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Legend of John McGaffey's Gold
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Salty Dog
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71323 Gold -

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the night before his departure, McGaffey urged Sarah to accompany him outside so he could show her where each of the feed troughs was buried, but she declined, stating that there would be plenty of time to worry about the gold and their future plans after her husband had returned from New Orleans. John then gave her verbal directions to the sites, but she paid little heed to his words, being otherwise engrossed at that moment with a sick child.

During the week which followed, McGaffey's trail herd linked up with those of White and Hillebrandt, and the three ranchers began the slow, 300 mile trek to New Orleans. With more than 4,000 steers strung out along the route, it was no doubt the largest drive ever witnessed on the Opelousas Trail up until that year. Except for the many river crossings, which were always negotiated with difficulty, it was a routine drive, interrupted only by the nightly stops at the various "stands" along the way. Each stand owner in Louisiana made his living from the drovers, providing cattle pens, forage, and good food and lodging at reasonable rates for the night.
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Salty Dog
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Posts: 5276



71323 Gold -

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

After nearly six weeks on the trail, McGaffey arrived at New Orleans, where he sold his stock for $9,000, paid off the three drovers and he, Dubois, and Wash began the return journey overland. At dusk of the afternoon of May 13, 1848, the trio had just reached a stand near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, when McGaffey, still in the saddle, was suddenly stricken with chest pains. He dismounted and sat down on a porch to rest, but soon keeled over, expiring instantly. Dubois buried his friend at the cemetery in St. Martinsville and, displaying a brand of honesty rarely encountered, returned to Sabine Pass with Wash and delivered the $9,000 in gold to Sarah McGaffey.

The loss of her husband left Sarah momentarily grief-stricken, but sheer survival on the frontier allowed little time for bereavement. Sarah soon realized what a mistake it had been to be so inattentive when her husband tried to give her directions to the treasure sites or when he offered to draw her a map.
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Salty Dog
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Posts: 5276



71323 Gold -

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

During the ensuing weeks she and her children booked passage on a steamer to Atchafalaya Bay, Louisiana, where they leased a carriage and traveled overland to St. Martinsville. After visiting her husband's grave, Sarah bought a tombstone and had it erected on the site. Back home at Sabine Pass, she spent many days searching for the stakes that McGaffey had driven in the ground near each spot where he had buried a feed trough filled with gold. But her slave's spring plowing and the spring rains had obliterated all sign of freshly-spaded earth or stakes in the cornfield, and the front marsh was at the moment inundated.

When time permitted, Sarah and her slave continued to probe for the treasure, leaving parts of the neighboring field pockmarked from their fruitless efforts. But as the months and years passed, the search waned and eventually ceased, for the McGaffey cattle herd kept her supplied with more gold than she could possibly spend.
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Salty Dog
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Posts: 5276



71323 Gold -

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sarah's children, Neal and Mary, grew up and married, and each reared a large family at Sabine Pass. In 1860 Sarah and her heirs were worth more than $45,000 in land and cattle, exclusive of any gold or other assets she might have on hand, and at the time of her death on July 12, 1871, she was one of the wealthiest women in Jefferson County.

After Sarah's death, her property was parceled out to her children. For decades an intermittent search for John McGaffey's gold continued, at first by her children and grandchildren, and finally by total strangers who brought divining rods, mining compasses, and other strange detecting devices which were used in the pursuit of buried treasure. Bill Longworth was one of those who devoted many years to the search, but never once did his shovel strike the lid of any of the cypress feed troughs filled with gold.
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Salty Dog
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71323 Gold -

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another legend handed down by the McGaffey descendants related an incident when a ship captain asked John McGaffey for permission to build a brick crypt and inter a body in the family cemetery. The coffin was supposed to contain the remains of the captain's wife, said to have died of cholera aboardship, but possibly fearing the plague, no one except crew members attended her funeral or knew for certain what the coffin contained. In time, there were widespread rumors that "her" casket actually contained a vast hoard of pirate gold brought ashore under the disguise of death.

In 1936 the legends gained fresh notoriety when a grandson of Sarah's discovered a grisly scene in the ill-kept cemetery. One morning he found that the above-ground brick vault, the name of its occupant long forgotten, had been broken open. The bones of the deceased person were strewn about nearby. Some vandal treasure hunter, no doubt, believed that he had found the hiding place of McGaffey's gold.
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Salty Dog
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Posts: 5276



71323 Gold -

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If anyone at Sabine Pass still continues the search for the McGaffey treasure today, more than 135 years after its reputed burial, I am not aware of it. But there are many McGaffey descendants still in this vicinity who will tell you that it's still hidden somewhere out on Shell Ridge, in four different places, awaiting the first shovel that strikes its cypress lids.

There were two previous attempts about sixty years ago to publish the McGaffey legend as handed down by descendants, but each article contained such a volume of historical error as to constitute a different story. One writer attributed the hero's role to one "Neil" McGaffey, supposedly John's brother Neal, who was actually a lawyer and never once made the annual cattle trek eastward. Both accounts credit the hero with being an Irish immigrant, who wanted only to "go back to Ireland and build a castle." It would take two pages of type just to correct the mistakes, and it is the writer's belief that what you have just read is the first account that can claim historical accuracy.
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