The Keystone State offers almost any type of treasure an interested person would want to search for. For historical sites, Pennsylvania ranks near the top. There are hundreds of ghost towns, abandoned lumber and coal camps, battle sites, Indian villages, early fort locations, and trading posts waiting for the treasure hunter in Pennsylvania.
While this treasure site is legendary, there are enough known facts to support its authenticity. The story goes that in about 1697, a party of French Canadian voyagers left New Orleans for the return trip to Montreal, Canada.
They had been sent to transport a load of gold coins for the French government to use in the fur trade in Canada. They left New Orleans on rafts with provisions and several small wooden kegs. Each keg was filled almost full of gold coins, and a layer of gunpowder was placed over them. The kegs were then anchored to the rafts with nails and ropes.
The planned route was almost 2,000 miles. It went up the Mississippi River to Ohio, then to the Allegheny, north on the Conewago River to Chautauqua Lake, continuing across the lake to Prendergast Creek, and onwards to Montreal by way of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The completed trip would be made by water without any land portages.
The gold was to be delivered to His Majesty’s Royal Governor in Montreal. It was to be guarded with their lives, the voyagers were told. Even though the trip was hard, neither the English nor the Seneca Indians were allowed to steal the valuable cargo. The party consisted of about twenty Frenchmen, two Jesuit priests, and several friendly Indian scouts.
They made it up the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Ohio River, where they are believed to have camped for several days. They repaired the rafts and built canoes to be used later in the narrow streams further north. As they traveled up Ohio, the priests made maps and checked locations for forts and settlements to be built or started later.
They almost certainly stopped at the Shawnee Indian village of Sonioto, north of the Scioto River, where Portsmouth, Ohio, is today. The Shawnee were good friends with the French. The party camped again at the forks of the Ohio River before turning north up the Allegheny.
They were now approaching the lands of the hated Seneca Indians. The bloodthirsty warriors would like nothing better than to scalp a few Frenchmen. A few years before, the Senecas had raided and killed over 200 French settlers in and around Montréal.
The voyageurs wanted no part of this Indian nation, their worst enemy. They changed their planned route. It was decided not to make the trip up the Conewago but to continue on the Allegheny to its headquarters. By doing this, they might not contact the Senecas at all.
At the head of the Allegheny, they could continue onto the Genessee River and then go on north to Lake Ontario. After turning southeast, it is believed that the Frenchmen reached a point near Coudersport, Pennsylvania. They had been attacked by the Senecas several times during their trip up the Allegheny but had fought them off.
Realizing that Indian runners would bring enough warriors to eradicate them, the Frenchmen decided to bury the gold and continue the trip on foot to the Genessee River. They could return for the gold later.
The legend says that they traveled to what is now known as the Valley of Borie in Potter County.
Near a large rock as big as a house, they buried the kegs of gold. The priests chiseled a cross into the rock as a marker. A crude map was made of the area, and the party headed back to the Allegheny. They finally made it to the Genessee River and Montreal by traveling at night and hiding during the day. They reported to the Royal Governor that they had buried the gold near the head of the Allegheny River and had marked a large rock at the location.
The Senecas learned about the rock in the Borie area that had a strange carving, like two crossed sticks, upon it. The superstitious Indians never touched the carving because they thought it was a religious symbol of the French and could hurt them.
Because of the war with the Senecas and the threat of the English, no record of the Frenchmen returning for the gold can be found. It is believed by many that somewhere near the head of the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania is a buried treasure of gold worth over $300,000. It has never been reported as found.
In Deep Run, Pennsylvania, there is a story that goes back a long time about an Indian silver mine and a stash of silver ingots. This location is almost exactly on the state line between Pennsylvania and Maryland. However, most people believe the mine and cache to be within Adams County, Pennsylvania. Newspapers from more than 100 years ago talked about this site and the events there.
The story goes that a German silversmith Ahrwud was allowed to work in a mine owned only by local Indians. When Ahrwud’s daughter betrayed the trust by stealing silver items from the mine, the father and daughter vanished along with the site of the mine.
The papers mention a stream and a large flat rock, although steps underground are mentioned, with the cryptic notation that they should not be mistaken for nature’s opening. The location is approximately one and a half miles out of Union Mills at the base of a hill. There could be some truth to this story, as the mineral conditions are right for silver in this area.
The Spanish Hills in Carantouan was first mentioned in writing in 1614 on a Dutch map. In 1795, a Frenchman, Don de Rochefoucould-Lian-Court, on a visit to the junction of the Chemung and Susquehanna Rivers, wrote, “Four or five miles to the north I saw a mountain in the shape of a sugar loaf, upon which are to be found the remains of some entrenchments.”
The local inhabitants call them “Spanish Ramparts.” In the 1840s, a medal was found that was proven to have been made in 1550. Later, a Spanish sword, a crucifix, and a black, waterlogged boat were found.
Local tradition says the hill was used by Mound Builders, early French, Iroquois Indians, and three soldiers from a Swedish boat thrown off course, much of which is all in theory.
The evidence and most repeated stories say the Spanish built the ramparts in about 1550. The early Indians said that men in iron hats came to the mountain to escape from other men that were after them. The Indians called the mountain “Espana” or “Mispan” and said that none of their ancestors would visit the place.
The men were supposed to have carried large chests full of round disks or coins to the mountain and buried them in a cave. Indians attacked both parties of the Spanish, and all were killed.
In 1810, Alpheus Harris, a surveyor with a party of men sent to define the New York-Pennsylvania boundary line, told of talking to the few Indians still living in the area. The Indians would not approach Carantouan and said that the spirits of the dead men guarded the money chests.
In the 1820s, Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, is known to have searched Carantouan for the money chests with a divining rod, but without success. Others have also searched unsuccessfully. As far as can be learned, the chests of coins are still there.
A persistent legend in the County of Bucks involves the mysterious Dr. John Bowman, who built a log cabin sometime around 1700 in Washington’s Crossing State Park on the Delaware River. Washington used Bowman’s Mill as a lookout point before the Battle of Trenton.
Some said Dr. Bowman had been a Captain Kidd’s crew member and had received a share of the pirate’s booty. According to history, Dr. John Bowman was captured and forced to sail with Captain William Kidd as the ship’s surgeon.
About 1696, Bowman came up the Delaware River seeking refuge. He made one more trip with Kidd and then returned to the cabin he had built on a hill overlooking the Delaware River. Kidd was eventually caught and hanged in London. Dr. Bowman never went to sea again. He died in the cabin, and his share of the booty from Kidd’s pirate raids is believed to be buried near the cabin.
On the grounds where Fort Horn stood in Clinton County is a document of priceless value. This document was put into an iron box by the citizens of Pine Creek in July 1776. It was a document from the Crown of England that said the people living in the settlement were free and on their own. It was probably written within hours of the Declaration being accepted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
In 1778, Indians of the Six Nations, with the help of the British, all but wiped out the white settlement of Pine Creek. After General Sullivan broke the Six Nations’ power in 1779, the stayed settlers returned to Pine Creek. Fort Horn had been burned, and no trace of the town could be found.
It was strange that two documents with almost the exact words could be written, although neither party knew the other had been written. One is lost to history, while the other became one of the most significant documents in history.
Our Declaration of Independence is secure, while the lucky person—if anyone ever does—who finds the Pine Creek document will have something priceless. This is an unusual treasure but one worth the effort of checking out.
In June 1948, an airliner crashed into Mount Carmel. The story is that there was $250,000 aboard the plane. This money was in packets that were jettisoned just before the crash. None of the packets of money have been reported to be found. Wreckage from the plane was found over a wide area. Several reports put this crash in Northumberland County. But the county clerk at Bloomsburg tells me that the incident happened in Columbia County.
I quote this from the New York Times of June 1948:
“Authorities were searching today for an air express package containing $250,000 in small bills believed to be jettisoned before the crash of a United Airlines DC-6 near here, in Mt. Carmel, on June 17. A postal authority said the parcel of money weighed 240 pounds and contained bills in $1.00, $5.00, and $10.00 denominations.”
The Dent’s Run Treasure is said to be lost somewhere in the rugged, sparsely populated area where Elk and Cameron Counties meet. According to legend, a young Union Army lieutenant was commissioned in 1863 to transport a false-bottomed wagon containing 26 gold bars weighing 50 pounds each from Wheeling, West Virginia, to Washington, D. C.
Hoping to avoid Confederate troops, the lieutenant took a northern route across Pennsylvania. He planned to bear northeast to the village of Driftwood on the Sinnemonhoning River in Cameron County, then build a raft and float down to the Susquehanna, on to Harrisburg, and eventually by land to Washington.
His group went from Pittsburgh to Clarion to Ridgeway and Saint Mary’s in Elk County. They left Saint Mary’s for Driftwood on a Saturday night in June and were never seen again.
In August, the expedition’s civilian guide got lost and ended up in Lock Haven, about 40 miles southeast of Driftwood. He was in a hysterical state. He claimed that all the other expedition members had died in the snake-infested wilderness and that the cargo was lost.
Some believed him, but the Army was suspicious. The guide was monitored and kept under surveillance for years, never being allowed to return to the area. Pinkerton agents were called into the area, but the gold was never found.
One of the long-held legends around Uniontown concerns the Kirk Gang. During the 1800s, this group of criminals is said to have done things from Morgantown, West Virginia, to the National Pike in Pennsylvania. A book called The Rover’s Den was written about this gang in 1865.
According to legend, the band established a hideout in Dulaney’s Dave, now known as Laurel Caverns, in 1804 and buried much-stolen money inside. The outlaws were finally all killed, but their reputed cache was never reported as found.
Ann Carson was one of the few women counterfeiters ever to operate in Pennsylvania. She and two companions also robbed cattle drovers. At one time, she had an elaborate scheme to kidnap the governor’s son and exchange him for her lover, Lieutenant Richard Smith. The scheme failed, and Smith was hanged. The money she obtained during her outlaw career is believed to be hidden near her home.
Ann often masqueraded as a Quakeress and passed a considerable amount of imitation money. She was finally caught and sent to prison, where she died in April 1824.
Captain Blackbeard, not the pirate, had a commission from the British Admiralty in 1812 to raise the bulk of a Spanish treasure ship that had been wrecked off the Bahamas in 1680. He saved the ship and brought it to Baltimore, where a warship was supposed to tow it and the treasure it held to London.
But in June, just before the War of 1812 started, Captain Blackbeard met Peter Abelard Xarthaus of the privateer Comet on the docks in Baltimore. Captain Blackbeard had successfully brought the Spanish galleon with its $1,500,000 worth of silver bars to the Maryland city, which Karthaus was aware of.
Fearing the possibility that Karthaus might pirate the find and the fact that war was imminent, the British had to put a blockade into effect along the Eastern Coast. Because of this, Captain Blackbeard decided that his silver treasure should be taken by land to Canada, where it would be safe.
So, he started sending his silver bars across Pennsylvania in a group of six wagons pulled by six oxen. When the war started, the convoy was in McKean County, and here news came to Captain Blackbeard that Niagara had been blockaded, closing off his intended escape route.
He buried his treasure near Silvermine Run, five or six miles west of Garden. No report of the treasure has been made.
About 1835, a man named Groves was visiting a friend, Thomas Burns, on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, three miles above Keating, Pennsylvania. While there, Groves and Burns saw a party of Indians pass by on their way upstream, carrying knapsacks and small axes. Three days later, the Indians returned, stopped at Burns’ house, and asked for a night’s lodging.
During the evening meal, Groves decided to learn what was in the knapsacks that had seemed so heavy on the Indians’ return. To his surprise, one of the bags was filled with very rich silver ore.
The next day, when the Indians had gone on downriver, Groves backtracked without the company of Burns, following the trail upstream to Birch Island Run, where their tracks disappeared into the river. After several days of searching in the surrounding area without learning where the Indians had left the river or obtained the silver ore, Groves gave up the search.
He later went west of the Mississippi River and stayed there for several years. Finally, in 1875, Groves returned to Keating, accompanied by his son. The two explored the area around Birch Island Run. After two weeks, they gave up the search, having found no signs of the silver mine or outcropping.
The search area is still a wild, rugged country with steep mountains, rock ledges, and timber. There are a few forestry roads along the ridges, but otherwise, the terrain is much the same as it was 145 years ago when Groves saw the Indian pack filled with silver ore.
About six miles southeast of McConnellsburg, on State Route 16, in Fulton County, there is supposed to be an Indian silver mine in the James Buchanan State Forest. Local stories from the pioneers say that Indians got silver here and traded it for guns, powder, and whiskey, but no white person ever found out where it was.
Several Indians lived in Potter County in the early days, and quite often, they were seen to have pure silver ore in their possession. These Indians refused to give any information about where they secured the metal, and this caused the settlers to believe that the Indians knew of a deposit of silver somewhere in the mountains of Potter County.
I quote this from “The Wonderful Ice Mine,” a booklet published in Coudersport, Pennsylvania: “About the year 1894, a Cattaraugus Indian came to Coudersport. He was seen walking off into the woods near the town of Sweden Valley and later returning from the direction of what is now called Ice Mountain. He was born, in a tied handkerchief, some fine specimens of silver ore.
After showing this ore to everyone, he left without telling anyone where he was going, where he came from, or where or how he got the ore. The result was obvious, and silver mining naturally became the subject of conversation whenever two or more people met. A general search for the silver was done, but the location of the mine was never learned.
With the price of silver being what it is today, it would be worthwhile for any interested parties to check this out.
This combines three treasure locations, all in the same area. The stream, Thunder Run, drains into Johnson Brook in Pike Township, near Caleton, in Potter County. It got its name from the continuous rumbling roar, like distant thunder, that comes out of the hill near the brook’s head.
The tumbling and churning of water inside the mountain cause the noise. The noise is loudest and most active in the spring when there is the most rain. Part of this stream is above ground, and in other places, it is deep within the earth.
There is a story of a diamond mine in Johnson Brook. Several people claim that on Thunder Run, anyone willing to dig can pick up jewels out of the dirt that looks like real diamonds, but they are of no great value. However, these imperfect stones could indicate a deposit or a pipe that must be investigated further.
During the period before the Civil War, there was a gang of horse thieves who had hideouts in several different places in the county. One of these was in Sandstone Hollow, the first small stream draining into Pine Creek, located west of Galeton, and another hideout was in Thunder Run.
The thieves would hide the horses until the police stopped looking for them in one of the many caves in the area. There was a cave, or tunnel, connecting these two streams that allowed the outlaws to outwit any pursuing party.
One gang member was such a good painter that he could change the color of a horse’s hair so that it could not be identified until it was shed. Stories of hidden caches being made by these thieves have circulated in the area for years.
About 105 years ago, a young boy named Charlie Smith and a companion decided to explore the small caves along the rocks in Sandstone Hollow. After a few hours in one cave, they came to a wide fault, or crevice, several feet high in one wall. They crawled through this fault, which in places had large rooms and high ceilings. No lamps were needed because light filtered down from cracks in the fault.
The two boys walked and crawled for over half a mile before they came out on Thunder Run, proving that a cave system connected the two streams. On their way through this natural tunnel, the two boys saw numerous weapons and tools made by Indians from flint and bone.
The two never told their parents about their cave-exploring trips until they were grown, for fear of being punished by their parents for doing such a dangerous thing. Any interested Spelunker would do well to visit Sandstone Hollow.
This story of $650,000 worth of pennies takes some explaining, but it is true. Since an account of this nature must have made big news, I checked two newspapers, the Philadelphia Ledger of Philadelphia and The Sentinel of Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Here are their reports briefly.
On September 1, 1909, the Pittsburgh Express train, on its way from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had just passed Mifflin and entered the Narrows near Lewistown. James Lawler, one of the two Lawler brothers (the other was named John), was a well-known criminal in the area. He was a lone bandit with a gun in each hand and sticks of dynamite in his coat pockets, shook the passenger train as it was heading toward Lewistown.
The engineer stopped the train when the lone bandit, who had a burlap bag mask with two holes for eyes, confronted the engineer and conductor, forcing them to lead him to the express car.
Upon entering the express car, the bandit demanded more efficiency from the trainmen due to their slowness in responding to his demands. He fired several shots and wounded Conductor Poffenberger in hand. The bandit forced the conductor, fireman, and another man to carry bags of loot several hundred yards up a mountain bordering the tracks, then ordered them to go back down to the train while he made his getaway.
One bag contained $5,049 in gold, and two bags contained Lincoln pennies, worth $100 each, the first ever minted. One small bag contained $100.00 worth of silver dollars, and a small pouch contained $10.00 in silver dollars.
On arrival at the scene a few hours later, Pinkerton Agency detectives, other railroad employees, and local law enforcement officials found a money trail up the mountainside. The first bag of gold had $5,049 in it. Later, another bag was found, and the rest were found. The bags of pennies, however, were split. All of the money was recovered except for $65.00.
My evaluation is that the bags of pennies would have weighed about 86 pounds, the gold about 16 pounds, and the other bags much less. After a lot of trouble, the thief probably messed around with all the bags for a while and just threw away the lighter ones and kept the heavier ones. After more trouble, he probably decided to open a bag, fill his pockets, and stash the rest.
When he discovered he had only pennies, he heaved these bags away and could not find the first one containing the gold due to the darkness. He probably wasted a lot of time struggling with his 175 pounds of supposed treasure before discovering he had discarded the important bags. He got away with nothing. The robber was never caught and is believed to have died in the mountains west of Lewistown. His brother, John, was later hanged in West Virginia.
In 1909, railroad and local officials were not concerned with a lost bag of pennies when they had just recovered the rest of the robbery money. When the robber split the bags and threw the pennies away in 1909, they were worth $65.00. However, if the coins were in mint condition and were 1909 VDB-S, their estimated value today would be well over half a million dollars.
There is still a small chapter of the story left. In December 1954, three deer hunters—Johnny and Albert Dubendorf and friend Charles Bell—were returning home from a hunt about a half-mile west of Hawkstone. Bell discovered several pennies. The three men began digging and uncovered 3,700 of the 1909 Lincoln pennies. This had to be part of the $65.00 that Lawler had thrown away.
Since then, there have been no reports of anything else being found. This would be a good place to search because somewhere in the area where the hunters struck their bonanza, there are still 2,800 pennies worth a minimum of $11,000 on today’s market, waiting for some lucky treasure hunters.
This little-known, 90-year-old treasure site could pay someone to check it out. A small amount of currency was found, but this is believed to be only a part of what was hidden by the father, who dealt mostly with gold coins.
About four miles northeast of Hillsboro, Pennsylvania, in Allegheny County, John Crouch was called a notorious miser by his neighbors. His immediate family was murdered for money believed to be hidden either in or near the home. Speculation by different people at the time placed the amount at almost $350,000.
On May 15, 1890, the Pittsburgh Dispatch reported that Justice A. J. McCormick found $326.70 after the murders. However, the Pittsburgh Press newspaper rounded the figure out at $250.00. Crouch’s married daughter stated that there were over $3,000 in bills in the house and that her parents had many purses, and only one had been found, but she did not know how much gold her father had at home. A close relative denied that Crouch was a miser.
A man named West was captured and convicted of the murders. When he was arrested, he had three purses taken from the Crouch home. It is noted that a will made out by Crouch in 1881 left only $1,000 to each of his children.
The Pittsburgh Press stated that Crouch was known to keep large amounts of money at his home but did not state whether it was coins or currency, nor did it give the amount believed to be still hidden, although it did mention that it was considerable.
This would be a good location for further research into the Crouch family and county records for those interested, as no record of any additional money ever showing up has been learned.
Since diving for treasure in oceans, lakes, and rivers plays a large part in the treasure-hunting hobby, these locations and information should interest many divers.
Some of these wrecks contain gold and silver species, while others are loaded with materials almost as valuable today, lumber, copper ore, steel, chinaware, tools, et cetera. The wrecks listed are far from the only ones that have occurred in Pennsylvania rivers on the shores of Lake Erie. I have material on dozens of others.
The following are all in Allegheny County:
The Warren was caught off the shore at Pittsburgh in the spring of 1864 when the river fell and was wrecked.
The Florence Bell, a packet on the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, was cut down by ice at Creighton in January 1910.
The Forest and Pulaski collided about twenty miles above Pittsburgh on May 5, 1843. The Pulaski sank with quite a loss of cargo. She was raised and towed to Pittsburgh, where she burned and sank on March 3, 1844.
The Liberty 2, a towboat, struck a pier of the St. Clair Street Bridge in Pittsburgh on June 19, 1855, sank and was a complete loss.
The Alice, a towboat, carried sand and gravel onto the Allegheny River, where her boilers exploded near Glenfield, and she sank. Eight men were killed.