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My True Story of a Bank Robbery

by F. J. (Doc) Woods, Sr.

By K K PradheepPublished about a year ago 6 min read
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In 1865, seven bushwackers took 64,000 dollars from the Centralia bank and 4,000 dollars from a farmer. They came to Springfield, then south on the old Wilderness Road, now highway 65, for about 50 miles. Here they took a by-road that led them to a cave. They could ride their horses into it. Two of them took the money and hid it in a little cave, 80 rods south of the big cave. They went in fifty feet, dropped the money, covered it with dirt and cave moss. They went back to where the watchers were and all headed south for the Boston Mountains in Arkansas, but they did not get there.

The Centralia Bank organized a posse and were hot on the trail of the robbers. They overtook them in the Buttler barns. They killed all seven of the criminals, or thought they had, but one of them came to and made it back to Springfield. A woman said she minded the hogs off the other six until neighbors could bury them .Their graves are in the Buttler barns near Highway 13.

The bandit that got back to Springfield died in a hospital. Before he got away he sent for an old friend that he had gone to school with when they were boys. The man’s name was Weimer. He was a farmer near Springfield. He said the bandit was a mean boy when he went to school with him.

The bandit gave Weimer a way bill of how to find the hidden money. He told him to go south from Springfield, on the old Wilderness Road, about fifty miles to a by-road that led him to a creek. There he would find a big cave that a horse could be ridden into, then go south 80 rods to a little cave. There the money was hidden.

He said it was laid on a shelf rock and covered with dirt and cave moss. He told Mr. Weimer that he would have to go down at the mouth of the cave and at about fifty feet one could look back and see daylight. There he would find the booty. He told him to get it, to give the old farmer back the 4,000 dollars and to keep the rest.

Whether Mr. Weimer got the money is a mystery that has never been explained. Some think he did, others think he did not. I do know there have been treasure hunters looking for it for fifty years. I put in 22 days myself. I did not have any luck.

When I bought the land the money is hid on, a man came from Joplin and asked if he could mine on the place. I knew what he was looking for. I told him no, unless he would give me half. He agreed. He worked about a week and went back to Joplin. He did not find the entrance to the little cave. He left his pick and shovel. I didn’t hear of him any more for a couple of years.

Then one day there came a Mr. Pick from Joplin. He asked me some questions. I told him yes, he might mine if he would give me half. He agreed and started out. He, too, did not find how to get into the little cave. He was going down on the wrong place, just a few feet below the mouth of the cave.

In the spring of 1900 there came a wet spell and the ground got soft. There was a land slide just above the cave. A big rock and a lot of rock came down and hid the entrance to the cave. Most of the settlers knew the story and several hunted for the spoils, but none ever found it, that any one ever knew.

Once there was a man came and camped near the little cave. No one ever learned his name.

Squire Holt, as everybody called him, was living on Railey Creek at that time. He claimed all the land that joined the caves. He went to the supposed treasure hunter and told him that he owned the land, so just load up his belongings and get out. That was in the baldknobber days, and the man left. No one knew where the treasure hunter came from or where he went, but they were sure he did not find a treasure.

After he left excitement ran high. Everybody wanted to explore the little cave, but they could not find the way into it. People came from as far away as Sacramento, California to look for money. All went away disappointed. Some came back several times.

There were two old timers by the names of Ramsey and Gregory, who remembered when the money was put there.

This man Weimer, a friend to the man who died in the Springfield hospital, lived on a farm near Springfield. He called a veterinarian to help with some stock. The veterinarian’s name was Richardson. Wiemer got the habit of calling Richardson often and took a liking to him. Now Weimer had the written plot or waybill to the spoil. He gave it to the veterinarian, and told him to go down and get it, for he was sure no one had found it.

Richardson came the Old Wilderness Road as he thought, fifty miles. He stopped at Ramsey’s to inquire about the country and to see if he

knew anything about the treasure. Ramsey and Gregory were getting old so they told Richardson if he would do the work and give them one-third they would go with him and show him the spot. He agreed.

Richardson had a one-horse rig that they used to go to and from work. They worked two or three weeks and did not find the entrance to the cave. Richardson made up his mind to go to Joplin a while and come back to take another look. I happened to be idle as he came by. He stopped and asked me to go with him for one more look.

I went with him. We stopped where they had been working; I looked at the lay of the ground. I pointed up the hill a little ways and said, "there is the cave up there." Sure enough it was. It was covered with rocks and dirt and the big rock had almost filled the entrance. We got a long pole and ran it back as far as the pole would reach. The further back the pole went the more certain we were that there was a cave.

He was anxious to clean the dirt and rocks away so we could see if it was the money cave. Before we got into the main room, Mr. Richardson told me how the cave would look. He described it just as we found it. The shelven rock was there and we could see a little light at the entrance.

We broke the rock that had blocked the mouth of the cave. We made a wheel barrow, got a wash tub, and a pick and shovel and went to work.

He thought we would sure find the money as soon as we got a tunnel cut to it. We worked 22 days. He ate and slept near the cave. All we found was the cave as the map that Weimer gave him, explained it.

Richardson ran out of potatoes and money. He lived on potatoes most of the time. I would sometimes take him some milk and a hunk of cornbread. That was what I had been living on. We were all worked down and all I got out of the deal was a bump on my head.

He hitched his horse to his wagon one morning and headed for Joplin. He said he was coming back. He was sure the money was still there. He never came back. He wrote me a letter. He said for me to hire some one to help me work and he would send me pay for the work.

After we quit the hunt there have been numerous treasure hunters come a looking.

I am sure the money was hid in this cave. If it has been found no one but the finder knows it.

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