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Treasure tale keyed digging in East Texas Piney Woods

By W. T. Bock

Reprinted from Beaumont Enterprise, Saturday May 15, 1999.

NEDERLAND—Texas has always had its share of that breed of mankind, whom one author labeled "Coronado’s Children." A century ago, every shellbank bordering Sabine Lake or its tributaries had its own legend of Lafitte’s buried gold, but less well-known were the treasure tales of the piney woods.

Most of those stories had their origins in days when Spanish mule trains brought gold and silver from Mexico to Natchitoches, La., to trade for bolts of cloth and hardware. The pack trains were often preyed upon by American bandits, hid out near Sabine River.

One such tale (Galveston News, October 2, 1891) told of the excavations for a cotton wharf at Stark’s Landing, south of Newton, in 1867, where "...the diggers unearthed a deposit of 214 pounds of silver bars..."

In 1897, W. S. Glenn of Palestine, Texas, discovered an aged letter in his grandmother’s trunk, which read in part as follows:

"...Nolan’s Trail, November 17, 1816-On this trail a deposit was made in 1813 by a band of 12 of us, who were captured by Jackson’s Cavalry. Nine of us were killed, and three of us who were captured could either go in the fight (Battle of New Orleans), or stay in prison. One of us died in prison, Perkins was killed in battle, leaving me as the only survivor.

"...The deposit was made by a clear-running stream, under a waterfall, with a high backbone ridge on the east bank. The first capture buried there in April, 1813, was twelve jack loads of silver, and in October, 1813, thirty mule loads of Spanish gold. We captured 5 other small lots in between, which we buried in the same place... John E. Fletcher." (Galveston Daily News, April 21, 1898)

Glenn remembered such a creek on his grandfather’s farm, east of Neches River, where Glenn was born, and where stones of a mill pond, a part of an ancient water mill, still stood. And there are passages in H. S. Thrall’s and H. Yoakum’s histories of Texas that appear to corroborate some of Fletcher’s story.

Since Fletcher’s letter appeared so authentic, Glenn succeeded in convincing others and in organizing a stock company to search for the gold, its officers including four railroad, express company, and bank executives of Palestine. They raised $5,000 to employ diggers to excavate the site.

Glenn’s crew dug from May until October, 1898, at which time the company funds were exhausted, and officers of the stock company chose to abandon the search. It is believed that Glenn’s treasure-hunting enterprise was the largest ever conducted in Southeast Texas.

Treasure tales, such as "McGaffey’s gold" at Sabine Pass or "Yocum’s treasure" near Sour Lake, have always added a fascinating dimension to East Texas folklore. However, of the shovels that ever unearthed such a cache, only one such incident is known to have been published in a newspaper.

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W. T. Block of Nederland is a historian and author. His website is This database is very large (350 articles) and is intended as an area history source for students.

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Copyright 1998-2023 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, the material published on this site is copyrighted by William T. Block.
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