Nepees Gold
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  1. #1

    Oct 2016
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    Nepee's Gold

    Here is a story from my Missouri Country book.
    NEPEE’S GOLD
    The story of the gold location known only to one person, a Native American called Nepee, is an interesting one. The places mentioned in this story cover a vast region—almost the whole top half of the state of Montana!
    The story is accepted as fact; it is borne out in several well-accepted books of Montana history. In “Names On The Face Of Montana,” there is a listing under Fort Browning of the Thanksgiving meal in 1868 when Nepee showed his gold to the white men. Fort Browning was a trading post from 1868 to 1871, when it was forced to close due to the Sioux taking control of the region from weaker tribes. Since the fort was a trading post, this might be why Nepee brought in his small sack of gold. According to the story, Nepee was ushered into where the meal was taking place and effort was made to get him to tell where the gold came from. One has to wonder if he was allowed to drink all he wanted in order to loosen his tongue.
    to be continued.....
    Toecutter likes this.

  2. #2

    Oct 2016
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    Some important names were in attendance at the dinner and saw the gold. Major Simmons, who ended up with the sack of gold, Major Culbertson, and James Stuart, who no doubt had seen gold many times before. Some say Nepee would not tell the location because his tribe would kill him if he did. In spite of being offered protection, Nepee still refused to let anyone know its source.
    Maybe small clues were divulged by Nepee over time. A man named Joe Hontus (a close friend of Nepee) pieced things together enough to cause him to say he knew where the source of the gold was. Hontus even told folks he was going to the source of Nepee’s gold; this was heard by several witnesses only days after the Thanksgiving dinner. The next time Hontus was seen, it was his dead body riddled with bullets. That closed another chapter on the story of Nepee’s gold.
    more later.....

  3. #3

    Oct 2016
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    Nepee died in 1876, and was the only known witness to the location of the gold in the Little Rockies. Legend does claim that, around 1865, two priests were shown some gold by tribe members. The priests, wanting to learn the source of the gold, figured they could do so by gaining the trust of the Indians. So, they informed them to never tell the white men about the gold or their lands would be taken away from them. Of course, this worked all too well and even the priests were kept in the dark about the exact location!
    Supposedly, one of these two priests was put to death two years later for stumbling across the gold’s location. There are later reports of the spotting of an Indian sentry guarding a pass in the Little Rockies. The stories of the sentry have dates to them going back to about 1875. Gold was found in the Little Rockies, but nothing like what Nepee brought into the fort on that Thanksgiving Day long ago. It does look possible that Nepee’s gold just might still be out there somewhere.
    more later ….

  4. #4

    Oct 2016
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    The only other possible explanation for the pouch of gold dust and small nuggets Nepee brought to Fort Browning, is it could have been taken from a prospector who either died or was killed for whatever he had that was useful to the Indians.
    The story of Nepee’s gold is even in the GPAA gold book. It claims the source of his wealth lies in the region of Robber’s Pass in the Little Rockies and it has not yet been found. Although I have found no reference to a Robber’s Pass in the Little Rockies, maybe your research will turn up such a reference.
    more later ….

  5. #5

    Oct 2016
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    Another book, “Adventure Trails in Montana,” sponsored by the Montana Historical Society, also includes the story of Nepee’s gold. In this story, it is said that the Thanksgiving party in 1868 at old Fort Browning was planned for the purpose of trying to get the friendly Gros Ventre Indian, Nepee, to reveal the source of the gold in the region. A special brew was made from straight alcohol, pain killer, some bars of soap, three plugs of chew, and Hostetter’s Bitters.
    The plan was to get Nepee drunk enough to tell where his tribe obtained their gold. After drinking some of the brew, Nepee showed the gold dust and nuggets he had in a small pouch; but he did not say where it came from. Promised much more wealth, Nepee still would not tell what he knew. Not wanting to push the issue, the white men dropped it; this is because the next day was the start of the trading with the Gros Ventre. They did not want to do anything to jeopardize gaining more of that Indian gold. There were several more days of drinking, feasting, and trading, after which Nepee said he would forever be a friend to the White Man. But, he still had not divulged the location of the source of the gold before leaving the post.
    more later …..

  6. #6

    Oct 2016
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    The common belief was that the source of the Gros Ventre gold was in the Little Rockies. The following autumn, one of the traders at the post by the name of Hamilton, led some men to the eastern side of the range and conducted a search for Nepee’s gold. They prospected on Dry Beaver Creek and found color, but hostile Indians and the coming of fall forced them from the region.
    Some believed that the source was tied to the Lost Keyes Mine. The source could be either where Keyes found his gold or where, according to the story, his party was attacked by the Sioux and killed; and, after which the Sioux dumped Keyes’ gold into the Missouri River. Fort Browning was a trading post from 1868 to 1872, about two miles from present day Dodson.
    more later ….

  7. #7
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    Dennis

    Jan 2012
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    I had a good friend that that grew up in the Zortman area on the southern edge of the Little Rockies and he related to me that a friend of his and himself found a good assortment of gold nuggets along some south flowing creeks on the southern side of the Little Rockies. He said that he and his friend had several coffee cans full of nuggets. He doesn't remember if his friend sold his cans of nuggets, but he did sell his coffee can of nuggets a long time ago. I'm not sure if these creeks are anywhere near the Zortman mine or not, but they may be in a different area. I have an idea where this area might be, but I have not made up there yet.

  8. #8

    Oct 2016
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    Quote Originally Posted by old digger View Post
    I had a good friend that that grew up in the Zortman area on the southern edge of the Little Rockies and he related to me that a friend of his and himself found a good assortment of gold nuggets along some south flowing creeks on the southern side of the Little Rockies. He said that he and his friend had several coffee cans full of nuggets. He doesn't remember if his friend sold his cans of nuggets, but he did sell his coffee can of nuggets a long time ago. I'm not sure if these creeks are anywhere near the Zortman mine or not, but they may be in a different area. I have an idea where this area might be, but I have not made up there yet.
    Sounds like Beauchamp Creek region, Pike Landusky found an area that was worked years prior to his arrival there. Some thought the area was the Lost keyes Mine.Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #9

    Oct 2016
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    The following article, written in 1920, from a Fallon County newspaper summarizes the story of the Thanksgiving at Fort Browning and other details of Nepee’s secret gold:
    FALLON COUNTY TIMES
    Baker, Montana
    October 21, 1920

    LOST GOLD MINE OF LITTLE ROCKIES; INDIANS KNEW OF IT, BUT KEPT SECRET WELL
    _________________
    It was on Thanksgiving day, 1868, the white man was first told there was gold in the Little Rockies. Just where it came from there is no one now living, nor has there been for many a day, who knows. The secret belongs to the Indians and they, through fears instilled by the early missionaries, would murder rather than to permit it to leak out. In fact, it is believed by old-timers that at least one white man lost his life in the quest of the gold deposit there.
    52 years ago, so it is said by those who long ago learned the facts, there was a Thanksgiving dinner at old Fort Browning on the Milk River about 50 miles below the present site of Fort Belknap. It was given by the officers to the little command and included several white men.
    While the dinner was in progress it is related that an Indian known as Nepee came into the fort with a little bag containing gold dust and nuggets which he showed to Major John Simmons, Captain D.W. Buck, James Stewart (who afterwards died at Fort Peck), and Major Culbertson. He was a fast friend of the whites and gave the sack to Major Simmons. He was taken into the dining room, where the banquet was in progress, and every effort was made to get him to tell where the gold had been found. However, they proved without avail.
    more later ….

  10. #10

    Oct 2016
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    IT WAS DEATH TO TELL
    There is no doubt, it is said, that the Indian would willingly have complied, but he knew well that if he did it would mean his life. He stated as much at the time, that he was afraid his tribe would put him to death as they all had explicit instructions not to divulge the hiding place of the precious metal.
    There was made to him at that time all sorts of offers. He was promised protection from the members of his tribe for all time to come; but, while he was ready and willing to perform any other favorable act to the whites, he would not give up the secret.
    However, it is believed that he did reveal it to at least one white man, and that was Joe Hontus, commonly known as “Buckskin Joe,” who was afterwards killed on the Milk River. Joe and the Indian were on the best of terms. They had slept together and had been on the prairies for weeks and months at a time. It was well known that there was no one whom the Indian thought so much of as he did of Joe.
    Hontus, a few years after the Thanksgiving day the Indian came to the fort, while drinking, stated that he knew where the mines were located and that he was going out to find them. Shortly afterwards, he left. The next seen of him was when his body was found riddled with bullets. It is the general belief of old-timers—and always has been—that Joe started out to find the mine, was discovered by members of the tribe, and put to death.
    more later ….

  11. #11

    Oct 2016
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    SECRET DIED WITH NEPEE
    He died in 1876; and with him passed the only Indian friendly enough with the whites to tell them the place. So far as it has ever been learned, Nepee took his secret with him to the grave. The story goes that, for a long time prior to the Thanksgiving day when Nepee came to Fort Browning, the Indians knew of the existence of gold in the Little Rockies and that they had taken some of it out, after their own fashion. About 1865, they were visited by two French priests and the story has it that they showed these priests some of the gold. Thinking that they would be better able to learn the secret of its location, the priests are said to have informed the Indians that they must never tell the white man that there was gold there, or it would be only be a short time before he would manage to take away their land. This schooling was the means of sealing the secret, and even the priests were unable to learn its location.
    In 1867, one of the priests was put to death by the Indians and the reason for the murder, it is stated, was that he was believed to be possessed with knowledge regarding the location of the gold deposit. There were, in the early days, many of the old miners of northern Montana who sought to find out the secret. Weeks of search lengthened into months; and although there have been those who claim to have found it, no one has been able to bring forth the same class of gold as was exhibited on that Thanksgiving day by Nepee.
    more later ….

  12. #12

    Oct 2016
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    INDIANS KEPT WATCH
    There is a legend connected with this lost mine. But whether or not true, no one can be found who will say. It is said that, after the priest told the Indians what would be the result should they divulge the mine, they put a guard on the mountain pass leading to it. For years afterward this guard was maintained; and even as late as 1875, an Indian sentry is said to have been seen in the Little Rockies.
    There has been gold found there since that day, but nowhere in such quantities as was told of by Nepee. And, there are men living who believe to this day that the secret of the tribe is their own.
    Click image for larger version. 

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