People Are Still Searching for “Golden Boot” Thought to Be Hidden in Cooke City Region
Steeped in lore of gold rush, road agent and Indian days, the mystery of the “Golden Boot” still defies solution. Solution of the mystery will yield instant wealth, according to the legend which has been kept alive for more than half a century in this mile-high pioneer gold camp.
Two and one-half miles east of Cook City, within 150 yards of a new, modern highway, over which modern cars hurtle into Yellowstone park, there supposedly is buried a prospector’s boot, crammed to the brim with gold dust and nuggets. Within a few yards of the hidden treasure there stands a weather-beaten tree stump and on it is carved a cryptogram which, when correctly solved, should lead to the fabled boot and its legendary riches.
This cryptogram consists of an eight-inch circle, inside of which has been crudely whittled a three-inch cross. Just below these is the date when the gold supposedly was buried—1880. Below the date is a triangle, resembling an Indian tepee, and in large figures underneath are the numerals, 6 and 5.
Many attempts have been made to pierce the riddle of the carved tree stump, but all have failed. Now a new band of excited treasure seekers is at work. They have paced off the area surrounding the stump, have pitted the hillside with futile holes—and have found worthless dirt instead of the boot and gold they sought.
The history of that boot is a bloody one, old timers say. It was yanked from a dead man’s foot, crammed with gold and buried so successfully that heirs of the man who hid it also failed to find it. Here’s the story:
Along about 1880, two prospectors who hit it rich in the bonanza camp of Virginia City, truck the trail for the eastern bright lights. They feared they might fall prey to one of the innumerable road agents who preyed upon lucky citizens of mining camps and decided to risk Indian country rather than travel the palefaces’ trail.
They picked their way across the hills and whacked a treasure-laden mule as far as Cooke City. But they had been followed by gold camp pirates and were attacked high up in the mountains here. One of the miners was slain. His frantic partner jerked a still warm boot from the corpse, packed it with gold and buried it. Then he hid in the hills until the robber bank left.
He returned but, fearing further attacks, left his poke buried in his dead partner’s boot. He then carved the cryptic tree trunk map and continued east. In later years three nephews returned with a map, hired Sam Launchberry, proprietor of the Eagle’s Nest ranch near Cody, Wyo., as a guide, and hunted for months for the boot—and failed.
This summer attempts to locate the treasure were renewed, with excavation being conducted all around the old stump, some hopefuls even following the dictates of a “doodle bug.” The tree stump is on land owned by George Ogden, tourist camp proprietor. He encourages the hunts, but insists on a share of the treasure if it is found.
The Helena Independent, March 18, 1893
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