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Echoes of War: Mystery of a missing Confederate treasure in Whatcom County, Chapter 4

Editor's note: "Echoes of War" is a six-part, historical fiction story written by Whatcom County history researchers and writers. This is the fourth chapter.

OUR STORY SO FAR

Teddy Arkeson learns from his father that Sehome Mine might have been a source of money for the Confederacy. He also learns his father came upon gold and silver in Georgia while fighting for the Union, a treasure that might have been diverted to Bellingham. If so, what become of the loot?

CHAPTER 4

Teddy Arkeson knew he needed to catch the morning train to The Crossing, as he heard Stephen Brown say he was going to the Everson station to see a relative who had homesteaded near Ever Everson's place.

The sleepy little settlement that had grown up beside The Crossing was becoming quite a little settlement now that the railroad ran through it. One of the homesteaders, C.S. Kale, partnering with Dave Berg, had started a prune-drying business that had grown into maybe the biggest employer in the county, canning fruits and vegetables. There was even talk about incorporating the town.

When Stephen got off at the Everson station he thought a man standing nearby looked just like the tintype of his older cousin, Henry Brown. But how could that be? Henry had left the area over 50 years ago and had not been heard from since.

The man saw Stephen looking at him so he introduced himself by saying, "Greetings, my name is Henry and I do say you look a lot like some of the men in my family."

Stephen replied, "I had a cousin Henry who left Whatcom decades ago and has not been seen since."

"Well fancy meeting you out here, I am your long-lost cousin," Henry told him.

Henry went on to say that he had gone up The Trail in 1858 to the Thompson gold field in British Columbia. He had then traveled with the gold miners from discovery to discovery, ending his search in the Klondike, still without a promising strike. He had always found just enough gold to pay his expenses, plus a little extra for fun and games.

Stephen explained that Henry's name had come up in conversation a few nights earlier at Teddy Arkeson's parent's house in Bellingham, when some men were discussing a tin box and a brass key.

Henry threw back his head and laughed.

"Is that old box still around? I remember on a trip to Whatcom, in the late '60s or early '70s, I forgot to return my room key after a night's stay at the Whatcom Hotel, so I gave the key to my uncle, Mackey Brown. He had an old tin box that he put the key in for safekeeping."

Henry continued. "I am surprised Mackey did not remember that, as he likely used the room a time or two before returning the key."

Then, as an afterthought, Henry said, "Even with that old head injury from the war, Mackey still fancied himself a ladies' man."

"Did your dad ever tell you the story about the time they caught those rebels burying boxes of gold and silver on the Georgia coast?" Henry asked Stephen. "He claimed that he knew those boxes had made a trip across country and up to Whatcom. He thought he knew where they were."

When Teddy found Stephen the next day, Stephen could hardly wait to tell him all that cousin Henry had said. Teddy wanted to question Henry, but Stephen said, "Sorry, he was waiting to take the train back into Canada and then to the East Coast, something about 'business'."

The Everson Hotel, just two doors from the Everson station, had been Stephen's home while he was in the community. The owner, Mary Harkness, the "shirttail" relation he had come to visit, had told him a lot of shady people stayed there, as it was the only hotel between Sumas and Whatcom on the Canadian Pacific Railway line. She had therefore heard a lot of gossip that wasn't heard in Whatcom, as they knew to be very closemouthed in the city.

Harkness had told Stephen, "Met a man once who claimed he knew of a cache of gold and silver in New Whatcom and that some Union soldiers knew of its location."

Samuel Berg, Dave's father, and Ever Everson were both Union soldiers, but they claimed no knowledge of any stash of gold and silver.

Dave Berg was in Everson, and as secretary of the International Organization of Good Templars he knew all of the temperance people in the county, including Mrs. Arkeson, so he told Teddy to extend his mother greetings from the Everson Templars.

Teddy then suggested that he and Stephen take the evening train back to Bellingham so they could relay the important information they had learned. They telegraphed Teddy's father, Phinny, to let him know they were coming.

Jim Berg is a fourth-generation Whatcom County resident, historian and author of three books, "Adventures of a College Housemother,' "The Nooksacht's Trail and Crossing" and "Glen Echo School." His present passion is growing dahlias, plus a large food bank vegetable garden.

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