Monday, March 16, 2009

2 Iowa Train Robbery Caches

(Louisa County, Iowa.)

I have to admit that when I think of substantial treasure caches in the U.S., Louisa County, Iowa is not the first location that comes to mind. Yet two large caches of stolen loot from as many train robberies have been well documented over the years, both within the confines of Louisa County near the community of Columbus Junction.

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Here are the details:

1904 Robbery

In 1904, while on the run from "John Law," 3 train robbers fled into Louisa County lugging over $30,000 in gold and silver U.S. coins taken from a train carrying passengers, mail, and payroll. Where exactly this robbery took place is open for research, but it is generally agreed that the robbers buried their ill-gotten goods in 3 separate caches of around $10,000 each.

How did this assumption come about? In the mid-1930s (during the height of the Great Depression) a worker digging a septic line uncovered nearly $10,000 (face value) of gold and silver coins at an unnamed location near Letts, Iowa.


Due to its composition of gold and silver specie, most treasure hunters believe this lucky recovery represents a portion of the loot stolen in 1904. They also theorize that the 3 robbers each carried a third of the stolen coins in canvas bags, but that the weight of the loot slowed them down too much. Each robber then cached his share of the loot before riding off in separate directions.

What became of the 3 robbers is unclear, but it is generally assumed that the other 2 caches (or at least one additional cache) are buried somewhere between Columbus Junction and Letts.

1910 Robbery

The second (and best-documented) train robbery took place 4-6 miles south of Muscatine, Iowa in 1910. In this robbery near Whiskey Hollow, the enterprising criminals blocked the rails and forced the train to screech to a halt. At gunpoint they forced the engineer and fire tender to uncouple all the passenger cars and then "chugged" off toward Columbus Junction with only the locomotive and the mail or "express" car.

Along the way the robbers gathered up all the "goodies" in the express car, including paper money, checks, and gold and silver specie. A mile or two outside Columbus Junction the robbers forced the engineer to halt the train yet again and then fled carrying their stolen loot with them. How much loot? As much as $50,000 some say, but others claim the the train score only netted the robbers somewhere between $5,000-$10,000.

Either way, the robbers had none of the loot with or on them when they were tracked down and captured a short time later. Additionally, none of the stolen loot was ever recovered nor did the robbers ever reveal what they did with it. So it is assumed (quite logically) that they cached or buried the loot somewhere between the second train halt and their capture.

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So there you have it. The legend of 2 Iowa train robbery caches, both with documented aspects to each story. Here's an opportunity through good research for a persistent treasure hunter to perhaps locate a big hoard or two.

Maybe you are that treasure hunter. If so, good hunting!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "The Redbone Cave Treasure"

(c) J.R. 2009

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