Friday, May 28, 2010

Whizbang, Oklahoma, a ghost town

If you like to beat around old ghost towns then this could be a good place to go.

Whizbang, Oklahoma was an overnight sensation due to the oil field boom in the 1920’s. At one point, there was a single well producing over twenty-five hundred barrels of oil a day. No, that’s not a misprint; it was 2500 barrels per day. When they drilled this well it started producing one barrel of oil per minute with the tools still in the hole!

Needless to say, the town sprang to life almost immediately with almost three hundred different businesses including two large hotels. The railroad was brought to Whizbang as quickly as possible and with all of the success, also came the undesirables. In my younger days I probably would have fallen into that category but today I'm an upstanding citizen. OK, you can stop laughing now so you can finish reading the article.

Shootings were just about a weekly occurrence in the town and the bank was robbed twice! It seems the local sheriff, who called himself Jose Alvarado and whose real name was Bert Bryant, was just about as bad as the undesirable crowd.

At one time there was a fire at the town’s post office and the sheriff refused to let the large oil companies help extinguish the flames until all of the postal records were destroyed. After that, the oil companies decided the sheriff was on his own and the blaze from the post office eventually consumed an entire block of business buildings.

During the blaze the sheriff got into a shootout with a peace officer from another town over a woman and ended up in the hospital. The sheriff was shot once in the chest and once in each shin, breaking both of his legs. The other lawman didn’t fair too much better because he ended up getting shot four times by Alvarado. Both men lived and became good friends after spending time in the same hospital recuperating from their wounds. The women the fight was about ended up getting shot by the second lawman and she died.

Whizbang is located in Osage County, OK about one and a half miles north and one and a half miles west of present day Shidler, OK. Whizbang was only known as Whizbang for a very short time. As with a lot of things, the federal government decided to stick their noses into things when the post office was established in December 1921. The Post Office Department decided the name Whizbang was not dignified enough for a town name and renamed the town Denoya, after a prominent Osage Indian family.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the name Denoya, it’s the fact that some government suit type guy took it upon himself to change the name of an entire town just because he didn’t feel it was proper.

The town eventually died out and the post office was closed in September 1942. What’s left of the town now is not much. In 1975 there were a few buildings still standing and several foundations that could still be seen.

This could be a very good spot to do some metal detecting even though there is probably a lot of junk around. Who knows, maybe you can find some of the bullets that missed their targets during those frequent shootings.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Documenting a treasure site, a little more

After writing the last article about documenting a site and what you should have with you I received a couple of e-mails from our readers telling me that I left out a few things.

I just know you were waiting to here this because everybody wants to go out and buy a bigger back pack so they can carry even more stuff to a site! I know I always look forward to lugging the 30-40 pound pack I carry around!

As with just about everything in life, what you take to a site is optional. Myself, I’m a little anal about being prepared and not wanting to have to make a special hike just to get some information I should have already had.

With that said, some the other things our readers wanted me to mention were things like a tape measure, chalk, a set of binoculars, a flashlight and extra batteries.

I’ve always said we can’t tell you everything but we will try to give you a good idea about a subject.

The other things mentioned are good to have and should probably be included in your kit. I carry all of the above except for the chalk. I don’t like to chalk carvings for various reasons but the main reason is if it isn’t done right you can hide the actual meaning of the carving. If you need to highlight a carving to see it better or to photograph it try pouring water on it. This actually works and isn’t just one of those movie tricks you see in National Treasure II.

I do carry a tape measure, actually two. One is a small 6 foot tape for measuring short distances such as the depth of a drill hole or the distance between drill holes or other things that are in carvings or placed close together. On occasion these distances can be translated into actual distances in the field between points.

I also carry a 100 foot tape for measuring longer distances in the event I get into a site that requires exact distances. On occasion I work sites that are out in the open and don’t have trees and brush blocking your view and on those sites I always carry my laser rangefinders for getting the distances from one marker to another without having to actually walk the distance between them. Hey, I’m getting older and I’ll take doing it the easy way over the hard way just about every time! I wouldn’t say that the laser rangefinders are required equipment but they can be handy.

Binoculars won’t actually help you document a site but they will help you see things you might need to document. Flashlights are the same way, they won’t actually help you document anything but they will help you find some things that you may want to document. As with the tape measure, I always carry two flashlights. You may think this is really anal but just wait until you have your one and only light go dead on you when you are in the back of a dark tunnel. I can tell you from experience it sucks! If you think you are going to need a flashlight then you need two!

And in case you are wondering, the batteries didn’t go dead, I had extra batteries. The frickin’ bulb burned out! Who would have expected that? I’m a pretty prepared guy but I don’t carry extra flashlight bulbs around with me, at least not yet.

Extra batteries should be a given. Anytime you carry any piece of equipment that requires batteries then you should have extra batteries just in case.

As with interpreting the signs and symbols, each site is different. The type and amount of equipment you need or should have will continually change as you go from site to site. It's just the nature of the game.

If it was easy then everybody would be doing it!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Documenting a treasure site

I have written about this before but I wanted to touch on the subject again because of my own recent experiences.

I have been working an outlaw site with my partner the last few months and we have noticed that since the site was first discovered, about three years ago, someone has come in and moved some of the rock markers that were laid out in the early 1890’s. Luckily, we actually listen to our own advice and took several photos of the markers when they were first found which allowed us to place the markers back into their original configurations.

In some instances this might not be too important, depending on whether or not the markers imparted any actual information or are just a “you are here” type marker, but in our case one of the rock layouts turned out to be a rock map and the positioning of the rocks was crucial.

I can’t impress upon you enough how important it can be to document your site and the things you find. Even things that at the time may not be anything but you have a suspicion about.

In the case of the sites I work, I always take photos of everything, several photos from several different angles and in some cases I even add a compass to the shot and focus on the compass face to document the direction. I know there are die hard fans of film photography out there but in the case of treasure hunting, if you don’t already have a digital camera you should get one. In my opinion, they should be considered as important if not more important than a metal detector. Even if it is just a small pocket digital camera, anything is better than nothing. Of course you can use a film camera but then you are paying for film and developing which in this day and age can get expensive, especially if you really photograph everything you find.

A notebook and compass should be considered essential gear for working a site. I take fastidious notes about carvings and markers that I find. I try to include a small drawing of what it is so there isn’t any confusion later on when I am looking at photos. I include any compass headings, including the reverses of anything that may be a pointer. I try to make a note of where the marker is located in relation to the next closest thing I have found in the area and if it is the first marker then I make a note of where it is in relation to the most prominent feature or carved map if I happen to be working a carved map.

These days GPS units are getting cheap enough that you can’t really afford to be without one. Part of my documenting a site includes writing down the GPS coordinates of each thing I find in my handy notebook and then marking the spot in the GPS waypoint list. Even the older GPS units will hold up to 500 waypoints so there’s no reason not to mark something.

Keep in mind that there are things you will run into that may or may not fit into your layout. I have learned over time that if it looks odd or out of place or something in my gut tells me “this ain’t natural” then I will get the coordinates and take several photos because I can always delete that information later, only after the site has been worked to a conclusion.

If you don’t document something that turns out to be important and it disappears before you figure out how important it was then there isn’t any going back. This is something that can lead to a lot of frustration and possibly even ending the search on that particular site if the clue is/was that important.

If you are serious about treasure hunting then do yourself a favor, invest in a good digital camera, a good GPS unit, a compass, some small notebooks and pens or pencils. Take the time to document everything when you are working a site. It can be a real pain in the butt however; in the long run it will make things easier and make you a better treasure hunter.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A different kind of resource, Very different

This is a very strange resource for information and I can’t believe I am directing our readers to the “Story” Channel A.K.A. The History Channel but I am.

Over the past several months I have been watching a TV show called Pawn Stars. It airs on the History Channel several nights a week (like most of their shows do) and I think the new episodes are generally on on Monday nights around 9:00 p.m. central.

This is supposed to be a reality show but some of it appears to be staged because there just can’t be that many people bringing the kinds of things into this pawn shop that are coming in.

See, I told you it was a very strange resource for information but bear with me on this. Even though a lot of what is brought into the pawn shop for the show does appear to be staged (something the History Channel seems to be getting really good at) the things that they do put on the show can be a learning experience for us as treasure hunters.

Several of the episodes I have seen have shown historical pieces like swords and firearms from the Civil War and earlier being brought in. There has been actual treasure from a sunken ship, an 18th century cannon, a 17th century sun dial, an actual Spanish treasure chest and more.

Sure, each episode has some of the usual stuff like people wanting to pawn a motorcycle or pinball machine but the historical pieces continually pop up in several episodes.

When these pieces are brought in the owner always has a “buddy” that just happens to be an expert on what ever it is that is being brought in. This is where it gets interesting and worth your time to watch. The expert spends some time explaining why something is real or not and gives their opinion of its current value.

In the case of the Spanish treasure chest that was brought in the owner had stated he had hired a locksmith to try to open the chest but it couldn’t be done, even though there was a big keyhole on the front of the box. When the expert came in and examined the chest he was able to verify that it was an actual Spanish chest, approximately 300 years old and he was able to show how to open the chest using a hidden keyhole on the top of the chest. The big keyhole on the front was fake and put there to confuse people about how to get into the chest. Treasure hunting is never easy!

Now don’t get me wrong, the show is kind of hard to watch at times because of a couple of the goobers they have on the program, mainly the youngest of three family members who run the store known as “Big Hoss” and one of the employees known as “Chumley”. I don’t think I would let either one of these guys near anything antique or one of a kind but that’s just me.

Trust me on this one, there is enough interesting things that they have on the show that you will sit through the more mundane items and the antics of the two goobers. I still think a lot of the things are staged just to have interesting things come into the shop but when it comes to learning information, I don’t think that matters.

Do yourself a favor and check this show out. You’d be surprised how much things are worth and how easy it is to tell a fake from the real McCoy when it comes to relics and some other things you might run across while treasure hunting.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

George Parrott, A Wyoming Outlaw

I figured while I was looking at research up north I would just stay there with this story from Wyoming.

This one is about an outlaw that had a pension for stealing gold, either from the gold shipments themselves coming from the mines in the area or from the payrolls for the people working in the area.

George Parrott operated in South Dakota and Wyoming and hid the majority of his spoils near the Black Hills located in these two states. George was extremely fond of the Big Horn Mountains and he and “the gang” hid out in that area almost exclusively. They were known to return to the Big Horn Mountains after almost every robbery.

As with most of the outlaws of the late 1800’s the gang members were all eventually captured or killed because enough was never enough. Just like part of his gang, George Parrott was caught, and I would assume given a fair trial , before he was summarily hanged.

In 1947 a book was published entitled “Wyoming, Frontier State“. In this book was a map to one of George Parrott’s hidden treasures. It’s not much of a map and I have posted the drawing at the top of this article. Along with the drawing was the following information:

“This box is at cross in line with the 3 hills and twin buttes on south of Beaver Creek several miles. The cache is on the eastside of Dry Beaver at second bend north from junction in little draw.”

So there you have it, a supposed outlaw map with an X that marks the spot and everything. What more could you ask for?

Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 Get Together

For those of you wondering, James has decided to change the date of the get together this year because he received several e-mails from our readers saying they wouldn't be able to make it in June.

The new date is tentatively set for September 18th. This will make the weather a little cooler so if any of you want to do some hiking the day before or after you can probably get it done without it being 100 degrees outside!

James is working on a few things that we may be able to go see during the meeting but it is all still in the works so I won't mention anything just in case it doesn't pan out. As usual, there will be plenty of things to see anyway and lots of people to talk to. If you have anything you would like to share such as photos or things you have found please bring them with you. We all like to see what is being found, even if it's just a carving or rock marker.

Mark your calendars, (maybe in pencil, just in case James changes his mind again)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Michigan Outlaw Loot

Have you ever been to Michigan, eh? Do ya like lookin’ for outlaw loot? Is a million dollars of post Civil War era money enough to peak your interest?

If so, then you might want to do a little extra research on John Smalley of Michigan. Mr. Smalley was Michigan’s most infamous train robber. He is said to have accumulated over one million dollars of stolen money from the many robberies he committed.

It is said that John Smalley never went anywhere without a good chunk of change on his person. Can you blame the guy? He worked hard so he liked to play hard and we all know that playing hard can be pretty expensive!

When John Smalley died he didn’t have a penny on him and it was thought that before he died he hid what money he did have on him so it couldn’t be found. You’re probably wondering how he would know when he was going to die and when he should hide his money, huh?

In 1895 John Smalley was at the home of his girlfriend, Cora Brown, who lived in Mc Bain, Michigan when he was surrounded by a posse. The posse asked him several times, probably really nicely, to come out of the house and surrender but Mr. Smalley declined, probably very politely don‘t you think? Well, maybe not so much. When Smalley chose to ignore the request to surrender the posse shot the house and John Smalley full of holes.

At the time of his death he girlfriend was not in the house and nobody bothered to search for any money.

Besides his girlfriend’s house in Missaukee County, John Smalley also spent some time at a cabin in Clare County that belonged to the outlaw‘s father.

David Smalley, John’s father, built a log cabin five miles northeast of Clare, Michigan on the Colonville Road just after the Civil War. John Smalley was known to use this cabin as a hideout on many occasions and it is thought that he hid the majority of the money he didn’t spend somewhere around that cabin.

Supposedly none of the stolen money has ever been found.

As a side note, the Colonville Road used to lead to Colonville which is now a ghost town so you might even get in a little coin shooting or relic hunting while you are there.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nine Pound Gold Nugget Found

I took this little "nugget" of information from one of the forums I am a member of. I'd like to thank the member who posted it because I stole it directly from him. I thought our readers might want to know what is being reported in the way of gold finds.
NEVADA CITY, CA - More than 160 years after the discovery of gold led to the California Gold Rush, a Nevada County landowner offered proof the 49ers left plenty behind for future generations.
Jim Sanders, identified as a San Francisco businessman, provided a picture to The Union newspaper of a 9-pound nugget he said he found on property owned by his family. The newspaper agreed not to identify the precise location of the discovery.
Sanders told the paper he also found two other large nuggets, one 10 ounces and another 8 ounces. He said a professional survey of the property showed there's a lot more where those came from in an area of past hydraulic mining.

Local jeweler Terry Mohr hadn't seen the nugget, but was impressed nonetheless at the reported size, which he said would make it worth well over $100,000.

"I've been doing gold nugget jewelry for over 30 years and I don't know as I've heard of a nugget that size being found in this area in all the time I've been involved," Mohr said.

Sanders told The Union that he chose to take his discovery public because he will be seeking permits to begin mining the property.