Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1800s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the War. Volume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family. Volume VIII is David Dances the Bases.
Natalie shook as she rattled the bags.
Lots of coins!
She felt the other bag. Bundles of paper. Could they be…
She opened the bag and looked in.
It’s real. It really is money!
Wait, what if someone put it there and is coming back for it?
What if it is Mother and Father’s money?
What if I am caught? Wait, I didn’t do anything.
She wanted to hide it while she figured out what to do.
But Mother would know what to do, and Father, and Uncle Lucas. I suppose this is a grown-up problem.
But if I know about it, they have to let me in on it and help. I’ll take it to them.
Natalie was breathless as she brought the bags into the kitchen.
“Mother, look at what I found in the fruit cellar!”
Autumn and Uncle Lucas were sharing some lemonade when Natalie arrived, and Mother stood up quickly.
“Get those old, dirty bags out of my clean kitchen,” she said.
“But wait, these were hidden, they fell out of the top of the cellar. Someone put them there. Look, ‘Mansfield Savings Bank!’ right there on each bag!
“Let’s open them.”
“Wait,” Mother said. “You don’t know what’s in them.”
Lucas shook one. Natalie smiled.
“We have a pretty good idea, don’t we?” he said.
He untied the top and looked inside. Smiling, he poured a pile of coins onto the kitchen table.
I’ve never seen so much money!
“This was in our fruit cellar?”
“Behind one of the logs that cross the ceiling. They fell down when Johnny was in there,” Natalie explained.
“Hide and seek. He always goes there.”
“Johnny hide good,” the 3-year-old commented.
“Looks like you found something good, too,” Uncle Lucas added.
“How long has it been there?” Mother wondered.
Uncle Lucas examined several coins.
“Mostly 1850s and 60s. I don’t see anything newer. All US coins. Some look pretty new.”
“What about the other bag?” Natalie asked.
Lucas untied the other one, and looked in. His eyes widened, and he gave a little whistle.
This is good!
“Greenbacks. Bundles of them. New. But old,” he said, pulling out each bundle and placing them beside each other.
I have never seen so much money, and now it’s even more!
“Greenbacks, Civil War money. Some of this looks like it has never been used.”
“Papa helped Mr. Brinkerhoff with the Sherman Brigade and they had to pay the soldiers. Could this have something to do with that?” Mother asked.
“Only if Levi decided to steal the payroll, Autumn.”
“Or if he put it there to protect it from thieves,” Mother suggested.
“And then forgot where it was? Neither of those sound much like your Papa,” Uncle Lucas said.
“Father may have an idea, and he will be home soon,” Mother said.
John Martin Burns was not expecting to be greeted by a family seated around a pile of paper money and coins, and his first thought, after hearing the story, was to go out into the fruit cellar to look for more.
And more he found. Another bag of coins and a small satchel with documents and a “U.S.” etched on the side.
“Looks like a mystery here,” he said.
“And it may have been solved before we knew it even existed.”
Uncle Lucas offered to take the satchel and a few of the bills and coins into town to ask Levi and perhaps visit Mr. Brinkerhoff, who was the cashier at Mansfield Savings Bank, and had been instrumental in feeding, housing, equipping, and most importantly, paying, the soldiers who trained in the Sherman Brigade in Mansfield at the start of the Civil War.
“What will we do with the money?” Natalie asked.
“Find the rightful owner,” Father said. “It may be 3,000 soldiers who never were paid. It may be Mr. Brinkerhoff’s bank. It may be a stage line or railroad.
“It may be President Garfield, although I doubt it,” he smiled.
It may be mine?
“What if we cannot find the owner?” Natalie asked.
“Don’t get your hopes up too high, Precious One. A lot of people will make a claim if the word gets out too quickly.
“But even if the rightful owner is found, my guess is there will be a finder’s reward.”
“That I would get?”
“I thought you said Johnny was hiding there when the bags fell,” he smiled.
“Johnny hide good,” said the little voice, still playing in the middle of the kitchen.