State Treasure - Arkansas

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 39 of the July, 2011 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2011 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved

Arkansas’ Lost Ghost Town & Its Forgotten TreasuresDESHA COUNTY – The bustling river port boomtown of Napoleon, Arkansas, was once located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers.Founded in the 1820’s and developed into a major trade center, Napoleon became the Desha County seat.A post office and the Napoleon & Little Rock Railroad came by 1840, followed by a new three-story marine hospital built by the U.S. government and completed in 1854.With a population of roughly 2,000 residents, Napoleon’s merchants included banks, a newspaper office, theatres, doctors, lawyers, carpenters, saloons, restaurants, grocers, and hotels.But in spite of the town’s success, it also had a reputation for being the toughest, most rowdy town on the Mississippi.During the Civil War, Napoleon was abandoned after becoming occupied by Union troops and heavily damaged.But life eventually returned to normal after war’s end.Much of Napoleon was inundated by floodwaters in 1868, which destroyed the marine hospital.Then, in 1874, Napoleon was completely submerged, and when the water receded it was discovered that most of the town had been washed away downriver.There are numerous stories of lost Civil War era caches and personal caches that are known to have been carried away by the 1874 flood.The U.S. Treasure Atlas (Terry/1985) cites that over $400,000 in gold specie was lost in the flood.And a Mr. Twain’s business in Napoleon was to recover a hidden cache of $10,000.While living in Germany, Twain learned of the treasure from a dying man.Karl Ritter was an elderly American in poor health; his room and board was provided by a widow with two young children who took in boarders to support her family.Twain visited the old man daily for two months, becoming the old man’s "sole intimate."One day the elderly man, realizing he was on death’s door, told Twain he wanted to talk with him about his life in Napoleon during the Civil War.Ritter claimed he awoke one night to find himself bound and gagged, sometime near the war’s end.Two masked men were rummaging through his cabin; he couldn’t see his wife or young daughter anywhere.Ritter noticed one robber was missing a thumb before they were rooted by the unexpected arrival of troops."Hello in the house! Show a light, we want water," demanded a voice from outside the cabin. Ritter heard one of the robbers whisper to the other, "The Captain’s voice by God!" It wasCaptain Blakely’s voice of Company C, and at that moment the would-be robbers fled out the back door unseen into the night.When no answer came the soldiers continued on.Ritter struggled to get free and tried to cry out to no avail. Once free he found his wife and little girl murdered. Now all he wanted was revenge.And, since the outlaws recognized their Captain’s voice, he knew the killers were soldiers with Company C.Disguised as a fortuneteller, Ritter became a regular figure around Company C’s camp.He determined one of the killers was a German named Kruger who was missing a thumb. Over time, Ritter determined the second killer was a Private Franz Alder, a cousin of Kruger.Ritter took no immediate action, but approached Kruger when he was off duty and alone. Ritter explained that part of Kruger’s fortune was so grave he thought it best to tell him privately away from others.Ritter explained that while studying Kruger and Private Adler’s fortune he had seen the murder of a mother and child.He told Kruger that he was being dogged and within five days he and Adler would both be assassinated.Frightened out of his wits, Kruger fell to his knees and for five minutes spilled his guts and implicated Adler as the killer.Kruger clung to Ritter and pleaded for his life, begging him to protect him from the assassin.Kruger then admitted he had hidden $10,000 in gold specie, the fruits of thievery he added, which he would give the fortuneteller for his protection.Kruger handed Ritter his silver watch, explaining that a piece of paper hidden inside the case told the location of the cousin’s ill-gotten booty.At that moment Adler appeared some distance away. Ritter told Kruger to go and speak of this to no one, especially Adler, and no harm would befall him. Kruger agreed.Adler walked over to speak with the fortune teller, and Ritter told him that his fortune was particularly long, and the important and tragic part of his fortune must be told to him out of reach of eavesdroppers, offering to meet with Adler later that night while he was alone on guard duty. Adler agreed.Shortly after midnight, Ritter rode out to the lonely outpost where Adler stood guard.Alder verbally challenged the approaching man who responded… "It’s only me - the fortune teller," said Ritter.With Alder’s guard down, Ritter "slipped to the poor devil’s side and, without a word, drove his dirk into Adler’s heart."Ritter then escaped into the night. He traveled around the world before settling in Germany, where he obtained work and lived out the rest of his life.As far as the treasure goes, the paper inside Kruger’s watch reads… "Brick livery stable, stone foundation, middle of town, corner of Orleans and Market."Corner towards Courthouse. Third stone, fourth row. Stick notice there, saying how many are to come."Kruger had explained the cache was secreted behind a removable stone on the north wall of the foundation, fourth row from the top, and third stone from the west.Years later, Twain, en-route to recover the treasure, told river boat Captain McCord that he would be going ashore at Napoleon.It was then that Twain learned that Napoleon had been washed away during the flood of 1874 and nothing remained.As the boat passed the old site of Napoleon, nothing except one brick chimney remained visible.Napoleon, treasure and all, had been razed from the earth and deposited in the Mississippi where it remains today. Tunnel of Gold… Lost!(GARLAND COUNTY) – Back in the 1960’s, Arkansas resident Ralph Mayes heard a tale of an extraordinary gold lode in the Boston Mountains and became bitten by the gold bug.Ralph’s father-in-law, Alvin Bishop, then told his son-in-law a story about a treasure map his grandfather had given him before his death.Bishop produced the map and the two carefully studied it. Covered with Spanish symbols and writing, which neither could translate, frustrated the men.But both agreed on the site where X marked the spot based on geographical features and landforms.It was then and there when the gold bug struck again, this time delivering a fatal wound to Mr. Bishop.The two in-laws decided to partner up and headed into the Ozarks on foot. Years passed as they searched for hidden Spanish treasure.The map indicated the Spanish had discovered gold and developed a tunnel to mine it. Located inside the tunnel were "large, thick veins of pure gold," which the Spanish sealed closed when they left. Then in 1963 they found it.In the area of Piney Point, the in-laws observed a large limestone slab artificially placed into position.Giving it all they had, the two men just managed to move the stone far enough to expose a small portion of a hidden aperture. With curiosity they peered into the dark opening and realized it was a deep tunnel.Both men were jubilant over their good fortune when suddenly Bishop suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the nearest hospital.He survived and in a few days was able to return home to rest. Bishop recovered and the two fortune hunters eventually returned to the site intending to enter the tunnel and find the gold.Certain of success, the two men hiked back into the mountains, but after several weeks they finally admitted they couldn’t find it. A couple of weeks later Mr. Bishop was found dead in his home. Ralph believed their quest to find riches had killed him. Disgusted, he never tried to relocate the Spanish tunnel of gold again.To date no one has reported finding such a site, leaving many to believe the tunnel of gold is still there and just barely exposed at its entrance. By now the entrance is likely overgrown. Sources:Pallante, Anthony J., "Lair of the Arkansas ‘Killers’," January 1999, Lost Treasure, p. 54Wikipedia research: Napoleon, ArkansasTwain, Mark, Life on the Mississippi, 1883, Boston, Mass, James R. Osgood & Company, p. 8-26, p. 27-33Alveshire, Budd, Arkansas True Treasures-The Lost Tunnel Of Gold, Unpublished manuscript dated 03-06-2007, p. 5.