Was There a Mine?

Ink sketch by Wendy Harty 2020 called Imagine a Mine in Them Thar Hills

There is talk of the world going cashless! There would be a lower crime rate because there’s no tangible money to steal, less money laundering with a digital paper trail, and no physical banks needed as transactions would be “through the airwaves”. The cons would be a hacker that drained your bank and you had no alternative source of money and over spending as you wouldn’t see the cash leaving your hands. The Brinks Armored Trucks employees would lose their jobs!

There was very little physical money in the early 19th century. President Jefferson imposed a moratorium on the production of silver dollars from 1806 until 1837. People relied on the barter sytem but what did they do when they needed supplies and had nothing to barter? They made private coinage. They were not meant to deceive the public but were successful attempts to use the newly-produced metal. They did not claim government authorization but indicated the name of the producer and generally passed as money.

Mary Magdalene Stump was born on December 17, 1754. She married Jacob Yoakum 1753-1838 and they had eight children together. She died on March 23, 1841, in Paris Kentucky having lived a long life of 86 years. I am 1st cousins 5x removed with Mary Magdalene, the connection being Christopher Stump, my 4th great grandfather on my maternal Miller side. Those Stump’s made the history books interesting from Christopher being well over six feet tall and strong as an ox and parlaying peace treaties with the Natives, Frederick Stump- massacre or murderer and founder of Nashville, Tennessee, his son the first victim of serial killers and now the story of the Yoakum’s.

Starting with the journal of Henry Schoolcraft, an American geographer, geologist, and ethnologist, noted for his early studies of Native American cultures, as well as for his 1832 expedition to the source of the Mississippir River wrote, ” I lent my canoe to Mr. Yochem on January 14, 1819, to carry bear’s bacon and pork to the mouth of the Great North Fork River, where a keel boat lay with trade goods. Yochem lived in the vicinity of what was later Talbert’s Ferry”. History of Marion County, Arkansas, White River by Duane Huddleston pages 104-106. It was also said that Schoolcraft stayed with Solomon Yocum and his son, Jacob, during his tour of the Ozarks in 1818 and 1819.

In 1818 the US Government made an agreement with the Delaware Indians, granting them land west of the Mississippi River in exchange for their land in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. They settled near the James River in Missouri. In doing so they “displaced” some settlers, termed squatters, among whom were the Yoachum’s, Solomon and his brother, James also known as Jake or Jacob, who had settled their in the 1790’s. The white settlers were allowed to rent bottom land for cultivation, pasture for stock grazing and erect mills on waterways, co-existing with the tribes. It didn’t take for complaints to arise. “Solomon Yoachum has erected a distillery – and has made a quantity of peach brandy selling it for some time. There are many outlaw characters below him selling whiskey constantly to the Indians” wrote John Campbell, Agent for the US Government. The Ozark Mountaineer wrote and article called “St. Yocum and the Delawares” Tossed from the Nation.

Making peach brandy and whiskey, provided Solomon and the Yochum’s a local, short lived infamy but the most popular Ozark History is of the Yoachum Silver Dollars and legend of the Yoachum Silver Mine. There have been books written, one being Traces of Silver, by Artie Ayres, who owned the property that the Yoachum silver mine was believed to be on. Believed is the key word here as the mine has never been located.

What is fascinating and believeable are the Yoachum Silver Dollars. A trade coin, the Yocum Dollar, served the local necessities of commerce. The coin, stamped with two words, “Yocum Dollar”, was not a counterfeit but its size and shape were identical to the American dollar and contained more pure silver. So where did they get the silver to cast the coins? A mine? Another theory is from previously minted coins, either Government issued, the Spanish reales or Mexican silver coins, which floated freely up and down the Mississippi River and trading posts. With no banks and little real money, small money or “change” was needed. It was common practise to break, or cut up larger coins into symmetrical pieces called “bits”. A dollar was cut into eight pizza slice bits. Two bits was a quarter of a dollar, four a half.

The Yoachum’s would have accumulated a lot of these “bits” doing business in their whiskey trade. With a brisk liquor business as well as running a mill and extensive livestock interests they probably had lots of bits. Perhaps they took other merchants pieces or bits in exchange for the newly minted dollars, and made more dollars. As these pieces were often hacked off from a whole coin, the pieces were not uniform in size or weight. It would have been simple to melt the pieces, cast them into a mold and stamp them Yocum Dollar.

It was the coming of banks and government backed money that ended the Yocum trade dollars. Perhaps they were all hacked to pieces, melted down to resurface as US silver coins, or even jewelry. But somewhere out there, somewhere in some cave may be an old rotted bag with coins stamped Yochum or better yet someday someone may find the Yochum Mine, as people speculated there must have been a mine to have that much pure silver.

I have a US Silver Dollar inherited from my father, stamped CC 1921 meaning Carson City and the year 1921 has specific meaning to him as that was the year of his birth. While I gaze upon it I can only speculate that perhaps it has some Yochum silver in it.

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