2012 articles About Offbeat Oregon 2012 articles 2011 articles 2010 articles 2008-2009 articles About me Store (the Finn J.D. John Centre for Crass Commercialism and Filthy Lucre)
Links to Offbeat Oregon History podcast page on iTunes Daily RSS feed (text/images) info Offbeat Oregon History page on Facebook. New historic photographs are frequently posted. Offbeat Oregon on Twitter. This is where you'll find most of the "pop history" community. Daily RSS audio edition (podcast) and iTunes feed Links to Offbeat Oregon History podcast page on iTunes
Link to Web site for Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town z

you just might ALSO
enjoy ...

Early Oregon 'holy roller' cult ended in murder, suicide, insanity

THE holy-roller "NAKED LADIES' CULT" IN CORVALLIS and waldport.

It started out as a church seeking perfect holiness and Godliness. It ended in murder, insanity and chaos — and, yes, rumors of naked ladies. Check out the full story (in two parts).

Vaudeville's famous Klondike Kate became a Central Oregon legend

central oregon's most fabulous homesteader ever.

Homesteader Kitty "Klondike Kate" Rockwell, retired from the bright lights of Vaudeville, often wore full costume just to weed the garden. Here's the story.

z

Whale explodes: Details at 11.

The highway department guy didn't know how much dynamite to use, and said so on camera. But he still thinks the operation was a success. Check out the story of Florence's famous exploding whale ...

Ray V.B. Jackson in a booking photo from the Oregon State Pen, in 1896. Four years after this photo was taken, he was teaching grade school in Silver Lake.

Is this the face of oregon's first serial killer?

Like an "angel of death," ex-con Ray V.B. Jackson just happened to be at the scene of at least five Central Oregon homicides. What are the odds? Here's the story (in two parts).

z

Far-out guru "enlightens" Central Oregon.

What happens when a colony of acolytes of an East Indian guru move in, then try to take over Wasco County? Check out the four-part story of the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram ...

z

this oregon youth went on to save half a billion lives...guess who?

A local Willamette Valley teen-ager named Bert Hoover, an orphan sent from Iowa to live with his uncle, went on to save millions of lives and become a singularly ill-starred U.S. president.

z

oregon's most spectacular shipwreck ever.

The steam schooner J. Marhoffer was almost brand-new when, burning fiercely from stem to stern, it piled onto the rocks near Depoe Bay. It's the remains of this fiery shipwreck that gave Boiler Bay its name ...

z

the gallant rescue of portland's floating brothel.

Maritime madam Nancy Boggs kept her bordello on a barge floating in the river, until a police raid cut it loose. But the captain and crew of a sternwheeler came to save the day. Here's the story.

z

take off to the province of oregon, eh?

Few people know how close Oregon came to officially becoming a British possession under the treaty that ended the War of 1812. Only the presence of a handful of scattered, starving survivors from Astor's fur enterprise prevented it. Here's how.

z

timberline lodge could have been a glass skyscraper

Calling the plan a "profit-making eyesore," a Forest Service manager nixed 1920s plan for a modern steel-and-glass structure with an aerial tramway. You can read about it right here.

z

pixieland: an edgy, vanished amusement park

Built in the late 1960s as a "fairy-tale history of Oregon," the amusement park lasted just a few years before slipping into receivership. Today, all that's left of this odd and uniquely Oregonian story is a dilapidated guardshack.


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Oregon back country is rich in legends of buried treasure

Stories of lost loot and buried booty have kept treasure hunters busy digging for gold in hidden corners of Oregon for the past 150 years

Concord stagecoach
A Concord stagecoach similar to the ones that Oregon bad guys used to
rob— a popular source of buried-treasure legends. This particular coach
was built recently by G and F Carriages of Bloomington, Calif., which
builds and sells upscale horse-drawn vehicles. It is available for sale; for
more information or to see more and larger pictures of it, click here.

Oregon has more than its share of  high-profile stories of lost and buried treasure — stories like the Blue Bucket Mine in northeastern Oregon and the buried treasure of Neahkahnie Mountain on the coast.

But there are many more as well — rumors and legends of buried loot from stagecoach robberies, gold dust squirreled away by nervous prospectors, and even a kettle of cash stashed away for safekeeping by a paymaster doomed to die in silence.

And who knows? One or two of them might even be true.

The Louse Creek Stage Robbery

In 1890, a group of robbers held up a stagecoach near Louse Creek in Josephine County, north of Grants Pass. (The story says “Douglas County,” but this is probably an error; Louse Creek runs within a few dozen miles of the Douglas County line.)

A Google Map of the Louse Creek area. [View larger map]

According to this legend, the robbers were chased down and killed in classic 1890s Oregon gold-field style; but one of them, with his dying breath, said the loot had been stashed a few hundred yards from the crime scene, in a hole in the ground.

For years, treasure seekers scrounged around the area, looking under every leaf. As far as anyone knows, they found nothing.

Then, in 1933, a gold prospector named C.L. Eubanks, beating the bushes along the creek, came across a manzanita tree with some peculiar carvings on the trunk. The date 1890 was there, along with the initials MLP and LPM (the robbers' names, perhaps?) and, below that, a message. Eubanks could just make out the words “Go to” — beyond that, the tree’s healing powers in the previous 35 years had made the carving unreadable.

That summer, Eubanks devoted himself to the hunt for the missing loot. But, so far as anyone knows, he never did find it.

The silent paymaster of Fort Grant

A Google Map of the area where Fort Grant once lay; today, it's part of
Phoenix, Ore. [View larger map]

In the years after gold was discovered in California and southern Oregon, the town of Fort Grant sprang up south of Medford — more or less where Phoenix is today. The town lacked a bank, so the paymaster of one of its companies — probably the stage line — kept accounts for local miners. He’d stash their gold dust, $20 coins and other valuables in a big iron kettle, which he kept securely buried in a secret location.

This worked great — until the paymaster suddenly had a stroke.

Struck dumb, the paymaster motioned for a pencil and was handed one. But halfway through his attempt to draw a map, the growing damage in his brain reached the lethal stage, and he took its secret with him to the grave.

Again, there was much time and effort given to scrounging around camp and thrusting steel rods into the ground to probe for the kettle; again, so far as is known, no one has found it. But then, if I'd found it, I wouldn't have told anyone ... would you?

The inside job at Pendleton

Another solid-gold legend has enough basis in fact to have made it into court in 1880. It seems a fellow named H.P. Page, an official with Wells Fargo, was riding to Portland on a company stage that was delivering a big chunk of money.

A Google Map of Pendleton. The coach en route to Portland from this
little city would have followed roughly the same path that Interstate
84 takes today. [View larger map]

On the way, Page went into the boot of the Concord stagecoach to take a nap on the mail sacks … or so the jury chose to believe when it acquitted him. The prosecution tended to think he was doing something other than snoozing in there.

Whatever the real story was, what mattered most was that the shipment of gold was somehow abstracted from the coach on its way to Portland. Oh, and one other detail: The coach didn't stop anywhere on the way. The gold simply disappeared en route. It's hard to imagine any way that could have happened, other than Page chucking it out the window into a bush along the route.

Page, acquitted, found himself marked as untrustworthy and left the area and was never heard from again. But some folks think he stashed the loot somewhere in Umatilla County to retrieve it later, after his notoriety had ebbed a bit, and never made it back. Maybe it’s still there. Or, maybe the whole thing is a Tooth Fairy-class fantasy. Who knows?

Corvallis and the solid-gold muck boot

One last story. This one is probably the least believable of the bunch — but again, who knows?

Peavy Arboretum is just north of Corvallis, just off Highway 99W, on
Arboretum Road. [View larger map]

Apparently in 1857, a miner showed up at a saloon in Corvallis and started bragging about a rich gold strike he’d hit. The story goes that after sobering up, this guy realized he’d raised his public profile more than was good for him, and that he’d better stash his pile of gold someplace safe so that he would not be a walking, talking, engraved formal invitation to a mugging. So he put his gold dust in a rubber boot and squirreled it away in what is now Peavy Arboretum.

Subsequently, the story claims, the miner disappeared and several Corvallis citizens shortly thereafter became uncommonly wealthy.

This last bit makes this story suspect, as in 1857 so much money was still pouring into Oregon from the gold fields of California and southern Oregon that a sudden increase in a neighbor’s living standards would not have been unusual enough to raise such suspicions.

Wells Fargo Concord stagecoach on display in KEab, Utah
This Wells Fargo Concord stagecoach was being pulled across the
American prairies when buffalo still were roaming it. It's currently on
display in Kenab, Utah. [Larger image: 2000px]

What else is wrong with this story? Actually, plenty. First of all, Corvallis isn’t a mining town. It’s certainly possible that someone struck gold nearby, but he’d be far more likely to go south and strike it in Jacksonville or Virginia City, which means he’d be doing his drunken boasting there, not back home in Corvallis.

And secondly, rubber boots were uncommon and valuable items in 1857, not the sort of thing a man would use to bury something in.

Still, it’s a fun legend to think about if you’re ever visiting the arboretum — and who knows? It may even be true.

(Sources: Friedman, Ralph. The Other Side of Oregon. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1993; www.treasure-adventure.com/oregon.html)