State Treasure - Arkansas

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 39 of the March, 2010 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2010 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved

Arkansas Gold Fever
POLK COUNTY – With the price of gold today, this lead may be worth checking out.
On May 30, 1853, the Quachita Herald ran a story claiming, "During the past week the gold fever has raged in this region to a considerable extent.
"Gold in small quantities has been found in the valleys, on hilltops, and indeed almost everywhere search has been made.
"We saw a very fine specimen a few days ago of what is called the honey-comb quartz, which is always considered the best indication of rich diggings."
The story goes on to explain that several attempts at digging test pits were hampered by rain, but one shaft dug to a depth of roughly 20 feet did result in the discovery of a gold vein.
That shaft is reported to have filled with water and pumping efforts were underway.
The Herald claims there is no doubt that gold does exist in the region and questioned whether it could be found in sufficient quantities to justify working it.
The Herald cited mining experts who stated… “it as [sic] their opinion that gold in large quantities may be found not only along the banks of the Quachita, but in the bed of the river.”
One final post-script to the story states that a fine specimen of gold was received at the newspaper’s office, which came from the Hodge’s Mine.

The Lost Escalante Payroll
CARROLL COUNTY – On October 24, 1975, Basil Robertson, John Humphreys and his mother took off from an airfield in Arapahoe, Colorado, in a company-owned Cessna.
Their destination was Paducah, Kentucky.
On board was $20,000 in currency that was secured in a metal briefcase. They never arrived at their destination and the $20,000 in cash has never been recovered.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report, NTSB Identification FTW76AF036, the Cessna 421B, Registration number N100QU, was owned by the Escalante Coal Company and the $20,000 on board was the company’s payroll.
The report indicates that the 44-year-old pilot had been briefed via radio by flight service personnel that the aircraft was heading into a severe thunderstorm, but the pilot opted to ignore the warning and pushed the Cessna towards its destination.
The pilot flew directly into the storm until the small airplane was caught up in strong gusts of wind and heavy rains.
Over Kansas, the Cessna was forced off course to the southeast by hundreds of miles as the aircraft began being hit by hail and experiencing major turbulence.
In the skies over Carroll County, Arkansas, at 1:28 p.m. the aircraft disintegrated and the fuselage crashed in rugged terrain five miles south of Berryville on the south bank of the Kings River. All three on board were killed.
I have two unconfirmed reports that may or may not offer some clue to finding this treasure.
According to one source, a newspaper account claimed that scattered debris from the wreckage covered a distance of 20 miles starting near Trigger Gap.
As the crow flies, Trigger Gap is just 4.4 miles northwest of the crash site.
If debris was recovered 20 miles from the crash site, then it would be safe to assume that the newspaper account was in error and the tornado-type winds that hit the airplane would’ve been responsible for carrying any debris from the plane such a distance.
The second account claims, “When found, the plane was strangely intact.”
Perhaps this source intended to say that the fuselage was strangely intact.
Clearly, from the NTSB report, this aircraft was ripped apart in flight. The NTSB cites the Type of Accident as being, “Airframe failure in flight.” Cited as item number two for Probable Causes, the report states, “Pilot in Command – Exceeded designed stress limits of aircraft.”
The report also lists “Separation in flight” as a factor in the crash.
What about the missing metal briefcase containing $20,000 in cash? It could’ve been sucked out of the plane in-flight or maybe it bounced when the aircraft completed its uncontrolled collision with the south bank of the Kings River.
Whatever the truth is, two things are for certain.
One, the case didn’t fly open and scatter any currency all over northwest Carroll County or around the crash site.
And two, it has never been found.

The Legend of Madre Vena
BENTON COUNTY – The story of the Madre Vena treasure is well known and with time has become one of Arkansas’ best-known unsolved mysteries.
This story has also been called the Lost Madre Vena Mine, but the site where the treasure was hidden is likely not a mine, but a natural cave where a large treasure of gold and silver was cached sometime after 1830.
The Spanish worked their gold and silver mines in Arkansas from 1560 through around 1830.
The gold and silver mined was transported from Arkansas to Mexico where it was shipped to Spain.
As American settlers began moving into the region, the Spanish closed their mines, concealed the entrances and left treasure symbols etched into nearby rocks so they could return later to re-open their mines.
American westward expansion however prevented the Spanish from ever returning.
While most of the Spanish left around 1830 some decided to remain and married into the native population.
One Spaniard who remained was Manuel Alarcon, who among the Spanish was known to have had great success with locating silver and gold throughout the Ozarks.
He also knew the hidden locations of all the Spanish mines that had been closed.
The legend claims Alarcon took on some partners who helped him go from one Spanish mine to the next, cleaning up the silver and gold left behind by the Spanish during their mass exodus from Arkansas.
This treasure was then loaded into carts and transported to a cave located approximately 10 miles north of Bentonville near the state line.
The cave is described as being huge with numerous passageways and located just south of the Arkansas / Missouri state line on the Arkansas side.
Over time, the amount of treasure accumulated and hidden in the cave is said to have been massive.
Once Alarcon and his men had cleaned out the old Spanish mines, they sealed up and disguised the passageway leading to their secret chamber within the cave that held their accumulated wealth.
Then Alarcon murdered his partners and vanished.
Thirty years later he was found in Pierce City, Missouri, where he was gravely ill.
Locals revealed that Alarcon was known to be a hermit and a prospector that was regarded as being half-crazed.
While being treated by a local doctor, Alarcon told the story about the enormous treasure he’d hidden 30 years before.
He revealed that he’d engraved a map onto a stone slab that would lead to the cave and its hidden treasure chamber within. Alarcon died shortly after.
The doctor told the story; whether he ever attempted to locate the cave himself is unknown, but plenty of others did.
Legend states that one man did find the stone slab bearing Alarcon’s map.
Realizing the slab was to heavy to move, he memorized the details on the map then destroyed it to keep others from finding it.
It is said he tried and failed to locate the cave and eventually disappeared from the area.
Years later the man drew the Alarcon map as he remembered it for a friend, a Mr. Vanwormer of Afton, Oklahoma.
Vanwormer attempted to find the cave, but failed, and turned the map over to his son, Frank Vanwormer.
Frank and two other men searched the area and located the broken stone slab that Alarcon’s map had been etched into, along with the graves of Alarcon’s murdered partners.
Vanwormer’s team then found the cave. They estimated that it could have hundreds of passageways that seemed endless.
They spent two weeks exploring the cave’s interior, but never found the concealed passageway that would lead them to the treasure.
One year later they returned and discovered a stone slab that had been artificially placed at the entrance to one passageway.
They used dynamite to blow the passageway open, which resulted in a cave-in that buried Vanwormer and his team alive. No rescue was attempted.
Two other attempts were made to re-open the cave, one in 1915 and again in 1920; both failed.
In 1960, a landslide covered the cave’s entrance and legend states the exact location has become lost.

The Quachita Herald, Letter from the Arkansas Gold Region, May 30, 1853. Reprinted by the New York Times on June 15, 1853.
Okie Treasure Hunter, A Modern Day Lost Treasure, July 2, 2009,
Henson, Michael Paul, “Arkansas,” December 1988, Lost Treasure magazine, p. 49
NTSB Accident report, FTW76AF036, File 3-4156,
Alveshire, Budd, Arkansas True Treasures, 2007, Unpublished manuscript provided by author.
Check out Budd Alveshire book, Arkansas Buried Treasures, at