What kid didn’t grow up with dreams of finding mysterious maps and buried chests of gold? I know I did.
Pennsylvania isn’t anywhere near the “high seas” trafficked by legendary swashbuckling pirates, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hidden treasure out there.
Throughout history the Keystone state has had several tales of lost loot within the hills, mountains and caves. We probably won’t find a sunken Spanish galleon in the Allegheny River anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hidden treasure out there waiting to be discovered. Hundreds of individual coins as well as silver and gold pieces have turned up across the state, but none of the historical hoards have ever been fully excavated.
As stories about buried treasures are told, the information changes over the years. And because of this reason, it is very important to research every treasure you want to search for. This information should be researched through other means as well. Never rely on one piece of information about a treasure story you are researching. Use multiple research tools.
A good place to begin your search for lost treasure is the Internet. But do not rely solely on that information alone. You should also visit the historical societies in the area you will be searching. Either visit in person or use the Internet and visit their webpage’s. Read old newspaper articles, old books on the history of the area. Ask questions and follow up with more research. The more information you have, the better chance you will have of locating the treasure. Buried treasures are out there, and people do find them.
Before I dig in and list 5 lost Pennsylvania treasures here is a handy tip when it comes to treasure hunting. Digging for treasure is not with a shovel and three scoops later, “Voi la”, you uncover the top of a treasure chest! The more valuable the treasure, the deeper it is buried; is the rule. The average treasure (less than $100,000) is buried at a depth between four and six feet. This is well beyond the depth range of 99.9% of all metal detectors.
The Spanish King, Charles II, decreed that all treasure in North America, that could not be brought back to Spain before the American Indian revolt of 1685 was to be buried at least 30 feet deep or 30 feet of tunnel from the outside of the mountain. Penalty for burying treasure too shallow was death! Hundreds of Spanish mines “pickled” (stored) refined bars of gold and silver at least 30 feet deep. Extensive death traps were incorporated to prevent the occasional robber from stealing the treasure (Do your research of Death Traps” before digging!). Spain did send expeditions back to open old mines and send refined bars back to Spain. Many sites are still waiting to be found as the ownership of the land changed hands from French to American, Spanish to American, and many miners never made it back to Spain with the secret code to relocate the hidden caches due to time, death, disease or tragedy.
Now that we’ve covered research and depths of treasure, lets dig in to my top 5 undiscovered Pennsylvania treasures, that might just lead you to a fantastic fortune…or at least inspire some excellent bedtime stories.
The Union Soldier’s Stash at Dent’s Run
In 1863, a Union Lieutenant escorted a wagon equipped with a false bottom to conceal several dozen gold bars to Washington D.C., hoping to avoid Confederate troops using a roundabout path through Pennsylvania.
The Lieutenant, who was struck ill early in the voyage, is said to have deliriously revealed the secret loot to the civilians traveling with him and – unsurprisingly – the group vanished before they reached the Susquehanna River (in route to Harrisburg). When one of the party’s guides turned up in Lock Haven (50 miles away from their last known location), he was interrogated by Army generals and claimed to have been ambushed by bandits. Detectives found dead mules in the area, but no trace of the gold. In 1870, several skeletons also turned up, which added some support for his story; however, the guide also had a habit of telling drunken stories at the local pub, claiming he knew the location of the stolen treasure. Local legends say that the Army spent decades sending search teams to the area around Dent’s Run, but no reports of discovery exist.
In recent news, a father and son who believe they found the legendary cache of buried Civil War-era gold have been fighting for access to government documents about an FBI dig at the remote Pennsylvania site. The FBI has said it found nothing at Dent’s Run. Dennis and Kem Parada of Finders Keepers say the FBI is hiding the truth.
Historians have cast doubt on the claim that a shipment of Union gold was lost or stolen on its way to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, but the legend has inspired generations of treasure hunters to take to the mountains of northwestern Pennsylvania in hopes of finding it. So, did the FBI find the gold, or is it still out there waiting to be found? To research this further just search, “Dent’s Run treasure.”
The “American Robin Hood’s” Buried Gold
David “Robber” Lewis was a counterfeiter-turned-thief in the early 1800’s who was known for his habit of “robbing the rich to give to the poor,” and his crimes were well covered by regional newspapers. He was considered a fairly successful highwayman and proved to be a handy escape artist as well; he was arrested and managed to escape from prison at least four times.
He made use of local caves and caverns to stash his stolen goods (most notably in Indian Caverns). When he was captured after receiving a gunshot wound in a holdup gone wrong, Lewis managed to write a memoir before dying of gangrene in the Bellefonte Jail.
He claimed that he had several hiding spots still out there full of riches: $10,000 in a small cave near the Juniata River, another buried along Conodoguinet Creek…and one containing $20,000 in gold coins that he teased his jailers with, telling them it was visible from his cell. None of these treasures were ever recovered, but we like to imagine they will one day be found.
Captain Blackbeard’s Lost Booty (not to be confused with Edward Teach)
There is a lack of “traditional” pirates in Pennsylvania, but there IS one pirate legend that might surprise you. The Captain Blackbeard you typically hear of in pirate lore was a real man named Edward Teach, but that’s not who we’re talking about here. Most people don’t know there was a second Captain Blackbeard – a British sea captain who salvaged the treasure of a sunken ship in the Bahamas in the early 1800s.
The $1.5 million of silver bars he recovered traveled to Baltimore, Maryland with Captain Blackbeard to be shipped back to London; however, he was confronted by a French privateer and evaded capture by loading his loot onto wagons and moving inland from the Susquehanna River. As the War of 1812 broke out, Blackbeard planned to travel to Lake Erie, which was controlled by the British. Captain Blackbeard was an excellent sailor but was not so successful navigating by land and underestimated the rugged terrain. Rather than risk losing the treasure, Blackbeard is said to have buried the silver near a salt lick outside of Keating Summit.
Blackbeard made it to Canada, and from there to Britain, but while he made his way back to America, Colonel Noah Parker was sent to guard the treasure site. Parker, a man of opportunity, successfully kept the treasure hidden…including from Captain Blackbeard. Parker claimed to have never found the silver but was reported to have shown a sudden level of wealth around town. Most believe that Parker, who kept the location of the treasure a secret to his grave, couldn’t possibly have spent the entire fortune, and that some portion of it remains undiscovered in the wilderness in Potter County.
At the time it was lost, it was valued at one and a half million dollars, but with the increasing value of pure silver the lost bars could conceivably be worth double that amount. Supposedly buried near the ghost town of Gardeau in McKean County, northern Pennsylvania, the lost treasure has been part of the folklore of the Keystone State’s oilfields for over a century. What is more, if you go after this one, you will be within fifty miles of four other lost treasures valued at five million dollars or more—-a rare opportunity for an enterprising treasure hunter.
In the 1690s, French Canadian explorers carrying kegs filled with gold coins set out from New Orleans to carry their treasure – by some estimates as much as $350,000 – to Montreal. The plan was to head up the Mississippi River to the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers and to cross Lake Erie, but after a run-in with a group of Seneca Indians, the travelers decided to lighten their load by burying the kegs. According to legend, the treasure is buried in the Borie area at the base of an enormous rock.
Two of the travelers were Jesuit priests, and they claim to have carved a cross into the stone to act as a marker for when they returned for the gold. The Frenchmen never made it back to collect their treasure, but stories of a strangely marked rock persisted in Seneca legends and superstition surrounding the stone kept the gold stash from discovery. Over the years, the carvings wore away and the exact location was lost, though a crude map said to have been drawn by the explorers suggests it remains in Potter County.
In recent news treasure hunters scouted the area and found a large rock as big as a house (like in the story) with a 5-foot cross carved into it. They located 7 fire pits used to light up the site at nighttime to keep the Seneca Indians away and the French soldiers could work all night. The large stone with the cross was a landmark to show the treasure area, but it was the 20-foot stone cross on the ground that shows the location of the treasure and cargo. Supposedly, the treasure is buried at the base of the 20-foot cross.
The Delaware River Treasure
Approximately three miles southwest of Chester, on the bank of the Delaware River is a buried treasure consisting of 38,000 pieces of eight. The treasure was taken in 1742, by pirates that captured the Spanish ship San Ignacio El Grande. After burying the treasure, the pirates went to Philadelphia. A few weeks later they returned to the area but were unable to locate the treasure due to flooding that had occurred while they were in Philadelphia.
The Delaware River was a major part of pirate history in the 1700s. Pirates such as Blackbeard and Kidd were known to frequent the area, pillaging all merchant ships coming and going from the port. Laborers and crafters could be seen wandering through the woods by day and returning there at night – only to be spooked by fears of “malicious demons” guarding the buried treasures.
“This odd humor of digging for money, through a belief that much has been hid by pirates formerly frequenting the river, has for several years been mighty prevalent among us,” Ben Franklin wrote, “insomuch that you can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side, without observing several pits dug with that design, and perhaps some lately opened.” Franklin penned these words in 1729, as the so-called “Golden Age of Piracy” was drawing to a close.
Recently, in 2018, a young woman metal detecting found a Spanish coin along the Delaware River, making this hidden treasure a strong reality that is still out there waiting to be found.
As a bonus I’ve added this letter about a possible buried treasure in the Bucks County area. The letter was sent out to all of the local newspapers – the Intelligencer, the Courier Times, Calkins Media (owner of the Intelligencer and the Courier Times), the Reporter, the Herald, the County Historical Society, and two employees of Calkins Media who Mr. Amou thought might be interested in the story (one a columnist for the Courier Times and one an archivist for the Intelligencer). As of this date no newspapers have run the material. Some say this was/is a hoax, but many hunters believe the hoards are real and waiting to be found. Maybe you can figure out the clues and find this family’s hidden caches!
To Whom It May Concern,
Years ago, my grandfather buried some kind of “treasure” at a secret location in Warrington Township. He left a series of clues that led to the treasure but passed away before he felt the need to retrieve it. Having lived through the Great Depression I don’t think he was the type to trust in banks or government. I can remember that he hoarded precious metals of all kinds, as well as old and valuable coins, keeping them in linen trunks in the basement. Sort of an eccentric fellow.
My siblings and I hunted for the treasure all throughout our youth, but our enthusiasm waned as we matured. Even after many years of searching no one in my family has ever been able to find the hoard. I think this is because none of us ever found the location of the first clue. Both my father and uncle assured me that they witnessed my grandfather in the area of the Bradford Reservoir with pick and shovel on more than one occasion. This was our one hint, but no matter how much we searched the forest we never found anything. He knew it too well, and we too little. Or perhaps the clues were lost to time, rusted and overgrown.
I don’t have it in me to hunt for treasure anymore. I was the last member of my family to give it up. In a month I’ll be moving in with the rest of my relatives out west – permanently – and I don’t want this little legend to die with us. Somebody should enjoy the hoard. None of us want to let it rot in the ground forever, even if we can’t have it. I’ve talked it over with my siblings and we agree that it’s time to turn the treasure hunt over to people smarter than us. I would like to make this information public. I would respectfully request that you publish the story and the clues that my grandfather left behind.
Please respect my desire to remain anonymous in these matters. I do not wish to attract any undue attention to my family. As a metal detector hobbyist for many years I have heard my fair share of stories about the kinds of harassment families and property owners can face when rumors arise regarding “buried treasure” in the vicinity.
Undoubtedly with your resources you can spread news of this throughout the county and roundabout. I will be mailing this information to as many publications and individuals as possible, in the hopes that those with the means to do so will disseminate it freely. Any interested treasure hunters are encouraged to make for the hoard. We relinquish all claims and consider the hoard fair game.
I will be reading the papers and following this story with enthusiasm! I look forward to eventually congratulating the finder, if any.
Within 70 paces of the Lion’s Tree there is iron in the earth.
99 paces at 72 degrees the Sun shines underground.
At 9 o’ clock the Sun’s rays reach out 86 paces.
A book there rests which guides the way, it reads:
(read downward starting at column 1)