Bob Brewer was born and raised in western Arkansas. As a youngster, his great-uncle introduced him to a mystery that included wilderness paths, hidden symbols, carvings on trees and rocks, and the topography of certain areas. The old man was the keeper of some sort of secret knowledge that he kept to himself.
Brewer went off to a career in the Navy and retired in 1977. He returned to Arkansas and began to explore the mystery of his childhood. Over the next 25 years, he interviewed old-timers, researched documents, studied old maps, made alliances and went on expeditions. He became convinced he was on the trail of lost treasure.
Warren Getler, a former Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, has teamed with Brewer to create the book titled SHADOW OF THE SENTINEL which reveals the mystery of the Knights of the Golden Circle and their involvement in a vast Civil War era conspiracy.
The Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) was a secret society formed in 1854 by sympathizers of Southern causes, dedicated to supporting pro-slavery policies and promoting the conquest of Mexico. It was created directly out of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry and linked to the highest circles of American Freemasons.
During the Civil War, KGC operatives amassed huge quantities of gold and silver through clandestine raids. The caches were hidden in various secret locations, particularly in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, marked by a trail of complicated KGC ciphers. The accumulation of riches continued after the end of the Civil War in anticipation of a second war. Operations ceased in 1922 and the caches were sealed for good.
Getler and Brewer claim that the infamous outlaw Jesse James, a member of the KGC who turned over much of his ill-gotten gain to the cause, wasn’t actually killed in 1882 by Bob Ford as reported. A fellow named Charlie Bigelow who resembled Jesse James had been robbing banks using Jesse’s name. Supposedly, Jesse killed him and hired a prostitute to pose as Mrs. Jesse James to officially identify the body. Others who identified the body were all relatives or members of Quantrill’s Raiders, Jesse’s former comrades.
The real Jesse James then changed his name to J. Frank Dalton (his mother’s maiden name was Dalton) and continued his nefarious life as Chief of the Inner Sanctum of the Knights of the Golden Circle.
According to the book titled JESSE JAMES WAS ONE OF HIS NAMES by Jesse James III (the grandson) and Del Schroeder, Jesse James was indeed a prominent member of the KGC and hid large quantities of stolen riches in various locations on behalf of the secret society. In addition, John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Lincoln, was also a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle and didn’t die as history tells us either.
Booth was smuggled by the Confederate underground to Texas where he became a bartender by the name of John St. Helen. In the 1870s, he began telling folks about his past. When members of the KGC found out, they decided to silence him. Booth fled to Enid, Oklahoma, under the name of David George but was eventually tracked down by Jesse James and William Lincoln (a distant cousin of Abraham Lincoln who had spent 14 years searching for the real Booth). James and Lincoln then tricked Booth to drink a glass of arsenic-laced lemonade. James subsequently arranged to have Booth’s mummified body exhibited on a national carnival tour.
In her book titled THIS ONE MAD ACT, John Wilkes Booth’s granddaughter, Iola Forrester Booth, reveals that her grandfather had belonged to the Knights of the Golden Circle and had not been killed in Baltimore as reported in history, but rather had escaped capture through the aid of fraternal brothers.
The Supreme Headquarters for the Knights of the Golden Circle was 814 Fatherland Drive in Nashville, Tennessee. This was the home of Dr. Sylvester Frank James, older brother of Jesse James and high-ranking member of the KGC. Years later it became the Dixie Tabernacle, the original home of the Grand Olde Opry.
As conspiracies go, it’s a whopper. But then again, it’s so bizarre it’s probably true.
I originally wrote this piece as a newspaper column in February of 2004. Not long after publication, a man from Tennessee and a woman from Mississippi, neither of whom knew each other, each sent me detailed messages confirming the authenticity of this story, claiming it had been passed down within their respective families.
Quote for the Day – "A warrior lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting." Carlos Castaneda (shaman)
Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and a multitude of wilderness paths. His blogs appear on several websites, including www.myspace.com/bret1111