Monday, May 26, 2008

A Treasure Tale From Oklahoma

In the winter of 1869 a group of outlaws, supposedly numbering 17, attacked an army caravan carrying a payroll of gold near Mill Creek in south central Oklahoma. The gold was supposedly being transported from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Fort Arbuckle, Oklahoma and the attack left all of the soldiers dead and five of the outlaws dead or dying.

After loading the gold from the caravan onto mules that the outlaws had brought with them they formed the wagons of the caravan into a circle and set them on fire. This was done to make any other soldiers looking for the caravan think the attack was by Indians. The outlaws then supposedly rode for several hours before stopping and splitting up the gold. The gold was split into three piles. Two of the piles were put into sacks and cooking pots and buried in two separate sites along a creek. (The original story says these two burial spots were along Mill Creek so this would indicate the outlaws must have followed that creek to make their get away.) The third pile, supposedly the largest of the three piles was put into several coffee cans and loaded back onto the mules.

The outlaws then headed into the Arbuckle mountains where they spent the night in a cave. The story goes that the outlaws buried the coffee cans full of gold in the floor of the cave before leaving the next day. When they left, they split into three groups, one headed for Mexico, one headed toward Arkansas and the third headed for Missouri. Their intention was to meet up two months later and recover the gold.

The group riding for Arkansas was found and apparently all killed while trying to be apprehended. The group headed for Missouri was also found and all but one of the outlaws in that group was killed. The one that escaped death spent nearly 20 years in prison for the robbery. This is supposedly the origin of this story. As he lay dying in Saint Joseph, Missouri this old outlaw told his caretaker about the robbery and drew a crude map showing where the robbery took place, the location of Fort Arbuckle and the three spots where the gold would be found.

I should mention that the third group of outlaws that headed for Mexico apparently made it there but never returned for the gold.

The caretaker of the old outlaw in St. Joseph, Missouri was convinced that with the map, he could find the gold so he sold his business and moved to Davis, Oklahoma where he began his search. Davis, Oklahoma was apparently the closest town to the area where the gold was buried. After several years and no luck the well worn map passed to Samuel Davis, the founder of Davis, Oklahoma as he had become friends with the owner of the map.

It is said that Samuel Davis looked for the treasure on occasion and on one of those occasions he ran across a rancher who owned land where one of the first two caches was supposed to be buried. In talking with the rancher Samuel Davis was told he was aware of the treasure story and that several people had been to the land before looking for it. It is said that one of those times a group of Mexicans arrived and wanted to go fishing in the creek. The ranch owner became suspicious after noticing the Mexicans apparently didn’t have any fishing gear and went to check on them later. Upon arriving at the spot they were at the rancher noticed several holes dug in the ground and one of them still contained an empty pot with the impressions of coins on the inside of the pot.

It was thought by Samuel Davis that the Mexicans were descendants of one of the original outlaws. Samuel Davis continued to search for the second buried cache along the creek but was said to have had no luck in finding it.

It would appear that this story has some merits since it involved the founder of a town and a story of treasure found. Could a person get lucky enough to find the cave with the coffee cans full of gold in the Arbuckle Mountains with nothing to go on but that little piece of information? Is the other burial spot along the creek still out there? Were both burial spots along the creek actually on Mill Creek? There is a belief among some people that one of the burial spots was on Guy Sandy Creek and not Mill Creek but without further research you may never know. I’ll leave that research for you.

There is a version of this story in Steve Wilson’s book although that is not where I found this information.

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