A stagecoach holdup on the hill behind Wolf Creek led to a legend of gold buried nearby. - Bill Miller

We know where the gold is

What would you do if you almost knew where the gold was buried?

"My mother used to tell us a story about a stagecoach being robbed somewhere near Sunny Valley," said Dottie, in an e-mail from Ashland.

"Her version said before he got caught and sent to prison, a bandit buried a strongbox of gold that no one has ever found.

"Every time I drive by on I-5, I remember Mother's story and wonder how much of it is true. Perhaps you can come up with some information about it. I'll try not to wait with baited breath."

Because buried-loot stories are the kind of tales people keep close to their chests, with neighbor whispering to neighbor and children sworn to secrecy, the truth is sometimes hard to find.

"Just about everybody knew that story when I was growing up near Wolf Creek," said local historian and author, Larry McLane.

"The stagecoach used to run up the hill behind town," he said.

"There used to be a wooden culvert there where they found the robber's shotgun."

Authorities caught the man so quickly, McLane said, that the locals knew he didn't have time to go very far to bury the gold.

"For years," said McLane, "they dug around every tree up there, but it turned out they were digging too far up the hill."

Although he's never been able to find a newspaper account of the holdup, McLane said he's sure the story is true, and the proof came in the 1960s when I-5 was being built.

The old highway had twisted its way up a very steep grade, but planners of the new freeway wanted a straighter road, and that required moving a lot of dirt.

"That was a pretty deep fill," said McLane, "and it took quite a while."

But, that's when the loot reappeared — nearly 100 years after the holdup.

"Workers were making their final grading before paving," said McLane, "and a construction worker named Stewart was standing there while a grader went by, pushing dirt.

"All at once he saw something shiny. He walked over, reached down and picked up a gold double-eagle."

Stewart began "scratching around" in the loose dirt.

He didn't find another coin, but he did pull out a rotted leather money bag.

After that, Stewart spent quite a few weekends looking for the rest of the gold.

"He'd take a pick and shovel and have his wife drop him off," said McLane. "He'd get down beside the fill where nobody could see him and he'd dig hole after hole until they finally caught him and he had to stop."

The remaining gold is "probably scattered and buried inside that fill as you go down into Wolf Creek," McLane said. "That solves the mystery, but nobody's ever going to get to the rest of it."

A weekend treasure hunt sounds like a lot of fun. Too bad about all those cars, but, at least we almost know where the gold is.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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