The history behind SUMMER STAR is the fascinating and little known saga of the Jim Reynolds gang that raided the South Park, Colorado, area during the Civil War. With a posse hot on their trail, they managed to bury their stolen loot before being captured. People are still searching for the treasure today.
Well, that’s pure gold to a writer. Add in a fictional gang member (now a disgruntled spirit) and a psychic with an attitude, and SUMMER STAR was born.
Loner and history buff Troy Hart gets more than he bargained for when his psychic connection to the past leads him to the mountains of Colorado. The legend of buried treasure is nothing new, but falling in love is—and that’s the last thing Troy wants.
Troy’s visions of the old west are all fun and games, until the ghost of an outlaw forces Troy to fulfill his dying wish. To save his own life, and the life of the woman he loves, Troy must follow the trail of greed, betrayal and revenge on a treasure hunt for lost Civil War gold.
Now the fun is over and the game is survival as Troy battles the elements, a dead man, and his own heart deep in the remote high country.
Much of the history from this era is sketchy and accounts vary widely. Any errors in the historical facts are mine and unintentional. I don’t have Troy Hart’s ability to explore the past through the memories of those who lived it.
James and John Reynolds were among those who founded Fairplay, Colorado. In the early 1860s, war was on the horizon and many of the South Park miners joined the 1st Colorado Regiment, on behalf of the Union. The Reynolds brothers were reportedly jailed in Denver for their refusal to join. They escaped with the help of a sympathetic guard, Jack Robinson, and joined the Texas Cavalry.
In April, 1864, Captain James Reynolds rode north toward the Colorado Territory at the head of fifty men. It is widely believed he had plans to recruit enough men along the way to raid and burn Denver as Quantrill had Lawrence, Kansas.
On the Santa Fe Trail, they robbed a Mexican wagon train of $48,000 in currency, coins, and drafts. They also took arms and ammunition, mules, and provisions. Jim Reynolds wanted to keep it for his cause; his men wanted to split it. By the time they reached the Colorado Territory, all but nine men had gone back to Texas.
The gang returned to South Park to rob ranches, stage coach stations, and travelers. They held up a stage coach driven by Abe Williamson. Billy McClelland, superintendent of the stage line, was the only passenger. The gang robbed them both, taking Williamson’s fifteen cents. From the coach itself, they took $10,000 in gold dust, gold amalgam, and cash the miners were sending home to their families.
The ranchers and miners formed a posse. The gang fled up Deer Creek above the town of Conifer, where the Reynolds brothers split from the group to cache their treasure in a prospect hole. That night, July 30, 1864, they were attacked. John Reynolds and Jake Stowe escaped. Jim Reynolds was wounded in the arm and Owen Singletary was killed. Dr. Cooper took Singletary’s head to Fairplay, where it supposedly remained for years, preserved in alcohol.
The remaining gang members were captured, tried, and sentenced to Fort Leavenworth, but never got there. Their escort, the Third Regiment of Colorado Volunteers, executed them. The driver was none other than Abe Williamson. Williamson drove them to a
well-hidden bluff where the prisoners were manacled together and blindfolded. Jim Reynolds refused to tell what they had done with money. The gang was shot down. After the troops left, John Andrews regained consciousness. Although shot in the chest, he was able to reach a cabin where he found buffalo jerky and a spring. He eventually joined John Reynolds and Jake Stowe in Santa Fe.
They soon resumed their old ways and Andrews and Stowe were killed while stealing horses. John escaped and returned to Santa Fe. He befriended Albert Brown and started robbing again. In October, 1871, they headed for Denver. Near Taos, in an attempt to steal fresh horses, Reynolds was mortally wounded. Before he died, Reynolds told Brown about the cache and drew a map of the area. He told Brown to look for a butcher knife with a broken handle stuck in a tree, pointing to the prospect hole.
Brown made two or three trips to Deer Creek, but was unsuccessful. A forest fire had burned the timber and the knife marker was lost. Brown never did find the treasure, although he did find a skeleton without a head.
General Cook came into possession of the map and made many copies. Some believe the treasure was discovered in 1906 by two prospectors who found $18,000 in gold dust in an abandoned shaft. The gold dust fit the description, but the location did not. Many others believe Jim Reynolds’s stolen treasure is still there, buried in the mountain. Who knows? Maybe it is.
A more detailed history (and a fine read) of the Jim Reynolds Gang can be found at:
SUMMER STAR is available at: