Sunday, September 29, 2013

Buried Treasure

Being that Florida was once a haven for pirates - and some say it still is - you may well inadvertently stumble onto buried treasure at some point while digging for fishing worms. Herewith we present just a smattering of the possibilities, as we shall continue to feature in future blog posts:

Canal Point. This spot on the southern end of Lake Okeechobee was one of the hideouts for the infamous John Ashley, a 1920s-era pirate/bandit/smuggler. It's one of several different spots where Ashley and his girlfriend, Laura Upthegrove, are said to have hidden vast sums of loot from their criminal empire. What makes Canal Point doubly of interest is that Laura opened a filling station there after John's death. $110,000 in gold coins John and Laura stole in a bank heist were never recovered. Another $250,000 is said to be hidden on one of the small islands in St. Lucie Inlet. )The pair were the subject of the 1973 film Little Laura and Big John starring Fabian and Karen Black.)

The Treasure Coast. Located on the state's Atlantic coast, formed by Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin, and in some definitions, Palm Beach counties, this region is well known for its numerous finds of booty which the Spanish Treasure Fleet lost in a 1715 hurricane.

Bokeelia Island. Supposedly there's buried pirate treasure here, but one website cites it as being that of "Bocilla the Pirate", of which a google search brings up that site and that site only. In other words, I think someone's really confused.

Pine Island. Another website says that nearby Pine Island is the site of the lost treasure of Bru Baker, a man said to be the sidekick of Jose Gaspar. But since it's pretty much assumed now that Gaspar/Gasparilla was only a legend, it doesn't say much for the veracity of a story about his sidekick, now does it?

Egmont Key. As we've already touched upon here, Egmont Key was once called Castor Cayo, so named for a mysterious Caribbean pirate about whom I can find very little information. Supposedly, if internet chatter is to be believed, this Castor the Pirate buried treasure on Egmont Key and and near Sweetwater Creek at Rocky Point, and held his own pirate community called Castortown on the East end of the key.

Somewhere near St. Petersburg. I know, I know, how vague is that? But that's all we have to go on from this old newspaper article from the Evening Independent, August 20, 1937. One old codger - and he was old even then - named John Girard was certain he could remember, with his photographic memory, an alleged treasure map he'd seen briefly as a young boy.

The Everglades. During the Civil War in 1865, Captain John Riley and his squad of Confederate troops were sent from Kentucky with a half ton of gold bullion to be transported to Fort Mead, Florida. They were nearly overtaken by Union troops advancing, so the Confederate band quickly buried the gold and escaped into the swamps of the Everglades. When it came to reclaim it, of course, no one could remember exactly where they put it. The gold may stay there a long time: digging in the Everglades, now a Federally protected area, is forbidden.

Caesar's Rock. The treasure of "Black Caesar" is supposedly located here, as well as on Sanibel Island. Black Caesar's full real name was either Henri Caesar or Caesar LeGrand, depending on which historian you ask. He was originally either from Haiti or from Dominica, also depending on which historian is speaking. Reportedly he entered the solo pirate business by killing the captain of a ship he was a mate on, then became a privateer for the next 28 years.

Don Felipe's Plantation. The legend is often told locally about a Spaniard named Don Felipe, believed to have buried a large hoard of family heirloom silver and gold coins on his property during the Seminole war. Unfortunately, he was subsequently killed by Indians and the cache, allegedly located 2 miles NW of Ocala, is still lying there waiting for you to find it.

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