State Treasure - Wisconsin

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 51 of the June, 2011 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2011 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


The Black Tuesday Treasure
KENOSHA COUNTY – Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, is remembered as the day of the infamous Stock Market crash that ended seven years of American prosperity known as “The Roaring Twenties,” or the “Jazz Era,” and ushered in America’s Great Depression.
Hours before the New York Stock Exchange opened for the day, another tragedy was unfolding on Lake Michigan off the shore of Kenosha.
Radio operator Elmer Webster was on duty that morning in the radio room of the Radiomarine Corporation of America (RCA) in Chicago. At 1:30 a.m., the silence in the room was broken when the wireless came to life…
“We are four miles off Kenosha. Fire holds are flooded. In immediate danger. Please stay with us. May need your help soon. Wisconsin.”
The call came from Captain Dugal Morrison onboard the Wisconsin.
The Goodrich line steamer departed Chicago for Milwaukee under gale warning conditions, though the storm wasn’t due to hit for hours.
The ship was carrying cargo consisting of machine tools, paper products, 12 1929 automobiles, with $25,000 in negotiable securities, and 500 newly minted 1927-D silver dollars locked in the purser’s safe. Passengers and crew numbered 72.
1:40 a.m. - Captain Morrison requested Webster contact Captain Delletre of the Illinois. His message… “Tell him we need help.”
At 1:43 a.m., Webster relayed the message to the Illinois, in harbor at Racine.
Seven minutes later Delletre replied… “My chain has parted. Tug Butterfield trying to turn me around. Will come soon.”
1:52 a.m. – Webster relays Delletre’s message and informs Morrison that he has dispatched the Coast Guard from Racine and Kenosha. The Wisconsin had nearly made 51 miles from Chicago when Capt. Morrison found himself fighting choppy seas and gale force winds of 50 mph.
Huge swells were now cascading over her bows as the captain fought to turn the ship about.
Without warning, an explosion shook the vessel, throwing passengers against the bulkheads and igniting a fire in the engine room.
With most the crew diverted to fight the fire and passengers in a panic, the media would later report the ship had been hit by “one of the worst storms on Lake Michigan in years.”
2:15 a.m. – “Due to sink any time now. For God’s sake send help! Wisconsin.” Later that day, the New Castle News reported…
"Efforts of rescue ships have proven futile. Three lines attached to the ship have snapped, and sent the Illinois limping back to port.
"Likewise, the tug Butterfield has been defeated and returned to shore. Four miles of the roughest seas Lake Michigan has seen in many years are separating the sixty men (sic) from shore and safety."
2:35 a.m. – “Fire’s out. No steam. Rush boats before it’s too late. We may save her.” Signed, Capt. Morrison.
2:50 a.m. – “Power weakened.” (Message repeated.)
3 a.m. – “S.O.S. S.O.S. S.O.S.”
3:30 a.m. – “Am drifting in towards Kenosha.” Signed, “Wisconsin.”
3:40 a.m. – “Can stay up half hour longer. Is help coming?”
At 3:50 a.m., Morrison radios in that he can see the Coast Guard coming, reporting that they were “about half way out from Kenosha.”
Ten minutes later Morrison confirms the Coast Guard has arrived and attached two lines to the Wisconsin.
4:05 a.m. – “Coast Guard can do nothing. Is standing by to take off our crew. Are any larger boats coming? Wisconsin.”
4:08 a.m. – Webster radios the Wisconsin. Tug boats and other Coast Guard on way. We’ll make it yet.” Signed, Webster.
4:30 a.m. – “We have received S.O.S. We are just outside Milwaukee. It will take us two hours to get there. Starting now.” Signed, “Pere Marquette, car ferry.”
4:31 a.m. – “Rush it.” Signed, “Webster.”
One minute after Marguette’s message was received in Chicago, the Wisconsin begins transmitting at 4:32 a.m. - “Abandoning ship. Leaving boat now. Won’t forget you. Wisconsin.”
4:34 a.m. – “Not enough boats for us all, Wisconsin.”
4:35 a.m. – Franticly Webster calls the Wisconsin. But there is no answer.
To the captain and Coast Guards’ credit, 60 souls was saved that rough and stormy night.
Captain Morrison, though alive when plucked from the water by Coast Guard rescuers, died soon after arriving at Kenosha.
One survivor stated, “I can swim fairly well, but the cold was bitter and the battering of the waves weakened me fast. I grabbed hold of a bit of wreckage and hung on.
“While I was holding there, two other boats came over the side and tipped over. Some of the boys struggled in the water, but others just threw up their hands and went down. I think the Coast Guard got some of them.”
The Wisconsin has been salvaged, but the purser’s safe has yet to be located.
Also, three cars remain, according to Diver Dan’s Scuba & Aquatic Center in Kenosha. One is a Hudson, the others an Essex and a Chevrolet.
The ship sits in 130 feet of water, 6-1/2 miles east-southeast of Kenosha.Fort Dearborn Detail TreasureDANE COUNTY - Around 1827, a military detachment departed Chicago’s Fort Dearborn transporting a secret shipment of gold and silver specie destined for the pioneer outpost of Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien on the banks of the Mississippi River.
The detachment consisted of a U.S. lieutenant, a French and Indian guide, and four soldiers.
Their mission was highly secretive and involved them traveling in a northwesterly direction across southern Wisconsin through trackless, uncharted wilderness.
It was early November when the tiny detail departed from Chicago at night. Two pack horses each carried one small iron bound chest containing the treasure along with their gear and provisions.
Three days out of Chicago one of the guides reported that he felt the detail was being followed.
In the days that followed, the guide scouted around and determined that a party of men was indeed shadowing the tiny detachment.
The lieutenant ordered the detail to proceed with all possible speed.
After a week of travel across difficult terrain, the detail arrived at Lake Mendota at or near Mendota Beach.
Both men and mounts were spent when the order came to cross the frozen lake.
As the detachment reached the center of the lake, their pursuers arrived behind them on the shore. Shouting at the soldiers and brandishing firearms, the would-be road agents started across the lake in hot pursuit.
The lieutenant halted his detail and ordered that both treasure chests be dropped through a hole in the ice, thereby consigning the treasure in his charge to the safety of the depths of the lake.
Now the tiny detachment fled across the lake until they reached the north shore. Their pursuers having seen the drop simply abandoned the chase.
The next day a military patrol from Fort Crawford found the fraught Fort Dearborn detail and brought them into Fort Crawford. The military made no attempt to recover the treasure chests.
In 1940, some local men dragged the northwest portion of the lake searching for the treasure, but failed to locate it.Lost California Gold
CRAWFORD COUNTY – There’s an old legend that hails from the tiny rural village of Eastman in southwestern Crawford County.
The tale goes that a group of children were playing on a hill in Eastman and had overturned a rock to watch it roll downhill.
They were surprised to find a small chamber containing an earthenware crock below where the rock had sat.
As they removed the cover, the crock fell to the ground and rolled down the hillside until it broke at the bottom. They could see a bright yellow sand pouring from the crock while it descended the hillside, but had no idea it was gold.
The children told their parents, who took no interest in their story.
Many years later, an elderly woman living at Prairie du Chien claimed she was one of the children at play that day, and she later learned that a soldier who’d once lived in Eastman had buried the crock of gold on the hill for safekeeping after returning from the California gold fields. His fate is unknown.
As far as is known, the gold remains scattered on the hillside to this day. A good detector should help any recovery effort.Sources:
Brown, Charles E., Lost Treasure Tales, 1945, Madison, WI, Wisconsin Folklore Society, p. 2-3
Ferguson, Jeff, Lake Michigan’s Sunken Silver Dollars, November 1974, Treasure World magazine, p. 18
New Castle News, Coast Guard Rescues Part of Lake Ship Crew, October 29, 1929, New Castle, PA, p. 1-2
Diver Dan’s Scuba & Aquatic Center, SS Wisconsin, http://www.diverdan.com/Wrecks/ss_wisconsin.htm