State Treasure - Vermont

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 27 of the December, 2009 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2009 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


The Legend of Bristol Notch
ADDISON COUNTY – This buried treasure is known by several names, including the Bristol Cave treasure, the Hell’s Half Acre treasure, and the Bristol Money Diggings. It is a well-known legend although the treasure has yet to be found, thereby making it one of Vermont’s best-known unsolved mysteries.
There are three versions of this story and I will summarize them here. But if it is the lost treasure of Bristol Notch you seek, expect to spend some time doing hard research, as many have tried and failed to recover that one.
All three accounts of this treasure legend agree that the story has its origins with the arrival of a Spaniard named Phillip DeGrau. DeGrau arrived in New England by ship on either the Spanish galleon, San Jose in 1752, or aboard the Nebuchadnezzar in 1756.
The San Jose Version
Legend tells that the San Jose began taking on water and was assisted by an American vessel, the Susannah, which helped the San Jose reach port at New London, Connecticut. The crippled ship carried 40 chests of silver and one chest of gold, which American authorities immediately seized and stockpiled in a warehouse.
As Spanish and American officials wrangled over the fate of the treasure, 10 Spanish crewmen jumped ship, including DeGrau, and then burglarized the warehouse and took off with the bulk of the treasure. Long after DeGrau and the others had quietly slipped out of town the Americans released the treasure to the Spanish captain. In the process, the burglary was discovered and the captain reported a loss of 83,000 pieces of silver and 4,500 pieces of gold.
Unknown to the captain and American authorities at that time, DeGrau and his freebooting friends were quickly heading north through some tough New England countryside, hoping to reach the safety of the Canadian boarder. Just 2.9 miles southeast of present-day Bristol, and only 63 miles south of the Canadian border, the Spaniards were attacked by Indians at or near South Mountain.
The treasure was buried during the fight, according to DeGrau, between two giant rocks at the foot of South Mountain. This location is known as Hell’s Half Acre. It appears from this account that most of the Spanish were killed, save DeGrau, and perhaps others, who then escaped to Canada. Regardless, DeGrau is the only one who returned to recover the treasure.
Upon DeGrau’s return he was certain he’d located the correct site when he arrived at Hell’s Half Acre at the base of South Mountain. Unfortunately, DeGrau found the landscape had changed somehow making it impossible for him to reach the hoard. He learned from the locals at Pocok (now present-day Bristol) that a severe earthquake occurred on November 18, 1766, that had altered much of the landscape.
With this new information, DeGrau decided to take into confidence some of the locals and enlist their help in recovering the treasure. In spite of their best efforts over time, they never did. One account claims DeGrau settled in Bristol and searched for the hoard until his death, without success. Today the treasure continues to elude all efforts to recover it.
The Nebuchadnezzar Version
This account in essence states that DeGrau and other deserting crewmen stole several chests of gold doubloons while the Nebuchadnezzar was docked at New London. The chests were hidden in a cave at the base of South Mountain before the deserters fled into Canada, where they parted company. What their plan was to recover the hoard later is unknown; however, DeGrau is the only one who ever returned to attempt a recovery, but failed.
Evidence found
at South Mountain
There have been two interesting recoveries that add credibility to two of the three accounts. In 1961, a treasure hunter using a metal detector at the base of South Mountain found one gold doubloon. Although the date is unknown, the second recovery made there was of a crude crucible of Spanish origin.
The Lost DeGrau Mine Version
The recovery of the crucible would support the third version of this story, which claims that DeGrau’s father was a member of a Greek and Spanish prospecting party that arrived in the area near present-day Bristol before it was settled. The miners struck a rich silver vein and mined so much silver that it was impossible for them to transport it. Instead of a cave, it was a mine tunnel where the treasure was cached.
The bulk of it was left behind, which is said to have amounted to from $200,000 to $1,000,000 in silver. Silver ingots, tools, and all evidence of mining were put inside the mine tunnel and it was sealed shut and camouflaged over before the miners departed, intending to return later for the hoard. For reasons unknown, no one from the party ever returned.
Unlike most lost treasure legends, there don’t seem to be any discrepancies regarding the location of this treasure or the fact that someone named DeGrau was involved. Researching this story would certainly help eliminate fact from fiction, and also serve to help determine exactly what may be buried there.

The Lost Treasure
of Bailey’s Mills
WINDSOR COUNTY – This little known story involves a lost family fortune that was hidden in the woods not far from a rural Vermont sawmill. Levi Bailey (1766-1850) was a timber man in his youth.
He settled in the Reading area where he purchased a dam and mill with large tracks of timberland that he developed for commercial purposes.
Known as a frugal businessman and a “penny-pincher,” one story survives today that tells of how a young boy entered Bailey’s store with a penny to spend. He carefully surveyed everything in the store that cost one cent before deciding to purchase a fig. Next the boy carefully examined all the figs in the box and finally pointed to the largest one.
Bailey took the cent and pulled the fig from the box. He then examined the fig and told the boy that it was much too large to sell for just one cent. Next, Bailey took a bite out of the fig then handed it to his astonished customer.
Likewise, as a businessman Bailey did have several bank accounts, but he simply had little confidence in them. Therefore, he was known to have kept a large sum of cash on hand at home.
Between 1800 and 1850, Bailey developed his land until a small commercial and industrial complex surrounded his home. He built a wool and cotton factory that was three stories tall; there was a blacksmith shop, grist mill, sawmill, carding mill, linseed oil mill, and a general store, and the Bailey home is said to have been part of the Underground Railroad.
Bailey died at home at the age of 70. For whatever reason, the only man present when he passed was his doctor. The doctor told his descendants that before Bailey died he stated he’d buried the family’s sizeable fortune “in the woods on the west side of the sawmill.” Although a number of attempts were made to unearth the Bailey fortune, it was never found.
Today the Bailey House is operated as a historic bed and breakfast. You may want to inquire as to the site of the old sawmill, or check with the county recorder for old plot maps that would show the locations of the various buildings that once stood on the property near the home.
The Bailey House is located at 1347 Bailey’s Mills Road, Reading, Vermont. You can contact the Innkeeper, Barbara Thaeder, at (800) 639-343, or (802) 484-7809, or visit their website at http://www.baileysmills.com

Sources:
Pallante, Anthony J., “Vermont,” April 1999, Lost Treasure, p. 12
Henson, Michael Paul, VERMONT –“ Timberman Cache,” August, 1987, Lost Treasure, p. 43
Bailey’s Mills Bed & Breakfast, http://www.baileysmills.com/history
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