13 Lost Treasures of Michigan

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Cory Haasnoot

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Michigan was first settled in 1622 by European explorers of the Etienne Brule expedition. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many forts were built in Michigan leaving behind many artifacts that treasure hunters still find to this day. Lake Michigan holds approximately 1500 shipwrecks most of which sank in the 1800s some of which hold lost treasures that may never be raised.

In this article 13 lost treasures of Michigan, we will explore a few of the many lost treasure stories that are still awaiting discovery in Michigan. There are stories of lost gold and silver mines, lost gold bullion in Lake Michigan, and a plethora of other buried treasures just waiting to be revealed under the earth in the great state of Michigan.

Follow me as we take an interesting view into the lost treasures of Michigan. I know you will be left wanting to take a trip to Michigan and maybe you will be one of the lucky treasure hunters that will find one of these lost treasures of Michigan!

13 Lost Treasures of Michigan

Douglas Houghton’s Lost Gold MineGold MineLog Lake near Champion, Michigan
Lost Gold Mine Near Black RiverGold MineNorthwest corner of section 8 in Haynes Township near the Black River.
Lost Indian Gold MineGold MinePorcupine Mountain State Park near Silver City, Michigan
Jack Driscolls Lost Gold MineGold MineSomewhere in the Huron Mountains near the mouth of Yellowdog river
Lost Treasure on Drummond IslandVarious TreasuresDrummond Island
Sunken Treasure of The Steamer SS Chicora$50,000 in gold coinsLake Michigan
Buried Stagecoach Loot On The Shore of Benton Lake$74,000 in goldLake Benton is located south of Baldwin, Michigan.
Lost Gold Bullion in Lake Michigan$4.5 and $30 million in gold bullionOff the shores of Poverty Island in Lake Michigan
Buried Bank Loot on Mack Island$1300 in gold and silver coinsNear Wolf Lake on Mack Island
Lost Treasure of The Steamship Superior$30,000 in $20 gold double eaglesSomewhere in the waters off of Grand Island in Lake Superior
The Many Caches of Outlaw DotyCaches of Gold and Silver CoinsVarious Spots in Michigan
Buried Payroll On The Banks of Swan CreekSeveral Thousand Dollar PayrollThe banks of Swan Creek
Jim Summers Buried Bag of GoldBag of GoldNear Fayette, Michigan

Lost Gold & Silver Mines In Northern Michigan

Believe it or not, there are gold and silver deposits in the state of Michigan. Although most of these lode deposits are low grade they nonetheless exist. This leads to stories of lost gold and silver mines in the state. 

Gold was first discovered north of Ishpeming, Michigan in the late 1800s and a few gold mines sprung up including the Ropes and Michigan Fire mines. Julius Ropes mine was very successful and over the years from 1881 to 1897, a reported $645,792 worth of gold was extracted from the site.

In the following, we will explore four of these reported lost mines that have eluded treasure seekers for over a century.

Douglas Houghton’s Lost Gold Mine

Douglas Houghton Michigan's First Geologist

Douglas Houghton was Michigan’s first state geologist. He is known for conducting geological surveys in Keweenaw Peninsula when he explored the area in 1831 and 1832. He concluded that there was evidence of rich copper ore in the area.

One day when Houghton was out on one of his last geological survey outings it is reported that he left his camp with an Indian. It is said that he returned with a rich specimen of gold ore. The only man he was able to share his discovery with was Samuel Worth Hill. Houghton was working in the area Log Lake near Champion, Michigan at the time of this discovery.

When Houghton was done with his fieldwork he took a boat ride back to civilization but he never made it back alive. His boat capsized in a storm on Lake Superior and he and a few other men drowned near Eagle River, Michigan in October of 1845. The location of where Houghton got his gold ore from went with him to the grave.

Lost Gold Mine Near Black River

In 1912 gold nuggets were found on the farm of Mr. Fleming near Harrisville, Michigan. Some men proceed to dig a mine shaft but soon after their steam equipment exploded and they stopped the mining process.

The gold mine was therefore abandoned and is said to be located in the northwest corner of section 8 in Haynes Township near the Black River.

Lost Indian Gold Mine

Legend has it that there is a lost Indian gold mine in the upper peninsula of Michigan in Porcupine Mountain State Park near Silver City, Michigan. The story goes that when the first European settlers reached this area they noticed the Indians wearing jewelry of gold nuggets and that the Indians used a lot of gold to trade with the settlers.

The mine is reported to be somewhere in Porcupine Mountain State Park so make sure you get permission before doing any digging in the park. My guess is that this gold mine if really there may never be found.

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Jack Driscolls Lost Gold Mine

Silver Jack Driscoll was a wild man who spent much of his time gambling, drinking, and fighting in the rough and tumble town of Seney, Michigan in the 1800s. The stories of Silver Jack’s carousing went far and wide.

It is said that when Jack would run out of money from his gambling and drinking he would head out to the Huron Mountains north of Seney. Townsfolk would try to track him but would end up losing sight of him because the country was very wild and remote.

Silver Jack would always come back with gold nuggets and sometimes silver. Once he used up what he had he would go back out and come back with more. Jack never divulged the source of his gold and silver and it’s assumed that he had a secret gold mine hidden somewhere in the Huron Mountains near the mouth of Yellowdog river its location is now lost.

Lost Treasure on Drummond Island

Drummond Island is located near the border of Canada. It was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War until the end of the war of 1812. There are many ruins of the seventeenth and eighteenth-century buildings that stand on the island to this day. There are a few buried treasure stories that come out of Drummond Island.

The first story about lost treasure on Drummond Island is about a French Fur trader who opened a trading post on the island in 1750. His family noticed that he was becoming mentally ill. It is said that one day he filled a pot full of gold coins and buried it in the woods near the trading post.

His family questioned him about the missing gold and he refused to tell them where he hid it. By all accounts, the pot of gold coins was never recovered and is still buried somewhere on the island.

One story states that on the southwestern end of the island near Lake Huron there is a large cache of buried Spanish gold and silver coins. Another story states that when British General Monk was fleeing the island in 1812 that he buried the British Army payroll in an iron chest on the southwest tip of the island.

Yet another story says that on the northwestern end of Drummond Island near Potagannissing Bay $50,000 in gold coins is buried there. This could be a lucrative island to check out if these treasure stories are true.

Sunken Treasure of The Steamer SS Chicora

SS Chicora

The SS Chicora was a passenger steamer that sank in Lake Michigan on January 21, 1895, all on board were lost. On Bridgman beach near the town of St. Joseph, Michigan it is reported that gold coins and whiskey bottles wash ashore during storms.

It is believed that these items are coming from the wreck of the SS Chicora because she was carrying silver ingots, whiskey bottles, and $50,000 in gold coins at the time of her sinking. Over the years pieces of wreckage have been recovered by most of the gold coins still remain at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

A while after the wreck bottles with notes in them were found that were written by crew members when the ship was going down. Interesting but eerie! Lake Michigan has about 1500 ships that have sunk in her waters. Can you imagine all the treasure that is unclaimed at the bottom of Lake Michigan?

Buried Stagecoach Loot On The Shore of Benton Lake

In August of 1874, a gang of bandits robbed a stagecoach that was carrying $74,000 in gold that was headed for a large lumber camp near Lake Benton. The gold was intended to be used as payment to the lumberjacks there.

The bandits got away with the gold but they knew that a party from the lumber camp would be soon after them so they decided to bury the loot in a cast-iron stove that they presumably had on them. They may have gotten the stove from their dwelling that was probably nearby. Anyway, they dug a hole and buried the stove containing the gold between two tree stumps on the north shore of Benton Lake.

If the stove and gold are still buried there it could be worth half a million dollars in today’s value. Lake Benton is located south of Baldwin, Michigan.

Lost Gold Bullion in Lake Michigan

Gold Bars

Stories suggest that a ship whose name has been lost to time sunk off the shores of Poverty Island in Lake Michigan during the Civil War. The ship is said to have been carrying between $4.5 and $30 million in gold bullion at the time of her sinking.

Some stories state that the gold came from England went through Canada and was on its way to the Mississippi River via Lake Michigan to be used to help fund the Confederate cause in the Civil War. It is said that the Union Army found out about the valuable cargo on the ship and they attacked it.

Legend has it that the ship sunk off of Escanaba in Lake Michigan along with its valuable gold bullion aboard. Although there is no name given to this ship it is mentioned in lists of the Great Lake Shipwrecks.

Buried Bank Loot on Mack Island

On July 29, 1920, four men robbed the Farmers State Bank in Grass Lake, Michigan. They tied up the bank employees and customers with fishing line and stole $69,000 in currency and $1300 in gold and silver coins.

They all jumped in a getaway car and sped off. The thieves were heading to Mack Island. Word got out of the robbery and sheriff Worden from Jackson County had a feeling that the thieves were fishermen who were staying at Wolf Lake in Mack Island.

When Sheriff Worden and his deputy Verl Kutt got to the island they notices a known criminal named Ted Harris was staying at a house there. The sheriff asked permission to search the house but Harris refused. Harris flew open the door and the thieves that were inside started shooting. They ended up killing Sheriff Worden and wounding deputy Verl Kutt.

Three of the thieves including Harris escaped into the swamps and the other three men were captured with one being seriously wounded. All six of the men eventually were captures and tried. A total of $69,851 was stolen from that bank and all of it was returned except for $1300 in gold and silver coins.

It is presumed that the gold and silver coins are probably buried somewhere on Mack Island near the thieves’ hideout.

Lost Treasure of The Steamship Superior

The steamer Superior was a ship that sank off the shores of Grand Island in Lake Superior on October 29, 1856. She was on her way to a mining town in northern Michigan when she meet her fate in a horrible October storm.

At the time of her sinking, she was carrying $30,000 in $20 gold double eagles that were in 15 canvas bags in a safe on board. Somewhere in the waters off of Grand Island in Lake Superior lie the wreck of Superior and her valuable cargo.

The Many Caches of Outlaw Doty

Doty was an outlaw in the 1800s in Michigan and Indiana. He is said to have spent a considerable amount of time in jail in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. When he wasn’t in prison he was known to spend time cattle and horse stealing and is said to have killed five to six people although he was never convicted of the crimes.

Doty was also a leader of a gang during the Civil War where they stole from general stores bring in a lot of money over the years. When authorities would catch up with him he would never have more than a few silver dollars on him. Where did he hide all of his loot?

Doty would hide out on farms and he would go to swampy areas in Stueben County near Fremont and Angola Michigan. He would also stay at his son’s and daughters’ farms near Coldwater, Michigan. He is also said to have stayed at his friend’s farm near Hillsdale, Michigan.

It is said that Doty would bury small amounts of $100 to $1000 in gold in silver coins in various places on these farms and the woods near the swamps in Stueben County. He also owned a few cabins in the area where he probably would bury his stolen loot.

Over the years people have found three of Doty’s caches which turned out to be about $1700 in gold and silver coins. Since Doty committed so many robberies over his long outlaw career it makes sense that there would be more of Doty’s caches buried in many places on these farms and possibly in the swampy areas of Steuben County.

Buried Payroll On The Banks of Swan Creek

This story is about a lost payroll that was intended for workers at a lumber camp in Saginaw County Michigan. Two men who were transporting the payroll for the lumber camp ran into hostile Indians on their way to the camp. They were able to bury the payroll on the banks of Swan Creek before the Indians got to them.

When the men later came back they couldn’t find the spot where they buried the payroll because they buried it quickly in the dead of night. One clue remains that it was buried by an old bridge. There are ruins of an old bridge there today.

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Jim Summers Buried Bag of Gold

Jim Summers was a saloon owner in the 1870s near Fayette, Michigan. It is said that Summers kept women as slaves inside what he called stockade. Over the years he acquired a considerable sum from his saloon business from men who would frequent the place. 

These men worked at the Jackson Iron Company that was nearby and made up to $6000 in gold every month. Much of this money would be spent at Summers saloon.

One day a vigilante group broke into Summers saloon and beat Summers and burned down the buildings. They left him for dead on the beach but the next day Summers was gone so they assumed that he didn’t die.

It is said that Jim Summers buried a bag of gold near his saloon before the vigilante group got to him and by all accounts, it has never been found.

Lost Treasures of Michigan Conclusion

So now that you have heard of these 13 lost treasures of Michigan are you ready to go treasure hunting? Many people over the years have searched for lost treasure and some have actually found it. With a lot of luck and tons of research and the right treasure hunting equipment, you just might find some of these lost treasures hidden in the great state of Michigan!

I encourage you to do so but please make sure you get permission before metal detecting and digging on anyone’s private property. We want to find treasure not go to jail or worse get shot at by an angry landowner. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the section below. And as always Happy Treasure Hunting!

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Author: Cory Haasnoot

Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.

5 thoughts on “13 Lost Treasures of Michigan”

  1. I love the stories of treasure . And hunting . Had I gone to seek Forrest fenns treasure I would have found it . We were to leave the year before it was found. And the spot was marked on our maps. The only places we marked were scenic outlooks . Because Fenn said he hid it where an 80 yr old could walk. He was in bad health. He then said he put it where any mom and her kids could go in a pic up. . My friend died that year we worked on the clues. But I knew by reading his other info. What a charming man. I found two coins for a man in FL. He said to keep them. Their are two jars of them still missing. I know the saloon story better than it’s written if your interested let’s talk. I have some finds and proof from two 90 ye old men. Anywhoo. Great read!! ✌️😎. J. D

  2. i have been to benton lake a couple times, found an old dime once, and got a large strong signal once, when i pulled back the pine needles, it was a large piece of aluminum foil! another time i found a large piece of cast iron that could have come from an old stove!


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