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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 245

Spaniards were said to have entombed three hundred thousand dollars in gold near Natchez. A man to whom the secret had descended offered to reveal it, but, as he was a prisoner, his offer was laughed at. Afterward an empty vault was found where he said it would be. Somebody had accidentally opened it and had removed the treasure.

Caverns have frequently been used as hiding-places for things of more or less value—generally less. Saltpetre Cave, in Georgia, for instance, was a factory and magazine for saltpetre, gunpowder, and other military stores during the Civil War. The Northern soldiers wrecked the potash works and broke away tons of rock, so as to make it dangerous to return. Human bones have been found here, too, but they are thought to be those of soldiers that entered the cave in pursuit of an Indian chief who had defied the State in the '40's. He escaped through a hole in the roof, doubled on his pursuers, fired a pile of dead leaves and wood at the mouth, and suffocated the white men with the smoke.

Spaniards worked the mines in the Ozark Hills of Missouri two hundred years ago. One of the mines containing lead and silver, eighteen miles southwest of Galena, was worked by seven men, who could not agree as to a division of the yield. One by one they were killed in quarrels until but a single man was left, and he, in turn, was set upon by the resurrected victims and choked to death by their cold fingers. In 1873 a Vermonter named Johnson went there and said he would find what it was the Spaniards had been hiding, in spite of the devil and his imps. He did work there for one day, and was then found dead at the mouth of the old shaft with marks of bony fingers on his throat.

The seven cities of Cibola, that Coronado and other Spanish adventurers sought in the vast deserts of the Southwest, were pueblos. A treacherous guide who had hoped to take Coronado into the waterless plain and lose him, but who first lost his own head, had told him a tale of the Quivira, a tribe that had much gold. So far from having gold these Indians did not know the stuff, but the myth that they had hoarded quantities of it has survived to this day and has caused waste of lives and money. Towns in New Mexico that have lain in ruins since 1670, when the Apaches butchered their people—towns that were well built and were lorded by solid old churches and monasteries erected by the Spanish missionaries—these towns have often been dug over, and the ruinous state of Abo, Curari, and Tabira is due, in part, to their foolish tunnelling and blasting.

A Spanish bark, one day in 1841, put in for water off the spot where Columbia City, Oregon, now stands. She had a rough crew on board, and it had been necessary for her officers to watch the men closely from the time the latter discovered that she was carrying a costly cargo. Hardly had the anchorchains run out before the sailors fell upon the captain, killed him, seized all of value that they could gather, and took it to the shore. What happened after is not clear, but it is probable that in a quarrel, arising over the demands of each man to have most of the plunder, several of the claimants were slain. Indians were troublesome, likewise, so that it was thought best to put most of the goods into the ground, and this was done on the tract known as Hez Copier's farm. Hardly was the task completed before the Indians appeared in large numbers and set up their tepees, showing that they meant to remain. The mutineers rowed back to the ship, and, after vainly waiting for several days for a chance to go on shore again, they sailed away. Two years of wandering, fighting, and carousal ensued before the remnant of the crew returned to Oregon. The Indians were gone, and an earnest search was made for the money—but in vain. It was as if the ground had never been disturbed. The man who had supervised its burial was present until the mutineers went back to their boats, when it was discovered that he was mysteriously missing.


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