If you like to hunt for outlaw loot and prefer something a little more recent then you might want to check out a few spots in Florida.
Back in the 1900’s the “Ashley Gang” was running wild up and down the east coast of Florida and even in the Bahamas robbing just about everything you can think of. They even took to the high seas to do a little pirating, arghhhhhh. Sorry, you know I just can’t help myself! The gang was notoriously ruthless and seemed to enjoy what they did. They were involved in the robberies of banks, trains and motorists and they also operated at least one still, making moonshine and they did a little bootlegging. The gang terrorized the area for fifteen years before meeting their own violent death.
The gang is supposed to have hidden several stashes of loot in several different “secret” campsites they kept in the area they operated in. One of these campsites is supposed to be near the old Ashley homestead that was located north of Gomez, Florida, about two miles north of what is now Hobe Sound. The homestead was located on a dirt road about half a mile from the old “Dixie Highway”. This was where the parents of John Ashley, the leader of the gang lived. The original Ashley house was burned to the ground after the John Ashley and his cohorts robbed a bank in Stuart and the posse came looking for them. The gang wasn’t at the house but the posse drug John’s parents out of the home, beat his father for information and then set the home on fire. I guess the posse wasn’t much better than the outlaws themselves.
John Ashley was said to have at least $100,000 of his own money, his shares from the many robberies, buried somewhere around Hobe Sound and the rest of the gang, which included John Ashley’s bother Bob and a nephew named Hanford Moberly, were said to have cached some loot at the different campsites as well.
One of these campsites was supposed to have been near St. Lucie Inlet on one of the islands just inside the entrance to the inlet and it is said they may have hidden $250,000 at this campsite. This hideout camp was located at a spot called “Peck’s Lake”. This today is Corset Isle. They were supposed to have used this camp for many years.
Another of the campsites is supposed to be located about a mile and a half southwest of the old homestead on a piece of high ground in the swamp. This was supposed to also be the location of their still.
They had two other campsites located south-southwest of Hobe Sound a mile or two and near the old “Dixie Highway”.
Why would any of this loot still be left in the ground? Well it seems that John Ashley had a talent for annoying the local sheriffs, one in particular by the name of Sheriff Baker. It seems that after a robbery Sheriff George Baker sent a couple of deputies to collect John Ashley and his brother Bob but the deputies were ambushed and sent back to the sheriff with a message; “Tell him not to send any more chicken-hearted men or they might get hurt”.
The feud was on! Sheriff George Baker chased after the Ashley gang for years until his death, unrelated to the Ashley gang, but then George Baker’s son Bob Baker was elected sheriff and continued the chase. I should mention that John Ashley killed a sheriff’s deputy named Fred Baker, who was related to the sheriff, during a shootout when the sheriff was trying to capture the gang at one of their hideouts.
John Ashley was actually captured a couple of times but managed to escape which continued to irritate Sheriff Baker.
On November 1, 1924 John Ashley’s luck ran out. He and three members of his gang, Hanford Moberly, Ray “Shorty” Lynn and a man named Middleton were stopped at a roadblock on the Sebastian River Bridge. They were surrounded and had no choice but to surrender.
It seems once they were out of the car and handcuffed Sheriff Baker and his deputies had to shoot the criminals when they “attempted to escape” even though a deputy from another county stated the criminals had been handcuffed together. The official version is they weren’t handcuffed and those “marks” on their wrists were “made by the coroner” during his autopsy. A story told by one of the deputies to a friend many years later said that the four criminals had been handcuffed, John Ashley by himself and the other three cuffed together, when Ashley tried to make a run for it. Ashley was shot and then the other three tried to run away and were gunned down also.
Maybe the sheriff just got tired of chasing them!
I haven’t found any information that indicates any of the money the gang was supposed to have hidden has been found. I did find where the sheriff and his deputies destroyed several of the “secret” camp hideouts before the gang was killed. Old sheriff department records of those counties, St. Lucie County and Palm Beach County, may hold the locations of where those camps were.