Man Says He Found Missing Treasure, But State Won't Let Him Dig
It's a mystery going back more than 140 years. Many have searched, but no one has found the millions of dollars in gold lost during the Civil War in Elk County.
Now, one treasure hunting team from Clearfield says it knows where the gold is.
The story dates back to around the battle of Gettysburg in 1863. According to legend, Abraham Lincoln ordered a gold shipment to help pay Union soldiers and the route for the shipment came right through Elk County.
The soldiers transporting the gold made it to Ridgway and St. Mary's, but after that they disappeared -- except for the wagon train's guide, a man known only as Conners.
"(Conners) was the guide of the whole expedition and when he made it into Huntingdon, he claimed he couldn't remember anything. He couldn't find the dead bodies; he couldn't find anything," said Dennis Parada, who runs Finders Keepers USA, a treasure hunting crew from Clearfield.
For years, treasure hunters have speculated about the fate of the gold shipment. The story has become a local legend and has been passed down from generation to generation. Some say a raiding party killed most of the soldiers escorting the gold. Parada, however, said he believes the gold's disappearance was part of an inside job.
"Conners ambushed and killed the rest of the guys -- and killed them off completely. He planned this whole thing from the Ridgway point of this trip," Parada said.
The gold shipment was originally worth around $2 million, but Parada estimates its value at around $30 million today.
Though many have searched for it without success, Parada said he finally knows where it is: near the Cameron County border around the village of Dents Run.
"This site is on the same mountain that the dead bodies were found. It's on the same mountain that the wagons were found; the location of the site is perfect. ... It seems so easy that if I had the wagon train and I was going to hide something, this site is perfect. I just wonder why nobody has got on to this before," he said.
After detector readings indicated that gold and iron were 6 feet below the site, Finders Keepers workers were ready to dig. But that's where things got complicated.
"The state doesn't want it dug up, that is basically where we're at. It appears they are stalling from every direction to prevent us in digging anything up. For what reason? Maybe -- at a later date -- so they can dig it up and claim part of it," he said.
Parada said the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources told him he will be arrested if he digs at the Dents Run site. Officials with the department's Bureau of Forestry said Parada isn't following the proper process.
"He could actually get a bond to do some specialized testing that wouldn't have any impact to the land itself. In other words he could do stakes, put out stakes and do testing with specialized equipment with radar that would go under the ground and give him a better idea of what's under there," said Jeanne Wambaugh of the bureau.
However, Parada said he has already found objects at the site including a bottle and a bullet that he says are from the Civil War. Bureau officials said the artifacts are from around World War I and said they need to see more evidence.
"If he would fulfill the bond and go ahead and do the testing and if there is something there, the ground will be dug up," Wambaugh said.
Parada said that would be too expensive because it would cost several thousand dollars for a bond and $500,000 to dig. For now, he said he will keep trying to get approval from the state to dig at the site.
"It's just sitting there until someone lets us do what we can," Parada said.
Parada said he has gone to federal officials asking for help in digging up the treasure, but he said they can't do anything until he proves the gold at the site is federal gold.