Topeka's Treasure Creek

By Thomas B. Jewell
From page 32 of the February, 1976 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © February, 1976 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved

Shunganunga Creek was usually placid during the last century, but sometimes it raged out of control, grasping and destroying anything caught in its flood waters. Such was the fate of Frank Abbott's wagon, lumber...and cash.

Settlers in Wabaunsee County, Kansas, spent days rounding up their oxen to take logs to a sawmill in Kansas City. They set out on February 9, 1857, with Frank Abbott as a driver. His oxen proved unruly and by the second day out he could hardly hold them in the road. He stopped along the way and traded them with a settler for three less rambunctious critters.

For a few miles, it seemed that his troubles were over, but then his wagon started falling apart. He waved his companions on, yelling that he'd catch up with them later. He turned off the road and headed for a nearby Baptist Mission where he could get a good wagon and leave his to be repaired.

His friends went on, expecting Abbott to overtake them. That evening they had hardly made camp before a violent thunderstorm broke. It poured all night and rain was still falling at daybreak. They weren't concerned that Abbott hadn't reached camp, figuring he'd holed up when the rain started. Instead, he had barely escaped with his life and had lost everything, including a sack heavy with $750 in gold and silver coins.

Abbott left the Mission with a new wagon, planning to overtake the others. When it started raining, he drove on, drenched. By dark the rain was so heavy his oxen were struggling to pull the wagon through the hub-deep mud. He started looking for shelter.

Abbott was mucking through the mud on the south side of Shunganunga Greek near present-day Topeka when across the stream he saw Indian Abram Burnett's cabin. He decided a covered wagon near it must have made it across the rising water, so he would try, too.

He drove the oxen along the creek until he found what looked like a good crossing. "I decided to see if the lead oxen were afraid," he said later. "I yelled at 'em, and they plunged right in."

But Abbott hadn't realized how swollen the stream was. The current snatched the oxen and wagon and sucked them into mid-stream. He tried to free the oxen from the wagon, but finally had to swim back to shore to keep from drowning. From the bank, he saw the cattle catch in the branches of a tree. The wagon splintered and floated from sight. With it went the gold and silver.

The unlucky teamster swore, then began slogging through the mud. He met an Indian who led him to a stream crossing and to Burnett's cabin, where he dried out. The next day, he returned to see if he could salvage anything. The oxen's carcasses dangled from a tree. Down the now-lazy creek, the wagon, gold and silver had vanished.

Somewhere downstream, $750 in 1857 gold and silver coins still are buried in the silt. It would be worth a lot more today.