Posted on March 23, 2018
Last Friday on the JM Bullion blog, we highlighted the (admittedly) hilarious case of gold raining down from the skies in eastern Russia. While that incident of missing gold was fleeting, with Russian police and security services quickly locking down the region and recovering the precious metals involved, back here in the United States a different case of missing gold bars was unfolding. As Russian police were scouring Siberia for the gold that plummeted from that plane last Friday, the FBI was descending on a field in Pennsylvania to determine if a 155-year-old case of missing gold had been discovered.
It has long been rumored that a Union Army wagon train departed West Virginia just ahead of the Battle of Gettysburg carrying two tons of gold. The destination for this gold was the pockets of Union Army soldiers, with a brief stop at the Philadelphia Mint first for refinement in order to pay those soldiers. The 400-mile trip the gold embarked upon was never completed. All that was discovered in the end was the train, dead soldiers, and two tons of absent gold. Authorities and treasure hunters now believe that gold may have been found.
In June 1863, the Union Army assembled a crack team of troops to escort a wagon train carrying Union gold to the United States Mint facility in Philadelphia. From the get-go, this story has layers of mystery. Some accounts suggest the troops were guarding a wagon train that carried 26 gold bars, with each one weighing in at 50 pounces. Other accounts state that the load of gold included 52 bars of the same weight. Depending upon which account you believe, that wagon train was carrying a total of somewhere between $27 million and $54 million in gold based upon today’s gold price per ounce.
The Union Army wagon train, together with its protective detail, departed from Wheeling, West Virginia in June just ahead of the Battle of Gettysburg breaking out (July 1-3, 1863). The trek was to take the wagon train some 400 miles northeasterly toward the Philadelphia Mint facility. The only problem is that the gold never arrived. The last confirmed sighting of the wagon train was in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. The next time it was seen, the detail was dead and the gold was gone.
Last week and trailing into this past weekend, the FBI and countless local treasure hunters descended upon a state forest at Dents Run, which is 27 miles southeast of St. Mary’s and 135 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. While the FBI was mum about its activity in the area, saying only that it was “carrying out court-authorized law enforcement activity in Elk County,” local television cameras spotted the logo of an interesting group on site with the FBI: Finders Keepers USA.
Finders Keepers is a famed treasure-hunting group based in Pennsylvania and founded by Dennis Parada. Mr. Parada, as it happens, is an avid believer in the missing Union gold and its possible location within the state. Since the 1970s he’s been hunting down the lost Union gold, based upon a map of the gold’s location he reportedly received in 1974.
Parada hasn’t been without success in his hunt in the region, he just hasn’t found the gold. Yet. Mr. Parada’s group used high-powered metal detectors and combed the region various times between 1974 and 2004. He claims to have found countless artifacts that date to the Civil War Era in the region, including bullet shells, knives, animal traps, zinc mason jar lids, tin cans, camp fire pits, and more. Most intriguing, his metal detectors picked up a “large metal object” buried some 8 to 10 feet underground. There was just one catch.
Finders Keepers had located all of these artifacts on state land. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources prohibits the digging and removal of any objects on state land. While permission is attainable to remove items and artifacts, Mr. Parada was swiftly denied the permission to dig and remove anything he found.
So what’s really going on in Pennsylvania? Is there really “gold in them thar hills?” The legend behind the missing gold started with the discovery of the wagon train, empty, and all of its escort soldiers dead. However, Sgt. Jim Connors added fuel to the legend following the disappearance of the gold when he stumbled into Lock Haven, Pennsylvania in the aftermath claiming to be the lone survivor of an ambush on that wagon train. Sgt. Connors was interrogated by the US Army at the time, but officers doubted his claims. Nevertheless, the famed Pinkerton detectives were sent to find the gold. They found nothing.
The problem with Connors’ account came from his own credibility. He was a known drunk and would often boast about the location of the gold in the hills of Western Pennsylvania while intoxicated. He was later reassigned by the Army and sent to a “western outpost,” where he eventually died.
Gold and silver have often led mankind astray on endless treasure hunts to find some vast fortune that does, or doesn’t, exist. Spanish conquistadors were among the first Europeans to fan out across Central and South America all on the promise of untold riches of gold, including the legend of El Dorado’s vast gold reserves and Paititi, the Lost City of Gold. Gold makes people do crazy things; and in some cases even think crazy things.
Local experts in Pennsylvania doubt the gold’s existence in the region. Others doubt it really went missing, or simply believe it’s a legend that will never be solved. It’s important to remember that missing gold and silver bullion was a fact of life during the Civil War. With the Confederacy collapsing, President Jefferson Davis evacuated Richmond, Virginia in April 1865 with Confederate government gold, silver, and bullion coins in tow, as well as an estimated $400,000 in gold bullion reserves from the Richmond Bank. When Davis was discovered though weeks later in Georgia, he had little more than a few worthless Confederate dollars on him.
Myths and legends drive the human imagination. Much like that gold raining from the skies in Russia, humans are fascinated with the concept of hidden or lost gold. The FBI came out this week and reported it found “nothing” in its “court-authorized activity” in Elk County, but for many that doesn’t mean there is nothing. It simply hasn’t been found.
That Union gold might still be missing, but if you want to get your hands on some gold bullion bars of your own, simply browse our gold bars for sale. JM Bullion is happy to answer your questions about gold, silver, platinum, and other precious metals. Our customer service team is available at 800-276-6508, online using our live chat, and via our email address. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook as well! Be a part of the precious metals conversation, learn about upcoming coin/bar releases, and get notified when new blog posts go live.