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MONTANA GOLD CACHE GOES TO MINER’S HEIRS

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A legacy of gold left about 100 years ago by a pioneering Montana miner is finally in the hands of his heirs after it languished for years in a bank vault.

Two California women on Thursday claimed their great-grandfather's bequest, worth an estimated $10,000, which was taken from the hills of Montana in the late 1800s.The gold mined by John Lehsou, a German immigrant and early Montana settler, was found in the vault of a Missoula bank early this year in a small cardboard box, said James McKeon of the Revenue Department's Abandoned Property Bureau.

Lehsou quit mining in the early 1890s and died in 1921 at age 81.

After a four-month search for heirs, officials handed over about 20 ounces of Lehsou's gold to sisters Jane Leonard, of Clayton, Calif., and Lorri Stacy, of Ventura, Calif.

The cache included 77 nuggets and a small vial of gold dust. The largest nugget weighs almost 4 1/2 ounces.

Stacy said the family knew about their ancestor's mining exploits and wasn't entirely surprised that some gold turned up.

"I'd always heard stories of the old timers up there seeing him walking out with coffee cans of gold, and here it is," she said.

A brother and two aunts will share the treasure, she said.

The spot price of gold Friday was about $370 an ounce, but the find could bring as much as $10,000 if sold together for exhibition, said local metals trader Wayne Miller.

"There's a value there beyond gold" because of the history linked to the treasure and the unusually large nuggets, Miller said.