ONE MAN’S Treasure…

by Pat Middleton © All rights reserved

Stoddard, Wis. author Pat Middleton poses in front of the riverboat the Julia Belle Swain on the river front in La Crosse, Wis. Erik Daily

 

Click BLUE LINKS with your cursor to explore or purchase historic maps from Mississippi River border states. (Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and all southern states!)  Moving your cursor over the map image with allow you to STUDY the image in extreme detail.

Other stories we recommend from www.greatriver.com feature archives:
River Clams Produce Valuable Pearl


Mention treasure hunting at the River Road Cafe in Stoddard, Wis., and eyes light up all around the room.

 Kathy knows of a sheltered cave with many initials dating from the 1800s. Dean’s friend found a scrimshaw whale’s tooth inscribed with the word “Dakota.” Randy knows of a ring valued at $1,500 found with a metal detector.

Perhaps it is a case where “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” but for the last 2500-3000 years the Mississippi River Valley has supported intense human activity. This makes it a particularly historic area, rich in Indian relics. Additionally, relics from the French, English, Spanish and American adventurers who have explored the area since the 1600s are still being found today. Antiques from the first settlers, dating back to the 1760s, are sought by dealers from throughout the country. All of this adds up to great prospecting for the treasure-hunting hobbyists using metal detectors who are active in the area.

Roger Toner (not his real name) owns a snowmobile/cycle shop in the La Crosse area, but his real love for the last 15 years has been treasure hunting. Roger suggests that most hobbyists go “shooting” with metal detectors much as another individual goes fishing – for relaxation.

A good find is an old coin, a bit of jewelry, an iron relic or an Indian artifact. The success of a hunter will likely depend less on luck than on the amount of time spent researching his sites and how well he can use the metal detector.

The big questions for the would-be searcher might be: where to start looking? what equipment will I need? what sort of treasures can I realistically expect to find?

For Roger, the hunt usually starts while snow is covering the ground.

“I find it much easier to visualize how soldiers or hunters might have used the land when all I have to study is the smooth snow-covered earth,” he says. “I think to myself that a particular hump looks out of place or especially convenient. Or that this high flat bench might have made a good camp ground. Then I come back to search in the spring when the frost has forced new artifacts to the surface.”

Some of Roger’s best finds have come while “puddling” in the mud of a river bend. “Again, I work in the spring. The water and mud are very cold, but I’ve found perfectly preserved tomahawks, still wrapped in mayan idol fix
leather. A green stone figure I found has been certified as a Mayan carving in jade.”

The United States Treasure Atlas by Tom Terry provides an introduction to the places treasures are most likely to be found and makes available the data from his years of treasure-hunting research. Reputed treasure sites and ghost towns are listed on a county-by-county basis for each state. A quick glance at any river valley county listings is likely to be enough to whet the appetite of the most cynical.

Old state and county maps are also available in our Shopping Cart Wisconsin 1880 which will indicate old roadways, railroad beds and ghost towns. Terry suggests these historic roadways as preferable to modern roads as it is far more likely that valuable coins and relics may be found. Modern parks and roadsides often contain more trash than treasures.

CLICK HERE to explore or purchase our 1847 WISCONSIN State Map

 

unframed ribbonThe library and reference librarians are also helpful in tracking down local histories and out-of-print books that might provide the serious seeker with leads. Old newspaper stories provide leads on some of the earliest caches. An article from 1909, for example, details a search of bluffs and s
horelines for a money cache dating from the 1700s thought to be buried near present-day Osceola, Wisconsin, after English adventurer William Snow was attacked by French soldiers. The cache was not
recovered.

CLICK HERE to learn more about historic Mississippi River Ribbon Maps.

Native artifacts are abundant along the Mississippi River shores of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.Government forts were established in the early 1800s along the entire length of the Upper Mississippi River. Riverboat captains, soldiers, pioneers, adventurers and traders traveling between the forts often carried large sums of gold or silver coins for payroll or trading purposes, as well as supplies.

The Upper Mississippi River valley is rumored to be heavy with the unrecovered treasure caches of river pirates, gypsies and horse thieves. Indian hostility was rampant until the Battle of Bad Axe north of Prairie du Chien ended the Black Hawk War in 1832. Upon attack (whether from Indian, outlaw or river pirate) valuables were hidden to avoid theft. Often, the transporter was killed and there remained no one who knew just where the treasure had been buried. Victims might be left too short-handed to retrieve the valuables, or natural disasters occurred, such as flood, earth slide or memory lapse.

According to the United States Treasure Atlas, rumors persist that $80,000 was buried in 1832 “on the highest bluff across from Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in four piles of $20,000 each” during an Indian attack. The soldiers who buried the treasure were ambushed before returning. The treasure was never recovered.

Treasure hunting along the MN, IA, WI shores.

Buried money, jewelry and other treasures are likely to be found wherever people lived; banks were often far away and distrusted. An old home foundation might conceal a “private” bank in the floorboards, or savings might be stashed in a nearby fence posthole or a tin can beside the silo. Dollar bills have been sewn into and under carpets, into linen, drapery, stuffed behind wall-boards and under floorboards and in false air ducts.

Steamboat Map of Illinois 1841The steamboat era has left many relics along the Wisconsin and Illinois shores of the Mississippi River. The great wooden boats that changed the course of commercial history along the Mississippi had a life expectancy of only five years and usually met with an untimely end in sudden fires or sinkings.

CLICK HERE to study the 1849 STEAMBOAT MAP of ILLINOIS with Steamboat stops, proposed Canals, and Roads.

Steamboat wrecks have provided authorized divers with a steady stream of antiques, relics and personal belongings. The prized safes from many wrecks remain unrecoverable, including the War Eagle safe off the riverfront in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Coins found with metal detector.According to Roger Toner a typical treasure
hunt (say in a small cave) would involve the following steps: 1) Take photos of the site before doing any searching. Often things can be seen in the photo which are not apparent to the eye. 2) Use a metal detector to pinpoint any possible coins, jewelry, iron relics. A fork or other very small tool might be used to find the item. A whiskbroom and sifter might be used to search for other relics. If anything of interest is located, make detailed notes of where it was found, as one good find usually means more to come.

Tools other than metal detectors are inexpensive: a fork for making small holes, a sifter, a whisk broom and a probe that looks similar to a giant hatpin. Note that a shovel is not standard equipment. Too often a shovel will simply damage the fragile relic.

The cardinal rule among treasure hunters is get permission before searching on any private or public land. State parks and monuments, national parks and sites and some local parks and monuments are off limits to seekers with metal detectors, as are state-and federally-owned property under the protection of the conservation departments, the Army Corps of Engineers, wildlife refuges, etc. Written permission must be obtained from authorities before removing any relics.

Today’s treasure hunter is made from the same mold as the prospector of old. He or she is a dreamer, an optimist, full of curiosity and appreciation for things past. The thrill is in the search, the chance that the next find will be the big one. Like the gambler, he develops an “itch” to try out the next hot spot.

Roger would rather talk about his hobby than anything else. Terry has been sharing his knowledge with others for the past 10 years. Our farm was settled in 1858 – and I can’t wait for the ground to thaw!

Our brand new Upper Mississippi River travel guidebook, Discover! America’s Great River Road, Volumes 1-4 by Mississippi River author and lecturer, Pat Middleton.

 The brand new Upper Mississippi River travel guidebook, Discover! America's Great River Road is the indispensible guidebook to the Upper Mississippi River ... heritage, natural history and recreation. Since 1987!

 

“Orma Remembers Nelson, Wisconsin”
(excerpted from Volume 1 of DISCOVER! America’s Great River Road
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“The bluffs were full of caves and I remember wiggling through some of them on my stomach, they were that small. I know people spoke of rattlesnakes, but I never saw one. There was a rumor of treasure buried by soldiers in the bluffs. Often, people just went up and dug around in their spare time hoping to find it. I never heard that any treasure was ever found.”
Click here to see ALL our books and antique maps featuring the historic Mississippi River.

Shantyboat Adventure on the Upper Mississippi River

I have been following a modern-day shantyboat adventure that will interest many of our readers!Shantyboat-Guys-Pano-1440x400 Wes Modes has been working diligently for more than a year to organize and implement his effort to document more of the history and personal stories of people who live along the river. Wes has been traveling south through the Upper Mississippi, blogging his “Secret History of American River People.” His most recent entries include Dubuque, IA
See more here: http://peoplesriverhistory.us

We have also published an authentic shantyboat adventure online dating from the 1930s by CARL FRANSON.
Enjoy that story here… http://www.greatriver.com/2ndage/index.html

Upper Mississippi Has Iced Over in a Hurry!

sepia eagles on nest

Nov. 18… Upper River is shutting down! Pretty much ice-covered. I remember years when I was riding the Steamboats on Nov. 17th!  This morning I saw 9 eagles clustered around a small area of open water. This afternoon…. no more small areas of open water!! Eagles are abundant… I must have seen 20 in a 5 mile stetch this morning… but the river tonight is pretty well sealed up. Eagles will be moving to open water just below the dams. Swans and Pelicans evaporated! Waterfowl are still migrating through looking for open water!

Eagle nests are now clearly visible along the river.

………………………………………………………..

Nov. 10……. Have been driving along the Wisconsin shore north and south of La Crosse. Lots of Swans, and other migrating waterfowl!  Eagles are also ABUNDANT as the river begins to freeze up before our eyes. My hope is that it will all open up again once the polar vortex is well out of the way, but meanwhile waterfowl and Eagles are abundant in the open water.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, after my river weeks on the American Queen, it is the adult American Bald Eagles that seem most abundant to me. Not nearly the number of juveniles that I’ve seen in late fall in past seasons. http://www.greatriver.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/watermarked-eagles-300×86.jpgWould love to hear some comments!

 

 

Spring Fun!

I very much enjoyed a spring hike at Goose Island where we found KC Kaudry and his niece playing his hand-crafted Didgeridoo! It was fun to return home and find his FACEBOOK site… https://www.facebook.com/midwestdidgeridoos?ref=stream

You’ll enjoy looking at his broad variety of creations made from local forest woods. Who knew you could make a didgeridoo from a white oak? Or a red cedar?

Thanks for a great impromptu concert, KC!!

KC with Didgeriedoo at Goose Island

Small Boat Cruising with BLOUNT to Belize and Guatamala

Birding as we Cruise up the Rio Dulce into Guatemala.

Birding as we Cruise up the Rio Dulce into Guatemala.

Just finishing up a fun travel feature regarding our cruise with Blount Small Ship Adventures to Guatemala and Belize. Get a quick visual preview of our cruise along the Barrier Reef off Belize, and up the Rio Dulce into the heart of Mayan country in Guatemala by visiting  our photo collection at http://greatriver.smugmug.com/Travel/Cruising-Belize-Barrier-Reef/

See ALL our travel features at www.greatriver.com/waterwaycruises

 

 

The Story of Albert D.J. Cashier

Albert DJ Cashier

Albert DJ Cashier

One of the more unusual stories from the Siege of Vicksburg came from the 95th Illinois Regiment. This regiment had a reputation as a particularly fierce group of fighters. Only 58% of the regiment had survived the previous Battle of Shiloh. Among those at Vicksburg was one they called “the fiercest of the fierce” — Albert D.J. Cashier.

When injured in a car accident in 1913, Albert (on right in photograph) refused medical help unless the doctor refused to reveal his secret… that Albert was a woman. Inevitably, the secret leaked out and a movement began to have Cashier’s name stricken from the Vicksburg monument. But in 1915, representatives of the regiment met in Chicago and signed a communication to the Illinois governor requesting that if any name was stricken from the regimental listing, then EVERY name must be stricken. Albert’s name is still listed to this day.

One knowledgeable researcher suspects that “Albert” was once engaged to a man named Albert in Ireland. When he was killed in an uprising, she committed herself to carrying on his life by following through on his dream to come to the United States. She dressed as a man, stowed away on a ship, and enrolled in the war using Albert’s name. At least 600 women are documented to have fought as men in the Civil WGRFF IV cover 033005ar.

Insight excerpt from the Siege of Vicksburg, p. 78, Vol 4 of DISCOVER! America’s Great River Road by Pat Middleton. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

Links for Following the “Healing the Water” Walk

Track exactly where the group is today…

LIVE GPS tracking: (copy & Paste into browser)http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0mPHV4igHadEVfpSyKWhmaoe1egzqco2g

Schedule for the Walk (save this as a possible route for walking the entire length of the Mississippi River. This schedule presumes walking 25-30 miles per day.

https://word.office.live.com/wv/WordView.aspx?FBsrc=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdownload%2Ffile_preview.php%3Fid%3D551090901588065%26time%3D1363819016%26metadata&access_token=1381570422%3AAVLBnSAg3R0QABSDzNAoBkEMMGiYBGyCeSFq1LXn4bIgtw&title=Mississippi+River+Water+Walk+Updated+3.12.doc

The group also has a FACEBOOK page.

Tundra Swans Make Spring 2013 Debut, Brownsville, MN

I spent some time searching out information on the Ojibwa “Healing the River” walk yesterday. Thought it might interest others, so I’ve included my links in the next entry. Contemplating their walk prompted me to have a look at the charts and plan my own walk along the river. I chose to walk a mile above and below the Brownsville, Minnesota, birding overlook… and was rewarded by seeing several large flights of TUNDRA SWANS land directly opposite the overlook!!

They are not just at the overlook, however, but there seems to be a cluster just beyond several small islands just north of the overlook. They were not in the water, but standing or sleeping in the snow beside any open water…so look carefully!

Also abundant eagles, diving ducks, a pileated woodpecker! Walking along sparkling, open water when it is still cold and snowy is the next best thing to spring!!

Eagles, Eagles

Eagles on ice

With the river well frozen in most spots, January becomes and ideal time for American Bald Eagle watching on the Upper Mississippi River. Best spots for viewing are generally at the open water just below each of the Dams between Lake Pepin and St. Louis. But eagles will be found in trees, certain farm fields, and clustered–often in dozens or even hundreds–at any bit of ice where there is open water.

This week end, 1-25-2013, in Clarksville Missouri is Eagle Days an educational program hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation. On Tuesday I counted 59 eagles from the Visitor Center in Clarksville. Clarksville was the first hosting site for the Eagle Days program starting back in ;the early 80′s when there were no nesting pairs in the state. Now there are between 100 to 200 nest in the state of Missouri. I hope everyone gets a chance to come see the eagles.

UPCOMING 2013 FESTIVALS:   Prairie du Chien, WI,  February 23.

Find more about EAGLES on the MISSISSIPPI by Search our Birding Categories, to the right, or by searching greatriver.com.