"The River Monarch"

(Original air date 04/06/66)


The Barkley men must clear their father’s name of accusations of
taking Union Army gold thought lost in a shipwreck


Story: Carey Wilber

Teleplay: Carey Wilber & Mel Goldberg

Director: Sutton Roley

While fishing alongside the riverbank a young boy (Mark Levy) reels in a piece of a river boat baptized the River Monarch that sank many years ago.

The discovery brings Nick’s former Commanding officer, Jock McLean (Chips Rafferty), to Stockton. The old sea dog was assigned to head the salvation operation of the famous riverboat that reportedly sank with one million of Union Army gold onboard.

Jock shows up unexpectedly at the ranch, taking everyone by surprise, most especially Nick’s girlfriend, Melanie De Land (Katherine Justice), who faints at the news.


Nick drives her home where she informs her father, Cyrus De Land (Curt Conway), of the discovery of the River Monarch wreck and that Colonel McLean is in charge of the salvation operation. De Land, former head of the Barkley shipping line, worries that his involvement with the shipwreck may surface. He asks Melanie to contact one of his former partners in crime, reporter Peter Doolin (John Rayner).

Back at the ranch, the Barkleys and their guest indulge in a drink and a sing-along. Soon the family members retire to their rooms, leaving a bitter Jock to confide in Nick about the Army’s decision to force him to retire on a meager pension plan.


The salvation operation is under way. A steel case is hauled out of the water but to their astonishment, Nick and Jock find lead bars instead of gold.

In the hush of night, De Land meets with his former Confederate sympathizers group to discuss the implications the discovery of the wreck might entail. Doolin calmly proposes to find a scapegoat to divert attention away from the real culprits who ambushed the gold shipment for their own benefit. Cyrus argues he won’t be a party to blaming his friend Tom Barkley knowing the full weight of the consequences for his heirs should he be found guilty. However he has choice but to go along with the majority vote.


The newspaper article accusing his father of deliberately sinking the River Monarch in order to steal its gold sends Nick on the warpath. As for him Jock believes tearing Doolin limb from limb is definitely not the best way to exonerate Tom Barkley of the allege crime.

Privy to the conversation, Victoria drives into town to demand of Doolin that the truth be told. Doolin uses the acrid discussion to his advantage by proclaiming Victoria Barkley tried to bribe him into printing contrived facts. The false rumour spreads like wildfire among townsfolk who begin snubbing the Barkleys.

After learning of Doolin’s vile allegation towards their mother, Nick and Heath march up to the saloon to engage in a fight with the snooty reporter and his cohorts.


On their way out the sheriff’s office after being bailed out of jail, Nick and Heath meet with Jock who informs them that Washington assigned him to the investigation of the missing gold and that under the circumstances, it’s best to take up residence at the hotel.

As he delves deeper into the books, Jock discovers amounts of money unaccounted for. Victoria explains that handshake deals were very common in those days and that Tom often relied on a man’s word only to conduct business. Her husband would never have been a part of a scheme that sent 23 men to their death, but her claim falls on deaf ear. Jock is doggedly intent on exposing the culprit at all cost. Should the late Tom Barkley be found liable of that gold theft, the government will have no hesitation in commencing legal proceedings against his estate for one million dollars.

While perusing some old newspapers clippings, Jarrod comes across an article on the Knights of the Golden Circle made up of Confederate sympathizers. Months prior to the end of the war several gold shipments were ambushed and although there is no proof that those men were involved, the motive is evident. They are shocked to learn that Melanie’s father was part of that group.


With blood boiling Nick drives over to the De Lands to square it off with the old man. Melanie won’t have Nick upset her father and points out that if he had stolen the gold, they would be living in opulence and not wretchedness. Nick doesn’t insist and leaves.

She goes out back where her father is meeting with the members. To her heart’s dismay she learns that Nick was telling the truth about her father being involved in sinking the River Monarch. However Cyrus won’t divulge the location where he stashed the gold, especially to greedy Doolin who believes time has come to split the loot.


Outside Doolin and co-member Hanson Gregory (J.P. Burns) plot to do away with Nick Barkley before Melanie has a chance to confide in him.

Nick pays a visit to Jock at his hotel to bring him up to date on the Confederate Sympathizers Circle. Although they had a motive to steal the gold, Jock can’t place them near that particular shipment. What’s startling about this case is that neither of the members became rich, but Tom Barkley did.


Soon after leaving the hotel, Nick gets shot. His assailants, Doolin and Hanson, hurry to pick the victim’s pockets in order to make it look like a robbery, but their plan comprises one flaw: Jock is a witness to the entire scene and shoots warning shots to scare them away.


Luckily Nick gets off with a scratch on the head. His anger at the deadlock in the investigation is allayed when Melanie comes by to inform him that her father has gone to confess to Jock McLean to clear Tom Barkley of all charges. She apologizes for her behavior, but Nick is quick to reassure her that under the circumstances he would have done the same for his own father.

However it appears the old sea dog has plans of his own. After sending a telegram to Washington confirming Tom Barkley’s guilt, McLean follows De Land to the hideout where they dig for the gold. De Land explains that Tom Barkley trusted him with the shipment and he went ahead and switched the gold for lead bars. Thereafter they sank the ship to prevent anyone from uncovering the plot. He never meant for men to die but the boat sank so fast that there was hardly time to save them.


Once the treasure is found, McLean shoots De Land dead. He then closes the trap door on the ground and buries it under shovels of earth. Nick shows up unexpectedly, compelling Jock to feed him the story of being lured into a trap, but that luckily he was faster on the trigger.


Nick is reluctant to swallow that version of the fact, more so when he notices smoke seeping out of the ground from where Jock accidentally dropped his cigar. Caught red-handed, the old man thrust a gun at Nick who ignores the threat and casually walks away. Jock is desperate; he shoots Nick in the shoulder but instead of finishing the job he pleads for forgiveness.

Back at home, Nick deplores the turn of events, which never would have occurred had the Army agreed to let Jock pursue his career instead of forcing him to retire.


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