Friday, February 03, 2023

The Victorio Peak Treasure Part Four


Jim Eckles, writing in the White Sands Missile Range newspaper, reported an interesting confirmation to one point in the rather long and convoluted story. An old-timer, living in El Paso, told him that Noss would buy copper bars in Orogrande, New Mexico and take them to El Paso to have them gold plated.

The San Andres Mountains and Victorio Peak on the White Sands
Missile Range. Photo copyright by Kevin Randle

Although Ova Noss had visited the Denver Mint to learn if Milton “Doc” Noss had made any deposits at the Mint between November 1937 and March 1949. Remember, Noss had claimed he had taken some of the gold to the Mint worth, according to him $90,000 but the Mint had confiscated it. There were no records that there were any deposits of gold made to the Mint in that time frame by Noss. Other records showed that Ova Noss had written the Mint in 1939, explaining they had a map showing the location of gold bars but said nothing about knowing the exact location. She was told to notify the Mint immediately if they found anything.

That one aspect of the tale seemed to break down, but there was another aspect that bears directly on the suggestion of “faked” gold bars. Charles Ussher of Santa Monica, California submitted a gold bar to the U.S. Treasury for analysis. Ussher said that he had bought the bar from a man named Grogan for two hundred dollars. The analysis showed there was about ninety-seven cents worth of gold in the bar. Grogan, it turned out, was Doc Noss, according to a Secret Service investigation.

Other stories tend to corroborate some of this. Noss, as he tried to sell the gold, often arrived at the meetings with gold painted bricks. He said it was because he didn’t trust those who were buying the gold. He wanted to see the money before he produced the real gold. In all his dealing with these individuals, he never produced a solid gold brick, though he did show people small amounts of gold and gold bars that could have been gold plated.

Michael Webster, in an article published on May 17, 2021, reported that “an old timer from El Paso calls me periodically to talk about Victorio Peak. He claims he knew Noss and that Noss used to buy copper bars in Orogrande and have the electroplated with gold in El Paso. When asked why he doesn’t tell the story to the press, he says he doesn’t think they would care. It would spoil the story.”

Webster also wrote that another old timer who ranched near Victorio Peak said Noss used to salt the sand at the springs around the base of the peak, meaning, of course, adding gold to the sand. When investors showed up, Noss would be panning flakes of gold out of that sand.

Even with all the confusion, the Denver Mint was interested in solving the mystery once and for all. The Secretary of the Army asked General Shinkle, then commanding the White Sands Missile Range, for his position. The general responded that he would deny entry to the base unless he received permission from the Army to allow a search. He didn’t want to set a precedent that would haunt them in the future.

On August 5, 1961, Fiege and his group were allowed to enter the range and work at Victorio Peak. For five days Fiege and his partners tried to enter the tunnel that he had sealed in 1958 but failed to do so. General Shinkle eventually had enough of it and told them to cease operations.

On September 20, General Shinkle notified the Secret Service he would allow Fiege back on the missile range. He would be restricted to the tunnel he found and not allowed to begin any new excavations.

Work continued periodically for the next five weeks under the surveillance of Captain Swanner; an officer stationed at the missile range. In late October, according to the records at the missile range, two men were caught trespassing. Swanner ordered them from the area, but not before they had demanded a piece of the action.

The men told Ova Noss that the Army was working on Victorio Peak. Noss accused the Army of trying to steal her treasure and, in December 1961, Shinkle shut down the operation and excluded all who were not engaged in actual missile research from the range.

It should be noted that Jim Eckles, in his reports on the story, made the fine distinction between what has been reported and the facts that had been spread. The Army was not engaged in retrieval operations. They allowed a group onto the range who had made a claim. Given the laws of the land, Fiege’s claim was as valid as that of Ova Noss.

The continued search coming up in Part Five

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