Jan 14, 2006, 03:43 PM
...buried treasure near Canton? (South Dakota)
Is There Really Gold In Newton Hills?
Early settler's journal describes how doomed miners buried treasure near Canton
CANTON - While there may be gold buried somewhere in the rolling, heavily wooded Newton Hills south of Canton, there's something nearly as valuable buried at the city's public library.
Protected in 12 boxes on a back-room shelf are the handwritten journals of early pioneer Earl Boyce. Tales of locals from the mid- to late 1800s range from horse thieves and robbers digging cave-like dens to Indian wars.
One of the more famous stories is about buried gold.
"But the stories are just that: Things he may have heard from old timers back then," said Jerry Keiser, amateur Canton historian. "These are unsubstantiated stories."
Born in Illinois in 1862, Boyce moved to Lincoln County with his parents at age 10, according to "The History of Lincoln County South Dakota." The family lived near the bend in the Big Sioux River four miles south of Canton.
Boyce spent a lifetime collecting things and traveling, and he lived for weeks at a time camping in a tipi in Newton Hills.
In one of his old, brown-covered ledgers, Boyce retells the gold tale as told to him:
In June 1859, a large caravan of 75 California miners with wagons loaded with gold and silver bullion was forced off the prairie and into Newton Hills. The miners were being pursued by a large band of hostile, renegade Indians.
The caravan joined a tribe of friendly Snake Indians who were having a powwow in the hills. The entire group fended off attacks by the pursuers for one month (one moon). Eventually, a band of Sioux attacked.
After two weeks of fighting, during which time the miners buried their gold, the Sioux were victorious. All of the miners were killed and the surviving Indians taken prisoner by the Sioux.
The gold never was found.
Another area historian agrees the story probably was one someone told Boyce about.
"He also wrote about many of the area deaths and about his travels," said Don Pottratz, a retired Canton High School teacher and former director of the county's Planning and Zoning Department.
"He was a collector, and many items of his are the nucleus of the Canton Museum," he said. While Pottratz hasn't heard of anyone looking for the gold, Keiser has seen people digging, which is illegal in Newton Hills State Park.
Even someone with a metal detector could spend a lifetime combing the steep hills in the 1,300-acre park without success.
But a different kind of digging, through the dozen Boyce diaries, is allowed, said Edith Nelson, the city's assistant librarian. She recently showed a visitor the volumes and allowed a closer look at one dated "1883, Book 1 of 4."
Anyone is welcome to have a look. But Pottratz said the library board has discussed ways to better preserve the writings, such as having them copied so the fragile originals are not handled.
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