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The Buried Treasure-Lost French Treasure

Milestones Vol 24. No.2

by Clyde Piquet

At the time the French occupied Fort Duquesne, anticipating an attack from the English and Americans, it is said they took their treasure, consisting of gold and silver coin, and other valuables, and with an escort of ten men and sixteen pack horses started to some place of safety on the Tuscarawas trail. On the third day out, finding they were being pursued by the enemy or robbers, they buried the treasure, and soon afterwards were attacked by their pursuers and but two escaped. The Tuscarawas trail commenced at Fort Duquesne afterwards Fort Pitt, now the present site of Pittsburgh; thence down the Ohio River to the mouth of the Yellow Creek; thence up said creek and its north branch to the dividing ridge, thence west along said ridge to the head waters of Sandy, thence down Sandy to the valleys of the Tuscarawas and Muskingum rivers, which was the capitol or headquarters of the different Indian nations.

Having traveled over this trail from beginning to end, I find that almost every mile, for the first one hundred miles, has its legend concerning this buried treasure. They will tell you "that just right here, somewhere is the place, it was buried; that they heard their father and the old settlers talk about it many a time." But the real focus of the supposed locality is in Carroll and Columbiana Counties, two miles south of East Rochester, on or about the line dividing the two counties. The particulars as to this place are as follows: In the year 1829, a man came from one of the Carolina States, and had with him a survey and description of the locality. The description being in French, the settlers could tell nothing about it, and refused to give him any information as to certain marks and localities, some of which were well known to them at the time, and others found afterwards. He offered his horse, saddle and bridle, besides a considerable slim of money to any person who would give him the desired information; but all to no purpose, as the story of the buried treasure had preceded him. Each one thought he had it within his own grasp. The stranger finally disappeared, leaving them but little wiser.

He said the survey and description he had with him were found amongst his uncle's papers, who had been one of the escorts, and was one of the two who made their escape. The description he had with him brought him to the exact locality, but the precise spot he was unable to find, on account of not being able to find his landmarks. These marks were first a deer cut on a tree, other marks a mile west, three springs one half mile south, rock on hillside opposite a certain spring, stone in fork of a tree, etc. The tree with a deer cut in the bark was on the trail, and was the starting point, and was well known to the settlers at the time of the stranger's visit. The other marks and localities were all discovered, and identified afterwards. The tree with stone in the fork was felled, but a few years ago; the stone was completely imbeded in the wood, and supposed to have been there over one hundred years.

After the stranger left, his mission became known, and everybody went to hunting and digging, not only settlers, but many from a distance. Upon failure, the excitement would die away until some new landmark was discovered, when the excitement would break out anew. To write all that has been said and done to discover this real or imaginary treasure would make quite a volume. Parties are hunting for it to this day, generally on the pretext of prospecting for iron, coal, etc. Others have been seen with some strange looking instruments, which they say are for the detection of gold or silver. One old colored man dreamed where it was, but was not to speak to any living person or dead ghost while digging for it. The first day he dug quite a hole; but on going to the place the next morning what was his surprise, to find that his old horse had fallen in and broken his neck.

At East Liverpool they tell me of three Frenchmen who were on the hunt of the treasure, but all died from the effect of eating too many raw chestnuts.

As to the possibilities or probabilities of this treasure, I have but little to say, and give it as a legend of the past, allowing the reader to draw his own conclusions. If the French had a treasure, and anticipated an attack, and probable defeat, the only safe plan would be for them to convey it to Canada by way of the Detroit trail, which commenced at the western terminus of the Tuscarawas trail. The French and Indians at this time were on friendly terms, and the Indian warriors were with the French in and about Fort Duquesne. This circumstance alone would insure the safe transportation of their treasure through the Indian territory, even under a small escort. As to the date of the burial of the treasure, whether it was at the time of Braddock's defeat by the French and Indians, or whether it was a few years afterwards when they were defeated by the English and Americans, and driven from the Fort and territory, we know not.

Taking all the circumstances as we have collected them there appears to be a smack of truth about it. If they had a treasure and fearing the enemy, it was their only safe route. The stranger, and the survey, and the finding of picks and shovels that had been deposited in hollow trees, all go to show a strange train of circumstances. January 19, 1881 (From an old clipping from the East Liverpool Review. Contributed to Milestones by Clyde Piquet.)