Hidden Treasures of Neahkahnie Mountainby J. D. Adams
Oregonís quaint coastal towns were born of historic legends emerging from the ocean mist. With unique character and features, every village has a story to tell. Perhaps the most cryptic area on the Oregon Coast is Neahkahnie Mountain, just north of the town of Manzanita. It is here that coastal lore and recovered artifacts intersect in a tangled web of mystery.
Clatsop Indian legends speak of two ships, one that wrecked on Nehalem Beach with a cargo of beeswax, and a second ship that anchored offshore of Neahkahnie Mountain. A landing party from the ship buried a treasure chest on the slopes of Neahkahnie, marking the spot with an inscribed rock. Yet unfound, to this day it is guarded by the ghost of a black man who was killed and buried along with the treasure.
In another possibly related twist, the skeleton of a Negro giant was unearthed near the mouth of the Salmon River several years ago, and the remains of a ship are said to lie in the estuary. Further clouding the issue is the fact that the skeletal remains mysteriously disappeared afterward.
Many industrious and resourceful people have attempted to find the lost wealth of Neahkahnie Mountain, literally honeycombing parts of it. The depression years were a flurry of activity. The many intriguing artifacts they have unearthed have only deepened the mystery. On display at the Tillamook County Museum are rocks found on Neahkahnie Mountain that bear cryptic symbols, as if mapping the treasureís location. Only a few people know the original locations of these rocks. Also on display are some of the blocks of beeswax that were obtained by early settlers. These bear stamped trade markings that were in use in the 1600ís. Spanish galleons plied Pacific waters until the 1800ís, with cargoes of beeswax destined for Catholic missions. When Lewis and Clark came upon the scene, local Indians had been finding and trading the beeswax for many years.
My wife and I made Neahkahnie Beach our destination, armed only with our curiosity and a good map. (Unfortunately, not a treasure map.) We arrived at bustling Manzanita, a town clinging to the southern slope of Neahkahnie Mountain and spilling down into a plain of wind sculpted pines. Neahkahnieís forested dome held seaward a vertical rock face with a distant archway that captivated the eyes. An April day, the clouds had parted; it was comfortable with almost no wind. Rolling on toward the wide beach, we parked and then walked northward as if pulled by the mystic gravity of Neahkahnie Mountain. Ahead, waves hurled against its sheer cliffs and flew skyward.
As we beachcombed languidly, my wife found it first, a piece of soft, translucent light gray material. We inspected it closely, noting the rough and battered exterior. Many other objects had been rejected; pieces of plastic, wood, cork, and Styrofoam, but realization dawned on us. Amazingly, it was nothing less than the historic beeswax from the 1600ís, carried partway around the world, shipwrecked, and lost for centuries. We got serious and found several more palm-sized pieces. Itís especially rewarding to hold a tangible link to the past in your hand, one that has spanned cultures and verified one of Oregonís oldest legends. The wind still whispers to the seekers of treasure. In the moon shadows of Neahkahnie Mountain more secrets wait to be revealed.
© J.D. Adams, used with permission