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M O R R I S - T O W N

G H O S T.


[ ii ]




[ iii ]




Beginning, Transactions
and Discovery,



Who seduced many by pretended Hobgoblins
and Apparitions, and thereby
extorted Money from their pockets.

In the County of Morris and State of
New Jersey, in the Year 1788.


Printer for every Purchaser -- 1792.

[ iv ]


[ v ]


I am convinced, that it is impossible for one person to please all mankind, for there is such a variety of opinions predominent, that no one system or pamphlet will meet with universal approbation; but it appears to me requsite, that something of this kind should appear in public -- and, as I have been solicited by numbers, to attempt a brief narration, with particulars, relating facts concerning many occurences that happened in the county of Morris, and state of New Jersey, in the year 1788. -- As I am convinced that many erroneous ideas have been propogated, therefore the generality of people are destitute of real facts -- I am sensible that it is natural for men to censure each other with burlesque, and say, they had not sagacity adequate to discover the plot; but after an intrigue is discovered, every person that had not an active part in it, thinks his own sagacity would have been sufficient to discover the deception -- but this we know, that only few men are ever satisfied, and when any curiosities are presented to them, they are zealous in the pursuit of knowledge, and anxious to know their terminations, and many will anticipate great gain, and contribute liberally until the fraud is detected; I shall therefore be as brief as possble, as it is my intention to eradicate many capricious notions from the minds of many who have imbibed witchcraft and the phenomena of hobgoblins. *

* It is evident, that legerdemain has been very conspicuous and prevalent even from the earliest periods of time, and many have been imposed upon by these deceivers; and credulous honest people have had ideas imbibed to that degree, concerning' witchcraft and legerdemain, that they were deaf to philosophy -- and reasoning was insufficient to eradicate those notions, until they were taught by the school-master of experince; and then, the compensation they received was to regret the loss of their time and interest.

[ vi ]

It is well known that many impositions have been inflicted upon mankind, by particular persons in every country; and in the earliest periods of time, many remarkable occurrences took place, that much surprised the greater part of mankind, induced them to believe that such wonderful phenomena could not take place, only by a supernatural power.

Every person that is acquainted with human nature. or has studied the disposition of mankind, must be fully convinced of the deception of man, and certainly know, there are persons, whose abilities, disposition and genius, are in every respect, adequate to the profession of deceivers. And many of their co-temporaries confide in their abilities, integrity and veracity, to that degree, that they will sacrifice their property, through ignorance, to support a vicious, ignoble, defrauder. Nor is this much to be wondered at, if we contemplate the avaricious disposition of men, who are ever in search of objects in futurity, especially such as have a tendency to produce gain, they will pursue with the greatest alacrity, anticipating joys which, upon a near approach, elude the grasp. It is obvious, that some illiterate persons have a genius adequate to prepossess themselves in favor with many, and by an enegmatical behaviour, induce some to form eminent opinions of their merit, at the same time it was paradoxical. And If we suppose that every generation grows wiser, we must believe that ignorance has been gradually extinguishing for some hundred years past; and it is almost Incredible to believe that any impositions could be practised upon mankind at this enlightened period; but although knowledge is more diffuse, human nature is still the same, and Judas like, will perpetrate enormous deeds to satisfy an avaricious mind. And if we admit the same disposition to reign predominant, in the deceived, as the deceiver then let the deceived pay their money to the deceiver, who has been at trouble and cost in obtaining his art of extracting, for those who go to the school of experience may expect to pay dear for their tuition.

[ 7 ]


The  Morris-Town  Ghost

D E L I N E A T E D.

A diabolical intrigue invaded the county of Morris, in the state of New Jersey, in the year 1788. This unequalled performance, has taken vent and is promulgated throughout the continent, and deserves the attention of every person. But before I proceed any further, I think it requisite to advert a few minutes to the general character of that place.

It is very conspicuous that many of the people in that county, are much attached to machinations, and will spend much time in investigating curiosities. I don't say whether such a turn of mind is to be imputed to indigence or owing to the operation of the climate: this I submit to the candor of every person to determine within himself -- it is obvious to all who are acquainted with the county of Morris, that the phenomena and capricious notions of witchcraft, has engaged the attention of many of its inhabitants for a number of years, and the existence of witches is adopted by the generality of the people.

I was once in Morristown, and happened to be in conversation with some gentlemen, who had, as it were, the faith of assurance in witchcraft. They informed me that there were several young women who were bewitched; and they had been harrased so much by witches for a long time, and all their experiments proved abortive, and the young women were so much debilitated they were fearful they would never recover

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their healths. They related several occurrences, that I think too simple to mention; but one instance was, "that an old lady was churning, and being much fatigued, and unable to obtain butter, she at last concluded that the witches were in the churn, and immediately had recourse to experiments, which were, that of heating several horse-shoes, and putting them into the churn alternately -- she burnt the devil out and immediately obtained butter."

I perceived that the generality were apprehensive of witches riding them, and the greatest evidence of a witch was, if a woman had any deformity, or had lived to that age to cause wrinkles in her face, she had the appellation of a witch. There was another occurrence that happened on Sunday. They informed me a man was driving his sheep from his grain, and an accident happened as they were jumping over a fence, one of the sheep broke its leg. The man for some time before supposed that the same sheep was bewitched. About the same time, an aged old lady returning from church, her horse unfortunately stumbled, she fell to the ground and broke her leg -- This was received as an indication that she was a witch: And in fact, if a horse had the belly-ache, or any beast was in agony of pain and behaved uncommon, the general opinion was, that the creature was bewitched.

It is my opinion, that persons actuated by such capricious notions, are predisposed for the reception of marvelous curiosities whenever they occur.

I shall now proceed to detail as near as possible, relative to the transactions of that phenomena, Legerdemain, and Hobgoblins that happened in Morristown in the year 1788.

This transaction has occupied the attention of many & caused great wondering through the state, and every

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person is eager to acquire a thorough knowledge of the real transactions; and I hope this will have a tendency to eradicate such capricious notions from every rational mind. -- The chief conductor of this deception, was Ransford Rogers, a native of Connecticut, in New England. He was an illiterate person, but very affable. possessed of a genius adequate to prepossess himself into favor with many, and great facility to display his abilities with the greatest brilliancy. He resided in the state of Massachusetts for a number of years, and from thence to the state of New York. His place of residence, before he came to New Jersey, was Smith's Clove, where he taught a school. During his residence at Smith's Clove, two gentlemen from the county of Morris, who had been long in search and digging of mines, but had always proved unsuccessful for the want of a person whose knowledge descended into the bowels of the earth, and could reveal the secret things od darkness . There was also a prevailing opinion, that there was money deposited in the bowels of the earth, at Schooter's mountain, with [an] enchantment upon it. - that it could not be obtained without a peculiar art in legerdemain, or to dispel the hobgoblins & apparitions. These gentlemen, in pursuit of a man that could work miracles, accidentally found Rogers, and after a short conversation, made known their business to him, and concluded that he was the man every way calculated to their wishes, for he was very fond of giving hints of his extensive knowledge in every art and science, but careful not to go so far as to demonstrate his propositions. He had a pretended copious knowledge in chemistry; and could raise or dispel good or evil spirits. He then agreed with those gentlemen to supply them with whatever was requested -- This was a noble man indeed! Now

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they concluded that the man was found who could supply them with all things; and one who was endowed with power and sagacity not to be exceeded by finite wisdom.

But altho' Rogers had engaged to exhibit miracles, knowing that he must seek inventions, he thinking it too great an undertaking, began to regret, fearing that he was not able to perform: but after he had undertaken, and given hints of his knowledge and abilities. and being solicited by the gentlemen to proceed, he could not elude what he had advanced, but resolved to have recourse to experiments and stratagem to prove his assertions. He was then solicited to remove to Morristown. Those gentlemen, with indefatigable pains, procured him a school, three miles from Morristown. This was satisfactory to Rogers being confident of their integrity, and perceiving their flexibility and readiness to administer to his relief, he thinking himself happy with such noble concomitants left Smith's Clove, with the greatest alacrity, and took his abode about three miles from Morristown, where he presided over a common English school. This was a place every way suitable for a man of his profession, for they were predisposed for his reception, fond of marvellous exhibitions, which he was able to facilitate with the greatest alacrity -- this was in August 1788. While he presided over the school, he gave satisfaction to his employers, and manifest proofs of his integrity. By this time he had possessed himself in favor with many but it is likely they expected reward. Sometime in September, as he had been importuned to exhibit his art in raising and dispelling apparitions, and prove his abilities as he had asserted. He then finding himself deficient, and perceiving it requisite to have an assistant in order to carry on nocturnal performances,

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with the greatest secrecy. He then obtained leave of his employers, to absent himself a few days and return to New-England for his family and some other business upon his promise to return as soon as possible.

While he was in New-England, he contracted with a person, a schoolmaster, to return with him, insuring him a school that would be very lucrative. -- Rogers. agreeable to his promise, was as brief as possible, and returned with his new companion to Morristown, where he was saluted by persons of eminence and congratulated by many after his long absence. This was in September 1788.

Rogers now being furnished with an assistant, he is able to facilitate nocturnal performances with the greatest dispatch. As it was now the Iast of September, many soliciting Rogers to exhibit his art in raising and expelling apparitions, as he had engaged. The first object that is to be now attended to is, to obtain a supposed hidden treasure, that lies dormant in the earth at Schooler's Mountain.

This capricious notion had been of long standing, and was then a predominant opinion, among the greater part of Morristown, as they said there had been repeated efforts made to obtain the treasure, but all had proved abortive; for whenever they attempted to break the ground, there would many hob goblins and apparitions appear, which in a short time, obliged them to evacuate the place. [It is well known, that persons being apprehensive of feeing apparitions, their imagination causes them to arise; but they always imputed their disappointments, to the mismanagement of their conductor, as not having sufficient knowledge to dispel those apparitions, that impeded them from obtaining the treasure.]

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Rogers, after gathering information from every quarter, and hearing the obstructions that debarred them from obtaining immense riches, was now satisfied this was the time for him to fulfil his former assertions.

He then secured the veil of ignorance upon their heads, with an intention to extract money from their pockets; therefore after deliberation, he thought it necessary to convene a number of gentlemen at a certain place in order to consult what method must be taken to obtain the above mentioned treasure. This meeting was the greatest secrecy, & their number about eight

Here Rogers communicated to them the solemnity of the business and the intricacy of the undertaking informing them there was an immense sum deposited at the above mentioned place; and there had been several persons murdered and buried with the money, in order to retain it in the earth. He likewise informed them, that those spirits must be raised and conversed with, before the money could be obtained. He likewise declared, that he could by his art and power, raise them apparitions, and the whole company might hear him converse with them, and satisfy themselves that there was no deception. This was received with belief and admiration by the whole company, without ever investigating whether it was probable or possible. -- This meeting therefore, terminated with great assurance, they all being confident of the abilities, knowledge and power of Rogers.

By this time it appeared to those gentlemen, that the hidden treasures of darkness which had so long lay dormant in the earth, was to be obtained by the power of this mighty man!

Rogers informed them, that he should have interviews with the spirits; and as the apparitions knew

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all things, they must be careful to walk circumspectly, and refrain from all immorality, or they would stimulate the spirits to withhold from them the treasures.

These gentlemen now under apprehensions of great riches, began to propagate their intentions to particular friends, and there was such a prospect of being rich that many were anxious to become members; and additions were added unto it daily, of such as expected great riches. The company convened almost every evening until their number increased to about forty. During this time, none had interviews with the spirits except Rogers, and he communicated their conversation to the society, which was admitted as real facts.

Now you will observe, that it is highly necessary, that Rogers would have associates, in order to facilitate his manoeuvres and avoid detection. During his time Rogers and his connections had recourse to several experiments in compounding various substances, that being thrown into the air would break with such appearances as to indicate to the beholders to rise from a supernatural power. He had compositions of various kinds: Some by being buried in the earth for so many hours, would break and cause a great explosion, which appeared dismal in the night and would cause great timidity.

The company were all anxious to proceed and much elevated with such uncommon curiosities. A night was appointed for the whole company to convene and it happened to be a most severe stormy night, but every man was punctual in his attendance. Some rode eight some twelve miles, when the inclemency of the weather was sufficient to extinguish health.

At this interview they were all much astonished with an unexpected interview with the spirit, who related unto them the importance of their regular

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proceedings, or they could not obtain their desire. The spirits informed them, that they must meet on such a night, at a certain place, about half a mile from any house in a field, retired from travelling and noise, and they must form certain angles and circles and they must proceed in drawing their lines and forming their circles as Rogers directed, and then be careful to keep within the circles, or they would provoke the spirits to that degree, they would finally extirpate them from the place.

The night appointed for them to convene, being now arrived, they all with joy, fear and trembling, convened at the appointed house, about half a mile from the field. This field was environed on the north and west by a thick wood. The circles and angles being drawn the preceding day, they all proceeded from the house about ten o'clock in the evening, with peculiar silence and decorum, and entered the circles with the greatest solemnity, and being fully sensible they were surrounded by apparitions and hobgoblins,

Upon one point of the circle was erected four posts in order to spread a cloth, and form a tent where Rogers could preside, as governor of the ghastly procession. The number that entered these circles were about forty. This number was walking alternately during the whole procession. It is not to be wondered at, if people were timorous in this place, for the candles illuming one part of the circle, caused a ghastly, melancholy, direful gloom, towards the woods, for it was a dark night. Every person must suppose that this is a suitable place for the pretended ghosts to make their appearance and establish their faith in hobgoblins, apparitions, witchcraft and the devil.

After they had been rotating within the circles for

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a considerable time with great decorum, they were instantaneously, shocked with the most impetuous explosion from the earth at a small distance from them. -- This substance was previously compounded & secreted in that place a few hours before. The flames rising at a considerable height, illuminated the circumambient atmosphere, and presented many dreadful objects, from the supposed haunted grove, which was instantaneously involved in obscurity.

Immediately after the pretended ghosts made their appearance, with a hideous groan, They remained invisible to the company, but conversed with Rogers, in the hearing of the company -- this was in Nov, 1788. The spirits informed them, that they had possessions of vast treasure, and could not give them up unless they proceed regular, and without variance; and as fortune had discriminated them to receive the treasure, they must deliver to the spirits, every man, twelve pounds, for the money could not be given up by the spirits until that sum was given to them. They must also acknowledge Rogers as their conductor, and adhere to his precepts, & as they knew all things, they would detect the man that attempted to defraud his neighbor. These pretended ghosts had a machine over their mouths, that can fed such a variation in their voices, that they were not discovered by any of the company during the procession; which lasted until about three o'clock in the morning.

Now the whole company confide in Rogers and look to him for protection to defend them from the raging spirits; and after several ceremonies Rogers dispelled the apparitions, and they all returned from the field wondering at the miraculous things that happened, being fully persuaded of the existence of hobgoblins and apparitions. -- By this time they could revere

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Rogers, and thought him something more than man.

Thus far, every project terminated agreeable to his wishes; and he had such influence over them, with a despotic power, that it is my opinion, had he put one of them to death, he would have been justified and defended by the rest.

After this conference was over, and all agreed to deliver the apparitions twelve pounds, as soon as possible. Rogers, perceiving that every man was not under circumstances to give twelve pounds, his generosity therefore induced him to reduce the sum to six pounds, and those who were not able to produce that to give four pounds.

Rogers to confirm them in the faith, pretended to have nocturnal interviews with the spirits, and communicated to the society, therefore, they convened some of them almost every night, and as fast as they could get the money, they would convene and deliver it to the spirits; and whenever they met in a secret room, the door and window shutters being made fast, and Rogers communicating his interviews to the company, Unusual noises would be heard about the house, that would cause great timidity. Groanings and wrapping upon the house, the falling of boards in the chamber the gingling of money at the window, and a voice speaking, "Press forward!" The superficial machine that was over the mouth of him who spoke, so much altered his voice, that no one could detect him.

The spirits declared that they were sent to deliver that society great riches, and they could have no rest until they had given it up; but the money they requested, was only an acknowledgement for such immense treasures. Methinks I hear every man anticipating future greatness, but I expect time will defeat the enterprise.

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There was now a sort of emulation among them, who should first deliver the money to the spirits, but some of them was weak in faith, which caused animosities and disputes among them; and meetings were called almost every night during the winter. The reader will observe one circumstance in particular, that occasioned the business to continue through the winter, which was, the money that the spirits requested, must be silver or gold, and the current money then in Jersey, was loan paper: This money did not circulate only in that state, and no person would take it in lieu of silver and gold, only at one quarter discount. This therefore had a tendency to continue the business thro' the winter, as it was almost impossible for some of them to get silver or gold; but all of them were very industrious seeking the sum required. They would give almost any discount or interest that any man pleased to ask. They would mortgage their farms and dispose of their cattle at half price, rather than fail in obtaining the required sum.

It is very obvious why Rogers and his associates, the supposed spirits, requested silver or gold, for they wanted to carry it out of the state, and paper money would have been of but little service.

Sometime in March, the money being chiefly deposited in the hands of the spirits. Rogers fearing that something might happen, pretended to have nocturnal interviews with the spirit, likewise several persons, especially those who had the most faith and men of veracity were called out of their beds in the night by the spirits, and directed how to proceed.

These gentlemen immediately made known to the company their interviews with the spirits and when the company were convened into a private room, the pretended spirits were outside of the house, groaning,

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gingling of money, telling them to have faith, be of good cheer, and keep secret all transactions, and in May next they should receive the treasure. -- This was in March 1789. They all returned with joy, fear and wondering, being very liberal, waiting impatiently for May to come.

Now Rogers and his associates have received the greater part of the money, and they are full of machinations, how shall postpone the business the next meeting, for all expected to proceed to Schooler's, Mountain the next May, and receive the treasure.

The night appointed being now arrived, they all convened in a large circle in an open field, waiting for the ghosts to appear and give them farther directions and proceed with them to the place where the money was deposited. Immediately the ghosts appeared without the circle, with great choler, and hedious groanings, wreathing themselves in various positions, that appeared most ghastly in the night -- then upbraiding the company declaring they had not proceeded regular, and some of them was faithless, and had divulged many things that ought to have been kept secret: and by their wicked dispositions and animosities that had taken place among them, debarred them at present, from obtaining the treasure. The pretended ghosts, raging to that degree at the misconduct of the company, that Rogers, who appeared or pretended to be very much frightened with the rest, with all his art and pleading was scarcely able to pacify the raging ghosts.

At this the company confiding in Rogers, looked to him for protection. The ghosts informed them, they must wait patiently, until some future period. They were now so much timidated, that they thought but little about money; at length Rogers, after a variety

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of ceremonies by his art and power, dispelled the frightful apparitions, and tranquility, once more, resides within the circle.

They now returned from the circle, still retaining their belief, revering and adhering to Rogers in all things. Thus far they have been seduced. They gave their money to Rogers and his associates, instead of apparitions, and are waiting for the spirit to return and lead them to anticipated fortunes.

Had Rogers now halted, and not proceeded upon another project, he would have been feared and respected; & the capricious notions of witchcraft, hobgoblins, and the devil would have prevailed among them, with prejudice, fear and ignorance, until this day, But this diabolical intrigue and the succeeding one, has diffused light, and eradicated ignorance from the minds of many. This scene ended the first of May, 1789.

It is evident that Rogers did not intend to proceed any farther upon such diabolical intrigues; but some time in the fall preceding the termination of the first scene, two young men from New England, took up their abode in the county of Morris; Some time[in] the fore part of the winter, one of them took up his abode in Morris. Rogers at that time taught a school three miles out of town, but soon quitting his school there removed to Morristown. These young men soon became very intimate with Rogers, which was the cause of another diabolical intrigue, although their behavior was circumspect -- Sometime in April these young men left Morristown, and removed about twenty miles, but still continuing a correspondence with Rogers, by letters and frequent visits.

Although these two men were removed at the distance of twenty miles from Rogers, it was a favorable

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opportunity for them to gain prosylites: as it is evident they seduced many, and some of eminent characters, that would have joined the company and proceeded in anticipating great riches, but Rogers thought it not proper to admit them, as appeared from the corresponding letters with Rogers and the fire club.

I before mentioned, that the business of the former company terminated the first of May, and as Rogers and his former associates have succeeded so well, in extracting money with new inventions, that Rogers again undertakes, with great alacrity upon a new project.

A company now convene, that consists only of five. They proceed upon various manoeuvres, rotating the room in order to raise the spirits, while they were performing many ceremonies, various noises were heard around the house: The rattling of a wagon -- groaning, -- striking upon the windows, &c. Then each one taking a sheet of paper, extending his arm, holding the paper out at the door, waiting for the spirit to write upon one of the papers, how they should proceed! After waiting some time, each on folding his paper, proceeding regular around a table then opening their papers on one of them was writing; directing them to Convene upon such [a] night, and the spirit would give further direction how they must proceed. Previous to this Rogers had prepared the writing, but wanted more time for consideration; therefore they were dismissed with orders to convene on such a night.

The night arrived -- they convened at Rogers house in order to receive information from the spirit that Rogers and one of the associates pretended the had interviews with.

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After they had all convened, the first manoeuvre was, both the deceiver and the deceived unite in prayer upon their bended knees; then parading according to their age proceed rotating the room, as many times as there were persons in number; then parading round a table, each one drawing a sheet of paper from a quire and Rogers folding them, delivered to each man one; then they proceeding, in order, a small distance from the house, and drawing a circle, about twelve feet diameter, they all stepped within it, unfolding their papers, extending them with one arm, fell with their faces to the earth, continuing in prayer with their eyes closed, that the spirits might enter within the circle, and write their directions upon the papers; then Rogers giving the word "Amen!" prayer ended, and each one folded his paper -- rose, and marched into the house; then unfolding their papers, the writing appeared upon one of them, to the great astonishment of most of the company.

This writing was to be kept safe in the hands of one of the associates, to exhibit when occasion called in order to gain prosylites, relating to the misteries of the paper. The contents of the paper was, that the company must be increased to eleven members, and each one must deposit to the spirit the sum of twelve pounds, silver or gold. This writing Rogers and his associates prepared previous to this time, therefore the meeting was dismissed, and each one exerted his influence to gain prosylites.

Rogers and his associates now finding the minds of many flexible, resolved to proceed upon some new project, that might have a tendency to prove more lucrative. Rogers therefore, wrapping himself up in a sheet, went to the house of a certain gentleman in

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the night and called him up, by wrapping at the door and windows, and conversed with him in such disguise that the gentleman thought he was a spirit. The pretended spirit relating to him, that he had vast treasures in his possession, and a company was in pursuit of it, and he could not give it up unless some of the members of the church joined them, such as I shall mention: for said he, I am the spirit of a just man, and am first to give you information how to proceed, and put the conducting of it into your hands; and I will be ever with you and give you directions when you go amiss; therefore fear not, but go to Rogers and inform him of your interview with me. Fear not, I am ever with you!

This gentleman, not apprehending any deception, believed it to be a spirit. Early in the morning he went to see Rogers, and found everything that the spirit related to be fact; he therefore was convinced, that it was from a supernatural power.

He then went to inform those members belonging to the church, as the spirit had directed him. He found them very flexible -- giving great heed to his declaration, and anxious to see curiosities. But whether these church members were induced by self motives, or by a zeal to help their fellow creatures I do not say; but the plan that Rogers and his associates had in view, is very obvious, for this could not be obtained only under a cloak of religion. After this none were admitted to join the company only those of a truly moral character, either belonging to the church or abstaining from profane company, all walking circumspectly. This was in June, 1789.

The company now increased daily of aged, abstemious, honest, judicious, simple church members. -- It is now in a religious line; and Rogers having put it

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into the hands of another to conduct, he and his associates were busy every night, in disguise, appearing to particular persons, especially those who were most weak in faith, calling them up in the night, and ordering them to pray without ceasing, for they were just spirits sent unto them to inform them, that they would have great possessions if they would persevere in faith.

Rogers and his associates, under the title of spirits, had ordered the conductor, that the company must consist of thirty-seven members; and every member must deposit into the hands of the spirit, twelve pounds silver or gold. -- The company now convened, about twenty in number, the spirit had ordered the conductor to proceed in certain maneouvres, in order to obtain directions from the spirit, that would be satisfactory to every member, for some were deficient in faith. Rogers and some of the associates always convened with the rest, wondering at such marvelous things. -- This was policy that they might not be suspected.

While they were sitting in the room, several noises were heard around the house; groaning, wrapping at the windows, gingling of money, &c. The spirit then spoke these words, "LOOK TO GOD!" They all were amazed at such things, and Rogers with the rest wondered! They fell upon their knees to pray; and after this ceremony was past, all arose and walked alternately around the room, five times; then parading around a table, and each man drawing a sheet of paper from a quire, it was folded up, and all hustled together, and each man taking one, and tying a white handkerchief round his head and loins, they all marched with great decorum into a meadow about one hundred yards from the house. Previous to this,

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Rogers having prepared a writing, and when going to the meadow, he put the blank paper into his pocket, and took the writing out, unnoticed by any of the company. After they arrived in the meadow at the appointed place, they rotated a circle five times, about thirty feet diameter, -- then they all stepped within the circle, and unfolding their papers, they all fell with their faces to the earth, with one arm extended, holding the paper, that the spirit might enter within the circle and write upon one of their papers, how they must proceed. They were ordered not to look up upon their perils, but to continue fervent in prayer In about ten minutes the commander gave the word "Amen!" They all rose, and folding their papers, they were hustled together; then each man drawing one, they marched alternately from the place into the house, with great decorum, they all parading around a large table, the next thing was to see if the spirit had given them any directions how to proceed; then each one unfolding his paper, the writing exhibited plain on one of their papers in a most curious manner. This writing was so elegant, that they were much astonished, thinking it a miracle, or supposing that the spirit entered the circle and wrote the contents, while they were on their faces at prayer.

The contents of the writing was, O faithful man! What more need I exhibit unto you! I am the spirit of a just man, sent from Heaven to declare these things unto you; and I can have no rest until I have delivered great possessions into your hands; but look to GOD, there is greater treasure in Heaven for you! O faithless men! Press onward in faith, and the prize is yours! It also mentioned various chapters in the Bible, that the members must peruse, and particular psalms for them to sing; and the company must consist of thirty-seven

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members; and each man must deposit into the hands of the spirit according to his circumstances, not exceeding twelve, nor less than six pounds; and the money must be given up as soon as possible, in order to relieve the spirit from his exigencies, that he might return from whence he came.

Rogers and two of his associates were present and appeared to be astonished with the rest, but were not suspected by any of the company.

They all agreed, that as fast as any of them could get the money, it should be given to the spirit; but they must meet at such a place, and give it up in a legal manner. A few days after this about twelve members convened, but only seven had the money ready to appropriate unto the spirit.

The manner of their proceeding was, they convened in a room, and after several ceremonies and prayer being ended, they arose, & rotated the room, alternately, several times; then went with the greatest decorum, into a meadow, about one hundred yards from the house and drawing a circle about twenty feet diameter, they stepped within it, waiting for the spirit to make its appearance.

After a short time, the spirit whistling, at the distance of about sixty yards from the circle, the commander then left the company and went to converse with the spirit; he soon returned with orders from the spirit, that all those who had the money, should retire to a certain tree, about forty yards from the circle. Now those who had the money went with the commander to the tree. The spirit appeared about twenty yards distant from the tree, with a sheet round him, jumping and stamping repeating these words, "Look to GOD!" Those that stood by the tree made a short complicated prayer, and laying the

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money at the root of the tree for the spirit to receive they retired to the company. They all returned to the house, observing the greatest order, trembling at every noise and gazing in every direction; supposing they were surrounded by hobgoblins, apparitions, witches and the devil. Rogers and two of his associates pretended to give up the money which was only blank paper.

This pretended spirit was one of the associates with a white sheet around him, and a machine over his mouth that his voice might not be detected by any that knew him; and immediately after the spirit had deposited his money, this spirit takes it to himself which was about forty pounds.

Previous to this Rogers pulverized some bones and had given it to the commander, declaring that it was the dust of their bodies, and each man must have some of this powder in a paper sealed, as a token of the spirits approbation, & that he was one of the company. This powder was to be kept secret, and no one to touch it upon his peril. A sufficient quantity of liquor was also prepared, which the spirit had ordered to be used very freely; then each one taking a hearty dram, they all united in fervent prayer, after which the meeting was concluded.

It is very obvious that spirituous liquors when taken in large quantities, will augment the ideas of men and induce them to anticipate profit and pleasure, although they are inaccessible in futurity. -- Some of the members caused great disturbance, by their diving, inadvertently, to excess in that powerful stimulus, but it is something pleasing to see aged, sober abstemious men with their ideas raised, put on cheerfulness and vivacity.

Thus they proceeded as above mentioned, in giving

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their money to the spirit every few evenings. The spirits brought to the commander several curiosities. that were to be exhibited to the company in order to confirm their faith, but were to be delivered to the spirits whenever they call for them.

Various ceremonies were performed that I shall omit as they are too simple to mention, but every means were taken in order to make the members use liquor freely, the spirit gave unto the commander a compounded mars that was to be made into pills, and each one to take a pill at every meeting, and except he used very freely of liquor it would operate in making his mouth and lips swell; Thus they caused some to drink to excess, through fear, although they before observed the greatest temperance, and in fact some drank to that degree, to obviate the effects of the pill, that they were almost incapable of navigating in the night.

Thus the company had increased to about thirty-seven in number; and the greater part had given the money to the spirits and circumstances prevented or delayed the rest from doing it, although every one was as brief as possible and spared no pains to procure the money.

The company were now all engaged being much augmented with the prospect of being rich and soon expected to reap the harvest with pleasure, and receive their anticipated gain; but an accident now occurs, that terminates in the discovery of the plot, which is this: One of the aged members that had one of these papers, supposed to contain some of the dust of the body of the spirits, as I before mentioned, was to be kept secret and no one to touch it. This man leaving it accidently in his pocket in the house, his wife happened to find it, broke it open and perceiving

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the contents, feared to touch it supposing it to be witchcraft: She went immediately to the priest for advice -- He, not knowing its composition was unwilling to touch it for fear it might have some operation upon him.

When her husband discovered what she had done, he was much terrified, declaring that she had ruined him forever, in breaking open that paper. This made her more solicitous to know the contents; and she declaring not to divulge anything, he told her the whole of their proceedings; she insisted on it, they were serving the devil, and thought it her duty to put an end to such proceedings. This made great disturbance in the company, and Rogers and his associates were in disguise every night, appearing to particular persons as spirits, in order to confirm them in the faith and prevent a discovery. -- At last one evening Rogers having drank too much of the good creature, taking a sheet with him rode to a house of a certain gentleman in order to converse with him as a spirit; but making many blunders the woman thought it was a man, but after conversing with him some time, and going to prayer, Rogers departed declaring that he was the spirit of a just man.

In the morning as soon as it was light, the man went out where the spirit appeared, and as there had been a heavy dew that night, he perceived the tracks of a man, and following him to the fence where he perceived a horse had been tied; he then tracking the horse to the door where Rogers lived. -- But as Rogers was not within, he followed the same track to the house of a certain gentleman, about half a mile distant, where he found Rogers; and as the gentleman of the house had, the evening before, lent Rogers a horse, together with many other circumstances

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sufficient to convict him. The authority was then consulted, and judging him culpable, he was immediately apprehended and committed to prison.

This detection greatly alarmed the whole company as they were unwilling to believe that Rogers was the spirit, even when the clearest evidence demonstrated that he must have been the ghost in question -- but Rogers declaring his innocence, was in a few days bailed out, by a gentleman that I shall call by the name of Compassion, and to this gentleman Rogers ought to ever pay a debt of gratitude and benevolence.

After Rogers was clear of the jail, he perceived he was among his enemies, he therefore made his flight. but being pursued and apprehended the second time, he confessed his faults, and owned that for his conduct and the expressions he had used in his projects, he deserved punishment; but fortune favored him, and he once more eluded their hands.

Now many threatenings and horrid imprecations proceeded from many after this man, who only a few days before, they revered and thought him a superior being.

The cause of these imprecations being cast after him is very obvious, that is while he continued with them in parables, working miracles, he promised them great riches, but now he is gone, their hopes are all eradicated, But ought not the county of Morris to perpetuate and honor the name of Rogers for eradicating ignorance and causing the light of reason to illume the minds of many, where obscurity had reigned for many years?

There have been various reports propagated concerning the sum that Rogers and his associates obtained from the believers of witchcraft, but the whole

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amount was about five hundred pounds. But after Rogers had taken the veil from their eyes, and extracted money from their pockets, they were unwilling that he should have any compensation, but insisted that he should be brought to condign punishment, therefore Rogers is detected in his knavery, and his associates are unknown to the world; but had Rogers persevered, and avoided detection until all had given in their money, he would have left them in ignorance, waiting with patience for the return of the spirit, as was the case with the former company; but his being detected, and confession demonstrated to every person that there was neither witchcraft nor blackart in any of his performances, which they thought to proceed from supernatural power. I am confident that this occurrence is sufficient to extirpate all capricious notions of witchcraft, wizards, hobgoblins, apparitions and frightful imagination from the minds of rational beings.

I am confident that there are many such kinds of impositions transacted by particular persons, and many illiterate and vulgar readily believe that they have power sufficient to call into being the souls of those dead bodies that have long slept dormant in the earth: But let reason be our guide, and we shall soon exclaim against such capricious declarations -- But one half of the world will not investigate whether these things are either probable or possible, but proceed with alacrity upon the affirmation of others. Again, there are some, that are as destitute of honesty as the devil is of holiness, and will persevere in hopes of gain, and will grasp at every opportunity to take advantage, but when they are outwitted, they will exclaim against knavery and plead innocence.

It is obvious to every person that it is among the

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most vulgar and illiterate part of the world, where the capricious notions of witchcraft and hobgoblins reside. But in those parts of the world where learning and science prevail, every idea or pretension towards raising demons are excluded. The Laplanders, the most ignorant beings on earth, pretend to work miracles, raise demons, and predict future events, and many with weak intellects and tremulous, readily adhere to their fantastical declaration; but nature is uniform in her course, and deviates not, and when such wonderful phenomenon presents, as I have been treating of, we may reasonably expect that is the production and craft of vicious persons, to support their indolence. But the flexibility and readiness of man, to adhere to capricious declarations, when interests occurs, is very obvious, and impositions only proceed from a want of sagacity and deliberation, to investigate whether such propositions are compatible with philosophy or the course of nature.

In the above mentioned occurrence, many eminent characters, possessed of morality and veracity, had the misfortune to be led captive in pursuit of anticipated riches, conducted by an inferior who was as destitute of honesty as Lucifer of holiness. But the prospects of wealth are often so enchanting as to exclude wisdom from the wise and discernment from the most sagacious.

In the foregoing treatise. I have mentioned only the most eminent circumstances, accompanied with facts, as I thought it needless to advert to the more minute proceedings, for some of them were too simple to be exhibited to a continent where arts and sciences reside. But if it should be thought requisite, and would entertain the curious or illume the simple, with pleasure I would detail every particular manoeuvre,

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that was transacted by the followers of imaginary hobgoblins. It is not from malevolence, or any antipathy, against any person or place, that induced me to write the above mentioned transactions, but purely to enlighten the minds of the simple, and free them from the imaginary fear of witches, apparitions and hobgoblins which do not exist. And as this relation proceeds from one that wishes happiness to all mankind, and the author, although unknown, hopes that no one person or persons will be offended at the relation of facts, when there are no names mentioned; providing they had an active part with the anticipating fire-club.

This Pamphlet is chiefly intended for the perusal of the good economists in Morris County.

                  Gentlemen, yours in amity,



1. Although some catalog entries list the place of publication as "Morristown," the 1792 pamphlet was more likely printed in Newark -- the location of John Wood's (the printer) business. The identity of the "Philanthropist" remains undetermined.

2. For details on Ransford Rogers, see John L. Brooke's 1994 The Refiner's Fire, pp. 53-54.

3. The story of the Morristown Ghost was re-told in later years in various publications -- such as the "Philanthropist's" own 1815 republication of his pamphlet, under the title of The Morristown Ghost, or, Yankee trick. See also David Young's 1826 The Wonderful History of the Morristown Ghost; Throroughly and Carefully Revised, etc.

4. An interesting footnote to the Morristown Ghost episode was recorded by Charles H. Bell, in his 1888 History of the town of Exeter, New Hampshire, pp. 411-414:
THE "WHITE CAPS."... Towards the close of the last century, however, an occurrence took place in the town, which denoted, at least, that the belief in the existence of supernatural agencies was common. Indeed we know, from various sources, that at that time, and much later,
the mass of the people hardly questioned the existence of witches, or the appearance and interposition in human affairs of disembodied spirits. This credulity was often taken advantage of by the mischievous to cause affright, and by the mercenary to extort money. Unprincipled impostors are known to have travelled the country to work upon the hopes and fears of those whom they could influence by pretending to magical powers, in order to swindle them out of their property.

One such sharper, a perfect Dousterswivel in the art of imposture, was named Rainsford Rogers. He was a native of Connecticut, but lived also in Massachusetts and in New York. Though illiterate he was once a school teacher. He pretended to a deep knowledge of chemistry, and claimed that he possessed the power to raise, or to lay, spirits, good and evil, at his pleasure. He began his career of operating on the superstitious belief of people, at Morristown, New Jersey, in 1788. There he succeeded in defrauding his followers out of a large sum of money, by the pretence that he could secure for them a concealed treasure, through the agency of the spirits. Then he absconded. The story of his methods of deluding his dupes is told at large in a little volume entitled The Morristown Ghost, published soon after the occurrence.

The same person, with sometimes a different name, was said to have depleted the pockets of the people in several of the Southern States, afterwards, by similar means. In 1797, he appeared in Adams county, Pennsylvania, under the alias of Rice Williams. There, with a confederate or two, he repeated his tricks upon confiding persons, and succeeded in making off with a considerable sum.

It was not far from that time that he came to Exeter, bearing his true name of Rainsford Rogers, which had, perhaps, not acquired so bad an odor in New England as in some other quarters. In a short time he formed the acquaintance of a number of persons whom he judged to be suitable for his purpose. They were, of course, men of substance, able to furnish the money which he was planning to transfer to his own pocket, and sufficiently credulous to put entire faith in his representations. When he had enlisted a dozen or more, after fully sounding them, he broached to them his project. He informed them that he had reason to believe that a subterranean treasure of great value existed in the neighborhood, which, by his magical skill and with proper means and aid, he
could discover and appropriate for their common benefit. He secretly visited several localities for the purpose of "prospecting," and at meetings of his followers, reported his discoveries. So skilful was he in stimulating their greed, and so plausible in explaining every successive step of his operations, that they never dreamed of any trick or dishonesty, but followed all his directions to the letter.

He repeatedly conducted them on dark nights to out-of-the-way places, to dig in the swamps with spades and other implements, and kept them at work, sometimes, it is said, for hours, in delving for the hidden prize. He instructed them that on those expeditions it was essential that they should wear white caps -- a circumstance which afterwards gave the name to the company.
On one of the nocturnal excursions there appeared before the eyes of the awe-stricken diggers a figure all in white, representing a spirit, which uttered some words which were not well understood. One of the "white caps," anxious to lose nothing of the weighty communication, responded -- "a little louder, Mr. Ghost; I'm rather hard of hearing!"

But dig as diligently as they might, they reached no treasure. After a time Rogers disclosed what he declared to be the reason of their want of success. The golden deposit was there, beyond question; but they needed one thing more to enable them to find and grasp it. That was a particular kind of divining-rod. It must be made of dear materials, but it was infallibly sure of doing the business. It could not be obtained this side of Philadelphia, and would cost several hundred dollars. But if they would contribute the necessary sum, he would at once proceed to Philadelphia, purchase the needful implement and then return and introduce them to a golden hoard that would reimburse them a hundred-fold for their advances.

It is a marvel that the faith of his adherents was not shaken by so transparent a device, but he had tutored them so adroitly that their cupidity got the better of their cautiou and common sense. The deluded company raised the money required, and delivered it to the sharper, who mounted his horse, with a saddle and bridle borrowed from one of his dupes, and rode off -- to parts unknown, never to return.

It was but a little time after his departure before the whole affair was made public. The white caps had not held their clandestine meetings unobserved. Each midnight rendezvous, each
delving excursion in the swamps, had been watched, and all their credulity and imbecility were revealed. The worthy but superstitious persons who had been seduced into this ridiculous position, became heartily ashamed of themselves, and prayed that their folly might never be mentioned. But the joke was too good to be kept in silence, and many a sly allusion to their white head-gear made their ears tingle for years after. The deaf man who required the ghost to "speak a little louder" never heard the last of his unfortunate speech.

The names of most of the sufferers by this imposture have been preserved, but as their conduct was weak rather than culpable, to publish them could serve only to gratify an idle curiosity, and might cause pain to the feelings of their descendants.

Possibly the exposure of this fraud may have had a beneficial effect upon succeeding generations. The belief in the supernatural does not appear to have misled any to similar acts of credulity in later years. Digging for hidden treasure has never been attempted in the town, since the memorable experience of the "white caps."

from: The New Hampshire Sentinel, Dec. 23, 1820

To the Cheshire Money Diggers.    
For T.D.   N. H. Sentinel.
Good sirs, accept a line from one
  Who fears not to express, sirs,
A wish, the work that you've begun,
  Might meet with grand success, sirs,

To you who toil and dig so deep,
  In quest of earthly riches --
(Nor value sweat, nor loss of sleep) --
  'Mong devils, ghosts and witches,

Who station'd are -- you know for what --
  In shrouds, with ghastly features,
To watch and keep each money pot
  From specie-loving creatures. --

To you, I say, much parise is due;
  Well may ye be rewarded;
The awful scenes that you've been through,
  Deserve to be recorded.

Tho' some crack jokes at you, and sneer,
  And swear you are deluded,
Reason and Common-Sense, I fear,
  From them have been excluded.

For he who doubts that Robert Kidd
  Came up our branch with shipping,
And 'neath the soil his money hid,
  Deserves a hearty whipping!

And other pirates too -- a score!
  Who've pillag'd on the ocean,
To hide their booty far from shore,
  Might have a special notion.

And rich old Bachelors, I ween,
  Full oft, inter their riches, --
No doubt their ghosts have oft been seen
  In petticoats -- or breeches;

For they, good souls would take it hard
  If Charon should forbid, sirs,
The blissful task, to stay and guard
  What they had earn'd and hid, sirs.

You, knowing well that money lies
  Where misers hard, enshrin'd it;
It is not a matter of surprise,
  That you should dig to find it.

But when you've struck your circle round,
  By mineral rods directed,
And excavated deep the ground,
  And come as you expected,

Pat on a pot or chest of gold --
  And hear it -- chink -- with pleasure --
And all prepared -- just taking hold,
  To raise the shining treasure, --

To have some little devil pop
  Right up -- when thus delighted! --
No wonder, faith, your honors hop,
  And leave the field, affrighted! --

To have e'en devil, ghost or witch
  Thus spoil your hopes -- I swear it!
Is a provocative -- of which,
  There's few could grin and bear it.

But when your spunk returns, and you
  Have held a Council, whether
'Tis best the trial to renew
  And win -- or die together --

Again return'd -- to find the gold
  Has took another station --
That, speechless, foodless, sleepless, cold,
  You've toiled ro win -- vexation! --

'Tis then toy feel all o'er -- within --
  A species of confusion;
A kind of madness, with chagrin
  Which borders on delusion.

It is, in sooth, a plaguy thing
  That mother earth is haunted
By evil spirits -- smash and ding! --
  And money pots enchanted! --

But so it is, in faith, or you
  Had known the miser's glory --
With friends enough, and money too.
  But e'er I end the story,

I'd just advise your honors how
  To gain those golden riches --
'Tis, Sirs, by digging with the PLOUGH!
 -- That's, uncontrolled by witches.

Dec. 1820.               PHILO PINDUS.

from: The Hallowell (Maine) Gazette, Mar. 18, 1822

Money Diggers. -- In Pittston, about nine miles below Hallowell, on the eastern bank of Kennebec river, a party of about fourteen men are now engaged in digging for money. This extraordinary enterprise was commenced in 1817 and continued without much interruption for nearly a year, during which time a vast excavation was made, 75 feet deep. The enchanted treasure, however, we understand, completely eluded the search. It was afterwards partially abandoned, but in October last was recommenced with unabated vigor. The leader of this visionary gang is a substantial farmer, an inhabitant of a town not more than twelve miles distant from Hallowell, whose sons hold a reputable rank in society. The old man and his associates maintain an obstinate and mysterious silence upon the subject. As the scene of their labour is a resort for all the mischievous wags in the neighbourhood and of others who come to wonder at the infatuated perseverance of the money diggers, their taciturnity may partly be attributed to the unceasing ridicule which their visitants raise at their expense.

The tradition is, that vast quantities of money were deposited in various places in the earth, by the Buccaniers who infested our coast in the early settlement of the country. On these occasions one of the marauders, who had previously bound himself by an oath to guard the deposit, was killed and buried on the spot.

The work at present is going on with much rapidity, and another excavation about [50] feet deep, has been made but a short distance from the first.

"I conversed," says a gentleman who recently visited the spot, "with the old man who superintended the work, and found him tolerably intelligent upon other subjects. He uniformly evaded my questions which were put to him respecting the motives and expected results of this extraordinary enterprise. His son, however, a lad of 13, who shrewdly suspects they will have their labour for their pains, is more communicative. Having bribed him with a few coppers, he informed us that his father was first induced to undertake the business by a remarkable dream, which was repeated three nights in succession. After consulting an old woman in the neighbourhood, celebrated for her skill in the mystic art, an idiot, generally known by the appellation of "Greely's Fool," who, by the way, although he knows nothing of the material world, is reputed wise in all that relates to the invisible, he was confirmed in the belief of the existence of a subterranean treasure in this spot. Our young informant stated that many of the original partners in the concern had sold out their shares at an advance upon the first cost, and that others who are now concerned, have spent nearly all that they possessed."

from: The New Hampshire Sentinel, Apr. 13, 1822

Money Diggers, -- A Hallowell paper states that 12 or 14 men are now engaged in digging for pots of money in Pittston on the Eastern bank of the Kennebec river. The digging was commenced in 1817, and a vast excavation has been made 75 feet deep. The leader of the "visionary gang," is said to be a substantial farmer in the neighborhood, who dreamed for three successive nights that much treasure was deposited there by the bucanners who visited the coast in its early settlement. Many of the original partners in the concern are said to have sold out at an advance -- but the few whose faith is yet strong preserve a profound silence, expecting momentarily to seize the treasure, their last shilling being nearly expended. Quere, Did Michael Martin disclose the secret to his Executor, who made his will, so that the treasure buried in Ireland can be discovered. If so, Mississipi, or South Sea Stock never sold better than this would, if exposed in shares, in this enlightened age and country. -- There is almost enough rusting, according to his own account, to fit out Capt. Symmes on his expedition to the interior world.

from: The New Hampshire Sentinel, May 4, 1822

Every country has its money diggers, who are full in the belief that vast treasures lay concealed in the earth. So far from being a new project, it dates its origin with the first man who ever weilded a spade. 'Tis as old as Adam. Even in these latter days, we find men so much in love with the "root of all evil." and so firm in the belief that it may be dug up, that they will traverse hill and dale, climb the loftiest mountain, and even work their way into the bowels of the earth in search of it. Indeed digging for money hid in the earth, is a very common thing; and in this State, it is even considered an honorable and profitable employment. We could name, if we pleased, at least five hundred respectable men, who do, in the simplicity and sincerity of their hearts, verily believe that immense treasures lie concealed upon our Green Mountains, many of whom have been for a number of years, most industriously and perserveringly engaged in digging it up. Some of them have succeeded beyond their most sanguine expectations. One gentleman in Parkerstown, on the summit of the mountain, after digging with unyielding confidence and untiring diligence, for ten or twelve years, found a sufficient quantity of money to build him a comodious house for his own convenience, and to fill it with comforts for the weary traveller. On stopping lately to refresh, we were delighted with the view of an anchor on the sign, emblematical of his hope of success, while we left him industriously digging for more. Another gentleman on the east shore of Lake Champlain, we are credibly informed, has actually dug up the enormous sum of fifty thousand dollars! The incredulous and unbelieving may stare at this assertion, but it is nevertheless true, and we do not hesitate to declare our belief that digging for money is a most certain way of obtaining it. Much, however, depends on the skillful use of the genuine mineral rod. Don't dig too deep, is an appropriate maxim with all who are versed in the art. Wood's Iron Plough, skillfully guided, is sure to break the enchantment, and turn up the glittering dust in every furrow. Countless treasures yet remain hid in the earth. Speed the plough -- ply the hoe -- 'Twill all come to light.

from: The Windsor Journal, Jan. 17, 1825

Money digging.-- We are sorry to observe even in this enlightened age, so prevalent a disposition to credit the accounts of the Marvellous. Even the frightful stories of money being hid under the surface of the earth, and enchanted by the Devil or Robert Kidd, are received by many of our respectable fellow citizens as truths. We had hoped that such a shameful undertaking would never have been acted over our country, till the following event occurred, not not long ago in out vicinity.

A respectable gentleman in Tunbridge, was informed by means of a dream, that a chest of money was buried on a small island in Ayer's brook, at Randolph. No sooner was he in possession of this valuable information, than he started off to enrich himself with the treasure. After having been directed by the mineral rod where to search for the money, he excavated the earth about 15 feet square to the depth of 7 or 8; and all the while it was necessary to keep his pumps working to keep out the water. Presently he and his laborers came

Pat upon a chest of gold,
  And heard it chink with pleasure,
Then all prepared, just taking hold,
  To raise the shining treasure.
One of the company drove an old [file] through the rotten lid of the chest, and perceiving it to be nearly empty, exclaimed with an oath, "There's not ten dollars a piece." No sooner were the words out of his mouth, than the chest moved off through the mud, and has not been seen or heard of since.

Such is the story as related by himself. -- Whether he actually saw the chest, or whether it was the vision of a disturbed brain, we shall leave the public to determine.

from: The Orleans Advocate, Dec. ?, 1825

Wonderful discovery. -- A few days since was discovered in this town, by the help of a mineral stone, (which becomes transparent when placed in a hat and the light excluded by the face of him who looks into it, provided he is fortune's favorite,) a monstrous potash kettle in the bowels of old mother Earth, filled with the purest bullion. Some attempts have been made to dig it up, but without success. His Satanic Majesty, or some other invisible agent, appears to keep it under marching orders; for no sooner is it dug on to in one place, than it moves off like "false delusive hope," to another still more remote. But its pursuers are now sanguine of success -- they have entrenched the kettle all round, and driven a steel ramrod into the ground directly over it, to break the enchantment. Nothing now remains, but to raise its ponderous weight, and establish a Mint, that it may be coined into federal money. -- Good news indeed for these hard times!

By the rust on the kettle, and the color of the silver, it is supposed to have been deposited where it now lies, prior to the flood.

from: The Vermont Watchman, Jan. 3, 1826

Once on a time a certain man was found,
Who dreampt of pots of money in his ground.

If General Report is a man of truth, and his assertions to be relied upon, there are at the present day and in our own vicinity, many who are not making hay while the sun shines, but making haste to be rich, by digging in the bowels of the earth and in the caverns of Camel's Rump for shining guineas and rusty dollars, supposed to have been deposited there by some misely fellows of a former generation at a period anterior to the existence of Banks, unless it be banks of snow. For this purpose, we are told, the very natives, old sooth-sayers, and astrologers, with pick axes, bog hoes and mineral rods, have been virorously at work, until old Boreas has given them a blast and forced them into winter quarters, from whence it is supposed they will sally out in the spring, with a fair prospect of getting an abundance of -- "labor for their pains."

Now the main difficulty in the way of unsuccessful money diggers is this -- they do not understand the secret -- they neither dig at the right hour of the day, nor in the right place -- nor do they make use of the genuine mineral rod. No reasonable man doubts the fact that inexhaustable treasures lie hid in the earth; but they were desposited there at a more remote period and by a more bountiful hand than the misers of the fifteenth century. For the information of all future fortune-makers and money-diggers, we will reveal the grand secret, imparted to us by neighbors Careful and Successful, who have been digging money for many years, as the old lasy heaped coals of fire upon the heads of her enemies, shovel-ful after shovel-ful. The secret lies altogether in this -- don't dig too deep. The lucky hour is early in the morning, when the dew is on. The right place may be found on almost every upland or interval farm in the country by carefully observing these sure and never-failing signs of money in the earth, invariably indicated by the nature of the soil and the thrifty growth of a fine forest of sugar maple, red beech, black birch and the stately hemlock.

And now for the genuine mineral rod. On this point the greatest of men and the gravest of money diggers have heretofore disagreed. While all united in the sentiment that it should be made of genuine metal, lest it point to the wrong place, one contended that the shape and construction of the rod should be straight, like an IRON BAR, -- another believed it would be best to add a lip at the end of the straight rod, to resemble a HOE, -- a third guessed it would be more likely to point at the ready-rhino, by adding the lip to a nose, like a PLOUGH, -- a fiurth verily thought that teeth should be inserted like a HARROW -- a fifth had a notion that the handle should be of wood, with two short arms of curved steel in the end, like a PITCH-FORK -- sixthly and lastly came forward neighbors Careful and Successful, who had been long in the practice of digging money, and absolutely declared, "to their own certain knowledge," that the right place was at they very bottom -- not of the ocean to be sure -- but that the only genuine mineral rod that would direct invaribly to the iron chest of dollars, had neither lip like a hoe, nose like a plough, teeth like a harrow, nor brains like a monkey -- but looked, O horrible! it looked -- just like a DUNG FORK.

'Tis done -- the long agony is over -- the secret is revealed -- and now that the ways and means of digging money are so plainly pointed out, no happy son of Adam, who owes the Printer, can for a moment hesitate what to do. -- With smiling countenances and grateful hearts, our generous patrons will no doubt flock to our office with the fruits and the compliments of the season, most sincerely wishing us, as we do them, a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

from: The (Rochester) Gem, May 15, 1830


... This story brings to our mind one of similar nature once played off upon the inhabitants of Rochester and its vicinity, near the close of the last war. During the war, we were subject to many inconveniences at this place, and were in constant danger of attack from the enemy, those who lived here at that time, can well remember the frequent attempts made by the enemy to land at the mouth of the Genesee, at which point our army had deposited heavy stores. Our village was then young, and the abodes of men were 'few, and far between.' If we remember aright, it was in the year 1815, that a family of Smiths moved into these parts, and took up their abode in a miserable hut on the east bank of the river, now near the late David K. Carter's tavern. They had a wonderful son, of about 18 years of age, who, on a certain day, as they said, while in the road, discovered a round stone of the size of a man's fist, the which when he first saw it, presented to him on the one side, all the dazzling splendor of the sun in full blaze -- and on the other, the clearness of the moon. He fell down insensible at the sight, and while in the trance produced by the sudden and awful discovery, it was communicated to him that he was to become an oracle -- and the keys of mystery were put into his hands, and he saw the unsealing of the book of fate. He told his tale for money. Numbers flocked to him to test his skill, and the first question among a certain class was, if there was any of Kidd's money hid in these parts in the earth. The oracle, after adjusting the stone in his hat, and looking in upon it sometime, pronounced that there was. The question of where, being decided upon, there forthwith emerged a set, armed with "pick-axe, hoe and spade," out into the mountains, to dislodge the treasure. We shall mention but one man of the money-diggers. His name was Northrop. He was a man so unlike anything of refined human kind, that he might well be called a demi-devil [sent] forth upon the world to baffle the elements of despair, and wrestle with fate. As you will suppose, he was an enemy to all fear. Northrop and his men sallied out upon the hills east of the river, and commenced digging -- the night was chosen for operation -- already had two nights been spent in digging, and the third commenced upon, when Northrop with his pick-axe struck the chest! The effect was powerful, and contrary to an explicit rule laid down by himself he exclaimed, "d----n me, I've found it!"

The charm was broken! -- the scream of demons, -- the chattering of spirits -- and hissing of serpents rent the air, and the treasure moved! The oracle was again consulted, who said that it had removed to the Deep Hollow. There, a similar accident happened -- and again it was removed to a hill near the village of Penfield, where, it was pretended the undertakers obtained the treasure.

About this time the enemy's fleet appeared off the mouth of the Genesee, and an attack at that point, was expected -- this produced a general alarm. -- There are in all communities, a certain class, who do not take the trouble, or are not capable of thinking for themselves, and who, in cases of alarm, are ready to construe every thing mysterious or uncommon into omens of awful purport. This class flocked to the oracle. He predicted that the enemy would make an attack; and that blood must flow. -- The story flew, and seemed to carry with it a desolating influence -- some moved away into other parts, and others were trembling under a full belief of the prediction. At this time a justice of the peace of the place visited the oracle, and warned him to leave the country. He gravely told the magistrate that any one who opposed him would receive judgments upon his head, and that he who should take away the inspired stone from him, would suffer immediate death! The magistrate, indignant at the fellow's impudence, demanded the stone, and ground it to powder on a rock near by -- he then departed promising the family further notice.

The result was the Smiths were missing -- the enemy did not land -- the money-diggers joined in the general execration, and declared that they had their labor for their pains -- and all turned out to be a hoax!

Note 1: See the full article in The Gem, for a tie-in with Joseph Smith's family. -- A Rochester area treasure-seeking "Northrop" (Benjamin L. Northrop) is mentioned in connection with Zimri Allen's money-digging adventures on page 3 of George H. Harris' 1887 "Myths of Ononda." Harris' manuscript also re-tells the 1815 Rochester Smith family's story on page 6.

Note 2: Although there are some good reasons for concluding that the 1815 Rochester Smith family was not that of Joseph Smith, Sr., the similarities remain striking. For example, the unnamed teenage son in the 1815 Smith family (Alvin was 17 in 1815!) was a seerstone-gazer, who had "become an oracle -- and the keys of mystery were put into his hands, and he saw the unsealing of the book of fate." Besides being a purported seer and oracle, Joseph Smith, Jr. is also supposed to have possessed supernatural "keys," as well as the ability to comprehend the mysteries of magic and religion. Harris' 1887 re-telling of the account adds: "the spirit showed him the great volume and putting the keys in his hands ordered him to open and read." -- Palmyra resident William Hyde recalled in 1888 that Joseph Smith had unsealed "Certain marks or hieroglyphics... [which] recorded the history of a highly civilized community that peopled this earth many centuries ago. No one could comprehend the meaning of the characters engraved on the tablets but young Smith... Hidden treasures would be revealed and everybody... would become the possessor of immense wealth... the 'keys' to everlasting riches..." Also, "that by means of the Urim and Thummim... Joseph [would reveal] the secrets of all arts and sciences..." This type of proto-Mormonism was also hinted at by Eliza R. Snow, who in 1829 wrote of an angel who spoke "of things before untold, Reveals what man nor angels knew, The secret pages now unfold To human view." Compare all of this with the fictionalized 1844 "angelic vision" of Parley P. Pratt: "the Angel... selected a small volume entitled: "A true and perfect system of Civil and Religious Government, revealed from on High"... I opened the book and read... I was about to read further, but was interrupted by the Angel... said he, 'you have now read all you are permitted to read at the present time.'"

Note 3: The "Northrop" mentioned in The Gem article could not have been Benjamin L. Northrop (born in 1820); but there is good reason to conclude that the unnamed treasure-seeker was Ben's father, Miles Northrop (1778-1854). In 1830 a "Miles" lived in Monroe's Chili Twp. (adjacent on the West to Brighton -- where Benjamin L. Northrop resided); but this was Benjamin's cousin. A detailed account of part of Father Miles Northrop's farm and its situation in Brighton, can be found in "Charter and Others vs. Otis," an 1862 New York Supreme Court case, a summary of which was published in Vol. 41 of Reports of Cases in Law and Equity in the Supreme Court... In The Gem article Northrop is described as "so unlike anything of refined human kind, that he might well be called a demi-devil." This description matches well with the report given in the 1908 Northrup-Northrop Genealogy, which says he was a "Farmer and butcher... Insane for many years." According to Harris, Miles' son Benjamin L. Northrop also ended up insane.

from: The Rochester Daily Times, May 28, 1851

Gold Digging in Brighton!
The Spiritual Humbug on a Grand Scale --
A Thousand Dollar Swindle.

One of the grandest schemes of swindling in the "spiritual" drama, ever got up, came to light in this city yesterday, and has been the subject of investigation at the Police Office this morning.

The parties are some respectable citizens of the town of Brighton, whose nemos appear as witnesses in the report below, and one Francis Lambert and his wife who have resided in this city some six years.

Lambert and his wife are French people, and the latter claims to be a "seventh" daughter born with a veil over her face, and gifted with the power of foretelling future events. We have had occasion to notice her operations before. It was she who furnished a verdant youth a few days since with a mineral rod to find gold upon a farm in Genesse county. She is a professional fortune teller, but of late has engaged in the "spiritual" business for the purpose of digging treasure.

The parties who testify below applied to this woman some weeks since for aid in finding gold said to be buried on their farms in Brighton. -- She has been in the habit of going thither to a wheat field on one of the farms, and there convening with spirits, who directed the digging which has been carried on for several nights. It is said a hole some 30 feet square and 1t feet deep has been made by these money diggers.

It will be seen by the testimony, that after Lambert and his wife had obtuined the $1000 in deposite from Northrop, the digging on his farm was suspended and [they] made preparations to leave for Canada. They were arrested last evening at the Landing just as they were about to take the boat. His money was recovered and the accused lodged in jail for examination.

The parties appeared before Police Justice Moore this morning, and the following testimony elicited: --

Benjamin L. Northrop, sworn: -- Some time since I went and saw, this woman, asked her if there was any money on our farm. She looked in a stone, a diamond, and told me there was; she said she could go and get it, and I offered her one half. She said I must see her husband, I did so, and we agreed to go. We went out; she looked around, and found where it was. She said the spirits would talk to her if it was there. The first night they would not talk; the second night the spirits whistled; she asked the spirits to speak; asked them if there was any money there, they answered yes; have dug there six or seven nights; she then asked how much there was; the spirits said in one place 3 bushels, in another six bushels of gold; the female spirits said they would kill my horses. Mrs. Lambert asked the spirit if the money was good for the seventh daughter; spirit said no, it was not good; said I must raise one thousand dollars and give it to her; I told her to enquire of the spirit if notes deposited would be good; spirit answered her no, I must raise the cash; and it must be left at her house and not put in her hand as it would kill her dead. I raised the thousand dollars, and put into her bureau. -- She was to come on the next night and dig; she did so some two or three times, when the spirit said we must wait until the 26th of June. She said if we worked when the spirit talked it would kill.

Wm. Cobb, sworn: -- After Northrop had been on once or twice, I entered the company. The first night I was there and dug, sbe was not there; next night she said if spirit spoke it would be all right, there would be something then, if not must give it up; had been there but a minute or two when there was whistling like a steam car whistle, and in the ground deep; she then asked the spirit if there was any money there, and it said there was. She asked how much, spirit said 3 bushels silver in one place, 6 bushels silver in another place; and 10 bushels of gold in another. Asked the spirit who that money was good for; spirit said for two; she talked in Latin to the spirt and the spirit answered in Latin; she said that the spirit said Northrop must give us a dollar a-piece for digging. Next night she told two of us to go and dig before she came; we did so when the spirit whistled once before she came; when she came she aaked what had been done. I told her the spirit whistled again; she told us to be quiet,and then went to talking with the spirit again. She asked it how long before she could have the money. The spirit said four weeks. --This was about the 15th of this month. The spirit said Northrop must raise $1,000. She said he must leave it with her. I came down to see her at her house. She said Northrop must bring the $1,000 or give up the businss -- she didn't care which. I told her it would be a risk to leave so much money with a stranger. She said "no danger." She said she would not lay her hands on it as it would kill her. She told me that Northrop told me to come and see her. I told her he did not.

She said he stood on an eminence higher than I did, called me to his house and told me to go and see her. This was true, and I believed with more confidence what she said. Next night we took the $1000 and went there together with Mr. Pierce. All three went in a room. She said no one must see him leave it. We left him in a room so he could leave the money unseen. She said we must now leave the place where we had been digging, for four weeks. The spirit then told of another place where we went and dug. -- She said if we went to the old place the spirit would kill us. She told us to go on (if we dared and she would appear to us.

She said the woman spirit was dying, and we must give her time to die and not go near the place. She looked in her stone and said the spirit's blood was going to the head, and it (the head) was all swelling up and looked as big as a hogshead. At the last place [the] spirit said the money was deep, and it would take six weeks to get it. It might be got sooner if they worked hard. The night after the female spirit threatened to kill Northrop's horses, I let him take mine to go after the woman. Shortly after reaching the ground they were hitched to the fence, we heard a noise and saw one of the horses down. The rail they were hitched to was broken square in two. The horses were much frightened.

Daniel Pierce sworn: -- Was with the party every night. Heard the whistling. Mr. P.'s testimony accorded nearly with that of Northrop and Cobb. It appeared, however, that he had a diamond which he consulted, and had seen, he said, this woman in a stone, and she answered the description of one who was to assist in the search for treasure. He advised Northrop to go and get Mrs. Lambert.

Mary Lambert examined: -- Have lived in the city 6 years. I was the seventh daughter, and was born with a veil over my face. I look in a little stone which I found when I was twelve years old, and see things, and then everything looks like stars, and I pray. I do not tell fortunes for money. I look in the stone for people and tell theem what I see, and they give me what they please. The residue of this woman s story was that she heard the spirits talk at Brighton and believed there was money there. She said that the $1000 was urged upon her by Northrop, and that she was only going to Oswego on a three week's visit.

The magistrate required bail of Lambert and his wife, in default of which they were committed.

The witnesses in this case seem to be fully impressed with the belief that spirits directed their operations in digging, and we think that they will not be likely to give up so. It would not be strange if they should follow her to the jail and here ask her aid in digging treasure.

P.S.-- Since the above was written, we have heard from the Police Magistrate that Mr. Northrop came forward and bailed Lambert and his wife.

Note: According to Dorothy Dengler, the same article also appeared in the Rochester Daily Democrat on May 28, 1851. She also mentions that "according to the Rochester Gem, Ben Northrop was one of Smith's friends who searched for the treasure" in Rochester during the War of 1812.

from: The Rochester American, June 1?, 1851

Extraordinary Imposition and Credulity. -- [Recently] Mr. Benjamin L. Northrop, a farmer of Brighton [Monroe Co.], made complaint before Police Justice Moore, against Mrs. Mary Lambert, of this city, to the effect that she had swindled him out of $1000. It appears that Mrs. L. is a fortune teller, and converses with spirits -- not. by "knocking," but by words, whistling, and other vocal signs. She was applied to by Northrop, for her supernatural aid in discovering the whereabouts of several bushels of gold buried, as he believed, on his farm. Nothing loath, Mrs. L. undertook the job, but required Northrop to pay her in advance $1000 in cash, which he did. -- Having secured this handsome sum, she was of course in no haste to fulfill her part of the agreement, and was, in fact, on the point of leaving for Canada, when she was arrested. Fortunately the money was still in her possession, and on finding herself closely pressed by the strong grip of the law, she gave it up to the highly gratified Mr. Northrop. Who shall say that the dark ages of imposture and blind credulity are passed? -- Rochester American.

Note: The above article appeared in the Rochester American about the beginning of June. It was reprinted, with slight variations, in the Cleveland Herald on June 2nd, and in the Auburn Christian Advocate on June 11th.


H. Michael Marquardt Papers: box 155, fd. 26
(from photocopies: see notes)

Cf: Original Manuscript & Typescript: George H. Harris, "Myths of Ononda" (c.1887)
George H. Harris Collection, Rochester Historical Society, Rochester, New York.

pg1  |  pg2  |  pg3  |  pg4  |  pg5  |  pg6  |  pg7  |  pg8  |  pg9  |  pg10

“Myths of Ononda”    
by George H. Harris (c. 1887)

Page 1

The Myths of Ononda are not presented to the public as sensational fiction, but as records of facts worthy of preservation in the annals of history. The narrative form has been selected as the one best adapted to illustrate [actual occurrences and] minor details of the treasure-hunters methods and to set forth those [characteristics ?] of human nature developed in minds affected by superstition. While the general working and phraseology of the work is original with the author the subject matter is derived from authorities of unquestioned reliability and so far as practicable is rendered with strict regard to truth. In no instance has the writer sought to add to or take from the subject discussed any matter not strictly corrected therewith, and each fact is given as near as possible in the words of the {original} narrators.

The first manuscript of the Myths of Ononda was a simple record of the events as described by various persons, with names and dates in full; but as the narrators are well known citizens of {Rochester} and vicinity it was deemed best for the writer to assume the role of narrator, givingonly such names of persons, [and dates of events] [and testify] as would attest the truth of the occurrences, without revealing the identity of individuals [who] who desire to avoid the publicity and the probable annoyance of future {questing}.   April 3 1887

Guy Markham says that he remembers the gold-{diggings} quite well {About} 1825 Peter & Joe Mc Farlane and a man named Olmsted, dug into several knolls about Rush {&} Avon, and about 4 miles east of the Markham farm.

Feb 18 - 1887   James Babcock says his father John Babcock lived on (present) Highland Avenue just east of [Joevh ?] Millers old farm. That Miles Northrup, father of Joel and Benjamin Northrup, Dan Pierce, John Ellis & others dug for money chests in various places about the Pinnacle range. Dan Pierce was a seer and located the burial places of treasure by looking in a seer-stone. He located a chest of spanish [gold?]and much silver coin, as {buried} under a current bush in the garden of widow Fisher, who lived on monroe Avenue near the N. W. corner of Highland Avenue.

Mr. Babcock and several others [provided ?] picks, shovels, {crowbars}, etc and went to the ground one night to dig up the treasure. It was arranged that Babcock should go to the garden and stand on the spot where the others were to dig, and all were to maintain strict silence. Babcock went to the place, and took his position and waited for the others came up and stood about for a while trying to induce each other by signs and motions to first commence work, but none of them would make the first motion and they finally dispersed without disturbing the earth.

(Page 2)

[[At least one page is missing from this document. There is a note following the title page containing this information: "Justice Allen of [Poplar ?] Ridge [Cayuga ?] Co N Y

Zim Allen... Hiram [Mowe ? Dan Peirce... Ben Northrup, lives at Mount [Hope ?]... Man from Kentucky [Nign ?] {from} Virginia, Ben Northrup One other...

James Babcock says Miles Northrup was father of Joel and Ben Northrup... Dan Pierce could see in a stone Ben Bowman of the [7th ward ?] knows about such matters E B Ellis lives on Broadway knows."]]

...ordered such strange affairs, then, why should we doubt that they occur now?" Mr Allen's son {Zim} was in many respects a counterpart of his father. {Zim} had the same gentle, confiding nature, the same steadfast honesty, and faith in the integrity of all humanity that characterized his father and none who knew them doubted the sincerity of each [in ?] any statement they ever made.

When Tim was quite a lad he came into possession of a small transparent stone, which he called a "diamond": It was also termed a "looking-glass" "magic stone" and "seer-stone" by others.

[[Line in text indicating that the following sentence should follow immediately after the preceding sentence.]]
Where {Zim} obtained this stone Mr. Nutt does not {recall}.

[[The following emendation is added into the text from another page: "But {Zim} said that he had learned through means of this 'diamond' of the existence of a larger and better seer-stone, that was buried in his father's garden. Uncle J. and {Zim} dug the ground over several times and were finally rewarded by the {finding of} a fine, large crystal which {Zim} {pronounced} a 'proper diamond.'"]]

It was soon whispered about that {Zim} Allen could "see things" by looking in his "diamond," and, according to the surprising narrations of friends and neighbors, {Zim's} gift of "fore-sight" must have been [very] wonderful. If a neighbor lost a valuable article {Zim} could find it quite readily. If some unusual event was to happen in the vicinity {Zim} would predict the affair before others had the least thought of such an occurrence, sometimes {Zim} would look in his stone, put it in his pocket and refuse to say a word: then the inquisitive visitor "knew something dreadful was going to happen."

On rare occasions {Zim} would invite some person to "see a sight," and retaining the stone in his own hand, permit the favored one to gaze into its clear depths. If the testimony of creditable people now living, can be relied upon -- they beheld most [meritorious ?] {views} depicted within the mirrored surface of that simple stone; yet out of {Zim's} hands the stone [it] [the stone] lost its charm and the most vivid imagination could not detect the least {appearance} of even a reflection from its polished sides.

It was evident from the vast number of relics found on Mr Allen's farm, that the ground had formerly been occupied by the {Aborigines}; but beyond the usual finds of broken pottery, stone arrow-heads and implements, nothing of a valuable nature had ever been discovered by the whites. One day {Zim} asserted that,
[[Included here: "whenever he 'looked in the diamond'"]

(Page 3)

he could see gold in the earth and finally he located the precise spot
[[Included here: "in the side of a hill"]]
where the gold was concealed. On digging up the soil gold actually found in the form of three or four [small] [redily ?] shaped wedges. There was no doubt about the gold -- it was there, and from all evidence obtained, {Zim} could not possibly have had a previous knowledge of its existence. His reputation as a "treasure-finder" was fully established; but a query arose regarding the form in which the gold was found. It was plain that the metal had been reduced to its wedge-shape through human agency, and it was not thought probable that the {Iroquois} Indians formerly {occupying} the ground had any knowledge of the matter; [and] It was finally decided by those engaged in the discussion to ask {Zim} if he could [not] reveal the origin of the treasure and also the manner in which it was placed in the hill-side.

{Zim} placed the diamond -- for so we must term the stone -- in his cap, put the cap over his face in such a manner as to exclude every particle of light, of light and after a long and steady "view" [slowly] moved the cap slowly away from his face, his gaze still fixed on the stone. The party was breathless with attention, as {Zim} began speaking in an absent minded [quiet] manner as though [conversing ?] with himself.

"I am gazing down the vista of Time, and my view may be likened to a long journey on a road where the mile-stones are a century apart. My starting point is the present; where I am in the midst of of familiar faces and surroundings, of happy homes occupied by the people of my own blood and nation; [where] progress is uprooting the forests and Civilization is {throbbing} through all the [ortines ?] of a grand Continent whose future {magnificence} no man can tell. One stage on the backward {journey} and the scene changes. Progress is just {awakening} and Civilization occupies only a narrow belt near the great {ocean}, over which foreign nations extend {their} undisputed commands to commingled races and subjects. {Another} slip and the primeval {forest} covers all the land. Here and there Civilization has kindled [a] small fires that gleam fully in the glow of the mighty wilderness[forest] which shelters many tribes and {nations} of red men, who engage in continuous conflict and wage a never ending war upon the multitudes of wild beasts filling the land.

Now the scene remains the same for a long distance on the journey and the mile-stones, A {century} apart, are passed [so] rapidly that I loose their number I behold the red man as intruders in the land, expelling a race of men of exceedingly large stature, whom we would call giants. The {forests} have disappeared in places and the [huge ?] people occupy much of the country, over which Civilizations appears to have cast many rays of light. Time rolls backward and the men of mighty stature are, themselves [wresting ?] the land from a {diminutive} people; who are like {babies} [small children] in comparison with their [scattered ?] enemies. I see these pigmies {occupying} all the land, engaged in agriculture, and many fine arts. They delve in the earth in search of rich minerals and gather great stores of gold and precious stones, which are held as a property in common. Upon the first appearance of their gigantic enemies the dwarfs divide theirs riches into {innumerable} portions and bury them in the earth. In some places they build great vaults [in the solid earth], fill them with treasure

(Page 4)

and {covering} them with earth destroy all traces that will ever lead to their discovery. I can see these vaults beneath the surface of the ground, in many places, and numberless small deposits of gold in hillsides and plains. The precious metal is in the form of wedges and bars. The pigmies buried it deep, but time has worn the earthy covering thin, and
[[Included here: "here and there in places."]]
the treasure crops out.

Three or four days {journey} west of this place there is a a great ridge of sand-mountains where the gold is near the surface. In those mountains and in the {gullies} leading to the river that flows {through} the country, quantities of the pigmies gold may be found; but it is guarded by the spirit pigmies, and only he who can maintain unbroken silence during the search can ever hope to secure the treasure. Beware of the spirit guardians of the pigmies gold!"

This strange account greatly excited those who listened to the narration; and [when] {Zim} [found ?] that he could see gold in the earth not far from the spot where the wedges had been

[+] Poplar Ridge, Zim afterwards gave particular directions for the discovery of them mountains Mr Nutt says that Hiram Mowe came to Brighton with full instructions for instituting a thorough search for the concealed treasures, Ben Northrop, who is now (March 1886) in the Monroe county {Insane} asylum, then lived in a brick house (his family still reside there) on the south-east corner of Monroe Ave and [Clover ?] Road, Dan [Pearse – Pierce?] lived in an old house on the north side of Highland Ave just west of James Cobb's present residence. These men, and others in the same neighborhood, worked with Mowe, at various times and places, trying to find the treasures, The adventures of the party, have been narrated to me by several individuals, and the holes dug by them pointed out to me at various times.

[[The foregoing statement beginning with the addition symbol is enclosed in large parentheses.]]
see page 10 --

found. The parties seized shovels and picks and {hurryingly} to the hillside, dug pits at one or two places that {Zim} pointed out [by Zim]. Strange to relate in one of their pits the diggers came upon several small bars of solid gold, having every appearance of extreme age.

{Zim} explained that these wedges and bars of gold already secured, had in some manner been exempted from the "charm" of the pigmies, and [fewer ?] were easily obtained by digging; but wherever the {pygmies} charm had been cast over treasure it could only be obtained by the perfect silence on the part of all who engaged in the search, from the moment they set out to the time of their return home.

(Mr Nutt says that different persons informed him of the circumstances above mentioned, and that his uncle and cousin exhibited several small bars and wedges of gold in proof of their statements)

[[Included here: "The wedges were about the size and form of the following figure [a representation is then given in the text] The bars were about two inch in length and 1/2 an inch square, with rounded corners, as though cast in a mould."]]

A party was organized

(Page 5)

to find and explore the "sand-mountains," which proved to be the Pinnacle and Mount Hope range of hills in south Rochester. I have obtained many facts regarding this "treasure-hunt" that I shall narrate hereafter. (see opposite page) Geo H Harris
(written in {haste} as received from Mr Nutt.)

Mr Nutt mentioned the subject of "gold-digging" to Northrup once, and the latter gave him full accounts of several expeditions in which he (Northrup) had engaged. He also stated that Mr Nutt's father John Nutt, sen. who then resided on the north side of Highland Avenue -- due south-east of the present water works reservoir, had engaged in the search with others. Mr Nutt asked his father about it and the latter stated substantially that Mowe came to him with -- I think -- a letter of introduction from Mr Allen of Poplar Ridge, who, as previously stated, was a brother-in-law of John Nutt sen. Just how they happened to identify the Pinnacle and Mount Hope range of Hills as the "sand mountains" I do not at present recollect, but Mowe appeared to possess an accurate knowledge of the topography of the country about Rochester, although he was a stranger to the locality.

He had a map showing the topographical {features} of the country about here and seemed to know every elevation and depression, stone, tree and stump in all the Pinnacle range. I think that Mowe claimed that this map was made either by the {Allens}, or at the dictation of Zim, who said that he saw the scene pictured out in his diamond and {described} it with accuracy, although he had never been in the Genesee Country.

Mowe stated that Zim described the hill north of Uncle John Nutt's house, and said that the pigmy people once occupied it. That when they were driven off by the giants they made a stone vault in a little depression near the ridge top on the west line of Mr Nuttfs farm, about one hundred or one hundred and fifty feet south of his north line. They also threw considerable treasure in what he called the "Magic-pond" which was located on the north-east corner of Mr Nutt's farm. This pond was then a "bottomless" spring about half an acre in extent, and the ancient people attributed magical qualities to the water; At present it is a wet bog hole or swamp, but Mr. Nutt tells me he can recollect when it was a pond of clear water and contained fish; that an old [seneca ?]
[[Included here: "years ago"]]
told him that one of the Indian trails left the Highland Ave trail on the west line of the Nutt farm, turned north up the ravine which it followed around the hill, and turned east and passing the magic pond again turned north, making an easy passage over the range. Mr Nutt also says that there were traces of an embankment and ditch surrounding the top of the hill where his father -- John Nutt senior – first settled the farm about 1824 -- or 5; some people said the place had once been occupied by Indians as a fortification but if so, it must have been very many years before.

John Nutt sen. said that Mowe had this hill-top marked on his map as a former stronghold of the pigmies, which was captured by the

(Page 6)

giants, who also occupied it, and vainly endeavored to discover the pigmies hidden vault and treasures. There are many springs along the south base of these hills and [Mowe ?] said the ancient people utilized the one east of Mr Nutts house, near the east line of his farm; that it originally {bubbled} out of the ground farther up the hill within or very near the old fortification. Mowe had not been at the Nutt farm very long before he organized a few kindred spirits into a band of treasure-hunters. John Nutt sen. said that
[[Included here: "one night"]]
he accompanied Mowe and others to the top of Cobb's Hill. Mowe located a spot, to dig, about forty or fifty rods east of Monroe Ave and Mr Nutt "tried the ground" with the "magic spear" -- a pointed iron six or eight feet long Mr Nutt {said} that he struck something that felt and sounded like the top of a box. He forced the spear down through the cover and could distinctly hear the rattling of coin as he moved the spear around. Having speared the treasure it was his duty to hold the spear firm while his {comrades} dug the box out. Not a word was spoken but picks and shovels flew fast, and a great hole was dug. The spear and box sank deeper and finally the box remained firm.

Then the men reached and uncovered it: the box danced about, the men seized it, and one remarked -- "we've got it at last?" Instantly the box was wrenched from their hands and the party heard it move, rattling away into the hill some thirty feet or more. The night was clear and starlit but a great wind suddenly lifted all the men out of the pit and blew them helter-skelter in a heap in the corner of a fence some distance to the south-east.

The hole dug that night can still be seen (March 1886,) at the location described.

Mowe subsequently dug in various places about the Pinnacle range in Deep Hollow near the lower Genesee falls, where John Nutt Jun. once accompanied him, and in other locations that I may mention hereafter.

Chapter 2

Myths of Ononda or The Treasure Hunters of the Genesee

In the fall of 1813 a log house stood near the east bank of the {Genesee} river near the present (1864) west end of Hickory street, [and about twenty five rods {north} of {Clarissa} street bridge] in the city of Rochester.

When this house was erected, or by whom built, the writer is not aware. It was a primitive affair and the pioneers from whom the facts were received, thought the structure was the work of some person engaged in the Indian trade, as it was near the western terminus of the grand portage trail between the river and {Irondequoit} creek; and it was a well known fact that Indian traders had built {several} such houses on and near the main trails {in the} vicinity of Rochester. The writer only knows that the house stood [was standing] at the place described and that at the date mentioned it was unoccupied. That was several years before the Erie canal and its river-side [feeders ?] were excavated, and {the} ground between the house and river was unbroken by plow or ditch.

+ This spot was pointed out to the writer [by his grandmother], in 1853. In the early spring of 1814 the

(Page 7)

inhabitants of the little village at the falls, three quarters of a mile {farther} down the river, were interested in the statement of a {belated} person that a light had been seen in the old house and it was thought some one had moved in. The conjecture proved a fact. It was soon known to the inhabitants of the vicinity that the house was occupied by a man [named Smith] who had a wife and several children, the eldest a son of eighteen years.

The new-comer informed an inquisitive neighbor that his name was Smith and that he was a {squatter}, but beyond that statement not a fact regarding the antecedents of the family could be learned. Smith and his boys hunted in the great bear swamp then extending from Mount Hope Avenue eastward along the northern base of the Pinnacle range to Brighton, and occasionally were seen on the hills about Mount Hope, or wandering along the banks of the river, apparently engaged in [fishing, or] digging, possibly for roots or bait. The family was unkempt and untidy, {and led} an indolent life, and was generally shunned by the pioneer inhabitants[,] several of whom plainly intimated a belief that Smith was a British spy.

Whether these suspicions were communicated to Smith or not is not {known}, but for some reason he suddenly [began to] manifested a desire to distract public attention from the movements of himself and family, and [some of] the neighbors were informed that the eldest son was a seer. The boy exhibited a large quartz pebble three or four inches in diameter and related a marvelous tale regarding the manner in which it came into his possession. He said he was going along [the road] near the devil's punch bowl,

[[Included here: "The road new known as Mount Hope Avenue was then not much more than an improved Indian trail. It diverged from the present avenue near the residence of George Ellwanger and followed the general course of Indian Trail Avenue through [the] present {cemetery} to the divergence of Dill Avenue where it ascended the hill passed over the Marshall Perkins and Kidd lots and a little west of south to the conjunction of Indian Trail and second avenues. On [the] top of the hill in section G the road passed near the edge of a deep {funnel}-shaped hole there known as the devil's punch bowl."]]

where he saw this stone {lying} in the road. When he first noticed it the stone presented an appearance of dazzling splendor that caused him to fall down insensible. While he lay in a trance a familiar spirit appeared and announced that he had been selected to open the Book of Fate and proclaim its mysteries to the {believers} in magic; that the spirit showed him the great {volume} and putting the keys in his hands ordered him to open and read. This he did though with great trembling and fear. That he might know the wishes and will of the spirits who gave him this wonderful privilege, he was directed to secure the shining stone and to look therein whenever he desired to invoke their aid. Upon recovering from his trance he carried the stone home and tested its strange virtues until satisfied that it was his duty to share with his fellow mortals the weighty secrets it revealed.

The story attracted attention and young Smith had many callers. {Among} others came one or two kindred spirits who were informed that a great chest of gold was concealed in the devil’s punch bowl and these men were solely privileged to dig for

(Page 8)

it. The chest had been concealed by a Frenchman who -- some years before -- had occupied a trading hut on the old trail. Having full faith in the tale these men made several excursions to the punch bowl and spent several nights digging in the sides and bottom of the great tunnel. It was subsequently reported that on the occasion of their last visit they uncovered a chest and one of the diggers struck his pick through the cover, swearing that he had it at last. Instantly the treasure disappeared while the dismal depths of the immense natural excavation resounded with. horrible sounds and fire flashed from every hole the diggers had made in their long search.

Smith assured the men that the treasure was only removed a short distance and they would yet obtain it. They dug in several places in that locality without success, and the seer finally informed them that the treasure had been removed to a certain mound near the waters of {Irondequoit}.

About this time public feeling against the squatter-family became quite strong and the seer attempted a fresh diversion by informing the people that the British {navy} then on Lake Ontario would soon ascend the Genesee and destroy the American settlement. A few days later the British fleet appeared off Charlotte and the result is now a matter of local history. The event confirmed the suspicion in the minds of many that Smith was a tory in the service of the British, and a delegation of villagers visited the log house. The seer appeared with his white stone and pretended to read from it a {malediction} of his invisible aids upon any and all persons who should presume to molest the Smith family. As a reply one of the visitors snatched the wonderful stone from the hands of the defiant young man, and deliberately smashed it to fragments on a handy rock. The {squatter} then received a stern warning to leave the settlement or abide the consequences. The following morning the log house was vacant and there was not trace of the manner in which the family departed or of the direction they pursued.

+ An account of this family is also given in the Rochester Gem of May 15, 1830, page 15.

Chapter 3

The forced departure of the gold-digger's seer and the destruction of his charmed stone did not abate the interest of many people in the truth of the predictions regarding numerous {buried} treasures in Western New York.

At that date there were several men living in the Genesee Valley, and [numerous] descendents of others, who had been in the Genesee Country during the [old] French and Indian war. These old Continental soldiers firmly believed that large amounts of gold and silver coin had been brought here by the numerous military expeditions from Canada, and by French and English traders who resided with the various tribes of Indians or travelled about the country bartering with the natives. As it was [generally] understood that all persons coming from Canada penetrated the country through the numerous bays and larger streams that break the south shore of Lake Ontario it was the opinion of the older residents that any valuable stores left here must have been concealed along or near the navigable watercourses.

The events of the revolutionary

(Page 9)

war were still fresh in the minds of the pioneers, many of whom had visited, the valley as soldiers in General Sullivans campaign of 1779, or had been brought here as captives of the six Nations. These men were aware of the vast quantity of [plates], gold and silver, plate, and other valuables that the Indians and tories had plundered from the border inhabitants of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia and brought into the wilderness of the Genesee.

Was it strange that the talk of the treasure-hunters roused in the minds of the old soldiers and former captives reminiscences of earlier times, and revived in the gossip of the pioneer homes long forgotten tales of buried stores of valuables? Descendents of the pioneer forefathers still repeat those marvelous narrations or recall dimly remembered allusions to those subjects there matters of general public interest.

Soon after the close of the second war with Great Britain various individuals dug for treasures in different localities.

The venerable Guy Markham of Rush once informed the writer that nearly every hill and gully in that township was searched for gold. The spirit of adventure and weird mystery of gold-digging spread through the sparse settlements, and many a {stalwart} pioneer stole from his cabin after nightfall to explore some lonely dell or bye-place where the long-sought treasure, was likely to be found.

The little band of {believers} who had such a strange experience in the devil's punch bowl, never lost faith in the absolute truth of young Smith's prediction that they would yet discover the chest so mysteriously wristed from them. The names of one or two of these men are known to the writer who has not a doubt that they honestly {believed} the marvelous tale they related regarding the manner in which the treasury departed. In the summer of 1815 they...

Some years ago the writer enquired of the late Elihu [Grover ?] if he knew a place called the devils punch bowl, "yes sir," was the prompt response, followed by an accurate description of the tunnel. Mr [Grover ?] added that he had reason to remember it as his widowed mother in 1814, lived in the log house then standing on the old road at the present corner of Indian trail and second Avenues, and it was commonly reported that evil spirits or witches occupied the bowl. Mr [Grover ?] also gave the writer facts regarding the gold diggers operations.

[[The preceding material is a footnote to the foregoing text.]]

Later they renewed the search, and dug in several localities, not ascertained. Later they decided that the seer must have been correct in the [assertion ?] that the treasure [must] have been {transferred} to some mound in the vicinity of {Irondequoit} creek, and nearly a {dozen} spots have been pointed out to the writer as scenes of their midnight labors. In 1817 William Penfield, of Allen creek, then familiarly known as "Billy" Penfield came to the conclusion the "waters of {Irondequoit}," mentioned by Smith, referred to the bay of {Irondequoit} instead of the creek. Acting on this conviction he began an exploration of the mounds along the bay shore which was then little less than a wilderness.

(Page 10)

Many years ago the venerable Charles M. Barnes -- better known as "Esquire Barnes" -- of Brighton pointed out to the writer various scenes of Billy {Penfield's} searches, and narrated some of his adventures,- facts communicated to Mr Barnes by {Penfield} himself.

In 1880 Mr Barnes and Amas Knapp, a pioneer of Webster and life-long resident of the east-side bay shore, identified the location of two mounds opened by {Penfield}. These mounds occupied the hilltop south of the old Sea Breeze hotel on the west side of {Irondequoit} bay at its angle with the lake, and were from twenty

[Aboriginal occupation of the Lower Genesee -- p.46
Aboriginal Monuments by Squire p. 57]

to thirty-five feet east of north of the present wooden observatory. They were small in comparison with other mounds in the neighborhood, the larger of the two not exceeding five feet in height –-

Penfield was an intelligent man and so far as the writer can learn conducted his operations on the supposition of the old Colonial soldiers that Indian traders had cached {their} valuables along the watercourses. He had learned, probably through traditionary tales, that a French fort or trading house once stood near the sand bar and suspected that the traders had concealed treasures in the {vicinity}, but the

+"Aboriginal Occupation of the Lower Genesee", p. 46.

[[The preceding material is a footnote to the addition symbol in the foregoing text.]]

Writer cannot recall the reason why he selected these particular mounds as the depository. The mounds had originally been erected by the {aborigines} as burial places for their dead, and the French who used them as caches doubtlessly trusted to the superstitious reverence of the natives for the remains their kindred, as a safeguard against pilfering.

On opening the mounds Mr {Penfield} found many curious and valuable relics consisting of several {scabbard}-bands of silver, shoe buckles, belt buckles, belt and hat ornaments and other articles of ancient military and Indian dress, probably the [stock ?] in trade of some old French Traders.

Aboriginal Monuments, by Squire, f 57

[[The preceding material is a footnote to the addition symbol in foregoing text.]]

{Irondequoit} was then part of the town of Brighton, and the magistrate of the village soon after summoned {Penfield} on a charge of disturbing graves. At the trial it was contended that the mound was only an Indian grave, [yard] but the justice entertained strict views regarding the desecration of even Indian grave yards and Penfield was compelled to pay a fine.

Chapter 4

About this period a new element was introduced in the calculations of the treasure hunters. It was asserted that smugglers frequently visited the inlets of the south shore of the lake and that {Irondequoit} bay and creek had been a favorite haunt of these people, who had buried goods and treasures in several localities along the shores of the bay and creek.

The writer {possesses} the personal diary of a resident of Brighton who was engaged in smuggling along the St Lawrence river in 1824.

The landing places of the smugglers, {their} haunts, roads and places of concealment have been pointed out, but have little connection with this record. In two distinct localities the writer has seen the half-filled pits where treasure hunters are said to have excavated the concealed stores of the smugglers and gained a valuable booty...


The above text is the result of a combination of Marquardt's photocopies and complementary data captured with an OCR program in August of 2010, by Tom Revere (from a 20th century typescript of Harris' hand-written manuscript).

The manuscript's author evidently made a number of insertions and deletions that the typist later attempted to replicate in the Rochester typescript. In most cases, the words in square brackets are words that appear in the typescript, but which had been crossed out in the original manuscript. In a few other instances, the square bracketed words seem to be editorial notes inserted by the typist/transcriber.

Some additional bracket formatting was added in 2010 to indicate conjectural reconstructions [in square brackets] and simple spelling corrections {in curled brackets}. A few new paragraph breaks were inserted, to clarify the reading. Also, a frequently repeated editorial note has been shortened from "Text indicates that the following material be included here," to "Include here."

In the Iroquois language Ononta means "mountain." It is pronounced Ononda in Huron, and is a root-word in several upstate New York place names.

Zimri Allen (b. 1787 NY; d. 1869 NY) and Justus Allen (b. ca. 1776) were both sons of Gideon Allen (b. 1746 CT) who emigrated to Venice Twp., Cayuga County in 1792. John Nutt married Loraina (sp?) Allen, Sister of Justus and Zimri, thus becoming their brother-in-law. Neither Zimri nor Justus had a son named Timothy as far as can be determined, (although their grandfather was named Timothy). Instances of "Tim" appearing in the text have therefore been changed to "Zim."

The 1830 New York Census shows a "John Nutt" (senior) living in Brighton Township, in Monroe County. He had lived in the cabin erected in 1806 by Elijah Rose in Fall Town. Rose had been a near neighbor of the pioneer Ebenezer Allan, who established the Allan grist mill on what became Allen Creek at an early date. It is not known whether Zimri and Justus Allen were related to Ebenezer Allan. Another of the Nutts' Brighton neighbors was Benjamin Louis Northrop, who (along with his "seer" friend, Dan Pierce) was a local treasure-seeker. According to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Benjamin L. Northrop (Northrup), died on Mar. 27, 1896, in Brighton, aged 75 years. This particular Ben Northrop (Benjamin Louis -- a carpenter) was thus in his twenties during the 1840s -- evidently the period of Zim Allen's treasure search in the area of Mr. Nutt's farm. He obviously was not yet born, when another "Northrop" (his father, Miles?) was involved in the 1815 Rochester treasure search.

A Zimri Allen was then living in Springport Twp., Cayuga County (adjacent to Fayette, where Smith had finished up the Book of Mormon) -- he appears as "Zimm Allen" in the 1830 and 1840 Census. If he visited his brother-in-law, John Nutt, in Brighton during the late 1830s or the early 1840s, Zimri would have already been in his fifties. Civil records show him marrying an Abagail St. John in Springport in 1816. According to the The Cortland Democrat, his daughter Emily married a John W. Bartlett, in Springport, in June of 1840. Zimri died on Oct. 10, 1869, (aged 82 years, 8 months) and was buried in the Allen Family Cemetery, on Waldron Road in Springport.

The spelling of Hiram Mowe's last name is uncertain -- the typist's question marks have been eliminated in his case.

(under construction)

from: New York Folklore Quarterly, August, 1946 II:3
Copyright © 1946 New York Folklore Society
Only limited, fair-use excerpts reproduced




During the pioneer period of New York State, many ancient relics were uncovered, inciting an interest in digging for buried treasure. The lack of accurate scientific knowledge of the origins of these remains opened up a lucrative field for seers and soothsayers, whose mystic revelations proved strangely gratifying to the pioneer's thirst for secret and hidden knowledge of the universe about him.

In addition to such a propitious time to exercise their talents, the soothsayers in the Rochester region had the backing of recent historical facts to make their tales credible. It is said that many of those who had been in the Genesee country during the French and Indian War were firmly convinced that English and French traders, as well as military expeditions from Canada, had hidden valuable stones and gold and silver coin near the navigable watercourses on their journeys through this wildness. Then, too, many of the early settlers had been here as soldiers of General Sullivan's army in 1779 or had been carried here as captives of the Indians. These men reported that Indians and Tories had brought into this area a large quantity of gold and silver plate as well as other valuables they had plundered from the inhabitants on the frontiers of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. These tales, handed down from person to person, make clear the eagerness with which people snatched at any clue that gave hope of

                          BURIED  TREASURE  IN  ROCHESTER                           175

finding these treasures, and the faith they had in those who were in any way psychic and might reveal the location of such treasures.

The first episode [1] begins on an early spring morning of 1814 when the Smiths, a family of squatters, moved into the deserted log cabin located on the east bank of the Genesee, across from the west end of Hickory Street in Rochester. Nothing very much was known about this family except that they were generally unkempt and led an indolent life. There were some, however, who suspected that Smith was a British spy.

Perhaps it was for this very reason that Smith, desiring to distract public attention from himself, told some of the neighbors that his eldest son was a seer. The boy had in his possession a quartz stone three or four inches in diameter. He said he saw it near Devil's Punch Bowl [2] and that it presented such a dazzling splendor that it caused him to fall down insensible. While in this trance, a spirit told him that he had been chosen to open the Book of Fate and reveal its mysteries. He was then directed to keep the stone and look into it whenever he desired the aid of the spirits.

After this experience, young Smith revealed to a few of his friends that a great chest of gold, belonging to a Frenchman [3] who had occupied a trading post on the old trail some years before, was hidden in Devil's Punch Bowl and that they were the only ones privileged to dig for it.

Several nights were spent digging into the sides and bottom of the great funnel-shaped hole. Finally, on their last expedition, one of the men stuck his pick through the cover of a chest, swearing that he had it at last. Immediately the treasure disappeared and the depths of the excavation resounded with horrible noises. Smith assured the men that the treasure had only been moved a short distance away and that they would yet obtain it. But although they dug in several places around that locality, they were unsuccessful. Smith finally informed them that it had been removed

1 This account is also related in the Rochester Gem for May 15, 1830.

2 Devil's Punch Bowl is in Mt. Hope Cemetery just north of the conjunction of Indian Trail and Second Avenues, directly to the west of Dell Avenue in section G.

3 The version in the Rochester Gem states that the treasure belonged to Captain Kidd.

176                           NEW  YORK  FOLKLORE  QUARTERLY                          

to a certain mound near the waters of Irondequoit.

About this time, the feeling against the Smith family had grown stronger and Smith, again attempting to divert them, told his neighbors that the British Navy would come up the Genesee and destroy the American settlement. A few days later, the British fleet did appear off Charlotte harbor, but fortunately it was warded off by means of a clever ruse. Smith's prediction confirmed the suspicion that he was a Tory spy, and a group of men went to the Smith home to advise the family to leave or take the consequences. The eldest son tried to impress the citizens with the warning that a curse would fall upon any who attempted to molest the family, but one of the men, disregarding the warning, snatched the seer-stone away from him and smashed it to bits on a near-by rock. The next morning the Smiths had vanished as suddenly as they had arrived.

There were, however, a few men who never doubted the truth of young Smith's prediction that they would yet find the treasure near the waters of the Irondequoit, and in the summer of 1815 they spent many a night digging in several localities in the vicinity of Irondequoit Creek, but without success.

Finally, in 1817, William Penfield of Allen's Creek came to the conclusion that the waters of Irondequoit mentioned by Smith referred to those of the Bay rather than of the Creek. He also knew that there had been a French trading post near the outlet of the Bay and reasoned that the traders might have hidden their treasure in that vicinity. So, without much delay, he set about the search with renewed energy. It was while digging into the mounds left by the aborigines on the hilltop just south of the site of the old Sea Breeze Hotel on the west side of the Bay that he at last uncovered the treasure -- curios, valuable relics, and articles of military and Indian dress. These were probably the stock in trade of the French, who, evidently depending on the superstitions

                          BURIED  TREASURE  IN  ROCHESTER                           177

of the Indians, decided that this burial mound was the safest place for their valuables. Whether this treasure was the same one that had disappeared from Devil's Punch Bowl is open for speculation.

Before relating the second story of a somewhat similar nature, it might be well to tell something about the aborigines in this section, to serve as a background and as a measuring rod for the veracity of this account.

The date at which the aborigines, or mound-builders as they were called, occupied this region, has not been determined, but it is known that they were here before the Algonquins and Iroquois, who dispossessed and nearly exterminated them. The Seneca Indians have not been able to give any very definite information about these people except that they were a civilized and industrious race. It is known by examination of relics found with the skeletons in the mounds that these people were further advanced in civilization than the Indians who conquered them.

Many mounds have been found in this section. On Schneider's Island in Irondequoit Bay, Mr. Schneider, in lowering a mound 17 feet high, discovered a bushel of hand-worked stones, arrowheads, knives, war clubs, fish-net weights, and other articles about 15 feet below the top. These were all above the average size usually found in this vicinity.

Oliver Culver, one of the early pioneers, relates that on a high place on the shore of Lake Ontario where it meets the west shoreline of Irondequoit Bay, the bank caved in and revealed a number of human bones which were, on comparison, much larger than those of our own race -- a fact which would tend to support the pronouncements of the seer in the following tale in regard to a giant race. Dr. Ritchie of the Rochester Museum, however, maintains that those he has examined were of average size. Other remains of mound-builders

178                           NEW  YORK  FOLKLORE  QUARTERLY                          

have been found in the region of Brewer's Dock on the Genesee River and on farm lands in various sections of Monroe County.

The following tale was related to George H. Harris by John A. Nutt, a pioneer resident of Rochester who at the time of his death in 1886 lived at 33 Hickory Street.

John Nutt's maternal uncle, Justice Allen, who lived at Poplar Ridge, Cayuga County, New York, had a son, Zim, who found a large transparent crystal, a seer-stone, in his father's garden. With the aid of this stone, he was able to foretell the future or look into the past. By this means he found gold buried in a hillside near by, but this gold was in the form of a wedge and it was known that the Iroquois Indians had no knowledge of working precious metals. Those who were in the confidence of young Zim asked him to look into his seer-stone in an attempt to reveal by whom these wedge-shaped pieces of gold were placed in the hillside. Zim gazed into his seer-stone and, as if in a trance, related the events of the past as they appeared before him in the crystal.

Among other things, he saw the Indians expelling a superior race of larger stature, called giants, who inhabited this region at that time. Going further back, he saw the giants wresting the land away from a race of small people which he called pigmies. He reported that the pigmies were an industrious race, "engaged in agriculture and many fine arts. They delve into the earth in search of rich minerals and gather great stores of gold and precious stones, which are held as a property in common. Upon the first appearance of the gigantic enemies, the dwarfs divide their riches into innumerable portions and bury them in the earth," leaving no traces. He declared that the pigmies buried their treasure deep, but that time had worn the covering thin and that there were many deposits of gold in the hillsides and plains in the form of wedges and bars. "Three or four days' journey from this place," he continued, "there is a great ridge of sand mountains

                          BURIED  TREASURE  IN  ROCHESTER                           179

where gold is near the surface. In those mountains and in the gullies leading to the river that flows through the country, quantities of the pigmies' gold may be found, but it is guarded by spirit pigmies and only he who can maintain unbroken silence during the search can hope to secure this treasure."

John Nutt said that different persons had informed him of the situation described, and that his uncle and cousin exhibited several small bars and a wedge of gold in proof of their statement. The sand mountains proved to be the Pinnacle and Mt. Hope range of hills south of Rochester.

Hiram Mowe, one of the men who heard Zim's statements, came to Rochester with a letter of introduction from Allen to his brother-in-law, John Nutt, Sr. Mowe had an accurate topographical map of the Pinnacle range as dictated to him by Zim Allen from what he saw in the seer-stone.

Zim said that the pigmies had made a stone vault in a little depression near the ridge top on the west line of John Nutt, Sr.'s farm, about 100 to 150 feet south of his north line. John Nutt, Sr., lived on the north side of Highland Avenue, due southeast of the present water works of Highland Park. Zim also stated that the pigmies threw considerable treasure into a so-called magic pond, located on the northeast corner of Nutt's farm. To this pond, then a bottomless spring of about a half-acre in extent, the ancient people attributed magical qualities. At the time John Nutt, Jr. related this tale (1886), this pond had become a swamp or bog hole. When his father first settled there, 1824-25, there were traces of an embankment and ditch surrounding the top of the hill, which Zim had described as a pigmy fort.

To return to our story, Mowe organized a band of treasure hunters at the Nutt farm, including Ben Northrop [4] and Dan Pierce of Rochester. With John Nutt, Sr. they went up to the top of Cobb's Hill to a spot 40 or 50 rods east of Monroe Avenue.

4 According to the Rochester Gem, Ben Northrop [Miles Northrop?] was one of Smith's friends who searched for the treasure in the preceding tale. It is also interesting to note that the Rochester Daily Democrat for May 28, 1851, lists Ben Northrop and Dan Pierce as witnesses in the trial of Mary Lambert, who claimed to be a seventh daughter born with a veil over her face and able to foretell the future. She was arrested for swindling Northrop out of $1000 which she demanded as a deposit before she would evoke the aid of the spirits in locating the treasure buried in his back yard. Northrop believed so firmly in her powers that he bailed her out of jail.

180                           NEW  YORK  FOLKLORE  QUARTERLY                          

John Nutt tried the ground with a spear and struck something like the top of a box. He forced his spear down through the cover and could distinctly hear the rattling of pieces of metal as he moved the spear around. He held the spear there while the others dug out the box. Not a word was spoken, but as they uncovered the chest to gaze within, one of the men remarked, "We've got it at last." Instantly the box was torn from their hands and vanished into the hole, rattling as it went. Then suddenly a great wind came up and blew them all out of the hole against the corner of a fence some distance to the southeast. The hole dug that night could still be seen in 1886. Mowe subsequently dug in various places about the Pinnacle range, in Deep Hollow, near the lower Genesee Falls, and in other places, but it is not known if he ever found any of the gold mentioned by Zim Allen.

There is a striking similarity between these tales and the stories current in Palmyra, during the 1820's, about Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism. The inhabitants of that region called Joseph Smith "the treasure-seeker," and it is said that he heard his mother and father relate tales of buried treasure and had, in fact, gone with his father on several treasure-hunting expeditions. The Wayne County History by McIntosh (c. 1877) has this to say about Joseph Smith and a seer-stone in his possession:
The stone was finally placed in his hat to shade its marvelous brightness when its services were required. [5]
At midnight, dupes, laborers and himself with lanterns in hand, repaired to the hillside near the Smith home where, following a mystic ceremony, digging began by a signal in enjoined silence. Two hours elapsed when, just as the box was about to be unearthed, someone spoke and the treasure vanished. The deception was repeated from time to time in the interval between 1820-1827, and despite the illusionary searches for money, he obtained contributions which went toward the maintenance of the family.

According to Fawn Brodie's thorough analysis of his activities

5 Zim Allen also used his cap to shade the brightness of the stone whenever he made use of it.

                          BURIED  TREASURE  IN  ROCHESTER                           181

in her recent book, No Man Knows My History, Joseph Smith, in his early years, was a mythmaker, a teller of tall tales. The sacred book, written on gold plates, which Smith found buried in the hillside and which he later translated into The Book of Mormon, contained an account of the former inhabitants of this continent. The sacred book, however, did not agree with the revelations of Zim Allen's seer-stone, for, according to Joseph Smith, the early inhabitants were the lost tribes of Israel.

Some of the seers in these times may have actually been psychic to a certain degree, but the credulity and faith of the pioneers probably led them to exaggerate their powers and encouraged them to invent things in an effort to save their reputations.

(These tales were taken from an old unpublished manuscript called Myths of Onanada [sic] or Treasure, Hunters of the Genesee, written by George H. Harris during the years 1864-1886. He received his information directly from the old settlers in this district. In his preface he states, "Myths of Onanada [sic] are not presented to the public as sensational fiction, but as records of facts, worthy of preservation in the annals of history. The subject matter is derived from authorities of unquestionable reliability." I might add that the names and places mentioned herein are authentic. -- D. D.)

from: Western Folklore, July, 1951 X:3
Copyright © 1951 Western States Folklore Society
Only limited, fair-use excerpts reproduced from on-line copy

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Buried Treasure Tales in America

                                            GERARD T. HURLEY


Tales of buried treasure, hidden hoards of great wealth awaiting recovery by the fortunate and clever, are common in many lands, both now and in the past. [1] Their prevalence and popularity are not difficult to explain -- most people like the idea of something for nothing, and enjoy talking about fellow men who receive, or almost receive, a very great deal in exchange for a modicum of ingenuity and effort.

I propose to discuss some American buried treasure tales, to point out their main characteristics, to outline their basic structural pattern, and to define the primary conventions which determine the plot and narrative development of the individual stories. By American buried treasure tales I mean stories of hidden wealth, usually buried, within the area that is now the continental United States. This wealth must have been possessed by men at one time, then hidden or lost. This definition views a lost mine as buried treasure, although undiscovered ore or jewel deposits would not be, even if their probable location might be suspected. [2] I have not included patently literary tales [3] or obvious American variants of Old World Stories. [4]

For my study I have used about 250 treasure stories, gathered, with a few exceptions, from printed sources. I have summarized 102 of these for easy reference and speedy illustration of my text. I have not attempted a statistical study on the basis of my sampling. I have not summarized many of the lost mine stories because these are easily available in the three works by J. Frank. Dobie.

American buried treasure tales have three main characteristics. First, they are told as true stories. Brief and factual, they have a simple and comprehensible inner logic governing events, as well as credible description and detail marking the narration. Secondly, their plots have a simple two-part structure, with the treasure being accounted for (or hidden) in the i initial section, followed by the search in the final part. In the third place, American treasure tales usually end with the treasure not being found.

1 A. H. Krappe, The Science of Folk-Lore (London, 1930), p. 83. Stith Thompson, The Folktale (New York, 1946), pp. 262-264.

2 Example 68 might be an exception.

3 Such as Poe's The Gold Bug, Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates, Daniel Thompson's The Money Diggers, or R. P. T. Coffin's "Ballad of Cap'n Pye." ...

4 Such as "Ali Baby," a Schoharie Hills version of Ali Baba, E. E. Gardner, Folklore from the Schoharie Hills, New York (Ann Arbor, 1937), pp. 140-146.

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... The treasure tale is presented as fact and told with the same sense of literal truth that marks newspaper accounts of actual rediscovered gold. The fact that most of the tales are brief and to the point helps to make them seem convincing. More important in achieving verisimilitude is the fact that the tale takes place in a known period-either the identifiable present or an exact historical era -- and in an area that can be geographically located. American treasure tales do not begin "once upon a time in a far-off land..." but set the stage physically and temporally. This is not difficult to do in America, since almost all sections of the United States could have treasure in them which could be historically accounted for. The tales draw upon many sources to account for their treasures. Wealth has been secreted by Indians (37, 85), [6] colonial French (36), Spanish (76, 93),6 Tories (8, 35, 44), English (31, 32, 33), British spies (45), Rogers' Rangers (19), Confederate families (49, 50, 53, 54, 58, 61), Mexicans fleeing the American occupation of the Southwest (80, 81, 86), pioneers (60, 92, 94), Forty-niners (88, 89, 90). [7] bandits (62, 72), and pirates, Kidd and Lafitte especially, with a few other pirates (24, 34, 48), account for mosy of the buried treasure along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The simplest way to make the fact of a treasure credible is to mention an accepted historical figure about whom legends abound. The tale is linked to reality at the beginning by accounting for the treasure within the limits of historical probability. From that point on, the tone of the tale remains factual. Supernatural elements are introduced into many of the tales. Their effect is increased by the realistic frame in which they work. They are not allowed to destroy the sense of the tale's basic reality. This is done in two ways. First, the story is filled with actual, everyday objects -- shovels, spades, ropes, lanterns, Bibles, crowbars, pots, kettles. Descriptions seem authentic because they are simple. Landmarks are obvious ones to people who know them, and easy for others to imagine-rocks, trees, hills, mountains, houses, caves, fences, stakes, ponds, lakes, rivers, a city square. Images are immediate and direct-heat and cold, light and darkness, fire and smoke, noise, primary colors. Adjectives used to describe supernatural elements are generalized enough for anyone to understand them -- big, bright, loud, hoarse, deep, clean, wild. Weather conditions are made explicit; distances are in feet and miles; the hour of the day or night, and the time of the month, are mentioned exactly. Animals, both normal and supernatural, are described in terms of the normal. The most frightening of the animal spirits have legs, eyes, tails, teeth, horns, fur, breath, ears. The treasure tale does not tax the hearer's

5 Also J. F. Dobie, et al., Legends of Texas, Publications of the Texas Folk-Lore Society, III, 103.

6 Ibid., pp 49, 50, 55, 58, 74, 79, 84, 100, 214.

7. Including the Donner party, California Folklore Quarterly, III (1944), 7.

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powers of belief. There is a minimum of detail and generalized description, and a handful of seeming facts -- all anchored to some historical or geographical reality. The imaginative man can charge as much meaning into this basic situation as he wishes, and what he imagines will be real.

The sense of the factual nature of the treasure tale is also maintained by the way in which the supernatural elements in the story work according to a simple, common-sense logic, once the premise of the supernatural is is accepted. The character in the tale learns the rules and hunts treasure according to them. The spirits, in turn, are governed by simple, set conventions. In treasure tales, as in life, rules and penalties exist. Once accepted, their working-out seems no more fantastic than waiting for the red light change, or paying your income tax by March fifteenth. American buried treasure tales have a narrative structure of two parts. First, the treasure is hidden. Second, it is hunted for. The tales differ among themselves according to the emphasis either section has in a specific tale. Few tales give detailed attention to both parts. A tale concerned with the burying of a treasure, or the personalities of those concerned with hiding a loot, will usually dispose of the second area of the tale with a sentence or two telling that the treasure has not been recovered, or that people still search, without success, for the loot (28, 30, 35, 36, 45, 54, 60, 61).

On the other hand, the story of the hunt, with more possibilities for excitement and varied detail than accounts of the burying will reduce the initial part of the tale to a simple sentence of explanation, or begin, in medias res, with the hunt for a certain treasure under way (7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 40, 49). It is possible, of course, for the narrator to suggest many things about the burying of the treasure without explicit statement.

For instance, if a headless man appears from the hole (4), one might assume him to be the ghost of someone murdered and left with the treasure to protect it. Another tale (28) will tell in detail of the beheading of a luckless person, and the reasons for it, at the time the treasure was buried. In this case, however, the hunt will be neglected and the ghost of the unlucky figure will not appear.

A variation from these two types does occur which I call a "treasure tale fragment." In these, the fact of a treasure and the possibility of a hunt are both implied. The "fragment" will mention some reason for believing both things. For instance, example 66 has a mysterious woman with a supply of gold. The gold suggests a mine or treasure. She is never trailed successfully to her hide-out in the hills. One day she disappears for good. The story implies treasure and demands a search, but the explicit facts of the story are few. A. "fragment" may appear in a fuller tale. Story 102 has a Mexican spending gold in a small California town, but the fact of his treasure is reinforced by other details and the source of his gold is explicitly accounted for.

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in several tales more than one dead man was left on guard (14, 35). White pirates, too, were left to guard their captain's loot. A few Indians (40, 52) stand ghostly guard as well, and the ghost of a Cuban beauty, with whom great wealth was buried in Del Rio, Texas, leads treasure seekers astray (91). Some guardian ghosts tire of their task and attempt to reveal the treasure to some one who will recover it, so the ghost can rest (51). Another ghost had to stand guard only for a set period of time, after which he could reveal the wealth to humans (16). Some ghosts can be outwitted (49), while others may cooperate with the hunter.'2. But the majority of ghostly guardians do their job well. The ghost of Kidd, with a spectral crew and a phantom ship, checked up on one ghost and saw that his treasure was intact (1). On another occasion, Kidd's ghost arrived to save his treasure from searchers who had almost recovered it (17). In another case, Kidd's ghost bit an iron bar in two when a treasure was almost discovered. (11). Kidd's actions contrast with those of Lafitte's ghost, who begged a man to take his treasure and do good with it (73). Some spirits seem to protect treasure of their own volition, for no explana- tion of their origin is given (3, 5). Sometimes Satan himself will appear (13).

Occasionally the spirits are invisible defenders (46) or nameless horrors (77). Sometimes there is a ghost near by who is not connected with the treasure at all (45). Spirits frequently take the form of animals. Vultures (68), which may or may not have had supernatural affiliations, protected an Isle of Gold from Indians who knew its location. Treasures are also protected by snakes," sows (12), horses (7, 50, 57, 97), roosters (57), dogs (10, 50), chickens (50), a goose (10), a goat (50), a panther (61), cats (27), a crow (34), and something with wings, horns, tail, and breath of blue flames (27). Most treasure tales do not explain where these animal-like spirits come from. There can be little doubt, however, that they are closely related to the "plat-eye" of South Carolina and the "land spirits" of Louisiana. "Plat-eyes" lure their victims away from treasure and into danger, causing them to lose their way in the woods, go mad, and frequently to die lonely deaths. The. "plat-eye" is not the ghost of a murdered man but a unique spirit brought into being by the murder and decapitation of someone, preferably an enemy, and the burying of his head with the treasure. "Plat-eyes" can take on many forms at will and have been seen as five- and six-legged calves, headless dogs, big black hogs with white tusks, a dog with a bitten ear and three hind legs, and a flayed, bleeding calf.

12 R. Hunter, "The Rich Ghost," JAFL, 12 (1899), 64-65.

13 Saxon, op. cit., p. 260.

14 South Carolina Folk Tales (Columbia, South Carolina, 1941), pp. 50-54.

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...spirit or natural, are more positive actors in the treasure tale. There is other supernatural protection for treasure besides ghosts and spirits. Treasure seekers are harassed by gases (21, 65), heat (o1), blue flames. (4, 29), burning sulphur (14), blue lights (14), tidal waves (14), water," rain. (16), the elements (34), earthquakes (40), thunder and lightning (51), and noise of an unidentified sort (40, 44). Curses, too, perhaps placed by the original owners of the treasure, operate for long periods (23) as well as suddenly and unexpectedly (93). It is not difficult to find agents for the ill luck and violent deaths that superstition claims come to discoverers of hidden treasure. [19.] With such opposition, how does a would-be treasure hunter search? There are many ways to learn of a treasure site. In some tales, one just happens to know of treasure in some locality (49). In others, there is a family tradition of treasure (50). Lights may indicate a treasure spot (37), but they often lead one astray, too." Gold, in one story, is detected by the flame from the burning of its rust (39). A member of the original burying party may tell of the treasure. (28), or someone may have spied on a treasure-burying crew (30). Gratitude often causes someone to reveal a treasure secret, especially the location of a mine (86, 94). Friendly ghosts appear in dreams (16, 51), or one may dream of treasure if he happens to be sleeping on the site (45). A reverse "plat-eye" of sorts -- a rooster's head buried with the treasure -- will cause the rooster to crow when the rightful heir is near the spot." Even if one knows where treasure ...

15 Saxon, op. cit., p. 259.

16 P. A. Bailey, Golden Mirages (New York, 1940), p. 49.

17 Western Folklore, I (1942), 41.

18 Saxon, op. cit., p. 259.

19 L. J. Davidson, ed., Rocky Mountain Tales (Norman, 1947), pp. 153-155.

20. Saxon, op. cit., p. 265.

21 Ibid.

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(part of this page not reproduced - due to copyright restrictions), the process can be so complicated that trained assistance is usually helpful. American buried treasure tales are peopled with witches, clairvoyants, fortune tellers, "doctor-niggers," and spirit controllers to give proper help to occasional treasure seekers (10, 20, 30, 40, 41, 50, 93, 99). ...

The professional treasure seeker knows lots of things. He realizes, for instance, that a sleepwalker may lead one to treasure, that treasures sink into the earth when something is wrong, that slipping treasures can be tied with a white silk thread and saved, and that various times of the day and month are more auspicious for hunting than others. [22] He understands the complicated business of divining rods, as well as other rituals for locating treasure sites (37, 40). He knows that the surest way to lose a treasure is to speak while digging, and could tell you that the purpose of many "land spirits" and "plat-eyes" is to frighten you into breaking the rule for silence (5, 11, 12, 13, 17, 27, 41).

He knows, too, that speaking is allowed in only one case -- when one reads from the Bible, the hymn book (3, 7, 51), or the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, a pamphlet of superstitions, black magic, and other ends." That the. Christian God and ritual is used to recover treasure seems logical in view of the fact that the origin of much treasure involved bloodshed and crime, as was explained by a South Carolina fisherman: "Tredger berrit fum spiteful, gredge an' greedy killin', robbin' an' murdah." [24] Wealth of such origin could well be viewed as devil's goods. The spirits that guarded treasure were certainly creatures of evil as well. The area under the ground -- where treasure usually was -- had long been regarded as devil's domain. It is not surprising, then, that the forces of good would be called upon to aid in the recovery of buried wealth. Some treasure hunters do enlist the help of the devil in locating treasure. In one case, when a pious Christian attempted to dig for treasure located with the help of the devil, demons and saucer-eyed birds came from the hole and mocked all the good men. [25] In most tales, however, "conjuring" is done in the name of the Christian God and the precautions that are taken can be related without much difficulty to Christian ritual and belief. In addition to reading the Scriptures and the hymnal, and using a book attributed to Moses, the greatest of all conjurers, the spirit controller observes other practices. He will not hunt treasure with anyone who has shed blood. [26] He may remain sexually continent for four days before going on the hunt. He cleans his pockets of tobacco. [27] The tale of the four Negroes (51) illustrates what happens when one does not act according to Christian principles. Parsons often confront ghosts (50). In one tale both a Methodist minister and a

22 Ibid., pp. 258-260.

23. J. Frank Dobie, Coronado's Children (Dallas, 1930), pp. 338-339, and Saxon, op. cit., p. 260.

24 John Bennett, The Doctor to the Dead (New York, 1946), p. 255.

25 Dorson, op. cit., p. 182.

26 Ibid., p. 259.

27 Saxon, op. cit., p. 265.

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Catholic priest work, together." In another story, a Negress races a ghost in a haunted house, repeats aloud the names of the Trinity, and finds a pot of money." In all, the conjurer does his best to gain Heaven's help in recovering lost loot and buried wealth.

The treasure has been located. There is all manner of expert help in the search. Is it recovered? In American buried treasure tales the answer is, with very few exceptions, no. This fact is the third characteristic of the American treasure tale. The treasure is no closer to recovery after the story is over than it was at the beginning. Some stories seemingly may allow the treasure to be recovered, but not by the searchers of the tale. They arrive at the treasure site only to find a hole and traces of money or a chest (18, 21, 74, 76, 79, 81). For practical purposes the treasure is still lost. Some tales (48, 62) have no treasure at all, but a skeleton instead. There may be suspicions, in some tales, of treasure having been recovered. The sudden display of unsuspected wealth points to treasure in some tales of which the most famous is the Astor hoax (25); the Gardiner family of New York has been said to have discovered the great Kidd treasure on their Long Island property.0. But for actual finding of treasure at the end of the treasure tale there are very few cases indeed (23, 39 [a five dollar gold piece], 49, 50, 63, and note 12, above). Treasure is found in example 56, but the story is an April Fool's joke. It might be argued that stories 49 and 50 are actually ghost stories and not treasure tales, while 23 is primarily the story of a curse. At any rate, the loot in. American treasure tales is mostly where it was to begin with. It is still to be had.

This third characteristic shows the American buried treasure tale to be a "wish" story, rather than a "wish-fulfillment" story. The essential interest is concerned with the idea of treasure and the thrill of the hunt. The treasure tale can be successful even though the search in it is not.

The essence of the American treasure tale is caught up in two short stories which my wife's great-uncle, Ike Ijams, tells." Ike, a native Southern Californian now in his seventies, a one-time rancher and prospector, has heard lots and remembers most of it. Ike tells of a Chinese sniper, a man who made his poor living by panning streams that had already been worked. The sniper died and was buried. Somewhere Ike heard that he had a twenty-dollar gold piece in his pants when he was put under the ground, and mentioned this to some of the boys. The next day they came and told him it weren't so. Even a treasure joke ends with no treasure! Ike also knew an old man who looked for the Peg Leg Mine for two years. "What'll you do when you find it?" Ike asked him. "Cover it up and look for another," he said.

28 F. D. Bergen, "On the Eastern Shore," JAFL, 2 (1889), 298-299.

29 E. C. Parsons, "Tales from Guilford County, N.C.," JAFL, 30 (1917), 195

30 C. B. Driscoll, Pirates Ahoy! (New York, 1941), p. 311.

31 Both tales were recorded November 24, 1950, in Canoga Park, California.

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1. Clark's Island, Massachusetts -- A Kidd treasure spot, protected by the ghost of a murdered pirate, was visited by a phantom ship and a spectral crew, led by the ghost of Kidd himself, who, seeing that his plunder was safe, departed. (Botkin, p. 536.)

2. Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island-Thirty years after the American Revolution a box with a skeleton was washed from the beach by the tide. There was much unsuccessful digging for a Kidd treasure, which had been buried near by with a murdered man left to protect it. (Botkin, pp. 531-532.) ... ...

3. Lyme, Connecticut -- A Kidd treasure is guarded by a demon which springs upon intruders unless they recite Scripture while digging. (Skinner, p. 268.) 4. Charles Island near Milford, Connecticut -- Just as diggers discovered a chest, a headless man appeared. Workers fled as he leaped into the pit and blue flames poured out. When they returned, their implements were gone and the ground was smooth. (Skinner, pp. 268-269.)

5. Mohegan Island, Maine -- A treasure discovered in a cave was snatched away from the searchers because one of them spoke. (Skinner, p. 269.)

6. Appledote, Isle of Shoals, New Hampshore -- "Old Bab," a murdered member of Kidd's crew, protects a buried treasure here. (Skinner, pp. 269-270.)

7. Piscataqua River area, Maine and New Hampshire -- As some searchers dug for treasure, others read the Bible aloud. As the chest was reached, it slid into the earth. A monster horse appeared and frightened the workers away. When they returned, the chest was missing. (Skinner, p. 270.)

8. New Hampshire -- Wentworth, the royal governor, fled from the approaching rebels. He buried his plate and money between Smith's Pond and Portsmouth. (Skinner, p. 279.) 9. Dalton, Massachusetts -- Defeated Hessians buried plate, jewels, and money in a howitzer. (Skinner, pp. 279-280.)

10. New London, Connecticut -- Two young men, with the aid of a witch, discovered a treasure chest, but it was red hot and could not be touched. A giant dog and a wild goose chased them away from the hole. Next day the chest was gone. (Skinner, pp. 282-283.)

11. Weare, New Hampshire -- Treasure was just missed when something in the earth broke Doctor Grant's iron bar causing him to exclaim. Men said the ghost of Kidd bit the iron in two. (Dorson, p. 174.)

12. Jewell's Island, Maine — An herb doctor, digging for treasure by moonlight, was bitten on the leg by a sow which, with her litter, had emerged from the hole. He exclaimed, the pigs vanished, the hole filled up, and the treasure seekers found themselves near the shore with the tide at their feet. (Dorson, pp. 174-175.)

13. Clarke's Island, Massachusetts -- Abner Field and two friends, with the advice of a conjurer, dug for the Kidd loot. As the crowbar hit the chest, one of the diggers spoke. The chest settled beyond reach, a disturbed ghost moved about, and Satan himself came from the bank. A hoax was suggested, but the diggers claimed the untimely exclamation caused the loss of the treasure. (Dorson, p. 175.)

14. Stony Brook and Penobscot River, Maine -- Kidd treasure is protected by the ghost of four murdered African slaves, each buried with a chest. Blue lights, burning sulphur, and skeletons also protect the loot. (Dorson, p. 177.)

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15. Kennebec River, near Hallowell, Maine -- Kidd and his ghost ship return to protect the treasure buried under a ravine cased in fog. (Dorson, p. 177.) ...

16. Mohegan Island, Maine -- Eva Marshall was told in a dream of treasure on her land by a scar-faced man, the guardian of the treasure, whose time for watching had finished. Mrs. Marshall's son and a friend dug at the appointed hour -- midnight -- but a lashing rainstorm frightened them away. The spot, marked by mottled pebbles and three spears of grass, was never found again. (Dorson, pp. 177-178.)

17. Weare, New Hampshire -- An almost successful treasure hunt failed when one member of the party exclaimed at the noise of a shovel on a rock. Kidd's ghost took the treasure away. (Dorson, p. 181.)

18. Gott Island, Maine -- The Heath family searched unsuccessfully for treasure. One day, a strange schooner anchored off the island, and an old man came ashore and pointed out a spot near some older diggings. His crew began to dig. When Mr. Heath examined their traces, he found marks of an iron chest in the hole and all the way to the beach where the chest had been dragged. (Dorson, p. 181.)

19. White Mountains, New Hampshire -- Rogers' Rangers stole the treasure from the church of St. Francis and hid it in the mountains, where its curse led them to death. From time to time, a traveler will see the vision of a glittering church altar. (Dorson, p. 182.)

20. White Mountains -- An old fortune teller helped some treasure seekers to the St. Francis treasure. They were frightened away by the elements, but she continued digging and was last seen being dragged toward a cliff by a giant who had come from the mist. Wails are still heard in this area of the White Mountains. Some people believe that the old fortune teller is being tortured in a cavern. (Dorson, p. 182.)

21. Woburn, Massachusetts -- A haunted oak and the treasure under it were guarded by the ghost of Deacon Wright's father who had hanged himself from the oak on April 29, 1763. If the son should get legal title to the land, he could have the loot and the tormented specter would disappear. If he should try to get the treasure prematurely, his father's ghost would smother him in a cloud of deadly gas. However, a third party managed to exorcise the ghost and escape with the treasure before the son could follow the instructions he had received in a dream from his father's ghost. The next year, the sturdy tree died. (Dorson, pp. 183-184.)

22. Wicasset, Maine -- Witches seized the pot of gold William Morelen discovered in the dyke on the shore of Finley Creek. The pot bounced over the man's head, coins rattled as the witches grabbed it, and there were hoof beats as they escaped over a near-by bridge. (Dorson, p. 185.)

23. Norton's Point, Penobscot Bay, Maine -- Sandy Duguid discovered a treasure which had a written curse along with the coins. Disaster followed him, a man who later built on the spot, and all who had contact with a coin found there a century later. (Dorson, pp. 186-187.)

24. Isles of the Shoals, New Hampshire -- Martha, the wife of Sandy Gordon, Blackbeard's lieutenant, is supposed to have sworn to her husband that she would guard his treasure on White Island. He sailed away, never to return. On stormy nights, a wraithlike figure in white with streaming blond hair has been reported looking out to sea. (Driscoll, Doubloons, p. 176.) ... ...

25. Deer Island, Penobscot Bay, Maine -- The Astor fortune is supposed to be founded upon a Kidd treasure dug up in a cave on Deer Island, the property of

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Olmsted, the architect of the Boston park system. Olmsted is supposed to have sued to recover the treasure with interest from the Astor heirs. This hoax story has been credited to Franklin Harvey Hand (Driscoll, Pirates Ahoy!, pp. 312-313). A full account, with a 1939 text, occurs in Botkin (pp. 534-535). Another Kidd hoax, including a letter attributed to the pirate, is also in Botkin (p. 532).

26. A Pun Story -- Kidd's tomb is supposed to be in King's Chapel churchyard, Boston, although the pirate was hanged in England. If you visit the tomb at midnight, tap on it three times, and ask in a whisper, "Captain Kidd, for what were you hung?" the pirate will answer nothing. (Botkin, p. 535.) .. ...

27. Ipswich, Massachusetts -- A man digging for treasure buried by the pirate, Harry Main, was suddenly surrounded by cats, cried "Skat," and lost the treasure as a result of speaking. (Skinner, pp. 13-14.) ...

28. Long Island -- A twelve-year-old Negro boy and a white lad helped Kidd bury some treasure. When the pirate asked which of them would guard the treasure, the white boy said he would. He was thereupon decapitated and buried in the hole with the loot. The Negro, James Marks, lived to be 115, dying in 1802. He was never able to find the spot where the treasure was hidden. (Botkin, pp. 533-534.) ... ...

29. Liberty Island, New York Harbor -- In 1830, Sergeant Gibbs, with the aid of a fortune teller and a recruit, unearthed a box just as something with wings, horns, tail, and breath of blue flame burst from the coffer. Gibbs fell into the water and almost drowned. His helpers ran away. The treasure was lost. (Skinner, p. 273.)

30. New York City -- Before the Revolution, Mud Sam, a Negro, saw pirates burying treasure about the spot where 100th Street now meets the East River. Later he returned with others, including one skilled at incantation. Just as their spades touched the lid of an iron box, a figure in a red flannel cap leaped from the bushes. The frightened men ran away. When they returned there was no trace of the digging. (Skinner, pp. 273-275.)

31. Follingsby's Pond, Adirondack Mountains, New York -- An old recluse, suspected of being an English Army officer who became a hermit because of his wife's infidelity, revealed the location of his hidden treasure as he was dying. Some of it was recovered, then lost track of. There might have been more. (Skinner, pp. 283-284.)

32. Tea Island, Lake George -- General Abercrombie buried treasure here. (Skinner, p. 284.)

33. Shandaken Valley, Catskills -- British officers during the American Revolution buried treasure here. They were unable to retrieve it. (Skinner, p. 284.)

34. Fort Neck, Long Island -- A house now haunted was once owned by Captain Jones, suspected pirate and smuggler. As he was dying, a crow flew into the room, hovered over the death bed, and, when the captain had died, flew through the west end of the house, breaking a hole in the masonry that could never be stopped up. The elements coming through this opening finally forced everyone from the house, which was abandoned. Hope of finding treasure there has grown fainter with the years. (Skinner, pp. 284-285.)

35. Lloyd's Neck, Long Island -- A Tory buried his wealth in three barrels and shot three slaves who were buried with the barrels, one above each. He then escaped to Nova Scotia. After 1800 something was removed from the property. Natives dug and discovered a box of cob dollars and some casks of liquor. (Skinner, p. 285.)

36. Grand Island, Niagara River -- Although chests were seen being delivered to Clairieux, a Frenchman who lived on the island, none were ever seen being re...

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... (Skinner, pp. 286-287.)

37. Oneida Lake, New York -- A ball of fire hovers over an Indian grave. A farmer digging there for treasure failed to turn around three times (as he had been directed in a dream) when he reached the gold. Lightning struck him senseless. When he recovered, the crock was gone and the hole filled in. (Skinner, p. 288.)

38. Schoharie Hills, New York -- A gold mine was disclosed to a Seward lad who failed to find it because he spoke. (Gardner, p. 13.)

39. Schoharie Hills, New York -- A man in the town of Summit saw a fire in a field one night. When he reached it, it was out, but he marked the spot. The next day he returned and dug up a five-dollar gold piece. This proves that rust burns off gold. (Gardner, p. 13.)

40. Schoharie Hills, New York -- Near Conesville, a small knoll between two trees marks where an Indian is buried over part of Kidd's treasure. No one has dug it up yet. One party, following the advice of a fortune teller, cut the throat of a black cat and marked the spot where the blood spurted. While digging there, the town clock struck twelve, a great crack appeared in the earth, and they saw a vast hoard. They exclaimed, and there were fearful rumblings and the hoard was snatched from their view. (Gardner, p. 14.)

41. Schoharie Hills, New York-Dave and Ren Decker, two brothers from from Blenheim Hill, dreamed of a kettle filled with money under the floor of their childhood home. They went to the spot and dug. They saw the crock which disappeared because they had failed to use magic. (Gardner, p. 15.) In another version a fortune teller directed the two brothers to the treasure. The treasure was lost because a minister refused to say prayers over the ground. The brothers did not remain silent either. (E. E. Gardner, "Folklore from Schoharie County, N.Y.," JAFL, 27 [1914], 323.)

42. Money Hill, Snarl River, New Jersey -- Six ghosts guard the treasure here, some in sailor clothes, some simply bones. The treasure, although searched for, has not been recovered. (Skinner, pp. 271-272.)

43. Sandy Hook, New Jersey-The treasure, near Kidd's tree, belonged to the famous pirate, but the ghost in the near-by highlands (where more treasure is supposed to be hidden) is that of a squaw the Indians once drove away with stones. The spot is called Old Woman's Hill. (Skinner, p. 272.)

44. Indian Gap, Wernersville, Pennsylvania -- The loot of the Doane band of band of Tories is protected by witches, blue flame, and roaring noises. (Skinner, pp. 288-. 289.)

45. Pennsylvania -- The author recalled the story of a British spy from the Revo- lution who once lived in a long-since demolished cabin on his farm. The traitor never spent his ill-gotten gold, but did attempt to give directions as to where on the hill it was buried. He died, however, without revealing his secret. Men later went and slept on the hill, hoping to dream of the treasure. (G. D. Brinton, "Reminiscences of Pennsylvania Folk-Lore," JAFL, 5 [1892], 179-180. ...

46. ???

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47. Charleston, South Carolina -- A Negro tells of Isum and Joe who start hunting from Daid-Men Landin'. They go to Cole I'lant, but the guardian of the treasure, Yaller-Bone, appears and prevents the pair from removing the chest they have discovered. (Bennett, pp. 255-260.)

48. Plum Point, Beaufort County, North Carolina -- A chest of some sort was discovered and removed from Plum Point on Christmas, 1928. Its contents are still a mystery, although some suspect it might have held the bones of Blackbeard's last wife, an unwilling bride, who disappeared the last day of a thirteen-month cruise. A great iron chest was buried the first night Blackbeard was ashore. The chest was supposed to have held the bride's portion of the booty. All six men who helped. Blackbeard bury his chest disappeared within the week. The pirate himself is known to have killed two of them with no apparent provocation. (Driscoll, Dou- bloons, pp. 195-201.)

49. Edisto Island, South Carolina-A Negro ditch digger, needing money, recalls that silver is supposed to be buried near the railroad tracks. He buys a divining rod from the "doctor-nigger." Two other men join him in the hunt. They begin to dig before daybreak and discover a rusty pot like those used to boil pigs in. The three are lifting the pot from the hole, when four tall men in shrouds rise from the ground and stand at the hole. The two helpers flee in terror, but the leader holds his ground, and the four spirits finally return to the hole. The Negro gets the pot from the earth. It begins to hop up and down until the digger beats it with his shovel and subdues it. The pot contained table silver, which the Negro (the narrator) sold, and Confederate money, which the government redeemed at fifty cents on the dollar. The narrator knows of other treasures, but realizes that if he begins a hunt, people will talk, and that would be no good. (South Carolina Folk Tales, pp. 54-56.)

50. Union County, South Carolina -- Shortly after the Civil War a plantation is haunted by the ghost of the master looking for his money. New overseers and even the mammy cannot remain in the house because of the ghost. The sons of the old master offer a reward for help in discovering the treasure their father buried. The preacher faces the spirits in the house, and sleeps there one night. When he is in bed, a dog suddenly runs down the stairs. A black cat chases across the room and turns white before it runs into the wall. A pair of white horses come down the stairs with chains rattling. When a woman in white enters the room, the preacher flees. Later, another preacher slept in the house, keeping his head under the covers. He peeked out once and saw a white goat grinning at him. It asked him what he wanted. He, in turn, asked the location of the treasure. The goat suggested he look under one of the "pillars." He did, and there was the treasure. (South Carolina Folk. Tales, pp. 56-57.)

51. South Carolina -- Four Negroes have been told of a treasure by a friendly spirit, the ghost of a beheaded slave buried with the loot to protect it. The pot of gold was buried between his head and his body. From time to time the slave, tiring of his task, would appear in human form in a dream to some loved one. The four men to whom he had appeared were required to be Christian in their search. As they dug, they sang hymns and read the Bible. No other talk was allowed. For two weeks they dug, and finally found the pot. However, one of the men ordered the...

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...But the pot of gold was gone. (South Carolina Folk Tales, pp. 58-60.)

52 DeLeon Springs, Florida -- Pirates buried their loot in a spring and tossed slaughtered natives in to protect the loot. In 1900, after some farmers had cleared brush from the spring, a chest was sighted on a ledge about twenty-five feet below the surface. Efforts to raise the chest were clumsy and it was dropped into the depths. In 1927, a diver went down and found that the bottom gave way to several tunnels any of which might hold the chest. It was not recovered, although some human bones were found. (Driscoll, Pirates Ahoy!, pp. 274-275.) ...

53. St. Martinville, Louisiana -- The Duralde fortune was buried although the plantation and mansion were destroyed in the Civil War. (Saxon, p. 214.)

54. Parlange, Louisiana-During the Civil War, $300000, the cash assets of the Ternant estate, were placed in metal chests and buried. (Saxon, p. 219.)

55. Coco Island, Louisiana -- A party of treasure hunters stopped digging for some Lafitte loot, because of an avalanche of mud and sand which nearly killed two of the men. (Saxon, pp. 262-263.)

56. New Orleans, Louisiana-Treasure was accidently discovered in the base of General Jackson's statue in Jackson Square. This item was published on April. Fool's Day, 1869, in the New Orleans Daily Picayune. (Saxon, p. 264.) ...

57. New Orleans, Louisiana -- Diggers for treasure were halted by the appearance of a rooster, some chickens, and a smoke-breathing horse with fire coming from its ears. All the animals came from the hole made in the search. (Saxon, p. 264.)

58. Hubbardville, Louisiana -- Flames came from the ground and prevented slaves from recovering the treasure of money and silver plate buried by their master who did not return from the Civil War. (Saxon, p. 265.)

59. Pontchatoula River, Louisiana -- A white man and two Negroes were digging when a hoarse voice began to scream and curse. The men rushed away in terror. (Saxon, p. 265.)

60. Linceum, Louisiana -- Men escaping from Indians in the early days buried their gold here. Later, the men quarreled among themselves and all were killed. (Saxon, p. 268.)

61. Banks of the Tensas River, Louisiana -- Colonel Frisbee was building his mansion when the Civil War began. Near his half-completed house he buried a wagonload of gold. It has not been recovered and is believed to be protected by the phantom of a giant black panther. (Saxon, p. 268.)

62. Houma, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana-Men digging here discovered their holes filled up for each of four or five days. In fear they gave up the hunt. (Saxon, p. 269.)

63. Abbeville, Louisiana -- In 1925, a Negro boy, hypnotized by a white man, uncovered a treasure trove of silverware in the earth. (Saxon, p. 270.)

64. Abbeville, Louisiana -- Lafitte hid much of his treasure in a vault in a swamp. In 1908, an alligator hunter discovered it. In attempts to drain the near-by swamp, the location was lost. (Dobie, Legends of Texas, pp. 184-185.)

65. Arkansas -- A silver mine was discovered by the Spanish near the source of the. Ouachita River in spite of Indian warnings about a poisonous gas...

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66. ???

67. Galena, Missouri -- The ghosts of six men, killed in quarrels over the division of a lead and silver mine in the Ozarks, killed the remaining partner. (Skinner, pp. 290-291.)

68. Lake Superior -- An Indian legend tells of the Isle of Yellow Sands which was covered with gold and protected by vultures. (Skinner, p. 289.)

69. Denver, Colorado -- The buried loot of the Reynold's gang has never been recovered. A forest fire, floods, snowlslides, and a poor map have all hampered a successful search. (Davidson, pp. 133-137.)

70. Cache la Poudre, Colorado.-The mine was lost because of the death of both the Dutchman and the Irishman who found it. (Davidson, pp. 152-153.)

71. Chicago, Illinois -- A man converted his wealth into gold and hid the hoard in a cement block under the outhouse on his property in order to prevent wife from having his fortune. He died, she never located the money, and the outhouse has since been demolished. (Krippene, pp. 43-48.)

72. Mercer, Wisconsin -- Two hundred thousand dollars from the sale of negotiable stocks and bonds was buried near a roadhouse by the bandit Dillinger in. 1934. It has not yet been found. (Krippene, pp. 64-68.)

73. La Porte, Texas -- A Confederate veteran was approached by Lafitte's ghost in a deserted house. Lafitte wanted him to recover his treasure and use it for good purposes, but the man left the area without more ado. Another man spent the night in the same haunted house hoping to be given the same opportunity. His motives were selfish, however, and Lafitte's ghost apparently knew this. The man left the area after one night in the house. (Dobie, Legends of Texas, pp. 186-189.)

74. Chocolate Bayou, Texas -- After the departure of a small, mysterious vessel, excavations were discovered near the mouth of the bayou. The marks of a chest and evidence of coins were apparent. (Dobie, Legends of Texas, p. 190.) .

75. Chocolate Bayou, Texas -- Mrs. Adams dreamed of a buried treasure near by and instructions how to find its location. She and her son, with a friend who was told of the treasure, failed to find the stakes mentioned in the dream, but did find three china trees from which to take sights. However, they failed to find the loot. (Dobie, Legends of Texas, pp. 190-191.)

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76. Natchez, Mississippi -- A prisoner offered to reveal the location of a Spanish treasure of $300000. He was not believed. Later, an empty vault was found where the man had said it would be. (Skinner, p. 290.)

77. Port Neches, Texas -- Marion Meredith had received the map of buried treasure from someone who had stopped digging for some mysterious reason. Meredith and a friend continued the digging. Meredith turned up a human skeleton. The other man, digging about eight or ten feet down, was suddenly overcome with some strange horror, refused to continue, warned Meredith to stay away from the diggings, and would never talk about it again. Meredith stayed away. (Reprinted from the Houston Post, no date given, in Dobie, Legends of Texas, pp. 182-184

78. Near the mouth of the Lavaca River, Texas -- A search for a million dollar loot of Lafitte was unsuccessful, although a Negro discovered the metal rod with which Lafitte had marked the spot. The Negro, however, did not realize the value of the marker and pulled it from the earth. He was not able to locate the spot later. (Driscoll, Doubloons, pp. 78-79.)

79. Beesville, Texas -- Steve Pipkins was told how to find a treasure, possibly part of Lafitte's loot. He was to walk to a certain tree on the San Antonio River, walk twenty-five feet south, one foot east, one foot north, and dig down three feet. He did not want to do it, but was finally forced to by his wife. He followed instructions, arrived at the spot, and found a freshly dug hole, with evidence that a chest had been recently taken out. (JAFL, 28 [1915], 291.)

80. Neches River at Boone's Ferry -- Mexicans, in 1836, filled a cannon with gold. (Dobie, Coronado's Children, pp. 111-115.)

81. Nueces River, "War Crossing" -- A treasure hunt is unsuccessful, but traces show that someone else escaped with the loot about a week earlier. (Dobie, Coronado's Children, pp. 115-119.)

82. Galveston Island-Some of the Americans sent to see that Lafitte left Galves- ton overheard the pirate muttering about "my treasure" and "the three trees." They knew where the three trees were. There they dug in the recently disturbed earth and found a box. In it was the body of Lafitte's beautiful bride. (Dobie, Coronado's. Children, p. 317.)

83. New Mexico -- A hunter who had discovered gold accidently shot himself. Bleeding to death, he wrote a message in blood on his undershirt, tied it and a nugget to the collar of one of his dogs, and sent his animals for help. They did not return and are still said to roam in the mist. The gold strike, yet to be found, is called the gold of the Dogs of the Mist. (Dobie, Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver, pp. 144-145.)

84. New Mexico -- A prospector lost his way in a standstorm and took refuge in a cave where he discovered a vein of pure gold. He filled his pockets with gold and returned from the wilderness. He lost his way and was speechless and almost dead when discovered. Directions for finding the cave were among his ore samples. The cave itself was marked with a rusty gun. Men still hunt for it. (Peck, pp. 199-200.)

85. Arizona -- A gold mine deep in the mountains north of Tucson, once worked by a padre and the Indians, was buried under many logs and earth. It had an iron door and has never been found again. (Peck, p. 200.) ...

86. Superstition Mountains, Arizona -- In the 1840's a Spaniard and his sons discovered ore near a sharp peak called Weaver's Needle. They called their mine. Sombrera because of the shape of the peak. Later, on the way to Mexico, they were attacked by Apaches and only the two young boys escaped. Later they returned to their mine. Shortly afterward a Dutchman, Jacob Walz, who had been prospecting in the mountains, showed up in Phoenix with a sack of nuggets. He would not tell where he had found the gold and refused to register a claim. From time to time he would vanish into the mountains and return with more gold. Men who tried to follow him were generally lost in the wilderness. Others he shot, killing, in all, eight men who tried to follow him. Stories claim that he himself followed the Mexicans to the mine and killed them, or that he discovered their camp in the mountains, was told of their find, and killed them. As a dying man, Jacob Walz bequeathed a sack of

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nuggets and a map to a man who had befriended him. This man searched for the remainder of his life for the treasure without success. For years men have searched for the mine of the Dutchman. Some have returned, some have been shot at, others found dead with bullets in them. The mine is yet to be found. (Peck, pp. 200-202.)

87. Texas -- A colored servant saw the ghosts of two uncles of an old Texas family digging for treasure by moonlight. The uncles, it was recalled, had once escaped with some treasure and cheated the rest of the family. (California Folklore Quar- terly, I [1942], 169.)

88. Kansas -- Two young Bostonians buried their gold in a can near Marysville to protect it from ruffians who had been traveling with them. One of the youths was killed shortly afterwards. The other headed east, married his partner's sister, and, before leaving for the Civil War, made a map of the treasure. Years later his sons and others searched for the gold but failed to find it. (California Folklore Quarterly,. III [1944], pp- 5-6.)

89. Nebraska -- Soldiers at Fort Kearney buried gold during an Indian attack. (California Folklore Quarterly, III [1944], p. 6.)

90. Nebraska -- Treasure seekers are supposed to have cleared a space of several acres of trees searching for gold buried by pioneers before an Indian attack. A little girl who was carried off by the Indians, the sole survivor of the party, was later rescued and remembered only that the gold was buried at the foot of a tree. (California Folklore Quarterly, III [1944], pp. 61-62.)

91. Del Rio, Texas -- A beautiful Cuban woman was buried in the 1870's by two gambler friends along with $37000 worth of silver and opals. They never reclaimed the treasure and the grave has never been found. Her ghost is said to beckon searchers and lead them astray. (Western Folklore, VII [1948], pp. 68-69.) .

92. Wyoming -- Between 1860 and 1865, seven Swedes prospected in the Big Horn Country and discovered a lode laid bare by a landslide. They did not have equipment to work the vein, but did recover gold from a stream. At dawn of the second day they were attacked by savage Plains Indians. Two survivors eventually reached. Fort Reno. One man lost his mind. The authorities did not believe their story; the pair were imprisoned as deserters, then released. The sane survivor later took a party to search for the mine. None of them were ever seen again. The mine was later called the Lost Cabin Mine, possibly from a cabin in which a prospector discovered caches of gold dust (1896). (Western Folklore, V [1946], pp. 399-400.)

93. Oregon -- The loot from a Spanish ship was buried near Columbia City by a mutineering crew in 1841. Indians soon camped on the tract, and when the sailors returned much later there was no trace of the money. Forty years later a medium pointed out the spot to dig. However, one of the diggers fell dead. The medium explained that the murdered captain of the ship had killed him. In March, 1890, a member of another treasure party went raving mad. That search was abandoned. A curse was felt to be on the treasure. (Skinner, pp. 292-293.) ...

94. California -- A grateful squaw led a storekeeper's wife part of the way to the. Lost Peg Mine, but the white woman was unable to continue. The white woman waited in the shade while the Indian woman went into the hills. She later returned with a handful of nuggets which she gave to her friend. (Bailey, pp. 50-51.)

95. California -- A phantom stagecoach has been seen near Carrizo. Years before, a stage had been robbed in the area, its driver shot, and its money box buried near by. (Bailey, pp. 118-123.)

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96. California-Near Vallecito an eight-foot skeleton with a lantern shining in its chest has been seen. It is supposed to be the ghost of the prospector who worked the Phantom Mine. (Bailey, pp. 123-126.)

97. California -- Sixty-five thousand dollars stolen from a stage coach is buried near Vallecito. When one is near the treasure, the ghost of a great white horse appears. Its passing disturbs all traces of the loot. (Bailey, pp. 126-129.) ...

98. California -- Near the old San Felipe stage station is buried loot. The bandit who buried it was killed immediately afterward by a bartender who also died in the fight. The treasure is cursed and when one digs, the loot goes deeper into the earth. If one camps on the site of the old station on the anniversary of the night of the double killing, one will hear mumbling voices and see the rise and fall of a shovel. (Bailey, pp. 128-129.)

99. California -- The dead owner of a ranch near Fresno, on which $60000 was supposed to be buried, appeared to one of the ranch workmen, who fell into trances. He claimed that the former owner had come on a horse, had let him ride behind him, and had taken him to the spot where the treasure was buried. The narrator's father found the landmarks pointing to the treasure as the workman had described them. However, the land did not belong to him and he did not dig for the money. Later, the trees pointing to the treasure were cut down. (California Folklore Quarterly, I [1942], p. 166.)

100. California -- A sheepherder buried a large treasure near the Cahuenga Pass. (Los Angeles). One took bearing from two ash trees to locate it. However, the addi- tional instructions were lost. The trees were recently cut down to make way for a housing project. (Related by Mr. Ike Ijams, Canoga Park, California, November. 24, 1950.)

101. California -- During Prohibition, the narrator's father buried a large amount of brandy, fortified wine, and whisky on the family ranch in Chatsworth, dividing the store between two hills and a young orange orchard. The narrator's father died shortly afterward and did not amplify the instructions on a rude, nonscale map he had made. His two helpers were not able to help locate the cache later, although the narrator's mother did recover a small part of the store. The search has never been completely given up, although it is especially difficult, since much of the liquor was buried under sandstone slabs which prevent easy probing. The land- scape has been altered by the removal of much rock. The orange trees, too, have grown so that digging and probing in the orchard is physically difficult. (Related by Mrs. Virginia Ditto, Chatsworth, California, December 20, 1950.) ...

102. California-In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the young wife of a wealthy Mexican eloped to the United States with an American soldier. The aging husband converted his holdings into gold and attempted to follow and catch the fleeing pair. He failed to find them, however, and, growing old, settled in a little hut in Chatsworth (San Fernando Valley). The old recluse caused much speculation in the village where he traded with the narrator's uncle, Fred Graves, the sheriff and storekeeper. The old man always bought his supplies with gold. This supply of gold, the old Mexican's strange living habits, and his practice of whipping furiously the post outside his hut interested Graves, who was on the scene when the old man died. Mrs. Ditto thinks it was the wet winter of 1899. Her uncle, at any rate, although unable to learn the whereabouts of the Mexican's hoard, did notice a large empty hole, freshly dug at the base of a great tree near the house, as well as the...

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112  |  113  |  114  |  115  |  116  |  117  |  endnotes



Wayland D. Hand

In the folklore of buried treasure, as in most genres of folklore -- with the exception of proverbs and in the possible exception of folk song and balladry -- it is difficult to connect the American corpus with its Eurpoean antecedents. This is particularly true of the earliest body of materials, for which documentation is rare.

Through the work of Bartlett Jere Whiting, and others, the early deposit of proverbs of British provenience in America is well documented. [1] Whiting and Archer Taylor have shown that this basic Anglo-Saxon stock-in-trade continued in the oral tradition of this country throughout most of the nineteenth century. [2] The historical persistance of folk songs and ballads is not as easily documented. Being less literary in quality than proverbs, and longer and more difficult in form, these folk musical creations did not attain wide currency on the printed page -- the surest sign of popular documentation. Literary documentation, or even existence in cheap print -- almanacs, broadsides, pocket songsters, and the like -- however, is also a safe way of attesting the presence of folklore in an historical continuum, [3] as Wesselski showed long ago.

As for most genres of folklore, including proverbs and folk songs and ballads, the field collection of treasure lore did not begin in America until 1875. Even so, the basic stock of folklore in most fields had not been recovered until after the turn of the century, and the classification and compiling of lore was hardly underway at the beginning of the 1930s.

Our knowledge of American treasure lore, likewise, rests to a great extent on field materials collected during the last fifty years. The use of such collections, and other important sources, has proved somewhat fruitful for scholars interested in the folklore of buried treasure, mineral lodes, lost mines, and allied branches of legendry. A few good sources of treasure lore, from the nineteenth century and earlier [4] have been laid bare. Most such lore came from Europe; the earliest of it derives from Germany, the British lsles, and other parts of northwestern Europe. Colliers from Wales and hardrock miners from Cornwall brought the earliest mining lore to this country, and with it came a considerable amount of treasure lore as well.

A broad substrate of German mining and treasure lore is discernible, of course, in these earliest deposits. Washington Irving, for instance, writing under the pseudonym of Geoffrey Crayon, in his "Tales of a Traveller" and series of stories on "Money Diggers" (1824), has a long tale entitled "Wolfert Webber, or Golden Dreams." In this tale he tells of a treasure seeker by the name of Dr. Knipperhausen who had learned a great deal of treasure lore from miners in the Harz Mountains. [5] Knipperhausen insisted that buried money should be dug only at night, [6] and that the digging should be accompanied by mystic ceremonies. For this enterprise the seekers must provide themselves with a divining rod. [7] To avoid harm from the guardians of the treasure -- often evil spirits -- the seekers must inscribe


a magic circle around the treasure. [8] Another common motif from this same early period, also relating to the raising of buried treasure, deals with the taboos of silence. An attempt to secure a trove of Captain Kidd's pirate treasure -- buried at a site on Monhegan island, off the Main Coast -- failed upon the violation of a well-known taboo against speaking or uttering other sounds; the treasure was snatched away by the watchful spirits guarding it. [9] In Washington Irving's treatment of a typical Captain Kidd treasure trove, it is the devil himself who stands guard over the booty. [10] In an account reminiscent of German treasure lore, the devil either made a noise, created an apparition, or otherwise carried on in such a way as to frighten away the diggers. [11] In Irving's account the devil is made to preside at the original concealment of the pirate's treasure, and usually does so when the gain is ill-gotten. [12] Treasure tales involving Captain Kidd and other pirates have in modern legendry, and Granger has supplied an excellent list of sources. [13]

Washington Irving (1783-1859) was apparently the earliest major American author to concern himself with treasure lore. Later literary figures fascinated with the seeking of concealed treasure were were Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), Edgar Allan Poe (1809- 1849), and a lesser-known writer (one of the early local colorists), Rowland E. Robinson (1833-1900). None of these later writers expanded much on the themes found in Irving's series of sketches on "Money Diggers." Hawthorne and Poe exploited literary and creative values, and rarely reported whole treasure legends; Robinson, however, sought out rustics whose accounts often grace his pages. In David Folks, for instance, the prescription of silence while raising buried treasure is confirmed. [14] As we have seen, this is one of the most widely known beliefs connected with treasure lore. Robinson was interested not only in the unusual places where treasure was buried and otherwise concealed, but also in the characters and circumstances involved in the secreting of treasure. [15]

A body of treasure lore, richer than any found in the early writers of American fiction, came to light in connection with the money-digging exploits of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Mormon prophet. As a teenage lad young Smith, following in the footsteps of his father (Joseph Smith, Senior), gained the reputation as a money digger in Ontario County in the western part of New York State. For this purpose he used a peepstone he found while digging a well for one Clark Chase in 1826. [16] Smith's occult activities fit into the same matrix of adventure and speculation that fascinated Washington Irving and fall into the same general time frame. Fortunately for the student of these matters, there is a far greater body of treasure lore circulating in the oral tradition of New England, New York, and surrounding states than is adumbrated in Irving's "Money Diggers." The activities of Joseph Smith and his congeners provides a useful point of departure for a survey of this interesting body of folklore. The use of peepstones of various kinds, while not found in Irving's stories, was nevertheless well known in the areas of the Northeast mentioned. This aspect of treasure lore, along with many others, might have remained relatively unknown, had not the Book of Mormon account of Joseph Smith and the golden plates sparked interest and inquiry. The elucidation of the treasure lore -- and supplementary background material -- came not from Joseph Smith himself, but from those who sought to expose him. [17] Smith's apologists, quite as much as his detractors, amassed


(albeit piece by piece) a substantial body of information that shows the treasure lore of Joseph Smith's day reflected to a remarkable degree the folklore of treasure seeking that was common everywhere in northwestern Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century. While some contemporary accounts, derived from Joseph Smith's conviction on a disorderly conduct charge involved money digging (in 1826 at Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, [18] other sources have added treasure lore -- and kindred items of folklore -- current in Joseph Smith's time, and these have been augmented, but by bit, down to the present. Two Utah scholars, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, have written the definitive treatise on Joseph Smith and money digging, but their monograph goes beyond its central subject to provide a fine general compendium of treasure lore, divination, and related matters. [19]

Joseph Smith's celebrated peepstone -- a small, chocolate-colored oval stone about the size of a hen's egg -- was found in a well he was digging near Palmyra, New York in 1822. [20] He placed it in a hat to see what lay beneath the surface of the earth. [21] This same stone was later used in translating Mormon scriptures, but for this use it is referred to as the seer stone by church officials. [22] This seer's stone was brought to Utah, and exhibited as late as 1856, [23] but it could no longer be located in the Church Historian's Office by the 1920s when William A. Lund was Assistant Church Historian. [24] The confusion of this stone with the Urim and Thummim -- an archaic optical instrument consisting of two transparent, glasslike stones, set in silver bows in a manner suggestive of spectacles -- has added to the mystery surrounding the peepstone itself. [25]

Ordinary peepstones were somewhat of a rarity in Joseph Smith's day, and have remained so to this day, although they are occasionally reported. They have an apparent historical connection with the crystal stones, or crystal balls used for divinatory purposes, especially those used for the recovery of lost or stolen property. [27] This use is somewhat modified in the Pennsylvania German country, as Ann Mark's study shows; there the emphasis is mainly on the recovery of lost or stolen property. [28] As late as 1861, however, the Erz Spiegel, "ore mirror," or "Peep Stone," as it was called, was used in the same Pennsylvania German area for finding buried valuables. [29] In Cache Valley, Utah, early in the present century, an old woman operating a peepstone claimed to recover lost valuables, stolen articles, and straying cattle; J. Golden Kimball, one of the Seven Presidents of Seventies, recalled many years ago the use of a peepstone in the 1920s to locate cows that had wandered away. [30] Granger lists the use of earth mirrors, but the documentation is not heavy. [31]

Dowsing for metal and buried treasure, an art practiced since early times, [32] was a technique perhaps even more widely used than peepstones and earth mirrors during the early nineteenth century, and certainly dowsing has predominated down to thepresent day. In Vermont, around 1800, the famous "Wood Scrape" brought to public attention a widespread belief in the power of the divining rod, as used in dowsing for money and buried treasure. The followers of Nathaniel Wood, a religious cult leader, made use of the hazel rod -- not only for money digging, but for other kinds of divination, including the recovery of lost and stolen property. In the hands of Wood himself, the rod was used to determine matters of


sickness and health, and even to predict whether a patient would live or die. Oliver Cowdery's father, who lived at Wells, Vermont, was caught up in the divining rod excitement, and Oliver himself, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, is said to have acquired the gift, as acknowledged in the Book of Commandments of 1833. [34] Joseph Smith's father lived at Poultney, Vermont, at the time of the Wood movement, and likely knew of the divinatory powers of the hazel rod and forked stick before he learned of peepstones, ln the later New York period, Joseph Smith's father was adept in using the hazel rod to "work to the money," as he said, adding that one should not speak out loud, but only in a whisper, while manipulating the stick. [35] Like the peepstone, the rod could only be used to locate straying cows. [36] In connection with the use of peepstones and divining rods for the location of buried treasure and mineral lodes, the usual safeguards and other attendant circumstances are found in the early accounts in New England, New York, and surrounding states. The devil as an enchanter and guardian of treasure is mentioned in reports from Windsor, Vermont, and Wayne County, New York. [37] In the Joseph Capron affidavit made in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, 8 November 1833, his "Satanic Majesty" is represented as guardian of a chest of gold watches. [38] The devil, of course, is regarded as a keeper and enchanter of buried treasure. [39]

Belief in the guardianship of treasure by spirits and divinities is attested in the early period. According to an anti-Mormon by the name of William Stafford, Joseph Smith claimed to be able to see the spirits in charge of a certain buried cache of money; he described these guardians as being clothed in ancient dress. [40] Spirit guardians of treasure are of course, found commonly in the folklore of buried treasure, [41] as are ghostly officiants. [42]

William Stafford mentioned, in his 1833 aaffidavit, the allegation that an evil spirit was guarding a treasure. Likewise noted was a magic circle of stakes around three kegs of gold and silver which Joseph Smith sought to discover with his his peepstone. [43] For this operation strict silence was enjoined, in keeping with the common belief that the treasure will sink if a noise is made. Stafford reported the sacrifice of a black sheep to be part of the ritual of raising the treasure; such a practice is part and parcel of German treasure lore, where not only sheep and goats were used for the purpose, but other animals as well. [45]

The digging for treasure at night, as is commonly prescribed, is noted many times in these early documents. [46] Digging by moonlight, [47] and on Good Friday, [48] are also noted. Summertime is also mentioned as a favorable time for digging the reason given is that heat causes treasure chests to rise in the earth. [49] The rising and sinking of treasures in the earth is not often encountered in the early writings about Joseph Smith's treasure digging adventures, even though it is a motif common to treasure lore. In one case mentioned, however, an evil spirit causes the money to sink. [50] Other slippages are reported by the Tanners, including an account by Martin Harris of the slipping back into the Hill Cumorah of some chests after the golden plates had been found. [51] A Book of Mormon account of treasures slipping into the earth is related in Helaman 13:34-36. [52] Joseph Smith himself does not mention this familiar bit of treasure lore, but as we shall presently see, Brigham Young knew about these matters.


In view of the foregoing treatment, which concerns Joseph Smith's congeners more than it does Smith himself, it is somewhat ironic that apart from owning and operating a peepstone and knowing something about dowsing and witching for water, Joseph Smith did not really possess any encompassing knowledge of treasure lore, at least according to the written record. Smith's successor, Brigham Young, proved far more knowledgeable in this realm of occult theory and practice. Like Smith, Young was an easterner, but it was in Utah, in the year of his death (1877) that Brigham Young recapitulated the treasure lore that he had gained during a long and colorful life. I do not have at my command references to Brigham Young's youth in New England (which coincided with the time of Nathaniel Wood's divining-rod cult), but he could hardly have escaped exposure to the kinds of treasure lore that almost every young person would be likely to hear about from his fellows and from older people. Young's preoccupation with mining the mineral wealth of Utah -- even though he was opposed to the exploitation of these resources by outside capital -- kept the subject of mineral treasure ever fresh in his mind. In an epochal conference address at Farmington, Utah, 17 June 1877, Brigham Young talked about the movement of treasure within the earth, not only about the familiar matters of the rising and sinking of treasures, but also of their removal from place to place, "according to the good pleasure of Him who made them and owns them." [53] Young's attribution of treasure-guardianship to God departs radically from the usual notion of folklore that the devil and other creatures of lower mythology, including dwarfs, have dominion over the earth's mineral treasure. [54] Young's ideas on the motion of treasure stored in subterranean caves, however, accords with German treasure lore, and possibly is the basis for Bishop John Koyle's fanciful notions of large galleries of rooms piled high with ancient Nephitish treasure in Salem, Utah's celebrated Dream Mine. [55]

The aspects of treasure lore treated in these pages do not convey any adequate notion of the stock-in-trade of American treasure lore that has come down to us; this article is intended simply as a survey of materials documented at the beginning of the nineteenth century. [56] Even with much industry, and a lot of good luck, it will not be possible to create for treasure lore -- or for other categories of folk belief, folk legend, and custom -- the kind of literary documentation that one is able to do for proverbs, which l used as a gambit to approach a present-day problem of folklore scholarship. lf one can trace individual proverbs back to early sources, including Alfred the Great himself, through a succession of manuscripts or published collections, one would have to make similar efforts for at least a couple of hundred years to trace certain essentially undocumented kinds of material, of the


sort we have been examining in this paper. Along this general line of reasoning, the credit for expanding our knowledge of early nineteenth-century treasure lore from a totally unexpected source belongs to Jerald and Sandra Tanner, not to the writer of this article. In another paper I might be tempted to try to show the kinds of treasure motifs not yet found, that the student of these matters in the historical continuum should be aware of. Even so, the works of Granger, Hurley, and Probert are quite adequate for the purpose, and well demonstrate how rich American treasure lore really is when properly marshalled. It should be a matter of great satisfaction to everyone to know that Linda Degh and her students are enlisted in this important effort.

University of California
Los Angeles


1 Bartlett Jere Whiting, Early American Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1977).

2 Archer Taylor and Bartlett Jere Whiting, A Dictionary of American Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases, 1820-1880 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1956).

3 The Alabama Folk Lyric: A Study in Origin and Media Dissemination (Bowling Green, Ohio; Popular Press, 1979).

4 Among the few scholars especially concerned with treasure lore should be mentioned J. Frank Dobie, with two book titles: Coronado's Children (Dallas: Southwest Press, 1930); Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1928; and a substantial body of treasure lore in Legends of Texas (Austin: Texas Folklore Society, 1924). See also Gerard T. Hurley, "Buried Treasure Tales in America," Western Folklore 10 (1951): 197-216, which contains an excellent general bibliography; Byrd Howell Granger, A Motif Index for Lost Mines and Treasures Applied to Redaction of Arizona Legends, and to the Lost Mine and Treasure Legends Exterior to Arizona (FFC #218, 1977); Thomas Probert, Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of the West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977). Probert, for example, contains no fewer than sixty-three references to Dobie's writings on treasure lore.

5 Washington Irving, Complete Works. Godfrey Crayon Edition, 27 vols. (Boston: G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1851-1869), vol. 4, p. 528.

6 Granger, motif h 1.5. See also the Handworter buch des Deutschen Aberglaubens, 10 vols. (Berlin and Leipzig, 1927-1942, vol. 7, p. 1006. Hereinafter cited HDA.

7 Irving, p. 529. HDA, vol. 7, p. 1007.

8 Irving,p. 535. See HDA, vol. 7, p. 1008.

9 Charles M. Skinner, Myths & Legends of Our Own Land, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1896), vol. 2, p. 259. For general reference see Granger, Motif h 3.1.

10 HDA, vol. 7, p. 1004; Granger, Motif g 3.4.

11 "Kidd the Pirate," Geoffrey Crayon Edition, vol. 4, p. 445. See HDA, vol. 7, p. 1010, where the devil fakes a fire at the mill, in the village, or in the forest, to make the diggers break silence.

12 Irving, vol 4, p. 449.

13 Granger, Motif c 4.2. See also Hurley #24, 34, 48.

14 Rowland E. Robinson, Danvis Folks, ed. Llewellyn R. Perkins, 9 vols, (Rutland, Vermont, 1933-1937), vol 3, p. 164.


15 Granger lists a full range of those who bury treasure, from various kinds of individuals to groups and even fleeing armies, together with the circumstances of hiding the treasure from view, including places chosen (pp. 174-211), motifs sections a, b, c, d. Cf. Hurley, pp. 19B-200.

16 B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), vol. 1, p. 129.

17 Joseph Smith's principal detractor was E.D. Howe, a contemporary writer, who published Mormonism Unvailed (sic) (Painesville, [Ohio], 1834).

18 For the text of the charges see Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), Appendix A, pp. 405-407.

19 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Joseph Smith & Money Digging (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Company, 1970).

20 The finding of treasure or other other valuables while digging a well is a motif listed in Granger, motif n 1.5.1.

21 Tanner and Tanner, p. 4.

22 Roberts, vol. 1, p. 129; also thus denominated and described by John A. Widtsoe and George Q. Cannon. See Tanner and Tanner, p. 5.

23 Tanner and Tanner, p. 7, quoting from On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, vol. 2, p. 593.

24 Tanner and Tanner, p. 13.

25 Ibid., pp. 9-10.

26 Ibid., p, 10, quoting Russell Hope Robbins, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (New York: Crown Publishers, 1959), pp. 137-38. See Skinner, vol. 2, p. 2B2, for the use of a crystal pebble in Connecticut in 1B27.

27 HDA, vol. 7, p. 1002.

28 Ann Hark, "Erdspiegel Mystery," Aierican-Genan Review 7 (June, 1941): 9-11. 29 Pennsylvania

29 Pennsylvania...

30 Tanner and Tanner, p. 11.

31 Granger

32 HDA, vol. 9, pp. 823-39, under Wumschelrute; vol. 7, p. 1007, under Schatz. The vast bibliography of dowsing, but particularly water witching, is to be found in Arthus Jackson Ellis, The Divining Rod: A History of Water Witching, with a Bibliography (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Geological Survey Paper #416, 1938).

33 Vermont Historical Gazeteer (Claremont, New Hampshire, 1877), vol. 3, pp. 810-14, 818-19, as quoted in Tanner and Tanner, pp. 16-17. Hazel, of course, is the fabled wood for dowsing rods and forked sticks for water witching. See HDA, vol. 3, pp. 1538-39, under Hasel; vol. 9, pp. 828-29, under Wunschelrute.

34 Chapter 7:3.

35 Affidavit of Peter Ingersoll, Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, 2 December 1833, as reproduced in photo-offset by Tanner and Tanner from E. D. Howe's Mormonism Unvailed, p. 232.

36. Ibid., p. 234

37 Wayne Sentinel, 16 February, 1835 (reprinted from the Windsor [Vermont] Journal) and 22 October 1825, as quoted in Tanner and Tanner, pp. 2, 4. 3

38 Howe, pp. 259-60.

39 HDA, vol. 7, p. 1004; Granger. motif g 3.4; Hurley, p. 205, #13.

40 Affidavit made in Manchester, New York, 8 December 1833, as quoted in Howe, p. 238.

41 HDA, vol. 7, pp. 1004-1005; Granger, motifs c 3.6 (elf, goose, troll, fairy), c 3.8 (undesignated spirits, including evil spirits); Hurley, p. 201. For a treatment of the spirits as guardians of mineral lodes and treasures see Wayland D. Hand, "Folklore from Utah's Silver Mining Camps," JAF 54 (1941): 144-48; "California Miner's Folklore: Below Ground," California Folklore Quarterly 1 (1942): 128-33; "The Folklore, Customs and Traditions of the Butte Miners," California Folklore Quarterly 5 (1946): 2-10.

42 Howe, p. 259 (Ghosts and infernal spirits); HDA, vol. 7, p. 1004; Granger, motifs g 3.1, g 3.1.1; Hurley, p. 201.

43 Howe, p. 238.

44 HDA, vol. 7, pp. 1009-1010. This silence iust be observed until one has safely returned with the treasure and is under his own eaves (Col. 1009).


45 HDA, vol. 7, p. 1007; Granger, motif h 19.6 (and h 19.6.1, h 19.6.2, h 19.6.3).

46 Howe, pp. 237, 239, 249. See HDA, vol. 7, p. 1006; Granger, motifs h 1.5, h 1.1, h 1.2.1.

47 Howe, p. 238. See Granger, motifs h 1.6, h 1.6.1, h 1.6.2.

48 Howe, p. 238. See HDA, vol 7, p. 1005; Granger, motif h 1.8.1.

49 Howe, p. 233.

50 Ibid., p. 239.

51 Tanner and Tanner, p. 2.

52 Ibid., p. 15. In the legend at the beginning of Chapter 13, there is an entry "Slippery Treasures."

53 Journal of Discourses, vol. 19, pp. 36-39, as cited in Tanner and Tanner, pp. 2-3. Young follows traditional notions about the rising and sinking of treasures, and their movements. See HDA, vol. 7, p. 1002.

54 HDA, vol. 7, p. 1004. At Judgement Day, it is said, all treasures not raised will fall to the devil by default. See Also Granger, motif g 3.4.

55 Wayland D. Hand, "Folklore froi Utah's Silver Mining Caips," JAF 54 (1941): 132-61, especially pp. 138-39. For German lore on treasure caves, see HDA, vol. 7, p. 1002; cf. Granger, motif a 2.10.

56 Entries in the files of the Dictionary of American Popular Beliefs and Superstitions at UCLA indicate our efforts to fill out the canon. French and Spanish materials from throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico are slowly being added to the corpus of Anglo-American and German treasure lore already in place.

from: American Quarterly, Spring, 1986 XXXVIII:1
Copyright © 1986 American Studies Association
Only limited, fair-use excerpts reproduced

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[ 6 ]

The Early Republic's Supernatural Economy:
Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830

Alan Taylor
Institute of Early American History and Culture

In 1804 Daniel Lambert's neighbors in the rural town of Canaan, Maine of the upper Kennebec River Valley were impressed by his apparent new wealth. According to the traveler Edward Augustus Kendall, Lambert, like most of his

John Quidor, Money Diggers (1832), Courtesy, The Brooklyn Museum.

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     7

neighbors, had been a poor farmer and logger "in a very abject condition of life." So it attracted intense and widespread interest when Lambert and his two grown sons suddenly appeared in public mounted on good horses and wearing expensive clothes: twin marks of successful gentlemen. They ceased working on their homestead and idled their days away in the taverns of Canaan and adjoining Norridgewock. Daniel Lambert added immeasurably to his local popularity by buying round after round for his neighbors who gathered there to drink and gape at his fine appearance. He increased their consternation by ostentatiously lighting his pipe with burning bank-notes. [1]

Lacking any other apparent explanation, his neighbors attributed Daniel Lambert's sudden wealth to the discovery of buried pirate treasure. Despite Canaan's location dozens of miles from navigation, the inhabitants readily believed that Lambert had found a treasure chest because, as Kendall explained, "The settlers of Maine, like all the other settlers in New England indulge an unconquerable expectation of finding money buried in the earth." Indeed, back-country folk insisted that troves of pirate treasure guarded by evil spirits pockmarked the New England countryside even in locales far from the coast. Daniel Lambert's reputed occult skills in handling divining rods further encouraged his neighbors' suspicions. Initially, the Lamberts remained guardedly mum, but in time hints of discovered treasure escaped from Daniel's lips. He needed to say no more, for rapid word-of-mouth fleshed out the remaining details. "Lambert was pronounced to be one of those fortunate persons who, born under a certain planetary aspect, are endowed with various and extraordinary powers: and he was soon found to possess enchanted mineral rods, which had been grown in the mystic form, and been cut at the proper age of the moon," Kendall recorded. Soon "nothing was talked of but Lambert and his gold; and every day gave birth to new histories of the chest that had been found, and of its immeasurable contents." Lambert confirmed the reports by publicly demonstrating his divining ability to locate a gold coin buried, as a test, in a field. [2]

Lambert's apparent good fortune inspired his neighbors' fervent hopes of discovering, and intense efforts to secure, their own treasure chests. Kendall quoted an eyewitness to the intense excitement: "All hands are digging in search of money, to the neglect of tilling their lands, and securing their crops. Days and nights are spent by many person, in digging up old swamps and deserts, sixty, seventy and eighty miles from navigation." Lambert encouraged this emulation by assisting several digging parties. In 1851 John W. Hanson recalled, "Gradually, he inoculated the entire population of the Kennebec valley with a treasure-seeking mania, and people in all conditions of life, were found digging from Anson to Seguin, and all along the coast, even to Rhode Island." Hanson concluded, "The excitement so universal and intense, can hardly be realized at the present day." It ended in June, 1804, when Lambert's sudden disappearance revealed that he had discovered no chest, but had led his neighbors on in order to obtain their livestock on undeserved credit. [3]

... [missing line of text] ...

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... two questions. First, was this a unique episode, or evidence of a widespread and systematic set of beliefs? In other words, how accurate was Kendall's assessment that many rural Yankees believed in the widespread existence of treasure chests and in the possibility of employing occult techniques to discover and recover them? If Kendall was essentially correct, a second question follows: why did this particular and peculiar set of beliefs thrive in the rural Northeast during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and what do these treasure beliefs tell us about the concerns and aspirations of these rural folk? Travelers' accounts from this period stress just what a sharp dealer the rural Yankee was. Similarly, recent investigations of rural transactions and economic relationships reveal shrewd complexity and precise calculations. Why did such astute people cherish incredible fantasies of finding buried treasure? The persistence of this complex of implausible beliefs in the face of repeated frustration argues that they were important to sustaining the rural Yankee's self-image and way of life. Treasure seeking offers valuable insight into the world-view of rural Americans prior to the industrial revolution -- a subject of great current interest to early American historians. [4]

Treasure seeking's proliferation was symptomatic of the early Republic's rapid population growth, geographic expansion, cultural volatility, and economic transition to capitalism in the hinterlands. Treasure seeking lay at the murky intersection of material aspiration and religious desire; it possessed a dual nature: functioning at once as a supernatural economy (an alternative to a disappointing natural economy) and as a materialistic faith (an alternative to unsatisfactory abstract religion). Treasure seeking met the needs of some people who felt troubled by their culture's increasing premium on possessive individualism and religious voluntarism, by promising both quick wealth and a sense of power over the supernatural world. [5]


Because few treasure seekers left any documents, and because no institution recorded their activities, no precise calculation of treasure-hunting episodes is possible. Yet a canvas of travelers' accounts, town histories, and other antiquarian sources for the American Northeast documents over forty incidents where groups of rural folk employed occult techniques to seek buried treasure, generally in very unlikely inland locales, and usually during the fifty years between 1780 and 1830 (see Table 1). Most episodes involved small parties, handfuls of men bound to share equally in any discoveries. Tradition held that a minimum of three (a particularly magical number that occurs repeatedly in treasure lore) seekers was essential for a successful dig. In 1831 the Palmyra, New York newspaper described the previous decade's widespread treasure seeking:

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     9

The MANIA of money-digging soon began rapidly to diffuse itself through many parts of the country; men and women without distinction of age or sex became marvelous wise in the occult sciences, many dreamed, and others saw visions disclosing to them deep in the bowels of the earth, rich and shining treasures, and to facilitate those mighty mining operations... divers devices and implements were invented, and although the SPIRIT was always able to retain his precious charge, these discomfited as well as deluded beings would on a succeeding night return to their toil, not in the least doubting that success would eventually attend their labors.
In 1825 a Windsor, Vermont newspaper observed, "We could name, if we pleased, at least five hundred respectable men who do in the simplicity and sincerity of their hearts believe that immense treasures lie concealed upon our Green Mountains, many of whom have been for a number of years industriously and perseveringly engaged in digging it up." [6]

Treasure seekers left behind considerable monuments attesting to their fervor, industry, and numbers. Writing in 1729 from Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Breitnal noted, "You can hardly walk half a mile out of Town on any side, without observing several Pits dug with that Design, and perhaps some lately opened." In Pittston, Maine's "Pebble Hills" diggers excavated pits eighty feet deep. In Frankfort, Maine, a century of treasure seeking leveled a hundred-foot gravel mound named "Codlead"; observers estimated that the diggers removed enough soil to lay a twenty-mile railroad bed. A mid-nineteenth-century writer noted that rural New England abounded "in excavations, like those of the gold regions of California." Seekers dug dozens of tunnels into the solid rock face of a Bristol, Vermont cliff in futile search for a lost Spanish mine. In the later nineteenth century a visitor to the town found the surface of Bristol Notch "literally honeycombed with holes a few feet in depth, where generation after generation of money-diggers have worked their superstitious energies...." William Little of Weare, New Hampshire noted, "Great holes, found in many wild, out-of-the-way places, made nobody knows by whom, show how many silent parties have dug in the night of [Captain] Kidd's gold." [7]

The varied accounts of rural treasure seeking describe a remarkably similar phenomenon throughout the American Northeast. The presumed identity of the treasure buriers was the only significant variation between regions. In New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York, and all of New England except Vermont tradition attributed the treasures to seventeenth-century pirates and especially to Captain Kidd. In Vermont this tradition overlapped with rumors that early Spanish explorers had opened, abandoned, and sealed mines filed with valuable ores and coins. The Yankee settlers in western New York and northern Pennsylvania could search for Captain Kidd's treasures, Spanish mines and coin caches, robbers' plunder, lost Revolutionary War payrolls, and the antediluvian hoards left behind by America's presumed original, ancient

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inhabitants. The eclecticism resembled the area's religious diversity. Further west, in the upper Ohio Valley, the Kidd tradition dissipated and a mixture of lost Spanish mines and ancient Indian treasures lured the treasure seekers. [8]

Seekers preferred to dig during the summer because, as Joseph Smith, Sr., of Palmyra, New York explained, "the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground." Almost all seekers insisted that digging could only succeed at night, particularly between midnight and dawn. They also thought that the phase of the moon affected their chances of success, but disagreed over whether a new moon or a full moon drew treasure chests closer to the surface. [9]

Dreams, especially if thrice repeated, guided seekers to a suspected treasure. For example, after an angel appeared three times in a dream to Joseph Smith, Jr., the Mormon prophet, he hurried to the indicated spot near Palmyra, New York and discovered his "Golden Bible." Apparently the rural Yankee's subconscious was peculiarly concerned with finding money. In the 1780s Silas Hamilton of Whitingham, Vermont kept an elaborate journal of every treasure rumor he could collect. His journal records forty-four informants' information about thirty-two treasures located in twenty-two different communities from the Hudson Valley to Maine's Seguin Island and reaching into inland Vermont and New Hampshire. Dreams revealed the location of nineteen of those treasures. [10]

In the early nineteenth century, treasure seekers turned increasingly to "seerstones" or "peep-stones" as a more ready and reliable alternative to dreams. To obtain visions revealing a treasure's location, a "glass-looker" or "seer" placed his stone in a hat and stuck his face in so as to exclude all light, sometimes staring for hours at a stretch. The seer-stone of an eighteen-year-old Rochester, New York boy named Smith (apparently no relation to Joseph Smith, Jr.) was described as "a round stone the size of a man's fist" that on one side displayed "all the dazzling splendor of the sun in full blaze -- and on the other, the clearness of the moon." A seer needed to find the particular stone that was right for him. At age fourteen, Joseph Smith, Jr., of Palmyra. New York looked into a hat at the stone belonging to another seer; according to Smith's father, "It proved not to be the right stone for him; but he could see some things, and, among them, he saw the stone, and where it was, in which he could see whatever he wished to see." Digging at that spot uncovered the stone that enabled the future Mormon prophet to begin his career as a seer. [11]

To ascertain the precise spot to dig, the seekers employed a divining rod: a freshly-cut, forked witch hazel (or, sometimes a peach) branch with one eighteen to twenty-four inch prong held in each fist and the third, center prong pointing directly away from the "conductor," who addressed his rod in a soft whisper, "work to the money." Then he advanced "with a slow and creeping step" over the suspected spot until a strong downward jerk indicated the proper spot. In a June 18, 1825 letter Joseph Smith, Jr. described an alternative method to divine treasure with a rod:

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     11

you Should not dig more untill you first discover if any valluables remain you know the treasure must be guarded by some clever spirit and if such is discovered so also is the treasure so do this take a hasel stick one yard long being new Cut and cleave it Just in the middle and lay it asunder on the mine so that both inner parts of the stick may look one right against the other one inch distant and if there is treasure after a while you shall see them draw and Join together again of themselves let me know how it is. [12 - note: forgery]
As Smith's letter indicates, locating a treasure was but the early and relatively easy stage in the long, complex process of recovery; it was merely the preliminary to the real challenge of wresting the treasure away from its fierce guardian spirits, the ghosts of men sacrificed by the treasure buriers. Spirits did their job well, staging terrifying spectacles and frightening noises to scare off the treasure seekers. In Palmyra and Manchester, New York during the 1820s the seekers tied, once, when a nearby log schoolhouse "was suddenly lighted up," again when "a large man who appeared to be eight or nine feet high came and sat on the ridge of the [nearby] barn, and motioned to them that they must leave," and, a third time, when a spectral company of horsemen charged their hole. [13]

To fend off the guardian spirits, the seekers laid out protective magic circles, or, better still, three concentric circles, around the digging ground. For some seekers a surrounding groove scooped out with a silver spoon or incised with a sword blade sufficed. The failure of these relatively simple circles encouraged experimentation with ever more elaborate designs. In 1833 William Stafford of Manchester, New York described one of Joseph Smith, Sr.'s magic circles:
Joseph Sen. first made a circle twelve or fourteen feet in diameter. This circle, said he contains the treasure. He then stuck in the ground a row of witch hazel sticks, around the said circle for the purpose of keeping off the evil spirits. Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter. He walked around three times on the periphery of the last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand. He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles, and then enjoined profound silence upon us lest we should arouse the evil spirit who had charge of these treasures.
A party led by his son, Joseph Smith, Jr., drove stakes around their circle and one man with a drawn and brightly polished sword orbited the digging site, while the rest shoveled. Ritual readings from astrological tracts and religious books frequently figured in the more complex circles. During the 1820s in the upper Ohio Valley diggers broke the enchantment, known there as "the single and double Spanish cross," placed by departing Spaniards over their mines, by laying out a circle large enough to enclose all their tailings; then they dropped nine new nails around the circle at equal distances; during the digging the conductor walked the circle "with the course of the sun" while reading a chapter in the "Apocrypha" where the angel Raphael exorcises the devil. [14]

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Because the buriers had spilled blood to fix guardian spirits over their treasure, seekers often spilled animal's blood around or in their circles to help break the protective enchantment. In 1807, as a ten-year-old boy in Catskill, New York, the future publisher and Republican politician Thurlow Weed participated in a party of seekers who brought along a black cat and cut its throat over the digging ground, "and the precise spot was indicated by the direction the blood spurted." Joseph Smith, Jr., reputedly sacrificed either pure white or jet black sheep or dogs to lay out magic circles of blood. In the 1780s Silas Hamilton, Whitingham, Vermont's most enterprising treasure seeker, recorded in his journal a particularly elaborate design for a magic circle:
tak nine Steel Rods about ten or twelve inches in Length Sharp or Piked to Perce into the Erth, and let them be Besmeared with fresh blood from a hen mixed with hogdung. Then mak two surkels round the hid Treasure one of Sd surkles a Little Larger in Surcumference than the hid Treasure lays in the Erth the other Surkel Sum Larger still. and as the hid treasure is wont to move to the North of South, East or West Place your Rods as is Discribed on the other Sid of this leaf.
A diagram on the reverse side of the journal page showed the rods placed between the two circles with their heads alternately on the inner and outer circle, totally surrounding the treasure. [15]

To preserve their magic circle's efficacy, seekers strictly adhered to "the rule of silence," for any spoken word would, at least, cause the treasure to settle beyond their reach into the bowels of the earth or, at worst, imperil their lives by unleashing enraged spirits. By creating some frightening spectacle, spirits often provoked the seekers into involuntary cries of alarm. Sometimes a mishap caused them to cry out. When one member of a Middletown, Vermont digging party stepped on the foot of another, he bellowed, "Get off from my toes." The conductor sprang out of the hole, yelling, "The money is gone, flee for your lives" and all followed him in terrified flight. More often some digger exclaimed with joy when he struck a suspected treasure chest, only to lapse into dismay, if not terror, as his hasty words caused the chest to plunge out of reach. In 1814 a party of Rochester, New York treasure seekers barely escaped with their lives when the conductor exclaimed, "Damn me, I've found it!" With that, a local newspaper recorded, "The charm was broken! -- the scream of demons -- the chattering of spirits -- and hissing of serpents rent the air, and the treasure moved." No doubt the rule of silence helped put a lid on expressions of doubt and futility, and thereby kept a party at their task. If some disgruntled member did give vent to his frustration he became, for the others, the scapegoat for failure. [16]

Yet even if the diggers located a treasure, carefully laid out their circles, and proceeded in perfect silence, success usually eluded them, for, upon striking a suspected treasure chest the seekers confronted their final challenge: to break the

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     13

enchantment. If they failed to do so, when they reached for the chest the spiteful spirits would violently attack, or simply wrest the chest away at the last minute. In 1804 an eyewitness reported the Kennebec Valley seekers' repeated frustrations, "Doleful sighs and dismal noises are heard; the chest moves in the earth, almost out of their very hands!" In 1826 Jonathan Thompson, one of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s compatriots, testified in court that "on account of enchantment, the trunk kept settling away from under them while digging; that notwithstanding they continued constantly removing the dirt, yet the trunk kept about the same distance from them." Most chests moved down deeper into the earth but one avidly sought pot of money in Braintree, Vermont moved horizontally; when diggers neared "the pot moved, the ground being seen to rise and fall in the direction in which the treasure took its departure." At one point the persistent seekers trapped the elusive pot by surrounding it with a magic circle of "old scythes stuck upright in the ground to prevent its escape." Unfortunately, a jealous onlooker pulled up one of the scythes and allowed the pot to flee. [17]

Occasional accidental discoveries of small coin caches along the New England coast encouraged the seekers, but few, if any, of the purposeful parties ever bested the guardian spirits (with the possible exception of Joseph Smith, Jr., and his "Golden Bible"). Nonetheless, seekers persisted year after year, decade after decade, even generation after generation. John W. Hanson noted that in Pittston, Maine despite unceasing failure, "there has hardly been a single summer which has not found men, wasting their time, and presenting a spectacle of folly, as they sifted and examined the locality for gold. As late as last year, 1851, there were several who were thus at work." Similarly, treasure diggers continued to excavate nocturnally in the hills of Pennsylvania's Susquehanna County and Vermont's Green Mountains into the 1870s. [18]

These treasure tales' fantastic details suggest that they were nothing more than folklore, elaborate fictions bearing little or no resemblance to actual events. Some may have been tall tales woven to explain away failures, a way of turning personal humiliations into public entertainment for the treasure seeker, to escape public ridicule by emerging as a locally celebrated storyteller with a good tale to tell. At other times fraudulent conductors enlisted assistants or the power of suggestion to shape the impressions of their jumpy and credulous followers. Yet some evidence does not fit these simple explanations of defensive or calculated deceit: contemporary letters, affidavits, and court depositions in which treasure seekers soberly described their confrontations with spirits. And seekers usually impressed contemporary observers with an utter conviction that their supernatural encounters had been real. Waitsfield, Vermont's nineteenth century chronicler wrote of a local treasure seeker, "The most ridiculous part of the matter, is the fact well attested, that Mr. Savage believed all this, as long as he lived, and was never ridiculed out of it." Similarly, Martin Harris of Palmyra, New York believed his treasure-seeking neighbors' tales of spectral

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appearances because different participants on separate occasions related the same details "and they seemed in earnest -- I knew they were in earnest." In an October 23, 1830 letter describing his confidence in Joseph Smith, Jr.'s supernatural powers, Harris matter-of-factly recounted:
Joseph Smith Jr. first come to my notice in the year 1824. In the summer of that year I contracted with his father to build a fence on my property. In the course of that work I approach Joseph & ask how it is in a half day you put up what requires your father & 2 brothers a full day working together? He says I have not been with out assistance but can not say more only you better find out. The next day I take the older Smith by the arm & he says Joseph can see any thing he wishes by looking at a stone. Joseph often sees Spirits here with great kettles of coin money. It was spirits who brought up rock because Joseph made no attempt on their money. I latter dream I converse with spirits which let me count their money. When I awake I have in my hand a dollar coin which I take for a sign. Joseph describes what I seen in every particular. Says he, the spirits are grieved, so I through back the dollar.
Harris felt no need to explain to his correspondent, William W. Phelps of Canandagua, New York what strikes a modern eye as inexplicable. Writing in 1826, a skeptical but fair-minded observer provided the soundest assessment: "If there be a fraud, the diviners themselves are the first deceived, and the greatest dupes." [19 - forgery]

These supernatural encounters were very "real" to those who experienced them. Childhood exposure to treasure tales and their careful performance of elaborate ceremonies at the digging site created a nervous expectation to see the extraordinary. Long hours of strenuous, nighttime digging by flickering lanterns in dark, remote, and cold locales engendered exhaustion. Adherence to strict procedures, especially the rule of silence, produced sustained tension. Finally, seekers tended to bring along a generous supply of alcohol and drank freely to fortify their nerves and warm their bodies. These circumstances developed their anxiously expectant frame of mind to the point that one participant's suggestion, or any unexpected sight or sound, could trigger a group hallucination. Subsequent, repeated narration to others rapidly confirmed, refined, and elaborated the experience.


The American treasure seekers' beliefs were neither indigenous nor new. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries their English and German forbears avidly employed divining rods, magic circles, astrological books, and religious rituals to wrest supposedly abundant buried treasures from evil guardian spirits. Until the mid-eighteenth century any New England treasure seekers kept a very low profile because of Puritanism's rigorous hostility to magic. But Pennsylvania's religious tolerance promoted an ethnic and religious diversity that allowed magic

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     15

to prosper, particularly in association with German pietism and Quaker mysticism. In 1729 a Philadelphia newspaper essay by Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Breitnal described local treasure seeking's extent:
There are amongst us great numbers of honest Artificers and laboring People, who fed with a vain Hope of growing suddenly rich, neglect their Business, almost to the ruining of themselves and Families, and voluntarily endure abundance of fatigue in a fruitless search after imaginary treasures. They wander thro' the Woods and Bushes by Day to discover the Marks and signs; at Midnight they repair to the hopeful spot with Spades and Pickaxes; full of Expectation they labour violently, trembling at the same time in every Joint, thro fear of certain malicious Demons who are said to haunt and guard such Places. [20]
Apparently, it was not until the late eighteenth century that treasure seeking proliferated in the Yankees' new back-country settlements in northern New England and western New York. Settling there created both the opportunity and the desire to practice treasure seeking. Migration to the frontier removed settlers from the chilling influence of "enlightened" gentlemen and learned clergy equally hostile to occult beliefs as "irrational superstition," and as proof that rural folk were all too ready to forsake the disciplined labor that was their proper duty. Kendall quoted a gentleman who insisted, "[treasure seekers] become insolent and saucy, neglect economy and industry, and every benefit to society; and moral habits decay, wherever these ideas prevail." By the late eighteenth century rural Yankees were not immune to their wider culture's increasing emphasis on measuring a man's worth by his ability to accumulate wealth. However, they settled in back-country district[s] where poor soil, a harsh climate, and relative isolation from markets impeded their acquisition of prosperity from the natural economy. None of these circumstances "determined" that the hill folk would seek treasure. A multitude of religious sects and voluntary societies offered their adherents a variety of formulas for greater order and security in an increasingly fluid and disconcerting world. Treasure hunting with occult methods was but another response to the same social flux. [21]

For lack of quantifiable sources, the economic and social status of those who employed occult techniques to dig for buried treasure cannot be ascertained with precision. Literary sources indicate that in the early eighteenth century treasure seeking was not unknown among men of property and extensive education. But, as with witchcraft beliefs in the previous century, treasure beliefs lost their elite adherents to the Enlightenment's secular rationality. Thomas Forrest's satirical 1767 play on treasure seekers, The Disappointment: or the Force of Credulity suggested that the emerging cultural division over magic emerged along the lines of social class. The plot revolved around "four humorous gentlemen" making dupes out of four treasure-seeking tradesmen; a paternalistic desire to disabuse their humbler neighbors and restore them to "honesty and industry" and to a resigned contentment "with their respective stations" motivated the four gentlemen. [22]

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This contempt for treasure seeking became universal among the genteel by the early nineteenth as part of their wider criticism of the common folk for inadequate ambition, lackluster work discipline, labor, and attachment to tradition. These critics saw treasure seeking as one more irrational obstacle to the necessary re-education of rural folk to perform properly in a more enlightened, more commercial world. In 1826 an astute observer noted that "from north to south, from east to west" many "respectable" men "of large information, and of the most exemplary lives" continued to believe that divining rods could detect underground water; but "in all parts of the land, if the diviner hunts for metals, he becomes distrusted by the better sort of men." In 1842 the young Boston Brahmin and future historian Francis Parkman visited the ruins of Fort William Henry on the banks of Lake George, New York. He found "that some fools had come up the lake with a wizard and a divining rod to dig for money in the ruins. They went at midnight for many successive nights and dug till daylight." This contributed to Parkman's sour conclusion: "There would be no finer place of gentlemen's seats than this, but now, for the most part, it is occupied by a race of boors about as uncouth, mean, and stupid as the hogs they seem chiefly to delight in." [23]

This attitude appears in James Fenimore Cooper's 1823 novel The Pioneers, a fictional account of the settlement of Cooperstown, his childhood village in western New York. Marmaduke Temple (the novelist's scarcely disguised father, the wealthy land-speculator Judge William Cooper) denounces a treasure seeker named Jotham Riddle as "that dissatisfied, shiftless, lazy, speculating fellow! He who changes his county every three years, his farm every six months, and his occupation every season." Riddle is fatally burned in a forest fire while pursuing his folly. On his deathbed he explained that "his reasons for believing in a mine were extracted from the lips of a sibyl, who, by looking in a magic glass, was enabled to discover the hidden treasures of the earth. Such superstition was frequent in the new settlements; and after the first surprise was over, the better part of the community forgot the subject." [24]

Treasure beliefs persisted among rural folk with locally defined intellectual horizons. An observer considered seekers as "the simple-hearted people in the agricultural districts of the country." Another writer described Morris County's seekers as "aged, abstemious, honest, judicious, simple church members." The extensive treasure seeking inspired by Daniel Lambert captured the interest of virtually everyone, male and female, prosperous and poor, in the Kennebec Valley, with the noteworthy exception of the merchants -- those with the widest knowledge of, and most regular ties with, the outside world of commerce and ideas. Schooled in oral traditions and the Bible, rural folk clung to their belief in the direct intervention of spiritual beings in their daily lives. In Morris County, New Jersey during the 1780s "the generality were apprehensive of witches riding them" inflicting illnesses on their families, disturbing their livestock, and interfering with the churning of butter. Consequently the inhabitants were ready

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     17

to "spend much time in investigating curiosities." in a letter written from Thomaston, Maine in 1805 William Scales observed, "The belief of witches pharies, apparitions, hobgoblins, and all manner of ridiculous fables prevail in these parts." Given such beliefs it was not unreasonable to identify spirits as the obstacle separating rural folk from the riches they needed to prove their worth in an increasingly competitive society. [25]

Yet while traditional folk beliefs provided the raw intellectual materials from which these rural folk constructed their treasure seeking, this was a process of creative reconstitution. The treasure seeking practiced in the American Northeast during the early Republic was something more than a timeless survivor: it was an attempt to sustain a folk tradition by adapting it to the demands of a new era. Rural folk had not fully left behind the traditional world of spirit beings and enchantments but they were not unaware of the claims made by rational scientific enquiry. Like the nineteenth century's spiritualists the treasure seekers were engaged in a quasi-science that through empirical experimentation sought to perfect practical techniques for understanding and exploiting the spirit world. These seekers sought to bring their spiritual beliefs into conformity with their notions of rational inquiry and logical proof. They meant to prove to themselves that they were canny investigators rather than credulous fools. As the historian Klaus Hansen notes, treasure seeking "frequently derived from logically consistent connections between religious belief, a specific need, and an empirical attitude toward nature." Similarly, folklorist Gerald T. Hurley observes that in treasure tales the spirits behave "according to a simple common-sense logic once the premise of the supernatural is accepted." A rather naive empiricism characterized the treasure seekers' world-view; for example, one seeker became, characteristically, a thorough Universalist, "believing that all mankind would finally be saved, and however vile, made pure and holy," as a result of his observation of a puddle of putrid water that upon evaporation formed clouds of pure moisture. The historian Whitney R. Cross nicely captures the rural Yankee's personality: "they were credulous in a particular way: they believed only upon evidence. Their observation, to be sure, was often inaccurate and usually incomplete, but when they arrived at a conclusion by presumably foolproof processes their adherence to it was positively fanatic." A 1791 account of the treasure seekers in New Jersey's Morris County said as much: "when any curiosities are presented to them, they are zealous in the pursuit of knowledge, and anxious to know their termination." [26]

Persistent failure and insistent belief progressively promoted evermore complex techniques and tools in the search for treasure. Unwilling to surrender their treasure beliefs, seekers concluded that they needed more sophisticated methods. They remained confident that, by trial and error, they would ultimately obtain the right combination of conductor, equipment, time, magic circle, silence, and ritual. As a result, the precise performance of complicated

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procedures increasingly characterized treasure seeking. In 1823 Joseph Smith. Jr. dreamed that a guardian spirit/angel pointed out a treasure that the young man could recover on an appointed day "if he would strictly follow his directions." These including dressing in "an old-fashioned suit of clothes of the same [black] color," bringing "a napkin to put the treasure in," riding to the spot on "a black horse with a switch tail," demanding the golden book "in a certain name, and after obtaining it he must go directly away, and neither lay it down nor look behind him." But, because of the imprecision in Smith's performance, the spirit snatched away the treasure on the appointed day for three successive years, before grudgingly giving it up on the fourth. Metal divining rods and mineral balls began to supplant mere witch hazel or peach rods, and seer-stones gradually eclipsed dreams as finding aids. These more complex tools and techniques increased the importance of pretended experts in the occult. As an expression of economic fantasy, perhaps treasure seeking was peculiarly sensitive to observed changes in the natural economy, and mirrored the increasing importance of substantial capital and expert knowledge. [27]

The Morris County seekers attributed their repeated frustration by hostile "hobgoblins... to the mismanagement of their conductor, as not having sufficient knowledge to dispel those apparitions." Seeking "a person whose knowledge descended into the bowels of the earth, and could reveal the secret things of darkness," they recruited Connecticut-born Ransom Rogers to lead their operations because of "his extensive knowledge of every art and science." Because of his "pretended copious knowledge in chemistry" Ransom could readily "raise or dispel good or evil spirits." He began by conducting a seance where a helpful spirit told the company of forty seekers that they would never recover the treasure they sought "unless they proceeded regular and without variance" in performing Rogers' complicated ceremonies over the next several months. In subsequent seances the seekers began with prayer on bended knees before parading around the room in an order "according to their age," that circuited "as many times as there were persons in number." They then cast blank sheets of paper into the center of their circle. "fell with their faces to the earth" and prayed with their eyes closed for the spirits to cater and inscribe directions for them. [28]

Treasure tales are often found in peasant cultures. In his work on the treasure tales of rural Mexico in this century, the anthropologist George M. Foster argues that a world-view of "limited good" characterizes peasant societies; that given their almost static available technology and their persistent scarcity of land, peasants conceive of resources as finite and see economic life as a sort of zero-sum game where it is rare for anyone to advance except at someone else's expense. To explain sudden good fortune, peasants insist that the newly rich must have made a pact with the devil to recover a treasure. A different emphasis -- on active, avid participation in treasure seeking -- characterizes the treasure tales in the early American Republic. This suggests that treasure seekers

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     19

were in the midst of a transition from the world-view of limited good characteristic of peasant societies to the unlimited good promised by capitalism. They sensed scientific inquiry's potential but they had not fully forgotten their heritage of supernatural beliefs. They were beginning to feel capitalism's imperatives but still thought that sudden wealth could only be had from outside the natural economy. Consequently, they eagerly sought riches but clung to the notion that spiritual beings could assist or retard that acquisition. Rural folk located at that point in the evolution of popular economic attitudes were prepared to act the part of capitalists as they understood it: to employ the latest occult technology to manipulate the supernatural in order to tap the presumed abundance of treasure chests. This transition was particularly prolonged in rural regions where poorer folk predominated, in areas where economic growth lagged behind aspirations, and where religious beliefs were most heterogeneous. [29]


As a supernatural economy treasure seeking appealed to the relatively poor men and women dwelling in rural areas where commercial prosperity was little known, where economic growth did not keep pace with enhanced post-Revolutionary aspirations. Seekers were men whose minds accepted the notion of unlimited good but whose bodies dwelled in locales offering only limited opportunity. Their belief in an alternative, supernatural economy helped psychologically to bridge the gap between their real conditions and what their competitive society taught them to aspire to; recovering a treasure would redress the unjust variance between the seeker's condition and his self-image. When he heard a (false) report that his son had recovered a treasure, a Rutland, Vermont blacksmith rejoiced; "he declared he would never shoe another horse for a living, that he always thought he was born to a better destiny." Joseph Smith, Sr. was a failed petty capitalist whose attempt to export Vermont ginseng to the orient had plunged his family into deprivation; in 1827 he declared that as a result of his son's discovery of the golden bible, "my family will be placed on a level above the generality of mankind." Kendall quoted a settler in Maine's Sandy River Valley in 1804: "We go on toiling like fools; digging the ground for the sake of a few potatoes, and neglecting the treasures that have been left by those that have been before us! For myself, I confess it, to my mortification, that I have been toiling all my life, to make a paltry living, and neglecting all the while, the means that have been long been in my hands of making a sudden and boundless fortune." Treasure chests symbolized the long-promised prosperity still awaiting marginal farmers; they wanted to believe that their fortunes lay all about them beneath the stony ground that so slowed their material advance. Peter Ingersoll of Palmyra, New York recalled a conversation with Joseph Smith, Sr. that perfectly illustrates this theme: "You notice, said he, the large stones on the

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top of the ground -- we call them rocks, and they truly appear to be so, but they are in fact, most of them, chests of money raised by the heat of the sun." [30]

Substantial farmers who shared their humbler neighbors' localist perspective and traditional culture often patronized treasure seeking, providing tools, food, drink, sacrificial animals, and, sometimes, wages. Two prosperous Susquehanna Valley farmers, Oliver Harper of Harpersville, New York, and Josiah Stowell of South Bainbridge (now Afton), New York, supported many [sic] of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s treasure-seeking forays. One of the most zealous treasure seekers, Silas Hamilton of Whitingham, Vermont was his small community's principal landowner, frequent selectman, and first legislative representative; but he apparently disliked commercial men and their lawyers for he participated in Shays's Rebellion and received a display in the pillory for his pains. As eager seekers, the same members of the Wood family who acted as Middletown, Vermont's selectman, town clerk, and legislative representative lent their name to the local treasure-seeking outburst: the "Wood scrape." [31]

Yet treasure seeking pivoted around seers rather than patrons. Many episodes occurred without a prosperous patron but none without a charismatic seer who could inspire confidence in his peculiar occult talents. Seers invariably began in poverty. An account of Morris County's treasure seekers described seers as "some illiterate persons" with "a genius adequate to prepossess themselves in favor with many." Western New York's preeminent treasure seekers, the Palmyra Smiths, were conspicuously poor. Daniel Lambert was also a poor man whose small farm and winter logging promised no better future. [32]

A black skin, female gender, and adolescent age were all marks of powerlessness in the early Republic and one or some combination of the three often characterized seers. Joseph Smith, Jr. and the Rochester Smith were both adolescents. Women seemed particularly prone to treasure dreams and particularly skilled at using seer-stones. Eleven of the nineteen dreamers cited in Silas Hamilton's notebook were female. Prior to her death in 1838, Dinah Rollins, a poor widowed black woman, who dwelled in a leaky shack on the edge of town, conducted the treasure seekers in York, Maine. About 1815 a black adolescent known only as "Mike" parlayed his skill with a seer-stone into the leadership of the diggers in Pittston, Maine. In the late eighteenth century, James Marks, an aged black man from Warren, Massachusetts, convinced many of his neighbors that he had, as a boy, sailed with Kidd and could successfully conduct their treasure seeking. [33]

Because treasure seeking thrived in the back-country where few men were prosperous, most of the men who followed seers were in tight economic straits The 1791 account of Morris County, New Jersey's treasure seekers ascribed their "turn of mind" to their "indigence." Because so many could not pay Ransom Rogers' £12 assessment for gifts to the spirits, collection dragged on for months and eventually forced him to reduce the levy to £4-6. Thurlow Weed described the treasure hunting companions of his youth as "poor but credulous

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     21

people." It seems likely that his father, a poor farmer and cart-man, participated; his father's life reiterates the persistent themes of restless migration and recurrent economic disappointment despite hard work, themes that run through the lives of so many of the known treasure hunters, including the Palmyra Smiths. Thurlow Weed remembered, "everything went wrong with him. Constant and hard labor failed to better his condition.... The consequence was that we were always poor, sometimes very poor." In July 1807 the traveler Christian Schultz visited Rome, New York and found a connection between the economic decay of a once-promising frontier community, and avid treasure seeking. "This village consists at present of about eighty houses; but it seems quite destitute of every kind of trade, and rather upon the decline. The only spirit which I perceived stirring among them was that of money digging; and the old fort betrayed evident signs of the prevalence of this mania, as it had literally been turned inside out for the purpose of discovering concealed treasure." [34]

Canaan and her sister town, Norridgewock, spawned the most extensive treasure-seeking episode. Possessed of an unproductive and stony soil, afflicted by the insistent demands of absentee land speculators for burdensome land payments, condemned by latitude to five-month-long winters, and located seventy miles by bad roads from tidewater market, the two towns could promise most of their inhabitants little more than a hard-earned subsistence. According to (Canaan's mid-nineteenth-century historian, the settlers "were very poor and much addicted to intemperance." The town's name "became a byword and synonym for poverty and drunkenness." Similarly, in 1807 Kendall described, "Norridgewock is not a paradise; -- it is not a paradise, at least if vice, ignorance or poverty is incompatible with the definition!... Nothing, as I am assured, is more common, than for families to live for three months in the year without animal food, even that of salt-fish, and with no other resources than milk, potatoes and rum." According to Massachusetts state valuation returns, Canaan and Norridgewock possessed less than half as much property per taxpayer as the average for the Commonwealth as a whole. Originally settled in the 1770s, by 1804 the two communities were classic examples of aging frontier towns which had yet to fulfill their settlers' expectations. [35]

In a postscript to their 1801 tax return Canaan's appraisers went to unusual lengths to persuade the legislature that local poverty exceeded even the miserable statistical appearance. They insisted that "a considerable number" of the inhabitants were "very poor & their whole taxes abated." Only 48 of the 144 taxpayers owned frame houses and most of those were "of little value, without windows or chimneys, there being not more than 10 or 12 houses of the 48 of much value & the residue consist of log huts." The local saw and grist mills were "of an ordinary quality indeed & will scarce pay the annual repairs." Only half the taxpayers possessed barns and most of those were "destitute of doors & underpinning & rapidly decaying." The inhabitants' horses, oxen, steers, cows,

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and swine were all "of a small size" and "of a mean & ordinary quality." Men did not become rich in Canaan or Norridgewock by any ordinary chain of events. In an era that insisted that all worthy men would prosper, the inhabitants of these districts desperately needed some alternative path to riches. [36]


For many rural folk, treasure seeking was a materialistic extension of their Christian faith as well as a supernatural economy. For them the actual contest with the supernatural assumed an importance equal to recovering a treasure. The early Republic knew a fierce competition between rival religious denominations that cast doubt on the true path to salvation. Anxious for palpable reassurance that they had found the true path to salvation, religious seekers wanted direct contact with divinity; they yearned for a religion that they could experience physically. For some. no experience with the supernatural seemed more tangible than the pull of a divining rod or the precise creation of a magic circle. And to the seeker, successfully besting an evil spirit connoted a share of divine power, a reassuring sense of confidence that he shared in divine grace. Like the subsequent spiritualists, the treasure seekers regarded their activities as part of their "experimental" Christianity; treasure seeking was not anti-Christian. [37]

Seekers considered adherence to a strict moral code and unqualified faith as indispensable to success. Many rural folk reached the hopeful conclusion that God would signify His favor by bestowing material good fortune on the deserving. In 1844 Joseph Smith, Jr. explained to Brigham Young that "even man who lived on earth is entitled to a seer stone, and should have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of their wickedness." Ransom Rogers recruited "only those of a truly moral character, either belonging to the church or abstaining from profane company, and walking circumspectly." He told his seekers that the spirits insisted they "pray without ceasing for they were just spirits sent unto them to inform them, that they should have great possessions if they should persevere in the faith." Rogers told his followers that "as the apparitions knew all things, they must be careful to walk circumspectly, and refrain from all immorality, or they would stimulate the spirits to withhold from them the treasures." Prayers and religious books figured in most attempts to break an enchantment. When a party struck a suspected chest they generally paused to pray, for if anyone doubted that God would help them overcome the spirits, the treasure would escape. Inevitable frustration led to recrimination, that some member's weak faith had robbed the rest of their just reward. [38]

Joseph Smith. Jr.'s spiritual crisis and consequent first vision in 1820 at age fourteen exemplifies how religious concern could lead to treasure seeking. He was deeply troubled by sectarian conflict and "often" asked himself, "Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? It any of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?" Thereafter, at first as a treasure seer

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     23

and eventually as the Mormon prophet, Smith sought regular, direct contact with his God. Hostile preachers' skepticism only reinforced his psychological need to validate his powers regularly by consulting his seer-stone and grappling with demonic spirits. Smith was not unique among treasure seekers in discovering God's voice within. A spirit told the mid-nineteenth-century spiritualist treasure seeker, Hiram Marble of Lynn, Massachusetts, "What shall you do? Seems to be the question. Follow your own calculations or impressions for they are right." The spirit promised that Marble would recover a treasure, proving to a skeptical world that spiritualism was the way to divine knowledge. [39]

Treasure seeking closely paralleled, and occasionally intersected with, the evangelical proliferation in the rural Northeast. New evangelical sects enjoyed the same autonomy from orthodox authority that enabled treasure seeking to prosper in the back-country. In a recent study Stephen Marini describes how evangelical sects emerged from dialogues between religious seekers collected into local prayer groups and charismatic preachers. He describes northern New England's evangelical seekers as marginal farmers discontented with their lot in the material world -- the same sort of folk who sought treasure. The religious dynamic identified by Marini closely parallels Kendall's description of how treasure seers like Daniel Lambert gave "new food to the credulity of the multitude, and a fresh excitement to the inclination, constantly lurking in its mind, to depend for a living upon digging for money-chests, rather than upon daily and ordinary labour. The belief in the existence of these buried money chests, and the consequent inclination to search for them, is imbibed in infancy; and there wants nothing but the slightest occasion to awaken both." [40]

Backcountry treasure beliefs were widespread but ordinarily dormant. A charismatic seer encouraged men and women to act on their treasure beliefs: to become active seekers. When the young Smith of Rochester, New York began in 1814 to evince his skill with a seer-stone, "Numbers flocked to him to test his skill and the first question among a certain class was, if there was any of Kidd's money hid in these parts in the earth." His confirmation that treasures abounded inspired numerous digging parties. According to the Palmyra Reflector, Joseph Smith, Sr.'s arrival in 1817 "revived... the vulgar yet popular belief" in abundant local treasure chests. The importance of a charismatic seer to the development of an extensive treasure-seeking episode helps to explain why treasure seeking was far from universal, even within the many towns that resembled Rome, Palmyra, Canaan, and Norridgewock in their stagnation. Many communities possessed the potential for such episodes but not all experienced the advent of a persuasive and charismatic treasure seer. [41]

Just as many treasure seekers found religious faith essential to their enterprise, some evangelical preachers found "rodomancy" a useful way to attract adherents who longed for tangible experience with the supernatural. In 1806 the first Universalist minister in western New York, M. T. Wooley of Hartwick, mixed avid treasure seeking with his preaching. Willard Chase, Palmyra's

24                                           American Quarterly                                          

Methodist preacher, avidly collaborated with the Smith family in their treasure seeking. The "New Israelites" of Middletown, Vermont also synthesized evangelical religion and treasure seeking. In 1789 Nathaniel Wood, Sr. and his extensive connections announced that they were the descendants of the ancient Jews and established their own separate church. In 1799 a seer named Wingate arrived in Middletown as a guest of the Woods and of William Cowdry in adjoining Wells, Vermont. The Woods began to feature divining rods in their rituals, insisting that the rods' jerks in answer to their questions represented divine messages. The town's historian recalled that "by the use of the rod many converts were added, and the zeal of all increased and continued to increase until it amounted to a distraction." Under Wingate's direction, for two years the New Israelites employed their rods to predict the future, seek lost property, detect valuable medicinal roots, search for buried treasures, and to order the construction, and then abandonment, of a "temple." They expected to find sufficient gold to pave the streets of the "New Jerusalem" that they planned to construct. In late 1800 Wingate and the Woods employed the rods to predict the end of the world on the night of January 14, 1801. When January 15 arrived on schedule, and shortly thereafter, when it was learned that Wingate had been a counterfeiter, the sect collapsed in local disgrace. Most of the members, including the Woods, migrated to western New York. [42]

A direct link can be drawn between the New Israelites and the Mormon church founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830. Both faiths stressed millenialism, confidence in their Jewish ancestry, insistence of recapturing Christian Primitivism, a separatist notion of building a New Jerusalem, and reliance on latter-day prophecies. There is also a genealogical connection. William Cowdry, the father of Oliver Cowdry who helped transcribe the Book of Mormon was a New Israelite. Some Middletowners who later moved to Palmyra claimed that they found Wingate there assisting the Smiths in their treasure seeking under an assumed name, perhaps the "magician Walters." [43]

No doubt the Smiths would have welcomed the discovery of a treasure chest to ease their material lot, and the pay young Joseph earned divining lost property. blessing neighbors' crops to preserve them from frost, or helping patrons search for buried treasure was a welcome supplement to the household income. But the Smiths sought far more than material rewards. Just as the New Israelites had used their divining rods, Joseph Smith, Jr. employed his seer-stone to communicate with God. The Smiths believed that young Joseph's talent indicated that God intended him for great things. At his 1826 trial before a justice of the peace in South Bainbridge, New York on the charge that his "glass-looking" disturbed the peace, Joseph Smith, Jr. testified that when he looked at his stone he "discovered that time, place and distance were annihilated; that all the intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing Eye." Indeed, the Smiths were not entirely comfortable with the patrons' materialistic employment of

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     25

young Joseph's spiritual talents. At the trial Joseph Smith, Sr. testified that he was "mortified" that his son's "wonderful power which God had so miraculously given him should be used only in search of filthy lucre." He hoped that in time God would "illumine the heart of the boy, and enable him to see His will concerning Him." [44]


Accumulated disappointments slowly took their toll of treasure seeking, as both a supernatural economy and a materialistic faith. Unless they continued their expansion, institutionalized their leadership and procedures, and harnessed their prophetic anarchy, evangelical sects enjoyed but a short and tumultuous life. This was particularly true when they dabbled in treasure seeking, exposing their members to disillusionment by rashly promising material returns on their faith in the immediate future. The Wood family's failure to find treasure or to predict accurately the end of the world doomed the New Israelites. Hiram Marble's lifetime of fruitless quarrying in Lynn for a pirate's treasure discredited rather than supported his cherished spiritualism. Meanwhile itinerant preachers from the more institutionalized denominations gradually consolidated northern New England's groups of religious seekers. This reincorporation into the intellectual currents of the wider culture inhibited the earlier, localized spiritual spontaneity that had spilled over into treasure seeking. For example, the Universalist General Conference disowned and dismissed T. M. Wooley for his experimentation with "rodomancy." In developing the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith, Jr. avoided the New Israelites' fatal error of banking upon material rewards in this world. Early Mormonism graphically promised tangible riches, power, and glory to its believers but only after death. Consequently, Mormonism not only emerged from concerns with treasure seeking, it helped supplant the latter by recruiting its adherents and redirecting their efforts. [45]

Clever frauds discredited treasure seeking as a supernatural economy, disabusing many rural folk of their treasure beliefs. The early Republic was a golden age of impostors and counterfeiting because standards of trust in economic relationships lagged behind the escalating velocity of human movements and transactions. Because economic transformation was gradual and locally differential, opportunities developed for shrewd men to exploit the lax security of laggard districts. The treasure seekers in those areas were particularly ripe for exploitation because they wanted so badly for their beliefs to be true. In Morris County, Ransford Rogers proved an entrepreneurial impostor who reportedly cleared £500 in gifts levied from his several dozen followers to mollify guardian spirits and persuade them to release their treasure. He fled the area to reenact similar scams in Adams County, Pennsylvania and Exeter, New Hampshire. Daniel Lambert banked on his reputed treasure to obtain livestock and produce in great quantities on credit from his neighbors. He set June 20,

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1804 as the date of repayment in gold and promised all takers free rum and a public dinner at Ware's store in Norridgewock. He resold the livestock and produce for cash and fled to Canada before the appointed day. [46]

Of course, the desire to find buried treasure outlasted faith in the efficacy of occult techniques to secure them. Although settlers carried their search for treasure westward to the Pacific, western treasure tales de-emphasized spiritual obstacles in favor of natural obstructions: landslides, erosion, and collapsed tunnels. Finding a lost Spanish mine in the West became more a matter of reading the landscape correctly and obtaining a proper map, than of the use of seer-stones, divining rods, magic circles, and the rule of silence. [47]

TABLE 1: Treasure-Seeking Episodes In The American Northeast

Location Year

01. Chichester, Pa. 1695-6
02. Philadelphia, Pa. 1729
03. Lebanon, Ct. 1752
04. Middleboro, Ma. 1756
05. NewHaven,Ct. 1785
06. Rutland, Vt, 1785
07. Whitingham, Vt. 1786
08. Morris County, N.J. 1788-9
09. AdamsCounty, Pa. 1797
10. Frankfort, Me. 1798
11. Middletown, Poultney & Wells, Vt. 1799-1800
12. Exeter, N.H. c. 1800
13. Dalton, Ma. c. 1800
14. Waitsfield, Vt. 1800
15. KennebecValley, Me. 1804
16. Hartwick, N.Y. 1806
17. Rome. N.Y. 1807
18. Catskill, N.Y. 1807
19. Flushing, N.Y. 1807
20. Georgetown, Me. c. 1810
21. Jewel's Island, Me. c. 1810
22. LittleFalls, N.Y. 1810
23. Rochester, N.Y. 1814
24. Pittston, Me. 1815-51
25. Mariena,Oh. c. 1820
26. Ogdensburgh, N.Y. c. 1820
27. Ellisburgh, N.Y. c. 1820
28. Groton, Ma. c. 1821
Buriers Methods

? rods [8]
Pirates rods, astrology [49]
? [50]
? rods [51]
Pirates ? [52]
Settler rods, conjurer [53]
Pirates rods [54]
1788-9 Pirates scances [55]
1797 ? seances [56]
Pirates rods [57]
Pirates & Spanish rods [58]

Pirates rods [59]
Hessians ? [60]
Pirates dreams [61]
Pirates dreams, rods [62]
? seer-stone [63]
Soldiers ? [64]
Pirates cat sacrifice [65]
? ? [66]
Pirates rods [67]
Pirates rods [68]
? ? [69]
Pirates seer-stone [70]
Pirates seer-stone [71]
Spanish rods [72]
? rods [73]
? rods [74]
Pirates rods [75]

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     27

29. Palmyra & Manchester, N.Y. 1817-27

30. Hancock & Antrim, N.H. c. 1823
31. Essex. Vt. 1824
32. Tunbridge, Vt. 1825
33. Alton, N.Y. 1825-6
34. Harmony. Pa. 1825-6
35. Middlesex, Vt. 1825-6
36. New London, Ct. 1827
37. Bristol, Vt. 1830-50
38. Lynn. Ma. 1834-86
39. York, Me. c. 1835
40. Lake George, N.Y. 1842
41. Crown Point, N.Y. c. 1845
42. Brandon, Vt. c. 1860
43. Harmony. Pa. c. 1870
44. Monmouth, Me. ?
45. Braintree. Vt. ?
46. Northfield, Ma. ?
47. Weare, N.H. ?
48. Stocklon Springs, Me. ?
Pirates & Indians rods, dreams, & seer-stone [76]
Pirates rods [77]
Spanish rods, seer-stone [78]
? rods, visions [79]
Spanish rods, seer-stone [80]
Spanish rods, seer-stone [81]
Pirates seer-stone [82]
Pirates seer-stone [83]
Spanish ? [84]
Pirates seances [85]
Pirates rods, ball [86]
Soldiers rods [87]
Soldiers ? [88]
Spanish ? [89]
Spanish ? [90]
Pirates dreams [91]
? dreams, rods [92]
Pirates ? [93]
Pirates rods [94]
Pirates rods [95]

Possible Treasure-Seeking Episodes From Folklore Sources [96]
49. Wernersville, Pa.
50. Cold Spring Bay, N.Y.
51. Shark River, N. J.
52. Sale, Ma.
53. Dighton Rock, Ma.
54. Oneida Lake, N.Y.
55. Hell's Gate, N.Y.
56. Monhegan, Me.
57. Milford. Ct.
58. Ipswich, Ma.
59. Lyme, Ct.
60. Portsmouth, N. H.
61. Melford, Ma.
62. Martha's Vineyard, Ma.
63. Schoharie County, N.Y.

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[1] Edward Augustus Kendall. Travels Through the Northern Parts of the United States in the Years 1807 and 1808 (New York, 1809), III:85; John W. Hanson, History of the Old Towns, Norridgewock and Canaan... (Boston, 1849), 148-50. Kendall, who visited Canaan and Norridgewock in 1807, dates the episode to 1804. At a much later date an eyewitness to the affair, William Allen, Jr. of Industry, Me., penned his reminiscences and dated the episode to 1801. Kendall must be correct because court records indicate Lambert's presence in Canaan until 1804. See Williant Allen. Jr., "Pittsfield. Maine," in William Allen, Jr., Papers, Maine Historical Society. No newspaper was published within forty miles of Canaan and Norridgewock to provide contemporary comment.

[2] Kendall. Travels, III:86: Hanson, Norridgewock, 148-50.

[3] Kendall. Travels, II:87-88: John W. Hanson, History of Gardiner, Pittston, and West Gardiner (Gardiner, Me., 1852), 168: Hanson. Narridgewock, 148-50. The fact that the English-born Kendall left the beaten path to travel to Canaan, Maine suggests that he was related to Abiatha Kendall, an English-born settler, who was probably his chief informant. For the Kendall family in Cannan see Clarence I. Chato, "History of Canaan," Maine State Library.

[4] In recent years there has been a spirited debate among historians over thc "mentalite" of rural folk in pre-industrial New England. Some argue that rural folk tended to forsake individual economic advantage because familial and community ties were preeminent. Others insist upon the primacy of individual self-interest in rural economic behavior. The most pointed exchange in this debate occurs in James A. Henretta, "Families and Farms: Mentalite in Pre-Industrial America." William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 37 ( 1980), 688-700. For a recent summation of the abundant literature on this debate see Bettye Hobbs Pruitt, "Self-Sufficiency and the Agricultural Economy of Eighteenth-Century Massachusetts," ibid., 41 (1984), 334n.

[5] Klaus J. Hanson. Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. 1981). 90-91.

[6] "Golden Bible. No. 3," The Reflector (Palmyra, N.Y.). 1 Feb. 1831, reprinted in Francis W. Kirkham. A New witness For Christ in America: The Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing Co., 1967), II:69. The Windsor, Vermont newspaper is quoted in Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Morman Prophet (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1974), 18. For the three-man rule see J. H. Temple and George Sheldon. History of the Town of Northfield, Massachusetts, (Albany, N. Y., 1875), 18-19.

[7] On Pittston, see Hanson, Gardiner, 185: on Frankfort see George I. Varney. A Gazetteer of the State of Maine with Numerous Illustrations (Boston, 1882), 471; and Henry Buxton. Assignment Down East (Brattleboro, Vt: Stephen Daye Press, 1938), 173; Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Breitnal, "The Busy-Body. No. 8," in Franklin, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1959), I:136; on Bristol see Dorson, Jonathan Draws the Long Bow, (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1946), 185: for the traveler's quote see Curtis B. Norris, "The Ghost Shaft of Bristol Notch," in Austin N. Stevens, ed., Mysterious New England (Dublin, N.H.: Yankee, Inc., 1971), 318; William Little, The History of Weare, New Hampshire (Lowell, Mass., 1888), 589; L. C. Butler, "Essex," in Abby M. Hemenway, ed., The Vermont Historical Gazetteer (Burlington. Vt., 1867), I:785. For the mid-century writer see "The History of the Divining Rod: with the Adventures of an Old Rodsman," The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, 26 (1850), 218, 223.

[8] On the Kidd legends see Dorson, Jonathan, 174, on the Spanish see 185: and "History of the Divining Rod," 222, on Ohio see 224; Rev. W. R. Cochrane, History of the Town of Antim, New Hampshire (Manchester, N.H., 1880), 317; and Caleb Butler, History of the Town of Groton, (Boston, 1848), 256n; on the Spanish see Butler, "Essex," I:784-85: on New York see Donna Hill, Joseph Smith, The First Mormon (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977), 66-67; on New York and Ohio, see Curtis Dahl, "Mound Builders, Mormons, and William Cullen Bryant," New England Quarterly, 34 (1961), 178-79. The component details of this treasure belief complex are frequently found in treasure tales from Europe and Asia. See Stith Thompson, The Folk-tale (New York: Dryden Press, 1946), 262-63: and Emelyn E. Gardner, Folk-lore from the Schoharie Hills, New York (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1937), 13n. Because treasure folklore is an American universal it is likely that treasure seeking was also an historical phenomenon in the South as well. For Louisiana see Lyle Saxon, Gumbo Ya-Ya (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1945), 258-70: on North Carolina see the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (Durham. N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1952-64). I:691-95; on the far West see Gerald T. Hurley, "Buried Treasure Tales in America," Western Folklore, 10 (1951), 197-216.

[9] "Imposition and Blasphemy!! -- Money-diggers. Etc." The Gem (Rochester, N.Y.), 15 May 1830, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:48; on the summer as best [time], see Peter Ingersoll,

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     29

affidavit, 2 Dec. 1833, reprinted in ibid., II:135; Clark Jillson, Green Leaves from Whitingham, Vermont (Worcester, Mass., 1894), 121; Butler, "Essex," 785; An Account of the Beginning, Transactions and Discovery of Ransford Rogers, Who Seduced Many By Pretended Hobgoblins and Appartions, And Thereby Extorted Money From their Pockets (Newark, N. J., 1792, Evans #24754), 12; for a new moon as best see William Stafford affidavit, 8 Dec. 1833 in E. D. Howe, History of Mormonism: or a Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, (Painesville, Oh., 1840), 237-38; for a full moon as best see Frank C. Brown Collection, 1:695.

[10] On dreams see Kendall, Travels, III:84-85; Dorson, Jonathan, 184; Charles M. Skinner, Myths and Legends of Our Own Land (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1924), II:268: Gardner, Folklore, 14-15: Rev. P. B. Fisk, "Waitsfield," in Hemenway, Vermont, IV, 776; Frank C. Brown Collection, I:693. On Smith's dress see The Gem (Rochester, N. Y.), 5 Sept. 1829, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, I:151. Hamilton's journal is reprinted in Jillson, Green Leaves, 115-18. Evidence of the treasure seeking by Joseph Smith, Jr., and his father, Joseph Smith, Sr., prior to Joseph's recovery of the golden bible has engendered heated controversy. Beginning in thc 1830s anti-Mormon writers zealously gathered testimony that they treated as proof that the Smiths were, first, unique in their activity, and, consequently, peculiarly indolent, deceitful, credulous, and greedy. In response to these attacks, Mormon writers have, until recently, felt compelled to dismiss all evidence that the Smiths engaged in treasure seeking as trumped-up by their enemies. This stand has perpetuated the anti-Mormons' erroneous presumption that treasure seeking was rare and symptomatic of moral bankruptcy. Fortunately, Mormon scholars have recently taken a sounder stand that much of the evidence of the Smiths' treasure seeking is credible, but that this in no way proves that Joseph Smith, Jr., was insincere in his religious faith then or subsequently. Indeed, treasure seeking represented a relatively immature but sincere manifestation of thc religious concerns that he eventually refined into the Book of Mormon. For an example of the anti-Mormon interpretartion see Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York, 1867), 20-22, For a Mormon denial of the Smiths' treasure seeking see Hugh Nibley, The Myth Makers, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1961), 182-89. For the more sophisticated recent work by Mormon scholars see D. Hill, Joseph Smith; Marvin S. Hill, "Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties," Brigham Young University Sludies, 12 (1972), 231; Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippets Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984); and Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Chicago and Urbana: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1984), 64-76. For the persistence of the anti-Mormon perspective see David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, (Jefferson, N.C., 1985). In April and May 1985 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released two letters that document Joseph Smith, Jr.'s early career as a treasure-seer: Martin Harris to William W. Phelps, 23 Oct. 1830 in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church News, 8 April 1985, 6; and Joseph Smith, Jr., to Josiah Stowell, 18 June 1825 in ibid., 12 May 1985, 10. [ --- additional note: these letters are forgeries --- ]

[11] On young Smith of Rochester see "Impositions and Blasphemy..." The Gem (Rochester, N. Y., 15 May 1830 reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:46; on Smith's seer-stone see Fayette Latham, "Interview with the Father of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, Forty Years Ago," The Historical Magazine, 2nd ser., 7 (May, 1870), reprinted in ibid., II:384; Brodie, No Man, 435-37; George W. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, New York (Syracuse, N.Y., 1895), 80-81; Emily C. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, Pennsylvania, (Philadelphia, 1873), 580; and Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism (New York, 1867), 19. Also see George Williamson to William D. Williamson, c. 1820, filed under "Pittston" in Maine Town File of the William D. Williamson Papers, Maine Historical Society, and Hanson, Gardiner, 169. See also Butler, "Essex," I:785.

[12] "History of the Divining Rod," [The United States Democratic Review Vol. XXVI (March-April, 1850)] 218-19, 319; Kendall, Travels, II:84-85, 101; Barnes Frisbie, The History of Middletown, Vermont in Three Discourses (Rutland, Vt., 1867), 47; and Robert Parks and Hiland Paul, History of Wells, Vermont, For the First Century After Its Settlement, 82; Herbert Leventhal, In the Shadow of the Enlightertment: Occultism and Renaissance in Eighteenth Century America (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1976), 111; Temple and Sheldon, Northfield, 18-19; Buxton, Assignment, 169; Hanson, Gardiner, 168; on a soft whisper see Peter Ingersoll's affidavit, 2 Dec. 1833 in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:134-35; on a slow step see "The Divining Rod," American Journal of Science, 11 (1826), 203; on Smith's alternative see Joseph Smith, Jr. to Josiah Stowell, 18 June 1825 reprinted in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church News,, 12 May 1985, 10 [--- additional note: this letters is a forgery --- ]

[13] Gardner, Folklore, 13-15: Leventhal, In the Shadow, 113: Skinner, Myths II:268-80; Kendall,

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Travels, 84-85: Dorson, Jonathan, 174-76; An Account, 10; "History of the Divining Rod." 223; Benjamin A. Botkin. ed., A Treasury of New England Folklore (New York: Crown Publishers. 1947). 322: Parks and Paul, Wells 80: on Palmyra see Martin Harris quoted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:378.

[14] Jillson, Green Leaves, 121; Kendall, Travels, III:84-85; An Account, 12-13: Butler, Groton, 256n: Leventhal, In the Shadow, 107-11: Andrew Barton [Thomas Forrest], The Disappointment: or the Force of Credulity (Philadelphia, 1767. Evans #10554), 41; "Gold Bible. No. 5," The Reflector, (Palmyra. N. Y.), 28 Feb. 1831, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:73-74: on Joseph Smith Jr.'s circle see Joseph Capron's affidavit, 8 Nov. 1833 in Howe, History, 259; on his father's circle see William Stafford's affidavit, 8 Dec. 1833, in ibid., 238 on breaking Spanish enchantments see "History of the Divining Rod," 224-25. On a magic triangle see Temple and Sheldon, Northfield, 18-19.

[15] "The Book of Pukei -- Chapter 1," The Reflector (Palmyra, N. Y.), 12 June 1830, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:51; Harriet A. Weed, ed., Autobiography of Thurlow Weed (Boston 1884), I:7: on a similar black cat sacrifice see Gardner, Folklore, 13-15; on Smith's use of blood in his circles see Tucker, Origin, 24; Blackman, Susquehannah, 580; and William Stafford's affidavit of 8 Dec. 1833, in Howe, History, 239; on Hamillon's circle see Jillson, Green Leaves 119. It is interesting that later in life Weed became a vigorous foe to Mormonism, the faith founded by another New York treasure seeker, Joseph Smith, Jr. See Weed's introduction to Mrs. Ellen Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism (New York, 1885).

[16] Gardner, Folklore, 13: Blackman, Susqueuhannah, 577; Jillson, Green Leaves, 121: Skinner Myths, II:269; Dorson, Jonathan, 174: Parks and Paul, Wells, 80; "History of the Diving Rod," 320; Temple and Sheldon, Northfield, 181-19: Little, Weare, 589: L. C. Butler, "Essex," I:785; Cf. Butler, Groton, 256n: on stepped-on toes see Frisbie, Middletown, 48-49; on Rochester see "Exposition and Blasphemy..." The Gem (Rochester, N.Y.), 15 May 1830, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:48; Tucker, Origin, 21.

[17] Parks and Paul, Wells, 80; Brodie, No Man, 428; Leventhal, In the Shadow, 113: Marvin S. Hill, "Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties," Brigham Young University Studies, 12 (1972), 230; Cowles, Landmarks, 81; Frisbie, Middletown, 48, 51; the eyewiness is quoted by Kendall, Travels, III:89; Thompson quoted in Brodie, No Man, 429; on Rutland see "Rutland," in Hemenway, The Vermont Historical Gazetteer (Claremont, N.H., 1877) III:1090; on the Braintree money pot see Bass, Braintree, 46.

[18] On small accidental discoveries see Dorson, Jonathan, 179; D. Hill, Joseph Smith, 68; and Buxton, Assignment, 179. Some Rochester diggers insisted that they found a chest but the local editor was suspicious of their claim. See "Imposition and Blasphemy..." in The Gem (Rochesher N.Y.), 15 May 1830, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:48. Rumors "of the private success of some people" sustained diggers around Philadelphia according to Ben Franklin and Joseph Breitnal, "The Busy Body, No. 8," in Franklin Papers, I:137. On Gardiner see Hanson, Gardiner, 169; on the Commodore see "History of the Divining Rod;" on Pennsylvvania see Blackman, Susquehannah County, 580; on Vermont see "Rutland," 1090.

[19] The folklorist Gerald T. Hurley traces treasure tales as exclusively fictions with standard conventions: "The treaure tale is presented as fact and told with the same sense of literal truth that marks newspaper accounts of actual rediscovered gold." See Hurley, "Buried Treasure Tales," 197-98n. On Savage see Fisk, "Waitsfield," 776: the Martin Harris interview is reprinted from Tiffany's Magazine, May 1859 in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:378; Martin Harris to with Phelps, 23 Oct 1830, [-- note: a forgery ---] reprinted in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church News, 28 April 1985, 6. (Harris's letter is one, long, unpunctuated "sentence;" for easier reading I have inserted the necessary punctuation and capitalization; otherwise the letter is verbatim.) The [1826] assessment is in "The Divining Rod," 203.

[20] On the early presence of treasure beliefs in and around early eighteenth-century Philadelphia, see Leventhal, In the Shadow, 107-18; for treasure seeking in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England see Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Scribner's, 1971 234-37: John Brand, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain (London, 1849) III:312-33: and Jonathan Swift, The Virtues of Sid Hamet the Magician's Rod (London, 1710); the quote is from The Busy-Body, No. 8," Franklin Papers, I:136.

[21] Gordon S. Wood, "Evangelical America and Early Mormonism," New York History 61:4 (1980), 363-70 Hansen, Mormonism, 73-77. The gentleman's quote appears in Kendall, Travels, III:96.

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     31

For the social function of volunteer societies and religious sects in America's fluid society see Don Harrison Doyle, The Social Order of a Frontier Community: Jacksonville, Illinois, 1825-1870 (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1978), 156-93. For an example of an orthodox Congregational minister who exercised his influence over a Massachusetts town against conjuring see Francis G. Walett, ed., The Diary of Ebenezer Parkman, 1703-1782; Part I: 1719-1755 (Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1974), 288.

[22] On the early eighteenth-century adherence to treasure beliefs of some well-educated men see Leventhal, In the Shadow, 107-15; on the similar decay of witchcraft beliefs occurring first among the elite, and only later among the common folk see John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1982), 393, on the discontinuity of elite and lower-class supernatural beliefs in England see Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 666. Thomas Forrest was probably the author of Barton, The Disappointment, see especially iv, 7, 55.

[23] "The Divining Rod," 202-03; Mason Wade, ed., The Journals of Francis Parkman (New York: Harper, 1947), I:47, 53. On criticism of rural folk see Robert A. Gross, "Culture and Cultivation: Agriculture and Society in Thoreau's Concord," Journal of American History, 69 (1982), 42-61.

[24] James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers: or the Sources of the Susquehanna (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1851), 327, 467.

[25] For the first observer see "History of the Divining Rod," 218; for Morris County see An Account, 7-8, 20; for Lambert see Kendall, Travels, III:90-92; William Scales to Henry Knox, Thomaston, 29 July 1805, Henry Knox Papers, vol. 46, item #67, Massachusetts Historical Society. Also Wood, "Evangelical America," 369-70; David D. Hall. "A World of Wonders: The Mentality of the Supernatural in Seventeenth-Century New England," in Seventeenth-Century New England (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1985), 239-73; and Demos, Entertaining Satan, 187-93.

[26] Hansen, Mormonism 42; Hurley, "Buried Treasure Tales," 199; on the Universalist see "History of the Divining Rod," 327; Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-Over District" The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850 (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1950), 81; An Account, v. -- On American spiritualism see R. Laurence Moore, In Search of White Crows: Spiritualism, Parapsychology, and American Culture (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1977), 3-39; and Howard Kerr, Mediums and Spirit-Rappers, and Roaring Radicals: Spiritualism in Americatr Literature, 1850-1900 (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1972). On the pliancy of tradition to fit changing cultural needs see Alfred F. Young, "English Plebeian Culture and Eighteenth-Century American Radicalism," in Margaret and James Jacob, eds., The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism (London, Allen & Unwin, 1984), 186-89. I would emphasize here the intertion of "popular" and high" culture rather than their separation as seems to he argued in Jon Butler, "The Future of American Religious History: Prospectus, Agenda, Transatlanlic Problematique," William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 42 ( 1985), 167-83.

[27] On persistent experimentation despite repeated discouragement see "Golden Bible, No. 3," The Reflector (Palmyra, N. Y.), 1 Feb. 1831, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:69, and An Account, 9-10; and "Rutland," 1090; on Joseph Smith's dress see Lapham, "Interview," in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:385-87; Willard Chase's affidavit, 11 Dec. 1833, in Howe, History of Mormonism, 242; and Martin Harris to William Phelps, 23 Oct. 1830, reprinted in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church News, 28 April 1985, 6. [-- note: later proved a forgery ---]

[28] A decade later Rogers conducted a similar treasure search in Exeter, New Hampshire and demanded that the seekers wear white caps while digging. An Account, 9, 13-14, 19; Charles H. Bell, History of the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire (Boston, Mass., 1888), 412.

[29] George M. Foster, "Treasure Tales, and the Image of the Static Economy in a Mexican Peasant Community," Journal of American Folklore, 77 (1964), 39-40. Stith Thompson similarly argues that treasure tales express "the frustration that comes from thwarted ambition." See Thompson, The Folktale, 262.

[30] The blacksmith is quoted in "Rutland," 1087; Joseph Smith, Sr.'s aspirations are quoted in Joseph Capron's affidavit, 8 Nov. 1833 in Howe, History of Mormonism, 260; the Sandy River Valley settler is quoted in Kendall, Travels, III:96; Peter Ingersoll's affidavit, 2 Dec. 1833 in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:135 see also Roswell Nichols' affidavit, 1 Dec. 1833, in Howe, History of Mormonism, 257.

[31] On Stowell, see Kirkham, A New Witness, II:363-63; on Harper see Blackman, Susquehannah, 580;

32                                           American Quarterly                                          

on Morris County see An Account, 9; on Hamilton see Clark Jillson, "Whitingham," in Hemenway, The Vermont Historital Gazetteer (Brandon, Vt., 1891); on the Woods see Frisbie, Middletown, 59, 109-10. See also Bell, Exeter, 412.

[32] For the quote see An Account, vi. On the Smiths' poverty see Kirkham, A New Witness, I:32, 50; Cross, Burned-Over District, 138-40; Tucker, Origin, 11-16; Brodie, No Man, 10-18; and Bushman, Joseph Smith, 47-49. According the 1798 Federal Direct Tax Return for Canaan, Lambert owned 100 acres of barely developed land, and dwelled in a log cabin judged by the assessors to be of no real value, He ranked sixtieth out of that settlement's 106 taxpayers. Three years later, a state valuation return for Canaan showed a similar picture; Lambert still lived in a crude log cabin, possessed no barn, and owned 100 acres; only two of those acres were improved and forty-nine, or about half the homestead, were judged "unimprovable." He owned no horse, no oxen, but a single cow, and a lone pig. See the Canaan, Maine return, 1798 Direct Tax Returns for Massachusetts-Maine, I:351, New England Historic Genealogical Society Library; and the Canaan, Maine tax valuation, Maine valuation returns for 1801, reel 397, Massachusctts State Library.

[33] On female seers see Skinner, Myths, II:282; M. S. Hill, "1826 Trial," 229; D. Hill, Joseph Smith, 68; Blackman, Susquehannah, 577; and Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 22. On the dreams in Hamilton's journal see the excerpt in Jillson, Green Leaves, 115-18. On Marks see Botkin, A Treasury, 533-34. On "Mike" see Hanson, Gardiner, 169; and George Williamson to William D. Williamson, c. 1820, William D. Williamson Town Papers, filed under "Pittston." For Rollins see George A. Emery, Ancient City of Gorgeana and Modern Town of York (Boston, 1874), 203. On adolescence as a time of psychological unease over identity see Hansen, Mormonism, 21 For another black treasure seer see James Dow McCallum, Eleazar Wheelock (Hanover, N. H.: Dartmouth College Publications, 1939), 52.

[34] An Account, 7; Weed, Autobiography, 1:2, 7; Christian Schultz, Travels on an Inland Voyage Through the States... (New York, 1810), 16. On the occasional participation of prosperous farmers see Blackman, Susquehannah, 580; Frisbie, Middletown, 59, 109-11; and Bell, Exeter, 412.

[35] Kendall, Travels, III:72; Hanson, Norridgewock, 150-51; Report of the Committee of Valuation, (Boston. Mass., 1802, Shaw-Shoemaker #2625), 6-14.

[36] Samuel Weston et al. to the General Court Committee on Valuation, 20 Oct. 1801, at the end of Canaan's Tax Valuation, 1801 Maine valuations, reel 397, Massachusetts State Library. The inhabitants of these rural backwaters have generally escaped the attention of historians preoccupied with commercial centers and boom towns.

[37] Wood, "Evangelical America," 368, 375. Jon Butler in his "Magic, Astrology, and the Early American Religious Heritage, 1600-1760," American Heritage Review, 84 (1979), 317-46 insiststs on a stark line between allegedly pagan "magic" and orthodox Christian "religion." He is more sensitive to their interrelationship in popular religion in his subsequent "The Dark Ages of America' Occultism, 1760-1848," in Howard Kerr and Charles L. Crow, eds., The Occult in America: New Historical Perspectives (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1983), 58-78.

[38] For Smith see D. Hill, Joseph Smith, 66. For Rogers see An Account, 12, 20. For praying see Kirkham, A New Witness, II:367; Gardner, Folklore, 14-15; and Frisbie, Middletown, 48.

[39] Joseph Smith. Jr., to the editor of the Chicago Democrat, 1 March 1842, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, I:46-48; Cross, Burned-Over District, 138-50; Hansen, Mormonism, 28. For the quoted spirit addressing Marble see Alonzo Lewis and James R. Newhall, History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts (Boston, 1865), 247.

[40] Stephen Marini, Radical Sects of Revolutionary New England (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1982), 1-7, 28-31, 53-55; Kendall, Travels, III:87. On the importance of childhood stories in preparing treasure seekers see also Fayette Lapham, "Interview with the Father of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, Forty Years ago," Kirkham, A New Witness, II:384; and "Rutland, [in] Hemenway, The Vermont Historical Gazetteer (Claremont, N. H. 1877), III:1087.

[41] For Rochester see "Imposition and Blasphemy!! -- Money diggers, etc.," from The Gem (Rochester, N. Y.), 15 May 1830, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:46-48. On Joseph Smith. Sr., see "Golden Bible, No. 3," Palmyra Reflector (Palmyra, N.Y.), 1 Feb. 1831, reprinted in ibid., II:68-69.

[42] For Wooley see Nathaniel Stacy, Memoirs of the Life of Nathaniel Stary (Columbus, Penn., 1850), 172. For Willard Chase see Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 16. The "Wood scrape," is thoroughly documented in Frisbie, Middletown, 43-65, quotation 59. Barnes Frisbie was a local clergyman who in the 1850s and 1860s interviewed several elderly eyewitnesses and participants.

                    Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast                     33

Frisbie was the grandson of a Middletown resident in 1801. See also Marini, Radical Sects, 54-55; and Parks and Paul, Wells, 79-80. The Woods called their divining rods "St. John's rod." This probably reflects survival of a folk tradition originating in seventeenth-century Germany that rods had to be cut on St. John [the Baptist]'s Day. Many sixteenth-century magical writers deemed the presence of a cleric essential to a successful treasure search; see Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 274.

[43] For the link see Frisbie, Middletown, 57, 62; and Marini, Radical Sects, 55. A Mormon historian quotes Joseph Smith, Sr., as declaring in a High Council Meeting that "he knew more about money digging than any man alive, had been at it for 30 years." See D. Hill, Joseph Smith, 67.

[44] Brodie, No Man, 427-29; Blackman, Susquehannah, 579-80; Tucker, Origin, 20. For the quotes see W. D. Purple's transcription of the 1826 trial record in Kirkham, A New Witness II:356-66. See also M. S. Hill, "1826 Trial," 229.

[45] For Wooley see Stacy, Memoirs, 172. For the materialism of early Mormonism see Hansen, Mormonism, 42, 71, 92; and Wood, "Evangelical America," 385. For Mormonism's appeal to marginal farmers of Yankee descent see Hansen, Mormonism, 41-42, 82, 122, 202, 208; Cross, Burned-Over District, 143-49; and Wood, "Evangelical America," 381, 383. For Marble's failure see Lewis, Lynn, 445-71.

[46] For Rogers see An Account, 14-28; and Bell, Exeter, 411-13. For Lambert see Kendall, Travels, III:86-89; and Allen, "Pittsfield," 17. For the corrosive impact of fraud see An Account, 26; Bell, Exeter, 413; "Rutland," 1087; Barton, The Disappointment, iv, 53.

[47] For the persistence of treasure seeking until the early twentieth century in a few obscure corners in ihe Northeast see Emelyn E. Gardner, "Folkore from Schoharie County, N. Y.," Journal of American Folklore, 27 (1914), 304, 323. On western tales see Hurley, "Buried Treasure," 200.

[48] Leventhal, In the Shadow, 109.

[49] Franklin and Breitnal, "The Busy Body, No. 8," Franklin Papers, 1:137.

[50] McCallum, Eleazar Wheeloock, 52.

[51] Leventhal, In the Shadow, 114.

[52] Hemnenway, "Rutland," 1087.

[53] Ibid, 1089.

[54] Jillson, Green Leaves, 113

[55] An Account.

[56] Bell, Exeter, 411.

[57] Dorson, Jonathan, 176.

[58] Frisbie, Middletown, 57-61; Parks and Paul, Wells, 80.

[59] Bell, Exeter, 413.

[60] Skinner, Myths, II:280.

[61] Fisk, "Waitsfield," 776.

[62] Kendall, Travels, III:86; Hanson, Norridgewock, 148-50: William Allen, Jr., "Pittsfield."

[63] Stacy, Memoirs, 172.

[64] Schultz, Inland Voyage, I:46.

[65] Weed, Autobiography, I:7.

[66] John Harriott, Struggles Through Life... (New York, 1809, Shaw-Shoemaker #17708), II:168-70.

[67] "History of the Divining Rod," 222.

[68] Ibid., 223.

[69] William W. Campbell, ed., The Life and Writings of De Witt Clinton (New York, 1849), 47.

[70] Imposition and Blasphemy..." in The Gem (Rochester, N. Y.), 5 May 1830, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witness, II:48.

[71] Hanson, Gardiner, 169.

[72] "History of the Divining Rod," 224.

[73] Benjamin Franklin Hough, A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Countis in the State of New York, From the Earliest Period to the Present Time (Albany, N. Y., 1853), 108-09.

[74] Benjamin Franklin Hough, A History of Jefferson County in the State of New York, Fron the Earliest Period to the Present Time (Watertown, N. Y., 1854), 158.

[75] Butler, Groton, 256n.

[76] "Golden Bible, No. 3," The Reflector (Palmyra, N. Y.), 1 Feb. 1831, reprinted in Kirkham, A New Witnesss, II:69; Bushman, Joseph Smith, 69-76,

[77] Cochrane, Antrim, 317.

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[78] Butler,"Essex," 785.

[79] D. Hill, Joseph Smith, 68.

[80] Brodie, No Man, 429; Bushman, Joseph Smith, 69.

[81] Blackman, Susquehannah, 578-80.

[82] Stephen Herrick, "Middlesex," in Hemenway, The Vermont Historical Gazeteer (Montpelier Vt., 1882), IV:241.

[83] D. Hill, Joseph Smith, 68: Skinner, Myths, II:282.

[84] C. B. Norris, "The Ghost Shaft," 317-19.

[85] Lewis and Newhall, History of Lynn, 248-49.

[86] Emery, Ancient City, 203.

[87] Wade, The Journals of Francis Parkman, I:47.

[88] Skinner, Myths, II:283.

[89] "Rutland," 1087.

[90] Blackman, Susquehannah, 580.

[91] Harry Hayman Cochrane, History of Monmouth and Wales (East Winthrop, Maine, 1894), 312.

[92] Bass, Braintree, 46.

[93] Temple and Sheldon, Northfield, 18-19.

[94] Little, Weare, 589.

[95] Dorson, Jonathan, 176.

[96] Skinner, Myths, II:268-89: and Gardiner, Schoharie, 13-15.

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