The Truth behind Southern Lancaster’s Treasurer Hunters

Over a two year period beginning in 1870, the Lancaster Intelligencer and The Columbia Spy ran four articles reporting the treasure hunting exploits of several Lancastrians centered in the Safe Harbor and Marticville area. While the origin and the actual treasure changed over time, their conviction in finding it did not. The Columbia Spy ran a fifth and unrelated treasure hunting article in 1886.

Under careful scrutiny, both the logic and the historical background on which these treasure hunts are based do not hold up. Forget the fact that a fortune teller was involved. Nevertheless, it’s fun to imagine what if. And besides, most legends have a grain of truth to them somewhere, right?

Recorded below are the five newspaper reports of these treasure hunters expeditions. The skeptical newspaper reporters were not kind.

When you are ready to start Haunted Indian Gold Adventure, click here. Plus, if you want to learn more about the buried gold hidden in Safe Harbor as well as several other lost treasures from the French & Indian War, click here. But perhaps the real motivation for the massacre of the Conestoga by the Paxton Boys was not revenge but gold in this historical fiction short story. Read it here.

Foolish Fortune Hunters

The Columbia Spy
February 5, 1870

We are informed that a number of foolish people, residing in and about Safe harbor, this county, are almost nightly engaged in a fruitless search for buried gold on the rocky and wild hill opposite the Mansion House hotel, in that village. It is asserted by those who have been silly enough to be duped by the impostors who are amusing themselves and filling their pockets at their expense, that an Indian Spirit about seven feet high, with all the marked features of the Indian, appears at the weird and solemn hour of midnight unto the money hunters and exhorts them to toil diligently on in search of the gold claimed by the Indian Spirit to have been taken from the French army by the Indians and secretly buried in the hill.

Our informant also says that a certain fortune teller, in this city, is concerned in the matter and, when the money hunters have dug where sad fortune tell has direct and have nevertheless failed to find gold, the fortune tell asserts that the Indian Spirit has removed the money since his last advice was given. In this way, the Indian Spirit and the fortune teller keep their dupes constantly at work and reap from them a nice little “divy” of substantial greenbacks. One would hardly expect to find in Lancaster county persons so grossly ignorant as to be thus imposed upon by the most arrant impostors.

We have been told that more than one midnight expedition in search of Spirit-guarded treasures, has been made in this neighborhood. Those who know say that the shovel must be greased with goat’s fat, and not a word must be spoken during the operation of digging.

Gold Seekers

The Columbia Spy
May 28, 1870

We are informed that the Safe Harbor gold seekers are still engaged in searching for “Treasure Trove.” Their investigations, which have hitherto been confined to the Manor township side of the Conestoga Creek, have recently been transferred to the Conestoga township hills opposite the scenes of their former researches.

On Tuesday night at a late hour, a party was discovered digging for the hidden treasure. They were much annoyed at being disturbed and left off their digging at the presence of the unwelcome visitors who so suddenly interrupted their mysterious labors. It is singular that these superstitious and deluded people should continue to hunt for buried gold, after the many assurances they have had their labor is all in vain.

The Treasure Seekers Again at Work – Startling Developments

The Columbia Spy
March 4, 1871

From Safe Harbor
A correspondent of the Lancaster Intelligencer writes to that paper as follows:

The gang of Safe Harbor treasure-seekers is again at work. While their previous exploits were performed in the most secret manner possible, and under the cover of darkness, this time they are working publicly and in the day time, as well as at night. As soon as we learn that they were again at work in this neighborhood, and that they did not try to conceal their actions as they had previously done, we concluded to visit the scene of their operations, for our own satisfaction, on the first day that our business would permit, but before we could do so we were informed that the owners of the properties on which their operations are carried on had put up public notices, forbidding all persons trespassing on their properties, and especially on the part where the treasure seekers are engaged.

As we were informed that no permits were given to go on the grounds we concluded not to tramp through four miles of mud on a wild goose-chase. The following particulars are as nearly correct as they can be given after the most diligent inquiries.

On Monday last, three persons from Columbia, a man and two women, arrived in the village of Marticville, and immediately proceeded to begin operations. The man who is nearly sixty years of age, and a mason by trade, but at present, we believed, engaged in some of the Iron Works at Columbia, is a native, and was for many years a resident of Conestoga Centre and later Safe Harbor, from whence he removed to Columbia, where he resides at present. He has for a number of years been connected with the mysterious Safe Harbor treasure-seekers, and since the death of their leader, a few years ago, has probably been the leading spirit among them. Of the previous career of the women, we cannot speak with certainty, but they are probably the same parties who acted in the same capacity for the deceased leader of these treasure-seekers when living. Mention has been made of them in an article previously published.

They have been described to us—the one as a German woman, well advanced in years, the other as a young woman, probably a girl. They pretended to be able to see hidden treasures by looking into a glass.

On a certain part of the farm of Mr. Eli Eshleman, near to, or on the line of Mr. Huber’s farm, in Martic township, adjoining the village of Marticville, is the spot pointed out by these women as the place where a subterranean cavern is located, in which is hidden an immense amount of silver coin, amounting to about $4,000,000. We have not heard that they attempted to explain where this immense about of silver—weighing about 125 tons—came from, or how, or by whom put into this subterranean cavern, without any visible opening or mouth, still these treasure-seekers and Mr. Eshleman, the owner of the farm, seem to have implicit confidence in their statements.

Two men living in the neighborhood, have been engaged to assist in the digging, each of who is to have a farm for his services when the treasure is obtained. Another party who has also been connected with the gang of Safe Harbor treasure seekers for many years, and who is also a native of this village, where he resided for many years and lives at present in its immediate vicinity, is also engaged in this scheme. He and the party from Columbia superintend the excavation and report regularly to the females the progress made. They change about, on having charge during the day, the other during the night, and not for a moment are both absent at the same time. The place is so near to the line of Mr. Joseph Huber’s farm, that it is necessary to excavate on his property also, to which he has given his consent, although he is not as credulous as Mr. Eshleman, being rather doubtless of success. Mr. Eshleman boards the party, and the woman also engages in the telling the fortunes of all who desire to be accommodated in that line.

Great excitement prevails in the neighborhood, and many persons went to view the scene of operations, but that has ceased as the owners of the land have put up notices that all persons who enter upon the grounds will be prosecuted for trespassing. A week of unceasing labor has been spent, but the treasure has not been reached. The woman says that over 500 spirits—or little devils as the young woman terms them—guard the treasure, and she says she would not like to be present when the money is reached.

As we have detailed those proceedings as fully as necessary, we submit them to the readers of the Intelligencer without comment, leaving them to form their own opinion on the subject, only vouching for the truth of our statements—incredible as they seem—and promising to report further developments, and the result of the final termination of the affair. We could give the names of all parties concerned—except the women—but refrain from doing so at present, but may hereafter if they persist in their folly.

The Treasure Diggers at Work – Seventy Million Treasures (not) Found

The Columbia Spy
April 8, 1871

From Safe Harbor
A correspondent of the Intelligencer from Safe Harbor writes as follows:

Having promised to report further development of the treasure-seeking operations near Marticville, we will now proceed to fulfill our promise. We had intended to wait until the final termination of his absurdity, and then give the results thereof, but as that, from present indications, is not likely to occur soon, will not defer any longer an account of the operations up to the present time. In our former article, we stated that we had not visited the scene of operations, but had gleaned our account from the many rumors afloat.

We had, however, obtained the particulars from the reliable source, and they were in the main correct. Our only errors were that we stated the amount of treasure buried in the cave as reported at $4,000,000 and that instead of two women there is but one, an old hag, about sixty years old. This old imposter has been telling persons that she would like “to talk” to us, intimidating that she would give us the length of her tongue (which no doubt is considerable) for exposing this ridiculous treasure-seeking. We would not, under any circumstances, willfully misrepresent anyone, nor would we unnecessarily bring anyone before the public through the newspapers, but we claim the right and we ought to exercise it, to expose all such preposterous proceeding as these money hunting operations.

Accompanied by Dr. _____ _____, in whose presence the principal dupe of this woman – her superintendent – had, among other orally extravagant declarations, said that they have struck a vein of silver six feet in thickness and that three feet below that—as can be seen by this woman’s “glass”, or rather bottle—is one still richer, we visited the scene of their operations lately. Near the south bank of the Pequea Creek, on the line of the farms of Eli Eshleman and Joseph Humber, are twelve to fifteen holes dug into the side of the hill. Some are but small, while others extend from ten to twenty feet into the hill. A large quantity of limestone has been taken out, which will no doubt form Mr. Eshleman’s sixth of the treasure. Mr. Eshleman and Mr. Huber were to have one-third of the money, to be divided between them, the other parties retaining two-thirds. As Mr. Eshleman has a lime kiln near the place, he will, probably, (after he gets his eyes open) but the stones into lime, to compensate him partly for boarding these parties.

These holes were dug for the purpose of finding the mouth of the cave said to contain this immense treasure. When they first commenced digging they said they would have the gold before evening; but when evening had arrived and the gold not being reached, they were sure of getting it before morning, and they worked all night, and have not been working six weeks, with the same result. The “old woman” as she is called in the neighborhood—says that when she is at a distance, as at her home, she can see the cave and money very distinctly, but that the “devils” having charge of it, have so much power in this vicinity, that they are able to deceive her, when she is near them.

As Mr. Huber has the good sense not to allow them to dig any longer on his property, the woman is now very positive that the cave is on his premises. A few weeks ago, in digging at one of the holes, they came upon some soft rotten rocks, of a yellowish color, which they took to be gold dust; since which time they have been searching for the cave, and for gold and silver ore. She offers a reward of $20,000 for the discovery of the cave. Near the place of these excavations, on Mr. Eshleman’s side, is a board nailed against a tree, on which is written with a pencil the following:

“Notis”
“No person is a loud to Com on this property under the penalty of the law.”

About three-eights of a mile distant, near the other end of Mr. Eshleman’s farm, and adjoining the village of Marticville, they have also dug some six or seven holes. At this place, they are as they say in search of a very valuable silver mine. Some years ago an opening was made into the side of this hill, and a slight trace of the same kind of ore was discovered, that was obtained north of the creek, in Pequea township, on what is known as the “silver-mine farm.”

This ore which was obtained in small quantities when the mines were worked, consists principally of lead but contains a small percentage of silver. As Mr. Eshleman’s hill is an extension of the ridge containing the “silver-mines,” it probably contains small quantities of this ore, as do several other places in that vicinity, but not in sufficient quantities to pay for mining it. The Superintendent being absent at the time of our visit, we were unable to find that “vein of pure silver, six feet thick,” that he had spoken of to the gentleman accompanying us, and we came away without being convinced” of its being the richest silver mine in the world.

A Deluded Treasure Seeker

The Columbia Spy
November 20, 1886

From the New Era
The mania for searching after hidden treasures has struck in deep on a poor victim who resides near Washington Borough. Not far from that place is the old Shuman farm, on which stand the remains of a building that was destroyed by fire long ago. Frequently, at night, may be heard the click of a pickaxe and the scrape of a shovel, as the searcher after hidden treasure cuts his way down beneath the foundation of the old ruins. How he ever got the idea in his head that treasure was buried there is a mystery to those who know him, but he believes it is there, and his nightly labors are evidence of his faith.

Uncharted Lancaster: Haunted Indian Gold Adventure

If you aren’t afraid of a seven-foot-tall Native American ghost, click here to start the Haunted Indian Gold Adventure. Plus, if you want to learn more about the buried gold hidden in Safe Harbor as well as several other lost treasures from the French & Indian War, click here. But perhaps the real motivation for the massacre of the Conestoga by the Paxton Boys was not revenge but gold. Learn more here.

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