With its miles of lake and ocean coastline, mountains, and dense population, New York is a paradise for treasure hunters. There are dozens of stories of hidden treasure dating from the 1600s to the present.
When a body was found floating in the Hudson River, near Beacon, N.Y., in March 1897, it took several days for the authorities to identify the dead man. His name was Ashel Bell, and he was known as the hermit of Fishkill Mountain. He had a cabin there but also lived in various caves in the area.
When the hermit’s estate was settled several weeks later, it came to $16,000 in cash and $10,000 in real estate. But the more significant part of Bell’s money was not in a bank or real estate; he had buried it near his cabin. Bell’s relatives knew of at least $30,000 he had drawn from different banks shortly before his death.
Bell’s gold is almost certain to be buried near where he lived because he seldom left the Fishkill Mountains. As far as can be ascertained, no one ever found any of his hidden money. People who want to search can find more information in the March 1897 editions of the New York Times.
There are several lost silver mines in New York, and one is almost certainly south of Ellenville, in Ulster County. Some of the jewelry made of silver taken from this mine is still in existence, although it is rare.
The mine was known to the Dutch, and there are several different stories and records about its location, but they all agree that it is in the Shawangunk Mountains of Ulster County, near or in the 2289-foot high mountain known as “Sam’s Point,” south of Ellenville.
The Dutch started to live in what is now New York after Henry Hudson found the Hudson River. Sporadic fighting with the different Indian tribes began almost immediately, but it wasn’t until about 1660 that a real war occurred. Most of the Mohawk Indians moved north into Canada during this time. Before leaving, they sealed the mine entrance, and no record of its ever being found is known.
Before their emigration, the Mohawks worked a silver mine or vein and traded jewelry with the Dutch, according to history and legend. The silver was pure enough to hammer into different objects by hand.
Three men, John and William Bauch, and Casper Bertram formed a company in Schoharie County, New York, in 1804 to mine silver; Bertram was the only one who knew where the ore was located, but he was killed in an accident before mining could begin.
In the area of Blue Mountain Lake in Hamilton County, there are three lost silver mines: the Mount Golden, the Nippleton, and the Lavigne. The Lost Schechtushorst Silver Mine is in Greene County, and a lost ledge of silver was worked by a man named Rufus Evans near Accord in Ulster County.
During the French and Indian War, a large fort was constructed on an island in the St. Lawrence River by the French, about three and one-half miles below where Ogdensburg, N. Y. is today. Most French troops in New York were stationed here until 1760, when the British drove the French out and took possession.
Stories of French and British treasure caches being buried on the island have circulated in the area for over 200 years. Recent searches have uncovered many relics but no reported amount of treasure.
However, the story that the Marquis de Lewis did, in 1760, bury a large cache of gold on the island before surrendering to the British was given considerable credence. A man named Pauchet, supposedly the grandson of the Marquis, came to the island with a riverboat pilot named King.
The two men are said to have dug up over 400 pounds of fused metal, which was gold and melted when the fort was burned. After breaking the mass apart, they could only carry part of the metal, and after putting it into bags, the men started for the American side of the river.
About midstream, a storm broke that threatened to sink the small boat. Rather than throw the gold overboard, Pauchet tied several bags around his waist. A short time later, the boat capsized, and Pauchet drowned. King could swim to shore, but the gold and Pauchet’s body were never recovered.
Moses Follensby came to what is now the extreme north-central part of New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, sometime in the mid-1700s, but he avoided all possible contact with everyone. From his speech, Follensby was an Englishman.
The few white trappers who visited Follensby’s lonely cabin said they feared someone was searching for him. He was known to make secret trips north, but to where and for what reason, no one knew.
Follensby became more isolated as more people moved into the area. After several years of this secluded life, Follensby died. After he died, papers and other items were found in his home, proving he was born into a noble English family and had a lot of money. It was never revealed why he had preferred a life of lonely solitude.
People have looked for the money he supposedly hid, which is said to be $400,000, several times, but as far as I can tell, it has never been found. Although the cabin site where Follensby lived and even his gravesite is unknown today, it is known that he lived near the lake that carries his name, Follensby’s Pond, a few miles southwest of Tuppers Lake in Franklin County.
Located in New York’s Catskill Mountains, Balsam Mountain is part of the summit divide between Big Indian and Dry Brook. Its interest in the treasure hunter stems from Lost Clove, a long valley that splits the mountain in two and is the hiding place of a counterfeiter’s presumed cache.
In 1856, an educated man named Flint built a log cabin far up the clove. People in the area, who were used to knowing everyone’s business, were curious about Flint’s desire for privacy and to live alone. But not even his housekeeper, who remained with him for about five years, knew Flint’s occupation.
Periodically, Flint disappeared from the clove for a month or so. When he returned, he always had a plentiful supply of money. Finally, Flint failed to return from one of his periodic trips. While it was believed by many that he was wealthy, no money was found in or about his cabin.
About ten years after his disappearance, it was learned that Flint had died in Sing Sing Prison while confined there for counterfeiting U. S. coins. He may have buried a cache of legitimate coins somewhere around his cabin that has never been found.
One of the most famous of all Tories (they are the ones who remained loyal to England during the Revolution) was Claudius Smith, a convicted cattle thief who had managed to escape from jail in Goshen, N.Y. He organized a band of cut-throats, including his two sons, Richard and James, and looted, murdered, and pillaged prominent Orange County Whigs.
When the gang killed an important Colonial officer, Major Strong, a reward was offered for their capture, and they fled to Long Island. Claudius was captured in his sleep. He returned to jail in Goshen, where he was sentenced and hanged in 1779.
His sons and other gang members fled to Canada, leaving behind a tremendous amount of hidden booty. In 1804, some of Smith’s grandchildren came to Goshen with instructions for locating the loot, but all they found was a cache of rusty muskets.
In 1824, the family of Edwin Roblin, another gang member, showed up in Goshen with a map and written instructions. They also searched and found nothing. The treasure is generally believed to have been buried in the hills around Goshen or in the Claudius Smith caves, a shelter that once housed the outlaws, near the train station in Tuxedo, Orange County.
There are several stories of caches made by bootleggers and gangsters during the Prohibition era in the Catskill Mountains. A total of $2,500,000 in gold nuggets, coins, and currency are thought to be hidden near Kingston. Most men hiding these different caches were killed in gang wars or by police.
This buried treasure, consisting of two strongboxes, or small chests, full of gold and silver, near Otselic, New York, has been searched for, but no record of its having been found can be learned.
The story goes that a man named Buchanan “Buck” Crofton buried two chests between North Pitcher and Pitcher Springs in Onenago County. Crofton, his wife, and his brother Silas traveled the Otselic Valley with their Crofton Brothers Medicine Show. They sold herbs, pills, and other sure-all medicines.
After doing business throughout the large Otselic Valley, an Indian name meaning “wild plum,” for several years, Buck and Silas had accumulated a sizeable fortune. During one of their shady deals, they had incurred the hatred of George Wash Loomis, leader of the infamous Loomis gang, which operated in the area.
In about 1806, while at Sylvan Springs (Sulphur Springs today), the Crofton brothers were warned by a friend, Timothy Soper, that the Loomis gang was coming to kill them.
Not wanting a gunfight, Buck and Silas decided to take the two strong boxes from the wagons and bury them. These two boxes contained $15,000 in silver, $4,000 in gold, and Crofton’s prescription book, mortar, and pestle. They buried the boxes halfway up a hill from Sylvan Springs just after dark. According to local stories, this hill is east of Sulphur Springs.
When the Loomis gang rode into the Crofton campsite, Buck and Silas ran up another nearby hill, away from the concealed money, where the Loomis gang opened fire on them. The two brothers managed to shoot back several times, but Buck was killed during the exchange of shots, and Silas died a short time later.
A ricocheting shot hit Mrs. Crofton, but the Loomis did not try to kill her. Before dying, she lived a few days and told a friend of her husband’s named Ben Wilde that Buck and Silas had buried their money before the fight, but she did not know the exact location. Wilde spent a lifetime in an unsuccessful attempt to find the cache.
The Loomis gang denied having anything to do with the killings, and nothing was ever proven against them. Several gold coins have been found near Sulphur Springs, but the Crofton strongboxes are believed still to be waiting.
For the interested treasure hunter who wants to search for another cache nearby, the Loomis gang is supposed to have buried over $40,000, which has never been found, at their hideout in Nine Mile Swamp, near Brookfield, in the adjoining county of Madison.
There would be no way to compile a complete list of the different ships that have, in one manner or another, been lost in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the Atlantic coastline of New York. In any form, the number of valuables lost would be impossible to determine—recorded wrecks on these two lakes and the eastern coastline date back over 200 years.
Early sailing ships had a “cash and carry” system. Before insurance, as we know it, each boat had to have enough money on board to pay for any merchandise and supplies bought and the crew’s wages. In addition, their cash was received for cargo delivery at the different ports.
So it can be seen that these old ships would be worth locating. Several of these old wrecks could be found with today’s modern equipment and diving methods. I will give you some to work with.
First, wrecks along the Atlantic Coastline:
The pirate Joseph Bradish scuttled his ship, the Adventure, in 1699, at the tip of Long Island. There was an estimated $2,000,000 aboard.
The HUSSAR sank just off what is now 135th Street, in New York City, in November 1780, with $4,800,000 aboard.
The ANN HOPE, with $500,000 in specie on board, sank off Long Island in 1781, and as far as is known, no salvage has been done.
The British privateer QUEEN sank in 1812. A small amount of salvage has been done in the past, but there is more beneath the water waiting to be found. She went down off Long Island.
The SAVANNAH sank near Bellport in November 1821. A small amount of salvage was done.
The Vineyard sank in 1836, off Southampton, with $54,000 in gold and silver on board.
The ELIZABETH sank near Fire Island in 1850 with $16,000 in coins lost.
The paddle-wheeler BLACK WARRIOR lies off Rockaway Beach. She sank in 1858. Divers have recently recovered silverware, which indicates that more is still waiting.
On March 3, 1859, the ADONIS, loaded with lead ingots worth approximately $10.00 each, sank behind the present site of San Alfonso Retreat, West End, Long Branch, between New Jersey and Long Island. Another old wreck, the Rusland, is in the same area.
About three miles off Huntington, Long Island, and 80 feet below the surface, is the wreck of the CITY OF NORWICH, which sank on April 18, 1866, after being accidentally rammed by GENERAL S. VANVLIET. The cargo lost was reported to be worth $1 million.
The Pacific sank in 1871 with a cargo of clay pipes that would be collector’s items today.
The Pliney sank off Deal Beach, between Long Island and Asbury Park, NJ, on May 13, 1882. The metal from this ship would be worth a fortune.
Ten and a half miles southeast of the Fire Island Lighthouse on Long Island is the sunken city of San Diego. She was torpedoed in July 1918 but limped almost to New York. Divers went down in 1959 and estimated that there was a fortune in copper and other metals aboard. Explosives cannot be used to loosen her hull because of stored projectiles in her magazine.
While THE ROSS was being loaded in 1928, at a pier north of Yonkers, NY, on the Hudson River, a box containing 200 pounds of gold bullion fell overboard. This was never recovered.
Off Shinnecock, near Southampton, Long Island, there is a wreck that has yielded silver dollars for over a century. Her name is unknown, but residents call her the Money Ship. It is known that two men named Green and Jagger found many silver dollars. A diver could make a fortune by clearing the sand over the ship’s remains.
The Spanish frigate SAN JOSE left New London with $500,000 aboard. At the tip of Long Island, she was swamped and sank.
Ships that have sunk in Lake Erie:
Near Silver Creek, in the early 1800s, the steamer ERIE sank with $100,000 in specie.
The WASHINGTON went down near Silver Creek in 1834, carrying an unknown amount of gold.
The ATLANTIC, an American steamer, sank with $60,000 on board in 1852; between Dunkirk, NY, and Erie, PA.
About four miles north of Barcelona, the CITY OF DETROIT, another American steamer, sank in 1873. She had on board $200,000 in gold and silver coins plus a large shipment of copper ingots.
Four miles east of Van Buren Point, the DEAN RICHMOND wrecked in 1893. She had $191,000 in coins aboard. The site is between Dunkirk, PA, and Buffalo, NY.
$300,000 is believed to have been aboard the CLINTON, which sank north of Silver Creek.
Ships that have sunk in Lake Ontario are as follows:
The ONTARIO, bound from Fort Niagara to Oswego, NY, and loaded with military supplies and a large payroll, sank during a storm on October 31, 1780.
A collector’s cargo of chinaware went down with the LADY WASHINGTON in November of 1803, about one and one-half miles offshore and five miles west of Oswego.
The ATLAS, with a load of pig iron, foundered four miles offshore and two miles west of Oswego in May 1839.
The steamer, ANTHONY WAYNE, sank in 1850, six and one-half miles northwest of Buffalo. She was carrying $100,000 in gold and silver coins.
A freighter carrying cargo went down with the Ocean Wave on April 30, 1853, twenty-five miles southwest of Kingston, Ontario. 33 persons drowned, and there is no available salvage.
The Monarch wrecked off Toronto, Ontario, on November 29, 1856, with a 250-ton cargo.
The steamer Boston collided with the Protection on August 28, 1856, about six miles below Gananoque, Ontario, and both ships were lost.
The BLACK DUCH sank at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, in Meneo Bay, in July 1872, and none of the barreled whiskey cargo was recovered.
On June 11, 1872, the KINGSTON burned off Grenadier Island.
Part of the cargo of the YOUNG AMERICA was salvaged in 1874, but lake storms prevented further work. She had wrecked on September 2, 1873. No other salvage attempts were ever made.
Delaware went down on November 25, 1887, one mile north of Port Dalhousie, Ontario. A cargo of pig iron was never salvaged.
A British payroll ship, with $30,000 in hard cash aboard, lies near the southern end of Wolf Island.
The S. J. Brooks, with $180,000 in specie aboard, sank in Sackets Harbor near Watertown, NY.
This is by no means a complete listing of the ships that have wrecked or sunk in the vicinity of New York State, but it will give the interested treasure hunter an idea of what has been lost.
When the sunken treasure is mentioned, what do you think of it? Gold doubloons? Silver ingots? Perhaps a safe full of money? When I think of sunken treasure, I think of toys.
The wooden steamer IDAHO was built by Captain E.M. Peck and launched at Cleveland, Ohio, in early 1863.
On the night of November 5, 1897, the IDAHO left Buffalo, NY, with a cargo destined for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The steamer had barely left port when the weather began to deteriorate. The IDAHO was fighting its way down the lake in a gale when it saw the lighthouse at Long Point, Ontario.
Just past Long Point, water started entering the hull. Chief Engineer Clancy was ordered to start the pumps. The pumps, however, soon proved inadequate, and a bucket brigade was formed. This, too, was a wasted effort.
The rising water soon drowned out the boiler fires leaving the IDAHO helpless in the gale. The anchors were dropped in an attempt to bring the crippled steamer around to face the storm and possibly ride it out, but it was too late. The IDAHO sank beneath the waves at 3:00 a.m., November 6, 1897.
The loss of Idaho was the most severe disaster on the Great Lakes in 1897. Nineteen men died when the IDAHO went down. Because of the veteran steamer’s age, its value was only $15,000. The cargo, however, was valued at $100,000. A tidy sum in 1897!
And what was this cargo? Toys! Christmas toys for the children of Milwaukee. Toys that are more than 90 years old. Toys that are worth many times their original value. Any antique dealer would love to get their hands on some toys.
With today’s scuba gear, the wreck of the IDAHO is easily within reach of the treasure hunter. Finding Idaho may be a problem because she lies in an area known as “the Graveyard of Lake Erie,” between Long Point and the New York shore.
Resting quietly in the mud of a lake bottom in Central New York State is a priceless cache of rare antique buttons, once among the envied collection of the French Count Jean-Mark Brieuc de Beauville. On the open collectors’ market, even one of these special ornamental fasteners could fetch a price in the six-figure range.
Yet, there are fifteen hundred in the lake—a fortune today estimated at $150,000,000!
Count Jean Mark Brieuc was a French citizen who lived in New York City for a short time. He had this rare and large collection of valuable buttons. He was a wealthy aristocrat who moved into the highest social circles. He was an official representative of the United States but not in the service of his own government.
Instead, he stood on behalf of private French trade interests and a few European business cartels. In some respects, he was more influential than the French diplomat in Washington.
Brieuc was known for having great taste in antiques, fine cutlery, and crystal, but he loved his buttons the most. Surprisingly, not many of his American friends even knew about his buttons because New Yorkers didn’t care much for such trinkets. But in France and among his wealthy friends in Canada, the controls were admired and made people very jealous.
There were gold and silver buttons and buttons with diamonds, rubies, and even emeralds on them. A few of these specimens carried tiny paintings, while others were inlaid with carvings of ivory and jade. It was a remarkable collection, and these rarest items were kept in two stout but portable iron chests.
In the summer of 1878, a French Canadian business associate named Marmot invited the Brieucs to go yachting on Lake Ontario. Marmot insisted that the county bring along his unique button collection for all to see, and Brieuc agreed. However, bad weather caused them to go to Lake Oneida, in central New York, instead.
Brieuc carried both iron chests aboard the yacht and placed them in the aft salon. Soon they were cruising the lake’s center, the distinction between Oneida and Oswego Counties.
It wasn’t long before the discussion got to the Count’s fabulous button collection. As Brieuc talked more and more about some of the better pieces in the collection, his wife sat in a corner fuming because she hated how much attention he paid to the collection. When one of the gentlemen joked that the Count must love the buttons more than his wife, she got angry, shouted her displeasure, and marched toward the bow.
Suddenly Genevieve, Brieuc’s wife, appeared, struggling mightily under the weight of both chests. She announced her desire to be rid of the damnable baubles once and for all, and to Brieuc’s complete horror, she hefted chests over the side.
Over the next few months, Brieuc spent a lot of time studying and coming up with ideas for how to get his treasure back. Final arrangements for recovery were never completed, and perfunctory searches failed to discover the location of the two chests.
Brieuc made peace with his wife, either out of kindness or because it was expected of him in his social position. With no record of its recovery, the priceless fortune in jeweled gold and silver buttons must still live at the bottom of Lake Oneida in central New York.
Two leather saddlebags filled with gold coins remain, to this day, hidden somewhere in a cave less than five miles from Westfield, NY. The cave is along a rough canyon in the nine-mile-long portage between Lake Erie and Lake Chautauqua.
Seneca Indians attacked three French voyageurs sometime between 1739 and 1749. They were part of a group exploring the portage trail and canyon. These Indians were at almost constant war with the French.
Caught on a narrow ledge, the French suddenly popped into a cave, which was not high enough to accommodate their animals. The horses were left to find their food. The animals were quickly stripped of their saddles and other gear, including saddle bags full of gold coins meant to pay the expedition members.
The French could not have selected a better place for defense, with every avenue of attack exposed to fire. After a day of futile efforts, the men melted into the forest, and the French made their way to the top of the portage, a place known as Buttons, in 1820. Here they recovered their animals.
Returning to the canyon, the men searched for a distance of several miles, but they could not find a sign of the mouth of the cave. It was as if the earth had swallowed it and its contents. Further search in 1749 by the Celeron expedition, which claimed all of the land west of the Alleghenies for the King of France, proved fruitless. Neither the cave nor the gold has ever been found.
There have been many theories as to the missing gold. One, a slide could have sealed the opening to the cave. A cloudburst, or sudden surge, could have produced the same results, as the canyon to this day is as rugged as anything in the Dakota Badlands. Last, of course, and most important, is that the terrain is entirely changed since the 1740s.
Hundreds of backpackers negotiate the portage every summer, but few know of the hidden French gold. And those who do are not interested in the hazards of scaling a precipice. Over the centuries, another cause has eroded or covered the cliffside path.
Did you ever hear of Tea Island? It’s a tiny island, only as big as your hand, resting in Lake George in the mountainous area of northeastern New York. It holds a treasure dating back to the French and Indian war.
As the tale goes, General James Abercromby’s combined British and Colonial forces had portaged a fleet of small boats from the upper Hudson River overland to Lake George during the summer of 1758. They aimed to attack the French bastion at Fort Carillon at the southern tip of Lake Champlain. This fortress was later called Fort Ticonderoga.
Abercromby commanded over 12,000 troops aboard almost 900 boats. At Carillon, the French commander, Marquis de Montcalm, had only 3,500 men and a dwindling supply of rations. Shortly after he had ordered his army northward on Lake George, Abercromby halted at Tea Island on July 5, 1758, where he buried a couple of chests of valuables for safekeeping before the impending encounter with the French.
The nature and quantity of these valuables are unknown, but it has always been rumored to have been a reasonably large treasure, perhaps the payroll for Abercromy’s 12,000 troops. After hiding this trove, the army proceeded up Lake George to disembark at its northern extremity and to march overland to attack the French bastion.
The ensuing battle was a disaster for the combined British and American forces, as the French had built a wall of thick logs across the neck of the peninsula where the fortress was situated. Hurling themselves recklessly against the impenetrable log wall, they suffered 1610 killed, wounded, and missing, while the French lost 377 behind the safety of the wall.
Dismayed and disheartened, Abercromby’s whipped army fled to their boats and confusedly rowed back to the safety of the southern end of Lake George. They bypassed Tea Island without halting to recover their treasure. To this day, there is no report of Abercromby’s treasure having been recovered.
Let us now investigate a lost cache that can be pinpointed near the town of Glenfield, in Lewis County, on the western edge of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. This tale dates back to the days of the French and Indian War when a party of Frenchmen was fleeing down the Black River Valley in an attempt to escape a force of British soldiers and Iroquois Indians.
As the Frenchmen got close to a big rock that became known as Deerlick Rock, they decided to lighten their load by burying their valuables and an unknown amount of money. Then, they headed toward Canada with the plan to come back later and get their treasure. But history tells us they never returned and that the trove is buried near the large rock.
Several facts lend credence to the old treasure story. For one thing, a short distance from the rock was once found an ancient corduroy road built by the French. Some senior residents called it the Old Castorland Road; others called it the Old North-South Road.
About 80 years ago, several antique guns were found near this road. A newspaper account stated: “Relic hunters have found, within a short distance of Deerlick rock and the Old French Road, several guns, each loaded with one ball and three buckshot. The side of a log found the guns, and fifteen or twenty others have been found within 60 rods of the Old Castorland Road.”
Did the retreating French force discard these weapons? Some historians believe so.
A news story in 1930 in the Syracuse, New York, Post Standard newspaper is of further interest. It told how Dr. Earl Bates, a university professor, came across a record in the French archives describing a French officer’s court martial for abandoning funds near a large rock along the Black River route in Lewis County. The professor was convinced that Deerlick Rock was the site referred to.
Grand Island, on the Niagara River between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, has been the source of a treasured mystery that has baffled searchers since the early Colonial days. The tale began when a wealthy Frenchman named Clairieux came to the wooded island with his servant, a huge man known as Julius Caeser, who was mute and could tell no tales of his master’s activities.
Together, they built a sort of sylvan chateau, a large house of logs and stone. As far as can be ascertained, it was probably at the island’s northern end.
Clairieux must have been rich and well-traveled because he filled his home with fine French furniture, Persian and oriental carpets, and Dresden and Sevres china, all of which came from the Old World.
During one summer, a sloop came to the island often.
Each time, it brought chests, which are now thought to be buried near where the Frenchman lived. One account states that seamen lugged fifteen heavy chests into the house. Reports had it that these chests were filled with money.
The fact that the Frenchman often paid for provisions with gold coins lends further testimony to his wealth.
The hermit and his servant lived quietly enough for several years, and then nothing was seen or heard from either of them for an extended period. One summer morning, two traders pulled up at the hermit’s dock hoping to do business with him, and, to their amazement, they found Clairieux’s home burned to the ground.
They saw a giant skeleton tied by the leg and fettered by the arms to a great post near the landing. It was the remains of the servant, Julius Caesar. Dead men tell no tales, nor did Monsieur Clairieux ever return to explain what had happened. Had he been killed elsewhere?
Did he remove his treasure trove? Or did the Frenchman die in the fire? The answers must have gone to the grave with him.
The many stories of hidden wealth among the ocean quartz, spar, and natural cement of New York’s Panama Rocks have more basis than many of America’s more well-known lost treasures and mines.
The rocks were named a century and a half ago due to their similarity to formations on the Isthmus of Panama. Panama Rocks is one of the most popular places in southwestern New York because of its vast walls, underground passages, tunnels, labyrinths, and many caverns and pockets.
The inaccessibility of the caves and tunnels was not lost on the warlike Senecas and their neighbors, the Eries. Both nations frequently visited the rocks until the extermination of the Eries sometime in the 17th century.
Early in the 19th century, the rocks attracted another element, perhaps the most vicious and well-organized band of robbers in the history of the East. Stagecoaches and lone travelers following the road from Erie or Barcelona Harbor were frequently waylaid and robbed, after which the robbers headed for the security of the Rocks, where they cached their loot.
The loot from a dozen or more successful raids is believed to be scattered throughout pock-marked Panama Rocks.
Before the Civil War, a small band decided to do a little freelancing and held up the bank in the village, carrying a large sum of gold coins. For the security of the badlands, the crooks hid the sacks in one of the small crevices just as darkness approached.
Then the gang scattered to the winds. When they returned to the caves a few days later, they couldn’t find the money they had stolen.
During the Civil War, one of the amazing caves was turned into a huge place where fake money was made. Thousands of dollars worth of spurious coins were minted and circulated throughout the area and neighboring Canada. In exchange, the authentic money was brought back to the cavern, carefully sorted, and hidden among the maze of rocks and crevices.
The gang, doing a flourishing business, built a tunnel from the cave to the cellar of a neighboring hotel, where they met regularly. The frustrated federal government could never break up the ring, but the war between the states ended it.
Some men then went on to do more difficult but honorable things for their country. The frightful casualties of the war almost exterminated the gang. Few of them ever returned to their jobs from before the war, and the counterfeiting ring became a colorful part of the history of the Rockies.
Following the conflict, a search of the caves uncovered dies and thousands of spurious coins. None of the genuine loot was recovered. The area is now a very popular recreation spot. It is twenty miles west of Jamestown, near tiny Bear Lake.
There are at least four lost treasures within seventy miles in the area of the St. Lawrence River, separating New York from Canada.
Did you ever hear of a river pirate named Jean Beauvier? He and his outlaw gang amassed considerable loot from attacks on small villages and merchant ships along St. Lawrence. The governments of both Canada and the United States placed a price on Beauvier’s scoundrelly head, but his death did not come at the end of the hangman’s rope; instead, he died of a snake bite.
Beauvier and some of his stolen things were buried somewhere in Ogdensburg. Folks say his grave is near the Diamond International Corporation plant.
On another occasion, during the Revolutionary War, a British invasion force from Canada, under the command of Colonel St. Leger, ran into trouble when some of its boats were swamped in a storm near Point Peninsula. It was carrying about 20,000 pounds in gold for payment to the troops. As an emergency measure, the oaken chests of money were buried on the Point for safekeeping. For some unexplained reason, they were never recovered.
The War of 1812 saw another British invasion force sailing down St. Lawrence. Off Vanderbilt Island, the paymaster’s ship ran into dense fog. Rather than risk running aground, the ship’s captain ordered the vessel to be anchored. During the night, two soldiers were placed on guard over the treasury.
All that money was too great a temptation for the poorly paid privates, so they lowered one of the money chests into a small boat and took off in the direction of Vanderbilt Island. Alerted by another guard member, the ship’s crew fired on the deserters, the boat overturned, and the money chest splashed into the river. It is said to be in the river bottom mud in shallow water.
An additional St. Lawrence treasure is attributed to another river pirate named Patterson. He buried his loot in 1813 on the banks of Chippewa Creek, four miles from the great river. A hangman’s noose tightened about Patterson’s neck before he could retrieve the treasure.
Is Treasure Island in New York? Yes, just south of Phoenix, where New York Route 57 follows the Oswego River, is a historical iron marker bearing this inscription: “Treasure Island. French colonists camped on the island escaping from Onondaga Indians in 1658. Said to have lightened their war chests and deposited cannon and gold here.”
Over time, erosion has reduced the wooded, brush-covered island to about three or four acres. Here is the treasure story.
It looks like the French people in charge of Canada decided to build a fort and trading post at Onondaga Lake, where Liverpool, NY, is now. As a result, on May 17, 1657, Major Zachary du Puis set out from Québec with forty soldiers and four Jesuit priests paddling canoes.
They went down the St. Lawrence River until they reached Lake Ontario, then took the Oswego River south until they reached the Valley of Onondaga. This was an Iroquois country, with Oneida and Mohawk tribes to the east and Senecas and Cayugas to the west. None were pleased to see the strangers entering their hunting grounds.
At Onondaga Lake, the Frenchmen lost no time erecting a log stockade. They built a house big enough for everyone inside the fort, a chapel, and much smaller shacks. They called this the Mission of St. Marie of Gannenta.
At first, the Indians were wary, but some converted to Christianity gradually. But as winter got closer, the Indians showed signs of being unhappy with the French. Rumors reached Major du Puis’ ears that the Indians would permit the party to live within the palisade during the winter months, but when the ice melted, there would be a deadly raid upon the fort.
However, the Frenchmen were clever. Every night during the winter, parties slipped out into the woods and carried back limbs of trees to crude fashion boats. They hoped to use the boats to evade the Indians on their flight to Canada.
The French garrison invited all the Indians in the area to a grand feast at a point outside the palisade walls to cover their escape. The Indians were encouraged to feast and dance, with some finally falling into a deep sleep. The food might have been drugged for this purpose.
The feasting and dancing enabled twenty Frenchmen to covertly haul the boats out of the far side of the fort and down to the lake shore. Finally, the boats were loaded at midnight, and the Frenchmen were shoved off for their flight back to Canada. Their route took them across Onondaga Lake to Mud Creek, which flows into the Seneca River, then to the Oneida River at Three Rivers Point. From there, the party paddled northward on the Oswego River.
When the Frenchmen on the run reached what is now called Treasure Island, they decided to lighten their loads to make it easier for them to get away. As a result, they buried their small cannon and several gold coins on the island. This money was intended for payment of the soldiers. There is no good way to figure out how much the French treasure is worth, but it has gotten more valuable over the last three hundred years.
In 1959, a group of treasure hunters from Syracuse made some exciting finds on Treasure Island, including a collection of arrowheads, a spearhead, pottery fragments, a piece of an Indian clay pipe, an anvil, a hammer stone, and an antique fishnet sinker. But they did not find the cannon or gold coins.
Kenneth W. Sweet owns Treasure Island as a private residence. Be sure to seek permission before venturing on a treasure hunt.