From our magnificent pine barrens to our towering peaks and sandy shores, much of New Jersey can be considered a treasure. While that’s certainly something to be proud of, today we’re talking about a different kind of treasure – HIDDEN treasure. We have a rich history filled with pirates, outlaws, and legends of secret stashes.
1. John Bacon's Long Beach loot.
Captain John Bacon was a notoriously vicious Tory raider (a colonist loyal to Britain) who has largely been forgotten by history. He and his band of Tories would lure ships into the shoals, and then raid the stranded ships. He is also known for the Long Beach Island Massacre, where he and his crew killed 20 militiamen as they slept. The militiamen had just captured a British ship, and Captain Bacon wanted revenge. He may also have taken off with the treasure, which is said to be buried somewhere near Barnegat Light.
2. Buried treasure in Burlington.
Legend has it that a wealthy recluse named Furman Dubel buried or hid over $200,000 in his Burlington home and throughout various businesses he owned in the area. He died in 1905, never revealing the location. 1884 court records indicate that a man with the same name did live in Burlington at the time, had no close relatives, and appears to have been wealthy as he was a big contributor to local charities.
3. A politician's fortune in Hanover.
Aaron Kitchell was a blacksmith and politician from Hanover Township. He represented New Jersey in both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. His wife is said to have buried $50,000 worth of gold in the Hanover and Morristown areas before she was tragically killed in the early 1800s.
4. The lost fortune of the "Pine Barrens Bandit."
Notorious outlaw Jacob Fagan and his henchman Lewis Fenton terrorized residents around the pine barrens throughout the 1770s. They left burned homes and bodies in their wake, and are said to have stolen tens of thousands of dollars worth of loot. Jacob was considered one of the most ruthless and dangerous bandits in the Mid-Atlantic states, but he and his crew were eventually captured and hanged.
The Fagan gang had elaborate hideouts including hand-dug tunnels in the Farmingdale area. When the gang was apprehended, most stayed silent and accepted their fate or fought to the death. Lewis Fenton, however, tried to negotiate. He told the constable that massive amounts of loot were hidden in their hideouts, and that he would direct them to it in exchange for his life. When law enforcement did not accept his bribe, he attempted to flee and was shot dead by a guard. The location of the alleged treasure died with him. To learn more, read Buried Treasures of the Mid-Atlantic States by W.C. Jameson.
5. Chief Thayendanegea's gold.
Chief Thayendanegea, better known as Joseph Brant, was a member of the Mohawk Tribe, based out of Orange County, on the NY/NJ border. Claudius Smith was a Loyalist guerrilla leader during the American Revolution. Historical accounts show that the two men led raids together against colonists who settled in the area along the Appalachian Trail. Though they weren't particularly violent and were more political in nature, legend has it that loot was acquired. It is said that much of the money went to help the poor, though some still may be buried in caves and caverns in the Vernon area.
6. Folsom's farmland treasure.
A man named Henry Roller lived on a farm near Folsom in Atlantic County. Rumor has it that he buried a small fortune somewhere on his farm, but he died in 1915, having never told anyone the exact location.
7. Captain Kidd's million dollar Jersey Shore stash.
The infamous pirate, Captain William Kidd, spent a significant amount of time along the New Jersey shore. Before he became a notorious criminal, he was married to a wealthy Monmouth County woman. Thanks to her connections, he was able to secure permission from the King of England to seize and capture French vessels and rogue pirate ships, as long as he split the booty with the crown and his backers. Eventually, he got greedy and began to do things his own way. While he still considered himself loyal to the crown, he was far from following orders. After learning he had been denounced as a pirate himself, he traveled to Boston from the Caribbean to clear things up, stopping at several New Jersey ports along the way.
Legend says that he left small fortunes at several stops on his route. It is estimated that he had over 400,000 British pounds worth of treasure, which would be approximately $20,000,000 in today's economy. Only 20,000 pounds were ever found, located on Gardiner’s Island off the coast of Long Island, NY. Kidd claimed he had a massive amount of treasure buried elsewhere, but never revealed the location(s). There are four New Jersey spots that seem to have some serious potential.
The most probable site is slightly east of Aberdeen. Just off the shoreline of Cliffwood Beach was a small island where some 17th century Spanish gold coins were found. The island became known as Money Island, but it has since disappeared due to erosion by the rough Raritan Bay waters. Additional gold coins were found just inland from this location, in a small body of water now known as Treasure Lake. Other sites include Cape May, where pirate ships often docked for a source of fresh water, an island at the mouth of the Toms River that sheltered pirates from the ocean elements, and Sandy Hook, near where Captain Kidd anchored on his final voyage in Raritan Bay.
Other tales of hidden treasure include chests of gold coins, buried by retreating British troops in Chatsworth, and silver coins on the shores of Ocean Grove. The pirate Blackbeard also spent some time in our state, so it’s entirely possible he left something behind. Are there any other stories of riches tucked away in New Jersey? Let me know in the comments…if you’re willing to share!