State Treasure - Pennsylvania

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 59 of the November, 2009 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2009 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


Laurel Run Treasure -
Payroll Money Still Missing!
LUZERNE COUNTY – On the morning of October 19, 1888, two employees of Charles McFadden, a railroad building contractor, were sent into Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to pick up the company’s payroll of $12,000, with instructions to deliver it to McFadden’s work camp. The two were just one mile from camp when they were waylaid by three highwaymen and murdered.
The road agents quickly made off with a leather satchel containing the entire payroll. Lawmen identified “Red Nose Mike,” whose true name was Michale Rizzolo, as one of the killers. On January 5, 1889, officers arrested Rizzolo, who ratted out Guiseppe Benevino and Vincent Valalli as his accomplices. Rizzolo also told officers that the satchel with the $12,000 was buried at a spot near Laurel Run Creek. When lawmen recovered the satchel it contained just a small amount of the loot.
Hearing the law was searching for them, Benevino and Valalli fled to Italy.
Rizzolo was tried and convicted for two counts of murder and armed robbery. He was executed on June 25, 1889. Later both Benevino and Valalli were arrested in Italy, each with roughly $1,000 on them. Both gave statements that Rizzolo had masterminded the robbery and that they had split up after the hold up.
They were to meet later to divide the booty, but as officers were getting close to Rizzolo, he gave them both an undisclosed sum of the payroll money so they could flee to Italy. Both men stated Rizzolo alone knew where the bulk of the $12,000 was hidden. According to legend, Rizzolo buried the loot in a tin box somewhere near Laurel Run, just southeast of Wilkes-Barre.
Facing the hangman’s noose, Rizzolo took the secret to his grave.

The “Equalizer” & His
Lost Saddlebag of Gold
MIFFLIN–CENTRE COUNTIES – David Lewis presented a striking figure in the saddle; the handsome young man charmed his way into the hearts and homes of many of his wealthier female victims. He drew the line at bloodshed, however, a fact that played well with his public persona, gaining him the reputation of a “gentleman outlaw.” But his practice of robbing the rich and spreading the wealth among poor folks earned him notoriety, when compared to Sir Walter Scott’s “Rob Roy.” Lewis himself preferred the sobriquet “The Equalizer,” but most today remember him as the…“Robin Hood of Pennsylvania.”
He would repeat a favorite fictional anecdote often told of his exploits, later published in 1853. The yarn tells of Lewis coming upon a home whose owner was clearly of some means where he was admitted by an elderly woman “of respectable appearance.” In order to learn where she kept her money, Lewis presentsed her with a $5 note and asked for change.
“That, unfortunately, I am unable to do,” replied the woman, “for I have not a dollar in the house and, what is worse,” she added as she spied a man approaching her house, “there comes the constable to take my cow for the last half-year’s rent. I don’t know what to do without her.” Expeditiously, and with one eye on the approaching rider, Lewis asked, “How much is due?” “Twenty dollars, sir,” the woman replied. “Have you no one to help you?” he asked. “No one,” said the woman.
Lewis then threw the exact amount on the table and told her, “Pay that fellow his demand and take his receipt, but don’t say anything about me,” as he made good his escape. Next the woman paid her debt and took the receipt as instructed. The constable, upon concluding his business, set out on his return trip.
In the woods not far from the woman’s house, the constable came upon a man walking who asked if he had any spare change. “No!” replied the officer. Now presenting his pistol, Lewis retorted, “Come shell out old fellow, or I’ll save you the trouble,” whereupon the constable handed over the day’s receipts. After that Lewis proudly boasted that the loan of $20, plus an additional $40 received from the constable, was the best investment he’d ever made.
Lewis was later arrested with a man named Conly after shooting it out with a posse. He was lodged in the jail at Bellefonte with a gunshot wound, which shattered one arm. Told they’d have to amputate his arm, Lewis refused. Gangrene set in and he died in jail on July 13, 1820.
Although many stories are told of Lewis having cached booty in caves and other hideouts throughout the mountains of central and southern Pennsylvania, his deathbed confession claims he lost or squandered most of what he’d heisted, but not all. Lewis stated he’d hidden a saddlebag of gold coins behind a rock along the bank of the Juanita River south of Lewistown. When he returned to claim his prize it’d been carried downstream and never recovered.
He also wrote to a friend residing on a farm in Spruce Creek Valley, telling him $10,000 in gold coins was hidden in “a dank hideout room” from where he could watch workers at the old woolen mill. That mill once stood where the parking lot is today for the Indian Caverns. Several searches of this area have yet to produce the treasure.
Another story is that Lewis claimed he’d buried a vast treasure in the mountains within sight of the Bellefonte jail.

$27,000 in Robbery
Loot Never Recovered
INDIANA COUNTY – A train robbery and murder occurred just west of the tiny hamlet of Belsano, Pennsylvania, in Indiana County on October 11, 1924.
The suspects, Anthony Pezzi and Michelo Bassi, murdered one of the guards and fled with a safe containing $33,000 in payroll money.
The incident set off a multi-state, two-week manhunt and the pair were apprehended in Terre Haute, Indiana. At the time,officers recovered $6,000 of the loot. Both men refused to cooperate with authorities and were convicted for first-degree murder and armed robbery.
In February 1925, both were executed in the electric chair. The safe and remaining $27,000 have never been found. It is believed that both were buried near the scene of the robbery.

A Quarter Million in Cash
Lost Near Mount Carmel
NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY – A quarter-million in cash is reported to have been thrown from United Airlines Flight 624 after a fire broke out in the Douglas DC-6 cargo hold over Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Carbon dioxide filled the cockpit, asphyxiating the crew.
All 39 passengers and four crew were killed after the aircraft crashed into high voltage power lines and exploded on the hillside. To date, the quarter-million in cash remains lost in the vicinity of Mount Carmel.

Sources:
Lada, Robert R., “Pennsylvania’s Lost Payroll Cache,” March 1971, Treasure World magazine, p. 47
Russell, William E., “Lewis’ Loot,” December 1967, True Treasure magazine, p. 55
Faris, John T. Seeing Pennsylvania, 1919, Philadelphia & London, J.B. Lippincott Company, p. 94
Indian Caverns, David “Robber” Lewis, http://www.indiandcaverns.com/History02.html
British Broadcasting Company, Lost Treasures of Pennsylvania, USA, April 23, 2001, http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A536573
Kebabjian, Richard, Plane Crash information, http://www.planecrashi
nfo.com/1948/1948-34.htm