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Cover Story February 23, 2006


 

  by lyle e davis

 

 

by lyle e davis

 

There are millions, possibly billions, of dollars worth of gold, silver, jewelry, and other valuables that make up treasure troves . . . waiting to be rediscovered . . . perhaps by you.

 

We are going to tell you where that treasure is.  Then you need to get up off your couch and go find it!

 

Mind Your Own Beeswax

 

If they had only known.

 

A group of Clatsop Indians welcomed Lewis and Clark when they reached the end of their expedition at the mouth of the Columbia River.  The welcoming gift?  A large chunk of beeswax.

 

Had Lewis and Clark known the source of this beeswax they likely would have continued their exploration.

 

This beeswax was found some thirty miles south of where the Columbia River pours into the Pacific Ocean in what is known today as Nehalem Beach, Oregon.  Located south of Neahkahnie Mountain, the beach is adjacent to the Nehalem River on a wild spit of land featuring lots of shifting sand dunes and sea grass. 

 

Even today you can scavange this beeswax.  This beeswax is not manufactured locally, however, it was manufactured by bees in India, almost three hundred years ago.  So why do we care about 300 year old beeswax?  From India?

 

Because it will likely point the way to the remains of a huge Manila galleon that vanished in 1705 with a cargo of millions of dollars worth of gold, silver bullion and precious gems.

 

Those figures alone are impressive but let’s look at them a little more closely.  According to Chuck Buckley, owner of Gold Exchange and Loan, 726 S. Rancho Santa Fe Rd., San Marcos, $1,000,000 worth of gold bullion in 1790 would likely be worth somewhere between $27 and $30 million today.  He emphasizes that’s only a guess, based on weight and today’s prices on gold.  

 

The knowledge that there may be between $27 and $30 million resting under some sand dunes in Oregon should stimulate some adventurer’s quest for adventure and reward.

 

The ship was the San Francisco Xavier.  She was built in 1691 in Cavite, Phillipines.  175 feet long, 50 feet wide,  with 80 guns, and was capable of carrying 80 tons of cargo.

 

For almost 250 years these majestic galleons had plied their trade between Manila and Acapulco.  The westbound ships would sail from Acapulco to Manila, the east bound ships from Manila to the North American continent, usually making port at either Monterey or San Francisco for reprovisioning.  Each ship would normally make one trip a year.

 

Those ships going to Manila would carry cocoa, chocolate, and other products . . . but the eastbound ships . . .aha!  They carried silks, taffetas, rich vestments for the churches in New Spain, gauzes, napkins, and, of course there was the treasure.  No galleon ever left Manila without large shipments of gold and silver   bullion and precious stones. One manifest, from a 1767 arrival in Acapulco lists diamond earrings, necklaces, pieces of jewelrys in the hundreds . . and no galleon ever left for Acapulco without a large shipment of Ghedda beeswax, made in India, and much in demand in New Spain (Mexico) for use as votive candles and for lighting.

 

So now you begin to see why the discovery of this beeswax on the wild Oregon coast becomes a bit more exciting?  If you follow this beeswax to its source, you just may uncover a centuries old galleon, likely under sea sand . . . but loaded to the gunnels with gold, silver bullion, and precious gems!

 

There is a written record of thirty Manila galleons lost on the westbound trip . . .of these, only two vanished without a trace.  The San Francisco Xavier and the San Antonio.  Evidence suggests that it is likely the San Francisco Xavier may be resting beneath the sand dunes in Oregon.  Why?  An early fall storm is likely the culprit that brought the San Francisco Xavier to her doom.  Nehalem is very close to the northernmost point of a Manila galleon’s eastern route.  A ship, seeking shelter from the storm, may well have sought out Nehalem Bay and been pushed ashore by the ferocious winds.

 

The tons of beeswax that have been picked up on Nehalem Beach are the strongest clue that the San Francisco Xavier was wrecked there.  Beeswax is virtually indestructible, except by heat, and Oregon beaches don’t suffer from a lot of heat.  Beeswax from India is made by the bee known as apis dorsata.  Chemical analysis, already done on the beeswax found at Nehalem Spit, shows it to be Ghedda wax, from India.

 

The Clatsop Indians told Lewis and Clark that the beeswax came from a shipwreck but they never pursued the matter.

 

Since that time, relics from a ship have been found, including teak, the wood from which the Spanish galleons were constructed.  Shifting sands over the years continue to hide the elusive shipwreck.  If, indeed, this wreck is that of the San Francisco Xavier then a fortune in gold bullion, silver, and precious gems rest beneath those shifting sand dunes.

 

There is even greater treasure lying in the bowels of another shipwreck, that of the San Antonio.  That is the ship that is believed to have foundered on the western side of San Miguel Island, a few miles off the northern California coast.  One of the Channel Islands, it is a wild, unpopulated island and a graveyard for many ships including the San Sebastian, which sank in 1754, the J. F. West, 1889, the Comet in 1923, and, most likely, the San Antonio.

 

When the San Antonio left Manila it carried more riches than any other galleon in the entire two hundred and fifty years of the Manila-Acapulco run.  Like the San Francisco Xavier, the San Antonio also carried a large amount of Ghedda beeswax.  Not surprisingly, Ghedda beeswax has been repeatedly found by beachcombers on the western side of the island.

 

It’s a small search area, but underwater, and with heavy breakers.  Simple scuba diving would be difficult, but possible.  Given the high danger element, it would likely be best to have a sophisticated search team with the proper equipment explore the area.

 

Hitting The Nail

on the Head

 

If it weren’t for a deathbed confession no one would ever have known about a murder committed by an abused wife against her drunkard of a husband that took place at Stinking Hollows, nor would there be the legend of the lost Blue Bucket gold.

 

Background:  Wagon trains would gather at Fort Boise, Idaho to both reprovision and rest up before following the remaining portion of the Oregon Trail into western Oregon.

 

In midsummer of 1845 the place was packed.  More wagons than usual.  Six full wagon trains which translated to 300 wagons, about 1000 adults, 2300 cattle, 800 oxen and 1000 goats.  The permanent residents of Fort Boise were anxious to see their visitors leave.

 

Soon, they would cross over the Blue Mountains and down its banks to the Columbia River.  Some would pay a fee of $5 per wagon to a fella named Stephen Meek who had offered a ‘short cut’ on the 200 mile trek to Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Two hundred wagons would follow Meek on his ‘short cut,’ the remaining 100 wagons went the traditional way, via the well known Oregon Trail.

 

About two days journey east of the Deschutes River, a wagon train had made camp, desperate for water.  All that was available was alkaline water.  Dire straits prevailed as on September 23, four persons died. The following day six more died.  Another six died over the next six days.  On the last day of the month a small girl died.  The mother of the small girl had no time to mourn.  They had to prepare a shallow grave and move on.  Legend has it that the father of the little girl had beaten her so severely that she fell into a coma and died about three days later.  She was buried on a hillside with an ox yoke and a toy cup to mark her grave.

 

The husband of the grieving mother was a drunkard.  He would consume a bottle of whiskey each day since they had left Fort Boise.   Not only had his physical abuse likely killed their daughter, he would abuse the rest of the family as well.

 

One day, their ten year old son picked up a blue bucket and ran over to the edge of a creek bed and began to collect small pebbles, tossing those that appealed to him into the blue bucket.

 

The husband continued to drink, ordered his wife to get out of his sight and get in the back of the wagon, which she did.

 

Later, she would prepare another meager meal for herself and her son, after her drunken husband had passed out.

 

Much later, while the rest of the wagon train slept, she climbed down from her wagon, hammer and a long nail in her hands.  She knelt down beside her drunkard husband, put the point of the nail against his skull and with one powerful blow drove it into his head.  She then covered the head of the nail with his thick, matted hair, and crawled back into the wagon.

 

No autopsy was held.  People were dying all the time on the wagon train.  They buried him and moved on.  His grave was marked by a wagon tailgate.  And that was it.

 

Until 30 years later, when his widow made her deathbed confession.

 

A week after his death the wagon train arrived safely in The Dalles.  The widow and her son settled in an area that today is known as Oregon City.  She became a domestic and one day her employer happened to notice her son playing with some yellow stones in a blue bucket.  Upon closer examination he saw that these ‘yellow stones’ were pure gold, one of the stones being almost a full pound in weight.

 

All of these pebbles had been picked up by the creek near where they had camped that night, the night his mother had murdered his father.

 

She would not reveal the location until her deathbed confession to her son, and then only revealed the location to him.  Still, 30 years had dimmed her memory, the son was now an attorney and more interested in practicing law than gold prospecting so there the story appeared to end.

 

The location appears to be fixed somewhere between what is known today as Coyote Hills (near present day Plush, Oregon)  and Rabbit Hills (about 25 miles north of Plush) near the Hart Mountain Antelope Range., 65 miles northeast of Lakeview, Oregon.  It was somewhere in this areas that the blue bucket was filled with gold nuggets and the drunken husband was killed with a nail. 

 

Over the years the search for the Blue Bucket gold has continued.  In 1861 an expedition was mounted.   While they didn’t find the Blue Bucket gold site, they did find another productive site which became the rich John Day mines.  They also found gold near Elk Creek.

 

Erle Stanley Gardner, the famous author, also financed a hunt, shortly before his death in 1970.  It was unsuccessful.

 

And so, the legend goes, if you go hunting for gold in Oregon, and if you find the correct skeleton, you will have hit the nail in the head.

 

500 Pounds of Silver

 

If you drive north of Los Angeles for about an hour you’ll soon arrive at the Vasquez Rocks Recreation Area.  There’s a 500 lb. ingot of silver there, just waiting to be found.  You’ll find a bunch of pockmarked rocks there, big boulders, many of which have holes in them.  Somewhere, in one of those holes, is that 500 lb. ingot of silver, placed there by a once famous bandit.

 

You’ve seen the site.  Many times.  Countless movies and television shows have used the huge rocks as backdrops for western shows.

 

The story behind the story:

 

The owner of a mine in the area actually cast two 500 lbs ingots of silver as a security measure against a planned attack on the transport of his silver mine, located near the town of Panamint.

 

In 1869 Robert L. Stewart, with two partners, found a very rich silver mine.  They became successful miners, smelting not only their own silver but those of neighboring mines as well.  In 1872, Robert’s brother, Senator Willim M. Stewart of Nevada came to visit Robert at Panamint.  Following a series of card games he wound up winning control of yet another mine from a couple of surly scoundrels.  While it appeared the card game was honest the two who lost their mine began to seethe about their loss.  And they made plans to recover their lost riches.

 

Meanwhile, Senator Stewart continued to staff and manage his mining problems efficiently, hauling out lots of silver ore.  Soon, a trusted Mexican colleague told Stewart that he had learned that the two men from whom he had won the mine were planning on attacking Stewart’s mule train as it transported the silver ore to Los Angeles.  Stewart had stored almost 1000 lbs. of silver at his mine.  He immediately built a furnace and mold and poured two 500 lb. ingots of silver.  This would make it difficult for two men to transport, due to the weight.

 

Sure enough, the two roustabouts showed up at the camp, scared off the Chinese laborers and foreman.  Stewart and his Mexican colleague took refuge in the hills where they could witness the attempted robbery.  They probably had more than a few good laughs as the two bandits learned that it wasn’t very easy to heist two 500 lb. ingots of silver.  First the A-frame pulley they rigged collapsed under the weight . . . then when, after hours of trying, they manged to get one of the 500 lb ingots loaded on to the back of a mule the mule collapsed and couldn’t get up.

 

Frustrated, the two bandits left and were never seen again in Panamint.  Meantime, the Mexican asked Senator Stewart how he was going to get the silver to Los Angeles. 

 

“I guess I’ll have to use Remi Nadeau,” he said.  Nadeau was the top teamster in the area, with many freighters.  He had distinctive, large, blue freighter wagons led by 20 mule teams.  He also had a pact with one of the major local bandidos named  Tiburcio Vasquez (which is where the Vasquez Hills got their name.  You’ll see why shortly). 

 

Nadeau had spotted a badly wounded Vasquez on the road one day, left to die after having been well ventilated by folks resisting an attempted stage holdup.  Vasquez was assumed dead but was still alive when Nadeau found him, transported him to the next way-station, and nursed him back to health.  In gratitude, Vasquez assured Nadeau he would never try to rob Nadeau’s freight line.

 

This he adhered to.

 

Until one day he heard about Nadeau transporting two 500 lb. silver ingots.  He decided all bets were off for this great of a treasure and attacked the freight train, taking his own buckboard along on the raid.  They hit the freight train, took only one 500 lb. silver ingot, leaving the other on the freight train . . . loaded it, with some difficulty, on to the buckboard, and then fled.  The freight train continued on to Los Angeles with the remaining 500 lb. silver ingot.

 

The next day a posse found the abandoned buckboard and there was no sign of the ingot.   Three weeks later, the sheriff heard Vasquez was holed up at the house of a friend near what is known today as Tujunga Pass, near present day Hollywood.  The sheriff and his posse wounded and captured Vasquez.  He was sentenced to hang for the murder of two people during a stagecoach robbery.

 

Shortly before he was hanged he was visited in jail by Senator Stewart who asked Vasquez what had become of his 500 lb. silver ingot.

 

“It’s in a hole in the rocks,” he said . . . and would tell Senator Stewart no more.  Vasquez went to his grave without disclosing the exact location of which hole, in which rock, the 500 lb. silver ingot was hidden.  There are hundreds of large rocks in the area . . . each of which has many holes.  Thus the name . . . “Vasquez Rocks Recreation Area.”

 

Presumably, it is still there today as no one has reported finding it.

There are many holes in Vasqez Rocks . . . and the area is easy to get to.  There’s even a paved road into the area . . . and facilities for overnight camping.

 

One might be persuaded to buy a metal detector and go prospecting!  Value of a 500 lb. silver ingot on today’s market?  According to Chuck Buckley, of Gold Exchange and Loan in San Marcos, about $67,932.50, based on today’s prices.

 

Hill Beachy and the Murder of Levi Magruder

 

First of all, you might ask, what is a fella named Hill Beachy doing in the wild, wild West?  And, what’s more, is this Hill Beachy fella something of a sissy-boy?  He has this funny, girlish type name, and always dressed just so, absolute fine sartorial splendor, dines only on gourmet food.  What’s more, he built a hotel in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1860.  He served only the best food, kept an immaculate hotel, and even wore a freshly starched shirt every day.  Even in the morning.  Surely, this guy was one for the books.  Probably a big sissy-boy.

 

That image was dispelled rather quickly one day.

 

Word got to him that there were two rough and tumble fellas in the bar, ready to have a shootout.  The regular patrons and the bartender had skedaddled for safety.  Hill Beachy just got up from his desk, walked firmly into the bar and told the two ruffians that he didn’t allow this type of nonsense in his hotel and they would have to leave. 

 

Almost in a state of glee the two fellas looked at this Beachy fella, and challenged this “dandy” as to “what he was going to do about it.”. 

 

Dumb move.

 

One second later one of the rough, tough guys was on the floor with a broken arm and Hill Beachy was holding the fella’s gun in his hand.  He turned to the other thug and said, “leave.”  The guy hesitated one second too long and suddenly a bullet went through his arm and his gun went flying out of his hand.

 

Once more Hill Beachy suggested the two thugs leave.  By this time they had time to rethink their position and decided leaving was probably a pretty prudent idea so they left, rather promptly it is said, never to be heard from again.

 

And from that point on the townsfolk had a whole new impression of Hill Beachy.

 

Now it happened that Hill Beachy had one particularly good friend in town, Levi MacGruder, a wealthy young trader who would travel and trade with miners throughout the mining community, taking his payment for his goods and supplies in gold.

 

On one occasion, in August of 1863, MacGruder had written Beachy that he had a particularly profitable trip and was loaded with gold.  His mule train was moving slowly but then he met a group of eight horsemen, four of whom agreed to sign on as muleskinners and help MacGruder get his precious cargo back to Lewiston.  Their names were Bill Page, a trapper and scout who MacGruder knew, and three new fellas, Jim Romaine, Dan Lowry, and Dave Howard, all of whom claimed to be from Lewiston but none of whom were known by Beachy.

 

MacGruder had written that he had $30,000 in gold dust and an additional $20,000 in gold coins.  He was not far away and should return to Lewiston shortly.

 

The month of October came and went.  Three months and still no sign of MacGruder.  Worried, Beachy saddled up and went looking for him.

 

MacGruder was well known at many of the stage stops.  None of the operators at each of the depots had seen MacGruder recently . . . until he got to the stage stop high up in the Bitter Root Mountains.  Here, the stage operator said he had seen MacGruder in early October.

 

Beachy returned to Lewiston, worried.  One hundred mules, nine men, nine horses . . . three months to travel 100 miles?  Something was wrong. 

 

A week later Beachy met a circuit rider (a traveling minister) who, he said, had bought MacGruder’s very familiar paint horse, Italy, from another gent in Walla Walla, Washington, and had a bill of sale to prove it.  On the bill of sale were the names of Page, Lowry, Howard and Romaine.

 

Later arriving in Walla Walla and making inquiries, he learned the men had departed for Portland, Oregon.  He told a few white lies, told the Governors of Washington, Oregon and California he was a deputy sheriff and would they please ‘detain’ the men  for trial in Lewiston, Idaho.  Beachy traveled to Portland, then learned his quarry had left for San Francisco.  He followed them to California.

 

Two weeks later he finally found William Page.  Page, when confronted, readily admitted that the men, overcome at the huge amount of gold that could be theirs, agreed to rob MacGruder.  The first night, as MacGruder slept, Lowry hit him in the head with an ax, killing him instantly, then proceeded to kill the remaining four muleskinners in similar fashion.  The four men then dumped the dead bodies and the other mules and horses were killed and all were thrown off a high cliff.

 

Page had been given only $5000 of the loot.  $20,000 had been buried at the base of a bluff beside the stagecoach road about a day’s ride out of Walla Walla. 

 

Page accompanied Beachy to police headquarters where he repeated his story.  The police became interested and involved and shortly thereafter located and arrested Howard, Lowry and Romaine.

 

All four men returned to Lewiston, Idaho, arriving there on Christmas Eve, 1863.  They were tried the following month and all except Page were hanged on March 4, 1864.  Page, having turned state’s evidence, was released after he testified for the prosecution.

 

In May, a little more than two months after the triple execution, the snows had melted and the bodies of the massacred victims were easily located, just where Page said they’d be.

 

The gold that was recovered from the highwaymen was given to MacGruder’s widow.  In June, Hill Beachy took Page to the areas where the gold coins were buried but Page couldn’t remember which bluff was the landmark bluff.  There were simply too many bluffs and he was confused.  Later, in August, Page died.

 

Hill Beachy applied for reimbursement from the  law agencies for his pursuit of the highwaymen.  It was approved and he was paid $6,244 to reimburse his expenses.

 

And, if you’re interested in looking, the $20,000 in gold coin remains buried at the base of a bluff on the old stage trail between Walla Walla, Washington, and Lewiston, Idaho, about a day’s ride by horse outside the old city limits of Walla Walla.

 

Here again, we have to convert the $20,000 gold coin from the 1864 value and convert it to today’s market value.  How does  $550,000 sound to you?  Worth the effort of going out and hunting for buried treasure?

 

Resources

 

Fortunately, there are many, many books and Internet resources from which to draw in researching treasure.

 

One book that provides fascinating reading, and is available at the Escondido Public Library, is “Lost Treasures of the West,” by Brad Williams & Choral Pepper.

 

One could easily spend an entire weekend just browsing through old west stories, mining stories, and buried and hidden treasure stories, all on the Internet.

 

If you think this world is interesting, we encourage you to study it . . . and then head out for adventure.

 

You just might find a few million dollars worth of treasure. Good hunting!  

 

 

 

 

 

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