Compiled by Jessica Sylvanus
Okanogan Centennial Committee
The first settler on the site on Okanogan, it is said, was a real character: "Okanogan Bill" Hanscomb of Wisconsin.
He was a veteran of the Union Army who later deserted his wife and daughter after he apparently witnessed a botched bank robbery in which a bank employee was murdered (1881).
Hanscomb was never accused of the robbery or murder, but he was wanted as a witness. So he took off and ended up in the Okanogan country.
He came to the mouth of Salmon Creek where it meets the Okanogan River and built a cabin there, then sold it to F.J. "Pard" Cummings in 1886.
Cummings opened a trading depot that grew into a large general store that attracted Indians, prospectors, stockmen and adventurers from miles around.
The mining boom was on. What did Okanogan Bill do? Did he pan for gold flakes in the creeks, was he employed in a mine at Ruby did he find employment with a cattleman?
Hanscomb owned, by squatter's rights, a parcel of land a few miles below Ruby. It was on that property that a cache of opium was found by federal agents after his arrest in 1893.
While in Spokane, before going back to Wisconsin, Hanscomb told the law authorities that he had helped two men bury some opium on his property. Federal investigators found the opium, valued at several hundred dollars.
Hanscomb had been taken into custody by sheriff Andrew Williams of Wisconsin and sheriff M.A. Rush of Okanogan County in April 1893.
He was removed to Wisconsin for the delayed trial, where he was charged as an accomplice (but not tried) and used as a witness during the murder trial.
His testimony differed from his previous statements, and he was later tried and found guilty of perjury and sentenced to seven years in prison, where he died.
On his deathbed, he told his daughter that he had buried a can of money ($3,000) on his property.
The money was kept to be used in the opium smuggling traffic in which Hanscomb was interested. It was thought that opium dealers operated between Canada and western Washington through Loomis, Conconully and Salmon Creek.
The daughter didn't care about the money, possibly because she didn't believe the story or she thought the money was ill-gotten.
The story of the hidden treasure reached this county through a deputy sheriff from King County who had heard about it on a trip east where he met the warden of the penitentiary where Hanscomb died.
The deputy spread the word, and the sheriff and he and other deputies traveled to the property hoping to find the pot of gold, but they came up empty-handed.
An eager treasure hunter even hired a medium! The effort failed as the medium was not able to contact a cooperative spirit.
Other seekers were a man and his son who stopped at the home belonging to Sarah Jones, whose land was next to the Hanscomb place. They asked permission to sleep in the Jones' barn.
At night the father and son team searched for the buried money with a huge magnet. They complained that there was so much mineral in the soil that the magnet twitched and jerked in different directions. So they gave up.
Treasure seekers have, over the years, ransacked and scoured the ground and creek bottom, uncovered tree roots, and turned over practically every rock on the Hanscomb property searching for the pot of gold.
Was Hanscomb telling the truth about the buried money? Maybe some scalawag found the money years ago and left quietly, telling no one.
Okanogan Bill Hanscomb was described, at the time of his arrest, as about 52 years old and "tall and slim like an old tamarack, with chin whiskers like Uncle Sam."
Taken from "Glimpses of Pioneer Life of Okanogan County, Washington," a compilation of articles published during 1923 and 1924 in the Okanogan Independent and published in a booklet in 1924. The Independent got its information about Okanogan Bill from oral tradition. The story may have come, in part at least, from Pard Cummings, who certainly knew if he bought a cabin from Hanscomb. And when Hanscomb was arrested in 1893 the people living in the area knew about that, too.