As many men worked in the large mines of Nevada in 1860, the gold ore was shipped out, and their payroll was shipped in. Outlaws lost no time taking advantage of the shipments and lightening the load of stagecoaches and trains. As the heists became increasingly frequent, one paymaster, to outwit the bandits, placed the payroll in gold coins into a nail keg and shipped it by simple freight. But, word of the paymaster’s cunning plan leaked out, and as the stage was traveling back to the mines, it was held up by two masked men just outside of Genoa. Nothing but the nail keg was taken.
A massive search for the outlaws and the gold ensued, but nothing was ever found. Before long, the episode was forgotten until a dying miner in a Montana boom camp confessed to robbing the stage of its nail keg in 1860. As the old miner lay on his deathbed, he told how he and a friend rolled the nail keg into the nearby trees, where they opened it. Inside they found some $20,000 in twenty-dollar gold pieces. Each of them then took $1,000 and then buried the keg near a tall pine tree close by. Wanted by the law, both men hightailed it out of Nevada. However, according to the dying miner, neither one ever returned to retrieve their stolen cache.
Soon, the legend of the miner’s dying confession reached Genoa, and a new gold rush broke out all over Carson Valley. Just about every tree near Genoa and the road near the old stage station were dug around. However, no one found the stolen loot.
In 1882, a large avalanche hit the area, destroying part of Genoa, carrying away countless trees on the surrounding slopes, and possibly moving the gold. Several discoveries of coins throughout the years have given further credence to the legend.
In 1916 a Genoa Blacksmith with his son was digging around the trees in search of the gold and found a chest with $2,000 inside. Later, in 1948 an undetermined amount of gold coinage was found when construction workers dug out a basement. In 1961 about one hundred $20 gold pieces were found on a hillside near Genoa. Other than these finds, the remainder of the stolen cache is still hidden near Genoa.
©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated March 2023.