A few months ago, a newspaper story was published under the title, The Treasure of Ottawa Hills; Story of the Klotz Family.
In brief, the story started with the Klotz familyfather, mother, two Sons and a daughtermaking their way from somewhere back east, possibly Ohio, to homestead a quarter section of land a few miles north of Salina, Kansas. Time passed and the father was unable to make a living off the land, so the whole family left for Colorado with the exception of the youngest son, Eli.
Eli was an enterprising, hard working young man. On one corner of the 160-acre homestead was an orchard, and as the years passed it thrived and grew. At Elis invitation, passing wagon trains would stop to water livestock and buy fruit, vegetables and fresh meat, thus fattening the money belt he always wore. When the belt was full, he would walk off in the general direction of the orchard, which led his neighbors to believe he was burying the money somewhere nearby.
One day his cabin door was found open but Eli himself was nowhere around. His neighbors, suspecting foul play, called law officials who made an extensive search of the area. But it was as if Eli had been swallowed up, never to be seen again. His neighbors were sure someone had found out about his hidden cache and tried to force Eli to reveal where it was hidden. He was murdered when he refused and his body disposed of in such a manner that no trace has ever been found to this day. So in all probability, a corner of the 160 acres still holds the hidden $200,000 in gold and silver coins.
A few days after reading this article, my partner and I were on our way to Saline County to visit the courthouse. We had our doubts as to the complete accuracy of the article. For one thing, there was the part of the story that bad Eli selling fruit to pioneers passing through the area. Actually, his property was located about midway between the Smoky Hill Route and the Oregon Trail, and the only pioneers in his area would have been trying to scratch a living out of the soil.
This pretty well cut down the idea of Eli selling $200,000 worth of fruit and other items to travelers, but we still felt there was a chance he might have buried a much smaller amount if he had an income from other sources. After all, the article did say he disappeared suddenly, so there could have been something of value buried.
Upon arriving at the courthouse, our first stop was at the Register of Deeds office. The women working there were very helpful and brought out all their old books for us to look through. Hundreds of names later we hadnt found .any record of the Klotz homestead being registered. Then one of the women helping us remembered the record books had been recopied several years before, and it was possible his name had been skipped over. However, his property would be shown in one of the Old plat books. The only catch was, the article said the homestead was several miles north of Salina," meaning it was, but one small plot of land among hundreds of others.
After looking through several books and finding nothing, we began to have our doubts that the story had any truth at all in it. We thanked everyone for their help and walked over to the Probate Court to try our luck there. After getting more negative results, we bad one stop leftthe local newspaper office. A mysterious disappearance in those days would have been good story material for a struggling newspaper.
We started looking in the issues of January 1877, and since the paper was only published twice a month, increasing to daily publication in 1900, we were able to scan through the years in a short time. By the year 1900 we hadnt turned up a single clue, so we called it quits and beaded for home.
Needless to say, we were disappointed in not finding a clue to what should have been a simple site to locate. We talked it over for the next few days and decided the story was either a hoax, or we werent looking in the right places. So a few days later found us on our way to the Ottawa County courthouse, 27 miles north of Salina, Kansas. If nothing was found there, we would write the story off as a hoax or legend.
We started in the Probate Court and five minutes later nearly fell out of our chairs when the Last Will and Testament of Phillip Klotz was produced. There was a wealth of information in the old document. Phillip had left the homestead for health reasons and had gone to Arizona and then on to San Francisco, where he died from causes unknown. He was only 34 years old and had never married. His estate, valued at $2,500, was divided among his four brothers and four sisters. So here, in one document, was found enough evidence to prove that the treasure story was based largely on legend!
What had been found so far, we assumed that Philip had probably worked on the homestead for a short while before leaving. But Eli had applied for the homestead, and Phillip, who was supposed to be the father in the treasure story, was actually Elis brother. The two mens father, Lazarus, still lived in Alsace, Germany.
From here we went to the Register of Deeds to look in the mortgage records. After looking through several dusty old record books, we found what we were afterthe description of the land with the original recording in Elis name. Looking further, we found in the plat records that there had never been an orchard on Elis property.
Eli had married a girl named Mary, and in September, 1905, had sold the property to a man named Baird and had moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Baird, in turn, sold the property years later to the man who owns it today.
Without naming names (the editors of True Treasure have asked us not to), we were next directed to an old timer who was said to really know the history of the area. We felt we had to talk to him. He turned out to be 87 years old, but still possessed of a sharp, quick mind. The moment we started talking about Elis property, he came back with the statement, You must be after the Klotz treasure. After admitting we were interested in it, he told us the whole story almost word for word, as it had been written.
As it turned out, this old timer was the source of the newspaper story that had started our investigation. After talking with him for a while, we realized that he had heard many stories as a young boy, some true and some false. Over the years, many of the facts were forgotten until recently, when he attempted to reconstruct a story about the Klotz family. He did this using the stories he vaguely remembered from his childhood, and felt he was correct when he related them,
Actually, there were many discrepancies, but we were fortunate enough to not only find all of the clues we needed, but also the source of the story. Assembling all of the facts, there was no doubt that we had been tracking down another legend of the old West.
The property was found to be 31 miles north of Salina, not just a few miles north. There was no father, mother, two sons and a daughter. There was only Eli and Philip. Phillip went to Arizona and San Francisconot to Colorado. He was Elis brother and not the father, and he didnt apply for the homestead.
There was no orchard, and from all indications cattle had been kept on the land. The last and most telling clue was the fact that ELI had married and finally sold out and moved to St. Louis, years after he was supposed to have mysteriously disappeared.
After a few hours of research, we now knew there was nothing to be found on the homestead. But after getting involved with Elis non-existent treasure, we felt we owed it to ourselves to at least look at the property. So we drove the few short miles from Minneapolis, Kansas, to the site.
The homestead is in the beautiful Ottawa Hills in a valley with a pond and trees in the center and surrounded by pastureland. As we stood looking at the pasture, we couldnt help but wonder at the type of man it would take to settle there and do his part in helping to civilize the west. It would surely take a breed of man long since gone.
While there was nothing for us to find on this property, there was an old, abandoned farmhouse in the neighborhoodand it looked too good to pass up. By the end of the day we had found old mouse eaten mortgages from the late 1800s and early 1900's, an old 1925 Kansas license plate, one old bottle from the hundred or so that had broken when the wooden shelves rotted and collapsed, a glass doorknob, old ornate door latches, handfuls of old square nails and an old pitchfork.
All in all, we had an enjoyable time looking back into history, even though the relics we brought back were not the hard cash we had hoped to find. However, when sold at auction or to antique dealers, they will bring in enough money to more than pay our expenses in tracking down the elusive treasure of Ottawa Hills.
This little story is only one example of how an alleged treasure story can be proven on hearsay and legend. With a little research, you may save yourself hours of walking around under the hot sun with a metal detector. Also, it may save those of you who read Treasure of Ottawa Hills the trouble and expense of driving to Salina and Minneapolis, Kansas.
"This is the sight that gretted us when we went into the storm cellar on the south side of the house."
Treasure detective Earl F. DuPress. "With a little research, he writes, you may save yourself hours of walking around under the hot sun with a metal detector.
While there was no treasure for us to find, there was an old abandoned farmhouse in the area, and it looked too good to pass up.
Miscellaneous items found by DuPress and his partner around the old house. The relics we brought back will more than pay our expenses in tracking down the elusive treasures of Ottawa Hills.