Sometime between the years 1870 and 1893, a Wells-Fargo express stage was making its regular run from Virginia City, Nevada, to the state capital, Carson City, where a branch of the United States Mint was in operation.
The regular driver was accompanied by an express messenger, for this was a special trip. The strongbox that lay on the seat between the two men held more than THREE HUNDRED POUNDS of gold bullion destined for the mint. Both men were alert and watchful. The driver handled the six horses skillfully over the rough road, and the guard, his rifle resting across his knees, kept a sharp eye out for Indians and bandits.
The Wells-Fargo Company controlled all the express business in the territory. So high were their tariffs that in the opinion of some of the miners their operations themselves fell just short of highway robbery. To many, a stage robbery was merely a case of robbers stealing from thieves.
Crossing the Carson River, the stage with its precious cargo left old Empire City behind, and off a few miles to the west the driver and guard could see their destination. While they were content and happily preoccupied, four armed men sprang out from behind the tall sage brush. Brakes screeched as the stage came to a sudden, jolting stop. One man stepped forward and seized the bridles of the lead team, while another held at gun point the helpless driver and guard. The two other bandits lifted the heavy strongbox from the seat to the ground.
Unharmed, they arrived in Carson City, excitedly pouring out the news of the hold-up to a rapidly gathering crowd. A posse was quickly assembled and galloped out across the desert to the place where the robbery had occurred. The trail of the bandits, who were on foot, was picked up immediately. They soon spotted the escaping men and a gun battle ensued. Three of the hold-up men went down in a rain of bullets. The fourth, a Mexican, was captured alive and was taken back to Carson City.
It was impossible for four men on foot to carry three hundred pounds of gold bullion very far. Before the posse had caught up with them, they had buried their treasure, planning to return for it later. No amount of threats, bribes or other means of persuasion could make the one remaining hold-up man tell where the gold was buried.
The Mexican was given a quick trial in the court at Carson City and was sentenced to 20 years in the Nevada State Prison. After eight years of his sentence being served, the old Mexican contracted tuberculosis. A sympathetic governor, at the urging of the Wells-Fargo Company, gave him a complete pardon. Detectives followed his every move, but the ex-convict never went back for the gold. He died with his secret.
Through the years many people have sought the treasure, some using metal detectors and divining rods. The robbery took place between the Carson River and a low swampy spot near the state prison, in an area of approximately one square mile. Many of the rocks in this location have high iron contents. If the gold is buried under one of these, it is possible that a metal detector could not give the proper reaction.
The snows of winter cover the ground around Carson City with a protective blanket, but the furious gales of spring and autumn can be friend or foe of those who seek the treasure. They can pile it high with sand, or lay it bare. Searchers have undoubtedly walked over the shallow, hurriedly-dug hole filled with gold bullion many times.
But the gold is still there, somewhere in the strip of desert that lies to the northeast of the prison, waiting for some lucky person to come along and find it.