Old And Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace
Antiques Digest Browse Auctions Appraisal Home

Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

All Kinds Of Buried Treasure

( Orginally published 1962 )

Buried treasure, usually associated with treasure hunts, is everywhere. And not just pirate treasure. In every war in America, in the Revolution, the Civil War, the numerous fights with the Indians, people hid their wealth in the walls of their homes, in their gardens, and under the front porches.

Many times they never made it back-and their family gold is still there waiting for you to find it.

In the days of the gold rushes, many of the miners hid their pokes in the walls of their shacks or back in the earth from whence it came. Between the gunfights and the brawls many of them were never able to go back for it. And it is still there-waiting for the lucky treasure hunter.

Probably the most romantic, and the hardest to discover, are the lost mines and the pirate treasures of yesterday. Anything buried beneath the earth seems to have a fascination for everyone. Who would not want to find the treasures of Blackbeard and Lafitte? Or the Lost Dutchman mine?

However, what the seeker for buried treasure usually finds is only a great deal of adventure-and very little treasure.

Many obstacles stand in the way of the buried-treasure seeker. Not the least is the fact that these treasure hunts take up a great deal of time which the average person cannot spare from his daily living. Only very rarely is there a treasure close enough to one's home, or even close enough to the surface for the average person to go hunting for it. If it is, and if you would like to make a vacation of treasure hunting, this is fine. But usually the amount of time and effort needed for a venture of this sort is out of reach of most.

But when you do go, to hunt seriously or to spend some fun time at it, check every fact for yourself. Never, never depend on facts as you read them anywhere. If you cannot travel to your treasure spot for needed research, then write to the Chamber of Commerce, the local librarian, etc.

Always, check, check and re-check any stories you hear or read about lost treasures. Legend intermingles with fact until only the authorities can unravel them.

Check your information, your legends, and your maps as carefully as you can. You cannot do too much research before you dig. Every iota of fact you gain before you start using your spade is getting you that much closer to the treasure.

Also there are laws governing the searching for-and the finding of-lost treasure. Know your laws before you dig. Always check with the territorial or state authorities in the area in which you wish to go treasure hunting. There are state laws and federal laws regarding both the finding and keeping of lost treasure.

Information of all types has to be checked. Even maps that may have been in your own family for generations may need further elucidation. Remember that the map you have may be a genuine pirate or lost mine map, but the man who had the treasure or knew where the mine was may not have plainly written down its location. He made the map in the first place because he didn't want anyone else to know where it was. Many times even authentic maps are backwards or even in code. "Step ten paces north" may mean step ten paces south. "Pass three rocks" may not mean rocks at all but trees-trees which may have come down since the day the original treasure was buried.

But if you have an authentic map and have the determination and the money, you might find treasure. Or you might find it accidentally. It has been done before.

You might find your treasure-provided, that is, that you have properly checked into the laws of the state in which you are going to search. Some states, as noted above, have their own regulations concerning the digging for treasure. In Florida, for example, the treasure hunter has to have a permit costing around a hundred dollars before he can even begin to hunt for his treasure. He gets it from the land agent in Tallahassee, and after he finds his treasure, he has to give the state of Florida 12% of anything he finds within the territorial jurisdiction of the state.

And then, there is the income tax! Imagine the income tax on, say, Blackbeard's hoards or Jean Lafitte's treasure.

Then there are various rules, laws, and regulations concerning both buried treasure and sunken treasure. Find out about them before you start to dig or dive. Write to the Chamber of Commerce in the closest city to your treasure spot. Write to the Federal Government in Washington.

Hunting for lost mines or hidden pirate treasure is probably one of the most exciting adventures in the world. It is so far removed from the mundane existence of everyday living that even to consider it is to lift the average man's spirits. From such day dreams of lost doubloons or lost mines he goes on-to find treasure.

Probably one of the most fabulous among the buried treasures is the lost silver mine of James Bowie. Most of us remember James Bowie as the man who died beside Davy Crockett at the Alamobut the seeker of treasure remembers him as one of America's most inveterate treasure hunters.

He was so enamored of the idea of treasure that, when he heard that the Indians knew of a vast and secret silver mine, he befriended them, he became a blood brother to them, and he lived with them. All so that he could learn the secret of their silver mine.

James Bowie found his mine, only to take the secret of its whereabouts with him when he died at the Alamo. And his silver mine is still there waiting to be found. Not too many miles from the modern city of San Antonio are the remains of an old Spanish fort near the banks of the San Saba River. It was somewhere near this fort that Bowie found his mine.

Maybe it will be there that you will find your treasure, or maybe it will be on Oak Island, where, while you dig, you will not even know what it is that you are digging for.

It happens sometimes that a treasure hunter does not know what he is looking for-only that it is treasure of some kind. Such is the treasure of Oak Island.

A small island off the coast of Nova Scotia, Oak Island is a place of mystery and hope. Every so often, ever since the year 1795, men dig there for a fortune that is buried so deeply and so well that no man has ever come close to it.

Men have tried. They have tried to the depth of one hundred and sixty feet. Every ten feet they have found a manmade obstruction. They remove it and go on. But at every attempt to reach the final treasure, water fills the diggings.

At some time in man's history someone constructed here on Oak Island a trap for the treasure hunter. The treasure is buried in such a way that water and possible death meet the digger at every turn.

It is only logical that the original treasure owners provided a "secret" method of reaching the treasure without allowing water to fill the pit, but, so far, no living man has found it. Yet we know that there is treasure there. Clues? A depression in the ground (now disappeared because of digging) where something had been buried; an ancient tree with scars of what might have been a block and tackle. Also, most important, drills have been forced into the diggings and they have churned in loose metal-and brought up some ancient golden links.

Who were the men who buried here? Not pirates, certainly, for the original diggings are far older than our history of pirates would account for. Perhaps an unknown race or perhaps some of man's early sea marauders.

Whoever they were, until today they have successfully kept hidden what is undoubtedly a vast hoard of wealth, but one can only speculate on what it is that lies there at Oak Island. There is, however, one place where so many men have buried so much treasure that it could very well be called the island of gold.

For this is legendary Cocos Island, land of rain, bad weather, and rats. The pirates who stopped here were legion. Treasure hunters today make of Cocos a place of gold and plate. It is less than five miles wide, and if all the treasure stories connected with it are true Cocos would be the richest island in the world, inch for inch.

Captain John Cook stopped at Cocos with loot. So did the pirate Benito Bonito, who hid $5,000,000 worth of treasure there. Captain Thompson, commanding the ship the "Mary Dear," which carried a cargo of wealth from Lima, Peru, buried his loot on Cocos.

There is also a possibility that Richard Davis hid treasure there. The list of pirates who supposedly hid their wealth on Cocos is endless, and no one knows how much treasure is really hidden there. All that is certain is that it is a treasure hunter's dream come true.

Another treasure hunters' paradise is in the Everglades, where Calico Jack Rackham buried millions of dollars' worth of pirate loot. The spot is ten miles up the Shark River, certainly an appropriate location for the burial of pirate gold-millions of it.

Or the treasure hunter might search for the millions buried by Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Boca Raton is one place where Blackbeard is said to have buried treasure-and it has never been found, despite the countless number of searchers who have looked for it.

Then there is the treasure of the gentleman pirate Jean Lafitte. He was one pirate who had so much loot he could not bury it all in one spot. So he spread it around. Many are the tales of the loot of Jean Lafitte and many are the places where it is said he buried his treasure-as follows: (1) $20,000,000 on Caillou Island. (2) The Isle of Pines, where already two cannons have been found with jewels and gold hidden inside. (3) Honey Island. (4) The mouth of the Lavaca River, where the remains of Lafitte's ship, the "Pride," have been found in the river. (5) Kelso's Island. (6) Barataria Bay, where Lafitte had his headquarters for some time. (7) Pecan Island. (8) Grande-Terre, where Lafitte held auctions of his pirated ware. (9) Avoyelles Parish. (10) Last Island, where Lafitte fled during one of his many bouts with the United States Government. (11) Ruston, Louisiana. (12) Galveston Island (now the city of Galveston ). (13) A Louisiana island in Lake Bourne. (14) Cocos Island.

Then there was the treasure of Henry Morgan! One of the most vicious of the pirates, his stopping-off places were many and varied. One of these was a place called Santa Catalina, an island near the coast of Nicaragua. There is reputed Morgan treasure at Porto Bello, a spot which Morgan captured by using his prisoners, nuns and priests, as a cover, to hide the fact that his pirates were putting scaling ladders on the walls. Once inside the city Morgan tortured and killed the inhabitants. Treasure at all costs!

There is Morgan treasure at Maracaibo, where he ravaged the city and then ran head-on into three Spanish galleons. Nothing daunted, he set fire to one galleon, made the Spaniards burn the second, and captured the third. He murdered most of the prisoners and took fifteen thousand pieces of eight from the wreck of one of the galleons.

He attacked Panama and carried away a great deal of the treasure of the old city, although it is said that he buried part of this loot on the trail out of Panama. Left, however, is treasure which Morgan was unable to find in Panama and most of which is still buried in the old city. A part of it has been found in modern times in vaults and tunnels and buried deep in the earth by the unfortunate inhabitants of Panama. Not even Morgan's great finesse in the art of human torture would force them to reveal where they had hidden it.

But not even the fame of the Morgan hoard can eclipse the fame of another treasure which is closer to home. This is the lost gold mine of the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.

The name of the lost mine is familiar to everyone as the "Lost Dutchman." When telling the story of this mine, Jacob Walz, sometimes called Waltzer, a German prospector and therefore nicknamed the "Dutchman," is usually mentioned.

Walz would go into the mountains and come out with gold whenever he needed it. Many people tried to follow him-and never came back. Legend says that Walz killed the men who tried to locate his mine by following him. Legend also has it that the "Dutchman" died in Phoenix in 1891-without ever leaving any information as to the location of his mine. Yet, there is another story, that he did leave information. Whatever the true facts may be, the Lost Dutchman mine has never been located.

There is, of course, the other tale-the one that states that the Dutchman had never really found a mine. The story goes that Walz let the rumors of his mine circulate merely to hide his thefts of gold from the Vulture mine, a mine which was then in operation and which was about sixty miles northwest of Phoenix. It is a known fact that gold was stolen from this mine, but whether the Dutchman stole it or whether he quite coincidentally took gold from his own private gold mine will probably never be known.

Many years before Walz, a Spanish family by the name of Peralta actually did mine gold in these mountains, and traces of the Peralta mines have been found. The story goes that the Peraltas were forced by the Apaches to abandon their mine.

The legend of the Lost Dutchman mine, too, is filled with tales of Indian vengeance, for these were the mountains where the Thunder Gods lived. To the Indians these mountains were sacred-and the pale faces had violated them.

According to the Phoenix, Arizona, Chamber of Commerce the area of the Superstition Mountains is a "wild, rough country. It is dangerous to enter the area without a competent guide."

Many people have already died because they tried to find the Lost Dutchman mine, and chances are that many more will die before either the legend is disproven or the mine is found.

Men who have looked for this gold mine have died-from getting lost, from exhaustion, from bullets fired by unseen assailantsand perhaps they died for nothing. Perhaps, after all, Jacob Walz never really found a gold mine. Or perhaps he did.

The Chamber of Commerce of Phoenix says, "Mining engineers and geologists are pretty well agreed that the Superstition Mountains are not well mineralized," yet the hunt for gold continues like a fever.

No hunter for gold ever really listens, anyway, to the authorities. He always believes that he can, and will, be the one to find the missing mine. The area where the Lost Dutchman is supposed to be is mountainous, dangerous and rough. Perhaps this is why the legends of the mine persist. The very aura of the territory gives them credence.

But for those who would really be interested and who really believe in the existence of the Lost Dutchman, there is information available. The Chamber of Commerce in Phoenix recommends the following: "For geological data and maps we suggest . . . the College of Mines, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. A topographic map, the Florence, Arizona, Quadrangle, may be obtained from the U.S.G.S., Washington, D.C., for twenty-five cents."

There is of course really little chance-except pure luck-that anyone will ever find the lost mine. But if it ever should be discovered, it would be worth almost any effort that had been expended in finding it-short of murder.

The Lost Dutchman would be a hard treasure to find, but at least it is here at home. But sometimes a treasure is so far away not only in terms of space but in terms of time that the tremendous effort and expense required in just looking for it are so extreme that men will probably only dream of it. It could, however, be found accidentally.

For this is the treasure of Attila the Hun! Somewhere in Europe beyond the banks of the Danube is the burial place of Attila. No one knows where, only that if it could be found it would provide untold treasure.

For when Attila, the so-called Scourge of God, was buried, into the ground with him went the spoils of his victories. His coffins alone, if they could be found, would be worth a fortune. When they buried him, they did it in their own barbaric way. He was buried in three coffins, one inside the other. One was a coffin of iron! One was a coffin of solid silver. And one was a coffin of solid gold!

Finding such an ancient treasure might not be as much of an impossibility as it would at first seem. It was in 1858 that eight gold crowns which had belonged to a Visigoth king of the 600's were found near Toledo, Spain. Historians think that the king had given these crowns to a church, but they are not definite. This is only a suggestion, but it is not important here. What is important is that they were found after having been lost for over twelve hundred years.

So it could be with the coffins of Attila the Hun, if the treasure hunter were only lucky enough to find them. Any of the giants of the lost treasures, the lost mines, the pirate treasures, the coffins of Attila the Hun may be found someday-by you!