LOST TREASURE LEGENDS
Along with the thousands of ghost towns scattered throughout the
there are legends, stories, and hints of lost treasure.
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Silver on a
near the summit of
A strong northeast wind shoved the steamship Bessie Brady to the southeast, where high waves battered the small silver laden steamship. The pitching caused a wagonload of silver bullion to break loose and roll off the deck into the stormy waters.
Hmmm. Sounds pretty good doesn't it?
Here's another version...
The Molly Stevens (the other steamer) was cruising towards Cartago when she capsized in the middle of the lake for no apparent reason.
(I like the first version better.)
Wait, there's more!
The Molly Stevens was enroute to Cartago with a load of silver bullion when strong winds kicked up waves, and the cold lake water poured into the engine compartment causing the boilers to explode. This ripped the small steamer apart, and sent her and the cargo to the bottom.
(I'm not so sure I believe that one.)
Then there is this version, which sounds like a combination of the first two...The unnamed ship was driven by strong winds to the southeast part of the lake where rough waters caused a wagon to break loose and roll into the lake. The resulting shift of weight caused the steamer to overturn and sink.
(OK. Now I'm totally confused.)
After some extensive research, I have come up with my own version of the lost silver bullion. It goes something like this...
in 1865, the small Mexican silver mining camp of Cerro Gordo became known when
the rich silver-lead ores were hauled down the mountain and processed at a mill
near the military post of
Belshaw had arrived in Cerro Gordo from
along the shore of
three companies processing ore, and millions of dollars in bullion needing
transporting, Remi Nadeau was hired in 1869 to haul
the silver to
As 1869 closed, Belshaw, Beaudry, and Egbert Judson joined forces and controlled the fabulous Union Lode, the town's number one producer. Their only other major rival, the Owens Lake Company, continued purchasing claims, which narrowed down the controlling factions to just the two companies.
Belshaw and his partners were determined to control the entire
December, 1871, Nadeau's freighting contract expired, and Belshaw declined to renew. Instead he signed up James Brady, the Owens
Lake Co. superintendent! Brady teamed
with D. H. Ferguson to build a steamship to haul the bullion from Cerro Gordo
March, 1872, a massive earthquake ripped through the
Brady continued to work on the steamer while the smelter was being rebuilt. On June 27, 1872, the Bessie Brady, made her maiden voyage with 30 tons of silver bullion on board.
September, silver ingots piled up faster than Brady's wagons could haul them to
February, 1873, heavy winter rains destroyed the
Colonel Sherman Stevens was hired by the Owens Lake Company to supply wood for
its smelters. He began to build a
September Belshaw and Beaudry
purchased the abandoned Bessie Brady, and they built a new landing six
miles east of
At Cottonwood Landing the wood from the sawmill was sent via barge, which was now towed by the Bessie Brady, to Cerro Gordo Landing.
In 1874 a general slowdown in mining caused the Owens Lake Company to finally fail. With a general increase in mining activity in the area, increased demand for Stevens' lumber from the Darwin and Coso mines prompted him to erect two charcoal kilns near Cottonwood Landing. At this time he decided to build his own steamer to avoid the high rates imposed by Belshaw for use of the Bessie Brady.
undecked hull of the Molly Stevens was
launched with much fanfare, but a strong wind came up, and she took on so much
water the uncovered hull sunk. She was
refloated with help from the Bessie Brady, which created a few snickers
of pleasure in Belshaw's group. Her maiden voyage was in June 1877, but as
fate usually works,
October 1879, the last wagonload of silver rolled down the Yellow Grade and was
placed on board the Bessie Brady, and deposited on the docks at
Cartago. The little steamer then steamed
up to Ferguson Landing (near the mouth of the
few months later, a small revival took place in
Was the pre-maiden voyage sinking of the Molly Stevens or the fiery ending of the Bessie Brady the fuel that created this treasure legend? That I haven't determined. But it appears clear that the lost bullion ship legend is just that, a legend.
There is no lost bullion ship.
OR IS THERE?
Where did the 300 pound propeller reportedly found in the middle of the dry lake bed come from?
How about the 400 pound handwrought iron anchor allegedly found in the middle of the lake by a Keeler boy?
Where DID these come from? Is there truly lost silver on a ghost lake?
NOW, how about this E-mail I rec’d Oct 25, 2005…
“Around 1973, I met a prospector using a metal detector I believed called a “White”. But I am not sure of the manufacture. (It was probably a White’s Metal Detector - GBS). I, as an Inyo Deputy, was called to the Cartago artesian well to meet with the gent. When we met he had a 50-+ pound silver ingot. He explained he had followed the story that the there was so much silver on the dock, the longshoreman built housing for themselves to hide from the cold in winter. It seems, at least one, if not more fell off the steamer dock. The owner went home happy and I don’’t blame him! At least that’s what he said! The Olancha Deputy 1971 to 1974. ?????”
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FIRST POSTED: February 07, 2004
LAST UPDATED: December 17, 2007
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