State Treasure - Michigan

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 27 of the July, 2012 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2012 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


Silver Jack’s Lost Gold & Silver MineMARQUETTE COUNTY – "Silver Jack" Driscoll was a lumberjack, part-time prospector, and part-time brawler. Driscoll left his home in Seney to follow the timber west in 1883, and in time he settled in L’ Anse. During his travels between Seney and L’ Anse, Driscoll drove logs on the Yellow Dog River north of Ishpeming. During his days driving logs he discovered his legendary gold and silver mine.After settling in L’ Anse, Driscoll would take off on foot periodically towards the Huron Mountains north of the Yellow Dog River. Weeks later he’d reappear in L’ Anse with his packs full of gold and silver nuggets. This went on for years and locals from L’ Anse attempted to follow Jack to his mine, but always failed.They often plied him with liquor, but the cagey old timber man could not be compelled to talk. Jack’s secret went with him to the grave after his death in 1895. Though many have searched for this lost bonanza, it has yet to be found. A Secret Taken to the GraveMISSAUKEE / CLARE / ISABELLA COUNTIES – Exactly how many trains were held up by the Smalley brothers isn’t clear. But John Smalley is still remembered today as "Michigan’s Most Notorious Train Robber," who is estimated to have freebooted around $1 million in booty, none of which was ever found.Brothers Abe and John Smalley began life as the sons of Civil War veteran David Smalley, who became the first settler in Colonville after building a cabin on South Athey Road in 1870. Smalley and his wife produced a large family and David worked a successful farm. David also served as the first township supervisor and, with Curtis Palmer (storekeeper), operated the post office from 1894 to 1904.In his youth John worked in lumber camps and engaged in fighting as a sport. During the 1880’s, young John’s days as a fighter ended as he embarked on a new occupation as an outlaw. He not only robbed trains, but also was suspected in several bank robberies. Local authorities and Railroad detectives lacked the evidence to make any arrests.But their luck ran out when the boys held up the Chicago & West Michigan Railroad at Farwell, Michigan, on August 20, 1895. Sheriff Grey at Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, wired Sheriff Stratton of Allegan County to inform him he had information on the Farewell robbery. Stratton went to Mt. Pleasant and learned from Sheriff Grey that a local farmer named Crane was contacted by a man on the Friday preceding the Farewell job. The stranger gave his name as John Smalley who asked him if he wanted to make some quick money."If in a legitimate way," Crane replied. Smalley said, "It’s on wheels. All you have to do is stop it." Crane knew exactly what Smalley was talking about and told him he’d have nothing to do with it. Crane told the officers the stranger had told him he lived in the town of Gilmore in Isabella County and was well known in that region. Shortly after word of the Farewell robbery went around, Crane remembered the stranger’s visit and contacted Sheriff Grey to report what he knew. For investigators it was the first break in the case. Sheriff Grey accompanied the train engineer who’d been held up, a man named Zibbell, to Gilmore where they met Sheriff Stratton near John Smalley’s hideout, a cabin occupied by Cora Brown, a prostitute known as "Black Diamond."Upon arrival, the officers learned Smalley was not there, but Zibbell identified a man who was there as one of the three train robbers. Arrested was James W. Brown who was booked into the Allegan jail.On October 31, 1895, Brown confessed to the Farewell robbery and the Kendallville (also known as the Kessler robbery), which occurred on September 12, 1893. Agreeing to turn state’s evidence, he identified his co-conspirators as Abe and John Smalley. Fifteen thousand was stolen in the Kendallville job and officers recovered from Brown $1,645 in stolen currency, a gold and silver watch, a doubled-barreled shotgun, and a pistol all purchased with the proceeds from the robbery. The remaining $10,000 divided between Abe and John Smalley was never found.John Smalley was killed resisting arrest at McBain; Abe Smalley appears to have escaped. Based on information I gleaned from Brown’s confession, I was able to identify several potential cache sites located in southern Clare County and in Isabella County. When John Smalley was killed he was at another hideout in McBain in Missaukee County. Silver IslandPRESQUE ISLE COUNTY – In 1870, a large silver deposit was discovered on Silver Island in Pike Bay. The small island on Lake Huron near the Canadian border sits in some of the stormiest waters in the world. During severe storms the island is almost completely inundated. Following the 1870 discovery, a large floodwall of logs and stone was built to hold back heavy waves.From 1870 – 1884, over $4 million worth of silver was removed. In 1884, the shafts flooded and work came to a sudden stop. Estimates claim the pillars alone in the 1,000-foot deep mineshaft would yield $1 million in silver at prices from that period. Check locally for island access. Burton TreasureBRANCH COUNTY – Hudson Burton died in 1926, but before his passing he recorded a phonograph record that told the exact location of his personal fortune believed to be buried on the old Burton farm. His heirs gathered in the offices of Burton’s lawyer where they were to listen to Burton’s phonograph recording. But, as the lawyer walked in holding the record, he slipped and it shattered, making it completely useless.Burton’s cache was never recovered and today remains buried right where Burton left it, which is believed to be somewhere on his old farm near Buchanan. Local research is needed to determine the site of his old farm. Lost and Forgotten Michigan SitesGT: Singapore ALLEGAN COUNTY – The ghost town of Singapore sat at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River. Founded in the 1836 by New York land speculator Oshea Wilder, the Singapore Wilder envisioned was to be a port town that would rival Chicago and Milwaukee. At its height, the town boasted of three mills, two hotels, several general stores, a renowned bank, and was home to Michigan’s first schoolhouse. In total, the town consisted of 23 buildings and two sawmills. Wilder sold Singapore in 1846 and moved back to Calhoun County. James Carter of New York bought out Wilder, but two years later sold the town to his brother, Artemas Carter, who moved to Singapore and built a three-masted schooner, the Octavia, to haul lumber from Singapore to Chicago over Lake Michigan. The town thrived and boasted a population of several hundred by 1871.In late 1871, after the fires which swept through Chicago, Holland and Peshtigo; Singapore lumber was in high demand in order to rebuild. Before long the area around Singapore had been deforested, exposing the town to the winds and sand coming off Lake Michigan. Singapore began eroding and four years later, in 1875, it had been completely abandoned. Eventually the erosion consumed the town, leaving it buildings, homes and businesses buried in sand.  Ft: Wayne Stockade MONROE COUNTY – This was an American stockaded settler’s blockhouse and the first post in Michigan under the US flag. Built in 1796 near East Elm & North Monroe Avenues in Monroe, it survived through 1812. The site today is covered by modern development. GT: Kensington OAKLAND COUNTY – Settled in 1831 and platted in 1836, the ghost town of Kensington was located roughly 2 miles SSW of New Hudson on Lake Kent. By 1854, the town’s population was around 300. But in 1871 the town suffered a population decline after the Detroit, Lansing & Lake Michigan Railroad diverted its line to South Lyon. The Michigan Air Line Railroad built its railroad in 1882 that went through New Hudson, further aiding the decline of Kensington. By 1905 just four families remained living in town. Most of the town remained intact into the 1950’s, but it was razed to build I-96 and the Kensington Metropark.  Sources:Henson, Michael Paul, "America’s Lost Treasures," 1984 South Bend, IN, Jayco Publishing Company, p. 57Ann Arbor August, "An Alibi for Smalley – But Tis too Late," September 6, 1895, http://oldnews.aadl.org/node/132857 (Death of John Smalley)The Buffalo Courier, "HUNTED DOWN – Buffalo Detective Solves Major Train Robbery," November 3, 1895, http://www.newspaperabstracts.com/linkphp?action=detail&id=13955 (Includes Brown’s full confession)New York Times, "Robbed of Many Thousands," September 13, 1893Terry, Thomas P, "US Treasure Atlas – Volume 5," 1985, La Crosse, WI, Specialty Publishing Company, p. 491, 511Wikipedia research: Singapore, MichiganNorth American Forts, Michigan, http://northamericanforts.com/East/mi.htmlWikipedia research: Kensington, Michigan.