Dusty Relics of Arkansas History
August 12-18, 2019
By Bob Denman
Finding treasure in Arkansas
I have to admit as I age I long for adventure and I guess it’s why I love watching the reality TV shows based on treasure hunting – “America Unearthed,” “Gold Rush,” “The Curse of Oak Island,” “Rebel Gold” to name just a few.
That got me thinking about treasure in Arkansas. After just a bit of research I was pretty astounded at the legends of buried treasure in the Natural State, mostly long forgotten.
Here are a few of my favorite Dusty Relics of Arkansas buried treasure.
The Flynn Farm Treasure
The Flynn farm is located on county route 45, a few miles east of Fayetteville. William Flynn was rumored to have buried $115,000 in gold and silver coins after his return from the California gold fields. The wooden keg full of treasure has never been recovered.
The Hernando Desoto Treasure
Rumored to have seen Native American’s wearing both gold and silver, Desoto is said to have buried a massive treasure taken from the natives along the Ouachita River near Arkadelphia.
The Herman Family Treasure
Five large ceramic jugs containing gold coins were buried by the Herman family during the Civil War. They were buried in separate locations on their family farm. Only three of the ceramic jugs have been found today. Two remain buried somewhere near Dutch Mills, AR.
The Clarendon Treasure
During the Civil War a union gunboat (possibly the USS Queen City) sank near Clarendon while on patrol on the White River. The boat carried a strongbox and $100,000 in gold coins. Just a few years after the sinking and diving in primitive conditions, John Crittenhouse is said to have recovered the gold. Not long after, the government heard of the recovery and demanded its return. Crittenhouse refused and hid the cache of gold in a nearby cave for safekeeping. He died a few years later and never revealed the location of the cave.
Jesse James Treasure
Jesse James allegedly hid gold numerous times in Arkansas. A member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a post-Civil War era secret guerilla group dedicated to continuing the cause, James left drops of gold for other KGC members in OK and western AR to fund their post war efforts. But it’s these two stories that captured my attention.
On Jan. 15, 1874 the James Gang robbed a stagecoach as it approached Hot Springs near the crossing of the old Malvern Road and Gulpha Creek south of town. The gangs hide out was an old Indian Cave above todays DeSoto Park just east of Hot Springs. Last week I found the unmarked trail and made the 500 foot climb up to the cave. I can assure you it was a great hiding place. Their cache of gold coins and jewelry is said to have been buried in the Brushy Mountains in Perry County between state highways 9 and 7, not more than 25 miles west of Little Rock. A gold watch taken from one of the Hot Springs passengers was found in Jesse’s personal effects at the time of his death.
Back in 1953, a group of treasure hunters was said to be near a strongbox of gold that James threw in the Black River while escaping authorities just outside of Corning, AR. The treasure hunters 30 foot hole kept filling up with water and the strongbox was never recovered. By the way, they charged locals $1/day to watch the proceedings and maybe that was the real treasure after all.
Who needs reality TV adventure when you have these Dusty Relics of AR History?
The White River of Arkansas; after a union gunboat sunk and dive in primitive conditions, John Crittenhouse recovered $100,000 in gold coins from it. (Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)