Casners, Dutch Ovens and Long Lost Gold
The View From Here
Jincy Jane Casner, a widow along with two of her 11 sons, Bill and Dan, came to the lush wilderness of Northern Arizona from Oregon in the early 1870’s. In April of 1875 the family was joined by three other sons - Riley, John and Mose along with Riley’s wife, Rebecca. The three brothers brought 1600 head of sheep and a herd of draft horses. Jane along with Mose, Dan and William then entered the sheep business here joining other local ranchers such as William Henry Ashurst, the Daggs Brothers and Charles H. ODell.
Strong and industrious, Jane along with her sons would make a lasting impression on the place names of our great state. Strong women of immense fortitude typified that era and Jane was no exception. She was said to have worked herding sheep and cattle until she was over 100.
On July 12, 1876 the Casners received $6,300 in $20 gold coins from the sale of the spring wool and lambs near Winslow. The nearest bank at the time would have been Prescott and the Casners, particularly Mose generally didn’t trust banks - so the money was temporarily hidden in a strong leather sack in the sheep camp. While the men were out with the flock an employee named William Clancy located the money and made the decision to steal it. He got the bag on his horse and was gone with a good head start before the theft was discovered. Clancy thought he had the gold tied securely to the strings on the back of the saddle but as he rode it came loose and was lost somewhere on the side of Mormon Mountain. Not knowing that the theft had been discovered or that the Casner brothers were hot on his tail, he turned around and began to retrace his route looking for the gold pieces. He was then overtaken by the Casner brothers who roped him, tied him up to a tree and severely beat him in an effort to get him to disclose the whereabouts of the money. He was only able to disclose that the money had fallen from the back of his saddle and was lost. He was ultimately turned over to the Yavapai County Sheriff as all of what is now Coconino County was then part of Yavapai County.
The story of the lost $6,000 in gold spread throughout the area and the Casners and many locals wasted much time unsuccessfully searching for the loot. Six years later, a sheep herder named Andrew Locy Rogers who was with Lot Smith at the Mormon Dairy at Mormon Lake was out in the mountains tending the communal flock. He came across a pile of what appeared to be funny looking oak leaves. Upon further examination it turned out to be the lost gold. He’d heard of the misfortune of the Casners and in a tremendous show of personal integrity he hauled the money back to Mormon Lake and saw to it that it was returned to the Casner brothers. Unbelievably grateful for his honesty and integrity the brothers rewarded him with ten $20 gold pieces.
Mose Casner didn’t quite learn his lesson though for he still didn’t trust banks. He was said to have buried gold coins in Dutch ovens and tin cans in the camp fire and in miscellaneous other places around his winter home along Walker Creek in the Verde. It was known that he never told anyone including his two sons, Aaron, known as Big A and his brother Lucky where the money was hidden and ultimately took the secret to his grave. I have interviewed old-timers from the period who recall that when they visited Moses’ house in the months following his death the fireplace had been anonymously dismantled stone by stone and the orchard had holes dug under every tree by treasure hunters seeking the lost gold. It was also speculated during the period that whenever someone seemed to have more money or possessions beyond their means that they must have somehow discovered one of Moses’ buried Dutch Ovens.
So next time you are up sampling the quiet beauty of Casner Park or walking down Casner Canyon trail into Oak Creek keep an eye out for the ghosts of Jane and Mose Casner or the edge of a Dutch oven buried in the dirt. Who knows you might get lucky on either account.
If you get out into our spectacular mountain backwoods please be very careful with fire, don’t litter and try to leave the place better for your visit.
Enjoy Northern Arizona!
Bill Cowan's book on the Verde Valley History is available at Candy’s Creekside Cottage in McGuireville, Arizona and from Amazon, eBay, and various other retailers, including the Verde Canyon Railroad.