While Vermont is not comparable to Texas or California in the number of treasure locations within its borders, there are enough treasure and metal detector sites to make it worthwhile to visit.
Vermont is the only New England state without an Atlantic Ocean coastline, but there are many known shipwrecks in Lake Champlain, some of which date back to the 1730s, that should be of interest to the scuba diver.
Several treasure tales relate to Lake Champlain, that slender finger of water separating the northern parts of New York and Vermont. One strange tale refers to tiny Stave Island, north of Mallett’s Bay and just off the Vermont shore.
As old-timers tell it, a laborer sat in the shade one sunny day eating lunch. Happening to glance at a nearby tree, he spied a curious carving on the bark. It was the outline of a human hand with the index finger pointing. Curious? Certainly, but it probably had no particular significance.
Finally, he roused himself and climbed the tree to look closer. Sighting along the outline of the pointing finger, he discerned a large flat rock in a nearby clearing. Once again on the ground, the fellow strolled to the rock and attempted to lift it. No good: it was too heavy, and the pointing finger probably had no meaning anyway.
That night as he was about to sleep, his thoughts returned to the large rock. Could it conceal one of the area’s treasure hoards he had often heard about? Time whetted his curiosity, so a few days later, the man enlisted the aid of a friend to visit Stave Island under cover of darkness.
With a pick, a crowbar, and some shovels, the two landed their boat quietly on the shore and moved toward the flat rock’s clearing. Suddenly, from behind a tree stepped a caretaker. He surmised that the two interlopers were seeking treasure and informed them that anything of value must be turned over to the island’s owner. This discouraged the laborer and his friend, causing them to leave in their boat abruptly.
A few weeks later, there was a knock on the laborer’s modest home door. At the door was the island’s caretaker announcing that he had changed his heart. The laborer and his friend could have permission to dig on the island, providing the pair share any discovery with him, and the agreement was made.
There was some delay before the treasure seekers were again ready to return and try to move the rock. However, fate intervened in the form of a forest fire that swept Stave Island. Every tree became a charred ghost, ending all evidence of the pointing finger and covering the large flat rock.
The treasure hunt was terminated. Of course, many large flat rocks were still to be seen, but without the telltale finger to show where the correct rock was, it was hopeless to search. As far as is known, this has never been found.
There is a legend that the Spanish were on the shores of New England before the French, Dutch, or English, and there is evidence that may back this legend up. One is the discovery of a Spanish helmet on the shore of Lake Champlain. Another was the kind of an iron kettle containing Spanish gold and five skeletons in a cave in Vermont. At Ticonderoga, legend has Indian purchasing provisions with Spanish dollars and eight cobs.
A few years ago, a detector user uncovered 21 silver bars and 40 lbs. of lead bars, all with Spanish markings. He reported finding these items under a flat stone, one foot deep, in a cave near Lost Pond, west of Ticonderoga.
Other stories of lost treasure are at Kingsbury, where there may still be a cache of silver which was a payroll, supposedly buried during an Indian raid on Four Mile Post.
It happened on the morning of February 5, 1887. Detective Harmon Sears slouched in the train’s fourth passenger car seat, staring absently through his window at the whirling snow flurries obscuring the Vermont countryside.
A hardwood box entrusted to his care was propped on the seat beside him. The box measured three and one-half by five by thirteen and one-half inches. Tucked inside was a small fortune in solid silver coins arranged in two neat rows of ten stacks, with 50 coins to the stack.
Slightly larger than a modern fifty-cent piece, the medallions had been struck to commemorate the Winter Carnival, then held in Montréal, Canada. Privately minted in America at the request of the fair’s officials to save money, the coins were to be sold to help defray the carnival’s public expense. Now it was Sears’ task to transport them safely to their destination by train.
The train rapidly trundled up the approach to the 650-foot-long trestle bridge spanning Vermont’s White River, not far from the hamlet of West Hartford. When the engine rolled onto the first trestle proper, there was still no hint of trouble. But, suddenly, one of the cast-iron rails, made brittle by the cold, snapped under the train’s weight a scant 60 yards from the bridge.
The tailing car hit the break, skipped the rails, and skirted along at an awkward scant onto the bridge. The car lurched sideways, pitched from its perch, and yanked the three preceding cars away. All four cars plunged 60 feet into the rushing, frigid river below. Thirty-two people perished, Harmon Sears among them.
The chest crammed with the cache of Canadian commemorative coins was among the baggage, freight, and other debris thrown into the river. When the wreck was cleared away, piece by piece, the coins were never found.
It is believed that the box was washed a few hundred feet downstream, lodged in the silt. Today valued at $75 each by collectors, the coins are a tempting lure for the treasure hunter with a metal detector interested in finding a $75,000 fortune.
Old-timers in Vermont say there is a fortune in silver hidden in the Green Mountains for anyone who can find it.
The general location of this treasure is well known. The Lost Money Cave is near Wallingford, Vermont, about 10 miles south of Rutland on State Highway 7. After reaching Wallingford, the treasure hunter must go about two miles east on Vermont 140 to the White Rocks Recreation Area. There, he can take a wooden trail south, and in about 15 minutes, he will come to the top of a hill. From there, he can see a huge mass of broken white stones on the sloping side of a nearby hill.
The story can be found in an old geology book published in 1861 called “Geology of Vermont” by Hitchcock.
This is the story:
“At intervals for the last 20 years, companies of men have assembled here and worked laboriously in this hard rock, for weeks at a time, with the vain hope of finding a cave which some Spaniards had made in the rocks, a long time ago, by the removal of silver ore which they subsequently reduced to metal and coined into silver dollars.”
The story of Lost Money Cave began around the end of the 18th century when a Vermonter named Richard Lawrence was a young boy. One day young Lawrence met an old man on horseback who was traveling through his hometown of Chester in eastern Vermont. The boy did some favor or other for the stranger, so the older man told him a secret.
The old man said he was a Spaniard and that the saddlebags on his horse were full of silver dollars he had just taken from a cave near Wallingford. It was this cave, he said, that he and a group of friends had mined and smelted more silver than they knew what to do with years ago when they were young. Now all his friends were dead, and he had come back for the last time to pick up enough silver to live on for the rest of his life.
Because the young boy had been kind to him, the old Spaniard told him about the cave and how to find it. He said that the cave still contained a fortune in silver bars and minted coins, and he asked that Richard keep quiet about the cave until enough years had passed that the boy could assume the old man had died.
Richard Lawrence kept his part of the bargain, and it was not until around 1840 that he told the secret of the Lost Money Cave. Immediately, the news spread, and teams of men went to the location near Wallingford to search for the cave.
When no cave was found, some of the searchers decided a rock slide must have hidden the entrance. Soon, they began digging and blasting on the side of the mountain. Yet, despite all their efforts, Lost Money Cave has not been found.
Another legend concerning the Spanish gold concerns Ludlow Mountain. About 200 years ago, a party of ten Spaniards carrying a large amount of gold passed through the area around Ludlow Mountain on their way to trade with the Indians. Eight of the travelers were taken ill and died. The other two, unable to carry the gold, buried it on Ludlow Mountain not far from the Camel’s Hump, a well-known landmark. One of the two is said to have returned years later but could not locate the cache.
At four p.m., on October 19, 1864, a band of 25 men swooped down from Canada and caught St. Albans, 15 miles from the border, by surprise. They robbed the city’s three banks of approximately $200,000, stole 25 horses, and set fire to the hotel. Five citizens were shot, one fatally. In less than half an hour, they were gone.
A group of irate citizens formed a posse to trail the raiders, who were a band of Confederates under the leadership of Bennett H. Young. Eleven were captured, and $75,000 was recovered. The men were then turned over to Canadian authorities.
On December 14, the Secretary of War was informed that the court in Montréal had released the St. Albans raiders on a technicality.
The U. S. Army wasted no time in getting out General Order No. 97, which said, in effect, that all border towns should organize suitable defenses. Citizens were advised to shoot raiders caught in the act of committing a crime. If necessary, the raiders were to be followed into Canada, and if apprehended, they were not to be surrendered to anyone. They were to be returned to the United States for trial.
On this note, the incident drops out of the war’s official records, except for one item, still to be found in some Confederate records. This item notes that seven canvas sacks are hidden in a pine grove among some rocks between St. Albans and the Canadian border. These sacks contain $12,000 in gold.
All of this was brought to light by the death of an ex-Confederate soldier from Mississippi, who had taken part in the raid and had escaped capture. According to his diary, the weight of the gold slowed their escape, so he and two other men hid the money in a pine grove beside the trail, among some rocks.
The Mississippian never desired to go back into Yankee territory, and the other two men had been killed, so the loot is still there and has been for more than a century.
Not far from the City of Burlington, General Horatio went down during the last century, with gold and silver valued at $56,000. Salvage attempts have been made for this loot, but it remains for a resolute searcher.
The Marquis de Montcalm had ringed Fort Carillon, later known as Ticonderoga, with a Cheveux de Frise, which translated to English means sharpened stakes driven into the ground at an angle, with the points facing outwards.
The bristling barricade gave the appearance of an enraged, oversized porcupine. Satisfied that his crack troops, which only numbered 4,000 men, could withstand the combined Anglo-American attack soon to follow, Montcalm turned to the administrative business.
New France was rife with graft and corruption, and the handsome nobleman had already sent several officers back to Paris in irons to be tried for embezzlement. More arrests were to follow. For days Montcalm had awaited a bateau that had left Montréal two weeks earlier.
It should have been at Ticonderoga within ten days. The clumsy craft was carrying an iron chest containing the payroll for his men and officers, which was months in arrears.
With the news that the allied army numbered four times the size of his own, the Marquis was to learn that the bateau had capsized near Little Garden Island and that the chest had slid into the frigid waters of Lake Champlain. Allegedly it would be seen resting on the bottom of the crystal inland sea, but it was impossible to reach it.
Montcalm cut the red-coated army of Abercrombie to pieces. The kilted Black Watch had made one futile charge after another over the bodies of their fallen comrades heaped around the vicious ring of sharpened stakes. It was a tremendous victory for the white-uniformed French and a staggering defeat for the British, the worst of the entire war. Over 1500 of the attacking force had failed on that July afternoon in 1758.
The victory, however, did not restore the lost chest, and great as it was, it didn’t raise the spirit of the troops when they learned that their pay was on the bottom of Lake Champlain.
For over two centuries, treasure hunters have been hunting for the gold Louis d’Ors, and none has gotten any closer than they did to the great French soldier.
During the Battle of Lake Champlain in 1814, the British ship CONFIDENCE was put out of action when cannon balls hulled her. When the ship’s officer saw the Americans preparing to board her, he ordered them to drag the fleet’s chest to the deck.
Quickly, a boat was lowered from the CONFIDENCE, and the chest was suspended over the side with ropes and lowered into the escape boat. Then the two-man crew headed for Cumberland Rocks.
The Americans, sensing the mission of the British sailors in the little boat, gave chase of the craft. Historians claim it was the first international rowboat race in the history of Lake Champlain and that it had to be a tie.
Just as the Americans were about the overhaul the enemy, they crashed into some rocks, and the chest was smashed to atoms, the coins twisting and turning on their way to the bottom of the lake.
To this very day, the gold of the British fleet of Admiral Downie is still around Cumberland Rocks, and upon occasion, a coin or two has been recovered.
It is hard to believe, but for several years during the 1850s and 1860s, Vermont ranked third in the production of gold within the United States. With the price of gold being what it is today, it could pay to investigate the streams of Vermont for the elusive mineral. The following are excerpts from different sources concerning the gold in Vermont.
The towns of Bridgewater, Plymouth, and Tyson once produced abundant gold. Except for a few old Vermont natives and a handful of prospectors who still pan a few flakes or nuggets from the numerous small brooks, the heydays of the great “Plymouth Gold Rush” have been long forgotten.
The first certain knowledge of gold in Vermont was in 1851 when Matthew Kennedy found a piece of float containing more than $5.00 worth of nuggets near the north end of the Plymouth township line.
In 1855, a successful “forty-niner” named William Hankerson arrived in Plymouth with a sizeable fortune acquired in the California gold fields. Being impressed with the resemblance of the Vermont region to the gold-bearing formation of California, he began to prospect Raiding Pond Brook in the southern part of the town and hit pay dirt.
In 1858, an ex-forty-niner named Virgil Woodcock worked one sluice a half-mile long and took out more than $2,000 worth of gold the first summer. J. S. Wilder and Augustus Trudo also took out large amounts of gold from Reading Pond Brook.
In the spring of 1860, William Hankerson took the risk of paying $1,000 to clean and sluice the mill pond at Five Corners, a short distance from Plymouth. This claim paid off with more than $7,000 in gold during that one summer.
In the town of Bridgewater, to the north of Plymouth, placers were being worked in Piney Hollow Brook, Dailey Hollow, North Branch, and the Ottauquechee River. Several gold mines were developed, with the Taggart being the first one in the area, followed by the Pioneer, Carbeneau, McKinsey, and Joslyn mines, as well as several others whose names and locations have been long since forgotten.
Discoveries were made on the east branch of Gold Brook, running in from Reading, and two miners from Massachusetts brought up the whole brook and were said to have done quite well. The placer workings at Gold Brook alone have amounted to over $20,000 in gold being taken out.
In 1882, the Rooks Mining Company, a New York corporation, purchased the entire area of Gold Brook, finished erecting a mill that had been started, and in 1883 started the largest of the Vermont gold-producing enterprises.
The ore proved rich, and the quality of the gold was a grade superior to what was generally produced by men of the famed gold mines in the west, according to a report from “Financial and Mining News” of New York.
It was officially reported by the “New York Daily Stockholder,” November 5, 1884, that production from October 1883 to September 1884, was $46,970 from this one mine alone.
Today the waters of Buffalo and Gold Brook still ripple through the ledges of Talcose Slate towards Echo Lake and past the old Rooks Mine slag piles. Many old shafts and placer sites can still be located by an experienced eye, and “Hankerson’s $7,000 damn” remains on Gold Brook.
The gold days are only memories to a few, but the nuggets, dust, and black sands still work their way down the melting snows and seek their place in the brooks.
Some of the other streams in Vermont from which placer gold can be panned are Rock River in Newfane and Dover; West River in Townshend and Jamaica; Williams River in Ludlow; Ottaquechee River in Bridgewater; White River in Stockbridge and Rochester; Third Branch of the White River in Braintree; Mad River in Warren, Waitsfield, and Moretown; Little River in Stowe and Waterbury; Gold Brook in Stowe’s Lamoille River in Johnson; Gihon River in Eden; and the Missisquoi River in Lowell and Troy.
Gold flakes and small nuggets are still found near Caysville and Bethel in the White River and its tributaries.
Many other rivers and small tributaries of the before-mentioned rivers will also yield gold. For more information on collecting rocks, minerals, and fossils in Vermont, write Vermont Geological Survey, Montpelier, Vermont 05602.
While Vermont is seldom mentioned as a gold-producing state, it has a long history of gold mining. Even today, there are many areas within the state where placer gold can be recovered by panning and sluicing in stream beds.
The border of Vermont from Highgate Springs east to Canaan has been a favorite area for smugglers between the United States and Canada since the 1770s. Smuggling became so bad in the early 1800s that American soldiers were stationed at Swarton to prevent this illegal activity.
From 1807 to 1814, St. Albans, because it was the northernmost sizeable community in western Vermont, was the largest base of smuggling operations on Lake Champlain.
There is a recreational area near Stowe named Smugglers Notch. This pass was used during the War of 1812 to smuggle contraband into and out of the United States. Sometimes the caves in the area were used to store these goods.
During the two World Wars and Prohibition, millions of gallons of whiskey, of all descriptions, were hauled back and forth between Canada and Vermont. There are several stories of caches of payoff money being hidden in the caves to keep the money from falling into the hands of the authorities.
With a little local research, the entire border of northern Vermont could be interesting and perhaps profitable for a treasure hunter to check out.
A story of buried treasure in Lake Champlain concerns Gardiner’s Island, located off Long Point in Addison County. After Ethan Allen’s capture of Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War, several British soldiers who had escaped were seen carrying a heavy box onto Gardiner’s Island.
They left without it, and it has always been presumed that the box contained treasure. A great deal of digging has been done for the chest, but so far as it is known, it has never been located. This is private land, so permission to search will have to be obtained.
During the days of sailing ships in New England, 1600 to 1800, the tall pines in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire were in great demand to be used as ships’ masts to hold the hundreds of yards of sails necessary for travel.
Trees were cut, then taken by large sleds; sometimes, as many as twenty or thirty horses or mules would haul one to three of these huge logs overland to the Merrimack River in New Hampshire. There they would be rafted down to Amesbury, Salisbury, and other seaports, usually ending up in Boston, the largest shipping port on the Atlantic seaboard. Other times the logs were taken west of Lake Champlain, then north to the St. Lawrence River.
According to the information I have obtained, one such logger that made a fortune for the times, dealing in ships masts, was David Jarvis, who operated out of the headquarters of the Winooski River in Vermont. During the 1730s and 1740s, Jarvis ran an extensive, if somewhat primitive, lumber operation.
Jarvis would accept payment in gold coins when he delivered a load of logs. It was known that he kept a large amount of money on the small farm where he lived when not in the woods.
This story has a ring of truth because there were no banks, and the entire area was sparsely settled. Also, Jarvis would have had to have money to pay his men, who were usually itinerant loggers. They would, in many instances, work one season and then move on to another camp. He also needed ready cash to buy timber tracts.
The neighborhood’s story (years after Jarvis was killed in an accident while helping cut a tree) was that he had buried a large part of his money on his farm. This would be a perfect location for any interested treasure hunter to research old records, some of which are still believed to exist.
The Winooski River heads into Orange County and runs through Washington and Chittenden Counties into Lake Champlain.
This would be an excellent location to research. There is supposed to be a melted cache of coins, mostly $10.00 gold pieces, that were in a fruit jar in a house that burned in 1916, on Stannard Mountain, out from the small town of Stannard, in northeastern Vermont.
The coins, in all probability, are fused, but with the price of gold, the lump would make a very good find.
The house’s general location can be reached through Walden, past the old Fairbanks Mills, and up Steam Mills Road. Make a left turn at the fork of this road, then go about one mile. This is a rugged country, accessible only by jeep, horseback, or foot.
Several changes have been made in the roads, due to erosion, during the last sixty years, and no report of this cache being found can be learned. A persevering treasure hunter might find a blob of gold worth several hundred dollars today.
The story of Robert Gordon and his hidden money chest near Whitehall, New York, has been written by several authors and is generally known. Although what is common knowledge is that the cache was made in a well-marked spot on the left side of Wood Creek, formed by the streams Hubbardton and Paultray, just north of town.
This location is debatable since it is believed by many people to be in New York, but my information shows it to be north of Whitehall, which would qualify it as a Vermont treasure site.
The treasure of $75,000 was hidden during the Revolutionary War. In the 1770s, Whitehall, located on Wood Creek, a stream that flows into Lake Champlain, was called Skenesborough. In 1770, a Scotsman named Robert Gordon came to this area and built a trading post south of the town, which he called the Red Barn.
Gordon was loyal to the English Crown and was, therefore, a Tory. When British General Burgoyne was defeated at Saratoga, those who had remained British in their politics were subjected to tar and feathers and expulsion from the community.
Gordon decided the best thing to do was to leave for Canada. He and his family started northward by following Wood Creek, taking what items they could manage in a small boat. Realizing that the boat was overloaded, Gordon decided to hide his money chest, which was filled with gold and silver coins, plus several pieces of expensive silver plate, and return for it later.
After reaching Canada safely, Gordon could never get back to Skeenesborough. One story is that he died in his sleep, another says he was killed in a hunting accident, and another tells that he became lost in the Canadian wilderness and his body was never found.
Whatever the reason for his not returning, it is believed by many people that somewhere on Wood Creek, north of Whitehall, there is a money chest containing $75,000 that was hidden by Robert Gordon in 1777, waiting for some lucky treasure hunter.
In 1700, an old man named De Grau appeared in Bristol, then called Poppock, in Addison County, and spent several months digging in a nearby rocky area known locally as “Hell’s Half Acre.”
He finally revealed that he had many years before being a member of a party of Spaniards who had found and mined a rich vein of silver which they melted into bars. Then, forced to leave the area for some unknown reason and unable to transport all the silver bars, they concealed the ones left behind in a cave.
Of the party, only De Grau lived to return, but his search for the silver bars proved fruitless, and he finally concluded that a rockslide had covered the cave. Many years later, a crude crucible was found in the vicinity, evidently of Spanish origin, adding credence to the story.
A treasure is lost near Colchester Point on Lake Champlain. Nearby is Colchester Reef, on which is located a steel tower with its light constantly winking at night. The schooner GENERAL CATES sank here, depositing a fortune of $45,000 in silver coins on the reef. This money is believed to be there still, but very few details are known.
For those interested in relic hunting and metal detector sites, the following early military forts in Vermont could be worthwhile investigating. Permission to search these areas should always be obtained.
Fort Dummer was built in the south-central corner of Vermont by the British in 1724.
Fort Cassin, near Basin Harbor in Addison County, withstood a British assault in April of 1814.
Ford Ranger was built in 1778 on the high bluff opposite where the historical marker is today in Rutland. The garrison was moved to Castleton in 1871.
Fort St. Anne, on Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain, was built by the French in 1666, near Castleton, for protection against the Mohawk Indians. Another outpost was built in 1690, by Captain Jacobus de Warm, from Albany, New York, at what is now Chimney Top in Rutland County.
This fort was abandoned after a few months. In 1739, a band of French colonists rebuilt the outpost and called it Fort de Pieux. The French deserted the fort because of Indian threats in 1759, and the Mohawk Indians destroyed it completely in 1760.
Fort Vengeance, in Rutland County, was so named because a soldier was killed by Indians when the fort was first occupied in 1780.
The covered bridges in Vermont are other metal detector sites almost certainly overlooked by treasure hunters. In 1980, over 114 of these structures were still standing, and many are still being used today. Some bridges have been used for political gatherings and “lover’s lanes.” There are several stories of buried treasure around different bridges.
Other attractions that could be well worth the treasure hunter’s time to coin shoot are the ski slopes, of which Vermont has the largest number east of the Rockies. There are more than 40 ski areas alone within the state. The largest numbers are in the Green Mountain area, around Stowe and Mansfield.