State Treasure - Maine

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 41 of the April, 2012 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2012 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


Island Treasures
Tales of treasure and buried caches are prolific throughout the many islands off Maine’s shores. Legendary pirate treasures are said to be buried among these islands, along with shipwreck treasures, outlaw caches, and prohibition era bootlegger’s caches.
Though plenty of treasure legends are more folklore than fact, the number of known recoveries where treasure has been unearthed on several Maine Islands is testimony to the fact that they were popular safe-havens for pirates, fugitives and outlaws while hosting various enterprises over the years, including piracy, smuggling, bootlegging, and salvage.Cliff Island (CUMBERLAND COUNTY) – Captain Keiff, as he was known, retired alone to a small secluded hut on Cliff Island. Said to have amassed his fortune from years of plundering ships on the Atlantic, Capt. Keiff was a pirate of a different sort. In this case, the good captain had no ship and therefore no need of a crew.
Instead, Keiff would tie a lantern around his horse’s neck and ride up and down along the beach at night attempting to vector ships inbound.
Misguided by the light, ships at sea would wreck on the reefs surrounding the tiny island; generally the sea claimed the lives of all onboard.
Should any lucky survivors reach the safety of land Keiff made quick work of them as they praised the Lord and grasped the white sands that meant grace had spared their lives.
With the light work done, the good captain now claimed salvage rights to the wreck and was free to salvage the ship’s cargo, stores and treasure at his leisure.
Keiff is reported to have lived off the provisions and supplies provided from his salvaging operations and spent very little of his money. With no family and few opportunities to spend his plunder, much of Capt. Keiff’s treasure is believed to remain buried somewhere on Cliff Island.Manana Island (LINCOLN COUNTY) – A fishing boat stopped here in 1900 for some down time. Several fishermen onboard, including the captain, opted to relax by pairing off into teams for a friendly game of soccer.
During the game, a wild kick sent the ship’s captain running after the ball. When he picked it up his eyes fell upon a piece of rusty metal protruding from the sand.
Investigating further, he dug around the item until he recognized it as an old iron pot filled with coins. Just beyond site of the crew, he stuck the pot inside a rock crevice intending to keep the matter to himself and quietly return for it later.
Once the crew had returned to the ship, the captain made an excuse to remain for a short time. He returned to what he thought was the very crevice he’d stashed the pot in, but it wasn’t there.
He searched briefly, stunned that he hadn’t immediately found the pot, then decided to let the crew in on his find.
With the entire company now searching the various fissures, rocks and crevices in the immediate vicinity, the captain was certain of quick success. But hours passed without success and all returned to the ship disappointed to resume their trek.
Since there have been no reports of this cache being found at a later time, many believe it remains hidden among the rocks on Manana Island.Ragged Island (KNOX COUNTY) – No specific treasures are known to be buried on Ragged Island, but the island’s history makes it a probable site worth looking into. Because of this island’s isolated location, it is known to have been a popular safe haven and rendezvous spot for various criminal enterprises for centuries.
Plus Ragged Island is the site where one of the few counterfeiting operations in Maine’s history was headquartered for many years before being found out by federal agents.John’s Island (HANCOCK COUNTY) – From her days of old when pirates roamed these waters, there was an old tavern that once sat on the north end of this tiny spit of land known as John’s Island.
Local legend tells of a pirate’s treasure said to lie at the bottom of a hidden well here, and of a dead man’s treasure map showing the exact location of that well.
Legend speaks of a Portuguese sailor who frequented the old tavern regularly, a known hangout for seafarers of every kind. He was a curious fellow who was known to crew onboard pirate ships and was always loaded with plenty of gold and silver to spend every time he stopped in at the tavern.
The Portuguese stood out because he didn’t seem to be part of any crew for any particular ship, nor did he move in a group with his fellow shipmates, and he never worked. This went on for years unquestioned, until he died while at sea. Before he passed he called a shipmate to his bedside and passed him a piece of paper. It was a map of John’s Island showing the location of a hidden well.
He told his shipmate at the bottom of the well… “was more gold and silver than half a dozen men could carry away.” Adding, “I know because I helped put it there.” Soon after he was dead.
What the shipmate did from there is unknown, but the site of the well remains unknown to this day and no reports of any recoveries have ever been made.Bailey Island (CUMBERLAND COUNTY) – Legend claims Captain Kidd buried a large cache of treasure here. Resident John Wilson was living on the island in 1853 and set out to find Kidd’s treasure. Wilson dug up a copper kettle buried deep. Inside he found $12,000 in Spanish gold coins, but the cache is not thought to be part of Kidd’s treasure.Monroe Island (WALDO COUNTY) – Monroe Island is reputed to have been used for numerous criminal enterprises dating back to the time of the early pirates. Smugglers and rumrunners later used the island for many years.
In 1884, the sidewheel steamer City of Portland wrecked on the island where survivors are reported to have buried personal caches of gold and silver coins after coming on shore.The Lost Stanwood Mummies
YORK COUNTY – Back in 1855, in order to alleviate a critical shortage of rags, Augustus Stanwood purchased a number of Egyptian mummies at .03 cents per pound.
Stanwood brought them to the U.S. and stored them in a cave on his property. How many he bought is unknown, but the cave is said to have been “full” of them.
Once the paper-rag shortage passed the mummies were no longer of use and Stanwood forgot about them.
Over time the entrance to the cave became lost. As far as anyone knows it has never been found. The cave of mummies is on the old property once owned by Stanwood that is located about 10 miles southwest of Portland near the county line. Local research is necessary.Lost Silver Mine
(CUMBERLAND COUNTY) – Early settlers of the village of Cornish learned that the local Indians were working a secret silver mine somewhere near the confluence of the Saco River and the Ossippi River. For quite some time the settlers tried to find the location of this mine, but failed. As far as I know the mine remains lost to this day.Diamonds Hidden on the Ridge
(AROOSTOOK COUNTY) – During the 1850’s, it was common knowledge among those living along the northeastern boarder that quantities of diamonds were being smuggled into the United States from Canada.
Legend claims a man whose name is not known one day appeared from the woods near Buffalo alone.
While speaking to the locals in Buffalo, he stated his daughter and he were traveling and intended to board a ship at Bangor to complete the rest of their journey. But his daughter had died on the ridge overlooking Portage Lake where he had buried her.
At the top of that ridge, known as Carpenter Ridge he said he’d also buried a pouch filled with diamonds worth $250,000.
He resumed his trek without returning for the diamonds, perhaps thinking it best that the cache was safer where it was, but surprisingly was never seen in the area again.
The gravesite was discovered in 1975 and a search commenced for the diamond cache, without success.
It is thought to remain buried near the summit of Carpenter Ridge.Sources:
Island Treasures research:
Henson, Michael Paul, Legendary Pirate Treasure Sites Dot Maine Coastline, September 1981, Lost Treasure, p. 48 – 50
Terry, Thomas P., U.S. Treasure Atlas, 1985, La Crosse, WI, Specialty Publishing Company, p. 463, 468 – 470.