State Treasures - Florida

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 39 of the October, 2011 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2011 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


Old Indian Legends
ESCAMBIA COUNTY – This story is based on tribal oral history and was later documented.
The local Indians tell of an old pirate ship fleeing from a Spanish patrol ship on the Pensacola Bay.
By sailing up the flooded Escambia River, near present-day Century, the pirates lost their pursuers. They beached their ship about a half-mile west of the river and buried it in the swamp using sand and rocks.
Today you can access this area by following an old dry channel into the swamp where a large mound is found. Measuring almost 30 feet high and 120 feet in length, this mound, known as “Ship Mound,” is reputed to be the covered pirate vessel.
Probably a spin-off from the above legend, another Indian tale tells of a vast treasure, which lies hidden deep inside the old Indian mound located about 1/2 mile north of Ship Mound.
The treasure is thought to have belonged to the indigenous people that once lived here from a now long forgotten tribe.
It is said to be buried in “a huge ancient vault” at the very center of the mound.
Others claim the mound holds a valuable pirate treasure after a huge chain was discovered anchored in the top of this mound.
The area where Ship Mound and the second mound are located is in the swamps east of Century, west of the Escambia River, and south of Freedom Road. The value of the buried treasure, and if the pirate ship carried any treasure when she was beached, is unknown.The Cannibal’s Massacre -
Treasure Hidden in the Keys
MONROE COUNTY, Florida Keys – (Note: Check with State Park officials before hitting the beach with your detector; Indian Key is now part of the Florida State Park system.)
One of the most productive treasure hunting spots in the U.S. is the Florida Keys, and Indian Key, a spit of land 10.4 acres in size, is one of the best sites with multi-layers of occupation dating from pre-history.
This region was home to the cannibal tribe of Calusa Indians. Much treasure has been found here and much more awaits discovery.
The first record of the island’s existence from the historic period appears on Liguera’s chart of 1742. Liguera recorded the island as Cayuelo de las Matanzas (slaughters).
Why Liguera recoded the island using the term “slaughter” is not known, but its origins may come from an unconfirmed story that claims the French Crown emptied their prisons and put 400 men on a ship bound for French America, where laborers were desperately needed.
The vessel wrecked in the Keys, where as many as 300 survivors made their way to Indian Key and established a small community to await rescue.
The survivor’s settlement was attacked by Calusa Indians who killed every last man on the island.
Their belongings and salvaged items from the wreck were collected and buried to leave no trace of their existence.
Since the French government had sanctioned this action and all were killed, the incident was either covered up or not recorded, as no documentation of the event has ever been found.
Pirates are said to have headquartered here around 1700 and legends of pirate treasure buried here have existed for centuries.
Nineteen treasure-laden ships of the 1733 Spanish Armada wrecked on nearby Florida Reef during a severe hurricane and sank.
Survivors from all 19 vessels eventually made their way to Indian Key, where they remained until rescued.
One galleon, the San Pedro wrecked just off the northeast point of Indian Key.
The Spanish established a temporary settlement here for two years, conducting salvage operations of their sunken treasure ships, during which time the island was used as a salvage yard and camp.
Centuries after the Spanish salvage operation had ceased, people continued to visit here for periods of time to salvage treasure left behind or undiscovered.
Settlement of the tiny island began in 1824, three years after Florida was transferred from Spain to the United States.
Silas Fletcher opened a store on Indian Key in 1824 to serve turtlers, fishermen, wreckers, Indians and settlers.
By 1829, the settlement of mostly Bahamians and Cubans lived and worked here, with 12 women also living on the island.
Jacob Houseman moved here in 1830, buying out the store and much of the properties on the island.
A wrecker by trade with a notorious reputation for his high-handed methods of commerce, Houseman lobbied and received an Inspector of Customs in 1832, a post office in 1834, and in 1836 he convinced the Territorial Legislative Council to create Dade County by splitting from Monroe County.
The Upper and Middle Keys were part of the new county and Indian Key became the County Seat.
Around 2 a.m. on August 7, 1840, Calusa warriors under the command of Chief Chekika executed a surprise attack on Indian Key. Chekika, a friend and business partner of Houseman, had learned Houseman petitioned the government for a $200 bounty on Indian scalps.
Feeling betrayed, Chekika was determined to wipe the town and its inhabitants at Indian Key from the face of the planet, which he did.
The Naval Base on neighboring Tea Table Key, responsible for protecting civilization in the Keys, was presently engaged in a military operation along the southwest coast of the mainland; one doctor, his patients and five sailors under the command of a midshipman were the only personnel on base.
Hearing of the attack, the sailors mounted cannon on two barges and engaged the Calusa warriors on Indian Key.
The Indians loaded musket balls into one of the cannons on shore and fired on the U.S. Naval barges.
But the recoil from the cannons on the USN barges quickly broke them apart, forcing the sailors into retreat.
After looting the town, it was set ablaze and all evidence of white settlement here was eradicated.
Island resident George Beiglet, during the initial excitement, hastily buried $10,000 in gold coins near his cabin on the west end of Water Street.
When he returned to Indian Key, he failed to locate the cache, which has never been accounted for.
Houseman and his wife escaped the horror and fled to Key West.
He claimed to have hidden $50,000 in a stone cavern by his home, but was killed diving a wreck before he could return to recover it.
No report of its recovery was ever made.Lettuce Lake Treasure
DESOTO COUNTY – Juan Gonzalez claimed to have been a pirate with Gasparilla before he settled on Shell Creek, and that he knew the location of one of his buried treasure casts worth several million dollars.
Soon after the Civil War, Gonzalez cut a deal with two cattlemen to dig up the hoard.
Per agreement the cattlemen arrived at Gonzalez’s cabin in an ox cart that carried a skiff, only to find Gonzalez to ill to travel.
It was agreed that the cattlemen would return in a few days to pick up Gonzalez and they’d proceed to the cache site located near the shore of nearby Lettuce Lake.
Days later when they returned, they found Gonzalez dead. They buried him near his cabin then searched the cabin for any clue.
They found a jar full of gold specie and an engraved copper plate.
It is thought the engraved plate is a key or map to this buried pirate treasure; but no one has been able to decipher the engraved message, which reads…
O-X-NXW ¼ W – VER – VAR
LEGUA 1/10
OO-X-SWXW –VER – VAR
HASTA XLost Treasures of the
Santa Ana del Juncal
ESCAMBIA COUNTY – Under the command of Captain General the Marguis de Cadereyta, the Santa Ana del Juncal sank off Cabo de Apalachi, (present-day Perdido Bay) carrying silver bullion and several million pesos.
The privately owned vessel was part of the New Spain Flota when it went down on June 2, 1611.
Salvage was attempted, but little recovered, as the ship was found to have broken up quickly and was scattered over a large area.Lost & Forgotten
Sites of Florida
Fort Switzerland (St. Johns County) – This was a settler’s blockhouse built in 1835 and located somewhere around Switzerland, Florida.Sawpit Bluff Plantation (DUVAL COUNTY) – Once located at the mouth of the Nassau River, this was a bustling plantation during the Revolutionary War, which served as a base for Patriot forces.
One cannon, dated 1767, along with several hundred intact wine bottles were recovered here by a treasure hunter in the 1970’s.Sources:
Terry, Thomas P., U.S. Treasure Atlas – Volume 3, 1985, La Crosse, WI, Specialty Publishing Company, p. 230, 263-264
Wilkinson, Jerry, History of Indian Key, http://keyhistory.org/indiankey.html
Kramer, Jeffery, Florida’s Fabulous Treasures, http://www.treasurelore.com/florida/florida_treasure.htm, p. 2, 11
North American Forts, Lower St. Johns River Area, http://www.northamericanforts.com/East/fljack.html
Marx, Robert F, Buried Treasure of the United States, 1978, New York, Bonanza Books, p. 195.