State Treasures - Mississippi

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 41 of the March, 2011 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2011 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


Samuel Mason, Land
Pirate of the Natchez Trace
CLAIRBOURNE COUNTY – Much of the early history and old legends told of the Natchez Trace about battles, cached treasures, outlaws and the excessive violence they employed to get their dirty work accomplished has been passed from generation to generation.
One such outlaw was Samuel Mason and his gang, who robbed and murdered travelers, freighters, and westbound immigrants along the Trace for almost 13 years.
Samuel Mason, also spelled Meason, (1739-1803) was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1739 and raised in Charles Town, West Virginia. He served as captain of the militia in Ohio County, Virginia (present-day West Virginia), during the American Revolution.
He was elected as justice of the peace in 1779 while living in Washington County, Pennsylvania, and moved to Kentucky in 1784 after being appointed associate judge there.
Early in the 1790’s, Mason relocated his family to Diamond Island, Kentucky, where he began life anew as a vile, murdering river pirate.
Business was good and, by 1797, Mason had moved his family and base of operations downriver to Cave-in-Rock, Illinois. But that unexpectedly ended during the summer of 1799 when a group of vigilantes and bounty-hunters from Mercer County, Kentucky, known as “The Exterminators,” under the command of Captain Young, attacked the outlaw’s camp at Cave-in-Rock.
Rooted from his headquarters, Mason and his family were once again on the move. Eventually they settled in Spanish Louisiana (present-day Missouri) where Samuel could ply the knowledge and skills he acquired as a river pirate to his latest endeavor as a land pirate of the Natchez Trace. From 1790 to 1803,
Mason and his gang robbed and murdered all who crossed their path, meanwhile Mason and his family lived well while he amassed a small fortune in gold and jewels.
By now the price on Mason’s head had reached $2,000, making him a desirable mark for bounty-hunters, but after the Mason gang struck one land caravan with horrific brutality, a posse of local residents and a few bounty-hunters was raised for the purpose of bringing down the Mason gang.
While searching the area, posse men learned the location of Mason’s hideout less than a mile west of the Trace near Rocky Springs.
Located 50 miles northeast of Natchez, and 18.5 miles south of Vicksburg on the Old Port Gibson Road, the posse rode into the dense woods searching for Mason’s hideout.
They discovered the outlaw’s camp near the springs, but it appeared to have been hastily abandoned.
The outlaw’s trail was fresh and quickly cut by one of the posse men. Unfortunately, most of the posse remained at the camp digging for the freebooted gold that had been looted from the recent caravan attacked by the gang.
A few posse men continued to track the fugitives hoping to collect the $2,000 reward, but when the trail soon petered out so did the pursuit.
It seemed Mason and his bunch had escaped the hangman’s noose once again. Further, no gold was found at the outlaw camp.
Early in 1803, Spanish officials arrested Mason and some of his men at the Little Prairie settlement in present-day northeastern Arkansas. Mason and his family were transported to New Madrid, Missouri, where a three-day hearing took place to determine if Mason was a pirate.
Though Mason pleaded innocent, the Spanish were otherwise convinced after finding $7,000 in currency and 20 human scalps in his luggage.
But since all of Mason’s known crimes appeared to have occurred on American soil, and against American vessels, the Spanish governor ordered that Mason and his family be handed over to the American governor in the Mississippi Territory.
While being transported upriver, Mason and gang member Wiley Harpe, also known as “Little Harpe,” overpowered their guards and escaped.
The Spanish report indicates that Mason received one gunshot wound to the head during the escape. The American governor immediately put up more reward money for their recapture.
Then, on September 16, 1803, Wiley Harpe and another man appeared to claim the reward for Mason. With them they carried Mason’s head, which had been severed with a tomahawk. Both men were recognized as being pirates and members of the Mason gang.
Arrested and tried in federal court, both Harpe and the other man were found guilty of piracy and hanged at Greenville, Mississippi, early in 1804. None of the Mason treasure has ever been found.
Mason’s treasure caches have been linked to Rocky Springs, Mississippi, where the cache was buried “between the church and cemetery at Little Sand Creek,” Stack Island, Mississippi, Cave-in-Rock, Illinois, the ghost town of Tillman, Mississippi (Claiborne County), and one cache of $250,000 is said to be buried near one of the gang’s favorite drinking spots, the Colbert Tavern and Inn on the Trace near Bissell, Mississippi.The Gore Treasure
CALHOUN COUNTY – T.P. Gore of Oklahoma is said to have purchased a 640-acre track of land sometime after the Revolutionary War from a local Indian in exchange for a handful of beads and several quarts of whiskey.
A shrewd businessman, Gore built a broad, dogtrot-style house on his land and settled into the plantation lifestyle he desired. Cock fighting and horse racing events were held.
As time passed, a small village popped up around Gore’s plantation, which later became known as Calhoun City. There were no banks in the area so Gore, like his neighbors, buried his money in the ground.
He trusted no one with the location of his buried wealth, though he estimated the gold specie he’d cached was worth around $400,000.
After his death, Gore was entombed on the Gore Plantation. His headstone gives only his birth year as 1776, but no date of his death was recorded. Although some locals have searched over the years for Gore’s gold hoard, it was never found.The Flowers Treasure
MONTGOMERY COUNTY - Buried in an iron pot somewhere on the old Flowers Plantation is $3,500 face value in gold and silver coins dating back to the Civil War.
The coins belonged to 21-year-old James Flowers, who buried them before he set out to join the Confederate Army.
Flowers was killed in the Battle of Fort Pillow, Tennessee, in 1864 and never returned home to claim his treasure. To this day it remains missing.
The Flowers Plantation was located 3 miles southwest of Kilmichael on Vaiden Kilmichael Road.Lost Choctaw Silver Mine
NOXUBEE COUNTY – There is a rich, abandoned Choctaw silver mine located in the vicinity of Macon.
Legend claims the mine had been worked exclusively by the Choctaw Indians until the coming of the white man. Around 1800, white settlers started arriving in the region and the Choctaw abandoned the mine and concealed its entrance.
Known as the Lost Dogwood Mine, the Indians are reputed to have planted six Dogwood trees at the mine’s entrance. The lost mine legend of Choctaw origin has never been found.Lost Forts of Mississippi
Fort la Base – French, (1755) – HARRISON COUNTY- A French fort located near Lyman.
Fort Adams – French and American - (1798-1810) – WILKINSON COUNTY – A French mission and settler’s fort first established in 1698 when the village was known as Wilkinburg.
Under American control, and situated on top of Blockhouse Hill, once sat a Federal blockhouse surrounded by an earthwork battery. The ruins, a pile of stone rubble at the site, is on private property today.
Alibamu Indian Fort – Alibamn Nation - (1400-1600) – OKTIBBEHA COUNTY? – The exact location of this palisaded Indian village of the late Mississippian period is unknown, but is believed to have been situated on or near Line Creek. The site was visited by Hernando DeSoto in April 1541.
The Spanish later attacked the fort and found it formidable, losing seven men while the Indians lost few in the fighting.
Col. James Patton’s Fort – American – (1813) – WAYNE COUNTY – This was a settler’s stockade and fort during the First Creek War, though it saw no action. This was also the site of a mill; some ruins can be found here.Sources:
Kiedrowski, Leonard P., “Mississippi Treasure,” October 1968, True Treasure magazine, p. 51
Starling, Edmund L. 1887. The History of Henderson County, Kentucky. Henderson, Ky. 29-34.
Wikipedia research: Samuel Mason
Let’s Go Digging, Treasures in Mississippi, p.6, http://www.godiggin.com/mississippi.html
Terry, Thomas P., United States Treasure Atlas – Volume 5, 1985, La Crosse, WI, Specialty Publishing Company, p. 535, 537
American Forts East, Mississippi Forts, http://northamericanforts.com/East/ms.html