Digging For Jesse James Gold
Recalls story here 13 years ago
Recent news accounts from Arkansas tell of a hunt for buried gold reportedly concealed many years ago by Jesse James. The present hunt, near Paragould in northeastern Arkansas has been abandoned temporarily when a 22-foot wooden shaft collapsed and the armed diggers ran out of money.
The object of the digging, on the sandy banks of the Black river, is a chest believed to be filled with gold and flung into the river by James as he fled from a posse. The chest is presumed to be at a depth of 30 feet.
Thirteen years ago-Feb. 28, 1940, to be exact – The Constitution-Tribune told a story of buried gold in Arkansas, treasure which bandit Jesse James was said to have buried. The story, preceding the present interview with a business school student who felt sure his grand-father was Frank James. The interview, by Carl McIntire, now news editor of the Sedalia Democrat (near the scene of the first daylight train robbery), is reprinted below:
Thoroughly convinced that he is the grandson of Frank James, brother and :business” associate of the more notorious Jesse James of the pioneer days in Missouri, Coumbus Vaughn, student at the Jackson School of Business from Newton county, Arkansas, tell his story as he learned it and says he can produce evidence and affidavits of proof. However, he adds that he can expect no one to believe him for the tale is fantastic in the light of what has been told in years gone by.
Columbus says that Jesse James was not killed by Bob Ford and that Frank James never surrendered as Missouri history relates. He adds that Robert T. James who lives on the old James farm near Kearney, Mo., is no real relative of the James boys, though he is known as the son of Frank.
The Vaughn family lived quietly and with notoriety near Jasper in Newton County, Arkansas, until 1926 when Columbus’s grandfather, known as Joe Vaughn, died. Joe Vaughn had come to Newton County a long time before and had settled there and had lived a quit life. He raised a family of two children, Wm. Nelson Vaughn, father of Columbus, and a daughter.
When Joe died he left a member of papers and one included a history of his life in which stated that he was Frank James, brother of Jesse. He told the complete story of the James’ boys life in this tale and added what the members of the family are now the final chapters to the biographis of Frank and Jesse James.
The story written by Joe Vaughn, according to the local student, included the statements that Robert Bigelow was the man who was shot by Bob Ford and believed to be Jesse James and that another man who looked somewhat like Frank James, was paid $35,000 by the brothers to “take the rap” for Frank by surrendering to Governor Crittenden. That man has heired the James homested near Kearney, according to Vaughn, and it is his son who lives there now in the belief that his father was the real Frank James.
“It seemed unreal that we were the blood relatives of the James boys,” Columbus said, “so my father and aunt started immediately after reading the history to determine whether or not it was true.” The family tried as hard to prove Joe Vaughn was really Joe Vaughn as it did to prove he was Frank James. There was no connection ever made t substantiate the fact that Vaughn was the man’s real name but many facts led to the belief among members of Columbus’ family that their father and grandfather was really one of America’s most notorious outlaws.
Some of the facts are startling, some rather “happen so” yet when they are all placed together even the skeptics must say that Columbus Vaughn and his family have certain right to claim relationship to the James boys. They are all convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joe Vaughn was Frank James. A book is to be published in the near future, according to the business college student in which all of the information left by Joe Vaughn will be included. Moving picture right, too, have been sold on the story, he says.
Some of the facts that have made the Vaughn family believe Joe’s history are:
(1) Joe’s brother, William Nelson, has the same first names that Jesse James had.
(2) The man who for years has claimed he was Jesse James, appearing on the stage of a New York theater in 1936 and relating some of the tales of the past, was contacted and asked what he though of Joe Vaughn’s story. He wrote back he most interesting of all the facts that have been found, He said, however, these are not his own words:
“Many years ago (about 1920, according to the Vaughn family) I visited your home in Newton County. At that time Joe Vaughn was living. My name then, to you people, was “Santa Mire” and I was taken to your house by William Nelson Vaughn because he thought I looked like his father. I was with a carnival playing at a small town near your home. I stayed all night in your home on that occasion but I saw Joe Vaughn only once, that man was my brother, Frank James.”
(It has been learned by the Vaughn family since that Frank and Jesse were at odds toward the end of their lives. Once the story is told, they rode all day trying to get the draw on the other to shoot to kill. This possibly explains the reason what the two saw each other only for a minute when they were under the same roof in 1920.)
(3) In the story written by Joe Vaughn was the statement that on a 7-acre strip of land in Sebastian County, Arkansas, there were buried two trunks, one containing clothing worn by him in the early days and another containing his guns and some loot money. Columbus says that he himself found a rock with dates cut on it on this 7-acre strip of land. The family dug down 15 feet and found two hinges, a lock and other hardware off a trunk. They thought this was the trunk that had contained clothing. The other trunk was never found.
(4) Joe Vaughn’s story conforms so nearly perfectly with information that has been brought to light on the James boys and the Vaughn family has be unable to disprove any part of this tale.
Truly, Columbus Vaughn has an interesting story of his family live. Whether he can ever convince the public that all of it is true and the disproof of the better known stories of the James boys, is a matter to decided in time. For the present it leaves a question in the minds of many persons as to which story is really true.
This original clipping may be found at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/arkansastellhuntjjames1953.htm