More FL treasure stories

One of the most vicious pirates to sail the Spanish Main and Coastal waters of Florida in the early 19th century, was Henri Caesar. He was known as Black Caesar, the son of African slaves. Caesar was said to have stashed $6 million in plunder on the west coast of Florida. On Pine Island there are some very old trees that bear the pirate markings of Caesar. The locals believe the markings identify Round Key as the Treasure Island.

In 1715, 11 Spanish Galleons left Havana Harbor and were lost off the Atlantic coast of Florida, scattering their treasures along the ocean floor. Millions of dollars’ worth of gold, silver, jewelry and ship artifacts were strewn along the east-central coast of Florida.

According to legend, just off the southwest Florida coast, King Phillip of Spain married the Duchess of Parma, Isabel Farnese in 1713. She refused to consummate their royal marriage until he gave her jewels that were unique to all of the world. The King commissioned remarkable treasures be made for his bride, including a golden jewel-studded carriage pulled by a team of gilded silver horses, 41 chests of emeralds and a 74-carat emerald ring set in gold. The entire treasure was lost at sea during a storm somewhere off of the southwest Florida coast.

Because of Florida’s location within the most treacherous of waters of the bustling trade route, a share of Europe’s lost treasure lies along the Sunshine State’s east and west coasts and throughout the Keys.

Eric Schmitt, A Florida salvager, struck gold when he unearthed a priceless religious artifact from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 2014. The sunken treasure was discovered at the site of a 300-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Ft. Pierce. It was the missing piece of a necklace.

Depending on the age and condition, a silver coin can sell for as much as $1,000 and a gold piece for as much as $20,000. You may discover a 300-year-old piece of pottery of museum quality.

When looking for treasure, stay on the beaches beyond the surf line. Look for the

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Gasparilla

The most notorious and successful pirate was Jose Gaspar, better known as Gasparilla. His methods were black and bloody, and he stands out among all the pirates who used Florida to bury their wealth. Leaving Spain at an early age, he sailed to the West Coast of Florida. He soon picked a good spot in Charlotte Harbor, and began to build his pirate kingdom. His headquarters were at Boca Grande, on what is today known as Gasparilla Island. In the following years, he accumulated a board estimated at $30,000,000. It is said that he and his brother buried all of his money on the islands in and around Charlotte Harbor. In all, he buried 13 casks and chests of treasure in the vicinity of his headquarters. His men, who numbered in the hundreds, also buried their smaller caches on these islands.
All had been going along fine for Gasparilla until the year 1822. The American Government then decided to get into the act and sent a Navy squadron to end his career. One day Gasparilla prepared to attack a merchantman, but to his surprise, it turned out to be a United States man-of-war. When he finally realized that it was a warship, it was too late. The notorious pirate then committed suicide by wrapping a heavy chain around him and jumping over the side. His ship soon followed him to the watery depths. The ship contained $1,000,000 in assorted treasure, and should be there today. Charlotte Harbor is an ideal spot to go treasure hunting. Just pick any island and start digging, because Gasparilla’s loot is buried on many of them, including Cayo Pelau.

Here are 5 pirate stories that originate in Florida.

 
• There were reports that when they were first dredging the Venice Inlet, a shipwreck was struck with the clam bucket dredge and gold coins were being picked up from the sand piles. A scan of old newspapers might confirm this story.
• After tropical storms, Spanish coins have been washing up on the beach at Stump Pass, just SW of Grove City. The dates are running from l754-l762, and the coins are in good condition. A gold 8 Escudo with a similar date was recovered in the water from the same area.
• Spanish gold coins were found on the beach at Longboat Key near Sarasota, after a dredger pumped in sand from off-shore.
• The area south of the Hillsboro Inlet to the Pompano Beach Pier has yielded artifacts over the years. Cob coins and a 17th-century Spanish cannon have been found here. There are many stories of gold and silver coins having been found here in the 1950’s. The coins may have come from one of the 1715 Fleet vessels, or possibly from a vessel that had salvaged the fleet and was returning to Havana. Recently a dredge at the inlet has dredged up coins from the 1715 period.
• Boca Raton, located south of Palm Beach, is the site of two separate treasures. Blackbeard buried $2,000 in casks near the Boca Raton Inlet. These casks may be in submerged caverns. When a Spanish galleon was wrecked near here, the surviving seamen saved a large chest and buried it on the beach at Boca Raton.

3 Pirate Treasures Never Found off the West Coast of Florida

• Calico Jack Rackham was another buccaneer who sailed the waters off Florida. Headquartering first in Cuba, he moved to the West Coast of Florida. Here, he buried his $2,000,000 treasure on an island some ten miles up either the Shark or Lostman’s River. (This treasure cache lie buried within the boundaries of the Everglades National Park and it is illegal to do any digging here.)
• In 1864, a U.S. gunboat chased a Confederate ship up the Suwannee River. As the Confederate vessel rounded the second bend of the river, the crew rolled off kegs of gold coins to prevent their capture by the Union gunboat.
• Apalachicola Bay… A Confederate blockade runner went down in the bay north of St. George Island, carrying $500,000 in silver bars and many Spanish coins.

6 Stories of Buried Treasure in Florida

• The members of the Ashley gang were notorious bank robbers who terrorized the citizens of Florida, during the early part of the 20th century. They succeeded in stealing over $100,000 in cash and it is believed buried near their headquarters. This was near Canal Point at the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee. All the members of the gang were shot to death, but their loot has never been found.
• DeLeon Springs is the location of a treasure chest lost by unknown persons. In the 1890’s, a chest was seen on the bottom of Ponce deLeon Springs. It soon fell into one of the submerged caves and could not be recovered. The chest has eluded divers ever since.
• Three silver church bells were buried by Spanish padres in 1586, somewhere in the present city park area of St. Augustine, to keep them from Sir Francis Drake. The padres were killed, and the location of the silver bells lost.
• In 1702-1704, the British, under Governor James Moore of Carolina, raid Spanish settlements including a 52-day siege of St. Augustine. The town is captured, but the fort is not. Many of the people buried their valuables, and were later killed.
• In 1894, a merchant named Richard Crowe died in St. Augustine, leaving a will stating he buried $60,000 in gold coins on his property. Searchers were unable to locate the treasure.
• A Spaniard named Don Felipe, is known to have buried the family silver, along with a large amount of gold coins, on his plantation during the Seminole war before he was killed by Indians. Located 2 miles NW of Ocala.

Lost Florida Stories

2 Lost Treasure Stories
• A man lived on Elliot Key and boated to Miami for supplies. One time a storm came up and he beached on a very shallow reef to pick up ballast rocks to help his catboat. He docked at Biscayne and 79 St., which was known as Sea Ray boat docks. He piled the ballast on the dock, and it sat there 6 months. One day he scraped one to discover they were encrusted silver bars. He died without finding where he found them, but the area suspected was the Dry Rocks off Upper Elliot Key.
• Florida in the 1830’s was a battleground with the U. S. army engaged in a war against the Seminole Indians. It was not a place you would have expected to find a young inventor from Paterson, New Jersey, promoting his products. His name was Samuel Colt and he was selling guns.
Colt felt that his 8-shot revolving-cylinder carbines would find instant favor among men armed with single-shot rifles. But his success was limited. He sold a few handguns to officers, but his only quantity order was from Gen. Thomas S. Jessup for 50 carbines and more than half of them may be in a Florida swamp today, awaiting some lucky treasure hunter with a metal detector.
In a letter dated November 8, 1850, Col. Harney of the 2nd U. S. Dragoons reported; “Gen. Jessup ordered the purchase of 50 and they were placed in my hands . . . they were the first ever used or manufactured. Thirty of them were lost at Caloosahatchee . . .”
Stories vary as to just how the carbines were lost. One persistent version has it that the arms, still in their oak, zinc-lined, grease-filled cases, were lost when the canoes in which they were being transported were capsized during an Indian attack. If this is so, it’s likely the guns may be in good condition today. Harney Point is part of present day Cape Coral.

Falls of the Chaudire River

Not even contemporaries of Benedict Arnold knew how much was in the lost chest of gold. Supposedly lost beneath one of the falls of the Chaudire River, on the abortive march against the walls of Qubec, the loot has never been found.

During Arnolds famous court martial in Philadelphia, he was asked to account for the money, and while the one-day traitor did produce sketchy records accounting for $5000, the remainder was lost in the forest wilderness of Maine, he claimed.

It all began in the summer of 1775, when the swarthy Colonel Benedict Arnold appeared before George Washington in Cambridge and laid before the new commander a plan for the capture of Qubec. Arnold went on to explain that he knew every rock of the famous bastion, as well as both routes, having frequently gone to the French city on horse-trading junkets. One wing of the expedition would go by way of Lake George, Champlain, and the Richelieu River. The other would proceed through the Maine wilderness. The pincer would snip off the walled city like a ripe plum. Besides, Arnold pointed out, the French had no love for their new masters.

Washington approved of the expedition, and Philip Schuyler was given command of the western wing, and Arnold was given command of the force that would proceed through the Maine wilderness. To allay the cost of the raising the necessary troops, purchasing supplies, hiring Canuck guides, and a dozen other things, the Virginian turned over an iron war chest to the volatile Arnold, ordering that he keep a record of how the money was spent.

The expedition left Cambridge on September 13, 1775, and headed for Newburyport, where the troops boarded ships, and they finally landed at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Arnold was shocked when he found that the two hundred bateaux awaiting his arrival were in such bad condition as to be practically unusable. Arnold grudgingly paid the carpenters who had constructed the unwieldy rafts out of the great chest, one of the few times his subordinates were to see the money.

In one of the most incredible marches ever made in military history, the little band moved through forests that even today would be difficult for an army to penetrate. With men dropping like flies from dysentery and starvation, Arnold encountered a new foe in the form of an early winter. Reduced to 600 men by desertion, the turning back of one regiment, and death, Arnold was to see his cup filled to overflowing with troubles, when the bateau carrying his personal baggage was crushed in the rapids, depositing the box in ten or twelve feet of icy water.

While no one is certain, the chest and the gold are supposed to be somewhere north of the modern village of Stratton on the Dead River, although many claim it was the Chaudire River.

On December 31, the two rag-tag armies launched an attack on Qubec. Montgomery was killed in the first volley, and the Americans were defeated. In the retreat that followed to the shores of Lake Champlain, the defeated Americans again suffered terribly.

Arnold was never able to pinpoint where he had lost the chest, and it has never been reported found.

 

The Penobscot campaign

In the summer of 1956, the Bangor newspaper commented upon the finding of an alleged Revolutionary cannon on the bottom of the Penobscot River near that city. Authorities at the time described the cannon as being probably a part of the ill-fated expedition of 1779.

The Penobscot campaign, one of the costliest of the entire War of Independence, and one of the worst defeats suffered by American armies in the long conflict, is also one of its least known. Few Revolutionary histories give more than a few paragraphs to the combined land and sea attack.

Not one of the 24 transports remained afloat following the end of the fighting. All were burned and their skeletons were visible at low tide for decades to follow. The vast armada was scuttled, not in the open sea, but in the Penobscot River.

None of the ordnance or armaments was salvaged. They remain in the mud and silt of the river to this day.

The fleet consisted of 19 ships carrying 344 guns plus 24 armed transports. The frigate Warren, which mounted 32 eighteen- and twelve-pounders headed the imposing convoy, the largest ever assembled during the war. It took but a month to assemble the troops and man the ships. The imposing fleet appeared off Castine at the mouth of Penobscot River on July 28th. Few within the fort, which was still uncompleted, reasoned that they had a chance against such an imposing display of force. The first attack was, however, repulsed, though the only damage was to ships rigging.

For the first week, most of the action consisted of minor action between the fleets. Commodore Saltonstall seemed unwilling to risk an all-out attack, despite his preponderance in numbers and armament. Colonel Brewer, an American officer who had been in the fort, told General Lovell that the fort was undermanned. Indignantly, he later related, I told Commodore Saltonstall that he could silence the fort and small battery and have everything his own way within half an hour.

Saltonstall answered in heated tones: You seem to be damned knowing about this matter; however, I am not going to risk my shipping in that damned hole.

When Lovell decided to carry the fort by storm, Saltonstall declined any assistance. Unknowingly, General MacLean was ready to strike his colors, and had a concerted attack been made, the British would have surrendered. On August 11, Lovell made a final impassioned appeal to the fleet commander: I am once more compelled to request the most speedy service in your Department, and that a moment be no longer delayed to put into execution a combined attack by both land and sea forces, I mean not to determine your mode of attack, but it appears that any further delay must be infamous. The delay means to destroy the ships or raise the siege.

Saltonstall refused and on the 13th, as Lovell made ready for a final all-out land effort, seven enemy ships appeared on the horizon. Despite the fact that he might easily have handled this fleet, Commodore Saltonstall gave the order that all must shift for themselves. With the transports in advance, the entire fleet crowded up the Penobscot River, to the utter astonishment of the British garrison. Sir George Collier, commander of the enemy fleet, then merely applied the cork to, the bottle, by closing the mouth of the river.

No effort was spared to rally the troops ashore, but the soldiers were now in a frenzy of disorder. Guns were hurled aside, as men melted into the forest. To the horror of the gallant few who remained, one of the ships ran aground and another was captured without firing a shot. One transport after another burst into flames, set afire by the men aboard.

Wadsworth led off five companies in good order, as the river became a sea of fire. A few of the ships made it to the mouth of the Kenduskeag, where they were beached. At low tide they served as a reminder for years. All the others were burned, and not one ship remained. Nothing was salvaged.

It was a frightful defeat. American forces had suffered 500 casualties. The loss in guns and supplies would never be accurately known.

No major salvage effort has ever been made, and outside of Maine and Massachusetts, few Americans have ever read of the worst defeat suffered by American armies during the Revolution.

Machias area MA

If you are ever in the areas of the coastal town of Machias, you will hear tales of loot hidden by the notorious pirate, Captain Rhodes. He roamed this shore in 1675, using the sheltered inlet of the Machias River as a hideout and a place for careening his ship.

Another Machias area treasure is also stashed along Starbirds Creek. Years ago, Captain Harry Thompson and anotherbuccaneer named Starbird frequently used the entrance to the Machias River as a rendezvous between voyages. As a consequence, they used a nearby creek, named for Starbird, to cache their plunder. Thompson was said to have marked some trees and to have drawn a crude map to aid his children in locating this trove, but they apparently misinterpreted the clues, for they dug without success.

In the same general area, Brothers Island, named for two brothers called Flynn, is reputedly a hiding place for their trove. However, information concerning this cache is not easy to establish.

Liberty, Waldo Co. MA

The little town of Liberty, Waldo County, also boasts of a lost treasure of $70,000 in gold coins. This trove belonged to Timothy Barrett, who lived there in the early 1700s. Folks noticed that Barrett always seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of money, although he never worked. Was he a retired pirate?

That explanation seemed to satisfy his neighbors. In time, the old fellow became vexed with people always asking him about the source of his wealth, so he moved across nearby Georges Stream and dug a cave for a home. He cultivated a small garden for his simple needs.

When old Barrett finally died, villagers began a great search for his fortune. A couple of fellows dug up an iron kettle near the cave. It was filled with ancient French coins. However, this was believed to have been only a small part of the main cache, which is still safe in the ground near Georges Stream.

The rockbound coast of Maine, its sweeping beaches, offshore islands, ragged peninsulas, still conceal treasures buried or lost years ago by swashbuckling pirates and hardy settlers. Tales of these obscure troves are still told by rugged characters mending lobster gear on the decaying wharves. Folks up there continue to search for buried pirate gold in lonely coves and on shadowy islands, often lacing their stories with a half faith in spooks, ghosts, and spirits.