Lost Treasure in Arkansas - Fact, Folklore, and Fable (Benton: for sale, mattress)
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A very long time ago I was born within 15 miles of the diamond mine and saw it for the first time about 15 years ago, and enjoyed watching the people more than I did digging. I have a cousin who works on off-shore oil rigs and gets long breaks from the rig. He lives about five miles from the mine and when home spends most of his time there. He has found so many that his friends call him "Diamond Jim".
Google "Gatliff diamond finder" and it will give you a Link to his story and other info.
Dad told me several lost treasure stories of which he had personal knowledge or family members had personal knowledge. I'll be passing these on to you. Dad was born and spent his first 20 years in east Pike County and that is where the stories are based. He then ended up in central Arizona as a working cowboy.
This one may or may not be considered a lost treasure story. It depends on your point of view, but I always found it interesting. Dad never was a moonshiner or bootlegger but he did "transport" it for friends and cousins, and it was not like you see in the movies where there is fast driving through the mountains in souped up cars. He backpacked it across the mountains on foot. Occasionally, when he thought he was about to get caught by the revenuers, he would stash it in stump holes or under uprooted trees. He did get caught, but that story is too long for this Thread.
Finally, the point of the story. Often he would tell that story when I visited him in Arizona in the 1990s, and his mouth would almost water thinking about. He was an alcoholic and wondered what the stashed shine would taste like after aging for 60 years, and wondered what it would be worth in the bootleg market. He would then realize that the jar lids probably have rusted off and only empty jars are laying there.
In the mid 1970s Dad was visiting me here in Arkansas and said he thought he remembered where the old timers said there was a lead mine and there may be some "float" we could find with our metal detectors, so we loaded up and took off for east Pike County. The site was in a narrow creek valley between two steep mountains, but thankfully there was a road on the side of one of the mountains. We searched for several hot hours and the only thing we found was an abundance of copper heads and cotton mouths and after we found this last copper head (actually it found us) we were taking a break when he said "I have a suggestion" and I asked what it was and he said "Let's get the outta here!" and I said "I'll race you to the truck." As far as I'm concerned, if there is any lead there it can stay there.
Last edited by ArkansasSlim; 07-06-2012 at 10:22 PM..
Reason: more clear point
This treasure probably is long gone; mercury. Cinnabar (the mineral for mercury) was discovered in Pike County in 1931 and later in west Clark County across the Antoine River from the Pike County find, and was mined, off and on, until about 1970. My Dad was involved with it, first as a guide to show the geologist the rock outcrops they were looking for, and later for a short time, in the mines. He said it was "hottern in there and an accident waiting to happen" so he quit.
Some of the miners would "high-grade" the ore they were digging out and take it home. "High-grade" is picking the purest ore and they sneaked it out of the mine and at home set up crude retorts/smelters to recover the mercury, hide the recovered mercury, and later would sell it to "cooperative" buyers. Several of those men who did their own, died a slow death from mercury poisoning. So, was all that hidden mercury recovered? The liquid mercury was shipped in flasks which held 76 pounds of mercury and in 1935 when Dad was involved it was selling for about $72.00 per flask. Today, depending on which price list you look at, it sells from $11,000.00 to @21,000.00 per flask.
In this photo is "The Glory Hole" in Bemis Hill where tons of rock was excavated to recover the cinnabar, and in the bottom, an adit to a mine tunnel. Bemis Hill contained more cinnabar than any other area of the Mercury District. To show you how big this hole is, (and you can only see half of its width and depth) the red dot on the other side is Vanessa, the Research Assistant at the Arkansas Archeological Survey Station at Henderson State University, Arkadelphia.
When Dad was here we did lots of treasure hunting but never found anything. When he went back to Arizona he was still broke .
He knew an old bachelor farmer in Woodall Valley, Pike County, who had money because he didn't trust banks and operated with cash. It was common knowledge because he made no secret of it. That was not unusual for that area because the nearest bank was about 15 miles by wagon or horse-back, or ten miles walking through the woods and across a couple mountains. No neighborhood ATM .
He got lonely and got himself a "mail-order bride" who had a teenage son. At that time his neighbors and friends told him he should take his money to the bank, but he told them it was O.K. because he had hid it "where fire or water will never touch it". Later the bride learned the man had money and tried to get him to share it with her, but he wouldn't. Over a period of time she and her son beat on the man trying to get the location of the money but they never did, and he finally died of his injuries.
Dad knew where the house had been and remembered there was a rock wall there, and perhaps the money was hidden in it. We metal detected the wall and all around the house but found nothing. Wall Mountain, which has many rock outcrops and rock falls is about a mile north of the house place, so it is possible that is where he hid his money, but we decided it would be almost impossible to find the money in all those rocks, so we didn't even try.
Treasure Found ! It isn't often you see this in print. There is a saying in the treasure hunting community that the difference between a fisherman and a treasure hunter is that the fisherman is always telling about the big one he caught or the big one that got away. A treasure hunter never finds anything because big brother (IRS) is looking over his shoulder.
A treasure hunting friend often made trips from Little Rock to Fordyce to visit family. He often told me about an old farm house he passed that was "just begging for a metal detector" but he never had time to stop. One day he planned ahead and prepared to stop when he saw an old lady working in her yard and didn't have the nerve to ask permission to invade her space.
A few weeks later he got up the nerve and planned to stop and ask, but when he got there, the place was "covered up with hippies" in tents and campers, so he chose to not stop. Then several weeks later he realized the old house had burned down and no one was around so he stopped and started searching the grounds and perimeter of the house and found only assorted trash. He was about to give up when he decided to search the inside perimeter of the foundation when he found it, and "it" was a double hand full of coins from all over the world and all dated prior to WWII. He thinks they were collected by a military person during the war and had been hidden in the wall and when the house burned they fell down in one nice pile and were not damaged by the fire.
When on his way home, he stopped by my house to show me his find (and gloat), he was covered head to shoes in ash and charcoal stain but was one happy dude .
Another place Dad and I searched, but found nothing. He knew in east Pike County the house site of a man who prostituted his wife and two daughters, sold moonshine, and his home was a hang-out for outlaws passing through that part of the country. Obviously he didn't use banks, but it was also obvious a lot of money passed through his hands. We were sure we would at least find some loose coins, but didn't. Several years later a metal detecting friend and I decided to go back and take another look. In the intervening years International Paper Company had rerouted roads and had turned that whole country into a huge pine plantation. There was no way to find the old house place. I sure hope some of those woods workers and tree planters found the loot. I'd sure hate to know it's still there and I can't find it.
This didn't happen in Arkansas, but started in Arkansas so I'm posting it to show how far someone will go when they get the "gold fever". It is a documented fact that during the years gold coins were illegal in the U.S., a large shipment was flown in from Mexico into the boonies of New Mexico. What happened to it is open for debate and there have been many "facts" published about it's final destination.
I don't remember how it all started, but a friend got a lead on it and found a guide in N.M. that would take him to it. When he told me about it, my friend and a friend of his was in the process of renting a Jeep and necessary equipment, and driving to N.M. to meet the guide who was charging a significant fee. From that point the conversation went something like this; Me - If the guide knows where it is, why doesn't he go get it for himself? Friend - Well, it's on an Indian Reservation and he's afraid to try to haul it off. M - And why does he think you can haul it off when he can't? F - Uhhhh! !
This is a true story.
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