Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Update, Googling Treasure

This update comes from one of our readers who would prefer to remain anonymous. Let’s call him Homer. Thank you Homer for the update!

A while back I wrote an article about a California musician who thought he had located a land-locked sunken ship by using Google Earth and a coin detector. He wanted to find a big treasure so he could finance his music and film ventures. Nathan Smith said he was inspired by the National Treasure movies to hunt for treasure. Weren’t we all? I know I ran right out and started looking for that KGC golden city! If you remember from the first article on this I wasn’t that too enamored with the guy. I guess if you’re going to be a musician looking for treasure you better be from Tennessee!

Anyway, Mr. Smith had sued a land owner in federal court to gain the rights to salvage a ship that he thought was on dry land in Texas. Well, the land isn’t completely dry, it sits in a flood plain near the Mission River in Refugio County, about 160 miles south of Houston and is underwater on occasion.

When federal judge made his ruling it turned out to be good news and bad news for Mr. Smith. The good news? The judge ruled that the land in question is considered to be “navigable waters” and that if the ship actually exists it is considered abandoned. This means that if Mr. Smith has enough evidence to prove that the ship is where he says it is, he can file a salvage claim on the vessel and the landowners won’t be able to stop him from digging.

The bad news? Mr. Smith doesn’t have any evidence that the ship is where he says it is or that it really existed. According to the court, the only evidence that Mr. Smith supplied to the court was his own personal testimony as to the story, what he found using Google Earth, what his detector readings were and a fuzzy photo of a piece of wood that he had found and then lost. U.S. District Judge David Hittner wrote a 44 page opinion on the case in which he stated; “Smith has received no artifacts and presents no evidence, other than his own testimony regarding metal detector readings, that anything of value or historical significance actually exists where he claims it exists.” The judge also stated that “Smith genuinely believes in his own mind that he actually has discovered the resting place of an ancient shipwreck”.

Mr. Smith’s attorney said his client wasn’t deterred by the judge’s ruling and that his client plans on getting additional proof that the ship is there. I’m actually rooting for the guy but I just wish he’d be a little smarter with how he is going about things. He doesn’t seem to be making the greatest impression as a treasure hunter. Mr. Smiths attorney did say that his client “has been contacted by folks with technology that might help Smith come back to court again with evidence to convince the judge.”

Here’s the thing about the case that really ticks me off. Although nobody apparently believed that Nathan Smith had found an ancient ship wreck and he had absolutely no proof that he had, the Texas Historical Commission tried to squeeze their way into the civil suit just in case Nathan Smith got lucky. The judge refused to allow the Texas Historical Commission to be a party to the case and they vowed to appeal the judges ruling. It’s just like a bunch of archies to sit around and let somebody else do all of the work and then try to swoop in and take the find. Keep in mind I don’t really think Mr. Smith is right but I think the archies are despicable for trying to take control.

Maybe Homer will give us another update on this if anything else is found.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's time once again for our annual treasure hunter get together. This year it will be bigger and better than ever. We expect to have a few honored guest that I'm sure all those in attendance will enjoy speaking with. Everyone is welcome to attend as this always been an open invitation and free to attend. The only thing I ask is that if you plan on being there let us know so I can gather up enough prizes to give out at the end of the meeting. I don't want anyone leaving empty handed and this year we will have some extra special goodies to hand out. Sorry no gold coins. Ron has hoarded them up and when he's not writing for the blog he counting those double eagles.

The meeting will start around 10:00am and will be at the Opera House located at 127 W Main St. in Marlow Oklahoma. Just look for the Mercantile Building on main street. You can't miss it. From Hwy 81 go east one block on Main Street. Since you guys are treasure hunters I'm going on faith that you will be able to find Marlow on the map. Clear the calendar and program the Tom Toms. There's plenty of room for everybody and if we need more space we can get Ron to pay for it.

Lunch will be just across the street at Giuseppe's. They have some really good Italian food. It's always a treat when I get the chance to dine there. Marlow and Duncan which is just a few miles south offer some interesting sites to see.

For those of you who have seen the movie "The Sons of Katie Elder", with John Wayne and his all star cast, it was inspired by the story of the Marlow brothers. We are going to try and get the town to open up the Marlow Brothers Cave for us to view. The entrance is housed inside a metal building but we won't be doing any spelunking.

Bring any interesting items you might have for a little show and tell. I'll have a few things there and I bet Ray and Ron will as well. Last years bunch brought some really nice items they had found. If you have any treasure hunting equipment you want to sale or trade drag it along too!
I have a few empty cast iron kettles if anyone interested. Just kidding! I rebury those and use them to test metal detectors with.

If you have any questions or plan to attend please e-mail me at

Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quick and Easy?

This one ought to be easy enough for someone living around Kansas City, MO. Yea right, a treasure that is easy? We all know better than that don’t we?

Back in the 1920’s an intrepid bank robber began his own little crime spree in the Kansas City area. His first bank robbery netted him $28,000 in cash. Apparently feeling this wasn’t enough, he quickly buried the twenty eight grand and headed out to rob a second bank. This is where his crime spree ended. Our daring robber got himself caught during the second robbery and was sentenced to twenty years in jail.

After being released from jail he made a bee-line to his cash deposit but as we know, things change over time and because of those changes he wasn’t able to relocate the cash.
No it’s up to some smart treasure hunter to find this one. Where is it? According to the robber himself he stuck the $28,000 in a fruit jar and buried it 100 feet east and north of a bridge that was located southeast of Swope Park. The park had expanded while the robber was in jail and he couldn’t figure out where his bridge was once he got out.

It is thought that the bridge in question is the one that goes over the current day Oldham Road in Swope Park.

I will warn you that this story has been around a long time and I’m sure more than one person in Kansas City has tried looking for this cache. Use your head on this one and try getting a copy of the city map for the early 1920’s and see just how big Swope Park was and how many bridges there were at the time. How hard can that be? City plats should be relatively easy to get a hold of.

As long as the city didn’t put a road or a four lane bridge over the cache it could still be there, waiting for someone with a metal detector to find it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Finding the Obvious

For many outlaw treasures out there finding that elusive clue may be as simple as opening your eyes. For the most part, outlaws were lazy when it came to making clues. They didn't reshape rocks or spend a lot of time moving mega stones into just the right place for their map.

Outlaws liked to use what was already there and make their maps to fit that terrain. In a lot of instances they would use something very distinct in the area to get their attention. You have to remember that if they were successful, outlaws put down more than one treasure and used several areas in a state or even the country as hide-outs so they used areas that they knew they would be able to find again.

Natural land marks that jump out at you were the most used things. Names of places can also give you a clue to the possiblitly that there might be treasure hidden in the area. I can't tell you how many times I have been driving down a side road in the country and have seen a natural rock outcropping or small hill or canyon that just screamed; "hey, over here, there's treasure here!" I always make note of those spots so I can check them out when I have time.

Outlaws would sometimes incorporate these landmarks or formations into their maps. You should keep in mind that these formations (and other clues/markers) can be drawn on a map in different ways. They may be depicted in a shape that you will see only if you are coming towards them from a certain direction, they could be depicted as a shape the formation reminded the outlaw of such as an animal or bird or they could be dipicted as a word. It could be a word that only the outlaw would associtate with the formation, something he thought it looked like or reminded him of so he named it. There are a multitude of different variations on how something can be depicted on a map. Just keep in mind that the map wasn't made for you or I, it was made by an outlaw for that outlaw and gave him the information he needed to return to the cache. This is very important, the map was made for that outlaw or his gang and not anyone else. It's all about what would remind the outlaws about where they hid that treasure.

At the beginning of this article when I stated that outlaws were lazy, I didn't mean to imply they were stupid. They knew of and used lots of different ways to hide treasure and mark it's location. Even though they didn't move big things or dig really deep holes (for the most part) that doesn't mean they weren't smart enough to make it difficult for someone else to find their treasure.

Once you have that map you are going to have to look at it closely and be prepared to find many tricks, deceptions or misdirections in it.

If you are looking for a place to hunt for treasure and don't want to use a published story then keep your eye out for those odd looking or eye popping land formations. Take the time to stop and look around (with permission of course). These odd looking spots or eye catchers may very well have a carved map on or near them that will lead you to that treasure.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Califronia Outlaws

I promised you an article on California outlaws, especially the ones operating near Coulterville, California so here we are. Two of the most famous or would it be infamous, are Joaquin Murrieta and his buddy Three Fingered Jack. I wonder which three fingers it was?

Between 1852 and 1853 Joaquin Murrieta and ol’ Three Fingers found the Chinese miners relatively easy pickings for gold. Murrieta, Three Fingers and the rest of the gang found that the Chinese didn’t put up much of a fight and made a living off of the gold the Chinese were taking out of the ground.

It is said that Murrieta and his gang had several different hideouts, all in caves in the mountains around Coulterville, California and that they stashed away some gold at most if not all of these caves. How many is “several” caves? I haven’t got a clue but I would think it would have to be more than three and probably less than ten.

You’re probably wondering why Murrieta and Three Fingered Jack only robbed the Chinese for a year or two? You did notice that didn’t you? It would seem that Joaquin and his cohort Jack upset the balance in the gang somehow and the seven other members of the gang chose to ambush the two men to get rid of them. The ambush didn’t go so well and Murrieta and Jack escaped and began to plot their revenge on the gang.

Somehow, and the story I read doesn’t say how, Murrieta and Three Fingered Jack were able to lure the rest of the gang to a cave in the mountains above Penon Blanco Ridge near Coulterville and poison them. Murrieta’s and Jack’s plan worked better than the gangs ambush and all seven men died in the cave. Murrieta and Jack took a large cache of stolen gold from the cave and buried just outside of the entrance.

Unfortunately for Three Fingers and Joaquin, they were gunned down on Cantua Creek in 1853 leaving this treasure and a few others behind for some lucky treasure hunters.

As with a lot of treasure stories there seems to be a discrepency as to where this particular cave was. Even though history puts Joaquin Murrieta in several caves around Coulterville there was a report in the 1920’s about a cave being found with seven skeletons in it.

A Mexican railroad worker happened upon a cave while wondering in the mountains and inside this cave were the seven skeletons along with rotted saddles, old guns, spurs and various “cowboy” type items. The Mexican reported his find to the local sheriff and the sheriff was able to relocate the cave based on the instructions given by the Mexican. The Mexican later disappeared, some say because finding the skeletons scared him so bad he left the area.

This cave was supposed to be located off the Merced River below what was Benton Mills, also known as Bagby. The bad news? The town no longer exists and the spot where it once stood may be under water. The town disappeared when the Exchequer Dam was built.

Do you want something that may be a little easier to find? How about digging up a street? How hard could that be? This also takes place in Coulterville, California (just so you don’t have to go too far from the other caches). I know how you hate to walk.

Many, many years ago the main street of Coulterville was in poor shape and needed some repair. There also happened to be an old adobe building in the town that wasn’t in use so they tore down the adobe building and used the bricks from the building to patch the street. One day a big rain came along and the adobe bricks began to break apart. One lucky person living in Coulterville at the time happened to walk down the street after the rain and found a gold coin protruding out of one of the adobe bricks. As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before the streets needed repair again because the whole town was out digging up the adobe bricks looking for gold coins. Several more coins were found before the search stopped but no one knows for sure if all of the coins were found or how many there were to start with.

The town folk speculated that the old man that once owned the adobe building used it as his own personal bank and never retrieved his gold before dying.

I wonder if anyone would stare at you funny if you walked down the middle of main street in Coulterville swinging a detector? I’d love to see those photos!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coulterville, California and Chinese Gold

If you like ghost towns and caches of treasure then this may be the ticket for you. Of course, you need to be in California too!

Back in 1850 a little mining town by the name of Coulterville was established in Mariposa County, California by George Coulter. Coulterville sits in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on Highway 49 south of Sonora. The “town” was already populated by Chinese and Mexicans when George came along but nobody really bothered to name the town. George saw his chance and there you have it, Coulterville.

Coulterville had over 5000 people living in it during it’s hay-day and about 1000 of those were Chinese. Almost all of the people were miners looking for that big strike. There were several buildings in the town, some of which still stand to this day. Coulterville, although considered a ghost town in some books, is still populated with about 1700 people but the town is unincorporated.

When the mining town was booming there was a Chinese storekeeper by the name of Wah Cheng who acted as a storehouse for his fellow countrymen, storing their raw gold in an iron box until it could be shipped out. Wah Cheng did this several times until a greedy Mexican decided he wanted to find gold the easy way. At the time of his death Wah Cheng had approximately $75,000 in gold stored in his iron box and he refused to give up the location of the gold before dying. It is thought the iron box filled with gold is still hidden somewhere near where his store stood in Coulterville. Maybe even in the store?

I should mention that there is another story that actually puts Wah Cheng’s store in a nearby ghost town known as “Dogtown" so a little research may be needed on this one. In case you are wondering, the unlucky Mexican who tried to steal the gold was caught very shortly after killing Wah Cheng and he was hanged in the town by some very angry miners.

How about frog gold, would you look for a French treasure? There used to be an old mill on Maxwell Creek just south of Coulterville, CA where a Frenchman is thought to have buried “a fortune in gold nuggets” that he accumulated working a placer site near the mill. The frog had his good luck and bad. It seems he was lucky enough to find and recover a large quantity of gold nuggets but just as he was planning to return to France with his fortune he was crushed to death at the mill by a runaway timber. His stash of gold nuggets has never been reported found.

If this isn’t enough to get you wanting to swing a detector around the area there are stories of a treasure hunter named Frank Fish who made several recoveries in the area. One of these recoveries was supposed to be a box of Chinese jewelry and $1,700 in gold coins. He also recovered a glass jar in the floor of one of the old buildings in Coulterville which contained $1,500 in gold dust and nuggets. And these are 1950’s prices!

Don’t even get me started on the outlaw activity in this area! OK, you can get me started but it will have to wait for a second article.

Speaking of outlaws, it's April 15th, have you filed your taxes yet?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another Horse Thief Canyon

I have written about Horse Thief Canyon before but that canyon, actually more than one, were all in the state of Kansas. It seems the name was popular in several places including the state of Oklahoma.

In Logan County, Oklahoma, just a little south of the Cimarron River, lies a rugged canyon known as Horse Thief Canyon. It is thought the canyon was given it’s name sometime around 1892 due to all of the outlaw activity in the area, not to mention more than a few horses that went missing. The canyon has several steep bluffs and rock overhangs that could have been used for shelter and there are stories of people finding make-shift rail fences in more than one spot in the heavily timbered canyon.

The canyon has several stories about outlaws using it as a hideout and it is known that law-abiding cowboys passing through the area took shelter in the canyon on occasion. In later years people wanting to go on a picnic or camping trip also frequented the canyon. One of the more famous visitors was a man by the name of Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton. For those college fans out there Pistol Pete’s image of a weathered, two gun packing, mustachioed cowboy was used as the logo for Oklahoma State University.

Horse Thief Canyon became a semi tourist attraction in the early 1930’s and owner of the land at the time opened it up to tourists for hiking, camping and “nature study”. Is that what we do? Nature study? I’ll have to remember that one!

With a little bit of research in the old newspapers of the area you are sure to find the many stories of the outlaws that used the canyon as a hideout and I would guess that there are more than one or two carvings in the canyon that would warrant a little look-see.

This also sounds like a spot that would make for some good relic hunting too. As we all know, there are more kinds of treasure out there than just gold and silver.

It’s ironic that one of the most memorable things that occurred in Horse Thief Canyon is a meeting that was held by the Anti-Horse Thief Association around the time of Oklahoma’s statehood.

Horse Thief Canyon is located in Section 23 and is just about a mile long and you can just about drive right up to it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

North Fork Town, Oklahoma

Here is a ghost town that could be a dream location for someone who likes to hunt relics if the state of Oklahoma hadn‘t screwed it up.

North Fork Town, Oklahoma was located in McIntosh County about three miles east of Eufaula. The location of the town was once considered the cross roads of the Creek Nation. This location is close to where the Spanish expeditions crossed the Canadian Rivers during the 1600’s when they were searching for all of that gold and silver.

When the fur trade was thriving in the 1700’s the frog (French) trappers had trails along both the Canadian and North Canadian Rivers near North Fork Town. There was another trail called the Texas Trail that was used by the Osage Indians after the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory that also ran near the town. The Texas Trail was later used by cattlemen to move their herds northward.

North Fork Town sat right in the middle of all of this action. The town got it’s beginnings as a trading post in 1823 but the trading post died out after just three months. The town really started in earnest in 1830 when several stores and a blacksmith shop were established. Several log homes were built in the area of the town during the same time.

In 1839 a man by the name of Josiah Gregg, who was known for his involvement in the Santa Fe Trail, developed the Gregg Trail from Webbers Falls through North Fork town and on westward. There was another trail known as Marcy’s California Road that past near North Fork Town that was used during the late 1840s by people heading for the gold fields in California.

There was a large school built near the town in 1849 by a group of Methodists who named the school Asbury Mission. The school opened in 1850 with one hundred students. The school burned to the ground several years later.

North Fork Town got it’s own post office in 1853. The post office was given the name of Micco instead of North Fork Town.

And if all of that history isn’t enough to get you wanting to break out the detector, North Fork Town was used as a supply base by the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Unfortunately for the town the railroad line through the area was built about two miles west and a depot was put in at what became the town of Eufaula. Almost all of the merchants moved to where the train depot was and North Fork Town became history, literally.

Now for the bad news. If you want to metal detect around this town you better know how to scuba dive! The state of Oklahoma decided to build a very large lake (Lake Eufaula) over the location and the town and all of the trails that went by it are now completely under water.

Why would I tell you about a great metal detecting place that you can’t get to? It’s about the history and maybe to remind you just a little that our hobby can be time sensitive and you should never let a good opportunity go by. You never know when somebody may decide to build something on top of that spot you want to check out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Treasure Found

This is about a treasure found, not gold or silver but a treasure just the same. In January of 2009 a lucky man came across an old rifle stuck inside a hollow log. I can here a lot of you saying; “so what, it’s just a rifle”.

This happens to be a 160 year old rifle in near perfect condition. The rifle, a .58 caliber muzzle loader, had been coverer with “bear or buffalo grease” and then hidden in a hollow log along the Yellowstone River. The exact location of where the rifle was found wasn’t given however it was somewhere near Glendive. The rifle was manufactured sometime between 1847 and 1853 and the grease preserved the rifle very well. That’s pretty amazing for being near a river for such a long time.

Even though this isn’t gold or silver it is still a fantastic find and one I and several people I know would love to make. The treasures are out there, we just have to look for them!

The information for this article was sent to me by Rockman. Thanks!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Googling a three billion dollar treasure

The information in this article was submitted to me by one of our readers. It’s a little wild that people actually think this way but I guess it takes all kinds.

A musician, from California no less, fancies himself as a treasure hunter after watching one of the National Treasure movies and reading a book. I guess you have to start somewhere but apparently this man thinks he has solved the puzzle on at least one treasure.

Nathan Smith, the musician from California, read a story about a ship that was trying to outrun a hurricane in 1822. According to the story the ship didn’t quite make it and ended up in a muddy bog in south Texas. At this point the story gets really interesting.

Did you know that there were cannibals in Texas in 1822? According to Mr. Smith, the “barkentine” ship headed up a creek from the gulf and became land locked near Refugio, Texas. It is said that half of the sailors on the ship died during the trip up the creek. Do you think they had a paddle? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!

OK, so half of the crew died on the voyage up the creek and the other half were stuck at the site where the ship ran aground. This spot was supposedly inhabited by a tribe of cannibals who eventually feasted on the remaining sailors who left behind a “pot of gold and silver”.

After the sailors had all perished the story says a group of Comanche Indians wondered into the area and found the gold and silver. The Indians took some of the treasure and hid the rest somewhere around the wreck of the old ship. The Indians apparently fled the area fairly quickly because of the cannibals.

Fast forward to 2009 and the age of the computer. Nathan Smith, from his home in Los Angeles, used Google Earth to locate a spot on a creek in Texas that appeared to have the outline of a ship near the old creek. A ship that sank in the mud 187 years ago. The spot is supposed to resemble a large shoe print in the ground and is located in a flood plain of the creek. Mr. Smith, convinced he had found the ship, drove to Texas with his metal detector and began searching the area. According to Mr. Smith, his metal detector continually gave readings of gold and silver in the area where he says the wreck is and stopped giving readings when he walked out of the area. No, this wasn’t some fancy detector you have never heard of, just one of the regular over the counter detectors with a meter on it to tell you what is there.

Nathan Smith attempted to get permission to recover the treasure however the landowners denied his request so Mr. Smith chose to sue in federal court. Mr. Smith’s attorney is claiming that the wreck lies in “navigable waters” and not on private property. If the court finds for Mr. Smith then he will be free to lay claim to and recover whatever may be there without needing the landowner’s permission providing the federal court and the Army Corps of Engineers grants him permission.

All of the documents submitted in the trial have been sealed to protect the location of the property. While on the stand Mr. Smith stated there was nothing to confirm the folklore about this ship or the treasure but he believed it to be so since he read it in a book.

We’ve all read enough treasure books to know that you can’t rely solely on what you read and in some instances, you can’t believe anything you read.

The remains of the ship, and I would assume half of the crew, is supposed to be located on property that was once owned by Marie O’ Connor Sorenson somewhere in Refugio County, Texas and according to Nathan Smith, the treasure is worth three BILLION dollars. How do you get three billion dollars of gold an silver in a “pot“? I wonder if Mr. Smith ever spent anytime on Willie Nelson’s tour bus? It sounds like he may be missing a few brain cells.

Do I sound harsh? I don’t mean to be, OK, maybe a little but it seems as though Mr. Smith has found more than one treasure with his search methods and hasn‘t recovered anything.

According to Mr. Smith, during his three years of treasure hunting he has looked for “the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine, Belle Star’s Iron Door, the Lost Peg Leg gold, the Franklin Mountains treasure and numerous others”. He claims to have found “the” Jesse James treasure in Oklahoma but he “thinks there is a death trap in the form of a teetering rock half the size of the courtroom just outside the entrance”. Does any of this sound familiar?

Mr. Smith’s court battle continues on. He hasn’t said how he plans to fund his excavation but I guess like research, that’s not important to him now.

I might mention that the barkentine style ship that was supposed to sail up the creek in 1822 had not been designed until the 1830’s. The family who owns the property where Mr. Smith wants to dig has stated they don’t believe there is a ship there and they don’t believe in the folklore of the ship and it’s treasure. They also pointed out in court that the stories about this ship routinely puts the location of the mystery ship more than twenty miles away from their property.

Is there a ship full of treasure just below the ground in a flood plain somewhere in Texas? Could be. Can you find it with a quick search of Google Earth and one drive out to the possible site with a coin detector? Don’t we all wish it was that easy?