Virginia Dale Stage Station
Stage Coach on the Overland Trail
In 1863, a stagecoach along the Overland Trail
carrying an army payroll of $60,000 (which would be about $1 million
dollars today) in ten and twenty dollar gold coins was destined for Fort
Sanders in Wyoming
Territory. The gold shipment represented several months of back pay for
the soldiers at Fort Sanders; however, the unfortunate soldiers never saw
Please stay tuned for the next installment.....
However, before they could spend their ill-gained wealth, the bandits were pursued and killed by the U.S. Cavalry. The Cavalry later found the iron strong box in a nearby creek, the sides and bottom gone, riddled with bullet holes and, obviously, empty.
At the time, it was rumored that Joseph "Jack" Slade, the Station Master was the leader of the gang. Jack Slade, not as famous as many other outlaw characters, was nevertheless, as notorious as many of them. Slade was said to have had an uncontrollable temper, was a heavy drinker, had murdered in the past, and was eventually hanged in Montana. Though the stage line suspected Slade, they could not prove it, so they just fired him. Uncharacteristically, the bad-tempered Slade, left without any problems.
Later Jack Slade moved on to Virginia City, Montana. A heavy drinker with a bad temper, he wrecked a saloon soon after his arrival. Jack was arrested but he tore up the arrest and threatened the judge. Though he pleaded for his life, he was immediately hanged.
Virginia Dale, his girlfriend (or common law wife) was brought to town by one of Jack's friends, took his body home, pickled it in alcohol in a metal casket, and kept it under her bed for several months. She then took it to Salt Lake City, Utah and buried him in the old Mormon Cemetery where his body remains today.
The gold taken by the robbers at Virginia Dale has never been found.
Today, Virginia Dale is nothing more than a ghost town, located in the northern part of Larimer County, about 45 miles northwest of Fort Collins, and just about four miles south of the Wyoming border on US Highway 287. The old Overland Trail Stage Station is listed on the National Register of Historical sites and recently efforts have been made to preserve the old station.
Jack Slade and others in front of Virginia
La Caverna del Oro (The Cave of Gold)
Long before the white man ever came to the United States the legend of La Caverna del Oro, the Cave of Gold, was passed down from generation to generation by the Indians. When the Spanish explorers arrived in the fifteenth century, monks translated the legend and the gold was eagerly sought by the explorers.
Caverna del Oro, 13,000 feet high upon Marble Mountain, was believed, by the Indians, to be plagued by demons. However, in 1541, three Spanish monks from the Coronado expedition forced the Indians into slave labor to extract gold from the cave. Finally, the Indians staged an uprising against the monks and two of them were killed. However, the third monk, De la Cruz, convinced the Indians that he was able to subdue the evil spirits lurking underground in the mine. With the help of the slave-miner natives, vast amounts of gold were brought forth from the subterranean passages. Later, when the Indians had served their purpose, De la Cruz and his small group of surviving Spaniards killed the Indians, loaded up their treasure on pack mules, and fled south back to Mexico.
The cave was then left unexplored until about 100 years ago, when it was found again by Elisha Horn. Climbing on Marble Mountain, only a few miles from the town of Westcliff, Horn stumbled upon a skeleton clad in Spanish armor, with an arrow sticking out of its back. Painted on the rocks above the skeleton was a very old red cross, which can still be faintly seen to this day. Near the cross was the entrance to Caverna del Oro.
In the 1920s, the cave was explored again by a Colorado Mountain Club led by a U.S. Forest Ranger. The Ranger had been told by a 105-year-old Mexican woman that there was gold buried deep within the cave. The woman said that when she was a child, she could remember journeying to the cave where miners would come out with loads of gold.
She claimed that within 500-700 feet of the cave entrance there was an oaken door, which was the entrance to the rich Three Steps Mine. She explained that the treasure lay behind this set of padlocked wooden doors. The Ranger and the club members explored the many rooms and passages in the cave, climbing down as far as 500 feet into the cave, but did not discover the wooden doors, nor any gold. However, they did find many other interesting items, including a 200 year old ladder and a hammer which was made sometime in the 1600s. Lower down on the mountain, hidden amongst the aspen trees the club members found the ruins of an old fort as well as many arrowheads, which were scattered about the hillsides.
Many people have since explored the cave and have uncovered other old items including a windlass (rope and bucket), a clay jug and a shovel left by earlier explorers or miners. In addition, one group found a human skeleton chained by the neck to a wall deep down in the cave.
Nevertheless, no gold has ever been found (or at least, none that anyone is talking about.) Some people think that the entrance by the cross might have been an escape route, rather than the true way in, and the real entry to the cave lies hidden lower down on the mountainside. Regarding the mystery of the wooden door, behind which lies the treasure, some theorize that the door has since been hidden by a rockslide.
Reynolds Gang Buried Treasure
South Park and the Reynolds Gang
South Park Areads
They then headed to Dan McLaughlin's stage station, about eight miles out of Fairplay, where the town of Como is today. Stealing cash, a gold watch, and the horses, they made off with about $3,000. Then heading over Kenosha pass toward Denver, they again robbed the Michigan House stage stop, taking more horses.
A gentleman by the name of Mr. Berry began to warn everyone of the gang and their thievery trying to raise a posse without success. Not to be deterred, Mr. Berry followed the gang as far as the Omaha House stage station near the present day town of Conifer. From the Omaha House, the gang headed towards Shaffers Crossing.
Fairplay, 1860, courtesy Denver Public Library
Finally, a posse was organized and on July 30, 1864, the outlaws were spotted camping in a forest. A gunfight quickly ensued, leaving one outlaw by the name of Owen Singleterry dead. One posse member, a Dr. Cooper, cut off Singleterrys head, took it back to Fairplay and preserved it in alcohol, where it supposedly remained for many years.
The gang buried their loot and split up, fleeing the area. It was estimated that the gang had taken somewhere between $5,000 and $100,000 and area locals blamed them for every robbery within miles.
An even bigger posse was raised to capture the fleeing bandits. About seventy-five men were dispatched to find the thieves and just four days later, four of them were captured. Outlaw, Tom Holliman, was caught just days later as he made his way to Canon City, Colorado. However, Jim Reynolds, his brother John, and another bandit escaped to New Mexico.
As the five captured bandits were being taken to Fort Lyon, the first stop on their way to Denver for a military trial, a fight ensued. Three of outlaws were killed and two managed to escape.
Years later, John Reynolds lay dying of gunshot wounds suffered during a horse theft in Taos, New Mexico. However, before he died, he shared the story of how the gang had buried their loot, to fellow outlaw Albert Brown. He also drew a map, which showed the site of the ambush and the vague location of the treasure. After Reynolds died from his wounds, Brown and his partners traveled to the South Park area, trying to find the treasure. When they arrived at the site, they were disappointed to find that a forest fire had destroyed many landmarks. While they found an old white hat that supposedly belonged to the decapitated Singleterry, a headless skeleton, and horse bones in a swamp, they were unable to find the rocked-in prospect hole. Brown and his partners made three more attempts to find the treasure, but finally gave up and returned home. Albert Brown later died in a drunken brawl in Laramie City, Wyoming Territory.
However, before he died, he either gave or showed the map to a Detective David J. Cook, a Colorado Lawman. In an autobiography by Detective Cook, published in 1897, Cook quotes Reynolds conversation with Alfred Brown as follows:
Jim and me buried the treasure the morning before the posse attack on Geneva Gulch. You go up above there a little ways and find where one of our horses mired down in a swamp. On up at the head of the gulch we turned to the right and followed the mountain around a little farther, and just above the head of Deer Creek, we found an old prospect hole at about timberline. There, we placed $40,000 in greenbacks, wrapped in silk oil cloth, and three cans of gold dust. We filled the mouth of the hole up with stones, and ten steps below, struck a butcher knife into a tree about four feet from the ground and broke the handle off, and left it pointing toward the mouth of the hole.
By all accounts, the money remains buried somewhere in the South Park area.
I have found that there were three parts to the treasure of the Jim Reynolds gangs lost treasure. I have also found a crude map of the old South Park area which I made from the three parts. If anyone was reading the three different stories of the Reynolds gang they would have found that two of the outlaws were never accounted for until now when you put them together but were reunited with Albert Brown. Yes the treasure is still there, but it has something to do with the Appaloosa horse that one would not think of in the story. When all of this is said and done I believe that this treasure will be found and hopefully it will be. Just think, after 142 years, there is finally a way to find it. And it was as plain as could be. - Carolyn, March 2006
Arapaho Princess Treasure
Long ago, the Spaniards buried eight burro-loads of 50 lb gold bars somewhere in the stone cliffs above the Purgatorie River about 5 miles east of Las Animas. It is said that the gold bars were buried about 300 feet away from a strange arrangement of rocks, one of which was in the shape of a doll and stood about 30 feet high. The burial site was near an early 1800s village in the foothills. However, before any of the gold could be spent or moved, the Spanish were killed and the treasure has never been recovered.
Devils Head Mountain
Devils Head Mountain, thirty miles north of Woodland Park, can be seen for 75 miles as it towers over the vast forest and scenic meadows. The area surrounding the landmark is filled with wild gulches, mysterious caves and thick timber. In the late 1800s the area was rife with outlaws, due to its many opportunistic hideouts. There are numerous tales of buried treasure in the Devils Head vicinity just waiting to be found. While you are there, you can enjoy the areas multiple jeep roads, trails, and days of exploring. At the summit, is the last operating fire lookout tower along Colorados Front Range. The tower was built in 1912 with materials packed up the mountain by mules. The tower offers a magnificent 360-degree view of the surrounding Pike National Forest. The easiest way to get there is to go west from Sedalia on Rt 67, then south on Rampart Range Road, then ten miles to the Devils Head access road.
The Ten-Cent Treasure
Many years ago, a wagon train from the Denver mint, loaded with new dimes destined for Phoenix, Arizona disappeared somewhere between a Crawford ranch and Montrose. Four to six wooden kegs of new dimes were loaded on four separate wagons traveling as a group. Several years later, treasure hunters found the remains of four wagons at the rim of a canyon where a side wash fell off into the river ravine. Though they were able to gather several gallons of dimes along the Gunnison River near the north rim of Black Canyon, more treasure awaits the finding.
El Rio de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatoir (The River of Lost Souls in Purgatory) was first explored in the illegal Humana and Bonilla expedition of 1539. At that time, the band was led by a Portuguese don, seconded by a Spaniard. The group, including priests, soldiers and miners set forth on a quest that led them into Colorado.
The Spaniard could not stand to have a Portuguese leading the party and after becoming increasingly jealous and angry he killed the Portuguese and took over the leadership.
Pergatory Canyon Vintage Postcard
More than a year later, Coronado would again explore the area in search of Gran Quivera, the seven cities of gold. However, his search would prove nothing more than a frustrating one when he returned empty handed.
More than one hundred years later, in the 1700s, the Spaniards were transporting twelve chests of Spanish gold coins from Santa Fe, New Mexico to St. Augustine, Florida. The money was to be utilized for payroll and garrison expenses. The regiment, led by a man by the name of Carrasco Rodriguez, for some reason, traveled through Colorado rather than taking a more direct southerly route. Somewhere around where Trinidad is today, the regiment was caught in the winter weather where they were forced to stay until the spring. When spring arrived, Rodriguez once again led his caravan in the wrong direction and nothing was heard of them again.
Some say that the Spaniards buried the chests of gold somewhere along the banks of the Purgatory River. However, the more prevalent theory is that the Spaniards were attacked by Indians, who took their weapons, tools, clothing, and animals. Having no use for the gold, they probably threw it into a cave or a ravine. This theory is supported by a later finding of a suit of Spanish armor found along the banks of the Purgatory River, as well as a skeleton and ancient firearm found in a cave east of the Willow-Vogel Canyon junction in 1924.
Further tales describe the recovery of a few gold ingots and Spanish gold coins found along trails through Purgatoire Canyon. Another story has been told of a small ironbound chest containing a few thick gold coins, which was found in a cave in Purgatory Canyon sometime around 1924. Also found at the site was an old piece of harness with well-carved, ornate silver trimmings.
The man who was said to have found these things drove a knife into a tree outside the cave, confident that he was close to recovering the twelve chests of gold coins. However, while leaving the area of the cave, he fell and badly broke his leg, laying there for two days and nights. In his extremely weakened condition, a couple of people came upon him and he shared his tale with them. Unfortunately, the man succumbed to exposure.
Chacuaco Canyon Treasure
In 1858, there was a wagon train traveling through the southeast part of Colorado, in what is now Las Animas County, which was carrying 1,500 pounds of gold Ingots. Suddenly, the wagon train was attacked by a group of outlaws and renegade Indians. At first, the wagon train prevailed, driving off the would-be thieves and, in an effort to elude their tormentors; the travelers detoured through Chacuaco Canyon.
gang continued to pursue the wagon train with a vengeance. Three
members of the wagon train quickly loaded the gold ingots onto six
mules and led the loaded animals to a rock outcropping along a nearby
creek. While the three were hiding the gold, the
outlaws caught up with the wagon train and, furious, they
slaughtered each and every member of the party.
While the massacre was taking place, the three men escaped to a Mexican nearby village. However, when they returned to retrieve the gold, they were killed by
To this day, the treasure has never been found.
Update! June, 2009 - From one of our reader's, Legends of America has learned that though the facts of our tale are partially incorrect, the legend of the treasure is true. Doing his own research for a number of years, our reader has determined the "real story" and has located the vast majority of the treasure which included small gold bars with Spanish insignias.
Long ago, a party of four French Canadians were said to have been trapping on the Snake River near Round Mountain. However, the Canadians were discovered by American trappers who took their furs and traps and ran them off. The four traveled south into western Colorado and one of them found a gold nugget in the headwaters of the Gunnison River.
Here, they spent the next month successfully panning the gravel in the creek beds.
While you are looking for the treasure, you can also enjoy many excellent trails, hiking and mountain opportunities. You can also visit the Irish Canyon Rock Art Site, where you can see the Fremont rock art from an elevated platform.
Moffat County is in the extreme northwest part of Colorado. Irish Canyon is northwest of Maybell. From Maybell, take US-40 to Colorado 318. Turn northwest onto 318 and continue to Moffat County Road 10N, which runs through the canyon.
Treasure Mountain, 1880, courtesy Pikes Peak Library
In the late 1700s a French expedition of 300 men and 450 horses journeyed from an outpost at present-day Leavenworth, Kansas on their way to the Rocky Mountains. Once they reached the mountains, they began to prospect, at first without success. Working their way south, they made camp several miles east of Wolf Creek Pass, near present-day Summitville.
Prospecting in the many creeks and streams of the area, they supposedly found a large amount of gold on Treasure Mountain. The amount of gold today would be valued at as much as $33 million dollars. The Frenchmen stored the gold in three different places and the commanding officer was in charge of the map.
A second expedition was mounted to retrieve the buried treasure, though it is unclear weather the mission was conveyed by La Blancs family or by the French government. Fifty men headed back to the Summitville area, passing through Taos, New Mexico, where they hired a guide to lead them to the area.
However, months later, the guide returned to Taos alone, claiming the entire expedition had again been wiped out by the Indians. The Taos locals were suspicious of the "sole survivor and in the last Mexican trial held in United States territory, they tried him for murder but he was acquitted. Some theories claim the whole story was contrived by the Frenchmen, who secretly found the gold and returned to France, paying the guide to return to Taos, New Mexico with the untrue story of a massacre.
Over the years, several maps have appeared which claim to lead to the buried treasure. A man by the name of William Yule supposedly had a copy of the original and searched the entire western side of the valley, north to Saguache, without success. Later, a prospector named Asa Poor supposedly obtained the map from Yule and with two partners, was able to locate several landmarks leading to the treasure, but never found the hidden gold. One of Poor's partners, named Montroy, retained possession of the map, but it disappeared several years later.
More recently, a local area family, who claims to be direct descendents of Le Blanc, professes to be in possession of an authentic map written in French. Supposedly, for three generations they have been quietly searching for the lost cache. After years of search, the family members claim to have located seven of the eight landmarks that are mentioned on the map. Then, in 1993, one of the family members was hunting elk in the mountains south of Del Norte. When a cold hard rain began to fall, he took shelter in a 3-foot opening in the ground, which turned out to be a 5 by 4 foot wide man made tunnel. Exploring the tunnel, he crawled about 20 feet into the hillside, when suddenly his path was blocked by an underground landslide. Shining his flashlight around the dark passageway, he observed a carving in the rock wall, which was supposedly the long-lost eighth clue. The following day, 20 of the family members returned to the passageway to excavate the cave-in, tunneling an additional twelve feet into the mountainside. Getting late in the day, the family lined the length of the passageway with candles but before they got a chance to light them a rattlesnake lunged out of the gloom at the end of the tunnel just barely missing one of the family members.
Frantically, he scrambled back to the entrance when a swarm of bats poured out from the hillside, squeaking and diving aggressively at the surprised party. Undaunted, they knelt down to light the first candle at the entrance to the tunnel when the candle at the far end of the tunnel inexplicably flared on by itself! While the stunned group gaped at each other in horror, a huge owl dive-bombed the shocked party within inches of their heads. Terrified by these unusual events, the family fled the passageway and returned home.
Is the French gold "guarded by an unknown entity? Something eerie happened that day. Though scared off that day, the family has since obtained the Colorado state treasure rights to legally enter the cave and claim whatever treasure may remain there.
Additional information also suggests that the Ute Indians may have acquired some of the French gold during the battle that occurred, hiding it near the mouth of the Rio Grande Canyon.
Dead Man's Cave
In the winter of 1880 three prospectors E.J. Oliver, S.J. Harkman and H.A. Melton were prospecting two miles north of what would later become known as Dead Man Camp. As they were working, the sky threatened an oncoming blizzard and they quickly looked about for shelter.
Spying a small opening in a shear rock wall across the canyon, they made their way through the opening, lighting several crude torches. Though the passageway was narrow and less than four feet high, it opened up into a large 20-foot long room.
Shining their torches around, Oliver found the first of five skeletons scattered around the dusty, dark cavern. While exploring the cavern, they found several tight passageways extending into the gloom of the mountain. Choosing one, they followed the tunnel deeper into the mountain until it too, opened up into a large vault-like chamber. Shining their torches around, Melton noticed shelves on the western wall that had been carved into the stone. Bringing his torch closer, he saw several odd-looking stones stacked on one of the shelves and picking one up, he was surprised at its heavy weight. When he and his partners scrutinized it more carefully, they were astounded to discover that the stone was actually a crude bar of gold!
After the threat of snow had passed, the three excited men gathered up five of the bars and headed over the pass to Silvercliff, in the Wet Mountain Valley. Immediately, they had the bars assayed, which proved to be worth $900 apiece. Becoming instant celebrities in Silver Cliff, the men were questioned by all whom they encountered about the source of the gold bars, but all three men steadfastly refused to divulge the location, making plans to return to Dead Man's Cave in the spring.
In the early spring, they made their way back to Dead Man Cave. They thought the cave would be easy to find again but when they returned, there were many places that looked like the area in which the cave had been found. Over the years, they frequently returned to the area but they never again found the cave.
More Colorado Treasures Just Waiting to Be Found
Arapahoe County - A cache of gold ore worth $10,000 was buried somewhere in Pat's Hole within today's Dinosaur National Monument. Worth many times that value today, the treasure has never been recovered.
El Paso County An outlaw gang called the "Bloody Espinosas" terrorized the San Luis Valley in 1863. Supposedly, the gang had received a vision from the Virgin Mary and tried to drive the Anglos out by robbing them. They were said to have buried their treasure near the present-day town of Cascade in Ute Pass on the slopes of Pikes Peak. For a time, the gang eluded capture but were finally conquered by an army scout from Fort Garland who rode back to the fort with their heads in a sack.
Garfield County - Train robbery loot hidden near Grand Valley remains undiscovered.
Larimer County - The Musgrove Gang, headed by Lee Musgrove, were thieves and rustlers who ranged from Texas to Wyoming to Kansas. Noted for their barbarity, they were said to have killed at least twelve people during their raids. However, Colorado lawman Dave Cook went after the gang, and one-by-one, either killed or arrested each and every one of them. Lee Musgrove was finally caught by Cook in Wyoming Territory and was jailed in Denver. On November 23, 1868 a crowd stormed the jail and lynched the outlaw. The Musgrove Corral Treasure of gold and silver coins is said to remain buried along the Cache la Poudre River.
Otero County - The site of Bent's Fort on the old Santa Fe Trail is supposed to be where much Treasure is buried.
Lincoln County -- In 1847, $100,000 was stolen by bandits in Sacramento, California during the California Goldrush. It is said that the gold was hidden in a gulch several miles east of Clifford in Lincoln County. The spot was supposedly marked by three stones, each bearing the date 1847. This story was further supported when a flat stone bearing the inscription "D. Grover and Joseph Fox Lawe, Aug. 8, 1847" was discovered near Clifford many years ago.
Brown's Hole, 1837 courtesy Denver Public Library
Moffat County - In the 1890s, Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch often fled into the remote valley of Brown's Hole to escape from lawmen. It is believed that much of their outlaw loot was cached here and never recovered. Located just south of Wyoming, along the Utah-Colorado border, it was rumored that the only law was that of the fastest gun.
Brown's Hole, 1837 courtesy Denver Public Library
Brown's Hole was located along the
Trail, which made it an ideal location for hiding rustled cattle and
horses. Butch's girlfriend, Josie Morris, lived at Brown's Park on the
Bassett Ranch, where Butch occasionally worked as a ranch hand. Little
evidence is left of this
paradise. Remainders include many graves along the river, Josie's cabin,
and remnants of Doc Parson's cabin, where Butch Cassidy lived for a brief