State Treasures - Missouri

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

$5 Million Whiskey TreasurePLATTE COUNTY – In a smoky saloon in Holt, Missouri, an "old river dog" sat drinking his beer while reminiscing about the dangerous snags that infested the Missouri River, and all the ships that’d run afoul or sank after colliding with one. As he spoke about the sinking of the riverboat, Francis X. Aubrey, a small group gathered around.It was 1896, and listening to old tales of the Missouri was a favorite local pastime. Listening to the old timer were Holt Mayor and Gale Henson, along with other prominent citizens. They listened attentively as he spoke of the events of August 10, 1856, when the Aubrey, under the command of Captain Dan Able, hit a snag near Parkville, which gutted her from stem to stern.The riverboat drifted aimlessly as she took on water, but came to rest after hitting the riverbank. All 130 passengers were then safely removed from the vessel as a hasty salvage effort was organized. The ship’s cargo consisted of glassware, wagons, clothing, machinery, and some 400 barrels of fine Kentucky Bourbon whiskey.Salvagers removed some of the machinery before the ship sank in deep mud across the river from the farm of George Summers. At 25 cents a gallon, no one thought of salvaging the 16,000 gallons of whiskey contained in 40-gallon oaken casks from the hold. But, four decades later, it was the 40-year-old aged whiskey that Mayor Henson and other Holt locals were interested in.Henson and the others formed a treasure-hunting group called the Holt Syndicate, whose mission was to recover the liquid treasure. After confirming the ship’s cargo from its original waybill found in St. Louis, the group set out to determine where exactly the Aubrey had sunk.By now word of the Holt Syndicate and its treasure hunting mission had spread. After searching in the wrong place, George Summers came forward and offered to take Syndicate members to the site where he watched the vessel sink, for a full cut of the recovery of course. Summers not only knew where the Aubrey was, he also knew the course of the river had changed in the past 40 years, and it no longer ran past his farm.The Syndicate agreed to the old farmer’s terms and Summer crossed the Missouri in a rowboat, with his new partners, taking them to the edge of his farm. "There she is," he exclaimed, pointing to the site where the Aubrey sank. Syndicate members looked and saw nothing. Using a metal probe, Mayor Henson plunged the rod into the earth until he struck metal. It was the sheet iron roof of the Aubrey, 32 feet under the mud and one mile from the water’s edge.Word quickly spread along the river as far as St. Louis that the Aubrey had been found. Whiskey dealers descended on the site, along with reporters and spectators. Bidding for the aged whiskey started high and went higher, until it reached $30 per gallon. Now Syndicate workers were working day and night to unearth the wreck, and by using a caisson they reached her deck on December 8, 1897.With axes swinging, they went to work on the wooden deck. Finally it gave and Henson was the first to be lowered into the hold. Unfortunately, no whiskey was located, but Henson reported that items found below were in excellent shape and the whiskey was bound to be "in pristine condition." They would have to move to another hold, and that meant another month’s work to sink the caisson a second time.They worked through February, opening up a second hold, but again no whiskey. With March approaching, and with water rising and temperatures dropping, the Syndicate decided to stop work until spring. That winter proved to be a bad one and flooding hit many areas along the river. When the Syndicate returned in spring, they were heartbroken to find that their excavation and all evidence of their work had been erased by the floods.In spite of an offer of $75,000 for the whiskey, the Syndicate members decided to cut their losses and gave up. No other attempt was made to recover the whiskey hoard. Today the site can be found across from the Park College campus in Parkville. Also, in 2004, "experts" at Modern Drunkard magazine estimate the worth of the whiskey to be "at least $5 million." The Talbott TreasureNODAWAY COUNTY – Soon after the Civil War, Dr. Perry H. Talbott moved his family from the East to Arkoe, Missouri. There he built his home, which was known as the House of Seven Gables, a mile northwest of Arkoe on the old stagecoach road.On September 18, 1880, Talbott, a noted physician and author, was gunned down in his home resulting in his death the next day.Arrested for his murder were Albert P. and Charles E. Talbott, his sons. At trial, it was learned that his sons’ motive was their father’s hidden fortune. Dr. Talbott distrusted banks and was known to keep his gold specie in nail kegs until they were full. Once full he would bury the kegs somewhere on his property.At the county seat of Maryville on July 22, 1881, his two sons were hanged for their father’s murder and interred on their father’s property. Their tombstone, a vertical column showing two hands clasped in friendship, simply reads, "We died innocent." A short time later, Mrs. Talbott went insane and died. Years later, the House of Seven Gables burned to the ground.Talbott also raised and sold cattle from his land. How much he was worth at the time of his death is unknown, but his fortune is thought to be quite substantial. Although several searches for the buried nail kegs has occurred, none have been found. With some local research and a good detector, perhaps one day his fortune will be unearthed. Lost/Forgotten Missouri FortsMcDermit’s Fort – (MONTGOMERY COUNTY) – An American settler’s fort located on the Loutre River, possibly near Big Spring, active from 1812 – 1815. Its exact location is unknown.Johnson’s Fort – (COLE COUNTY) – An American two-story blockhouse used after Fort Osage was temporarily abandoned. Active from 1813 – 1815, and located on Little Moniteau Creek upriver from Jefferson City. Exact location is unknown.Camp Jennison – (CLAY – JACKSON COUNTIES) – Camp Jennison was a Union Civil War camp active in 1861. It was located near Kansas City at an undetermined location.Fort Pike & Camp Weaver’s Spring – (CLARK COUNTY) – Initially known as Camp Weaver’s Spring, Fort Pike was an American militia fort located near St. Francisville. It was garrisoned for three months during the Black Hawk War.Fort Mason – (RALLS COUNTY) – Active from 1812 – 1814, Fort Mason was an American militia fort built for the protection of the small settlement of Saverton from Indian attack. The fort was garrisoned for a short time by regular troops from Fort Belle Fontaine.Samuel Gilbert’s Fort – (RALLS COUNTY) – This was an American settler’s blockhouse active from 1812 – 1815. Its location is unknown, but it’s thought to have been erected on a hill northeast of Shepards, or possibly Matson Mill on the Salt River.Buffalo Fort – (PIKE COUNTY) – An American settler’s fort built by Missouri Rangers. Active from 1812 – 1813, it was abandoned and burned in March 1813. Shirley TreasureWASHINGTON COUNTY – Near the tiny community of Shirley, at Sunnen Lake Road and County Road 216, there are two little known sites worth checking out. Outlaw Sam Star and gang kept a hideout near Shirley at Poker Bluff Hollow. Loot from their various robberies is believed to be cached there.In 1917, a group of men arrived in Shirley who claimed to be looking for a large cache of money. They searched the area south of Shirley looking for a rock marked by two turkey tracks etched into it. After several days of searching they gave up and left. Nothing more is known about the treasure they sought. Sources:Scheer, James F., and Sorrells, Adrian, "Drunkard Treasure," 2004, Modern Drunkard magazine,, Thomas P., U.S. Treasure Atlas-Vol. 6, 1985, La Crosse, WI, Specialty Publishing Company, p. 567Talbott Genealogy Research,,_MissouriNorth American Forts, "Missouri,", Michael Paul, "Missouri," June 1991, Lost Treasure magazine, p. 44.