Saturday, December 3, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
A long-ago search for hidden treasure in Franklin county was fruitless but gave rise to some questions still unanswered.
Only another prospector, with mining in his blood and money to invest in an abandoned mine, is all that is needed to start a new gold rush in the mountains near Cass.
Now a ghost town, Cass was a flourishing lumbering center when interest was aroused over a Spanish legend, near the turn of the century.
(Caption under Elias' photo reads: "Mr. Russell who protected Mexican Charley from the mob, was deputy sheriff 22 years. He once hauled nine men 17 miles in his wagon to jail and two others being sent to the penitentiary.)
According to the legend, Spaniards prospecting for gold during the Civil War feared bushwhackers and hid a large number of gold bars and a huge gold cross in a partitioned room underground, somewhere in the mountains. Strange markings high up on an overhanging ledge and a deposit of a peculiarly red earth underneath the ledge, were said to indicate the location.
Dr. Tobe Hill, then a practicing physician at Mulberry Station, now Mulberry, 30 miles south, became so interested in the legend that he quit his practice and devoted 20 years and a tidy fortune, searching for the gold.
Floyd Turner, 72, who was born and reared on 160 acres where the mining claim was staked, said his grandfather, George Turner, first owned the land. He went to war and never came back. Then his father George Washington Turner, bought the interests of the other heirs and sold the land to Dr. Hill for $750.
Dr. Hill visited mining centers in the West looking for someone who could read the strange markings and brought back a man, part Pueblo Indian and part Mexican, known as “Mexican Charley.” Charley said he could read the markings and locate the gold by a much worn blueprint he brought with him. He was placed in charge of the mining crew. When news about Mexican Charley and his blueprint spread, it became necessary to emply men with guns to keep the crowds of people back so he and the miners could work.
The country went wild with excitement when Mexican Charley announced he had located the cap rock, that it would be raised on a certain day and that everyone present could look down upon the gold. A hurried trip was made to Little Rock to arrange for delivery of the escheatage to the state and to obtain police protection in handling the gold.
When the day came to lift the cap rock, the cove was filled with an immense, expectant and excited throng that milled about for hours, waiting for Charley to appear. But Charley was not to be seen by them that day. Prewarned of the possible danger that might result from a deception, he remained in hiding. Before the day ended, it became necessary to give Charley official protection when the angry crowd began calling for him to mob him. He was given orders the following day to leave the country and never return.
Later, a man, Joseph Palmer, who said he could locate the gold by witching, came to the mine. To test Palmer’s powers, some coins were hidden, and he was asked to find them. His witching rod was a three-pronged peach tree switch. He slit each prong near the end and placed a silver coin in one slit, a gold coin in another and a copper coin in the third. He held the switch in his hand, with coins level, as he walked about the grounds. He finally found the coins but said the switch pulled harder toward the mine. He wanted to witch over the mine but was not permitted.
Dr. Hill paid big wages for laborers to work in the mine – as much as $5 a day in that time when wages were low – and kept six to 30 men working, eight hours every day, for many years. He died believing the buried treasure he had not found was still somewhere in the earth.
His Lonquil Mining Co., it was said, sold at least 232 shares of stock at prices ranging from $25 to $100 a share, to people in Ft. Smith and other towns in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. J. L. Henson and J. H. Johnson, both of Ft. Smith, were president and secretary of the company.
Following Dr. Hill’s death and the failure of the mining company, interest in the mine lulled for a time. But through the years an occasional prospector had drifted in and started operations again.
The last to own and operate the mine were G. W. Glaze and his wife, from Salt Lake City. He was a prospector and artist-sign painter. Both he and his wife mined for the gold. Mrs. Glaze died in their cabin near the mine, from a heart attack, about three years ago. Soon after her death, Mr. Glaze left as suddenly as he had appeared, apparently abandoning everything, and has not been heard from since.
Mrs. Sarah Arbuckle, a widow at Cass, who lived near the mine when her husband worked there has vivid recollections of the mining boom and events that took place. “I knew Marion Hammond, George Martin and John Morehead who dug for gold many years – until they died, also a man named Douglas who burned to death in a house near the mine, and Charley Austin who was accused of squandering some of the mining company’s money, pleaded insanity and still lives somewhere back in the mountain,” she said.
Mrs. Arbuckle owns a share of the mining stock. “But never got anything out of it,” she declared. Her idea about the whole thing is: “When interest in the legend ran high and they started mining ore was brought from Joplin, Mo, and hidden in the dirt. That fired the works.”
Elias Russell, still active at 85, has lived within three miles of the mine all his life. He hauled lumber from his sawmill to the mine and was deputy sheriff 22 years during the mining operation. It was Mr. Russell who protected Mexican Charley from the hands of the mob. “Interest in the mine was high here and everywhere then,” he said. “Women, as far away as Dallas, Tex. Sold their feather beds for money to buy the mining stock, and lots of people would buy it again if it got started again. I always thought the place was just an old Indian village site and what they found were Indian bones and trinkets.”
The mine is in a picturesque, timbered, rock-strewn cove, walled in by mountains. The cove is, roughly, a quarter of a mile long and 200 years wide, with overhanging ledges and perpendicular cliffs, 50 feet high in places, on either side. Sparkling Cove Creek cascades down a gulch between the mountains and flows into nearby Mulberry river.
Seven tunnels, on both the north and the south sides of the cove, large enough for the small donkey-drawn cars on which the dirt was hauled out over narrow gauge tracks, extend far back underground from the bases of the cliffs. Some of these tunnels are filled with muddy water, while others have become springs. One is 20 feet deep.
While the old mine is seldom talked about any more by anyone in the locality, certain questions lie dormant in the minds of many old-timers who witnessed or were a part of the prolonged search for the gold. The strange markings high up on the ledge, the witching rod that pulls toward the mine, (Mrs. Arbuckle said: “I saw it pulling”, Charley’s blueprint and the origin of the legend itself, have never been explained to their full satisfaction.
Many thanks to Robert Myers for providing this 1958 magazine article, written by Steele T. Kennedy.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
The survivors and descendants of that rugged band of pioneers are visiting the old homesteads and erecting signs with names and dates of the ones who lived and died there so that in years to come the grandchildren and great grandchildren will find it easy to locate those tracts of land in that uninhabited valley where dinosaurs once roamed. Yes, this land is just east of Dinosaur National Monument and south of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and adjacent to that infamous Browns Park, Colorado where outlaws once holed up from the law.
But most tourists who visit those three famous sites will never know of Bear Valley, also known as Bare Valley, and rightly so. It's off the beaten trail, privately owned land with unpaved roads and no trees in sight. But it means a great deal to those of us whose grandparents and great-grandparents took their hopes and dreams up there only to come away beaten and heartbroken after leaving three of their own buried at the little cemetery in Craig.
My thoughts are with you today, my Smith Clan relatives who made the big trek to Bear Valley today. May the good weather hold, your tires stay aired, and the click, click, click of cameras echo through the valley.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
We have never found that we have a common ancestor in the Smith lines, so it's not like we're cousins. His Smiths are from Oklahoma and Texas whereas mine are from Illinois and Kentucky. But we have discovered that both of our Smith families were the objects of scorn and put-down by their spouses.
Bob grew up hearing his father cast aspersions on his wife's family, criticizing their lifestyle of coffee drinking, card playing, and cigarette smoking. Despite his dad's attitude, Bob says his experiences with the Smith clan were always happy times and that they were fun people to be with, loved to tell jokes and laughed a lot.
My dad was also critical of his Smith in-laws, finding fault with each and every one of them. I really think Dad's hostility stemmed from his jealousy of my mother's love for her Smith family. Dad made fun of the Smiths and made them the butt of his jokes, trying to elevate his own status in the process, but I know he loved them dearly, as did each of us four kids.
So we have a little private joke between us, Bob and I, a way of acknowledging the similarity in what we heard around the dinner table as we were growing up - "those damned Smiths!" says it all.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Join us at 6 pm on Friday, June 17 for supper at the Golden Corral in Vernal, Utah.
Join us on Saturday morning, June 18 for a pilgrimage to the old Moffat County homesteads where we will erect historical marker signs.
Join us at 6 pm on Saturday evening, June 18 for supper at the Golden Corral back in Vernal, Utah.
Join us on Sunday morning, June 19 for a visit to the ancestral graves in Craig, CO and Steamboat Springs, CO.
If you need further information, please contact Mary Simms:
By phone at 803-996-3567
By email at firstname.lastname@example.org
By snail mail at 431 Beechwoods Dr., Lexington SC 29072
Please RSVP and let us know when to expect you. We will leave the light on for you! (To enlarge Wanted poster below click on the image.)
- Friday evening, June 17, 6 pm - supper at the Golden Corral in Vernal, Utah
- Saturyday morning, June 18 - pilgramage to the old Moffat County homesteads where we will erect historical maker signs.
- June 18, Sunday morning - trip to Steamboat Springs to visit ancestral graves in Craig and Steamboat Springs, CO
- June 19, Sunday, about noon - lunch at Wendy's in Steamboat Springs
- June 19, Sunday afternoon - The Smith Clan Reunion will come to a close in Steamboat Springs, CO
Click here to see photos of the old Bear Valley homesteads from years past, and here for recent photos taken by Bill Reynolds.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Doyle and Harold were competitive when they were whittling, each with his favorite knife kept sharp as a razor blade and as pointed as a needle. They selected their raw wood carefully, probably from a supply they brought to Colorado from the old home place in Arkansas. The dancing dolls are folk toys similar to jig dolls or limberjacks, whittled into separate pieces, arms and legs jointed with tiny metal pins, and a string attached to the top of the head. Positioned over a hand saw and held by the string, the dolls dance when the saw is thumped or vibrated.
The two dolls shown above were found in an old sewing box forty years or more after they were made, the only two still in our family. Doyle and Harold whittled more than a few of these dolls during the winters of 1945 and 1946 but that wasn't all they whittled. They made sets of tiny wooden scissors, all connected to one another, long chains, balls in baskets, and puzzles, many types of puzzles. They also made arrows inside bottles, like the ships made inside bottles, and arrows stuck through small holes in a different kind of wood, leaving one to wonder how it could possibly have been done. The photograph below is a cabin Doyle made with his son, Bob, and in front of that a team of oxen pulling a sled made of corn stalks.
There was a time when all farm boys had pocket knives and knew how to use them well. The same knife that a boy used to skin a rabbit would cut strings on hay bales and slice an apple. Whittling was a way to hone his skill with a knife and express his creative nature. Nowadays boys don't carry pocket knives, at least not to school. Whittling is another lost art.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
"Spell as you wish
Write as you will
Send me your photo
By the next mail
B. L. R."
"A rock of salt
A rick of wood
A kiss from you would
Do me good.
And there are a few gems in this little notebook too, glimpses into the private life of Bertie as a young woman. The photo I've included in the post is a scan of the last page in the notebook and tells a little of Bertie's love life. "4, 5, 6th of Aug, 1920. First time to go with Virgil Morgan of Mulberry, Ark.
Nov 11, 1923. first time to go with Rev John L. Isaacs lasted to Nov 20th 1925"
There are other entries about men she dated and a few about memorable events in and around Cass and Ozark, Arkansas such at this one:
"December 7, 1919 The school house at Cass burned Sunday morning at 4 o'clock, having had only one week of school. Much was the loss of books and lodge tools or emblems - had plenty of black boards and everything to promise a good school."
Bertie also recorded birthdates and marriage dates for her parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. I know from reading some of her early entries that she was pals with her cousin Minnie Marie Mahaffey who was just two years older than she, which makes this entry especially poignant:
"Minnie Marie Mahaffey
Apr 30, 1900 - Dec 31, 1920
age 20 yrs & 8mo."
Monday, January 24, 2011
Amazingly all twelve of the children born to Elias and Addie Jane lived to adulthood and most had long, healthy lives. They were all delivered into this world by Elias' mother, Mariah Tennessee Turner Russell, or "Aunt Tenn" as she was known by many, a skilled mid-wife who was wise to the uses of herbal medicines and home remedies. She also chose the names for each of the twelve Russell children. My father-in-law, Doyle J. Russell (pictured above as the boy on the far right side in the photo), greatly admired and loved his Grandma Russell, especially the spunk and courage she showed in divorcing her husband of twenty-seven years for selling some of the land left to her by her own father, and doing so without her permission, even though this left her to bring up their twelve children without a father. At the time of her divorce the oldest child was twenty-six and the youngest was an infant, so the older children pitched in and helped their mother. Doyle felt as strongly about the love of land and the pride of land ownership as his grandmother did.