1860 was a year that had to be full of anxiety, fear and tension like no other. News traveled slow and the talk of war with so many rumors, coming from so many factions, had the populous on edge.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with stressful situations as J.D. Harper did that hot, restless summer. Having the experience of forty years and being a very successful farmer in rural Hickman County, KY near the cities of Columbus and Clinton, Mr.Harper was a loner. As far as anyone knows he gained his wealth with a strong back and a level head, accomplishing everything on his own. The word of the times in Hickman County was that a civil war could cause a business man like him to loose everything he had worked so hard to gain. This fear must of weighed heavy on a man who was a problem solver that knew making the right move at the right time was critical to survival. According to historians account of the story passed down through generations, J.D. Harper's answer to the situation was radical, but not that uncommon for the times. He liquidated all assets, withdrawing around $10,000.00 gold, and sold part of his farm with the crop in the fields, in Columbus. He sold the rest of his farm and stock to his neighbor that farmed adjoining land. This neighbor, believed to be named Davis, but some argue that it was Vaughan, was a man J.D. trusted and where the account of these events originated. He let him have the land on the agreement that the profit from the crops be held and that he could buy back the farm when he returned. J.D. Harper with three slaves melted the gold in 3 sugaring kettles. The kettles, placed on a small horse drawn cart, were driven into a trench that he made the slaves did. Some believe that after the cart was unhitched and almost covered, that Harper shot the slaves and finished burying them and the cart. Several weeks later, with his affairs in order, J.D. told his neighbor that he was going to be gone for awhile. When the man questioned him, Harper told him that the three slaves had run off and probably was long gone, that he had buried the cart, would be in touch with him soon and he would return when things settled down. J.D. Harper was never heard from again and somewhere in Hickman County, KY there is three kettles of gold believed to be worth around $20,000.00 in 1860.
Several years ago I talked with a couple of old timers that lived in Columbus and had heard this story all their lives. They said that the man was named J.D. Hopper. There is no listing of a J.D. Hopper in the census, but there is a J.D. Harper who lived alone in Hickman County in 1860. There is no record of him in 1870 or any other place that we can find and no one knows of the gold ever being recovered.
May all your trails be smooth and your treasure sites many.
Best Wishes and Good Hunting