ArkansasBy Anthony J. Pallante
From page 27 of the June, 2000 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © June, 2000 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved
Secret of the Mulberry
Misfortune brings Sorrow enough; Tis envy to ourselves, To augment it by prediction! From Queen of Aaragon
1. Spanish treasure cache
According to the history books, the Spanish and French traded Arkansas back and forth several times without either one of them doing very much with it. But artifacts discovered by treasure hunters and legends originating in New Orleans tell a different story. According to the legends, nine Spanish treasure galleons on the Gulf of Mexico were chased up the Mississippi in the latter half of the 1700s by English pirates. They followed the Arkansas River as far as the mouth of the Mulberry River where they allegedly dismantled their ships. From here they proceeded overland into the area that would later be known as the Boston Mountains where the Indians led them to several rich silver mines. Somewhere along the line of march, the treasure that they carried in the galleons was cached in a secret sealed cave. In the early 1900s, a party of Spanish treasure hunters from Mexico removed a large cache of treasure from a site near the town of Mulberry and near the Mulberry River. The Spanish supposedly had U.S. government approval for their actions but were operating on a strict schedule. Two months and no more was the time frame for the removal of the treasure. When they left, they resealed the cave and disguised the site, giving rise to speculation that not all the treasure was recovered. Eyewitness testimony lists over 100 gold ingots and a large diamond encrusted gold jardiniere among the many treasures located. The exact location of the cache site has never been rediscovered, but it is believed to be a sealed cave on the south bank of the Mulberry River somewhere between Barron Creek and Hill Mine in Franklin County. The Hill Mine itself is thought to be one of the several silver mines that the Spanish had worked in this area. In 1901, two 85 percent pure silver nuggets were found at this location 17 miles north from Interstate 40 on Highway 23, then two miles east on the gravel road to the mine site. Many researchers believe that the Hill Mine may be the site of the legendary Lost Louisiana Mine.
2. James Gang caches
The James Gang committed only one documented robbery in Arkansas, but they are alleged to have hidden numerous caches throughout the state from loot taken in crimes committed in Missouri. Most of these cache stories should be taken with more than a single grain of salt. For instance, it has been reported that $32,000 stolen during an 1877 Hot Springs stage coach robbery was hidden in the Brushy Mountains between Plainfield and Hot Springs. Records indicate that the James Gang did rob the Hot Springs stage at Malvern in 1874 and that the actual take was about $4,000 plus a number of gold and silver watches and one diamond stickpin. After the Northfield disaster in 1876, Frank and Jessie fled to Kentucky and Tennessee and committed no verifiable new crimes until October of 1879. The so-called 1877 robbery like many others mentioned as treasure leads never took place. However, this doesnt mean that all the James Gang cache stories should be discounted. As James D. Horan points out in his excellent history Desperate Men, One of the most fascinating questions about the career of Jessie James is what did he do with the money he stole?
He didnt squander it the way most outlaws did, so treasure writers that insist that the bulk of the loot is still hidden in numerous cache sites in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma might just be right. In the following list of possible James Gang cache sites I have omitted the amounts claimed, which are often ludicrous, and the crimes from which the cache stories were taken, which are confused at best.
Clay County In the area of Paragould and along the Black and St. Francis Rivers.
Washington County In a cave on a bluff near Springdale. The entrance to this cave was supposedly sealed with a large rock bearing a carving of an Indian head.
Yell County On Pollucks Bluff in the Ouachita Mountains near Bluffton.
Perry County Somewhere in the mountains south of Hollis.
Saline County At Rock House Cave 13 miles from Little Rock on the old Hot Springs Road.
3. River pirate lair
Stack Island on the Mississippi near the mouth of the Arkansas River played host to numerous successive gangs of river pirates. The Sam Mason gang put in a brief appearance around 1800, and by 1811 two gangs were using the island simultaneously. The river pirates used decoys, dishonest pilots, false distress signals, and other ruses to lure passing flatboats close to shore. The passengers and crew of a captured flatboat were killed, robbed, eviscerated, filled with gravel, and thrown into the river in that order. The cargo was taken down river and sold at a discount to dishonest merchants.
The Mason gang left in a hurry. The Clary gang, which followed them, was captured and prosecuted. The Stack Island Gang itself evaporated when the authorities began to close in. All three are thought to have left caches on the island and in the general area around the mouth of the Arkansas.
4. Conway County cache
Edgar Mason distrusted banks and didnt think too much of most of the people he knew. About the only person Mason seemed to be able to associate with was a ranch hand named Weaver. One afternoon in the early 1880s Weaver went to visit Mason at his cabin 20 miles east of Morrilton in Conway County. When he arrived, Weaver found Mason digging near a large group of trees north of the cabin. Mason told Weaver that he had buried a wash tub containing about $62,000 worth of gold and silver coins in the area but couldnt remember the exact location. Mason and Weaver searched all that day and for the better part of the next two years without success. Eventually Mason became a semi-invalid and had to move to Missouri to live with his sister. Weaver continued to search for a time but eventually lost interest. The wash tub of gold and silver coins has never been found.
Two other Conway County caches are said to be located in the vicinity of the mouth of Cadron Creek. A grove of cedar trees at this location marks the spot where a river landing gave birth to the community of Cadron which became a favorite haunt of gamblers and outlaws. Several thousand dollars taken from the sheriff/tax collector or Cadron was buried here by a gambler just before he was killed in a gun fight, and long time Cadron resident Hans Wesson buried a large cache of gold and silver on the nearby west bank of the Arkansas River.
5. Bootleggers cache
During Prohibition there was a large demand for a distinctive brand of moonshine known as Garland City Pride. The Pride sold for as much $20 a gallon at a time when a cord of cut wood cost 50 cents, tempting many a formerly honest citizen to take up moonshining and reap more profits than he knew what to do with.
Eventually the mystique of illicit booze produced in the countryside around Garland City became so pervasive that it precipitated a backwoods gang war for control of this lucrative trade. Many independent moonshiners were killed for defying the gang lords, and it is suspected that numerous caches of ill-gotten gains were left behind by those who did not survive.
In certain sections of Arkansas and Missouri it was common for moonshine distributors to pay their suppliers by leaving money in the trunk of a certain tree. Since the money had to withstand the forces of nature until it was picked up, payment was often made in the form of silver dollars. Very often moonshine suppliers engaged in local turf wars found themselves on the wrong end of a shotgun.
In 1933 a cache of 170 silver dollars was found in a hollow tree in a cotton field along the road near Keiser in Mississippi County. Forty-two years later, a similar cache of 152 silver dollars was found in a burned tree stump at a nearby home site along the Little Red River. It is not known if these tree stump caches were bootlegger caches or not, but they fit one of the possible profiles of a bootlegger cache. Other bootlegger caches are said to be hidden in the area around Ozark in Franklin County and in the hills of Newton County.
Authors Note: I have 20 pages of treasure information on: Arkansas which I can copy for $6 (I pay postage). Send check or money order to: Anthony J. Pallante, PO Box 353, Haddon Heights, NJ 08035.
Dabney, Earl. Mountain Spirits. Charles Scribners Sons, 1974.
Coates, Robert. The Outlaw Years. MacCauley Co., 1930. Horan, James D. Desperate Men.
Martinez, Lionel. Great Unsolved Mysteries of North America. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986.