For historians, detectorists, and archaeologists, finding some important lost treasures is something of a dream. For many of us, we think of lost treasures as being something from the past. However, in reality, there are many great American treasures still missing, just waiting for someone lucky to find them.
The San Miguel Treasure
In 1712, King Philip V of Spain needed some substantial sums of money to fund the War of Succession. In order to pay for this conflict, Spanish authorities in the New World began gathering gold, silver, gemstones and other valuables. In 1715, a fleet of 12 warships was arranged to transport the valuables back to Spain. In order to dodge pirates, the decision was made to make the trip during hurricane season.
Unsurprisingly, this did not go well. A week after the ships set sail from Cuba, a hurricane destroyed 11 of the 12 vessels and 1000 lives were lost. A lighter carrack ship is believed to have split off from the convey and later sank near Amelia Island in Florida.
It’s believed that this small carrack could have been carrying up to $2 billion worth of valuables. Some of the ships that were sunk have been recovered, but the treasure was never found.
Blackbeard is one of the most notorious pirates ever to sail the seas. He’s known for terrorizing the Caribbean in his flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge until it ran aground near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina in 1718.
During his career, Blackbeard looted many ships, collecting a lot of treasures including jewelry and gold bars which would be worth millions of dollars today. It is believed that most of this treasure was buried in the islands around the Caribbean and North Carolina, making it a source of real fascination for those interested in metal detecting.
When the Queen Anne’s Revenge was found in 1996, a number of valuables were retrieved, including a wine glass stem decorated with diamonds and gold crowns. Historians think the treasure retrieved from the shipwreck is Blackbeard’s famous treasure, but many fortune hunters are sure there is more out there waiting to be discovered.
If you’re interested in cracking codes, you’ve probably heard of the Beale ciphers. In 1885, a pamphlet was published containing codes that claimed to contain directions to a stash of gold, silver, and jewels, said to be worth around $43 – $54 million. Two of these ciphers remain unsolved.
According to the original pamphlet, a group of adventurers led by Thomas J Beale discovered a rich mine near Santa Fe sometime during the 1800s and were able to extract many valuable precious metals and stones. Beale was supposed to transport and conceal the haul, and he hid it near Montvale in Bedford County, West Virginia. He made three ciphers with details of where the treasure was hidden. The first cipher reveals the location, the second was a description of the contents and the third lists the owners.
In 1822, Beale gave a sealed box containing the ciphers to an innkeeper in Lynchburg, named Robert Morris and directed him to open it if he didn’t return for ten years. After a decade passed with no word from Beale, Morris waited until 1845 to open the box. He was unable to decipher the codes, so he passed the box on to a friend who managed to decipher the second code that described the treasure. He published the pamphlet to get help with the others, but the two remaining ciphers have never been cracked. Some experts argue the whole thing may have been an elaborate hoax.
San Saba Treasure
In 1836, an infamous siege and battle took place during the Texas Revolution at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, now remembered as The Alamo. Mexican troops massacred the Texan defenders, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.
The battle is famous, but most people aren’t aware of the treasure that is said to have been buried on the grounds of the Alamo. According to legend, the Texans had gathered piles of gold, silver and precious objects to fund the revolution.
When the Alamo was besieged, the treasure was buried on the mission’s grounds to stop it being seized by the invading troops. Now known as the San Saba treasure, these valuables are believed to be worth millions of dollars.
In 1894, a medium named Mary Mareschal hit the news after she claimed she had spoken with the dead Texans at the Alamo. It was reported in the San Antonio Express News that the ghosts had told her that $540,000 worth of gold and treasures were buried on the site.
Despite messages from ghosts and numerous excavations of the site, no treasure has ever been found, suggesting it may have never existed in the first place.
Lost Civil War Union Gold
During the American Civil War, a staggering amount of gold and other precious items went missing. One of the most notable was a shipment of gold that was lost in 1863 in Elk County, Pennsylvania.
The gold was being transported from Wheeling, West Virginia to Philadelphia on a Union wagon train. The train took a detour to avoid advancing Confederate troops. Details of what happened next are scarce, but it’s believed the shipment vanished somewhere near the remote Dents Run.
According to rumor, the gold was buried in the area. In total, the train was carrying a total of 52 gold bars weighing 50 pounds each. In today’s money, this could be worth around $55.6 million. Dents Run has become a very popular spot for modern treasure hunters.
In the 1970s, Dennis Prada, the founder of the treasure hunting website Finders Keepers, found a vague map of where the stash could be found. He has been able to recover several modestly valuable Civil War-era artifacts but has not yet found the gold.
The public must get permission to dig in the area, and getting permission if famously difficult. Recently, a team of FBI agents was seen on the site, apparently looking for the gold, convincing many that the treasure really is there to be found.