Kentucky the 15th state to be admitted to the Union on June 1, 1792, is one of those older states that has a vast history and many treasure tales to tell. From the early days of Native Americans to the time settlers came to the area to the time prohibition gangsters roamed the state Kentucky has a ton of buried treasure waiting to be discovered.
There are legends about Jesse James burying bank loot, ordinary everyday folks who buried their life savings because they distrusted the banking system and riverboats that sunk, and their treasure cargo still washes ashore to this day. Just like most states, you will find a little of every kind of lost treasure story that you can think of.
So if you are ready to take a ride into Kentucky’s past I present 13 Lost Treasures of Kentucky!
13 Lost Treasures of Kentucky
|Jesse James and The Russelville Bank Loot||$50,000 in gold coins||Near Russelville, Kentucky|
|James Langstaff Buried Gold Coins||$20,000 in gold coins||Broadway or South Third Street in Paducah, Kentucky|
|River Boat Wrecks Treasures||Gold and Silver Coins||Ohio River|
|Lost Confederate Payroll||Unknown||Small cave near Cumberland Gap, Kentucky!|
|William Pettit’s Buried Gold Coins||$80,000 worth of gold coins||A few miles from Lexington, Kentucky. His farm can be found off of Nicholasville Road North of Stone Road.|
|Confederate Soldier’s Buried Gold||Gold Coins||A farm was located near Richmond, Kentucky|
|Gold & Silver Bars in Big Sandy River||$3 million in gold and silver bars||Big Sandy River is near Pineville, Kentucky off of State Highway 25E in Belle County|
|Gamblers Lost Cache||$12,000||Horse Cave in Hart County Kentucky|
|Docks Buried Gold Cache||$50,000 in gold||Big Mouth cave north of Pine Knob, Kentucky.|
|Frank Andrews Buried IIlegal Gains||Unknown||Newport, Kentucky in a section of town called Tug Fork|
|Uncle Lige’s Buried Gold||$1,000 in $20 gold coins||Beaver Creek – on the Parrish Farm four miles southwest of Glasgow, Kentucky.|
|Moonshiners Cache||A large amount of gold and silver||Near Pineville, Kentucky on the Hensley Settlement|
|Treasures in Eleven Jones Cave||Various Treasures||A cave system that started near the South Fork of the Beargrass Creek and ran through Louisville, Kentucky.|
Jesse James and The Russelville Bank Loot
Jesse James leader of the infamous James-Younger Gang was known for their robberies throughout the South after the Civil War. They robbed trains, banks, and stagecoaches in at least 11 states including:
- West Virginia
This story takes place in Russelville, Kentucky where on March 20, 1868, the James-Younger Gang stole $50,000 in gold coins from the Nimrod Long Banking Company in Russelville. Six members of the gang came to town to rob the bank and two other members stayed back in case they need reserves. The eight members involved were:
- Jesse James
- Frank James
- Jim White
- Arthur McCoy
- George and Oliver Shepard
- Cole Younger
- John Jarrette
Two men from the town were wounded in the robbery but no one was killed. The men robbing the bank told the teller to put all the money in wheat sacks that they brought along with them. They jumped on their horses and rode away not before being shot at by a young man named O.C. “Matt” Owens. None of the shots hit any of the James-Younger gang but one of the gang members shot back and hit Owens in the side but didn’t kill him.
They were pursued by two lawmen D.T. “Yankee Bligh and John Gallagher. Knowing that they probably were being pursued the gang stopped quickly outside of Russelville and buried the bank loot.
No one is for sure where exactly they buried the loot but it’s presumed that the $50,000 in gold coins that would be in wheat sacks is still buried somewhere on the outskirts of Russelville, Kentucky.
James Langstaff Buried Gold Coins
Mr. James Langstaff was a wealthy man before he died in 1892. He owned a considerable amount of property in Paducah, Kentucky where he lived. Mr. Langstaff left his wife a letter when he died stating that he had buried $20,000 in gold coins on his land either on Broadway or South Third Street in Paducah.
He mentioned a treasure marker of a cottonwood tree in his letter to his wife. Although his wife and other family members have searched for the buried gold coins none of it has been reported as found. It could still be there buried on either Broadway or South Third Street in Paducah, Kentucky.
It would be well worth someone’s time to check out those two streets in Paducah. If you decide to look for this treasure make sure you get permission before digging on any private property.
River Boat Wreck Treasures
Kentucky has the longest continuous waterways and streams in the United States. So it’s no wonder why there are accounts of numerous riverboat sinkings in the state. There are three sunken riverboat lost treasure stories that come from Kentucky.
West Paducah, Kentucky
Our first story takes place on the banks of the Ohio River at West Paducah, Kentucky. A riverboat is said to have sunken close to here in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. It is said that American silver coins from the late nineteenth century wash ashore here from time to time.
On the south shore of the Ohio river during the springtime at low tide, the ruins of a nineteenth-century paddlewheel riverboat can be seen that sunk here. Many glass bottles and other cargo that this boat was hauling at the time of its demise can be found here.
So if you are ever in the area of Todd, Kentucky in the springtime ask the locals about this paddlewheel. You might be able to get a glimpse of it yourself and maybe find some artifacts that wash ashore there.
The ruins of another riverboat can be seen at low tide about half a mile east of Henderson, Kentucky near where the Ohio River bends. In a swampy area above the river bank silver and gold coins from the 1880s have been found.
Lost Confederate Payroll
During the Civil, War measles broke out amongst both sides quite often. This story is thought to have taken place around 1863 near Cumberland Gap, Kentucky. Confederate soldiers were quarantined there because of a measles outbreak. A payroll was supposed to arrive to pay the soldiers for their service.
Four of the soldiers decided to broke camp and decided to steal the payroll before it got to camp. They said that they would blame the Union soldiers for the theft and keep the money for themselves. They stopped the paymaster and killed him and drove the wagon and horses off of a cliff. They then buried the money and returned to their camp.
The soldiers were later killed in action and never did return for the payroll loot. The soldiers had told a man about their story and said that they had hidden the payroll in a trunk and put it in a cave near Cumberland Gap, Kentucky.
The payroll has never been recovered and still could be waiting in a small cave near Cumberland Gap, Kentucky!
William Pettit’s Buried Gold Coins
William Pettit was a well-to-do man in the early to mid-1800s. He bought a farmstead and land from Colonel John Campbell who was a Revolutionary War officer who had a small cabin there.
Om the 1830s to 1840s Mr. Pettit tore down the cabin that was there and built a much bigger home nearby which he called Allegon Hall. Knowing that a Civil War was soon to happen William converted his cash into gold coins so that he could easily bury it.
So that’s what William did he buried about $80,000 worth of gold coins which was his accumulated wealth on the farm. He died shortly after he buried it so he was never able to recover it. The gold coins have never been found and are presumed to still be buried on his 2,000-acre farm a few miles from Lexington, Kentucky. His farm can be found off of Nicholasville Road North of Stone Road.
Confederate Soldier’s Buried Gold
A Confederate soldier name unknown is said to have converted all his possessions except his house into gold coins during the Civil War.
He buried the gold coins in his front yard and told his family that he would reveal the location after he came back from town that day.
He went into the town of Richmond, Kentucky that day and got into a battle with Union soldiers. He was subsequently killed and never made it back to the farm. His family never did locate his buried gold coins and they could still be in the ground on his farm which was located near Richmond, Kentucky.
Gold & Silver Bars in Big Sandy River
During the Civil War Paymasters, those who carried pay for the troops was a risky business. This story takes place during the Civil War when a Paymaster for the Union side was being followed by Confederate Troops. It is reported that the Paymaster was carrying $3 million in gold and silver bars. He dumped them in the Big Sandy River so that the Confederate soldiers take the bars and use them for the Confederate’s war machine.
This story has some truth to it because in 1920 a fisherman who was fishing the Big Sandy River found a few silver bars. The Big Sandy River is near Pineville, Kentucky off of State Highway 25E in Belle County.
The silver and gold bars are probably still at the bottom of the river buried under years of silt. A good sand scoop and a waterproof metal detector would come in handy to find this treasure. Depending on how deep the river is you might have to do some underwater metal detecting to locate it.
Gamblers Lost Cache
A gambler by the name of Anthony Caccorna was a successful horse racing gambler in the 1920s. He died in 1940 but left some personal papers behind that were sent to his sister in Louisville, Kentucky. She let her son look through the personal effects and he found a diary from his uncle Anthony that hinted that he had buried two caches of money he won at the racetracks close to Horse Cave that is located in Hart County.
The boy went searching for the caches and actually found one of them in the foundation of an old house five miles from Horse Cave. The amount was $3200. The other cache which is estimated to be $12,000 was not found.
It would be worth it to take a look around the area of Horse Cave in Hart County Kentucky. A cool $12,000 could be waiting for you!
Docks Buried Gold Cache
John Hooper was a murdering outlaw who bought some land near Pine Knob, Kentucky in the 1840s. Before he came to Kentucky he had killed a man in Tennesee who went to Kentucky too, hideout. He even changed his name to John Brown.
John’s two sons came to live with him on the land in Kentucky. Their names were Pickney and Culliam and they later changed their names to P.H. and Dock Brown. Dock was the worst of the bunch and his first murder was of a man named Frank Pugh. He got away with $150 in gold and $900 in currency from Frank.
Over the years Dock Brown would rob and kill travelers who came to his home. He also made money from the sales of stolen cattle and horses. When all was said and done Dock had made $50,000 in gold from all his illegal activities and murder.
Dock like many in the 1800s didn’t trust banks and he had a hideout where he would stash his stolen loot and goods called Big Mouth Cave. He probably hid most of his ill-gotten gains in this cave. But to this day none of it has been found and could still be hidden in an intensive cave system north of Pine Knob, Kentucky.
Frank Andrews Buried IIlegal Gains
Frank Andrews was a racketeer in the 1920s who worked as a troubleshooter for the Cleveland Syndicate. Because of his known racketeering and never paying income taxes, it was speculated that Frank buried some of his illegal gains close to his home in Newport, Kentucky in a section of town called Tug Fork.
The Government caught up with Frank in the 1930s and he was sent to prison. He got out in 1973 and went back to Newport but he was admitted to a mental hospital a short time later and ended up committing suicide. His caches have never been located and could still be buried on his property in Newport Kentucky!
Uncle Lige’s Buried Gold
A Blackman named Uncle Lige was working for the Parish Family in the early 1900s. He had accumulated $1,000 in $20 gold coins through the years of service to the Parish family. One day he asked his boss what he should do with the money that he had saved. The boss told him to put the money in the Glasgow, Kentucky bank for save keeping.
Uncle Lige didn’t like that idea because he was warry about keeping his money in banks. So he asked the Parrish family if he could bury his gold coins on their farm. They agreed. The next day Uncle Lige came back with an iron pot and a shovel and told the family that he was going to bury his gold near Beaver Creek that ran through their land.
Lige buried the gold and came back to the farmhouse where he told the Parrish family that if he died they could find the gold coins buried just a few steps on the right-hand side of the creek. Uncle Lige died a short time after but the gold coins were never found. You can find the Parrish Farm four miles southwest of Glasgow, Kentucky.
Since he buried the coins so close to the creek bank the coins have probably been washed downstream but could still be scattered all over Beaver Creek!
This story takes place in the 1940s when some moonshiners had a whiskey still near Pineville, Kentucky on the Hensley Settlement. One of the moonshiners had a huge amount of gold and silver that he had accumulated from years of moonshining. It is said that he buried the gold and silver on his farm.
His family says that he got sick a short time after and died at the hospital. The family searched the farm over but could not find his silver and gold cache. Is it still buried on his farm? Who knows! But if no one has searched for the treasure since the 40s then a good metal detector could find this treasure. Like always get permission before digging on any private land.
Treasures in Eleven Jones Cave
The Jones brothers were outlaws, counterfeiters, and murders in the 1830s. They had accumulated gold and silver, silver plates, silverware, and jewelry during their years of terror and robbery. Legend has it that the Jones Brothers hide out in a cave system that started near the South Fork of the Beargrass Creek and ran through Louisville, Kentucky.
They actually lived in this cave system in rooms that they had cut throughout the cave. The Jones brothers disappeared from history but supposedly left behind their treasure in that cave system that they now call Eleven Jones Cave.
Over the years many objects have been found in the cave including an army saber from the 1830s, coins, pistols, and brass buttons from a confederate soldier’s uniform. It is speculated that the rest of the cave system has probably collapsed hiding the majority of the Jones Brothers treasures inside.
These are just 13 of the probably hundreds of lost treasure stories in Kentucky. There are quite a few stories of lost gold and silver mines in the state but gold and silver are not naturally recurring material in the state of Kentucky so I’m not convinced that those stories are true.
Although people might have been easily fooled in those days thinking fools gold and silver were the real things. Who knows but I decided to exclude those stories from this article because I truly think they were just fables handed down through the years.
I hope you have enjoyed the 13 lost treasures of Kentucky. Thanks for reading and Happy Treasure Hunting!
Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.