TREASURE IN THE ARBUCKLES
I was asked recently about treasure in the Arbuckle Mountains. Well, I’ve heard all the stories and I personally would not wade through hip-deep rattlesnakes for all the gold supposedly buried in the Arbuckles. I consider these “tales of treasure” the food of conservation for old men sitting and reminiscing in the summer shade.
Outlaws on the run, Spanish, Mexican and a few French explorers sprinkled in for added flavor always hid the treasure. The treasure was always right there at your fingertips if only you could read the strangely encrypted code on the map that was bought from an old Mexican or Indian man in 1890's just shortly before he died. But I was asked, so here we go.
The treasure that aroused the most excitement was the one discovered at Bromide in 1912. A group composed of railroad men began a search for the mine shortly after a map was obtained from an aged Indian man (what did I tell you) in the area. The group quickly leased twenty acres in the vicinity of the old mineshaft. The ore assayed out at two hundred ounces of silver per ton and was 63% lead. A Company was formed, stock sold and equipment was bought but the main vein of silver was never found.
In 1896 a search was made for thirteen jack loads of silver – 3,900 pounds – from an old Spanish treasure that was hidden in a cave and lost in the Arbuckles seven miles west of Davis. The cave was discovered and an eight-man crew labored for months to clear the collapsed entrance. At the 25 foot level, artifacts were discovered such as gloves, eating utensils and most importantly – the fabled cryptic map etched on a copper plate (of course there just had to be one didn’t it). The meaning of the map was never discovered and if the men did find the treasure there was never a word leaked about it.
When Montford Johnson had his spread at Ft. Arbuckle, there was a very well known lead mine that the soldiers used to make their own bullets. Johnson related that the mine was in use for years but has since been lost. This mine is truly there because it was listed on post returns for that time.
One of the strangest finds was the brass brick plowed from a cotton field northwest of Marietta in 1943. It has those strange Spanish markings all over it and they have never been deciphered (wouldn't you just know it). The ingot of brass measured eight by four by four inches and weighed twenty-eight pounds. It was at first thought to be a gold bar but was later decided to be a brass trade item possessed by the Spanish most likely from Spanish Fort on the Red River.
In 1891 a very old and sick Mexican man appeared in Ada. It was learned that he was looking for the mine he, when just a boy, and his father along with a Mexican party were mining on the Canadian River. A rancher in the Byars area who had discovered diggings on his property went to Ada and retrieved the old man. The two drove across the country around Byars for days. The two were looking for the graves of the old man’s father and the other miners. It seems the Comanche killed everyone except the old man and another miner who escaped the raid. Sure enough the graves were found near the old mine. Shortly after the mine and graves were discovered the old man died and nothing else was ever done to re-open the mine.
It should be noted here that in 1850 in this same area where Camp Arbuckle was located, the Delaware scout Black Beaver told Capt. Randolph March that there was a rich vein of copper in the area. Marcy found the copper ore and sent a wagonload to New Orleans and then by ship to England where it was smelted and the value of the copper greatly exceeded the cost of the project. However this copper mine was never found again.
In 1907, a man from Shawnee reported that he could recover $60,000 in gold stolen by the James Gang in the 1870’s and hidden in the Arbuckles. In 1905, Frank James spoke at a Dallas Fair and told of a mark they put on a rock in the Arbuckles where the treasure was buried. James told the group that if anybody found the “mark” on a rock, let him know and he would “do the rest” and they would split the treasure. This man found the strange marking on the rock in the Arbuckles and notified Frank James who lived in Fletcher, OK near Lawton. Unfortunately, Frank James died before he could retrieve the treasure (now how did we know that was going to happen).
Ft. Arbuckle's stolen payroll is probably the most interesting story of all. In the 1860’s, robbers ambushed a wagon carrying an army payroll bound from Ft. Leavenworth and going to Ft. Arbuckle on Mill Creek east of Sulphur.
All the soldiers were killed as well as some of the outlaws and the gold taken. The payroll was so large that the gold had to be divided into three saddlebags which were later buried on Mill Creek so the outlaws could outride the Army they knew that would be after them.
In the late 1890’s an old blacksmith made his way into the town of Davis, I.T. He asked for directions to Mill Creek and Ft. Arbuckle. He explored the area and as time passed became friends with Sam Davis a merchant in Davis. The story was related to Davis that the blacksmith had a map given him by another old man who had died in his livery stable in Missouri. The map showed where the stolen gold shipment was buried. The old man looked for years and spent his entire fortune looking for the elusive treasure.
Sam Davis began bringing the old man food and medicine when he needed it. After the old man died Davis looked for the treasure for years but never found it. Davis did relate that on one occasion he talked with a rancher in the area of Mill Creek who told of a bunch of Mexicans who came to his ranch to “fish”. They dug holes all up and down Mill Creek. When the rancher asked them what they were doing they told him they were digging worms. That made sense.
Some few days later the rancher returned to find the Mexicans gone and a hole near the water 's edge with an iron pot in the bottom of the hole. Pressed into the mud and rust inside the pot were the impressions of gold double eagles. The other two pots of money were never found.
Submitted by Dennis Muncrief, September 2002.