South Dakota tale…fact or fiction?

Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm

(Editor’s note: The following was e-mailed from Diana Tong, after an earlier conversation about the information. It was apparently printed at one time in the Wessington Springs True Dakotan. True Dakotan staff couldn’t remember about the article’s publication, but offered to let Tong look through their old issues. I have not been able to locate any more information, but would welcome hearing from anyone who has. Is the following true, or merely a story?)

Buried treasure near Miller

In the early 1860s, an Iowa man made a fatal venture into what is now South Dakota. July 1, 1861, a dying Sam Black, lost in this country, recorded his last thoughts on a piece of paper and put the paper in a bottle. Tightly corked inside the fragile time capsule, the message was preserved until it was discovered in April 1885 by a farmer living southwest of Miller.

The note was poorly written and the paper was faded, but it was readable, and its mysterious contents were both touching and direct:

“Mon., July 1, 1861 – My name is Sam Black and I am going to die. I was wounded at Big Lake first, then ran to the hills where the Indians caught me and left me for dead right here. I have lots of money and I put it under this rock–$5,000. I am getting weak. When you find this think of Sam Black. Iowa was my home.”

The lake referred to by Black was later named Wall Lake.