There are thousands if not tens of thousands of lost treasures all over the world. Treasure hunting is not a new hobby. People have been interested in lost treasure for hundreds of years. The allure of the hunt and actually find a treasure has compelled many to search high and low for riches that are hidden in the earth.
So it’s no wonder that there are lost treasures of Iowa waiting for someone to claim them. Indians first came to Iowa about 13,000 years ago. Then the French Explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet came to Iowa via the Mississippi River in 1673 claiming the land for France.
With Iowa’s rich history there are lost treasures stories and legends to be told. That’s why I bring you the 15 lost treasures of Iowa!
15 Lost Treasures of Iowa
|Lost Stolen Loot of Bonnie and Clyde||Unknown||The woods near Dexfield Amusement park or on the way out along the Raccoon River|
|Lost Treasure of Chief Black Hawk||$50,000 in gold coins||Near Denmark, Iowa|
|Black Hawk and His Warriors Bury Gold||A cache of gold coins||Davis County Iowa near the northern side of the Des Moines River|
|Red Brussels Buried Wealth||$40,000 in gold coins||Along the Mississippi River a few miles north of Sabula, Iowa close to the state 64 bridge that crosses into Wisconsin in Jackson County Iowa.|
|Lost Army Payroll on The Banks of Miners Creek||Unknown Payroll Amount||along Miners Creek on the Mississippi River close to Guttenberg, Iowa.|
|Buried Payroll at Fort Atkinson||$7,000 in gold coins||Somewhere near Fort Atkinson near Decorah, Iowa in Winneshiek County.|
|Tom Kelly’s Buried Treasure||$100,000 in silver and gold coins||Kelly’s Bluff in Dubuque, Iowa!|
|Pirate Treasures in Iowa||Unknown||Near Sioux City, Iowa north of the Iowa River where it runs into the Mississippi in Louisa County near Burris City Iowa|
|Sunken Riverboats of Mercury and Whiskey||whiskey and mercury||Iowa side of the Missouri River.|
|Banditti Gangs Buried Loot||Unknown||In an Indian burial mound near where the John Lott Monument stands in Iowa|
|Jesse James Buried Loot||$35,000 in gold coins||On a farm near Weston, Iowa a few miles north of Council Bluffs in Pottawattamie County.|
|Buried Ceramic Jar of Gold Nuggets||$25,000 in gold nuggets.||Close to a cemetery near Eddyville, Iowa|
|Ivy Brothers Buried Money and Stock Certificates||Caches of money and stock certificates||Ivy Brother’s farm was or still might be located a few miles north of U.S. Highway 80 in Cedar County Iowa.|
|Stolen Train Loot Buried Near Davenport, Iowa||$50,000 in gold coins||swampy 5-acre area that’s close to a creek that flows into the Mississippi River near Davenport, Iowa.|
|Iron Pot O’ Gold||An iron pot full of gold coins and stock certificates.||Near River Front Park in Clinton, Iowa that’s on the Mississippi River.|
Lost Stolen Loot of Bonnie and Clyde
The famous Bonnie and Clyde once hid out in Iowa. Bonnie and Clyde were a duo couple who robbed their way through the Central United States in the early 1930s. The story goes that Bonnie and Clyde camped out in a forest that overlooked the Dexfield Amusement park a few miles north of Dexter, Iowa.
They were in Iowa because they were on the run from the Missouri police who they had a shoot-out a few days before. People in the town of Dexter didn’t know who Clyde or Bonnie was and they sold them items that Bonnie and Clyde needed in the stores of Dexter.
The duo and other members of their gang hid out there for 4 to 5 days. During that time it is speculated that they buried a good portion of their stolen loot there in fear that the police would catch up with them.
A man named Henry Nye came along their camp which was on his property and he got suspicious. Nye called Sheriff Clint Knee and asked if any outlaws were in the area. A posse was formed and on July 24, 1933, the posse went to the campsite where Bonnie and Clyde were hiding out.
There was a huge shoot out but Bonnie and Clyde got away once again. A couple of gang members from the Burrows gang were captured and one of them died a few days later.
So either at the campsite in the woods near Dexfield Amusement park or on the way out along the Raccoon River Bonnie and Clyde may have buried some of their ill-gotten gains.
Lost Treasure of Chief Black Hawk
Black Hawk was the leader of the Sauk Nation. He was born in 1767 in a village named Saukenuk which was close to the modern-day city of Rock Island Illinois. He became war chief and held raids called the Black Hawk Wars of 1832 against the white settlers of the Midwest.
He joined the British in hopes that they could close in on the white settlers that had overtaken the Sauk Territory and move them out of his lands. Black Hawk got captured by the U.S. Troops.
He was eventually let go and he even wrote an autobiography called Black Hawk: an Autobiography that was the first one written by a Native American.
Black Hawk spent his remaining years in Denmark, Iowa. He died in 1838 not before he buried $50,000 in gold coins in the hills that overlooked Lee County in Iowa. I assume he made his fortune from the sales of his book but only one can guess. That was an extreme amount of money for the late 1830s.
It still might be there buried somewhere near Denmark, Iowa in the hills overlooking the town. Get yourself a good gold-seeking metal detector like the Garrett AT Gold and head over to Iowa might be worth the trip and $50,000 in gold coins that would probably be worth much more than that today! Just the fact that they were Black Hawks gold coins would make them more valuable!
Black Hawk and His Warriors Bury Gold
Another story of Black Hawk burying gold states that in the early 1800s Black Hawk and some of his warriors buried a cache of gold coins in Davis County Iowa near the northern side of the Des Moines River. A large cache is said to be buried in Section 2, Township 70, Range 2.
It would be worth taking a look along the north side of the Des Moines River in that county. A fortune in gold could be waiting for your discovery!
Red Brussels Buried Wealth
Red Brussels was a wealthy man who made his riches by stealing horses and reselling them for 100% profit. He lived in a cabin on a small island on Trumbull Lake in Iowa.
People from a village near his home got fed up with him stealing their horses and they formed a vigilante posse to go after Red. They succeeded in finding him and he was hung. Barely any of the proceeds from his horse thieving was found.
It is believed that Red buried $40,000 in gold coins along the Mississippi River a few miles north of Sabula, Iowa close to the state 64 bridge that crosses into Wisconsin in Jackson County Iowa. It could still be there awaiting discovery!
Lost Army Payroll on The Banks of Miners Creek
There are actually two lost army payrolls in Iowa. This payroll is said to be buried along Miners Creek on the Mississippi River close to Guttenberg, Iowa. Not much information on this one but it’s worth taking a look around the banks of Miners Creek in Guttenberg, Iowa.
Buried Payroll at Fort Atkinson
Fort Atkinson was built between 1840 and 1842 to house and protect the Ho-Chunk Nation while they were being removed from Wisconsin. After the Ho-Chunk people were removed from Iowa the army turned the facility over to Iowa Volunteers who would be fighting in the Mexican/American War in 1846-1848.
At one point the fort was attacked by Indians and an officer there afraid of looting buried about $7,000 in gold which was the payroll for the troops. It is said that he buried the payroll somewhere near the Fort.
The Paymaster was slaughtered by the Indians before he could tell anyone where the gold was buried. It could still be there buried somewhere near Fort Atkinson near Decorah, Iowa in Winneshiek County.
The Fort has been preserved and is called Fort Atkinson State Preserve. Digging and metal detecting are more than likely not allowed on the grounds.
Tom Kelly’s Buried Treasure
Tom Kelly was a lead miner in the 1800s and he became wealthy, mining lead in the 1830s. He mentioned that he had buried hoards of gold and silver coins before he died.
It is said that fearing he would be robbed of his newly acquired wealth that Tom buried over $100,000 in silver and gold coins in the bluffs around Dubuque, Iowa. As a matter of fact, silver and gold coins have been found in the hills around the city of Dubuque over the years. Including in 1867, a jar was found with $1,200 in gold coins in it.
Also in 1871 two more hoards were found one consisting of $10,000 in coin and another worth $1,800 in coin. And $4,000 was found in 1914. The townsfolk believe there is much more hidden in what’s now called Kelly’s Bluff in Dubuque, Iowa!
With a handy metal detector and some luck you just might find gold in them thar hills overlooking Dubuque, Iowa!
Pirate Treasures in Iowa
Near Sioux City, Iowa in a place called Stone Park that overlooks a bend in the Missouri River, it is said there are many pirate treasures buried in this area. That’s just one of the pirate treasure stories.
North of the Iowa River where it runs into the Mississippi in Louisa County near Burris City Iowa it is said to be more buried pirate treasure from Mississippi River Pirates that roamed the ole Mississippi in the 1800s. There is even a report that a treasure seeker in 1960 dug up a large cache of California Minted Gold coins in the area.
Yet another Pirate story states that in the 1880s Mississippi River pirates hide some of their plunder in a cave on the southern side of Bellevue, Iowa. These pirates were hanged by a vigilante posse but the treasure was never recovered as far as we know. It could still be in a cave near State Highway 52 in Jackson County Iowa.
Every year Iowa and Minnesota hold the Iowa-Minnesota Pirate Fest. Fun for the whole family while learning about pirates that roamed these two states!
Sunken Riverboats of Mercury and Whiskey
Riverboats were commonplace on the waters of the Missouri River in the 1800s. So it’s not surprising that there is a story of two riverboats sinking in Iowa. In 1866 it is documented that two riverboats sank northeast of Blaire, Nebraska. Their cargo consisted of whiskey and mercury.
Three containers of mercury were found in 1956 south of Horseshoe Lake on the Iowa side of the Missouri River. It is believed that the rest of the riverboat’s cargo has sunk into the muddy waters of Missouri just waiting to be dredged up by some treasure hunter.
From time to time whiskey bottles will wash ashore there. What a find that would be an unopened bottle of whiskey from the 1860s! If you have some scuba gear and a dredging rig you might be able to salvage these two riverboat wrecks and their valuable cargo!
Banditti Gangs Buried Loot
The Banditti of the Prairie or Prairie Pirates were a gang that roamed Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Iowa during the early to mid-1800s. These men coming from the south would steal horses and cattle, commit a burglary of homes and businesses all through the Prairie states.
With all this looting and pillaging going on many of them stored up quite a bit of wealth. One of these gangs of outlaws had their headquarters close to the mouth of the Boone River about two miles north of Stratford, Iowa.
The story states that before being killed by a posse of lawmen that the gang buried a large portion of their stolen loot in an Indian burial mound near where the John Lott Monument stands in Iowa.
That’s just one story I’m sure there are more stories of buried loot by the Banditti of the Prairie scattered around the state of Iowa!
Jesse James Buried Loot
Jesse James was a famous gunslinger and outlaw in the mid to late 1800s. There are countless stories of Jesse James and the James gang burying treasure all over the west and midwestern states of American.
Rumor has it that Jesse James hid out on a farm near Weston, Iowa a few miles north of Council Bluffs in Pottawattamie County. It is said that Jesse buried $35,000 in gold coins on that property. If it’s still there it would be worth much more than $35,000!
Before digging on any private property make sure you get permission from the owners. But what a find that would be! The property owners might not even know that there could be buried loot right under their feet.
Buried Ceramic Jar of Gold Nuggets
This story takes place in 1878 when three prospectors were returning from the black hills. It is said that close to a cemetery near Eddyville, Iowa that the prospectors buried a ceramic jar filled with $25,000 in gold nuggets.
Eddyville is close to the Des Moines River off of county road 137 in Monroe County Iowa. Is it still there who knows? You will need to get a trusty metal detector and shovel and make your way to Eddyville, Iowa to find out! Good Luck!!
Ivy Brothers Buried Money and Stock Certificates
The Ivy Brother were very wealthy men that owned shares of stock and had a lot of money to boot. It is said that the brothers buried many caches of money and stock certificates on their farm near Sunbury, Iowa.
This story holds true because some of their relatives actually found some of the money buried on the farm $200,000 worth in 1935. There’s said to be more that hasn’t been found. The Ivy Brother’s farm was or still might be located a few miles north of U.S. Highway 80 in Cedar County Iowa. Call ahead before digging lol!
Stolen Train Loot Buried Near Davenport, Iowa
Train robbers are said to have buried $50,000 in gold coins from a train robbery. It’s said to be buried in a swampy 5-acre area that’s close to a creek that flows into the Mississippi River. There is a small village named Buffalo nearby that’s close to Davenport, Iowa in Cott County.
Those coins may still be there but they are probably sunk deep into the swamp by now. A good backhoe might come in handy there but 5-acres is a big area to dig up. Maybe someday someone will stumble upon it.
Iron Pot O’ Gold
A rich merchant is said to have buried an iron pot full of gold coins and stock certificates near River Front Park in Clinton, Iowa that’s on the Mississippi River. If it’s still there and you find it you can tell everyone you have found your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! But I’m sure the stock certificates would probably be lost to time by now.
Well, there you have it the 15 lost treasures of Iowa. Some of these stories maybe fantasy and some have rings of truth to them. But you never know what might be hidden in the great state of Iowa just waiting to be found by a lucky treasure seeker like you.
I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below. Until next time Happy Treasure Hunting!
Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.