Aug 28, 2011

Texas Treasure Hunter Alert- Outlaw Gold!

The legend of Sam Bass has grown way out of proportion in relation to his actual deeds. A book collector claims that he has over 200 titles that deal with Sam Bass in some way. One of Round Rock's major streets bears his name as do several businesses. Texas history has often referred to him as "Texas' Beloved Bandit" or "Robin Hood on a Fast Horse". In actual fact, Sam was probably more inept than brave or noble, and he appears to have never realized that robbing trains and banks was anything more than an amusing diversion. For him it was mere sport, the reality that people often were injured, either physically or financially, appears to have never surfaced on his shallow conscience.

To follow is an account of his 27-year life, focusing mostly on his final days in Round Rock.-

As a legend, the accounts of Sam's life are as varied as the number of individuals telling the tale. For the events during and after the shootout, all of the stories have been gathered for the reader to examine; thus, throughout the narrative, differing views are presented. The basic story line remains; the differing accounts are offered to allow the reader to appreciate the full extent of the legends and lore that have grown up around Sam Bass.  Sam Bass was born in Indiana on a farm two miles from Mitchell, on July 21, 1851, he was soon orphaned and he and his brother and sisters moved to a nearby farm to live with their uncle and his nine children.

As a child, Sam received no formal schooling and he chose to strike out on his own in 1869. Sam traveled down the Mississippi, to Rosedale, Mississippi, where he worked for a year in Charles' Mill. It was here that Sam learned how to handle a pistol and honed his card playing skills. In 1870, Sam met up with Scott Mayes, a teamster headed to Denton, Texas. Sam had always been taken with the idea of moving to Texas and becoming a cowboy, and this looked like his chance.

The two arrived in Denton, and Sam found employment with Sheriff W. F. "Dad" Eagan (who would later spend much effort searching for the outlaw Bass). Sheriff Eagan employed Sam not as a deputy but as a farmhand; he curried the horses, milked the cows, cut firewood, but, most importantly, Sam spent some time as a teamster. It was at this position that he became acquainted with the country and learned all the trails, back roads and thickets that he would later use to elude the Texas Rangers.

In Denton, Sam was considered to be a hard worker and was known for his thriftiness. It was here that he also met many of his friends, with whom he would later engage in unlawful activities. Saving his earnings, he was able to purchase a 15-hand mare, referred to as the "Denton Mare". This racehorse was fast and soon earned Sam enough money for him to quit his job with Sheriff Eagan and retire to a life of horse racing, gambling and saloon patronizing.

After 1875, Sam never again held a permanent job, living instead on his gambling proceeds and eventually on thieving.  In December of 1875, Sam met Joel Collins in San Antonio. Together they decided to run a herd of cattle to the northern markets. This eventually took them to Nebraska, where they sold the herd and used the money to take up gold prospecting in the Black Hills. This venture left the two broke. To offset their losses, they turned to robbing stages. In association with Jack Davis and another man known as Nixon, they held up seven stages over the next few months. The "Black Hills Bandits", as the gang was known, tired of the puny payoffs from the stage robberies, turned their attention to the more lucrative crime of  train
 Their first train job took place at Big Spring Station, Nebraska at 10:48 P.M. on September 18, 1877, under a big moon. The bandits forced the station- master to signal the coming express train to halt and then boarded. Finding only $450 in the "way safe," they brutally beat the express messenger with a pistol in an attempt to force him to open the "through safe", which had a time lock preventing it from being opened until the train reached its destination. Finding some wooden boxes, the bandits broke them open revealing $60,000 worth of freshly minted $20 gold pieces headed from the San Francisco Mint to an Eastern bank.

The bandits divided the gold coins six ways and then in pairs split up, each pair heading in a different direction. Joel Collins and his partner were shot and killed a week later. Another pair, composed of James Berry and Nixon, was split up and Berry was captured; Nixon, it is assumed, escaped with his share to Canada. The third pair, Sam and Jack Davis, rode south in a one horse buggy-- their share of the haul stowed under the seat.

At some point on their trip back to Texas, Sam and Jack Davis were joined by a company of soldiers and detectives who were searching for the train robbers. Sam and Jack Davis convinced these men that they too were searching for the bandits in the hopes of receiving a large reward. After four days, Sam and Jack Davis split from the other men and rode back to Denton. Once in Denton, Sam explained his new found wealth from a strike he had made prospecting in the Black Hills. His money and good spirits attracted many people, some of whom would later become a part of the "Sam Bass Gang" when he took to robbing trains in Texas.

It is assumed that Sam would have reached Denton by late autumn; yet, by February of 1878, Bass had begun to rob trains again. Why? How could he have spent $10,000 in less than four months? Many people have believed that there was no way that he could have spent the money; so they have speculated that Bass hid his gold. Stories abound of individuals searching for the Bass gold. One story places the hidden gold in a cave in East Mountain at Mineral Wells (Grigsby). Another legend speculates that Bass held on to his gold until he headed to Round Rock to rob the bank, hiding the gold in a cave west of Prairie Dell near Big Blue Spring for safekeeping during the robbery ("Amazing Story"). If anyone ever found the Bass Gold they never reported it. Since it is hard to imagine that Sam could have used up all of his gold before he started train robbing again, it lends credence to the story that Sam robbed for sport more than for profit.

Whatever the reason, the "Sam Bass Gang" stood up the Texas Central train at Allen Station on February 22, 1878. This holdup netted the gang $1,300 and on March 18th they again held up the Texas Central, this time at Hutchins. The Texas and Pacific Railroad was hit on April 4th at Eagle Ford and again on the 10th at Mesquite.

Only the first robbery resulted in any significant payoff for the gang and the style of these robberies was highly amateurish; prompting some observers to speculate that the robbers were either extremely nervous or drunk at the time of the holdups due to the fact that during two of the holdups the gang missed large stashes of money that had been hurriedly hidden by the express messengers.

During the time of these Texas train robberies, the "Sam Bass Gang" was staffed by Frank Jackson, Seaborn Barnes (who was shot in the legs during the Mesquite job), Thomas Spotswood, Arkansas Johnson, Henry Underwood, Sam Pipes and Albert Herndon; Bass and Barns took place in all four of the robberies, Jackson participated in three, Johnson in two and the others in one. After the Mesquite Robbery, a cry of indignation went out from the people of North Texas. The Governor decided that the time had come to call in the Texas Rangers once again.

 Sam Bass ultimately met his fate by the barrel of a gun in Round Rock, as for the freshly minted $20 dollar Liberty Gold Coins? Your guess is as good as mine.
North Texas legend has it that Bass and his partners in crime hid out from the Rangers in the homes of ornery farmers,in or around Round Rock who didn't identify with the passengers who lost their gold watches.. nor with the bankers who lost cash to the young robbers.

 There's a story that Bass was allowed to stay at a farm, where he was sheltered in an outbuilding and may have buried a substantial amount of gold coins on their property, telling his protectors that he intended to come back for his buried treasure. “The money was never found" ..

Aug 23, 2011

Treasure Found In Farmer's Field Near Canterbury U.K.

                                                    Click Here To Read Entire Article

Real Estate Developer Bets On Lost Spanish Treasure

Video from 06/28/2010   As hurricane Irene looks likely to track through the Bahamas, I can't help but think about the possibility of some fresh treasure finds that will almost certainly be deposited in the sands along the treasure coast of Florida.

Aug 15, 2011

Sunken Florida Ship Yields Golden Treasure

                                 All I can say is WOW .. The 1715 fleet just keeps on giving.
                               For treasure hunters everywhere , this would be a dream come true!
                                   Good going Bonnie & Jo .. Hope you find lot's more!!
                                         Check Out Bonnie's site Gold Hawg Treasure!!

Aug 1, 2011

Salvaging The SS Brother Jonathan

Tales of sunken treasure have fascinated the world since perhaps the first sunken ship, but few can claim a story of their own.
Ken Privitt

Ken Privitt is a technical marketing engineer at Intel who happens to have built a small submarine with his father years ago. Now, a lot of Intel employees have interesting hobbies and stories to tell, but Privitt's may be among the more unique. His story involves a nearly 150-year-old shipwreck, the submarine, the Supreme Court, and a fortune in gold. It even has an interesting twist.

The short version goes like this: Fifteen years ago this August, 564 gold $20 double eagle coins were recovered from the wreck of a paddle-wheel steamer named the SS Brother Jonathan using a small submarine. Privitt built that sub - a 15 ½-foot, 5,000-pound steel craft named the Delta - with his dad, Doug, a long-time machinist. The younger Privitt designed the pressure vessel and electrical, life support and propulsion systems from scratch using a self-built computer with core memory ("Pretty amazing for 1979," Ken said), and those contributions enabled the Delta to go down to 1,320 feet, making the mini-sub ideal for the job.

The before and after give this treasure tale its punch, albeit at the expense of 225 souls who perished in what remains one of the worst maritime disasters in U.S. history.

On Sunday, July 30, 1865, the Brother Jonathan was headed to Portland from San Francisco carrying 244 passengers and millions of dollars in newly minted gold bars and $20 Double Eagle gold coins. Under Capt. Samuel J. DeWolfe and clear blue skies, the ship made a brief port call to the near-halfway point of Crescent City. About a half-hour after re-embarking, the paddle steamer ran into a seasonally unusual severe storm. Enduring massive waves, some cresting at 30 feet high, terrified passengers begged the captain to head back to Crescent City, which DeWolfe did. Nearing the harbor, the skies cleared but not the mountainous waves. A strong tailwind made navigating unstable and the ship struck an uncharted rock, the impact sending the nine-story mast through the hull and ensured that the Brother Jonathan would founder. As screaming passengers were being washed off the decks by the waves, efforts were made to launch the six lifeboats capable of carrying all passengers and crew. Alas, due to the huge waves, only one lifeboat made it safely to shore.

"Because some of the 19 survivors were the crew, we know the details of what happened," said Privitt, 55. Information included what cargo was aboard – goods that lay somewhere on the ocean floor. "A lot of gold was on that. There were shipments that included a U.S. army payroll and an Indian treaty payment, and all the money was in gold coins or bullion. The ship was loaded, some believe overloaded. Back in 1865 there were no shipping rules for packing."

Fast-forward about 125 years and we come to where Privitt enters the story – a part that usually happens only in adventure novels, movies and video games. Aware of the submarine built by Privitt and his father, a representative of Deep Sea Research came knocking at the elder Privitt's machine manufacturing and marine fabrication operation - named MARFAB - in Santa Ana, Calif.
Ken Privitt poses with the Delta sub he designed with his father. Photo taken in 1982, the year the Delta made its maiden launch.

"This guy came in talking about treasure," the son recalled. "He wanted to use our sub to find the SS Brother Jonathan. My dad brushed him off at first, but since the sub was being used for oceanography research in Alaska and was passing Crescent City after dive season anyway, he figured 'What the heck. No skin off my nose.' When the man offered 4 percent of whatever they found, it was a deal."

During the initial salvage mission another contractor's mini-sub, the Snooper, actually found the Brother Jonathan, its gravesite unknown until technology could outsmart Mother Nature's challenges of rocky and dark underwater passageways, treacherous weather and mighty currents, plus human miscalculations of where the ship might have eventually settled. About a year later, with salvage rights secured, or so one thought, the Privitts' mini-sub would make history roughly 2 miles south of what is now called "Jonathan Rock." On Aug. 30, 1996, the Delta brought to the surface a cigar box-sized container found near the wheelhouse.

"That's where the purser was and my dad figured that's who you'd give valuables too," Privitt said.

When the salvors opened up the box on the team boat, found in mint condition were $2 million in one-ounce $20 double eagle gold coins. The one person who was not there for the big moment was the Delta's co-builder, and for ironic reasons.

"I get seasick," Ken Privitt shared with a laugh. "Before the Brother Jonathan thing, we'd be out on dives for a week and they didn't care I was over the side chumming a bit. I had to work. I was on the boat! Literally, I was seasick 24/7 because I'd get sick in my sleep, too. I would dream that I was working."

As for the sunken treasure, eventually 1,207 gold coins were recovered along with numerous artifacts. Some of the coins were encrusted from a century-plus of sea life, but the reason why many were found in mint condition, and, thus, more valuable, was they were discovered still wrapped in protective oil paper.

As for divvying up the booty, the salvors faced another series of challenges, only this time on land and mostly in the courtroom. Descendants of passengers, shippers and even the salvors themselves all battled for a share of the treasure, but the loudest voice came from the state of California, claiming it not only owned the rights to the wreck and everything located close to its shores. A long legal battle between the recovery team and the state over ownership of the coins went all the way to the Supreme Court before being unanimously decided in favor of the finders. The appropriately nicknamed "Golden State" threatened to appeal, but in 1999 dropped the matter when it settled for 200 of the $20 double eagles, estimated at $5,000 per coin or $1 million.

The remaining 1,006 coins were sold in a public auction and raised $6.3 million, the low end of what the auctioneers had estimated. After taking their fee, about $4.6 million was left. Deep Sea Research, saddled with all the costs and legal expenses, wound up with a very small return on investment. As for the Privitts, Dad earned $40,000 "and a helluva story," said the son, who received zilch, but a helluva story.

"The money my dad made went into MARFAB, so he really didn't get anything either," he said. "As for me, I enjoy telling the story even though the only active part was in building the submarine. If I hadn't built it none of that would have happened."

The younger Privitt did wind up with three of the auctioned double eagles. The man who helped get them there didn't even merit a discount. Successfully bidding between $2,000 and $2,500 for the three coins, he gave one of them to his mom before she passed away. Dad, 78, now possesses it. The other two gold pieces are earmarked for his two children, ages 22 and 21. Asked why he hasn't given the coins to them yet, he replied with a playful smirk, "They'll get them some day, eventually."
A bounty of $20 double eagle gold coins was resurfaced by the Delta. The hand belongs to Doug Privitt, who built the sub with his son, Ken, an Intel engineer.

The first in his family to go to college, Privitt earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering from UCLA. His destiny of going in that direction was pretty much set at the age of 4, when his father, a curious and adventure-seeking machinist, heard about a man named Ed Armstrong who was building a submarine just down the street in their Torrance neighborhood.

"They immediately hit it off," Privitt said. "I'd say he and my dad built 7 to 11 submarines before they broke off after disagreeing on my dad's new design that put the ballast tanks on the front and back instead of the sides for more stability. My dad's design was correct."

With Dad on his own, the son, who started out as a studious observer, became more hands-on over the years. In fact, during and after college he worked for his dad at MARFAB as a project engineer. His experience designing and building receivers and acoustic beacons helped him land a job at Magnavox, but not before finishing and launching the Delta. After 5 years of GPS design, working heavily with Intel microprocessors, Privitt left Magnavox for Intel as a field application engineer. That was in 1985 and he's been with the company ever since, earning a prestigious Intel Achievement Award along the way for his contribution to InfiniBand, an architecture and specification for improved data flow between processors and I/O devices.

Though he maintains an office at Intel's Folsom, Calif. campus, not far from where he resided from 1980 to 2006, he now works as a technical marketing engineer out of his home in the San Diego community of Pacific Beach. He lives with Nancy, his wife of 5 years and who he met while studying at UCLA.

Just four years from the sesquicentennial of the Brother Jonathan disaster, there's a murmur among the salvage community about a return to the wreckage that lay a couple of miles off Crescent City. Some say that four-fifths of the treasure remains down there just waiting to be discovered. Should an expedition team be formed with plenty of money and legal rights, don't expect the younger Privitt to be a party to the salvage mission at sea.

"I like working, but I'm just a Joe Average engineer," he said. "Plus, it's the constant bobbing up and down of being at sea. If I had sea legs I would be a submarine operator. It's a very profitable business. I'm at Intel because I get seasick."