Many people make the mistake of picturing tumbleweeds and desert landscapes when they think about ghost towns. Although most ghost towns are found in the western United States, every state has them. A ghost town is simply a deserted settlement. It may contain actual buildings or just remnants of their foundations; in some cases, every trace of the town may have vanished - except, of course, its buried treasure.
In 1938, according to historical researcher Donald Viles, Jacksonville, Oregon, was almost a ghost town. Once it had been a thriving gold mine town. But in 1938, only three businesses remained open; every other building along the dirt road that served as the main street was deserted.
One day that summer three young boys, Robert and Edward Lewis and Arthur Jefferson, decided to explore an abandoned building. This was an activity that they enjoyed; in fact, they had explored almost every old building in town, except a small one that had never looked interesting. What the boys didn't know is that the building used to be the Beekman Bank, where many miners had deposited their money. When the mines ran out in 1902, the bank closed for business.
The boys soon discovered an unlocked rear door and in a moment they were in the bank. Since the bank had not been used for more than thirty years, everything was covered with dust. They found old newspapers and envelopes that seemed to be stuffed full. They ripped open the envelopes and found enough gold and silver coins to fill a bank money bag.
The boys had never seen this much money. They knew they were rich, so they divided the coins and made some plans. First, they would treat themselves to candy and ice cream. Second, each boy would take two handfuls of the larger coins and hide them in the town. Third, the rest of the coins would be buried in the Lewis brothers' backyard. Finally, each boy would keep a silver dollar to give to his mother.
If the store owner wondered where the boys got the money to treat themselves, he said nothing. No one noticed the boys as they hid their handfuls of coins in the walls of one of the town buildings. They even managed to bury the money bag in the Lewis backyard without being detected. But when their sons handed them the silver dollars the mothers became suspicious.
"Where did you get these?" they asked.
The boys quickly made up a story about earning the money, but the two women had heard enough. They escorted their sons to the town marshal, who managed to scare the boys into telling almost everything. They explained how they had found the money, where they had spent it, and where they had buried the bag of coins. They told about everything except the two handfuls of coins that each had secreted in the deserted building.
They were so scared by their encounter with the law they never went back to the building to reclaim their coins. Eventually, the Lewis brothers and Arthur Jefferson moved away. As far as they know, none of the coins was ever found.
Copyright © James M. Deem. Taken from How to Hunt Buried Treasure (Houghton Mifflin, 1994). All rights reserved.
Viles, Donald. "Looting the Jacksonville Bank." Lost Treasure, March 1991: 19-21.