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Old medicine bottle found in a cave near Steins Pillar features note written in 1886

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Local 4-H boys found hidden treasure after venturing into a cave near Steins Pillar.A group of 4-H boys were roaming near Steins Pillar in 1951. One member of the group was Joe Hereford, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Hereford, who owned the ranch just below Steins Pillar. Others in the group were James Grubbe, Tommy Lawson, Freddie Jacob and Don Bennett. The young adventurers carried a rope and lowered themselves from the top of a rock outcrop near Steins Pillar. They entered a small cave and much to their surprise, they discovered a treasure contained in an old glass medicine bottle.

They eagerly took a piece of paper out of the bottle. It was a note written in pencil on watermarked bond paper, 8 by 5 inches in size. The note stated: "Mill Creek, May 23, 1886 ... All came up to this place on this day. Fine weather, and all well." The note was signed by Mrs. P. Zell, the chaperon; Irene Demaris, W.W. Jackson, Sarah Evans, W.G. Horning, Eva O'Kelley, Carrie Beeler, Mattie Zell, Charlie Pool, Ish Pool, Bennie Zell and Gilbert Beeler.

Irene Demaris was the great-grandmother of Joe Hereford. Four of the note signers were still alive at the time of the discovery. It was related that on a fine spring morning in 1886, that 11 Crook County children and their chaperon went on an expedition to the base of Steins Pillar and decided on a prank. They would bury a "treasure" in a cave near the crest of the middle rock below the top of the tall pillar. They climbed up the rock and somebody had an old medicine bottle. They wrote the note and signed their names and sealed the bottle. Then one of them was lowered to a small cave below the rock while others held their heels. The treasure was safely hidden in the cave.

The note in the bottle had rested in the cave for 65 years and was long forgotten by the surviving signatures to the note. For the surviving signatures, it brought back pleasant memories of their youth. It is not known what happened to the bottle, but the original note is in the archives of the Bowman Museum.


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