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Chapter 45

Ney’s gold: The untold story

The following is excerpted from "Lost Treasures" Magazine:

"…Ney for years had owned the Henderson brewery property south of Henderson. He had amassed a fortune in gold and when he died none of it was found in his home or deposited in a bank. After the brewery was razed, treasure hunters obtained permission to dig a 30-ft. shaft under the old site. They believed Ney had an underground vault where he stored his fortune. The search for the vault was unsuccessful and what became of the gold is unknown."

The most interesting thing in the story is the Brewery Cave described as a substantial arched brick entrance. The cave housed the spring that cooled the beer which was located in the cellar under the brew house. The cave was certainly part of Ney’s property.

Perhaps Ney did have an underground vault where the gold was stored. Perhaps the only access to the vault was through this cave.

Perhaps? Perhaps…

Over the years the old brick cave entrance to the brewery has crumbled and disappeared from view.

Lost to the ages?

To be continued...

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Chapter 46

Ma Barker: The curtains close

Ma Barker, born Arizona Donnie Barker, who often was called Kate, breathed her last in 1935 in Ocklawaha, Florida. FBI agents from Jacksonville surrounded her house, and an agent called out, “Unless you come out we’re going to start shooting.”

Ma replied, “Go ahead!”

What followed has been described as the longest gun battle the FBI was ever involved in. Reportedly some 1500 rounds of ammunition were poured into the house. When it ended, Ma and her son, Freddie, were found dead in the house.

Rumor has it that the Barker gang buried $150,000 in a canvas- wrapped metal box underneath a fence post between Chatfield and Rochester along old state highway 52. It was never found.

Connecting the dots: Could Ma’s gang had come upon Ney’s fortune and appropriated it for their own good? Could it be in that buried box somewhere along highway 52?

Maybe?

To be continued...

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Chapter 47

The view from the hilltop

From the back of St. Thomas Church looking east the view is awesomely beautiful. The Valley spreads out for miles to the north and south. The river winds a crooked, zigzag path along the bottomland. To the east, the verdant hills formed the top frame of the landscape.

This is Jessenland.

In the days of the early European settlers – mostly Irish, some French, and Germans, too – it was Gessen Land, inspired by a long ago visit by Joseph Cretin, the first Catholic Bishop of St. Paul, who came, saw and exclaimed, “This is what the [Biblical] land of Gessen was like…” to which he added, “This is the promised land flowing with milk and honey.”

This was the setting on a June morning in 1934.

Surely it was a perfect day for a celebration.

To be continued...

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Chapter 48

11 o’clock on a Saturday morning at the church in Jessenland

The sanctuary at St. Thomas Catholic church was full, indeed overflowing. People who arrived late were standing outside.
In a pew near the front Zeke was sitting next to the newly-elected sheriff. The odd couple. In low voices they visited before the service begin.

“Guess I forgot to congratulate you on being elected sheriff,” Zeke commented.

“If it weren’t for Shorty I wouldn’t be here, let alone be sheriff,” the former deputy remarked. “I’d a bled to death out there alongside Rush River. The whole thing got me to thinking, Zeke. I’d been making a mess of my life up to then. Shorty saved my life and gave me a chance to start fresh.”

“Helluva guy, right?” Zeke said, looking straight ahead.

Win Working was sitting next to his boss, Gus Buck. “You gonna write the story, Gus, or do I get to do it?”

“I think it only right that we collaborate, Win. I’ll even put your name first.”

Win looked around the crowded church and finally said, “Where’s Doc? I don’t see him anywhere. Strange.”

“He’ll be along shortly. I believe he has a special role in the services this morning.

“Hush up, the organist is starting to play…there’s Father Sullivan, too. I think things are about to get underway.”

The rear door of the sanctuary opened and all heads turned to look.

To be continued...

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Chapter 49

A trip to Herbie’s barber shop. The Barbasol treatment

At first glance some did not recognize Shorty. And for good reason. The day before he had walked into Herbie Wigand’s barber shop, slapped 3 bucks on the back counter, and said, “The works, Herbie, or whatever 3 bucks ‘ell get me.”

“You’ll get a shave, haircut and the Barbasol treatment…and I’ll give you a buck back. My present for the occasion. Sit down and settle back.”

Herbie proceeded to what he did so well. Cut and trimmed Shorty’s two months of hair growth, lathered him up and covered his face with a hot towel. “Ouch! What the hell you tryin’ to do to me? Smother me?”

“Just giving you ‘the works,’ Shorty. If you came in here more often you know what this is all about. Be still while I get the straight edge. And don’t worry… I know how to handle a razor.”

A half hour later Herbie set the chair upright, reached for the Barbasol aftershave on the back counter, and splashed it liberally on Shorty’s face.

“Damned stuff burns and it smells like a French whorehouse!” Shorty said as he sprung out of the chair.

“And how would you know that, Shorty?”

* * * * * * * *

Now, this morning at St. Thomas Church, Shorty stood in the back of the church, in his only blue suit, a yellow tie, and brown cowboy boots. To the best of anyone’s memory the boots were polished for the first time. There he waited as the organist began playing the familiar introductory music.
Then he walked slowly up the center aisle, at the front he turned and faced the congregation. A wide smile covered his smooth-shaved face.

To be continued...

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Chapter 50

“Here comes the…”

At that precise moment the church organist segued into Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” (the familiar “Here come the bride…”). Again, heads turned to the rear entry door of the church. Molly O’Gara stood there, tall, attractively attired in a black skirt, white blouse and a black tailored jacket. Those close noticed she was wearing black flat shoes. She was on the arm on Dr. Jacques Duclos, whose honor it was to give away the bride.

Throughout the gathered crowd, women drew white handkerchiefs from their purses and dabbed their eyes.

“Well, did you ever,” Sadie Stelter said under her breathe as she nudged her husband, Clarence, and held a white hanky to her own eyes.

Doc walked Molly up the aisle to the front of the church, beamed, then stepped aside, turned and took an open seat in the pew next to Win Working and Gus Buck. Shorty took three paces forward and stood next to the bride-to-be. The top of Shorty’s head was level with Molly’s shoulders, even with the help of his thick-heeled cowboy boots.

Reverend Father Sullivan stepped forward and the ceremony began.

Do you, Orville Higgins, take this woman, Mary O’Gara (yes,Mary, her real name) to be your...

Outside, a fast-moving June shower had come and passed. The sun came out and a rainbow arched across the valley in a north-south direction. Here and there you could catch a glimpse of the river as it shimmered in the noonday light. It had been out of its banks the month earlier but had retreated and was tame and serene on this day.

It was a good day to be alive in Jessenland…or Gessen Land, if you prefer.

The end…

But...more to come...

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EPILOGUE

There you have it. Need I re-remind you that this is a work of fiction? It never happened. Some of the characters are real and lived in Henderson during the years of the story; principally, Win Working, Gus Buck, Dr. Duclos, Wilhelm Ney, Joe Berla, and Nelson Carpenter.

John McGovern, the U.S. Attorney, was, indeed, the U.S. Attorney in the years of our story, a native of Arlington and, as Minnesota Gopher quarterback, he was the University’s first All-American.

(In the mid-1930s Independent Publisher, Gus Buck, wrote a flattering editorial urging McGovern to run for governor. Buck wrote: “We don’t feel at all remiss in being the first to propose John McGovern as the next governor of the state of Minnesota…and though this may be the first you may have heard of this—it won’t be the last.”)

Reportedly, McGovern had no interest in running for public office, but he was held in high esteem throughout Minnesota.

The other characters, notably the moonshiners, the sheriff and deputy, and Molly O’Gara, all are creations of the writer’s imagination and should not be interpreted otherwise. Likewise, the story of the bodies fictitiously unearthed from beneath the floor of the now-demolished casket factory; and the characters portrayed as the factory owners. All were fabricated by the author.

Oh, Ma Barker, Orville “Creepy” Karpis and the gang – all real, though it is doubtful they ever set foot in Henderson.

In all of my stories involving actual people who once lived in Henderson, it is always my intent to treat them with dignity and respect. I’ve lived long enough to have known many of them, and they are all part of my enjoyable years growing up in Henderson.

The Ney gold? Fictitious, although a magazine on lost treasurers actually ran a story on the search for purportedly buried gold on the old Henderson brewery property. Nothing ever came of it. The author recalls seeing the collapsed brick entry to the brewery cave as a kid while swimming in Brewery Lake.

(Swimming in Brewery Lake??? Ugh!!!!)

Do I have another story in me?

Never say never.

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