State Treasures - Nebraska

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 27 of the September, 2012 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2012 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


Mormon Gold Lost Twice
HALL COUNTY – A substantial treasure in gold is reputed to be buried not far from the small village of Wood River on one of several islands on the Platte River.
Plowing his fields in 1946, Gust Anderson unearthed more than $100,000 in gold.
It was later learned this cache was part of a treasure buried by westbound Mormons over a century ago.
For whatever reason, the Mormons got spooked and thought it unsafe to continue further with that much gold in their wagon train.
They buried the gold and planned to send special guards to retrieve it later. Somehow the Mormons lost track of where they’d buried the hoard and failed to recover it.
After Anderson discovered the cache, neighbors who knew him said he had cashed in some of the gold before his death in 1950.
Anderson did not trust banks and to protect his find he re-buried the gold, which became lost after his death.
Anderson’s neighbors reported the farmer had buried the balance of the gold on one of the islands on the Platte River 5 miles south of Wood River.
The Platte River becomes shallow during summer months, which would be the ideal time to search.
Several islands exist within a 15-mile range of Wood River - Indian Island, Mormon Island, Shoemaker Island, Elm Island, Clark Island, and Grand Island.

Massacre on the Platte River
LINCOLN COUNTY – Under orders from Governor Don Antonio Valverde Cossio, of the Santa Fe government, a detachment of Spanish soldiers departed Santa Fe under the command of Lieut. Col. Don Pedro de Villazur for present-day Nebraska.
Their orders were to establish a mission settlement and fort on the Platte River near a large Pawnee village from which the Pawnees foraged on buffalo hunts.
On June 14, 1720, Villazur, with 40 soldiers and a string of horses and mules carrying $50,000 in gold, silver and jewels, left Santa Fe to execute the government’s orders.
On August 15, 1720, spotters for the detachment climbed a hilltop along the Platte River and in the distance saw the large Pawnee village that was their destination.
Not far from the native village Villazur would establish the new Spanish settlement and fort.
Villazur, who was known as a dandy and ate his meals with solid silver dinnerware even on the march, came prepared to conciliate with the Pawnees, who unlike the Apaches were hostile towards the Spanish.
Villazur’s plan was to parlay with the Pawnee by giving them small trinkets such as beads, mirrors, combs and pocketknives.
He’d hoped the natives would become friendly once his men had distributed these items among the Indians.
Next, Villazur hoped to sway the natives to help with the labor to build the settlement he was to establish.
But the Pawnee held only a burning hatred in their hearts for the Spanish, hearing of the many atrocities they’d committed to members of neighboring tribes.
Unknown to Villazur, his friendly Apache guides had been secretly communicating with unseen Pawnee scouts who were shadowing the expedition day and night, keeping track of their movements.
Late afternoon on August 15, 1720, Villazur ordered his men to set up camp. With soldiers unloading the pack animals, others used small cutlasses to clear roughly an acre and a half for the encampment.
At sundown, Villazur ordered his men to bury their treasure and other valuable cargo.
Here Villazur made a fatal error. Knowing his men were much in need of res, he had the Apaches guard the camp that night.
During the night some Pawnee quietly slipped into camp and told the Apaches when the fight broke out the following day they were to run for the tall grass nearby and return to their homes.
Sixty-two days into their journey, Col. Villazur awoke early on the morning of August 16, 1720, and watched the sunrise.
It’s not known if Villazur noticed that many of his Apaches had disappeared during the night leaving only a few at the camp.
Regardless, it would be the last sunrise the Spanish colonel would ever see.
Shortly after sunup, an estimated 150 Pawnee, with a handful of French trappers, without warning, descended on the Spanish camp screaming and howling for hair.
Villazur was among the first killed; the battle was over in less than 30 minutes.
All but six or seven soldiers who’d fled into the brush to hide were massacred.
They watched in horror concealed in the grass as the Pawnee took the scalps from their fallen comrades along with food, trinkets, and their horses before returning to their village.
The survivors knew the caches of treasure hidden the night before remain untouched by the Pawnee, but the only thing on their minds at that moment was survival.
Weeks passed before the survivors came straggling into Santa Fe.
Interviewed by governor Cossio, the survivors told of the massacre and how they’d survived to return to Santa Fe.
When the governor asked about the treasure, the frayed soldiers lied, explaining that the Pawnee had unearthed all of it and carried it away.
Though the governor was dismayed by the news, he never learned the truth.
The soldiers had no desire to collect the hoard; they’d faced the Pawnee once and barely lived to tell their story.
Long before they’d reached Santa Fe, the decision was made among them to lie, knowing if they didn’t they’d be expected to lead another detachment back to the killing fields to recover the treasure.
The location of the Spanish camp where the massacre occurred is said to be one to two miles west of the confluence of the North Platte River and the South Fork of the Platte River. The expedition camped along the South Fork.

Lost & Forgotten
Sites in Nebraska:
Ft: Fort Armas de Francia
(KEYA PAHA COUNTY) Very little is known about this site, in fact if it ever truly existed is unknown.
Believed to have been a French or British-Canadian post of some type, neither government has any records of its existence.
But a 1795 Spanish map shows a military post here.
If it existed it was located in the vicinity of Jamison along the north bank of the Keya Paha River.

Ft: Fort Montrose
(DAWES COUNTY) Established in 1891, Ft. Montrose was an American settler’s defense consisting of a circular trench with an underground chamber.
The location given is two miles below the state line and 20 miles north of Crawford.
By these calculations the site would’ve been located west of the intersection of Snook Road and South Wayside Rd.
I am not convinced by the vague directions that the site mentioned above is correct.
A second possible location for Ft. Montrose that I developed through map research is in Sioux County at the intersection of Hat Creek Road and Montrose Road.
Less than a mile north of this intersection is the Cody-Yellowhand Battlefield.
And almost 4/10ths of a mile from the junction is the Warbonnet Battlefield.

GT: Dunlap
(DAWES COUNTY) Dunlap was once a popular stop between Alliance and Chadron.
Every Fourth of July, a rodeo was held here with fireworks and political speakers. The Post Office was established on February 11, 1888, and discontinued in 1935.
There was a flour and feed mill along the Niobrara River and the town had a cheese factory.
A few buildings remain standing, one of them being the Dunlap Mercantile.
The ruins of other structures that have fallen still mark the spot where they once stood.
Located 12-1/2 miles northwest of Hemingford, take Highway 385 north to Lembke Road and go right (east) and continue about 1.9 miles to the intersection of Old Dunlap Road.
The ghost town sits on your left or on the north side of Lembke Road. 

GT: Burton
(KEYA PAHA COUNTY) Located at the intersection of Main Street (Highway 2) and Vine Street, a Post Office was established here on June 5, 1884, and was discontinued in 1893.
Abandoned buildings mark the site and a few laid out streets remain.

GT: Angus (NUCKOLLS COUNTY) Angus is located 7 miles northeast of Nelson at the intersection of Road 4050 and Elkton Street.
The Post Office was established on October 30, 1873, and was discontinued in 1977.
The town had a population of around 700, a bank, hotel, three general stores, two churches, a hardware store, and a lumberyard.
A Train Depot was located in Angus with regularly scheduled train service. The depot was closed in 1942 and the tracks were pulled up in the 1980’s.
Angus is the site of the largest fossil discovery of a mastodon in the U.S. At 14 feet high, it can be seen at a Denver museum. Roughly six buildings remain standing; the remainder collapsed long ago. 

Sources:
Lowry, Mike, “Lost Mormon Gold,” February 1969, True Treasure, p. 52
Townsend, Ben, “Rich Lost Caches in Nebraska,” December 1976, Lost Treasure, p. 25
North American Forts, Nebraska, http://www.northamericanforts.com/West/ne.html
Nebraska Ghost Towns, http://nebraskarules.tripod.com/id11.html