LOST TREASURE IN PENNSYLVANIAWhen one thinks of Pennsylvania, it is usually in terms of its importance to the American Revolution.
Philadelphia was the site of both Continental Congresses and served for a while as the de facto capital.
It was in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, that George Washington was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1775 and the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. In the same room the design of the American flag was agreed upon in 1777, the Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1781, and the U. S. Constitution was drafted in 1787.
Many important Revolutionary War battles took place in Pennsylvania such as Brandywine, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and Yorktown and, of course, Philadelphia is home to the Liberty Bell as well as the birthplace of Benjamin Franklin.
Undoubtedly the repository of many American treasures, Pennsylvania has a long and proud history.
But the state is also home to other treasures, less known but fascinating.
When we think of lost treasure our imagination usually takes us to pirate’s lairs, forgotten mines or vanished civilizations.
Few of us would look toward places like Pennsylvania for such exotic prizes, yet the state’s history of lost or forgotten treasure is a rich one indeed.
In the course of the state's 300-plus year recorded history, a surprising amount of gold and silver has disappeared, never to be uncovered.
Late in the 1690s, a group of French Canadians led by Louis Frontenac, left New Orleans heading for Montreal, carrying kegs filled with gold coins for the Royal Governor of Canada.
Sailing up the Mississippi River, then the Ohio and finally the Allegheny, the travel was fairly easy, but when they began the overland portion of their journey things became more difficult.
Setting out from what is present day Potter County, Pennsylvania, they struggled with the heavy kegs of coins. After a short while, they decided to bury the treasure and come back for it later with a better equipped party. They marked their burial spot with a cross chipped onto a rock. Seneca Indians are said to have seen the cross on the rock, but left it alone because they feared the site had special mystical significance.
Eventually, the marker wore off the stone and the Indians were unable to remember where it was located.
The Frenchmen never returned for their gold and to this day it has never been found.
In another case, during the late 1700s, a white settler named Hill got lost and sought shelter in a cave for the night. Inside the cave he saw veins of silver running everywhere through the walls and ceiling. In the floor was a great pit filled with pure silver.
He eventually managed to find his way home but was never able to find his way back to the cave.
Hill's story was considered just another tall tale until years later when pure silver was found in Indian burial grounds about 15 miles upstream from where he claimed to have seen his ‘silver cave’.
Although treasure hunters have searched the area for over two hundred years, the Cave of Silver remains undiscovered.
In 1775, with the Revolutionary war fast approaching, many loyalists to the King of England fled to Canada to escape the conflict. Burdened down with over $100,000 in gold coins, their progress was slow. They decided to bury their gold near Wernersville in southeastern Pennsylvania and return for it later, when the colonies had been subdued.
Instead, the colonies prevailed and won their independence and the loyalists never returned to recover their loot. It remains hidden to this day.
During a raging tropical hurricane in the early fall of 1680, a Spanish galleon, loaded with nearly $2 million in silver, sank off the Bahamas. There it rested until 1811, when a Captain Blackbeard (not to be confused with the more famous ‘Blackbeard’, Edward Teach) managed to raise the wreckage.
He towed the hulk into Baltimore harbor intending to transfer the silver to a British warship for transport to London. At the time, England was engaged in a war with France, but the war of 1812 was looming and Blackbeard believed an English warship might be attacked on the high seas and his treasure lost. He decided instead to transport the booty by wagon to Canada where he believed he could safely ship the gold and silver back to England.
Before he could complete his journey, the War of 1812began and fearing that the treasure would fall into American hands, buried the treasure in the mountains outside Emporium in McKean County, Pennsylvania, near present-day Route 155.
Blackbeard never returned for the silver and folk tales claim it is still there today
In the early 1800s, “America’s Robin Hood”, David Lewis made a reputation for himself, robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Lewis was captured in 1820 and imprisoned for the remainder of his life.
On his deathbed, he confessed to all of his crimes and told his jailers of three caches of gold he had hidden in Pennsylvania.
He claimed that $10,000 in gold, was hidden in a small cave along the Juniata River near Lewistown, a second cache was buried along the Conodoguinett Creek near the caves he used as a hide-out, and the third hiding place, containing $20,000 , he said was buried in the hills outside of Bellefonte.
As a final taunt to his captors, Lewis is said to have taunted his jailers by telling them that he could see the cache from the jail.
None of these treasures have ever been recovered.
In 1863, during the American Civil War, a Union Army lieutenant was ordered to escort a wagon that had been fitted with a false base. This disguised compartment contained 26 gold bars each weighing 50 pounds. The wagon was to travel from Wheeling, West Virginia, north through Pennsylvania and then south to Washington, DC - the idea behind this route was to avoid any possible encounter with Confederate forces.
The expedition left St Marys, Pennsylvania, heading for Driftwood where they were to build a raft and float down the Susquehanna River to Harrisburg, but they never made it, vanishing somewhere in the forests of Cameron and Elk counties.
Two months later, the party's civilian guide stumbled into Lock Haven claiming that bandits ambushed the group, killing all the soldiers and taking the gold.
Pinkerton detectives were hired to search the area, but all they found were some dead mules. In the early 1870s, human skeletons which were believed to be those of the soldiers were found in the same area.
Local rumor has it that during the past 50 years the modern US Army has sent several teams into the area searching for the gold but it has never been recovered.
A little later, during the Civil War, Confederate raiders captured a Union convoy heading from West Virginia to the Philadelphia Mint. The convoy's cargo of 15 tons of silver bars was stolen and hidden inside a cave north of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The rebels sealed the mouth of the cave and never returned for the booty. Some say it's still out there waiting to be discovered.
In more recent times, others have allegedly lost, or buried treasure in Pennsylvania, but none has ever been located.
Bandit Michael Rizzalo stole a $12,000 payroll in 1888. He was said to have buried it in a tin box somewhere on Laurel Run Mountain, just outside the town of Wilkes-Bare. It remains undiscovered today.
In the 1890s, a man robbed a bank in Emporium, Pennsylvania, making off with $40,000 in cash. He died a short time later, after confessing that he had buried the loot north-east of Kushequa within sight of the Kinzua railroad bridge. The stash has never been found.
On 11 October, 1924, a train carrying a safe containing a payroll of $33,000 was robbed just outside the Cambria County, Pennsylvania town of Belsano. During the course of the robbery, one of the men who was guarding the safe was shot and killed and the two other men involved were captured and eventually executed, but the safe and most of the money was never recovered.
In the last, and most intriguing, case an airplane carrying a quarter-million dollars in cash crashed near Mount Carmel in 1948. The money was thrown out of the plane just prior to the crash and was never found.
Pennsylvania is home to many historical treasures and stands as a symbol of the American spirit which blossomed from thirteen isolated colonies into the world-leading superpower it is today.
It is also home to untold treasure, buried in its soil.