Wild Man of Fruitland


 Herman Kahlen, a recluse miser, died.  He lived in a simple log hut near a twenty acres lake at Fruitland, on the Columbia River near Colville.

He was surrounded by a group of friends trying to persuade him to disclose the location of his hidden fortune.

Most of his secret was kept as he gasped for breath.

He had enough strength to tell those gathered it was in a tin can, buried deep inside a stovepipe, beneath a willow tree.

The secret died with his death and the exact location was never disclosed with the mutterings of his last words.

 He had deeded his 160 homestead acres to a friend in Fruitland, Mike Peltier. 

The $1,400 hidden was willed as follows - $400 to Ama Jensen of Cheney, $400 to Werner Neuman (address unknown), $100 each to Hans and George Newman (address unknown), and the balance to a few others.  All these people were unknown to anyone else and none could be located.


Kahlen was born in Germany in 1832.  His wife and two children died in the old country, so he had come to America by himself.   In 1888 he raised sheep near Oregon City.  Seeking a different lifestyle, he sold the 5,000 head at $3 a sheep. 

With his $15,000 he retired to solitude at Fruitland, Washington on land 3 miles east of the town. 

Herman Kahlen live the life of a farmer and a free soul .  He became more neglectful and soon lived the life of a hermit .  Few visited him and he became unkept and primitive.  He never combed his hair and his whiskers stuck straight out.

 In later years he became known as "Wild Bill".    He lived off his 160 homesteaded acres and hunted, gathered edible plants, and fished the lakes and streams.

He never trusted his secrets to anyone.

As the end came, he found himself surrounded with locals wanting to find his hidden fortune.  It was only on his death bed with a crowd gathered around him that he finally decided to disclose his secret.

But fate won out and he took his last breath with only part of his secret told.

For many years people came on his land, looked for the "willow tree", dug deep into the ground, and found nothing.

That fortune is still there today, safe for an eternity.  It is waiting for any  fool wanting to try their luck.


June, 1908






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