoherent Dobson, “I have found it! I’ve found it, wait till you see it”! After Bill calmed down he said, “I’m going to show you something that will shock the hell out of you”. (Or words to that effect). The old man said he’d rest and then take his co-worker to see what he had found. “I covered it back up, but you’ll soon see it”!  Those words were to be his last, for he had no more than said them, when he clutched at his chest, his eyes rolled back and making choking sounds, he collapsed into the creek again, dead of a massive heart attack.
Dave Stone, who was said to have a keen sense of humor, later told his wife, that old man said he was going to shock the hell out of me, and he sure did.)
 Dave summoned Raymond and Bud Ashcraft to help, and the old man’s body was taken to Mena.  In the time it took to complete the trip and give the statements to the sheriff, a sudden summer thunderstorm dumped heavy rains in the Brushy area, causing a flash flood. The high water erased all traces of where the old man had been digging. To my knowledge nobody has ever found out what shocked the old man to death.
    Since Dave Stone did not know exactly where Dobson was working the find is probably still hidden.
I know of only two clues which give a hint of where Dobson was digging, both of them to remain secret at least for the time being.
 A large beech tree near the Dobson cabin was cut down and burned for wood by the old man to eliminate the treasure signs carved on it. I was told those signs were a huge snake crawling down the tree looking toward the base of Queen’s Hill, one of the snake’s eyes was a square box, and the other a cut out circle. The tip of the tail was almost six feet from the ground.  According to Dobson,  another important tree on his map was a hollow Beech filled with stones.  One day after a spring storm Linda and I went to Smoke Rock Creek and found a large Beech had been broken down by the storm. A hollow snag about 6-8 feet high was all that was left of the tree, we found that filled with stones. That tree was within 100 feet of Dobson’s diggings.
 After Dobson, several other treasure hunters have spent a great deal of time on and around Smoke Rock Mountain. I have spent many years in search of Smoke Rock’s elusive Spanish treasure and have explored every nook and cranny on the old mountain. My detector has covered every place which even remotely resembled a burial site.  My wife and I have now located at least three of the treasure’s cache sites (empty of course) and believe two more exist. I am expecting that someday more of the treasure will be removed from the area, hopefully by me, but I won’t be disappointed if it never is found.  
EVIDENCE THAT THE TREASURE DID/DOES EXIST
   The evidence I have uncovered during my experience at Smoke Rock proves the treasures are real. I believe artifacts found in that vicinity prove the Spanish were there. They include a bronze trombone like  pistol, a small handmade wood working or mining tool, and a crude horseshoe rasp.
Some distance from Smoke Rock, a slug of silver apparently spilled at what probably was an ancient smelter, suggests that ore was reduced there. Also found in that area were many pieces of glazed pottery, large amounts of charcoal residue and slag from metal refining. Even one complete human skeleton was found in 1903 among all of the smelter debris. (Newspaper)  
As mentioned before, the trench where Vanatta was murdered is the entrance to an old tunnel. It is clearly marked as a treasure site. His grave is located just a few of hundred yards away. Evidence indicates the vault was probably opened about the time of the murder.
There is a well marked Spanish treasure trail leading to it.
My theory about this tunnel is that someone knew what the “Mexican” had found and with the help of the Suttons and Hatfields, tried to make it appear the killing of Vanatta was justified. Court records show four people had to put up their property as a bond to ensure they would testify for the state against Tandy. It’s possible all those were involved or at least knew more about the murder than was said. Two families left the mountains soon after the crime. One immediately bought many acres of prime Texas (not proven rumor) land. Tandy either changed his name or never returned to Arkansas. (a possible candidate for Tandy is J.P. Smith, a character in this mystery that appears here about 1900, with no known past, he was a close friend to Jonathan Hatfield, Bill Wiley, John Avants, Will Ashcraft and others. All that is known about him is that he may have married a widow living on Long creek and died there. I can’t find a grave for him. 
To continue this baffling mystery.
Another Tandy Hatfield, a nephew of the accused murderer, and son of his brother Jonathan Hatfield, became a well known goldsmith owning a large jewelry store in Texarkana. How a hillbilly could learn the art of goldsmithing while living in the Ouachita Mountains still remains a mystery. Besides where would a poor woodsman get the gold to practice his trade? Also a mining claim in his name produced green crystals with which he made emerald settings for his jewelry… But that is another story in itself.
Copyright Bob Brewer 1993-2012

 

The Persher Code

Why hasn’t the Lost Dutchmans Mine been located despite so many clues available as to it’s whereabouts?  Let’s open our minds a wee bit about treasure and treasure stories.  As you see from this message below (written several years ago by a well-known researcher), if the truth ever comes to light, the LDM and many other targets may have solutions hidden in plain sight, so to speak.
 

The persher code! The Knights Templar invented this code to send messages back and forth during the crusades! That was the stated purpose. It is not actually a code, but a style of writing where the true message is hidden within the obvious story being told.  After the KT “went to sleep”, persher was used in most of their writing. This continued right up through the early 20th century by the old Confederate Knights and is still being used today by authors wanting to record a message to those initiated and keep it secret from others who may read the story.
 
Many of the books about the Confederacy, old west and war history might be written in this style. If you pick up a newspaper from the 1870-1920s reporting weird or unbelievable stories, especially if they pertain to Lost mines or buried treasure, they are most likely written in persher. Take most of the Spanish treasure tales and analyze them carefully, looking for clues and you’ll come away knowing they are coded.
 
In order to read between the lines you must already know what you are looking for or it will just sound stupid or silly.
 
The Lost Adams Diggings is a prime example of persher. The true story is there but everyone takes it at face value. The first few lines of a later version of story, after the first newspaper mention in the 1890s introduces Gotch Ear, the Mex-Ind that led them to the gold. If you are looking for the code and know that Jesse James was the Comptroller of the KGC the name would trigger you to think of JJ. Got-ch or Got yah! with the ear. Every serious JJ researcher ought to know that the Missouri Jesse James had a deformed ear. If you study a few different photos of him this is apparent. Note also that few of his photos show his right ear.
 
So, that is persher.  Adams had no front name, as was said by J. Frank Dobie in his version of the story.  Of course any astute KGC researcher would know that Adams County, Mississippi was the HQ of the KGC as long as Gen. John A. Quitman was alive.  It was from Ft. Adams, in Adams County or Natchez, that the first KGC agents were sent to California at the beginning of the gold rush in 1849.  Jesse James father, also a KGC agent, went to the gold fields in 1850 to join up with other KGC members already there, who were establishing KGC control. Another connection with Adams county is Jacob Waltz, the original Dutchman of AZ LD fame. He also hung out in Adams County when the KGC was getting its feet on the ground.  It might interest some of you to know that the Jacob Waltz’s base of operations at a time was Adamsville, AZ and that it got its name from a man named Adams that had a grist mill on the Gila river.  Several other KGC treasure areas are at places named Adams.  It goes on and on in this way.
 
Much persher is used in dealing with the Lost Dutchman. Hmmmm! Did you know there was a Dutchman with Adams?  Does that make you wonder about anything?  You do know the route that Adams party took would have led them very close to the Superstitions!  I know some of you will argue that point but if you read carefully Drago’s version of the story, which is pure KGC persher, you will see I’m right on this.  I won’t go so far to tell you the Adam’s deal is the same as the LD, but I’ll hint that they may be connected.

We’ll stop for now. There is a lot of info for you to digest. You just might want to re-visit some of the “sure thing” treasure stories from your past and see if there isn’t a bit more to them.

HBB & JVL

Deceptive treasure hunting information on the web

Friends, we are concerned at the amount of false and purposely deceptive treasure hunting information now being promulgated on the Internet. 
Before the debut of the World Wide Web (WWW)   treasure hunters obtained their knowledge and skills in one of two ways. Either way it took years of hard work to become the least bit successful. Novice treasure hunters could beat the bushes searching for treasure lore or apprentice to an old timer learning lore, dished out little by little. Those truly in the know are careful not to train competition too quickly.

So most of you realize by now, true, useful treasure lore is nearly impossible to come by. 

The reasons seasoned “money hunters” remain silent on their work are many. First, we know never to let a motor mouth hang around. Today’s electronic age has created ego maniacs. They are compelled to compete in every facet of life. Facebook , Twitter and certain forum boards have destroyed our old timers’ trust in secrets being kept.
 In fact, we’ve proven its a sure bet, if we reveal a secret to someone, it will appear online as soon as they boot up the PC.

True treasure lore is protected to prevent unscrupulous people from finding and trashing treasure sites. In our consulting work several of our clients destroyed historic treasure clues soon after we pointed them out. This is unacceptable!
Real treasure hunters should be historians and archeologists. We record everything we find so even after we are gone our work can be studied.
We know every trick in the book used by people trying to fish information from us. We gladly share our lore with trustworthy people. It just takes time.
If you are only after the gold your education won’t come from Ouachita Treasure Consulting and/or Golden Circle Research! 

New topic: Then there are confused “experts” who publicly decry our work. They post their rants on forums which readers may or may not reject.  Our concern isn’t about us. The attacks on everything we say and do might prevent sincere, honest, hard working treasure hunters from accepting new ideas which would help in their work.

John and I are not about to lower ourselves by responding to those attacks. Instead we have decided to let our readers research leads we provide.

In the future, at random times, we will post a link,  which if followed will lead to a clue explaining something about KGC or Rebel Treasure. Here we will post your findings and/or questions on the subject.
We will respond with comments and answers where possible. 
Return frequently to this site for clues to reading maps and interpreting +++ treasure clues.

Question: What has chess to do with +++ treasure?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess

So you want to be a Money Hunter?

 

Dad-Gum-It was Grandpa’s favorite expression when something went wrong or surprised him. My Dad and his siblings also used that exclamation and of course it passed on to me and my siblings.

After my kids surprised me with a Birthday party a few days ago, all I could say was Dad-Gum-It! Partly it was because of my being unaware of the party, but mostly it was from the shock of suddenly realizing how old I am.

Over the past few years I’ve begun to notice fewer and fewer of my school day friends and cousins are around. My frequent trips to the cemetery, where generations of kin are buried, show how fast the burial ground is filling up. Also, I’m thinking of my “big Brother” passing away going on four years ago at the exact age I am now. It suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightning out of the blue…. Dad-Gum-It life really is short!

Where did my life go?

My first exposure to buried treasure was in June 1949. In the nearly 63 years since seeing the first treasure map carved on the Bible Tree, treasure hunting has been an obsession. Even when living in other states the treasure hunting crowd was my friends and took me to every treasure site where access was allowed. In 1977 the profession became nearly full time with Linda and I. Whatever time we could spare from ranch work and our kids would find us in the nearby treasure region. Sometimes how to spend our last 20 dollars came down to groceries or gas for our 4 X 4 to go hunting. We always chose the latter and ate from the garden and/or game from the ranch.

Odds are good, no living person knows more about the treasure buried in Southwest Arkansas and Southeast Oklahoma than us. Our film library contains over 400 hours of video taped treasure signs and symbols. Photo files in our office contain thousands of images of treasure carvings and clues found throughout the southeast and Southwest.

John and I partnered up almost 20 years ago. We’ve searched for buried treasure all across the USA. Amazingly, to us too, we’ve actually deciphered or decoded every treasure map we’ve had access to. It would shock you to know the number of those maps.

We have solved the mystery of Arizona’s famous Peralta Stone Maps, Jesse James’ Keechi Hills treasure, Jonathan Swift’s Lost Silver mine, The Lost Confederate Treasury at Danville, Va., and over two dozen treasure sites belonging to our clients which we cannot discuss. Some of our work is known to the public but a lot more remains to be shared.

A few years ago Golden Circle Research and Ouachita Treasure Consulting was well staffed with about eleven full time members. In the past 4-8 years we’ve lost nearly all of our partners. Age took its toll on some of the first members them being unable to walk long distances. Most of the others succumbed to cancer of some kind. To honor their memory I’ll mention their names here:

Richard Scott, RichTX died with liver cancer about 2005. My Brother Jack Brewer, arkyjack assisted in our work whenever his health permitted, died of brain cancer Christmas Day 2008, Anita Spears, TrioCavers from KY only about 41 years old, died of breast cancer about Dec 28th 2008. Jim Weaver Highplainsdrifter died of throat cancer Fall of 2010.

With those thoughts in mind, I talked to John, and together we decided it is time to bring some new blood into our ranks. Reaching that conclusion was the easy part, now our phones are quite busy discussing just how to accomplish this difficult process.

Who to share information with and How to share it presents a dilemma. Both John and I understand neither of us will live long enough to work all the treasure sites in our files. Training others to actually understand treasure maps and clues well enough to work a site will take considerable time and effort. However, selecting who to train in our skills must be a long drawn out process. No person without a spotless reputation for honesty can be considered. We won’t chance someone we train passing information on to others. We have prevented this in the past, so it can be done.

Surely most of our readers have noticed how a few self-proclaimed treasure “experts” continuously try to discredit our work. They would have you believe we are just rookies and only they possess the knowledge to decipher certain maps and clues. Sadly they are sorely mistaken in their beliefs.

The main flaw in their boasting is they never found any treasure. Its one thing to get online and brag of your expertise, its quite another to be paid, and admittedly, rather well for repeatedly demonstrating your ability to decode treasure ciphers and clues. Could we embarrass these “experts” should we ever care to do so? You Bet!  Our intention is never to shame anyone, ever! One day the facts concerning how, where and what was buried in the area of their claimed expertise will be proven. But that is off point..

Ouachita Treasure Consulting has openings for five to ten trainees (non-salaried) as field men and site evaluators. To apply for one of these positions a full résumé must be submitted to <hootowltree.com> All information is kept entirely confidential. Include name, address, all email addresses, aliases used, if any. Years experience in cache hunting, regions worked (need not be too specific). Martial status, occupation, three or more references from serious part time or full time treasure hunters. Druggies and/or Drinkers (one or two beers at a barbeque not counted) need not apply.

If you are a serious treasure hunter/researcher, please contact us via this blog. Our only guarantee is that we will evaluate all applicants by the same criteria—-  Honesty, expertise and above all, loyalty!

The Great Arkansas Gold and Mineral Rush (Revised 2010)

This article was first published in the LOOKING GLASS magazine in 1992

 The Great Arkansas Gold and Mineral Rush (Revised 2010)
first published in the LOOKING GLASS magazine 1992

Eureka, Gold! Gold! Gold! When gold is discovered anywhere the news spreads like a California wildfire. The expectation of quick and easy wealth gives rise to latent emotions in all people regardless of nationality, race, age or status in society. The love of wealth, the greed to obtain it, the excitement of finding it, depression after losing it, and anger at those trying to take it from us are some of those emotions.
Even the most primitive people recognized that the rarity and durability of precious metals made them special and highly valuable. Gold was ferociously protected by whoever was lucky enough to possess the yellow metal. Only the American Indians found no use for gold until they learned the white man desired it more than life itself.
Through the ages the search for or discovery of precious metals has inspired man to undertake the exploration of unknown lands, prompted mass migrations of populations, provoked terrible wars, and forever altered the culture and history of complete civilizations. The lust for gold is as old as man himself. In pursuit of gold travelers on the road to riches and treasure have found the crimes of murder, robbery fraud, and deception their traveling companions.
The discovery of gold or silver invariably brings a sudden rush of people into the region. The majority arrive at the scene of the strike complete novices having no mining or prospecting experience. The supposed experts who arrived earlier on the scene may not have discovered gold, but instead learned a thousand ways to fleece novices of their grubstake. The opportunists in the gold fields came in many occupations. Lawyers, saloon keepers, hotel operators, land developers, gamblers and prostitutes. Also flocking to the boom towns were thieves and outlaws looking for easy pickings.
During the great California gold rush in the 1850s, many Western Arkansas farmers were among the thousands of gold seekers who braved the dangerous journey west. Later those with a bad case of “gold fever” followed the rush to places like Lead Hill, Virginia City, Cripple Creek, the Black Hills, the Klondike, and gold fields in Alaska and Canada. These places a man could “strike it rich” or “hit the Mother Lode.” However most of the Arkansas miners did not get rich and slowly found their way back to Arkansas. In the Ouachita Mountains farming and the log woods provided jobs for most of the returnees. Still some diehard miners would not give up on their dream of striking it rich and began to prospect the mountains in their backyard.
Suddenly in 1884 one of the old miners in the Ouachita Mountains of Western Arkansas announced he had discovered gold in a tributary of the Cossatot River. What he’d spent years searching for afar was finally found within a stone’s throw of his old home.
This discovery, according to the story, was made near the mountain community of Brushy. The name of the old prospector is lost to history, but word of his discovery was destined to have a lasting effect in the Ouachitas. He announced the gold strike on the front steps of the Polk County Courthouse at Dallas the county seat. News of the gold strike spread quickly throughout the county and state. Newspapers across America published the news and within months, geologists were proclaiming the Ouachita Mountains contained untold wealth in the form of gold, silver, lead, zinc, manganese, and other valuable minerals.
In 1889, Professor J. Van Cleve Phillip, of St. Louis, proclaimed “This area of Arkansas may be the richest place in North America for gold, silver, tin, lead, nickel and manganese.”
This claim was later reiterated by several noted Geologists in and out of the state, all agreeing the Ouachitas are very rich in many minerals, including gold and silver. Most noted the type of hard rock mining required to extract the ore from their source was often not very cost effective. Still they predicted “it was likely someone would locate some very rich pockets of ore.”
By 1890, the gold and silver rush had begun to gather steam. Miners came from near and far to search the banks and beds of the clear, cold mountain streams for rock formations containing veins of white or grey quartzite. Intense searches were made for the telltale glint of gold, or the black, grey or green of silver ore. They climbed to the peak of every mountain and explored every ravine. Soon the cry “Eureka” brought back from California echoed through the virgin forests that covered the rugged Ouachita landscape.
In 1887, Captain Ward, a Confederate veteran, began work on what was reported to have been an ancient silver or gold mine. The site was on a mountain just south of Shady. He dug a shaft down 123 feet in the spur of the mountain, but abandoned it after striking poison gas. Taking his operations below the lead, he drove a tunnel 462 feet into the top of the vein and 518 feet under the crest of the mountain. The volume of tailings removed made his mine the most intensive tunneling operation in the Ouachitas. Although he was searching for gold and silver, he discovered an abundance of manganese and became the first manganese miner in Arkansas.
In 1896, construction was in progress on a new railroad linking Kansas City to the Gulf Coast. Its route through western Arkansas’ Polk County led to the establishment of what would become the town of Mena, Arkansas. News of the railroad’s route fanned the gold rush flame into an inferno.
The Mena Star, an infant newspaper destined to grow with Mena, printed in its first issue the news of a rich gold strike. For months thereafter another rich mine was announced by the Star, almost daily.
On September 2, 1896, Mr. Frank Moritz, an assayer, sent for a representative of the Star to view “some of the finest specimens of ore and ore bearing rock ever seen in this country.” Two hundred pounds of samples were on display at the Wells Fargo office in Mena. One specimen weighed over 78 pounds and was reported to be almost pure ore composed of gold, silver, lead and zinc found at a depth of only 5 feet. It was taken from a cone shaped vein having a point 30 inches in diameter. The cone growing larger as more of it was exposed. The ore came from near the Cossatot River. A mine in another area showed only free deposits of silver assaying 85 ounces to the ton. The Howard County Mining Company proclaimed, “In this area will be found the richest mines ever developed in the United States.”
September 9, 1896, Mr. B.F. Kennedy reportedly found pure deposits of manganese and much more in samples taken from a mine near Mena. He positively informs the Star that recent claims of gold, silver, lead, and zinc are not only true, but that the metals abound in Polk County.
Reports of rich gold, silver and mineral strikes continued to reach the owners of the Mena town site regularly. Mena’s land developers sent advertisements to newspapers throughout the world, stating that with the new railroad, abundant mineral wealth, cheap land, a wonderful climate, plenty of streams for water power, and forests for lumber, Mena would surely be a “rough diamond” of cities. The railroad promoted its stock by announcing that ore mined in the nearby mountains could be inexpensively shipped to smelters in Kansas City, thereby making mining ventures more profitable.
In the mountains east and south of Mena, new mining towns and camps sprang up almost overnight. Places like Eberson City, just south of Shady, founded by a Civil war veteran named Captain Hanesley. The new town featured two general stores, an assay office, a U.S. Post Office, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a shingle mill, a water powered grist mill and other businesses.
J.F. Stolts and C.W. Houston, pleased with their prospects on the Cossatot River, announced their intentions to build a new town named Baby Ruth City. It would be located at Wiley’s Bluff where a small mining camp had already been started by a man named Toole. Baby Ruth City had a 24′X60′ two story hotel, complete with a dining hall and maid service. An attempt was made to secure a new post office for the camp, but it failed. Also planned was a large dam across the Cossatot River to provide a continuous source of water power for mining operations. Thomas Schosser and his son, while hunting in the mountains in October 1899, visited the new town site and reported the hotel nearly complete, the grounds all cleared and the area fenced with a new board fence. The materials for the new dam were being stockpiled on site.
The dying frontier town of Gilliam Springs found new life in the gold rush, its hotel and dining hall become popular with the flood of prospectors working the Cossatot Valley. This new found prosperity was short lived, for in just a few short years nothing was left. Today only a name on the map is the only indication a town ever existed there.
The most famous of all the mining camps was Camp Wilder (N34° 28.615′- W94° 15.196′) located on Little Brushy Creek near the west end of a mountain known as Boar Tusk. The area well known for its mineral concentration is by legend is where Spanish and later Mexican miners found silver and gold in the 17th and 18th centuries.

At Camp Wilder the most elaborate mining operations in the area were conducted. The unexpected discovery of an old Mexican mine on a claim owned by J.H. Wilder, led to his finding gold, silver, and copper in the valley. After failing in several attempts to free the precious minerals from the ores in paying quantities, he formed a new company, called Arkansas and Texas Mining, and sold stock in the mines. The president was J.H. Wilder, with Thomas Mahoney, Secretary of Treasury, and C. Petty of Marshall, Texas, Vice President. The new source of capital allowed Wilder to purchase the equipment needed to adopt a new process using a sodium cyanide solution to leach the metal from the ore. This precipitate was then smeltered, and nearly 100% of the gold, silver and copper recovered.
Camp Wilder became the first mining operation in Polk County to use electrically powered mining processes. A large dynamo provided the power for the mill, lights, and a large electric smelter. This smelter was located upstream of the now partially cleared area where an old CCC camp stood until 1941. This author has found a greenish slag from the smelter in considerable quantity in this area. The slag is very similar to that collected the silver mine smelter at Reymert Mines near Superior, AZ.

 

Other mineral strikes were announced on Fourche Mountain (N34° 41.584′-W94° 6.692′ “approximate”. There an old prospector named Dutch Bill discovered one of the richest gold mines found in Arkansas. Other claims there produced some quantity of gold ore.
Gold and silver was mined at Silver World east of Mena by Confederate General Heath. (N34° 31.141′-W94° 4.101′ location approx. Private land no trespass please) 
In Montgomery County just east of the Polk County line, a prospector named Judge Orr displayed ore that assayed out from 24 ounces per ton, taking claim to being the richest ore found in the area. (N34° 26.027′-W93° 53.483′ Location never disclosed but said by old settlers to be somewhere between Slatington and Mosquito Gap.)

The Bella Mines in Sevier County near King produced copper ore containing some gold and silver that sold for $3,500.00 per carload. Several veins were worked in that general area, mostly in the steep banks of the Rolling Fork River. My Great Great Uncle Pleasant Brewer worked the Bella Mines (Circa 1880s) and may have been a partner in the operation. The main mine just north of the Bella Mine Bridge is now submerged by DeQueen Lake. (N34° 7.687′-W94° 23.554′) Uncle Pleas’ home place can be seen as a small island having a large Oak tree or two a little south and east of the Bella Bridge. DeOueen Lake is great fishing and has nice camp grounds near the bridge. 
Antimony was mined in Northwest Howard County and a small town called “Antimony City” sprang up there. It existed until around 1910 then became a ghost town. Not too many years ago Jim Alexander, I and others belonging to a Rock and Mineral Club, explored some of the old open pit mines there. Last visit to the area clear cutting and plantation pine planting has erased any evidence of the old mining camp.
On the west branch of Carter Creek, SSE of Dallas, and Worthington’s “Golden” mining camp produced gold from three mines. (N34° 30.365′-W94° 12.702′)  Ruins of Golden’s wooden buildings were still visible in 1989. The area evidently was clear-cut some years ago and briars and brush block the road to the mines. Grady Lawrence, an old timer living near Golden, reported (Circa: 1993) the main mine tunnel had been blocked. The road to the site is now closed with a metal gate. A few years ago, talk round Mena, rumored gold being panned from Carter Creek.
Near the Egger Community of Cherry Hill, The Helen Gould Mine also produced gold ore. N34° 35.199′-W93° 59.853′  The exact location of this mine was noted on an old mining district map. No copy of that map is on hand. Well known treasure hunter, Apache Jim Wilson once said he’d located an old mine NW of Pine Ridge on USNF land. A gold mining claim which sold several years ago and involved a lawsuit is located east of the Highland Community and is about NW of Pine Ridge. N34° 37.678′-W93° 56.703′  Coordinates from memory and pretty general. 
Several silver mines were reported near Janssen, now the town of Vandervoort and a large lead and zinc deposit called the Towery Lode, was located on right of way of the new Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroad just north of that settlement.

The Hatfield Herald reported a rich tin vein located on Blowout Mountain, assaying as high as 261 pounds per ton. N34° 30.841′-W94° 15.697′.  (Note added 2011. This tin claim was once owned by W. D. Ashcraft, the Grandpa in my book “Shadow of the Sentinel.” Clues to KGC treasure are found on and around this mountain.)

Mr. John L. Sullivan, a worker at the railroad roundhouse, reported a gold strike 5 1/2 miles north of Mena. The ore vein was 3 1/2 feet wide and ran a full 600 feet that he could follow. Some of the ore from that mine was refined in the roundhouse furnace and produced a gold button weighing 27 grams from a sample weighing only 3 pounds.
Miners from the famed Cripple Creek Colorado Gold Rush came and staked their claim on Gold Hill. A Mena Star story relates. “They found gold so free in their mine that the ore could be roasted over an open fire, and gold buttons would fall free into the ashes, being almost pure.”
On September 30, 1896, Mr. George M. Craig, general agent of the Mena Town site Company, announced that an iron and steel plant would be constructed in Mena. The plant would utilize inexhaustible supplies of iron ore and manganese from local mines to produce steel. Adequate reserves of coal were nearby to produce coke for the furnaces. The plant, with all its associated industry, would require 1,000 men to operate. He predicted Mena would soon be a city of over 10,000 inhabitants.
The publicity hype over the mineral rush was out of control. Mining stock sold during the last week of September, 1896, for ten cents on a dollar, the money to further the mineral development in Western Arkansas. A written guarantee would be given the purchaser, stating that he could not lose one cent of his investment.
Glowing reports of new mineral discoveries continued to be published in The Mena Star. The description of mines and ore used every adjective in the English language to create excitement and optimism in prospective investors or land buyers. It’s possible, as was the procedure in other gold rushes, the reporters may have been given free shares in a new mine to make it appear very promising.
Some evidence indicates that a number of claims may have been salted using the “shotgun prospecting technique.” That’s loading a shotgun shell with small gold nuggets or flakes and firing it into an ore vein or porous rock. This would make a sample taken at the target site extremely rich upon assay.
The trade of locating mines and selling claims became big business in the Ouachitas. Several men sold claim after claim to very rich mines at exorbitant prices. Later the mines proved worthless. Of course, there were no guarantees of a mine’s worth. Only the value of ore exposed at the time of the sale could be determined.
Due to the easy come easy go attitude adopted during any gold rush, anything was considered a gamble, and fraud was usually overlooked in selling mining properties’. Often, even a naturally rich strike would play out.
(In another story I will disclose more about the salting of mines in the Brushy and Cossatot region. I will also disclose my research on the source of the gold and silver used to accomplish the deception.)
News of the Polk County mineral rush reached even London, England. The advertising prompted the firm of Abercrombie and Taylor to invest in lots and houses in the new town of Mena. Mr. George Craig, Town site Agent, A.E. Stillwell, President of the Missouri Kansas Investment Company, and F. A. Hornbeck, Land Commissioner for the Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad, agreed the foreign investment was “a good thing for Mena.”
Then in late October, 1896 the inflated claims of mineral wealth came to a screeching halt. Clark Craycroft, a judge from Joplin, Missouri, knowledgeable in mining and minerals, suspected something amiss in Arkansas. He came to Polk County, visited many mines, and personally took some 100 ore samples to Kansas City for assay. His purpose was to see firsthand what they contained. The Mena Star printed, “The results will be carefully watched.”
Soon the word was out to the capitalists in the East, Polk County mine owners had overstated the mineral wealth to be found in the mountains around Mena, Arkansas. The gold and silver was here, but the quality and quantity were less than investors were led to believe. This immediately slowed money flowing into the area for exploration and development of mining properties.
The Mena Star, which before boldly printed every claim made by self-proclaimed mining experts, printed on December 9, 1896, “Although no one can tell what mineral resources will be developed here in the near future, enough is known to establish the fact that no new country possesses as good of indications for mining as Polk County.”
Then on December 23, 1896, the Cossatot Mining and Reduction Company ceased to sell its stock. Ironically, the company’s general manager was Frank Moritz, the assayer who had released the first news about a rich gold strike.
A month or so later a recently opened jewelry store on Mena’s Main Street closed its doors, soon followed by the general store of Green and Lewis that had been in business barely two years.
The year of 1897 saw very little mining news until early fall. Then the mining boom continued with new faces in town. A respected mineralogist and geologist, J.F. Todd, said to be the best mineralogist in the West and a recognized authority on the subject, announced he found the area south and east of Mena as eruptive and semi-volcanic. He also noted it strange that geology books never mentioned the fact. He claimed some of the rock formations were no less than recent Mesozoic or possibly the Paleozoic Era in age. He found gold, silver, zinc, copper, and antimony in many areas, but indicated mining it would require deep shafts. He added, “The possibilities for gold in Polk County are nearly unlimited.”
On April 27, 1899, the editor of the Mena Star, in defense of his reporters and due to the backlash of the overstated wealth of previous assay reports, wrote, “Referring to the reports in other columns of this paper regarding the results of tests made on rock and ore samples taken from mines near this city showing copper, tin, gold, silver and zinc, we simply say that we give them for what they are worth, merely reporting what was given to us by apparently responsible parties. The gentlemen named are reputed to be honorable and responsible men. They have money invested, pay their own expenses, and as far as learned, ask no favors from anyone, not even proposing to sell any stock or interest in their holdings. They at least appear satisfied that what they have is genuine, and the public can safely afford to wait further developments, knowing that if minerals exist at all as reported, we will have one of the greatest mineral booms that this country has ever experienced. It is quite probable some good will come out of Nazareth or Arkansas yet.”
The gold and silver rush continued at a much slower pace for the next few years. The mines at Camp Wilder produced a considerable amount of bullion using their cyanide method. The headlines announcing the use of the new process at Wilder stated, “This beats the Klondike.” Four and one-half tons of ore produced 5 ounces of gold, 64 ounces of silver and 50 pounds of copper precipitate which was not smeltered. J.H. Wilder, president of the company, took the bullion to Mena for immediate shipment.
In 1899 Professor W.E. Soest, a Mineralogist and Assayer wrote a long letter to the Mena Star admitting that for years fraudulent advertising of Polk County’s minerals had given the area a black eye, but the fact was the mountains contained a vast quantity of precious metals. If the capital could be found develop its mines, the area would become known as one of the richest in the world. He noted several mines shipping gold and silver bullion, including Camp Wilder, the Silver Queen, the Gold Coin Mining Company, and ore shipped to Chicago by: North American Ore and Metal Company. The gist of the article was that poor miners could not afford the necessary equipment to produce the ore in payable amounts; therefore, mining here could not be developed to its truest potential.

Still Polk County had one more ace up its sleeve to promote its mines. The World Fair opened in St. Louis in 1903. The State sent a Mr. Carl D. Smith from Fayetteville to the area to collect ore and mineral specimens to be displayed in the state’s exhibit at the fair. Mr. Smith visited mines and quarries in the county and took his samples personally. These were sent to Little Rock for cleaning and preparation and soon were on display. The comments from knowledgeable observers were unanimous; the ore specimens displayed were as rich as any found in North America.
Continued interest in Polk County mining soon brought representatives of a Chicago Syndicate to town. They placed an option on the silver mines at Camp Wilder; the reported price was $300,000.00. The new owners formed the De Soto Mining Company which continued to mine Camp Wilder silver for several years.

 
The gold rush slowly subsided in Western Arkansas. The old mines ceased operations and equipment was abandoned where it stood. The author grew up in the gold rush region exploring and playing in the old mine tunnels. Many of the old miners were family friends and kinfolk. Mining claims were still being staked and filed in the 1950s, and manganese mines produced into the 1960s
It’s said the curse of gold fever is unbreakable, but sometimes it’s not so bad. The old gold rush never completely died in Polk County. For years diehards held onto the hope of striking it rich. Whole families spent years combing the mountains filing many claims on promising minerals. Today prospectors are often seen panning the streams and digging in old mine shafts and tunnels. Infrequently excitement percolates the community when someone claims to have found flour gold or a few colors in a mountain stream. Fresh stories of gold nuggets or a vein being discovered here or there are a topic occasionally heard in the local coffee shops. So most residents believe the metal is still around but admit it being hard to find.
As this is written a well funded company is developing a track of private land for gold mining operations southeast of Mena. A check of mining claim records in the Polk County courthouse shows some 2,000 gold mining claims filed recently. (1980-1992) Just a couple of years ago a mining company drilled a thousand test holes in a mountain near Brushy Creek.
Samples taken from some of the test holes were refined at a nearby mill. The author was present when a crucible holding a couple of pounds of concentrate from the mill was fired and produced a gold button about the size of a small acorn.

Everyone knows gold is usually found in igneous rock. Most geologists say there are no igneous rock formations in Polk County. So likely any gold found here will be mainly in pockets containing the remnants of ancient placers formed where the metal was deposited after being freed from its original lode by erosion of the ancestral mountains. These mountains, gone eons ago, provided the building materials making up the Ouachitas. This sediment formed the bottom of an ancient seabed. Heat and pressure changed the sediment into the rock that forms the foundation of these hills. The Ouachitas were created by folding and upheaval of horizontal strata caused by movement of the earth’s tectonic plates.

One geologist interviewed for this article believes the gold in the Ouachitas was deposited by hydrothermal volcanic vents on the sea floor of ancient oceans. This theory was proven years ago when the first submersible vessel reached the bottom of the Mariana’s Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Hydrothermal vents, called “Black Smokers,” were found spewing hot water containing dissolved gold and other minerals. http://ns.gov.gu/geography.html Sediment from the undersea geysers form volcanic shaped cones almost identical to those found in Arkansas at a place named “Spanish Diggings” near Magnet Cove, AR.  Geologists claim miners mistakenly identified the ancient cones as “old Spanish Diggings” and so named them. The Lost Louisiana Mines worked in Pike County are an example of the ancient hot springs.
Some gold reportedly found in Polk County is a molecular form of “invisible gold.” This gold is in hard rock along with silver, lead, and copper. The Davis and Bella Mines in North Sevier County produced ore of this type.

If the price of the precious metals were to greatly escalate, it might be possible to make a living working certain deposits of ore found in Arkansas, but until then prospecting will just be a hobby for most people.
Prospectors who came with the gold rush may not have found a bonanza in gold, but many stayed, realizing just living in the Ouachitas is reward enough for most hill folks. The hidden wealth of Polk County may be in our lush forests, crystal clear streams, scenic hills, and the fresh air we enjoy. It may also be in the freedom from traffic jams, crime, and the hustle and bustle of urban living.
Miss Linda and I just enjoy prospecting, treasure hunting and being outdoors. If we ever hit the “Mother Lode,” we’ll figure out how to live with it. Until then, look for us on a mountain top or deep in a mine tunnel. It’s here, and we’ll keep still looking!

Still not interested? Then try some old Spanish treasure if you subscribe to those legends. You may find out as I did, those are stories are mostly hot air. However real buried treasure from other sources truly is hidden in the Ouachitas. For right now I’ll keep what we’ve learned about that secret, because nobody would believe it anyway.
By the way the Ouachita Mountains http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouachita_ are the only major range in North America to trend east to west. Geologists say the Ouachitas are the oldest mountains in the western hemisphere.
They rise from the Arkansas River and host the two highest peaks between the Appalachian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_  Mountains and the Rockies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockies
Good Luck to all you miners, prospectors and treasure hunters. Hard work does pay off occasionally!

Hillbilly Bob with Miss Linda Brewer

References:
Mena Star archives, Mena, AR
Arkansas Democrat, BIG Mac Archives Little Rock, AR
DeQueen Bee, DeQueen AR
Arkansas State Geologist Report 1884
Polk County Clerk Records, Polk County, Mena, AR
Oral History as related the author by old time residents of Cossatot River area and Brushy Creek Valley. Polk County (between 1949 and 2009)

Treasure hunters beware

Treasure hunters beware, the new Obama Healthcare Law may affect you.
O.K., you’ve worked your tail off for twenty years to discover the location of a buried treasure. During those years the money you spent for research, equipment, travel, lodging, permits and lawyers adds up to thousands of dollars and countless hours of hard work. Remember, you paid income tax on that money when you earned it. Still, for all of those years you have not been allowed to deduct your treasure hunting expenses on your income tax forms because IRS claims your treasure hunting is a hobby. The tax code states- every so many years you must show a profit from your work or it’s declared a hobby. But, When a cache is found guess who’s there with their hand out to collect all the tax they can if any treasure is sold.
Unless you really believe all you read on the internet forums, you should know that even a very successful treasure hunter doesn’t dig up a treasure every year. But when treasure is found some or all is sold to pay back Momma for all the years she worked for nothing while on the hunt. (Here we are talking about full time, no nine to five jobs, treasure hunters) Any excess is disposed of secretly and usually the proceeds used to buy new technology and equipment to continue treasure hunting. So is it any wonder that real treasure hunters don’t brag “publically” about their work.
Some treasure forum jockeys gripe constantly about lack of evidence for any treasure being found. A couple of those berate hard working THers because they won’t prove to “THEIR” satisfaction treasure is being found. The same people try their best to insult or discredit knowledgeable treasure hunters hoping their tactics will bring a response from which they may learn something.  Seems those most vocal in demanding proof of treasure finds, never stop to think that someone else’s success or failure is totally none of their business.
Soon the pain in the arse of the forum jockeys demanding to know who found what, when, where and how, will be the least of any treasure hunter’s worries.
 After the first of the year treasure finds which are sold will be revealed on a THer’s income tax return.
As of January 1, 2012, successful treasure hunters with a nest egg of double eagles or a sack of collectable coins will lose any opportunity to anonymously cash in on their work by selling those coins to a pawnbroker or collector.
 For those not paying attention to what is happening in America, maybe now is the time to wake up! Remember Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi making the ludicrous statement, “we must pass this Health Care Bill, so we can find out what is in it.” Maybe she knew then, but probably not, the Bill contains a clause requiring any transaction between businesses, contractors, collectors, etc, amounting to $600.00 or more be reported to the IRS on Form 1099.
Let’s say you have a twenty dollar gold piece and need a little cash, you decide to sell your gold to a pawnshop or coin dealer. You will be required to show an I.D. card with your social security number or taxpayer I.D. and sign a document for the sale. The buyer then must send a 1099 in your name to the IRS informing them of the transaction.
  We encourage everyone to do some research into this “Health care bill” and see for yourself what may be hiding in there. This bill just does not seem to be good for Americans. Please check it out.