Once upon a time in a place far, far away……….
OK, so it’s not actually that far away and for some of you it may be right in your own back yard. It is from a long, long time ago. I have a tale of treasure for those of you along the Illinois and Kentucky borders. This one tale actually could lead you to several tales as this spot was frequented by at least two conterfeiters, a pirate, ARRGGGG! (I just can’t help myself) and a few outlaws. This article is about one of the couterfeiters that made this place his home.
The place? Cave-In-Rock, Illinois. Yea, the name seems pretty simple but what do you expect, it was found and named by a frenchy back in 1739. I guess he didn’t have much of an imagination. Cave-In-Rock is an actual town but the main feature is a cave with an opening that is 55 feet wide! Cave-In-Rock sits just inside the Illinois border on the Ohio River.
The cave itself was one of the homes of an infamous counterfeiter known as John Duff, real name, John Mc Elduff. Mr. Duff, as he was commonly known, had been a scout during the Revolutionary war and chose to make his living as a counterfeiter. He mined his own silver and lead and couterfeited coins. I guess now I have your attention since any coins from the 1700’s would last a very long time.
It is said that John Duff hid a large cache of gold and silver coins, both genuine and counterfeit before his untimely death. He was killed by three or four indians who were hired to kill him by the commandant of the nearby Fort Massac. He died in 1799 leaving behind his wife who apparantly didn’t have any idea where the money was hidden.
There have been conflicting reports as to exactly where he died and how many places he called home. Accordng to a newspaper report he was killed at his home at Battery Park on the Illinois side of the Ohio River or you can believe what was written in the History of Union County, Kentucky where it says he died on the other side of the river at what is now Caseyville, Kentucky. It is known that he lived in or very near the cave at Cave-In-Rock at one time and he mined his lead and silver along the Saline River. There were three places known as “Duff’s Fort”, one at Cave-In-Rock, one in a house in Caseyville, Kentucky which later became the old Christian Chruch and the third was at Island Ripple on the Saline River.
Stories from long ago say that a nephew of John Duff came to the area of the Tradewater River to look for his uncles hidden money but was unable to locate it. The treasure was supposed to be in a “secret” cave at the mouth of the river but the area at the mouth of the Tradewater River is littered with caves and the nephew couldn’t find the right one.
Too bad he didn’t have a metal detector, that might have made it a lot easier to look for!
Genuine or counterfeit, coins mented in the 1700’s would still be a cache worth finding.
If you choose to do some more research on this treasure be sure to look into a second counterfeiter who spent some time at Cave-In-Rock named Philip Alston who learned the counterfeiting trade from John Duff. The Sturdivant outlaw gang and another outlaw named Logan Belt frequented the area also along with the Pirate Samuel Mason, ARGGGGG! See, it’s just natural!