Beale's version of the story was that he and
30 individuals of good character were seeking adventure and left on a two-year
expedition for buffalo and grizzlies.
Mike Timmerman used metal
detector in hunting.
Whichever is true, a year later when Beale and
his hunting cronies were preparing supper in a small ravine some 250 miles north
of Santa Fe, they discovered strange stuff in the rocks. "Upon showing it
to others," Beale wrote, "it was pronounced to be gold, and much
excitement was the natural consequence."
In two letters, Thomas Beale described the
gold, its journey back to Virginia in two wagons and its subsequent burial. He
deposited the letters in an iron strongbox, and in March 1822, he left the box
with his friend, Robert Morriss, for safekeeping and disappeared.
Morriss, who had fallen on hard times as the
result of "heavy purchases of tobacco, at ruinous figures," was the
innkeeper at the Washington Hotel in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Two months later Morriss received a mysterious letter from
Beale posted on May 9 from St. Louis, then a small hunting and trading post on
the western frontier.
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