Wednesday, December 11, 2013

THE NEW YORK TIMES August 7, 1862

The Knights of the Golden Circle Again
The United States Grand Jury of the Indiana District
Present the Organization as Treasonable.

The Grand Jury of the Circuit and District Court of the United States for the District of Indiana has just made the following presentment:
In the District Court of the United States, for the District of Indiana, May Term, 1862.
The Grand Jurors of the United States of America, within and for the District of Indiana, impanneled, sworn and charged in said District at said May Term thereof, having about completed their labors, (and being now ready to adjourn,) feel it their imperative dutyto announce, in a respectful manner, to this Honorable Court, the general features of some startling developments made during their investigations. These developments, when considered in connection with the disturbed condition of the country, by reason of the causeless and atrocious rebellion against the Constitution and laws of the land, are deemed of the gravest importance, and should be made known, that prompt and efficient measures may be taken by the civil and military authorities to meet and ward off the effect of the wicked and treasonable designs of those connected with such developments.
A recent act of Congress made it the duty of the Grand Jury to inquire into any combinations or conspiracies formed by individuals within the jurisdiction of the Court to prevent the execution of any law of the United States. Having heard that organizations with this object in view existed in certain localities, witnesses were sent for, and brought before the Grand Jury. These witnesses came from many counties, and lived in various parts of the State. After a careful and diligent examination of the testimony from witnesses well acquainted with the facts deposed, and having a personal knowledge of the matters, said Grand Jury are constrained to say that a secret and oath-bound organization exists, numbering some fifteen thousand in Indiana, as estimated by the members of their Order, commonly known as Knights of the Golden Circle, and even in the same localities by different names. Their lodges, or "Castles," as they denominate them, are located in various parts of the State, yet they have common signs, grips, and words whereby the members are able to distinguish each other, and passwords to enable the member to enter the castle in which he was initiated, or any other which such member may choose to visit. They have signals by which they can communicate with each other in the day, or the night time; and, above all, they have a signal or sign which may be recognized at a great distance from the person giving it. This last signal, we regret to say, was invented for the use of such members as should, by means of the draft or otherwise, be compelled to serve in the ranks of the army. In such case, members of the Order serving in opposing armies receiving the sign are reminded of their obligation not to injure the member giving it. This signal is given in every instance upon the initiation of a new member, and its observance is strictly enjoined upon every individual belonging to the Order. By the teachings of the organization, it is the duty of its members engaged in the present war, although arrayed on opposite sides, upon the signal being given, if they shoot at all, "to shoot over each other." Many members of the Order, examined before us, admit the binding force of the obligation, and pretend to justify it as correct in principle.
Said Grand Jury would respectfully submit that the effect of such obligation is to set aside the oath taken by every soldier when he enters the service of the United States. The obligation imposed by the organization alluded to is inconsistent with the duties of a soldier who in battle dare not spare the person of his enemy. We must either disarm or destroy him, and especially so long as the rebel may be seeking to take the life of the loyal soldier. To do otherwise would be grosly treacherous, and justly subject the guilty party to a traitor's doom.
From the evidence introduced before said Grand Jury, it would seem that the Order called the Knights of the Golden Circle had their origin in some of the Southern States, and was introduced into this State from Kentucky. Its primary object, when it [???] was to organize the [???] of the institution of African Slavery in the United States, for the purpose of [???] more territory in Mexico and the Central American States, and also the acquisition of Cuba, thereby to extend and [???] a great slave empire, even thought it should dye those countries in human blood. Hence the various raids made upon those countries which have called forth from time to time the proclamations of our former Presidents, denouncing such attempts and threatening the exercise of the power of the Government to put them down. Wicked as these hellish schemes were, said Grand Jury would not have troubled this Honorable Court with this [???] had the [???] of the Knights of the Golden Circle been confined solely to their original designs. Finding how useful such an organization was for the purposes originally intended, said Grand Jury believe that it not only extends at present through every part of the South, and every department of the rebel army, but during the last Winter and Spring was introduced into the State of Indiana and other Northern States. Since that time it has made alarming progress in our midst, when entirely new features attached to it in view of the unnatural conflict now desolating our country. Not only are the loyal soldiers in the army to be treacherously betrayed in the bloody hour of battle, by the signals before referred to, but said Grand Jury have abundant evidence of the membership binding themselves to resist the payment of the Federal tax and prevent enlistments in the armies of the United States.
It is a fact worthy of note, and conclusively shown, that in localities where this organization extensively prevails there has been a failure to furnish a fair proportion of volunteers. Said Grand Jury, after a thorough examination on that point, have been unable to find any instance where a member of said organization had volunteered to fight for the Union under the late requisition for volunteers. Said Grand Jury were informed that an individual of the Order had proposed to make up a company to be called "Jay Hawkers." composed exclusively of "Knights of the Golden Circle." But said Grand Jury believe that at no time was the proposition seriously entertained, but in fact only intended as a cover to hide their treasonable purposes when they found they were about to be discovered.
The meetings of the Order referred to are hold on in by-places, sometimes in the woods, and at other times in deserted houses. Its members frequently attend with arms in their hands, and in almost every instance armed sentinels are posted to keep off intruders. Youths not more than sixteen years of age are in many cases introduced and initiated into its mysteries. The credulous and unwary are often allured into the fold of the Order, upon the pretext that it was instituted for no other purpose than the better organization of their party. Its real character and teachings are sedulously concealed until the oath of secrecy has been in due form administered. Having taken the first degree, the initiate is familiarized with the obligations and opinions of his associates, and is gradually prepared for the second degree. When he is further taught, and found apt to learn, and ready to adopt its principles and teachings, he is obligated in the highest degree, and is turned out upon the country a thorough traitor, with the wicked purposes already specified. Said Grand Jury are happy to know that in many cases individuals, after their first introduction into the Order, seeing its evil tendencies,have abandoned it, although unwilling, on account of their obligations of secrecy, and for fear of personal violence, are reluctant to fully expose its treacherous principles.
Since said Grand Jury began said investigation, it has been discovered that the Order exists among the prisoners of war now in Camp Morton, who refuse to testify, upon the ground that it may implicate the members of their Order in Indiana, and thereby injure the cause of the Southern Confederacy.
For the purpose of evading any legal liability, in case of judicial investigation, it appears that their signs are to be used to enable them to get members of their Order on the jury, in case of criminal charges being preferred against them, and by changes of venue, and appeals from a Judge who does not belong to the Order, to create judicial delays, until they can find a Judge or juror belonging to this Order, and thus escape all legal liability.
Said Grand Jury have no doubt that the Order of the "Knights of the Golden Circle" exists in many localitics in Indiana where their vigilance has not been able to penetrate. They have labored under many difficulties in their researches, and have drawn evidence in most of the cases from unwilling witnesses. Judicial oaths have but little binding force where individuals once consent to abandon the allegiance they owe their country. The general facts, however, so far as they have come to the knowledge of the said Grand Jury, have been submitted to this honorable Court. They feel it their duty to do so. The safety of the country in this hour of peril and civil strife demands it at their hands. The power of such an organization to do harm, acting as one man, with one purpose in view, with their influence, may be appreciated by the honorable Court. It is the place where treason is concocted -- the nest where traitors are hatched.
The Grand Jury, therefore, respectfully ask this Court that this their presentment may be spread upon the records.
WILLIAM P. [???], Foreman; Charles H. Test, George Moon, Wm. A. Montgomery, James Blake, T.B. McCarty, Daniel Sigler, Leonidas Sexton, Ben. G. Stout, James Hill, Daniel Sagre, H.D.Scott, Robt. Parrett, Fred. S. Brown.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

SAN BERNARDINO: Knights of the Civil War


Gen. Edwin "Bull Head" Sumner sent troops to San Bernardino to discourage the Knights of the Golden Circle.
Spies were everywhere.
Rumors snaked through communities, growing as they went.
People wondered whose side their neighbors were on.
Lawmakers moved to break California in two.
And members of a shadow society crept into positions of power.
In 1861, the mood on the cusp of the Civil War was anything but detached in San Bernardino County. The balance between Northern and Southern sympathizers in the state, and especially in Southern California, was tenuous. At the turmoil’s center was Holcomb Valley.
In his book, “Los Angeles in Civil War Days,” John Robinson recounts some of the goings-on.
On June 3, he writes, Edwin A. Sherman, the editor of a Unionist paper called the San Bernardino Patriot, wrote a letter to Gen. Edwin “Bull Head” Sumner, commander of the Department of the Pacific, warning him of sedition in the thriving gold mining area near Big Bear Lake.
“Secret meetings continue to be held all over this lower country, and secession and disunion are boldly avowed in our streets,” Sherman wrote. “Shooting continues to be the order of the day, and drunken desperadoes and Southern cutthroats damn the Stars and Stripes and endeavor to create disturbances most of the time.”
Another paper, the Southern News, claimed 200 secessionists were prepared to march into Los Angeles and seize the government stores there, Robinson recounts. By the time the news reached Northern California, the 200 men had grown to 2,000.
And amid such rumors was the name of the Knights of the Golden Circle. Estimates of the group’s size in California range as high as 100,000. Robinson thinks 16,000 is a more realistic number. The bulk of the membership was in Southern California.
The history of the secret society goes as far back as 1835. By the 1850s, it had established a huge following in the South. Its goals were not just to preserve the South but to expand it by taking over Mexico.
In part, the group saw it as a duty to help the Mexican people by “Americanizing” them. But there were other, probably larger, motivations as well.
Addressing a convention of the knights in North Carolina in 1860, the group’s president, George Bickley, told the gathering that some of its members were already working with people in Mexico “to infuse such an American element in that country as will lead to the establishment of a permanent and just government.”
Bickely envisioned 15,000 Knights of the Golden Circle invading and capturing Vera Cruz. The move, he said, would divert attention from the saber-rattling of the North and South.
He also believed a conquered Mexico would be apportioned into 25 new states that would align with the South, overwhelmingly tipping the balance of power.
The knights also planned to covertly infiltrate the stronghold of the North. Part of this strategy was successful in California, particularly in San Francisco and the Central Valley, where members held key military and political positions.
But other than encouraging and aiding bands of volunteers in making their way to Arizona Territory and Texas to enlist, the group never took any cohesive action in California. The fear that they might, however, was widespread.
In his eventual response to Sherman’s letter, Sumner sent two companies to San Bernardino under the direction of Maj. William Ketchum. Hearing rumors of an impending attack, Ketchum urgently requested reinforcements.
Those reinforcements never arrived, and, as with much of the hype about the Knights of the Golden Circle, neither did the attack.
It was one fight the city managed to stay out of.
Reach Mark Muckenfuss at 951-368-9595 or
Mark Muckenfuss

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Treasure hunter settles dispute

By Mark Oswald
Journal Staff Writer
Oct 25, 2013

A Wyoming man who was part of a search for buried gold has reached an agreement with prominent Española businessman Richard Cook and his family, resolving a dispute that prompted the Cooks to seek a restraining order.

Gale Roberts of Jackson Hole, Wyo., says he was part of a team that searched Cook property on Black Mesa north of Española for the gold earlier this year, and he then had a falling out with the rest of the team.

He’s been barred from accessing the mesa site.

Last month, Cook and family filed for a restraining order to keep Roberts away after he sent a long email they considered disturbing and threatening. Their court documents alleged he “accosted” Cook, 87, in his driveway Sept. 17 and he was engaging in “increasingly adamant, bizarre behavior.”

Roberts has said he believes others involved in the search stole gold from Black Mesa and that his falling out with the search team came after he tried to warn the Cooks.

He says he wrote the email that led to the restraining order, which he acknowledges was “intense” but not intended as threatening, after he drove from Wyoming to Española following a phone conversation with Cook about returning to the mesa. But he was barred from the site once he got to Española.

Roberts maintains he financed the gold search. If successful, any find would be divided between Cook and the searchers, Roberts has said previously.

Thursday, Roberts told the Journal he agreed to settle the dispute under terms of a court order filed in state District Court this week “in the spirit of really trying to work something out” with the Cooks.

District Judge Raymond Ortiz’s order says Roberts can meet with Cook only for business purposes and only in the company of others, including Cook’s daughter, attorney Kate Fishman. Any meeting has to be pre-arranged at Española Transit Mix, a Cook company.

Also, Roberts can correspond with the Cooks only by U.S. mail through their attorney and can have no direct email or phone contact with the Cooks other than calls to Española Transit Mix to set up an appointment.

Roberts can’t directly contact Cook himself and “agrees not to attempt to contact Mr. Cook by driving by or stopping at Mr. Cook’s businesses other than Española Transit Mix during regular business hours,” the order states.

Roberts said Thursday he hopes to meet with Cook next week.

Roberts has said previously he wants to finish an excavation that was started on Black Mesa and needs just two days to do so.

Buried treasure?

Roberts says the Black Mesa search was in part for possible treasure buried by the Knights of the Golden Circle, a pro-slavery, pro-Confederacy group organized in the South in the mid-19th century, who some believe buried caches of gold and silver, including in the Southwest. Internet sites discuss the buried caches or vaults and how to interpret maps alleged to show where the treasure sites are.

John Melacnon, who the Cooks’ court filings say was contracted to perform a “non-destructive geophysical survey on Black Mesa,” is identified on one website he appears to be associated with as the world’s “foremost authority on Spanish and Knights of the Golden Circle Society treasure maps, symbols and signs.” The Journal ‘s efforts to contact Melancon have been unsuccessful.

Roberts said there also is a story of a mule pack train loaded with gold that was lost near Velarde in the late 1800s.

Portrait of the past

By Bennett Hall

EXCERPT: "Oregon was rife with Southern sympathizers. The state's leading pro-Confederate organization, the Knights of the Golden Circle, was headquartered in Monroe, a day's ride from Fort Hoskins, where a handful of troops stood guard over enough guns and ammunition to arm 300 men."

150 years after it was made, a long-lost painting shines new light on historic Fort Hoskins

Archaeologist David Brauner has spent much of the last 35 years reconstructing the history of Fort Hoskins, a Civil War-era Army outpost in the Oregon Coast Range that existed for less than a decade before it was decommissioned, dismantled and consigned to the past.

Since 1976, the Oregon State University professor has led five digs at the site 20 miles northwest of Corvallis, unearthing thousands of artifacts from buttons and belt buckles to brandy bottles and chamber pots.

He has mined nuggets of information from official correspondence, military maps, inspectors' reports and soldiers' diaries, patiently piling detail on detail to assemble an ever-clearer picture of the fort in his mind's eye.

With no surviving photographs to compare it to, he thought that mental image was as close as he would ever come to seeing what Fort Hoskins actually looked like - until he saw the painting.

Last fall, following a long chain of improbable coincidences, he obtained a copy of an oil painting from about 1860 that shows the fort in its heyday. For Brauner, it was at once a validation of his painstaking research and a revelation of unexpected details.

"We hoped sooner or later we'd see an image of at least one of the buildings at Fort Hoskins, but I'd kind of given up," he said. "When this painting arrived, it was like a giant breath of fresh air."

Little is known about the painting itself - the name of the artist, the precise year it was produced, who commissioned it or why - but Brauner said there's no doubt that it's authentic.

Now he's hoping it will help guide future restoration efforts at the site of the old fort, which became a county park in 2002. So far, those efforts have not proceeded much beyond a restroom, a picnic shelter and some historical markers.

The irony in all this is that the painting might never have come to light if not for a typographical error on one of the interpretive signs - and the visitor who traveled 3,000 miles to spot it.

Making the connection

Dr. Newell Augur is a retired gastroenterologist from Portland - the one in Maine. He's also a bit of a history buff.

It's easy to understand why. The doctor's great-grandfather was Christopher Colon Augur, a distinguished 19th century Army officer whose career brought him to the Oregon Territory, where he fought against the Indians in the Rogue River country and was the first commander of Fort Hoskins.

In 2008, Dr. Augur was visiting his daughter and her husband at Fort Lewis, Wash., when he decided to make a side trip to Oregon with his son-in-law to see Fort Hoskins. He enjoyed his stroll through the Benton County historical site except for one thing.

"On the far side of the parade ground there were these historical panels," Augur recalled in a phone interview last week. "And on one of those panels, my great-grandfather's name was misspelled - A-U-G-E-R."

That didn't sit well with the doctor, who made a mental note to contact the county parks department and ask for a correction. But he didn't do anything about it until the following year, when he made a trip to Arizona for his niece's wedding and saw something that jogged his memory.

Hanging in the den of his brother's house was an old oil painting that had been in the family for generations. Its origins were obscure. No one was sure what it really depicted, although most people seemed to think it was Fort Lewis.

Seeing it again, Dr. Augur suddenly recalled his visit to Fort Hoskins and was struck with an overpowering sense of deja vu.

"I can remember where we parked and walked down - it's exactly the same perspective from which the painting is done," he said. "I looked at the painting and realized I'd been there."

A fortunate mistake

That realization got the ball rolling.

"Newell Augur called me out of the blue" in the spring of 2009, remembered George McAdams, the community project coordinator for Benton County. "He said we had misspelled the commander's name."

The typo was repeated several times on one of the historical markers, Augur said, and he'd like to have it fixed.

McAdams wanted Brauner, the expert on all things related to Fort Hoskins, to weigh in on the matter. Sure enough, Brauner confirmed, the sign was wrong (he thinks the error may have been introduced by a computer spell-check program when the graphic designer was preparing the text).

Making a new sign would cost around $500, but the county wanted to correct its mistake.

Augur, meanwhile, offered to sweeten the deal. Once the sign was fixed, he said, he would return the favor by sending out a copy of an old family heirloom: a painting of Fort Hoskins.

McAdams still can't believe the county's good fortune.

"It's a good reminder," he said, "of how much history is shared across this country."

Forgotten history

Fort Hoskins is largely forgotten now by most Oregonians, but it played a crucial role in the state's early history.

Erected in 1856, it was one of three forts built to guard the vast Coast Indian Reservation, where the tribes of Western Oregon were forcibly resettled after signing away their ancestral lands to the United States.

Like Fort Yamhill to the north and Fort Umpqua to the south, Fort Hoskins had a dual purpose. It was supposed to keep the Indians from leaving the reservation to attack white settlers in the Willamette Valley, and it was supposed to keep the white settlers from invading the reservation to wipe out the Indians.

Occupying a key pinch point on the rugged trail between Corvallis and the Siletz Indian Agency, Fort Hoskins was ideally situated to keep the peace.

By the outbreak of the Civil War, relations between the whites and Indians had stabilized. In 1861, with troops needed badly back East, Capt. Augur and his two companies of regulars were replaced by a small detachment of volunteers.

But a new threat emerged. Though admitted to the Union as a free state in 1859, Oregon was rife with Southern sympathizers. The state's leading pro-Confederate organization, the Knights of the Golden Circle, was headquartered in Monroe, a day's ride from Fort Hoskins, where a handful of troops stood guard over enough guns and ammunition to arm 300 men.

Drawing crowds up to 1,000 strong, anti-Union firebrands exhorted their followers to march on the undermanned outpost and seize the arsenal. Fortunately for the fragile Republic, most of the audience was too drunk to march anywhere.

"There's quite a story out there, the story of the Civil War and in particular the story of the Indian removals," Brauner said. "You go to the history books and there's not a lot written about the Indian removal period in Oregon history. But these forts can tell that story - and they're starting to do that."

To help Fort Hoskins tell its story, Brauner is working with a county advisory committee on restoration of the historic site, and that's where the Augur painting may really prove its worth.

Among the wealth of period detail it provides is important confirmation of something Brauner had long believed to be true: One of the post's original structures still exists.

When Fort Hoskins was decommissioned at the end of the Civil War, everything on the base was sold at auction, including the buildings. While no records from the auction have been found, one of the officers' houses reportedly was floated a few miles down the Luckiamute River to Pedee, where it still is in use.

Based on the painting, Brauner is now convinced that story is true - and that the house belonged to the fort's first commander, C.C. Augur. He hopes to acquire the structure and bring it back to its original location, where it could eventually become the cornerstone of a full-scale restoration project.

"The folks who own it are willing to sell it to us for a dollar," Brauner said. "All we have to do is move it."

Like the remote Oregon outpost he once commanded, C.C. Augur's career was inextricably entertwined with two major events in U.S. history: the Civil War and the long-running conflict between Native Americans and the white settlers who displaced them.

After leaving Fort Hoskins he served for a time as commandant of cadets at West Point before going into the field, where he was promoted to general and saw action at the Rappahannock River, the Battle of Cedar Mountain and the siege of Port Hudson.

At war's end he was commanding the troops assigned to defend Washington, D.C. After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, he led the detail that escorted the fallen president's body back to the White House.

Later he served in various military departments, including several in the West, where the Indian Wars still raged.

Along with Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, Augur was one of the signers of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868.

In a photograph that captured the historic moment, Gen. Augur can be seen gazing eerily at the camera from under the flap of a teepee, flanked by Army officers in camp chairs and Indian leaders sitting cross-legged on the ground.

The document promised the Sioux ownership of the Black Hills and guaranteed traditional hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Those promises would be broken a few years later, when white prospectors found gold in the Black Hills and war erupted once again.

For Newell Augur, the historical connections are fascinating, but the personal ones are even more so.

His own personal link to history was brought home to him powerfully as he stood on the grounds of Fort Hoskins in 2008, seeing his illustrious ancestor's name misspelled on an interpretive sign.

"The place where the historical markers are is the officers' quarters," Augur said. "That's where my grandfather was born."

Walter Wheaton Augur came into the world on Feb. 5, 1858, at a little frontier outpost in the Oregon Coast Range. A century and a half later, his grandson stood on the same ground and felt the pull of history.

"We're all tied together," Augur marveled, "aren't we?"

A glimpse of the past
Source: “Fort Hoskins Illustrated,” by David R. Brauner, Ph.D., with Nahani A. Stricker
The unknown artist who produced this painting used some foreshortening to cram all the buildings into a relatively compact space.
Fort Hoskins Timeline

July 21, 1856: Site selected by Lt. Phil Sheridan
July 26, 1856: Capt. Christopher Colon Augur names Fort Hoskins after his friend, Lt. Charles Hoskins, killed in the Mexican-American War
August 1856: Construction of fort begins
June 20, 1861: At outbreak of Civil War, Capt. C.C. Augur and his troops are transferred back East; fort is garrisoned by volunteer infantry
April 10, 1865: Oregon Volunteers leave the fort at end of Civil War
June 1, 1865: Fort’s buildings and contents sold at auction

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Man accused of harassing Cook says family hired him to find gold

By Tom Sharpe

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
updated: 7:19 am, Wed Oct 2, 2013

"A man accused by Española businessman Richard Cook and his family of harassing them says he was hired to find gold buried on Black Mesa, but has been barred from the area since he discovered that some of the gold was missing.

Gale Roberts of Jackson Hole, Wyo., says he has no intention of threatening or harming the 87-year-old Cook or members of his family, as suggested in a request last week for a restraining order against Roberts by Cook, his daughter and his grandson.

“I am crazy — I’ll own up to that,” Roberts said in a telephone interview Monday. “But what I did for [the Cook family], they should have been grateful for.”
Roberts, a professional guide for horseback trips and fly fishing, said he was in Arizona, working with equipment that detects gold beneath the ground, when John Melancon and others hired him to find gold on the mesa north of Española.

Roberts said Melancon’s company had a contract with the Cook family company to look for gold on Black Mesa. Melancon, he added, has access to Knights of the Golden Crescent maps of treasures hidden by early Spanish explorers, as well as directions to gold cannonballs stashed atop Black Mesa after they were stolen from a pack train near Ojo Caliente in the 1800s.

Melancon did not return messages Monday. But his website describes him as a “world renown archaeologist that maintains a semiprivate museum in Cortez” and the “world’s foremost authority on Spanish and Knights of the Golden Circle Society treasure maps, symbols and signs.” The website features a photograph of gold bars and has numerous stories about hidden treasures, but makes no mention of Black Mesa or gold cannonballs stolen near Ojo Caliente.

Another website describes Melancon as the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cortez, Colo., but the current pastor of that church, Mike Schrag, said he has never heard of Melancon. Another website says Melancon “holds a doctoral degree (all but dissertation) from Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque” — which describes itself as “a regional center of Christian scholarship, drawing top scholars from across the nation and world for on-campus lectures and symposia.”

Roberts said that after negotiating with Melancon for a percentage of any gold he found, he began exploring the top of Black Mesa at his own expense, accessing the area through Cook’s property. But after finding that “something wasn’t right,” he drove to Texas to tell Melancon, who was hospitalized at the time.

In a subsequent email to Cook’s daughter that is part of the court record, Roberts indicates that the gold had been stolen, but he declined to confirm that in an interview.

Melancon “told me to sweep it under the rug,” Roberts said. Realizing “something was suspicious, Roberts said he “pounded” the Cooks with emails, but they “wouldn’t even discuss it” and now seem intent on making him look crazy, dragging out the case in court and denying he has a claim on the gold.
Roberts said he wants a “peaceful resolution with the Cooks.” He said that when he spoke to Cook outside his home in Española on Sept. 23, he told him, “I would never in a million years threaten you or cause harm to you.”

Another Black Mesa landowner, Andrew D. Alexander of Katy, Texas, wrote The New Mexican on Monday to say that Cook, who for decades has mined rock on the east side of the basaltic mesa near the confluence of the Rio Grande and Rio Chama, is denying access to hundreds of landowners on the mesa top, even though Rio Arriba County approved the Black Mesa Development subdivision there and appropriated money for a right of way and maintenance of a road."

Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Novel digs for lawmakers' buried treasure

Tuesday, 17 September 2013
by Raymond Rendleman

Dell Isham, a Happy Valley resident and former state senator, released his fourth book last month.

The 411-page historical novel, “Knights of Gold,” is the tale of two Oregon legislators who discover clues to the buried Confederate treasury. They follow the evidence to South Carolina, where the Knights of the Golden Circle have been protecting it since the end of the Civil War.

Knights of the Golden Circle, an actual organization before and during the Civil War, is thought to have died out shortly after the war, but Isham proposes in his novel that they may still exist as an underground organization. His story takes the reader from Oregon, to South Carolina, Florida, Grand Cayman Island resorts and jungles in the interior of Brazil.

“The reader of this novel will not only enjoy a treasure-hunting story but also learn about plots, bargaining and back-stabbing common within any legislative body,” Isham said. “One character admits to an unforgivable error of judgment: trusting another politician. There are many courtroom dramas but few legislative dramas. This book is the rare latter category.”

Real-life inspiration

Isham learned of the myth of the lost Confederate gold while living in South Carolina for nearly a dozen years and did “a lot of historical research on lost treasures in preparation for writing this book.”

His publisher, Outskirts Press, notes that Isham’s education and experience prepared him to write the historical and political thriller. Isham has history degrees from Weber State (Utah) College and Colorado State University. He has 30 years of political experience — as a Democratic Oregon state senator (two years as Senate majority leader), 13 years as a lobbyist, and 10 years as the director of the South Carolina Sierra Club. He was the winner of the 2009 South Carolina Fiction Project.

Isham said one of the most enjoyable parts of writing the novel was basing many of the characters in the book on personalities of politicians he worked with in the early 1980s. He represented Lincoln and Tillamook counties in the Oregon Legislature from 1977-85.

“Like most authors, characters are not usually pulled from thin air, but from experiences lived,” he said. “Many who gravitate to public office have unusual personalities, and suitable for novels. ... Some found their way into this book, but guessing who they might be (or were, since many are no longer alive) is part of the fun of reading the book. Of course, most are exaggerations of reality, just like any story.”

As an impetus for his novel, Isham draws from an incident in 1981, when Senate President Fred Heard (D-Deschutes) was arrested for using a false name for a motel room in Klamath County. To make matters worse, he registered using the name of State Sen. Jack Ripper (D-North Bend). Most senators were upset with the circumstance during a time when possible homosexuality was even less tolerated, and Isham thinks Heard’s actions contributed to the decline of the Democratic Party during the 1980s.

We never learned of Heard’s real motivations, but could it have been that he had a lead on lost Confederate gold? Isham’s latest book offers a possible, albeit unlikely, hypothesis.

Isham’s other books include “Isom Dart and an Assortment of Scoundrels” and “Goodbye Vietnam: Love, War and Espionage in Vietnam.” all of which he’s written since he retired from political life four years ago.

“One thing I’ve noticed, my writing is getting better with each book,” he said. “Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2 men continue search for Civil War treasure

Albert Atwell and Ed Powers say "talking trees" and buried maps point to hidden Confederate gold.

Danville Register & Bee
Monday, August 19, 2013

Since the Civil War ended in 1865, stories of vast caches of Confederate gold have abounded without any trace of it showing up.

Two men are convinced the treasure exists and is there to be found by anyone who can crack the clues left behind about its location.

Albert Atwell, of Ridgeway, and Ed “Bubba” Powers, of Louisburg, N.C., both say they’ve been interested in treasure hunting since they were little boys.

Atwell said he first heard tales of Confederate treasure when he was about 5, when his father told him of his great-great-grandfather’s involvement in the Civil War. The story stayed with him as he grew up and his interest in Civil War history and treasure hunting continued to grow.

Powers, too, said he has heard stories of treasure since he was about 8 years old — when he found a couple of buried snuff boxes packed with silver dollars — and developed the same interests as Atwell as he grew up.

Between them, the men have gathered huge files of documents they say point to the existence of this treasure — as do “talking trees” in locations across the South.

The talking trees are ones that appear to have seemingly random marks and symbols, as well as words and numbers, believed to be written by Civil War soldiers. A huge tree in Danville’s National Cemetery is one of those talking trees, Atwell says, that — once the symbols are decoded, an effort that has taken a lifetime — point to the hiding place of maps that will reveal the 58 locations where the Confederate gold and silver are buried. He also believes the various caches of gold and silver began long before the Civil War, collected by a secret society called the Knights of the Golden Circle.

“Some of the signs on the trees say where, what town, gold is buried, but don’t say exactly where,” Atwell said. “We need the maps.”

Atwell believes his great-great-grandfather’s grave holds the maps, and believes the family history that says where that man is buried — despite the fact that the headstone on that grave names it as someone else’s resting place.

Atwell said he has asked for permission to disinter what he believes are his great-great-grandfather’s remains, so they can be tested for DNA. He also believes the disinterment will turn up the maps — and would be willing for forego the total disinterment if he could just get permission to dig 3 feet down, where he believes the maps are hidden.

Asked why they believe this treasure exists, when history shows Southern soldiers were dying of starvation and often were fighting shoeless because their boots had worn out, Atwell says the problem lay in distribution, not in having supplies. Atwell said he has found records that state in Danville alone there were warehouses full of food and shoes for the soldiers, but supply lines to them were cut off and blocked by the Yankees.

The gold coins, bars and silver the men have researched would be worth a lot now — perhaps even enough to pay off the national debt, Atwell said.

Atwell contacted John Spruyt, director of the National Cemeteries in this region, and asked for permission to open the grave in question. Spruyt turned him down, and says he will continue to do so.

“He claims there’s treasure all over the South,” Spruyt said, noting that Atwell originally wanted to open several graves, but when turned down filed a complaint against him.

Atwell also has contacted U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Steve Muro, the Department of Veterans Affairs under secretary for memorial affairs.

Muro and U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt met with Atwell and Powers at the Danville National Cemetery in January, and the end result of the visit was another denial.

“Muro said he’d fight us tooth and nail on this,” Atwell said.

Now the men are starting to talk about what they believe in hopes that someone will believe them and help.

“Can you imagine the flack I’m getting ?” Powers said. “People say I’m chasing butterflies and there is no gold.”

Atwell, too, feels frustrated; for centuries, he said, people were looking for the treasure.

“Now we’ve found the answer and no one will listen to us,” Atwell said. “I have a funny feeling it’s all about the secret society and we’ll never know.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How Not to Watch ‘Copperhead’
Sidney Blumenthal misunderstands a film about peace, community, and the limits of dissent—not the Union or Confederate causes.

By BILL KAUFFMAN • July 24, 2013

Excerpt: "Those who wish to investigate the Copperheads further should read the works of the late historian and Marquette University professor Frank Klement, the dean of scholarly studies of Northern opposition to the Civil War. (Oddly, Blumenthal fails to mention Klement.) For more on such hobgoblins as the Knights of the Golden Circle—“I have here in my hand a list of half a million active conspirators!”—see Klement’s Dark Lanterns: Secret Political Societies, Conspiracies, and Treason Trials in the Civil War (1984); for more on Ohio’s Copperhead, see The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham & The Civil War (1970); for more on the geographical heart of the antiwar movement, see Klement’s The Copperheads of the Middle West (1960); for a posthumously published collection of essays, see Lincoln’s Critics: The Copperheads of the North (1999)."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Romanticizing the Villains of the Civil War

From the Atlantic, a review of the new movie "Copperhead".
Caveat Lector,

Romanticizing the Villains of the Civil War
The newly released film Copperhead is in the same tradition as Gone with the Wind andGods and Generals. Its history is highly revisionist.

Excerpt: "The Copperheads opposed the draft, emancipation, and suspension of habeas corpus. They were not pacifists; none of them were Quakers (who were deeply antislavery and had supported the Underground Railroad). Rather, they were an organized political movement, with political aims, chiefly to undermine the Union effort. Nobody really knows how big it was. They belonged to groups such as the Knights of the Golden Circle, which claimed a half million members, and its successor organization the Sons of Liberty, .."
Anyone researching the history of the Knights of the Golden Circle will undoubtedly come across references to Geo. Bickley's "Address to the People of the Southern States", alternately as the "Knights of the Golden Circle Convention address Raleigh, NC. May 1860".  You will find it listed in the footnotes of various research articles listed as:
"Records of the KGC Convention, 1860, Raleigh, N.C. (http://gunshowonthenet/AfterTheFact/KGC/KGC0571860.html),"

Most recently this address was again referenced in David C. Keehn's "Knights of the Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, civil War", published by LSU Press April 15, 2913 and noted as being at http://gunshowonthenet/AfterTheFact/KGC/KGC0571860.html.

This article is no longer available at the previous url but a complete transcription is available at

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Circle Is Unbroken By Roger Dale Miller

From page 42 of the January issue of Treasure Cache magazine.
Copyright © 1996, 2000 Lost Treasure, Inc.

The Confederate Knights' Brentwood Cache
The Brentwood area was picked by the Knights mainly because of its location. It
lies between the big cities to the north and the major cities, such as Atlanta,
to the south. The roads had to be good enough to bear the weight of gold-laden
wagons as they made their way deep into southern soil.

Somewhere deep in the Brentwood Hills, 10 miles south of Nashville, Tenn., lies
a fortune so vast that it staggers the imagination. The mere thought of tens of
thousands of gleaming gold bars and other valuables buried deep in the hillsides
tends to make treasure hunters sweat with anticipation.

But hunters beware. Barrels of black powder are ready to explode at the wrong
touch. Hidden and trapped pools of water are ready to cascade downward and drown
the foolish. Camouflaged wires leading to the triggers of loaded weapons are
just waiting to be pulled. Guillotine-like devices are ready to drop from above.
And who knows what else lies waiting deep in the tunnels that smell of death,
but also speak of fabulous fortunes.

Today, Brentwood is a parade of homes of the wealthy. Immaculate lawns and
well-trimmed hedges spread out for many miles. Retired lawyers and doctors spend
their days on the golf courses or around their swimming pools. Even those people
who still work from 9 to 5 come home to fantastic splendor.

Most of them have never heard of the treasure. A few have heard but do not
believe. They have their own lives to live and do not care to go out on wild
goose chases. But it is a chase that could make them richer than they could ever

The Knights of the Golden Circle appear to all have been Scottish Rite Masons
who were most active between 1861 and 1864. They did not believe that the War
between the States was fought over states' rights or the issues of slavery.
Instead they saw it as a cloak-and-dagger struggle between the northern bankers
and the southern wealthy for financial control of the Old South.

The South was ill-prepared to fight any kind of battle. Realizing early in the
war that the South could not win, the Knights began paving the financial
foundation for a second great civil war, one in which the South would be

Using a vast network of southern spies, the Knights infiltrated all aspects of
northern business. They also joined the army and navy and entered politics. They
used the vast information they uncovered to steal gold, silver and other
valuables from the northern bankers, or other northern businesses insured by

By re-investing these stolen moneys into legitimate business ventures, gigantic
fortunes were amassed over the years. Railroads and mining operations were a
favorite target and often led to quick profits. Eventually, these profits were
converted back to gold and silver, then carefully hidden in more than 500
locations across the United States.

Many of these cache locations are still intact, although a few of the largest
ones like the Doc Noss-Victorio Peak cache at White Sands, N.M., have been found
and probably recovered by the U.S. Government. (Editor's note: The story of this
cache was told in the 1994 edition of Treasure Cache.)

This location alone contained 68,240 40- to 60-pound gold bars and other
treasures. This cache location had to be one of the eight enormous depositories
created by hollowing out several levels of tunnels under mountains, hills and
mesas. By comparison, the Brentwood, Tennessee site is located in a hillside.

The Brentwood area was picked by the Knights mainly because of its location. It
lies between the big cities to the north and the major cities, such as Atlanta,
to the south. The roads had to be good enough to bear the weight of gold-laden
wagons as they made their way deep into southern soil.

As the wagons neared Nashville, they probably used part of the Natchez Trace
Parkway nearby for easy travel and for possible burying of some of the gold.
Most of the gold, silver and other treasures, however, ended up at the Brentwood
cache location.

The amount of this treasure is enormous beyond belief. According to secret
records, it is reported to contain tens of thousands of gold and silver bars
worth perhaps as much as $350 billion today. Also, a large supply of weapons of
every description are believed to be hidden at this site. These antique pieces
would be priceless in today's market. All this would surely make it one of the
largest hidden treasures in recorded history.

Several years ago, a blueprint copy of the tunnel complex housing this huge
treasure surfaced for a brief period. The document was in the possession of a
former intelligence agent. Since he obtained the copy by unknown means, there is
a great possibility that a few other copies exist and are carefully hidden by
descendants of the original Golden Circle members. The copy shows the immediate
site of the treasure, but gives no directions on how to get to it. The
surrounding landscape has probably changed greatly since the treasure was first

The blueprint copy showed a large vertical shaft that had been dug at the base
of a hill. Tunnels then branched off horizontally at different levels. These
contained the gold and weapons. The shaft, perhaps as deep as 60 feet, appears
to have been sealed with rock and dirt. The blueprint also shows the placement
of both black powder and water booby-traps.

This treasure site was the pride and joy of the Confederate elite, especially
the 12-member ruling council called the Knights of the Inner Circle. (The Outer
Circle contained the vast majority of the members.) The original Inner Circle
was made up of some of the most important historical figures of all time. They
included Confederate President Jefferson Davis, brutal guerrilla leader William
Clarke Quantrill, the heroic General Joe Shelby and the famous rebel cavalry
leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. But perhaps the most famous of them all were the
brothers Frank and Jesse James. There is no doubt that all 12 original members
knew the exact location of the Brentwood treasure, as well as the other seven
large ones hidden all across the United States.

The Golden Circle was led with a iron hand by Quantrill. After his death, Jesse
James took over and led the organization until the time of his real death in
Granbury, Texas, in 1951. Jesse passed away at the ripe old age of 109, and is
buried in Granbury. (While official records of the life of Jesse James dispute
this claim, recent information shows it is possible James lived on well into the
20th century.)

Jesse and Frank James had several relatives who lived in the East Nashville area
and visited there often. On Friday, March 25, 1881, a member of the James gang
was arrested by magistrate and ex-constable W.L. Earthman. Earthman had been
tipped off that gang member Bill Ryan was at one of the local saloons. In fear
of their lives, Frank and Jesse James and their families left the Nashville area
the next day. Witnesses reported to have seen them heading south toward
Brentwood, but they were never caught.

It is only natural to assume that Frank and Jesse, on their way out of the
middle Tennessee area, went right by the location of the treasure to make sure
nothing was disturbed. This would also account for so many of his relatives
living in the Nashville area. (Jesse's relatives were probably members of the
Outer Circle. They lived here to keep a sharp eye out for any one else looking
for the treasure.)

Here are several clues that will be useful in your search.

1. The treasure is probably in a hillside or series of hillsides within a mile
or two of a large supply of water. This water was needed for the many
booby-traps and also for watering the many horses who pulled the wagons. A large
creek or small river, like Harpeth River, would fit into the plans perfectly. It
would also have to be shallow enough in places for wagons to cross.

2. Search the nearby woods close to the water supply and look for old wagon
trails or parallel ruts in the earth. Look for old roads and shallow paths. This
could still be a long shot, since the ones who buried the treasure may have
cleaned up afterward and made sure there were no tell-tale signs leading to the

3. Look for areas of clear pastures near the woods. A large operation, such as a
ranch or perhaps some sort of mining camp, would have been in the area. This
would help explain the many wagons coming and going at all hours.

4. Look for strange markings on old trees and unusual rock formations. Coded
messages could help newcomers quickly find the area. The trees may have long ago
been cut down by loggers, but it still doesn't hurt to check the bark and trunks
of old trees still standing.

5. Look for hillsides and bluffs with small cave openings — these may resemble
groundhog burrows. It would be so easy for people to fill such holes with
treasure and then use explosives to blast them shut.

6. Always have your metal detector going. A heavy concentration of Civil War
bullets, Confederate coins and other items should be in the area. With so many
people coming and going, things had to get lost now and then.

7. As always, get permission to search on private land. This huge treasure may
never be found by one person working alone. One may find small hoards here and
there, but the mother lode is well protected and it will take teamwork and
plenty of extreme caution.

During March 1995, I spent a whole day driving and walking the roads and streets
of Brentwood. I took pictures and tried to interview at least four people. I
wanted the people to be elderly, because I figured the young generation would be
totally lost when it came to the history of the treasure.

One gentleman told me he had just retired and moved to the area from Illinois.
This was the first time he had heard of the treasure. Another gentleman sitting
on his front porch seemed suspicious of me from the start, probably because
there is a lot of crime in the Nashville and Brentwood area. He told me he
didn't do interviews for anyone, and seemed relieved when I started to walk
away. He got up and went into the house. An elderly lady was working in her
flower garden and had very little to say.

Finally, I encountered an elderly man who was willing to talk to me. He was
swinging in his yard under a huge shade tree. He was a regular reader of Lost
Treasure magazine and agreed to be interviewed, but only if I promised not to
use his real name and address. The following is part of what he told me:

"Of course I know about the legend," he said. "I had distant relatives who
fought in the Civil War and at least three of them were members of the Circle.
When I was growing up, I heard plenty of backyard conversations when a bunch of
my kin got together for a reunion of sorts. I overheard whispered words about
gold and silver. I heard words like `rocky hills' and `water troughs.' As a kid
I had no idea what the words meant, and even today I am not sure. I do know that
they often spoke of general directions, but that is something I cannot tell you,
out of respect for all my relatives.

"I can tell you this much. If I were interested in searching for the treasure
today I would narrow my search down to one part of Brentwood. Be it north,
south, east or west, that is the part I must keep secret."

It seems there lot of secrets still hidden deep in the hills of Brentwood. One
day they may be revealed and the treasure found. There are many people who want
to find the treasure and still a few who wish it to stay hidden.

The Confederate Knights' Brentwood Cache

The treasure:

Thousands of gold and silver bars worth up to $350 million today. In addition,
there are likely hundreds of well-preserved Civil War-era relics.

How to find it:

The cache is located in the hills of Brentwood, Tenn., most likely near a large
creek or river. Look for wagon ruts and large nearby pastures.

Tennessee State Library and Archives.
A Guide To Historical Markers In Nashville And Davidson County, 1993, page 19.
World Book Encyclopedia.
Lost Treasure magazine, November 1991, page 54; April 1992.
Tennessean newspaper, Nashville, Tenn., March 6, 1995