Monday, April 4, 2011

Gold in Ozark Hills

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2 (KJV)

I have always had an affinity for exploring caves & finding old mines in the Ozarks.  I am always looking for what is hidden. There’s always something to be newly discovered in the next holler, over the ridge, or up the next creek. In the following article from 1893, explorers were searching for treasure while dealing with ghostly haunts.

This seems to be an old theme for people in the past...of our Ozarks’ History.

Interesting Traditions of Hidden
Ever Since White Men First Lived In
Missouri Intermittent Efforts Have
Been Made to Find -Wealth In a
Huge Cave Where Men Are Now at Work.

The traditions of the lost silver mines of Southwest Missouri seem to possess a charmed life. They cling to the Ozark Hills with wonderful tenacity. To hundreds of credulous seekers these stories of hidden wealth have been the most elusive will-o'-the-wisps, leading the eager followers of the "divining-rod" and the time-worn parchment "way-bill" over many miles of rugged country, only to vanish at last without disclosing the old secret whore the Spanish cavaliers loud the fabulous treasures of which every denizen of this mountainous region has hoard so much from the early settlers.

The first white men who came to this part of the State, after the Delaware Indians were induced to exchange their live hunting grounds on the slopes of the Ozarks for a reservation west of the Missouri border, heard these tales of the lost silver mines once worked by the Spaniards, and the rugged hunters from Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas listened to the romantic legends of the Castilian knight and his subterranean treasures. That these pioneers would often leave, the track of the deer to explore some gulch or cave where the wealth might be concealed is not regarded by the Globe-Decorate as incredible. They believed the stories told them by the old men of the Delaware tribe. Since the flintlock rifle and the hunting knife began the conquest of Anglo-Saxon civilization iv the White River valley the search for the precious ore and the pots of coin which the Spaniards buried, "because they could not carry away all this wealth," has never been abandoned.

One mile east of Ozark is the Garrison cave, where six men are working hopefully in what they consider an old Spanish mine. They have leased the cave for a long period and expect to test the truthfulness of the Indian stories and the verity of that silent guide, "the divining rod," whose mysterious promptings led one adventurer fifty miles through the Ozark Mountains to this spot. Forty years ago this same cave was explored in search of the lost mine supposed to be near Ozark. James Garrison then owned the cave. One day an aged stranger came to the Garrison homestead, situated on the top of the hill just above the cave, and asked permission to hunt for the traditional treasure. The old man had strange-looking rod in his hand. For many miles, he said, this inanimate thing had pointed steadily in one direction. Following the guidance of the rod he had traveled over mountain and valley, day after day, till the cave was found. Here the magical guide indicated that the buried wealth was located. Beyond the cave the rod would not lead its possessor.

Garrison made the stranger promise to share with him the prize found before permission was granted to search the cave. Then the adventurer entered the cavern. The rod "worked" vigorously in the hands of the old man as he followed its leading into the depths of the gloomy subterranean chamber. At last the mystic staff indicated that the object bought was beneath the feet of the searcher. When taken beyond this point farther into the cave the rod pointed back toward the entrance. At the" mouth of the cavern it again inclined inward. From various points in the cave the rod was tried, and it invariably manifested the same tendency toward the first place indicated as the locality of the treasure.

Having ascertained, as he supposed, the hiding-place of fabulous wealth, the stranger began to clean out the cave, expecting soon to expose vast quantities of precious metal. But before a single Spanish relic was discovered the cave became a haunt of hideous terrors. Ghastly sounds, which no mortal ear could endure, filled the rocky chamber. The workmen fled from these phantom sounds in horror and refused to re-enter the haunted cavern. Thus the first search for the Spanish mine in the Garrison cave ended.

Long after the disappearance of the old man and his strange rod the younger members of the Garrison family resumed the exploration of the cave in quest of the treasure, but whenever they began to dig, the strange, unearthly sounds frightened them away. The workmen would rush out of the cave with their hair standing up on end when the ghastly noise was heard, says a man who now lives at the old Garrison place, near the precipice penetrated by the cavern. Again and again did brave and hardy men attempt to excavate the loose rock and earth in the haunted chamber, only to be driven out of the cave by the invisible terrors whose fiendish voices the stoutest heart could not endure. These awful sounds were described by some of the workmen as resembling the pounding of an empty barrel with a mallet. Others heard a metallic noise like the hammering of iron on an anvil. Sometimes the depths of the cavern would reverberate with sobs and wails too horrible for description. But whoever once heard these frightful voices of the phantom denizens of the subterranean darkness would never again attempt to wrest from the cave its supposed wealth. The Spanish treasure had no charm that could tune the ear of the miner to those goblin groans and sighs which accompanied each stroke of the pick and shovel whenever the work in the cave was resumed. But all the while the spell of mystery made the cavern and its gloomy surroundings objects of deep interest to all who knew of these strange stories. Now and then some veteran searcher after Spanish treasures would come to the Garrison settlement and listen to the tales that the older members of the family could tell about the cave and its ancient mine of silver known to the first white explorers of the Ozark region.

Five years ago three of the Garrison brothers, John, Absalom and Joseph, who had been away from the country since the war, returned to the old homestead and leased the cave for the purpose of mining. One of the men had been a miner in California for years, and knew much about the precious ores. He had been brought up near the cave and knew its romantic history from early childhood. He left the gold fields of the Pacific Coast and came all the way to the old Missouri homestead to try once more to find the silver treasure guarded by the ghostly tenants of the cave. Three other men joined the Garrison brothers in their enterprise and the work began.

In front of the cave was a vast heap of broken stone, mixed with earth, which bad been accumulating for ages. The miners began prospecting in this mass of loose material and dug several drifts through it, finding only some strange bones and a few specimens of ancient pottery.  Dissatisfied with the results of their work in front of the cave, the miners decided to brave the legendary terrors of the interior and seek the hidden wealth within the goblin chamber that had never been thoroughly explored. They entered with lantern and pick, and began to remove the loose rocks that obstructed the passage of a small tunnel-like opening which leads off from the main chamber.

The tunnel has every appearance the miners thought, of an ancient drift. It was filled with boulders, ashes, charcoal, slag and bones of various animals. The ashes and charcoal, with now and then a chunk of scoria from some ancient forge, encouraged the miners in their search for lost treasure. There was no doubt about the reality of these evidences of an old mine, the workmen thought. The ashes seemed to have been packed into the cave as a means of stopping up the passage. All examiners decided that the cave had once been worked by miners, but no one could account for the immense quantity of ashes found. Tons and tons of ashes, mixed with charcoal, slag and bones, were taken out of the cave and still the supply was not exhausted. Bones of every animal indigenous to the Ozark region within the historic period, from the buffalo down to the mink, were found in great numbers. Then there were some strange remains of unknown quadrupeds. Bones that did not belong to any member of the bovine family were dug up. Bear teeth were numerous, and whole jaws of ursine monsters with tusks intact, the miners now and then dug out of the heap of ashes. Such quantities of bones the miners had never seen; and how did they get there mixed up with ashes, coal and cinder? This was a question which puzzled the workmen.

But the most ghastly discovery made by the miners was the unearthing of a human skeleton, found in the old drift surrounded by bear teeth and buffalo heads. The skull of the remains, so long entombed in the darkness of this ghastly cavern, was but little decayed, and the best medical authorities of Ozark decided that it belonged to some inferior race, judging horn the- receding forehead and the general contour of the cranium. The elder Garrison, who is conducting the mining operations, has a gruesome theory about the antecedents of this skeleton. He has made a special study of the lore relating to the silver mines of Southwest Missouri. He has talked with many old Indians who have traditions of the early days, when the Spanish, it is said, found caves of precious ore in the White River country, it was a practice among those daring adventurers, he says, when they left a mine to kill a man and bury his body over the treasure so that the ghost of the victim might guard the hidden wealth. This skeleton found in the cave, he chinks, may be the remains of an Indian slain by the cruel and avaricious Spaniards when they quit smelting the precious ore, leaving the spirit of the murdered savage to haunt the mine and frighten away other adventurers. This strange and uncanny story gives a stronger coloring to the tales about the ghostly sounds heard in the cave years ago. But the phantom guardian of the cavern and its secrets no longer disturbs the workmen in their search for ancient treasure. Only the echoes of the strokes of the pick and shovel are now heard in the cave as the work progresses. No goblin shriek protests against the removal of the human skeleton from its weird tomb.

The cave has been worked by the present company for nearly two years. Part of the time the men did not stop digging even on Sundays, and worked a night "shift," so ardent was their faith in the traditions about the Spanish mine within the cave. Never were sane miners more infatuated by the spell of legends than are those six men to-day who sift the ashes mid scrutinize the slag taken out of the Garrison cave. They have found some ore resembling a low-grade of zinc, but nothing more valuable. The miners think this metal points to a silver lead near at hand. They expect to find not only the native ore in great quantities, but think the cave contains an ancient forge where the successors of De Soto and Police de Leon coined bushels of Spanish dollars three centuries ago.

Ignoring the extravagant dreams about the Spanish treasure, this cave has much interest for the antiquarian and scientist. What produced such vast quantities of wood ashes as the miners are finding? How did the ashes get into the cave at such a distance from the entrance? How did so many bones get mixed up with the ashes and charcoal? How was the ore smelted there?

Work Cited:
 Gold in Ozark Hills.” Sacramento Daily Record-Union 85.13 (8 Mar., 1893) 4. Chronicling America. The Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. 11 Jan. 2011. 

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