By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
Perhaps spurred on by the persistence of local treasure hunters (or perhaps not; no one’s talking), federal agents and officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources were busy searching an area in Elk County where legend says 52 gold bars (or 26, depending on the story) of civil war gold was “lost” en route to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia during the American Civil War.
And while no one is commenting except to say the investigation is “court-appointed” and “ongoing”, the FBI has confirmed that they didn’t find any civil war gold.
Still, Dennis K. Parada, one of the owners of a treasure hunting group called Finders Keepers of Clearfield, PA, insists he will not give up the search – a search he has been on since 1975 when, he says, someone handed him a map to the treasure…
In 1863, Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee were headed towards the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. At the same time, a shipment of 26 gold bars weighing about 50 pounds (32 kg) each had left Wheeling, West Virginia and was on its way to Philadelphia to be melted down and struck as coins to pay Union soldiers. The lieutenant in charge of the wagon train decided that he would take a roundabout way through the north-central part of the state, in order to avoid the enemy. And just in case, the wagon came equipped with a false bottom in which to hide the cargo of civil war gold.
The lieutenant, the wagon, eight cavalrymen and their guide were last seen in the town of St. Mary’s. They were headed to a point on the Susquehanna where they could float the wagon the rest of the way to Harrisburg and then onwards.
They never arrived.
No one saw the wagon or the men again until the party’s guide showed back up in St. Mary’s about a month later. Interrogated by the military, the guide said that the lieutenant had died of fever and that there was a fight but that he couldn’t remember anything after that. Suspicious, the Army drafted the guide and stationed him out west, threatening to keep him there until he remembered what happened. While on post the guide would get drunk and, it is said, claim to know everything that happened and exactly where the gold was.
The wagon and several skeletons were found years later by Pinkerton detectives hired by the Army. The gold was never found.
Then, in 1975–as claimed on the Finders Keepers website–an unnamed man gave Mr. Parada a map that allegedly revealed the location of the missing gold. Parada searched off and on over the years, but it wasn’t until a friend spurred him on to try again using modern metal detecting equipment that any new information was revealed.
In 2012, Parada’s group Finders Keepers were searching for the gold in a state forest near Dent’s Run (about 27 miles southeast of St. Mary’s) when they came across evidence of a Civil War-era campsite near where the map says the gold is hidden. Since it is illegal to dig on state property without a permit from the Department of Conservation, the group did no digging but they did send the artifacts they had found to the Department to be transferred to the Museum Commission in Harrisburg. Neither the Museum Commission nor the Department of Conservation were convinced, however, and refuse to return any of the artifacts to Parada or his group.
In fact, both agencies deny the entire premise of the legend.
According to Parada, to receive permission to dig in a state forest requires a $15,000 bond, and if anyone recovers gold or artifacts without paying such a bond then they may face jail time and will lose any rights to a potential “reward”. The group is allowed to perform surface surveys as long as they assume self-liability for injury within the state park.
Finders Keepers has, to date, not paid this bond (though Parada claims his offer to pay was turned down). The estimated value of the lost gold ranges from around $27 million to $55 million depending on which counting is accurate. Any gold found, however, is the property of the federal government, who may give a reward of some kind to Parada and Finders Keepers but is not obligated to share any of the proceeds with the State of Pennsylvania.
Nevertheless, Finders Keepers claim to have found something.
During one search using three high-powered metal detectors, the group says it found a large metal object approximately eight to 10 feet beneath the fire pit at the Dent’s Run site. After notifying the Museum Commission and being rebuffed yet again, the group returned to the same site with a GPL detector and got 10 hits for iron and two crucial hits for gold.
Finders Keepers and Parada claim that they have information about the treasure that they have not shared with the public, and that he (Parada) will not give up the search.
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