Caney River

Caney River Treasure

Along The Old California Trail

According to a local story, there was a wagon train coming back from California with a party of miners who were bringing back a large amount of gold. Some versions of the story claim it was around $100,000, this was during the early Civil War years. The party was attacked by Indians as they near the Osage Hills. It was at this point that the leader of the wagon train took the opportunity to grab the gold and make a run for it, in order to keep the gold for himself. A group of the pursuing Indians attempted to capture the former leader of the wagon train. With the Indians chasing him, he found a heavily wooded area near the Caney River. It was here he found a hollow tree and inside he placed a rifle, and a short distance away he buried the gold. He made it back to Missouri where he told his wife about the cache before dying. It is said that his wife went in search of the gold many years later, but the area had all of its trees cut down. Supposedly the woman did meet the landowner and learned that he did find a tree with an old musket when he cut down needed timber. The hoard of gold is still out there somewhere near the Caney River and has never been found.


The Caney River forms just north of Grenola, Kansas in Elk County, then flows southward into Oklahoma near Elgin, Kansas to its confluence with the Verdigris River just south of Oolagah Lake near Claremore in Rogers County. The river is dammed at SH 10 near Bowring to form Hulah Lake, immediately below which is located Wah-Sha-She State Park. The river flows parallel to and west of US Highway 75 until a few miles below Bartlesville, where it passes under the highway for a few miles before crossing under US Highway 169 near Collinsville, below which it enters the Verdigris River.

caney river

The Caney River is marked on this old map that came out about 1907 (when Oklahoma became a state) in yellow, so the site is somewhere along the banks of that river. Hewing is north of the Tall Grass Prairie, and it is a place where people were building up the farms.

Now, the story goes "near the Caney River" so how close is near? Near can be about anywhere from on the bank to about 2 miles or so away, so that sort of keeps the area really wide.

Elgin, Kansas is along the Caney River too, located in Chautauqua County on the Oklahoma border. It was founded in 1871. The santa fe railroad arrived in 1886 and Elgin became a cattle town. Bob Dalton and Bill Doolin among other outlaw types were often visitors to this wild town. After cattle ceased to be the main industry, oil was found and they had a boom that lasted until 1924. the town hit on  hard times after that and has never recovered. There were also three 'gallows' (think noose and decking to be hung by) in town, and this was the central agency for the lawmen who regulated Indian Territory before and after the Land Runs of 1889 and 1893.

Now, if the tale was before 1871 (before Elgin, Kansas was a town, which would make sense since the woods were cut down afterwards, and I am thinking that the Mexicans were coming back from the gold fields of 1849 in Colorado) and the story states "during the early Civil War years" which the war between teh states took place between 1860 and 1865, so the early years would be 1860-1863, then the Mexicans were probably following 'Black Dog Trail' which would have been a wide path that they could have easily traveled with their wagons along and made headway.  The 'Black Dog Trail' was built by the Osage Indians about 1840-1850 so it would have been a prominent trail at the time, and the Osage Indians used it to travel from Baxter, Kansas to the hunting fields west of Arkansas City, Kansas.  The trail followed the parallel, so it would have made sense that this was the trail the Mexicans were using.

Now, we need to deal with the amount of gold.  The story states "some versions of the story claim it was around $100,000" so we take into account that the words "some versions" so that means no one really knows. Lets do the math if it was $100,000.  The origin of the $20 gold piece here in the USA was that the gold coin weighed 1 ounce, making the gold at the time worth $20 an ounce.  So $100,000 divided by 20 equals 5000 ounces. And so, 5000 ounces divided by 16 (ounces in a pound) equals 312.5 pounds. Okay, so a horse can only carry so much, think about that, a rider at 200 pounds, and about 50 pounds of gear would have been the normal, and yes, I realize that riders were leaner back then, but about 250 pounds would have been the limit that a horse could haul. Now, Mexicans were probably hauling 312 pounds of gold using about 3 or more mules or burros, because they would have had their gear as well, so lets say the outlaw (since he killed the Mexicans to take their gold) was using the mules or burros to move the gold.  He would not have been moving real fast if that was the case, and 'being chased by Indians' according to the story, well, the Indians riding bareback could travel very fast, so he probably would not have been hauling mules.

Now, lets figure out the size of the gold, (using the $100,000 mark), and the largest gold bar in the world weighs in as 250 kilograms which is 551 pounds. The size of that bar is 45.5 cm X 22.5 cm X 17 cm, or 17.9 in X 8.9 in X 6.7 inches. so the gold was probably in dust, so you can figure that the size of the gold dust woulf have been close to the size of the gold bar, but..... (yes always a but) it would also depend on how much of the gold was ore, so it could have still had the quartz (where the veins are found in Colorado) so it could have taken up a larger amount of space, if there really was $100,000 in gold.

So, digging a hole that is about 24 in round, and probably about a foot or more deep probably would have been fairly easy depending on how close the Indians were on his trail.  Keep in mind he was 'being chased by Indians' so if that was truly the case, then he probably would have been in a place that would conceal him a little, since the Indians apparently did not find him for whatever reason. But, if you have ever dug a hole in Oklahoma soil, you know that after about 2 feet down the going is very tough, for you hit that good old red clay, and then you also have to take into account that where the Caney River flows, you are at the edge of the Flint Hills which has rock not too far below the surface.  That was one of the reasons that the Osage Indians chose the place for their reservation when they were alloted land in Oklahoma, so that the white man would not take their land from them to till up the soil.

The Indians are known to be natural trackers, one of the common senses of the tribes, they were raised up in nature, so for the man to actually be able to 'hide' would have been a very chanceful thing.  But if he did, I am sure that the Indians would have back-tracked and continued their search for him. It could have been night, so that would have probably helped some, but still, he would have been very lucky for the Indians (Osages in that area) were fierce and travelled in packs, so there would not have been just one Indian chasing him. But he did get away, apparently by horseback since hte railraod was not in the area until about 1886 which if you put the story together then he rode out of the area and made it back to Missouri. So I am thinking that the amount of gold he had would have been closer to probably about 40-50 pounds, or closer to $10,000 - $15,000 worth, which he would have been able to traevl on his horse with, for a while anyway before the horse got too tired.

Now, take into account the story and the man, so the man killed Mexicans to steal their gold, and then he said he was being chased by Indians.  The Osages were fierce, but they also traded with the white men, so they would not have just killed the man for no reason, but the Pawnees would, so I would think that the Pawnees were the ones who killed the gang, and figured that the last man was dead or going to die, so they probably did not pursue the man.  Then the man probably seen the Osage Indians as they made their way down the Black Dog Trail and he presumed they were chasing him since he may not have known too much about the area, but those Indians were not after him.  He was just scared, and he knew that he had too much weight to travel with on his horse, so he decided to bury the gold. The cache is probably relatively small, and probably in a spot that would have concealed him pretty well, so I would guess about a half mile off Black Dog Trail (since he travelled through the wooded area of the Osage Hills). Now, the land was cleared, but by whom? The story did not say, or you would be able to figure out who found the old musket. Unfortunately the only map I have been able to find so far (without going to Pawhuska to go through records) is from 1973 and that does not help any at all, since it would not show who originally owned the land. That is one of those all day long researches, and even then, you would not be able to know where the trees were unless someone in the area is related and they told you what their grandparent (or great-grandparent) told them, which would be vague at best.

So I would think that the best place to start would be to find out where the 'Black Dog Trail' passed across the Caney River and go from there. The best place to probably figure out teh correct route of the Black Dog Trail would be to go to which has a museum and I would think that they would have the closest map depicting the trail, although who knows how accurate the map would be, but it is a start.  I have done some research on the trail, so you can go to that page and see if it helps any.



© Lord Gazmuth 2012