During the last quarter of the 19th century, an old Native Hawaiian named Keeo ran a thriving cattle and butcher business at Hanamaulu, Kauai.
And, as he prospered, he accumulated silver dollars that he exchanged for gold from Hanamaulu Sugar Co. manager A.S. Wilcox and then buried at a secret hiding place.
Although he confided in Wilcox that he would someday reveal to him where the treasure was buried so it would not be lost, Keeo died without doing so.
However, a rumor that Keeo had buried treasure apparently survived, for several years later, in 1907, when Lihue Plantation Co. employee Cypriano Rivera discovered $9,000 in gold at Hanamaulu, he reckoned it was Keeo’s treasure.
When Cypriano then foolishly disclosed his find to a couple of his Puerto Rican countrymen, they responded by threatening to spread word of his discovery unless he split it with them.
Cypriano reacted by fleeing to Kukuiula and laying low, except to occasionally work in the neighborhood to earn his living.
By and by, he became infatuated with a Puerto Rican girl at Kukuiula named Narcissa, and after repeatedly failing to obtain the girl’s consent to a marriage, he at last tempted her with the prospect of becoming a rich man’s wife by informing her of his $9,000.
She consented, and on early Monday morning, Oct. 21, 1907, they set out for Hanamaulu on foot.
After arriving at Kaupena Valley, located beyond Hanamaulu, at about 1 p.m., Cypriano asked Narcissa to wait for him while he went to unearth his gold.
But, he somehow twice failed to locate his hiding place, and upon his second return, he told the girl that if he didn’t succeed a third time, he would hang himself.
Narcissa then waited for his return until 4 o’clock before going to nearby Puerto Rican Camp to inform acquaintances of what had transpired.
The following day, on Tuesday morning, Oct. 22, 1907, the lifeless body of Cypriano Rivera was found hanging from a tree at Kaupena.
His gold was never unearthed.
Hank Soboleski’s book, “Kauai Island History,” contains nearly 500 of his columns dating from 2006 to 2015. It is available at The Garden Island office, 33137 Kuhio Highway. It is $50, cash or check only.