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The Pike County Cache — A History Detectives Saga

by Charlie Wagers, Fairfield, Ohio

Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.55, No.4, pg.256


I first saw the large Caddo blades in the accompanying photograph in 1958 on my first visit to see J.C. (Clem) Caldwell’s col­lection. As a ten year old country boy ar­rowhead hunter, I was in total amazement at these blades, as well as the whole Caldwell collection. “Arrowheads” were what I hunted, and these blades were flint so they qualified. Size was something we all drooled over, so these received special attention from me. I still recall bending over for a closer look at them and bumping my head on a shelf, which got a quick reprimand of “Watch what you’re doing!” from my mother. Clem’s response was “Don’t worry, those rocks have been in the ground for hundreds of years and his little head’s not gonna hurt em.” That visit was the start of a forty plus year relationship during which these blades and a number of other Caldwell relics became old friends for me.

In 1989, Bill Koup and I undertook the job of photographing and cataloging the en­tire Caldwell collection. When we came to the blades, Clem indicated their provenience as the Spiro Mound in Leflore County, Okla­homa. That just didn’t seem right as I had never seen any similar blades published as being from Spiro. I suspect that the cause of this bit of false information was the result of Clem having some large blades which were from Spiro and marked as such on them. All had come from the Chalmer Lynch collection, but I am getting ahead of myself. Sometime later, another collector identified the blades as being from Yell County, Arkansas which sounded a bit more plausible but there was still no hard evidence.

Then, in January 2001, I stopped by Danville to visit with Clem and Peggy. Peggy, Clem’s wife, was doing some remodeling and house cleaning. Peggy handed me a cluttered box of note cards and papers and asked if I knew what all this stuff was. I told her it appeared to me to be some sort of Indian relic collection catalog, but I had no idea whose. She said, “Well, if you want it, take it because we have too much of this type of thing cluttering up the house and I’m going to throw it out”. Sev­eral nights of studying and head scratching followed for me. Finally, I figured out that there were actually two catalogs in this mess, the most interesting being the Chalmer Lynch collection. Chalmer, from Evansville, Indi­ana, was one of the true “Old time” collectors and Clem had purchased ,Chalmer’s collec­tion some time prior to 1958. In that catalog, FINALLY, was the story behind the Caddo blades I had admired for so many years. One of Chalmer’s catalog card reads:

Creamy tan and pink blade, 14 3/8″ long. One of the cache of 18 found in 1936 in Pike Co., Arkansas. Bull dozer plowed them out. Cost $30. Keep these long enough and they will bring $150 a piece. All came from Rinker.

So, the question of provenience for the blades was finally established but a new ques­tion surfaced, “Who was Rinker?” I thought I was familiar with the names of most of the old time collectors and dealers but this was new name for me. Chalmer mentioned “Rinker” in association with a number of his relics. After emailing and talking with a number of other collectors, I was about to give up on finding anything about “Rinker”. Finally Bill Brock­man suggested I contact Ben Thompson. I did and BINGO! Ben sent me the following email:

Yes, I remember Gaines Rinker very well. He would visit me every fall and usually stayed with us. An in­teresting fellow. He was a fur buyer (animal skin) from Palmry, Missouri. He traveled over his fur buying route every year buying fur from all the hunters and trappers in the central states. He would stay at our house until one time he stacked a pile of rancidfiirs in the room up­stairs and smelled up my mother’s house. She wouldn’t let him stay with us anymore. We lived in Owensville, Indiana on the Wabash river and there were several fur trappers who lived in Owensville. As a sideline, he also collected and traded Indian relics. He would come up with some good stuf fsometimes and I would try to buy from him when I had the money. I was only 18 or 19 at the time, in the latter 1930s. He always wore a suit and tie, but they were always slick and dirty. I know he visited Chalmer Lynch in Evansville and then on to Kentucky. 

-Ben Thompson

The final chapter of the Pike County cache saga came shortly after Larry Merriam and I had a conversation about the cache. Larry knew the cache well and sent me the accom­panying photograph of H.T. Daniels with the entire cache on the running board of his car. Daniels was another of the early collector, dealers who came up with some great relics and is also known for some not so great rel­ics.

Perhaps the saga really is not over. Larry and I know the locations of six of the cache, which leaves twelve that are someplace. Per­haps some Central States reader will say “I have one of those blades!”

Three of the Pike County Blades. The longest is 141/2 inches long and 31/4 inches wide. Note the fine serrations on the blade at the bottom of the photograph. Collection of Charlie Wagers, Fairfield, Ohio“Used by Permission of the Author”
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