5 Lost Treasures of Wyoming (Hidden Gold Awaits)

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Cory Haasnoot

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In this article lost treasures of Wyoming, we will be exploring 5 treasures that have been hidden from sight for over a hundred years! You will learn about buried outlaw gold, lost gold near the Bighorn River, lost stagecoach loot, and more.

Wyoming is full of fascinating stories of outlaws hiding out and burying their loot in the mountains and valleys in this state. The wild west was a crazy time and there were many areas of Wyoming that were untouched by man during that time. Cattle rustlers and horse thieves were all over Wyoming making good money and they hid a lot of their illegal proceeds in the Cowboy State.

So without further adieu, grab your favorite beverage and take some notes as I present 5 lost treasures of Wyoming. And maybe you will be one of the lucky few who strike it rich finding lost treasure!

5 Lost Treasures of Wyoming

Outlaw Lame Johnny’s Lost Gold$140,000 in diamonds, gold, and paper currencySomewhere near the old Canyon Stage Station in Wyoming.
Lost Gold In Washakie County$90,000 in goldBuried in a hole next to the fireplace of a burned-out cabin near a small creek that runs into the Bighorn River in Washakie County Wyoming.
Lost Gold Loot Near The Cheyenne River$7,000 in gold nuggetsSomewhere in a ravine near the Cheyenne River between the cities of Newcastle and Lusk, Wyoming. Possibly in the Cheyenne River itself.
George Parrot’s Buried Treasure$150,000 in goldThe northeastern side of North Butte in the mountains known as the Pumpkin Buttes in Campbell County Wyoming.
Mitchell Gangs Buried Loot$68,000 in gold coinsBuried near an old trail from Saratoga Wyoming to a grove of cedar trees along the banks of the North Platte River.

Outlaw Lame Johnny’s Lost Gold

Lame Johnny’s real name was Cornelius Donahue. Johnny was born in 1850 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and he died by hanging in 1879. He started life on the right path having gone to Girard College which was a school for orphaned boys from 1862 to 1872. While attending school accounts say that he had high scores and was by all accounts a very bright young man.

Right after school, he decided to try being a cowboy in Texas but because of either childhood injury or polio that some say he had contracted as a youngster, Donahue had a pronounced limp so he failed at being a cowboy. So he decided to try his hand at stealing horses which he learned from Apache Indians in Texas.

Lame Johnny Travels To The Black Hills of South Dakota In Search of Gold

In an attempt to go straight and leave his horse thievery behind him he traveled to Deadwood, South Dakota in 1876. While in Deadwood he changed his name to John Hurley and took up a few honest occupations such as prospecting for gold in Castle Creek, he became a Custer County Deputy for a short while, and finally, he became a bookkeeper for the Homestake Mining Company.

Word soon got out that he was a horse thief from Texas. This didn’t fair well with his employer so he was fired and turned to a life of crime that he knew so well. He eventually got a gang of men together and they started robbing stagecoaches that frequented the Deadwood area of South Dakota. At this time people started to refer to Donahue as “Lame Johnny”.

Lame Johnny Suspected in Stagecoach Robbery

During the gold rush days in the Black Hills, there were many stagecoach thieves other than Lame Johnny and his men. But on this particular day, Lame Johnny and his crew are the ones they suspected of the robbery.

On September 26, 1878, a stagecoach robbery took place. The stagecoach that was robbed was called a Monitor which was a highly fortified type of stage with steel plates, all around it and holes for shooting at thieves from inside the stage.

On this day Homestake Mining Company was sending a shipment of gold on the Deadwood-Cheyenne stage line which they used frequently for their “treasure runs” which they called it to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Inside the coach would also be a heavy Iron Safe that was supposed to be impregnatable.

The group of outlaws that held up the stagecoach went to Cayon Springs Stage Station in Northeast Wyoming and waited for the stage to arrive. While there the outlaws locked William Miner the one in charge of the stage station in a grain room and the outlaws hid in the barn and were ready for a shootout.

Shootout at Canyon Stage Station

The stage rolled up to the station and the driver noticed that no one was around so he got off the stage to see what was going on. Shots soon rang out and the shotgun driver Gale Hill was wounded and one of the passengers named Hugh Campbell was killed. Two of the outlaws were killed in the shootout but the others got away with the safe. They easily broke it open. Inside the safe, they found $500 in diamonds, $3500 in paper currency, and 700 pounds of gold.

It is estimated that they got away with $140,000 worth of treasure at the time which would be worth millions of dollars today.

Lame Johnny was the suspect and Frank “ Whispering”  Smith a livestock detective went after him. Smith caught up with Johnny on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where he was sent to the jail in Chadron, Nebraska. In July 1879 Smith took Lame Johnny to Deadwood to face trial but he didn’t make it.

While the stage was stopped near Buffalo Gap South Dakota masked bandits held up the stage and took Lame Johnny with them. He was later found hanging in a cottonwood tree still in his shackles. This place became known as Lame Johnny Creek.

No one is for certain who actually committed the stage robbery that Lame Johnny was accused of. Some think Johnny was not the one who held up the stage but a man named Jim Carey along with his outlaw partners Al Spears, Big Nose Mclaughlin, Frank McBride, and Doug Goodall. As for the stolen loot, a good portion of it was recovered except for two gold bars that some believe are buried somewhere near the old Canyon Stage Station in Wyoming.

Digging Deeper: Lost Treasures of South Dakota

Lost Gold In Washakie County

Old Miners Cabin

The year was 1863 when a man named Allen Hurlbert and two other men named Freitag and Smith struck it rich when they located a rich gold vein in the mountains close to Bighorn River in Washakie County Wyoming. According to Hurlbert, the men extracted some $90,000 in gold over the course of a year. A staggering amount that would be worth millions of dollars today.

Hurlbert and the others decided they wanted to stay the winter and extract as much gold from the mine as possible. So they built a small cabin near the gold mine and a small creek that flowed into the Bighorn River. They used this cabin to hide the gold which they did in a hole they dug near the stone fireplace.

Unbeknownst to the miners, they had built their cabin in the middle of Indian Territory. Outraged that the miners had set up shop on their land the Indians attacked them sometime during the winter and killed Freitag and Smith and burned down the cabin.

Only One Miner Survives

Hurlbert barely survived but he was able to escape. He spent the next three months roaming the mountainous region trying to find his way out of the rugged area he found himself. He was eventually found near the Platte River many miles from where the cabin once stood.

It took Hurlbert many years before he gained enough courage to go back to the burned-out cabin and try and recover the gold that they had secreted in a hole next to the fireplace in the cabin. But as a few years had passed and because of the vastness of the area where the cabin once stood, Hurlbert couldn’t find it.

Hurlbert never did find the cabin and the gold. As far as anyone knows no one has ever located the lost gold and it’s presumed still buried in a hole next to the fireplace of a burned-out cabin near a small creek that runs into the Bighorn River in Washakie County Wyoming.

Lost Gold Loot Near The Cheyenne River

Cheyenne River
Cheyenne River – By Jeffrey Beall Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

This story takes place on June 26, 1878, when a stagecoach left Deadwood, South Dakota for Cheyenne, Wyoming on the famous Deadwood to Cheyenne stage route. The stagecoach was carrying $25,000 in gold nuggets that were meant to be sent via train from Cheyenne to New York.

Normally $200,000 worth of gold would be sent but the mining and freight companies decided it would be safer to send smaller amounts by stagecoach because it would attract less attention because there would only be two guards accompanying the gold shipments. Otherwise, there would be more like eight armed guards on the trip which would alert potential bandits that they had a large amount of gold aboard.

After a few days of riding with no incident, they were close to the Cheyenne River in eastern Wyoming between the towns of Newcastle and Lusk when four bandits jumped out from a ravine and held the stage up. One of the bandits fired a shot that tore through the driver and they ordered the two guards to throw their weapons down.

The bandits quickly found the strongbox that was holding the gold. Then they tried to break the box open but with no luck breaking the lock manually they got a can of gunpowder that they presumably had hidden and blew open the strongbox. The strongbox was filled with sacks of gold nuggets.

The Remaining Gold is Buried

While one of the bandits held his gun on the passengers and the guards the other three took the sacks of gold nuggets into the ravine where they had their horses waiting and filled their saddlebags with most of the gold. They found that they had more gold than their saddlebags would hold so they buried the rest in the ravine.

After the thieves got done burying the gold they rode away. The passengers of the stagecoach and the two guards loaded the dead driver onto the stage and rode to the nearest stage station which was about five miles south.

As soon as they told authorities there of the robbery a posse was quickly formed. And two days later they caught up with the bandits while they were camping and they quickly surrendered because they were caught off guard. The posse also recovered the gold that the bandits had on them. But when they brought the gold back to Deadwood where it came from they found that there was $7,000 worth of gold missing.

The authorities questioned the bandits and one of them finally confessed that they had buried some of the gold nuggets in the ravine that was near where they had held up the stagecoach.

Search For The Missing Gold

Two men were sent to look for the remaining $7,000 in gold but when they got to the area where the stagecoach was held up they found all tracks were washed away by heavy rains that had poured down in that region in the last few days. So they were unable to determine exactly where the robbery took place. Also, the ravine where the gold was buried was now under almost two feet of water. They were never able to locate the buried gold.

The $7,000 in gold nuggets would be worth substantially more now and it has never been located. Who knows where it is now? It’s probably washed away somewhere in a ravine near the Cheyenne River between the cities of Newcastle and Lusk, Wyoming.

George Parrot’s Buried Treasure

wild mustangs pilot butte Wyoming

George Parrot was by all accounts a very ugly man with a large crooked nose that many noticed him anywhere he went. George Parrot was not his real name no one knows for sure what his real name was but he went by George Parrot, George Francis Warden, and Joe Maneuse.

Some believe he came from the east coast around the area of  New York but again no one knows for sure. Parrot joined the United States Army in the 1860s where he was stationed in South Dakota at Fort Abraham Lincoln. But he deserted in 1870 when he stole a horse, a few rifles, and some other supplies.

Parrot, then made his way to the Wyoming Territory. When he arrived in Wyoming he noticed that the Sioux Indians had been systematically stealing horses from the ranchers in the territory and he thought he would step up to the plate and start stealing horses himself and sell them to the ranchers that needed them.

Parrot along with a few other men started stealing horses from the United States Army and selling them to the ranchers in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana. By 1878 they were making an enormous amount of money from their illegal operations. They would rebrand the horses to disguise that they were stolen.

Parrot Buries His Loot

When Parrot had made $10,000 or so he would set out to North Butte in the mountain range known as the Pumpkin Buttes in Campbell County Wyoming and he would bury the loot on the northeastern side of North Butte.

While Parrot was making good money stealing horses he also for a few years started cattle rustling in Wyoming and would sell the cattle to mining camps in Montana, Idaho, and South Dakota. After he grew tired of cattle rustling and horse stealing he decided to start robbing stagecoaches where he would steal strongboxes full of gold and silver coins. He would also relieve the passengers of their valuables.

After many years of stealing horses, cattle rustling, and robbing stagecoaches Parrot and his men were more and more frequently pursued by posses and lawmen. It is said that over the years six of his gang of men had been killed by lawmen. 

Finding it hard to do their illegal activities in Wyoming Parrot and his men went to Montana. Here they continued to rob stagecoaches and they also would steal gold ore from the stores in Montana that did business with the miners. After they got away with their riches Parrot once again decided to head back to Wyoming to bury his loot.

Train Robbery Attempt

One last attempt of robbery this time of a train that was carrying a payroll to Carbon, Wyoming proved Parrot and his gangs downfall. The gang went out to the railroad tracks that lay between Laramie and Medicine Bow Wyoming and they pulled out the spikes and waited for the train to pass by.

But one of the engineers on the train noticed that something was wrong with the tracks and all the trains were stopped. Parrot and his gang noticed that the trains were not arriving on time so they decided to take off to the Elk Mountains. A couple of lawmen named Robert Widdowfield and Tip Vincent went after them.

But shortly after the lawmen reached Parrot’s camp they were ambushed by Parrot and his gang. Both were shot dead.

With angry lawmen all over Wyoming looking for Parrot and his men they finally caught up with one of Parrot’s gang members named Charley Bates. They caught him in Laramie and transported him by train to Rawlins, Wyoming for trial.

While on the train ride to Rawlins the guard’s everything he knew about George Parrot and about all their illegal activities. Bates also explained how Parrot would bury his share of the loot near Pumpkin Butte. While the train was stopped for fuel in Carbon, Wyoming a vigilante group got ahold of Charles Bates and they promptly hanged him on a telegraph pole near the railroad tracks.

George Parrot’s Final Days

After Parrot heard about the death of his partner in crime Charley Bates he decided to stop stealing and hid out in eastern Montana near the Missouri River. There are two different stories about how Parrot got caught. One states that while Parrot was having a drink in the Last Chance Saloon in Helena Montana that he was noticed by three lawmen and they took him into custody on a train headed for Rawlins, Wyoming.

Another story states that he was taken arrested in Miles City. It is said that Parrot escaped while in the Rawlins jail by knocking out one of his guards while he was being served supper. In one account of the escape, it is said that people from the town of Rawlins caught him and hung him on a tree.

The other story states that Parrot was caught by lawmen and returned to his cell but the next day some residents of Rawlins took Parrot on the night of March 22, 1881, and hung him on a telegraph pole near the jail. In any account Parrot was hung sometime in 1881.

All in all many people have estimated that Parrot buried about $150,000 much of which is gold somewhere on the northeastern side of North Butte in the mountains known as the Pumpkin Buttes in Campbell County Wyoming. Today that treasure would be worth more than a million dollars!

Digging Deeper: Lost Treasures of Montana

Mitchell Gangs Buried Loot

North Platte River
North Platte River – By Bureau of Land Management #mypubliclandsroadtrip 2016: Get Outdoors Baby, North Platte River/Trappers Route, CC BY 2.0, Link

After the Civil War Corniluis Mitchell who became the leader of the Mitchell gang in Wyoming went out west to Colorado in 1880 to try his hand at mining. After he didn’t make much as a gold prospector he headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming where he became a gambling dealer at a saloon there.

Soon Mitchell grew tired of the gambling scene and he decided to try his luck at cattle rustling. Before he left his gambling job he recruited members and formed the Michell Gang. They would steal cattle in the North Platte River Valley and resell them in Colorado. After their attempts at riches being cattle rustlers, they decided to start robbing stagecoaches. This they found to not be very lucrative.

So the Mitchell Gang decided to start robbing banks. One such bank they robbed was the Platte Depository and Loan Company in Saratoga, Wyoming on June 9, 1882. They got away with $68,000 in gold coins

A few days before the robbery Mitchell and one of his accomplices Clay McFord headed to Saratoga to scout out the bank and buy food and supplies. They then rode back to the camp that they had prepared close to the bank of the North Platte River. Here they buried their supplies and food in a grove of cedar trees. They planned on using this secret camp to hide out after the robbery.

The Gangs Camp Is Discovered

But unknown to Mitchell his camp and supplies there were discovered by a local rancher named Nate Woodrow. So after he rounded up his stray cattle he rode off to Saratoga to inform the Sheriff of Saratoga Mr. Holcomb of what he had found there. By the time Woodrow arrived in Saratoga, the robbery had already taken place. By the time Woodrow told the sheriff of his find Holcomb was already gathering up a posse to go after the thieves. The posse then headed to the banks of the Platte River where Woodrow had found the camp and supplies.

They arrived there that night and surprised the Mitchell gang while they were sitting around a campfire. A shootout ensued and all but one of the Mitchell gang was killed who was Clay McFord. None of the men in the posse was killed. 

Sheriff Holcombe put a gun to McFord’s head and asked him where they had buried the gold but McFord exclaimed if you kill me you will never know. The posse then took McFord to Saratoga to await trial.

McFord Found Guilty

On August 3, 1882, McFord was found guilty of armed robbery and murder because one of the tellers of the bank Rollie Childers died from gunshot wounds he had received during the robbery. Clay McFord was sentenced to hang by judge Zachary Scott. 

While Sheriff Holcombe was walking McFord back to jail after the trial McFord told the Sherriff that he wanted to make a deal. McFord said that if he was let go he would return half of the gold stolen in the bank robbery. Holcomb then went to see the head banker named Knox and told him about McFord’s proposition.

Knox and the sheriff decided to go have a drink in the saloon and talk over McFord’s proposed deal. They decided that they would take the deal. Knox would get half the gold except for 10 percent that Sheriff Holcomb required of himself for taking the risk of letting McFord escape from jail.

A Deal Is Struck With McFord

 Knox and Holcomb proceeded to the jail where McFord was being held. They told McFord that they would agree to his offer as long as he left Wyoming for good after he told them where the gold was buried. McFord told the men that he would take them to where the gold was hidden.

The next morning they rode off to the camp that the Mitchell gang had been hiding out before they were nabbed. When they got halfway to the camp McFord stopped his horse and pointed to some rock ledges and said the gold coins were hidden in a vertical crack in those rock formations.

Knox quickly pulled out his gun and shot McFord in the chest. While McFord was lying on the ground dying he told Knox that he was lying and that the gold coins were not in that rock formation. McFord died soon after along with the whereabouts of the lost gold loot. Knox and Holcomb searched for the loot for days but they never found it.

The bank robbery loot of $68,000 in gold coins had never been found and could still be buried near an old trail from Saratoga Wyoming to a grove of cedar trees along the banks of the North Platte River.

Conclusion – Lost Treasures of Wyoming

Well, there you have 5 lost treasures of Wyoming stories that you can now go out and search for. Wyoming is such a vast and beautiful state with riches hidden so long ago. I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Until next time Happy Treasure Hunting!

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Author: Cory Haasnoot

Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.

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