Legendary Lost Treasures of the Northeastern United States
December 17, 2006 3:11pm CST
The world is full of stories about lost gold mines and treasures. The most famous might be the Lost Dutchman Mine of the southwest. We have all heard of Captain Kidd's treasure. I personally have seen about twenty maps each allegedly depicting the location of his buried booty. They range everywhere from Oak Island in Canada to the Caribbean. This treasure was actually once believed to have been buried along the Hudson River. In the 19th Century someone bought up all the shoreline in the supposed location, built a levy, siphoned off the water, then proceeded to dig up the area. Needless to say he found nothing. There is also no shortage of lost mines in the area which held vast stores of silver. The least known of which was the Lost Tinker Mine. About all that is known about it comes from an old and shaggy obituary from the 1940s. It simply states that an old Indian had died who was the last living person who knew the location of the mine. He so hated the white man for his misdeed against the Indian that he swore that he'd never tell it's secrets to any white man and he'd take it to his grave. If he did have a secret he must have taken it with him. Another somewhat more widely known one is the Lost Davis Mine. It is said that in the 1890s someone known only as Davis was seen leaving the Ramapo Mountains on a regular basis and travel to Grassy Point to pick up the ferry and travel down to New York City. He would always carry bags heavy with something, and return with his pockets full of silver coinage. Locals tried to follow him but he always managed to lose them in transit. One day Davis fell off the ferry and weighed down by his burden he drowned. Just as it seemed that his secret was lost with him, a map turned up. This map alleged depicted a spot in the Ramapo Mountains known as Horse Stable Mountain which was encircled (one of many hideouts of the notorious Revolutionary War outlaw, Claudius Smith - no relation to this author). From this location a circuitous route to the Spook Rock (where legend says that colonists and Indians met to transact business) was drawn. The owners of this map spent a great deal of their remaining years searching this mountain and its environs for evidence of its existence. No are believed to have been found. I have met two Old Timers (both now deceased) who said that they spent their lives looking for it. Yet another Old timer once told me that when he was a lad he was swimming near a waterfalls (which was geographically quite near Horse Stable Mountain) when he discovered an underwater cave. He actually stated that he had heard about the legend and always wondered if that was the place where the treasure was kept. This waterfalls is now on private property and I haven't figured out yet a way to ask for permission to investigate. If I ever do get around to it and even if I don't find anything, the story will live on as these things have a way of taking on a life of their own. The most famous of all is the story of the Spanish Silver Mine. This tale begins in 1720. At that time the location now known as Jones Point (formerly known as Kidd's Point as this was where the pirate's treasure was supposedly buried), was called Caldwell's Landing because that family had a settlement there. It was noticed that year that a ship sailing under no flag dropped anchor and six burly, short in stature, dark in complexion with dark hair, who spoke a language thought to be Spanish, rowed ashore and went into the mountains not to be seen again until autumn. At this time they reappeared carrying heavy sacks. The weighed anchor and returned the following spring when the same pattern was observed. This continued for four consecutive years. On the fourth year two of the "Spaniards" went into Caldwell's tavern and indulged in some beverages (probably either rum or hard cider). Using sign language, the locals urged the strangers to open their sacks. The alcohol must have weakened their guard as one actually did allow the locals to peer into the bag for a glimpse. So the story goes, shiny silver stones were observed which caused a fracas to break out between the parties. The Spaniards fled with their bounty to once again disappear into the mountains. Shortly thereafter two of them were seen rowing out to their ship and setting sail. The locals wondered what had happened to the other four of their party and what were they doing in the mountains? A search party was formed to scour the mountains. On Black Mountain a ramshackle shack was found which contained one corpse and digging tools. The rest of the party were never found nor was the mine where they were digging the ore. Since then many have searched for it and none have found it…at least not as far as we know. But there have been people interested in it. In the 1930s the local police received a tip that there were men conducting a full mining operation in the middle of the state park. A stake out of the area was set up and the police observed several men indeed mining for something. They were even using dynamite. How was blasting unobserved for so long? Remember that that was the time when the CCCs were busy in the area doing all sorts of work which included blasting. So an occasionally well-timed blast wouldn't have been unusual. The men were arrested and taken into custody. As it turned out they were all Swedes and sated that they were brought over to this country because of their expertise in mining. They claimed that they never saw the man who hired them but had subtle ways of remaining in contact with him. It was also explained that they were supposed to be looking for a silver mine. They were allowed to make their traditional phone call. A police officer noticed that the call was a long distance one. Within hours a Park Avenue attorney arrived to pay the fines for the men. About a year later the park was approached by a man with a Park Avenue address with a proposal for searching for this mine. He was turned down. In 1985 a professional treasure hunting company from Florida applied for and received a five-day permit to search for signs of this mine's existence. They found nothing either. So is this a lot of wild imaginations runny away or what? Listen to the next story. A retired mining engineer from the region became enthralled with the notion that a silver mine could indeed have existed in the area. Knowing the facts of the legend, we hiked a lot in the supposed vicinity in search of evidence. One day while hiking down a fired road he spotted what seemed to be a cave on the side of Black Mountain. Not much unusual about it except that there appeared to be black powder stains on the walls. He states that in 1979 he was again hiking there when he saw a shiny flash down in the valley below. He scrambled down to find some rocks which he looked at through his jeweler's glass (he always carried one as he was interested in minerals and commonly examined them this way). His eyes were met with a silvery reflection. He wondered if he had found evidence of a silver mine at last. He too some samples and sent them to an assayer's office. The report verified what he thought was most likely; that the silvery substance in the rocks was mostly graphite. But, the report did find extractable amounts of silver and gold to be present. To even find these precious metals present in small quantities was a surprise as the geology wasn't supposed to be conducive to their presence. Or was it? As this man stated, in his mining career, he specialized in gold and silver mines in Canada. In each instance these elements were found on or near secondary or tertiary fault lines. The Ramapo Fault does indeed occur within a few miles of this location and secondary and tertiary faults are omnipresent. So is this evidence that there was a silver mine in that area? Not really, but it does imply that one is indeed possible. The search continues!