X Marks the Spot: 6 legends of treasure in the PA Wilds
There are plenty of reasons to visit the Pennsylvania Wilds. There’s the hiking, camping, and exploring. There are all the historic sites. And if you’re in the mood, there are quests for buried treasure, just waiting to be found.
Over the years, people have lost and stashed a shocking amount of money, gold, and silver in Pennsylvania. If you were interested, you could go explore the Wilds and look for it. And I’ve even done the research on several of these treasures, so you don’t have to.
ELK COUNTRY: JOHN REAVILLE’S MONEY, CLINTON COUNTY
In the mid-1800s, John Reaville was in charge of a set of mining communities. He had a mansion built in Revelton, north of Lock Haven, near the Revelton Iron Furnace, which still stands. When he died in 1870, the story went around that he had bags of money buried in the basement of his mansion.
Chances of finding it: Moderate. Though it’s likely still out there, good luck figuring out which old foundation was Reaville’s mansion.
ALLEGHENY NATIONAL FOREST AND SURROUNDS: KINZUA BRIDGE TREASURE, MCKEAN COUNTY
According to one story, in the 1890s, a man robbed a bank in Emporium and ran north, burying the loot within sight of the Kinzua Bridge. He was captured and died in the hospital later, claiming it was buried beneath a triangle-shaped rock. It’s never been found.
Chances of finding it: Moderate. The fact that it’s within sight of the bridge helps considerably, though I’ve been up there and tried to look for it. Every damn rock within five miles is triangle-shaped
PINE CREEK VALLEY AND THE PA GRAND CANYON: THE LOST FORT TREASURE, LYCOMING COUNTY
According to some sources, a man named Chadbert Joincaire was hired during the French and Indian War to build a line of forts near Pine Creek, roughly along the present-day rail trail. Instead of paying employees to build it, he skimmed the gold supplied for that purpose, burying it beneath the forts in boxes labeled with the letter J. He wound up never going back for it.
Chances of finding it: Moderate. According to all descriptions, the forts were very near Pine Creek, meaning that you wouldn’t have to stray too far from the trail to look.
I-80 FRONTIER: ROBBER LEWIS’S HIDDEN LOOT, CENTRE COUNTY
David “The Robber” Lewis was a notorious criminal from Centre County. He was apprehended in 1820, shot and brought back to jail in Bellefonte, where he refused treatment. As he died in his cell, he claimed that he could see where he’d hidden his loot from the cell window. Though people have looked for it, it’s never turned up.
Chances of finding it: Slim. The buildings of Bellefonte have been through some changes since those days. In addition, it would have been in character for Robber Lewis to lie, messing with people on his way out. He’d be pleased to know it’s still working two hundred years later.
ELK COUNTRY: LOST CIVIL WAR GOLD, ELK COUNTY
Some people believe a story about a shipment of Civil War gold that was lost near Dent’s Run. One by one, all of the men carrying the gold died, leaving it in the forest. The final remaining man made it to Lock Haven, where he was taken in. When drinking, he would claim to know where the gold was buried, until the Army transferred him far away.
Chances of finding it: Very slim. This one probably doesn’t even exist; the first mention of it was in a fantasy-style magazine in the 1950s. No documentation exists to show the incidents in Lock Haven, so this one is probably just a rumor. (Yes, one of the very first pieces I ever wrote for the PA Wilds was about this treasure. I’ve learned some stuff since then.)
DARK SKIES: OLE BULL’S VIOLIN, POTTER COUNTY
How about a diamond-encrusted violin? Famous musician Ole Bull used to play a violin covered with diamonds as he worked on building a castle and several communities in present-day Ole Bull State Park. When he discovered he’d been swindled and lost money on the deal, legend has it he played the violin on the hill near his castle, then threw it over the bank to land below. To the best of my knowledge, nobody’s ever thought to look for the diamonds.
Chances of finding it: Moderate. Though the violin would be long gone, the diamonds wouldn’t deteriorate. The foundation of the castle is still there, narrowing down the possible locations.
As you can see, there are plenty of fascinating legends about buried treasure. You never know what you might find if you look, and even if you don’t find treasure, you can still experience the sights, parks, and trails of the PA Wilds. And if you do find treasure, remember who gave you this information. Checks may be made out to Lou.
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