Dent’s Run: Fact or Fiction?


Treasure hunters claim there is gold in the hills of Pennsylvania, but is that fact or fiction? I am talking about the legend of Dent’s Run, an area in Western PA which had been under scrutiny from the FBI because treasure hunters claimed to found the place where a Union payroll of gold bars has been hiding since the Civil War era.

From the Courier Express:

In 1863, a Union wagon train left Wheeling, W.V. with 52 bars of gold, each weighing 50 lb., which were meant to pay Union soldiers. The wagon train was to travel northeast through Pennsylvania to Ridgway and then head southeast to Harrisburg. It made it to St. Marys and that was the last time it was seen. The wagons and dead soldiers were found later — but not the gold.

stock photo Civil War reenactment

In 2012, Finders Keepers said it found the gold, but federal law kept them from digging for it.

According to current market value, the gold bars would be worth more than $55 million. But Burke isn’t sure that if the search is successful that all of them will be found there.

You see, Finders Keepers aren’t the only ones who have been looking for the legendary Civil War era gold haul. Jim Burke, a historian has too.

“I’ve looked for the gold and have had a private investigator from Washington, D.C. go through our archives (at the historical society),” Burke said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

He said the story of the gold is multi-layered — some of it rooted in legend and other elements in documented fact.

According to the story Burke has pieced together over many years, three men came out of the gold train alive.

The person who was leading it, Lt. Castleton is said to have come down with typhoid fever and in his delusion, divulged the secret of what the wagon train was carrying somewhere around its last stop in St. Marys.

Other characters on the trip were a man known as O’Rourke, who was a ruthless character, as well as a man known as Conners. There are 10 said to have been in the train in total and not all of them have been accounted for.

Legend has it that Conners and two other unnamed men walked out before the wagon train met its storied end. Legend has it that Conners said that end was “over Thunder Mountain near Hicks Run.” All three went into the Civil War, but only Conners survived. He is said to have gotten drunk on numerous occasions on his return from war and would tell others in the bar — “I know where there’s gold back in the hills of Pennsylvania.” Ultimately, he died while building roads in California.

Another part of the story Burke found in searching for the gold is that when a company was surveying the Elk and Cameron county lines when Cameron branched out on its own, seven skeletons were found in the hollow of Bell Draft, near the tributary of Hicks Run.

At that time (circa the late 1800s-early 1900s), the Pinkerton Detective Agency came to the area and lore has it that 3.5 gold bars were found. After some of the detectives left the agency, they were said to have spent the rest of their lives in the area looking for the rest of the gold.

Pinkerton Detective Agency

Moving forward, to the 1990s, Burke said a man named Jack Schall, who currently lives in North Carolina, came to the region to do studies on elevation marker accuracy for the government. During his stint in the region, he is said to have met a man in a St. Marys drinking establishment, who said he kept a bar of gold under his bed. According to Burke, Shaw claims the man showed him the gold bar, which he took out of a canvas basket. After this, Shaw started to travel around the county lecturing about the lost gold.

Burke said at one point his partner in the search went to a “soothesayer” in New York state.

“He didn’t tell her what he was looking for. She went into a trance and said you’re looking for gold buried in Pennsylvania,” Burke recounted, adding that she also said she heard the voice of a man, whose description fit that of Lt. Castleton, saying, “I’m stuffed down in the hole. I can’t get out. There’s a bobcat licking my face.”

While Burke, in his retelling, often paused in uncertainty about the factuality of what he knows, he said that if it is true, he doubts the FBI will find what it’s looking for.

“Let’s suppose the Pinkertons found 3.5 gold bars. That tells me there was a division of gold,” Burke said. “If they do find a box of gold on the hill (in Dents Run) it was hidden by somebody, but it’s not the whole batch.”

When asked if he thought the search would be successful, Burke said frankly, “I hope it’s not. But, it might not be the end of the story if they do. And the first thing I’d ask then is how many bars did you find. I think somebody left with some of that gold.”

And if this site doesn’t pan out, Burke has one in mind, saying only that he has found a weathered rock with an important marking scribbled on it which has yielded some notable artifacts nearby.

The Courier Express article ends before the results of the FBI investigation were finished and released. Since then, the FBI, who conducted their search and diggings out of the public eye, claim they have excavated the site and have found nothing. Believable? Perhaps, but the entire story has some serious flaws.

This excerpt is from an interesting site called The Pennsylvania Rambler and this is from a post on February 16, 2020:

The treasure has divided people like no other legend within the borders of Pennsylvania. People have argued and debated the legend, with each bringing their evidence to the table to defend their side of the argument. I admit at one time, I was taken in by the legend and I too wanted to seek out and discover the fortune in gold. However, the story which first captivated me years ago is now an amusing piece of my past as I watch and read how people continue to scour the woods of Elk and Cameron Counties for a treasure that does not exist.

Yes, you read that last line correctly – in my opinion, the treasure that the FBI was accused of going in at night, digging up and stealing away with does not exist. Now I’ve read countless message boards and articles about the treasure and I find it strange that people are so committed in their belief that this treasure exists that they are willing to spend a small fortune on the continual search for it.

So why don’t I believe it exists? Allow me to present my evidence.

1). The most obvious answer is – I’m almost as old as the legend of the Lost Treasure of Dent’s Run. This piece of evidence is the biggest problem with the legend of the lost treasure. The oldest record of this tale is from a 1973 issue of Treasure Magazine. The article, written by a Sandra Gardner – who may or may not have actually existed – was the first telling of the tale that I can find. Since then it has appeared in numerous guide books and regional histories and with each retelling, the story gets more details added. The story fails to appear in Beers’ History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania (1890) and while this history is definitely missing some pieces, if the event had happened, I cannot imagine it would have been omitted from the history. In fact, the first time the story appears as an “official” part of Cameron County’s history is in the History of Cameron County, Pennsylvania (1991).

Note: I have found mention of the legend being as old as 1965, but the story that is recorded in that message board is the same as Gardner’s version. The article posted there had nothing with it to state where they obtained the story from, so at this point I’m still going with the oldest version being from 1973.

2) The characters mentioned do not exist. I’ve contacted so many U.S. Civil War historians to seek out Lieutenant Castleton and Sergeant Mike O’Rouke that most of them have me on a block list. There’s no solid proof anywhere that the two men existed. One version of the story states the unit assigned to transport the treasure was from either Indiana or Illinois, but again no state records there show the two men being a part of any regiment.

As far as Conners, the citizen guide who supposedly led the group through the mountains of central Pennsylvania, he remains a mystery. Recently I read that there was a man named Conners who was killed near Benezette, but – as far as I can tell – that Conners had nothing to do with the Civil War or the lost gold.

Note: In a recent conversation with a friend, we were discussing the lost treasure and he made an interesting suggestion about the name Castleton. In the Benezette Valley is the community of Castle Garden and maybe the writer used the community name to give Lieutenant Castleton his name. “Castle Garden to Castle Town to Castleton.” He also suggested Conners might have been a corruption of Connelly, an outlaw shot in the Benezette Valley in 1820. I can’t say this is correct, but it is an interesting theory that might hold some truth in it.

3) The route taken. This is one of the biggest problems I have with this legend. It makes absolutely no sense and the more I have looked into this route, the less sense it makes. They leave Wheeling, go to Pittsburgh, drive north along the Clarion River before arriving at Emporium. Then they go overland to St. Marys to Driftwood, where they planned on floating it down stream. First, if you’re in Wheeling, put it on a train, go to Pittsburgh and then to Altoona, to Harrisburg. A lot faster. Second, if the Bucktail Regiment could not float rafts down the West Branch, then why a couple years later would the U.S. Army think they could float a couple million dollars worth of gold down it?

The argument to this point is usually “The Battle of Gettysburg was going on at that time.” The fabled group left Wheeling in June. That’s a whole month before Gettysburg. The nearest major battle would have been the Second Battle of Winchester in early June, but even so, there would have been enough time to put the treasure on a train and send it to Washington, D.C. by rail.

4) The “Henry Shoemaker Theory.” No, I’m not accusing him of making this story up, although he would have if he would have thought about it. To be honest, I never thought I’d use Henry Shoemaker and his writings to defend my beliefs. The “Henry Shoemaker Theory” is the treasure probably does not exist, because he did not write about it. Although many of the stories that Shoemaker wrote were from his own imagination, or moved folktales from other parts of the world and set them in the wilderness of Pennsylvania, he did take a number of regional stories and retell them. Shoemaker seemed fascinated about lost treasures and focused a lot on another treasure in the region, the silver bars hidden north of here near the small community of Gardeau. I cannot help but believe, if the Lost Treasure of Dents Run existed, Shoemaker would have written about it because he had set a number of his stories within the Sinnemahoning Region. Note: more about the lost treasure of Gardeau can be found here: Blackbeard’s Treasure.

Two other questions arise in regards to the Legend of the Lost Treasure that I feel need to be addressed.

1) Were human bones found? The point most treasure hunters make is that human remains were found, along with other Civil War relics, proving there was a massacre. I have not found any reliable source pre-1973 to prove that human remains were found while either surveying the county line or while widening any of the roads. However, with there being numerous family cemeteries in the region, it is possible a forgotten cemetery was discovered and is the source of the story of human remains being found.

2) Where did it happen if it did happen? The lost treasure was supposedly buried along Dents Run or nearby Hicks Run. However, that has not prevented newer versions of the story – which are claimed to be the “correct” version – from changing to location. The treasure has been reported to have been buried near Caledonia, under a “concrete slab at the top of Winslow Hill” and in Driftwood itself. I personally love the Driftwood version because it states the reason the Bucktail Monument was moved from the center of Route 555 was because the state recovered the lost gold buried beneath the monument.

Bucktail Vista

If I’m correct in my belief the Lost Treasure of Dents Run does not exist, then the question must be asked: “Where did the story originate? My personal belief is the legend is a corruption of Shoemaker’s story about Blackbeard’s Silver Bars. Both have a lost treasure being transported overland by wagon and are set in the Sinnemahoning Valley. Mix into the story some elements of truth – the Bucktail Regiment came out of this region and a short distance south was the fight between army deserters and U.S. troops. Add into this mixture of history the similar stories of lost Union or Confederate gold and silver existing in other parts of the state and in the mountains of Appalachia and there is a story that becomes a part of regional lore that has just enough “fact” in it to make people believe it is true.

Note: Strangely, most of the stories about lost Civil War treasure first appear in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I’m not sure why these stories all seemingly appear roughly at the same time and – in my mind – there has to be a connection to why these stories suddenly became a part of American culture, but I have not been able to make any type of relevant connection to their origins.

Final Thoughts

I always thought it would be exciting to go on a treasure hunt, but it seems legends cloud the actual facts and it’s difficult to know if there are indeed undiscovered treasures still buried deep beneath the ground. Did the FBI uncover $54 Million in gold bars and whisk it away under cover of darkness? Hard to say, but with the current state of the FBI, it would not be surprising at all.

144 thoughts on “Dent’s Run: Fact or Fiction?

  1. It was a part of Common Core here, too!

    EXCERPT: “A government-recommended online learning tool used by thousands of schools during the lockdown harvested the data of children, an investigation has found. Research done by the NGO Human Rights Watch has found that an online learning tool recommended to schools by the British government during lockdown harvested the data of children who used it.

    Edpuzzle, an online learning platform was found to collect significant amounts of data from its users — including keyboard strokes and mouse movements — some of whom were reportedly as young as five years old.

    According to a report by The Telegraph, which has seen the research, over 1,000 schools availed of the service which allegedly contained four different third-party “ad trackers”, which recorded information regarding a person’s actions while using the website.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. [NOTE: They are at least 2 Michael Sussman’s who are attorneys. This is NOT the one on trial!]

    EXCERPT: “The U.S. Supreme Court this week decided not to take up an appeal by parents seeking to challenge New York lawmakers’ 2019 removal of the religious exemption to vaccination requirements for schoolchildren. The court’s May 23 order announcing its decision not to hear arguments in the case F.F. v. New York allows a lower court decision to stand. The lower court concluded the parents’ arguments lacked merit and the state was not targeting religion when it eliminated the religious exemption.

    “Today we learned that the U.S Supreme Court will not hear the religious repeal case we have argued for the last almost three years,” lead attorney Michael Sussman told Autism Action Network (AAN). Sussman said in an AAN email to members:

    “As those who have followed the case know, the legislature in NY repealed the 50-year-old religious exemption for students in June 2019. It did so with hateful rhetoric accusing religious people of being fraudsters.

    “I believe this violated the first amendment which this court explicitly has held does not suffer any state action smitten with religious intolerance. I had expected this court to reaffirm this principle, but four justices did not vote to hear our case. So, we have lost. The only hope now is in the state legislature and hope is hard to find there.”

    Kennedy and Sussman:

    THIS is the one on trial:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When will they fricking STOP??!!??

    EXCERPT: “A concept patent has been filed for a method that includes the use of CRISPR/Cas-mediated gene editing to generate transgenic birds so that no male offspring are able to hatch. Israeli scientists led by Dr. Yuval Cinnamon (named as an inventor on the patent) are proposing this method to be used in chickens so that only female chicks will hatch, which will then go on to become laying hens for egg production.

    Currently, male chicks are killed when young as they are of no use to the egg or chicken meat industries. Even then, hatching the male chicks and keeping them alive until they are killed is viewed by the industry as a waste of energy and other resources.

    More seriously, the practice of killing male chicks is an animal welfare issue. In this light, the transgenic CRISPR-edited chickens are being hyped as a boon for animal welfare, on the grounds (in the BBC’s words) that the technology could “prevent the slaughter of millions of male chickens in the U.K., which are culled because they don’t lay eggs.”

    But our investigation shows that such claims are disingenuous in the extreme. In fact, the technology forces mother hens to pass on a lethality (killer) gene, which is intended to kill all male embryos before they hatch from the egg.”

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yellow and Orange Marigolds in the wrought iron wheel barrow and Dark Pink and Yellow Celosia in my wrought iron 3-bowl tier plant stand up by the front door. To the left of that, centered under the 2 windows in Piper’s room, is a large urn where I planted a gorgeous pale yellow and dark peach Calla lily. I’ll post pics this summer when things are in prime shape! I still have to get something for my 2 huge black round tubs on either side of my garage door. Last year, I just bought 2 of those pre-arranged baskets and transplanted them. Not sure yet what I’m going to do this year.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmmmm….just saw that the X22 report claims that the subsidies from Obamacare will be ending soon. That was taken care of – from December 2021:

      EXCERPT: “For the first several years after the health insurance marketplaces/exchanges debuted for 2014 coverage, the premium subsidy (premium tax credit) eligibility range was capped at household incomes of 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL). People with incomes above 400% of FPL were on their own when it came to paying for health insurance. But that has changed for 2021 and 2022, thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s provision that eliminates the subsidy cliff. (The version of the Build Back Better Act that passed the House of Representatives in November 2021 — see Section 137304 — would continue to eliminate the income cap for subsidy eligibility through 2025. The legislation is under consideration in the Senate as of December 2021.)

      The initial assumption, when the ACA was being drafted in the late aughts, was that when incomes are above 400% of the poverty level, health insurance would be affordable (as a percentage of household income) without the need for a subsidy. But that did not prove to be the case in many areas of the country, particularly for older enrollees.

      For 2021 and 2022, Section 9661 of the American Rescue Plan simply caps marketplace health insurance premiums (for the benchmark plan) at no more than 8.5% of household income. This applies to people with household incomes of 400% of the poverty level or higher; for people with lower incomes, the normal percentage of income that has to be paid for the benchmark premium has been reduced across the board.”

      Much more in depth analysis:

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I really like the way this guy writes!!!! Just my line of vocabulary! LOL – he is pretty graphic, tho, so don’t say you weren’t warned!

    EXCERPT: “It would be nice if we paid any sort of attention to exactly how these crazies happen and perhaps our role in creating them. Was this one on SSRIs? There’s a very nasty correlation in that data set, but heh, writing on that in the “open” part of the system where there’s advertising will get me blackballed these days (funny how it didn’t 10 years ago) because bagging on pharma and doctors for making rage monsters is considered “harmful or dangerous” content.

    We’ve known all the way back to Columbine and even before that these drugs are dangerous in people under about 22. We don’t know why. We know it doesn’t happen all that often but it does happen in a small percentage within that age group who are prescribed them. Not every one of those people go on to shoot up a school — or a movie theater — some just kill themselves. For the last two decades I’ve put forward the position that since we know this happens and there is no way to predict in young people who will draws the crazy straw and who won’t when young people are given these drugs the only place we should use them in young people is in an institution where the person in question can be monitored and kept from getting at, oh, a steak knife, say much less a gun on a 24×7 basis.

    But no! We can’t have that discussion and do that thing! We didn’t just spend the last two years locking people in their homes and telling them they were going to either die or kill their grandmother, wildly adding to stress and depression, did we? How many newly-minted rage monsters did we create over the last two years and of those how many were prescribed these drugs? How many more are plotting something nasty just like this? Psychotics are, well, psychotic you know.

    Never mind that from the descriptions this “kid” had some pretty expensive weaponry. About 5 large worth of it, to be exact. I’ve seen the images and I can identify both a quite-expensive holographic sight and one of the weapons as to brand, and both are wildly beyond the “cheap AR” nonsense that people like to scream and shout about. Where’d he get the money to buy it, assuming he didn’t steal it, which of course would render all the screaming about “gun control” moot as someone who is willing to commit armed robbery, and yes it is once there’s a firearm involved, has already declared that they don’t give a wet crap about any law. At 50 miles from the unguarded Mexican border do you really think it would be hard to get a gun from….. oh….. a gang-banger?”
    Save me the outrage folks and turn it on yourself, pharma, your local doctor’s office and our sick society that promises that you too can have peace and prosperity — right after you’re bankrupted and the lights go out because you thought “green” was “free.”

    You not only made and are part of the crazy you are still inviting the drug gangs into our nation wholesale through the border 50 miles from where this took place, never mind all the rest.

    All these incidents prove is that if you’re going to be that much of a douche everyone had damn well better be armed all the time. If you insist on making and promoting zombies then by God I insist on a full-capacity magazine stuffed with silver bullets to dispatch the assholes you created when, not if, they decide today would be a good time to try to eat me for lunch.”


  5. Ahhhh….this might also have been part of the motivation for the timing of this shooting….from an AP article:

    “The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association annual convention was set to begin in Houston, with the Texas governor and both of the state’s Republican U.S. senators scheduled to speak.”


  6. EXCERPT: “The school shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school was not the first time a Uvalde school was in the crosshairs of a mass shooter, coming four years after authorities foiled a plot to carry out a Columbine style attack against fellow students at Morales Junior High School.

    Two Uvalde middle school students were arrested in 2018 for conspiracy to commit murder, with police saying the 13-year-old and 14-year-old were plotting what was described as a “mass casualty event against the school,” according to a May 2018 report from KENS 5.
    A few years later, a Uvalde school was again in the crosshairs when the high school was forced to lockdown due to threats of violence against the school. Investigators identified a 16-year-old residing in Puerto Rico as being responsible for the threats, with police saying the teen was a former student that had caused trouble in the area a few years prior.

    “We have dealt with her before here, she went to school here in 2018. We had problems with her back then,” Lt. Mariano Pargas Jr., with the Uvalde Police Department, said at the time, according to a report in the Uvalde Leader-News.”


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