Museum Blog

Buried Treasure?

Who doesn’t love a good buried treasure story? Back in 1948, the possibility of hidden treasure was uncovered when two men were spotted digging along the north bank of the Arkansas River.

Cañon City Daily Record

Wednesday, May 19, 1948

Mystery of Hidden Treasure Faces Cañon City Officers

A mystery of possible hidden treasure and an ancient chart confronted the sheriff’s office and prison officers Wednesday.

It began when a convict worker at prison ranch No. 1 on Four-Mile spotted two men digging in a sandy area 100 feet from the north bank of the Arkansas River.

At a distance, he noted the men find what they were searching for, hurriedly dig away a shallow ditch, pull a heavy object from it hiding place and the disappear around a bend.

Ranch Caretaker Lonnie Higgins and the sheriff’s office were notified. Wednesday, Higgins and Undersheriff Charles Canterbury investigated.

An area of 100 square feet had been pitted with small prospect holes. Four shallow trenches bisected the plot, special attention being paid to the many rolling knolls. At one knoll, the men had made their find.

*             *             *

It was a small ore car, used in hard-rock mines and mills a half-century ago. The car had been buried upside down, being supported by two-by-six-inch timbers. The bottom of the car, which in this case provided the roof of the tiny dugout, was only a few inches beneath the ground.

Marks in the sandy soil showed that a small, but obviously heavy, object had been dragged from inside the mine-car hiding place.

Canterbury and Higgins theorized that the hidden object may have been hijacked gold from the old Union mill, once a flourishing establishment just north of the Florence across the Arkansas River.

*             *             *

A stone’s throw from the hiding place runs the long-abandoned right-of-way of what was one of the first highways to join Florence and Cañon City. The site is about two miles west of the old Union Mill dump. The mill received a death blow in August of 1912 when the Florence and Cripple Creek railroad down Phantom canyon washed out and has long been abandoned. It was over this route that ore was transported from Cripple Creek and Victor for processing at the mill.

The little old ore car could have come from the mill, Canterbury said. Because of the rotted condition of the heavy timbers beneath the buried car, and because of the rusted iron sides of the car, it had obviously been underground or many years – Canterbury estimated 40 at least.

*             *             *

It appeared, he said, that the two men who found the car had been searching from some type of chart or map. Their digging was roughly on a line set by a huge and ancient cottonwood tree and the point of a nearby hill.

“It looked like they have been digging for at least two days because of the many holes,” Canterbury said. “We’re not saying it was buried treasure, but it looks like it – and it makes a good story.”

This article has everything: maps, buried treasure, and possibly gold from an old mill. Do you think the men spotted digging actually found buried treasure?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *