Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Texas Vacation

Early one morning a few weeks ago my wife awoke with an urge to go pick up seashells on a beach somewhere. We packed up the car and headed south to Galveston Island, Texas. Of course my sons and I decided a side trip to the Cabela's Store was in order on the way down.

Having spent over a year on the sea I no longer have a desire to see the sun rise up on the water but my wife did, so the next day we were up before daylight heading to the ferry that crosses over to the Bolivar Peninsula. For some reason the TSA guys at the ferry entrance decided my family of four looked like a group of terrorist and pulled us out of the line so that they could search our car. Now remember we had made a stop at Cabela's and had a few boxes of ammo in the trunk. Just imagine the thoughts I was having of my car stripped apart as they looked for the guns the ammo went to. Fortunately they just had me pop the trunk and hood so they could take a quick look.

I did make note that they didn't pull any of the cars to the side that had occupants not born here in the good ol' USA. It could have been my Oklahoma license plate that triggered their need to search us.

Once on the Bolivar side we headed towards Roll Over Pass which happens to have the best spot for gathering seashells. I also found reminders of the hurricane that just about swept the place away. I picked up pieces of bright colored tile and a ceiling fan blade.

From there we headed north to Glen Rose Texas. This is a great little town to visit. I recommend eating at Hollywood and Vine. The food was delicious. We also made a trip to the Creation Evidence Museum. Just after you turn onto the road to the museum there's the Stone Hut. You have to stop in and look around. It was well worth the trip just to talk to Morris Bussey. You can go to http://www.glenrosefossilhunter.com/ or look him up on Youtube. You can find dinosaur tracks in the local streams around the Glen Rose area.

All of this got us in the mood to find a few fossils ourselves, so once again we loaded up and took off driving towards the Mineral Wells Fossil Park where you can find and keep the fossils that you come across. On the way up we made another side  trip to Granbury where J. Frank Dalton is buried. The town seems to have become a tourist trap and I couldn't find anyone on the square with an interest in J. Frank, so we drove the short distance to the cemetery and located his grave. There were pennies scattered across the tombstone. I'm not sure if people left them there for luck much like a wishing well, but to not be left out I placed one there as well.

Mineral Wells is an interesting area, but I didn't have a detector with me to go looking for the gold that Frank James had supposedly hidden in the area. After a couple of hours of searching for fossils we decided that we had enough of being on vacation and headed north to our beloved Oklahoma. There's nothing like sleeping in your own bed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What were the trains carrying back in the day?

Here's another tidbit from Rick. I can see why trains were targets for outlaws.

This excerpt is from The History of Linn County Iowa by Luther Brewer and Barthinius Wick

After the completion of the railroad, Mr. Reiner was given a position as ex-
press messenger on one of the trains. "Many times," said the veteran express
messenger, "I have literally had the car floor paved with gold and silver, over
which I walked in doing my work. We had carried lots of gold and silver bars
east from Virginia City, in Nevada. In order that the weight should be evenly
distributed the bars were spread like paving bricks all over the car floor. The
following description, written by a reporter from one of the Council Bluffs
papers while Mr. Reiner was yet at Boone, gives a description of the work! of
carrying the bullion :

"While viewing the scenes at the transfer yesterday afternoon, we boarded
W. F. Reiner's Northwestern express car and beheld a scene that caused our bump
of inquisitiveness to jump. Mr. Reiner is a messenger of the American Merchants
Union Express company, and will have served in his present position and on his
present route seven years in November next. He lives in Boone. On the floor
of his car were sixty-seven gold and silver bricks. That is, each brick was com-
posed of gold and silver in compound. In some of them, silver predominated —
in value. They resemble silver almost entirely in color. They are of somewhat
irregular sizes, though nearly every one of them weighs more than one hundred
pounds. Some of them were much more refined than the others. The amount
of gold and silver in each one is stamped on the face or top, in different lines, and
the total value of the brick is added in a third line. The value of each metal is
marked, even to a cent. How those values can be so accurately determined in a
compound brick is beyond our knowledge.

 Fifty-seven of those bricks which we yesterday saw, were worth $101,950.80. The remaining eleven were worth $15,077.57. They were mostly from Virginia City and are being taken to New York. Mr. Reiner informed us also that these bricks are carried only by the Northwestern and Rock Island roads. On some days he has had as many as 160 of them in his car. They are taken east nearly every day."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Is a Steel Penny in Our Near Future?

It cost more to make a penny than it is worth, so say goodnye to the copper/zinc penny and welcome the steel penny. I have a large pile of the 1943 steel pennies, so having one made 70 years later in my collection is fine with me. This will also bring the legal melting of copper pennies one step closer to reality. I have mixed feelings about this though. Please leave a comment with your thoughts on the subject.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Rick's East-West Trails Story

I love it when when our readers contribute a story of their own and Richard Bierman has been kind enough to submit one of his. If you have a story that you would like to share feel free to email me.

In her book The Commerce of Louisiana During the French Regime, 1699-1763, Nancy Surrey writes, "Some Spanish coins also came into Louisiana by way of the Illinois country. These the French obtained in trade with the western Indians who secured them, directly or indirectly, from New Mexico."

When I read those two sentences, I had an instant Indiana Jones moment. I live in eastern Iowa and during the French colonial period Iowa was part of the Illinois country. I could just imagine all sorts of Spanish gold and silver moving through my county heading east to Montreal or Quebec. As it turns out, that idea might not be too far-fetched.

As I studied my county's history, I found mention of an old Indian trail that started at the Mississippi River and continued west across central Iowa. A section of this trail was marked with three boulders between the Mississippi and Cedar Rivers. After further research, I found that this trail was a westward extension of the Great Sauk Trail that runs east from the Mississippi to the Detroit, Michigan area. From there, it's a boat trip to Montreal and Quebec.

From the west bank of the Mississippi, the trail travels toward Des Moines where it meets a north-south trail called the Dragoon Trace. This trace moved southwest from Fort Des Moines to Fort Leavenworth where it was close to the network of trails that went west to the New Mexico territory. It would have been possible for precious metals from the southwest to pass through eastern Iowa.

There were many trails heading west that were used by the French during the colonial period. The French moved west from Canada at a rapid pace to expand their fur trade, search for a route to the Pacific and establish trade with the Spanish in the southwest. The Sauk Trail was an important trail during that expansion.

If you are interested in searching for these trails, I would suggest you study the French fur trade and the missionaries of New France.

As these trails moved west, they encountered the steep bluffs of the Mississippi River. Look for clefts in the terrain that would allow a traveler to move from the river to the prairie without having to negotiate a steep bluff. These clefts are formed by tributaries of the Mississippi.

When trying to determine how the older trails passed through your county, go to your county engineer and ask to see your county's original survey notes. These notes will give you information about the Indian trails and early frontier roads that moved through your county.

If you use the Internet for your research, try googling, your counties name, your state and Indian trail. Also try, your counties name, your state and Indian trails. Sometimes I get information from trail that I miss with trails. I'm sure you all know that a lot of the trails the early explorers used were Indian trails.

Finally, in the archives of this blog there is an article written by Rockman titled How to Begin a Treasure Search. It's the best treasure hunting advice I've ever read. You don't have to drive hundreds of miles to hunt for treasure. Here's the link.


Good luck as you search.