When one thinks of Wisconsin we normally think of cows, cheese, and maybe even the Green Bay Packers. What you might not know is that there are 14 lost treasures of Wisconsin waiting to be discovered! That’s right! 14 treasures that haven’t been found to this day!
In this article, you will discover what these 14 treasures are and where they are possibly located. So put your reading glasses on, take some notes and get your metal detector ready as I Introduce you to the treasures that have been lost to time in Wisconsin!
14 Lost Treasures of Wisconsin
|Dillinger’s Suitcase Full of Cash||$210,000 in cash||Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin|
|Lost Treasure of Balsam Lake||$200,000 worth of gold bullion||Balsam Lake, Wisconsin|
|Sand Island||Treasure Chest full of silver coins||Sand Island part of the Apostle Islands in Ashland County Wisconsin|
|Sheridan Park||Coins wash ashore from shipwrecks on Lake Michigan||Cudahy, Wisconsin|
|Stockton Island||A cache of gold nuggets and ore||Stockton Island part of the Apostle Islands in Ashland County Wisconsin|
|The Crazy Man Treasure||Untold amount||Crazy Man’s island on Okauchee Lake, Wisconsin|
|The Fort Crawford Treasure||A cache of gold coins||Along the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin|
|The Frederick Prentice Treasure||Untold amounts||Hermit Island part of the Apostle Islands in Ashland County Wisconsin|
|The Great Milwaukee Fire||Unknown||Third Ward District of Milwaukee|
|The James Becker Treasure||$50,000 worth of government bonds||Glidden, Wisconsin|
|The Martha Battaglan Treasure||$8,200 worth of silver coins||Beaver Lake in Sawyer County Wisconsin|
|The R.C. Bennett Treasure||A cache of $40,000 in coins||Eagle River, Wisconsin|
|The William Wilson Treasure||$91,000 in gold and silver coins||Hermit Island part of the Apostle Islands in Ashland County Wisconsin|
|York Island||$12,000 in gold coins||York Island part of the Apostle Islands in Ashland County Wisconsin|
The Great Milwaukee Fire
The Great Milwaukee Fire of 1892 happened on October 28, 1892. The fire broke out at the Union & Oil Paint Co. warehouses in the third ward along water street at around 6 o’clock in the evening. By 7 o’clock they thought the fire was under control but then another fire broke out at a nearby furniture factory.
The flames then spread quickly through the third ward because of the high winds they were having that evening. Help was sent from fire departments from around the state and Chicago. Horse-drawn fire wagons were shipped by train to help in the blaze.
440 buildings in all were destroyed in the fire leaving 1900 people destitute and homeless. In all, 26 acres of homes were set ablaze. Amazingly only 5 lives were lost that day!
It is said that treasure seekers have been and are still finding treasure and relics left from that great fire. Can you imagine the coins, jewelry, and metal objects that are strewn around in the third ward today? I’m sure there would be quite a lot but much of it is probably paved over or under buildings that are there today.
But in some back alleyways or open dirt areas, you might be able to discover some lost treasure from that fateful day in 1892!
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There is a municipal park located in Cudahy, Wisconsin situated along Lake Michigan that is said to have silver coins that wash ashore from time to time. There is no doubt that these would be old coins from shipwrecks that have happened in Lake Michigan over the years.
Beaches and shores of lakes are always a great place to metal detect and possibly find treasure. Not only coins from shipwrecks but you might find some jewelry that people have lost like these kids found at Sheridan Park!
So if you get the chance take a trip up to Cudahy, Wisconsin with your metal detector and do some metal detecting along the shores of Michigan. You might just come across some silver coins or jewelry.
Digging Deeper: Beach Metal Detecting Tips – 29 Tips For a Successful Hunt
The William Wilson Treasure
The story of William Wilson is an intriguing one. There are no official records of this man but there are plenty of personal accounts of people that had known him. William Wilson is said to have been a hermit. He lived on Hermit Island between 1840 and 1861. As a matter of fact, that’s how Hermit Island got its name!
Hermit Island is one of the Apostle Islands that is located on Lake Superior in Ashland County Wisconsin. As the story goes William was somewhat of a loner and had a small cabin on the island in which he lived alone.
A few people have written about him. Some say he was an ugly man that no one wanted to be around. Other’s say he was an educated gentleman. You can take your pick because no one knows for sure. There is one thing that most of the reports agree with is that he was a fur trader in his younger days and a barrel maker in his later days.
There are numerous stories of William having bags of coins with him whenever he was out purchasing items in town. Supposedly Mr. Wilson had $91,000 when he came to live on Hermit Island. That is a lot of money today and was a massive amount back in the 1800s.
In the winter of 1861, William Wilson was reportedly murdered or died of alcoholism no one is for certain. The money that he had was not at the scene and many think he had stashed it away somewhere on the island. The money that he reportedly had has never been found despite many a treasure hunter combing the island for it.
Who knows if you are ever on Hermit Island you might just want to do a little treasure hunting of your own and you just might find Wilson’s lost treasure!
Dillingers Suitcase Full of Cash
Little Bohemia Lodge Circa 1934.
John Dillinger the notorious bank robber/gangster during the Great Depression of the 1930s’ spent a considerable amount of time in Wisconsin hiding from the FBI. John and his gang reportedly robbed 4 police stations and 24 banks in all.
The story goes that Dillinger and his gang were hiding out at a lodge called the Little Bohemia Lodge. The owner of the lodge Emil Wanatka had an attorney named Louis Piquett that she used for legal advice.
By chance but not really this was the same lawyer that Dillinger used for his legal affairs. So it’s no coincidence that Dillinger and his gang stayed at this little lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin back in April of 1934.
Dillinger paid Mr. Wanatka $500 for a 3-day stay at the lodge. There was a $10,000 reward for Dillinger at the time and Mr. Wanatka’s wife decided to double-cross him and called the FBI. I guess John should have paid a little more for the stay.
To make a long story short the FBI showed up and had a gunfight with Dillinger and his gang. It’s reported that Dillinger hid $210,000 in a suitcase about 500 yards behind Little Bohemia Lodge. They also buried a cache of ammunition.
Some people think that suitcase full of money is stilled buried there. But there is a report from an FBI interview from a man who said he saw John Dillinger 10 days after the Little Bohemia shot out and that Dillinger was in possession of that suitcase of money.
There’s a recent movie out about John Dillinger and his gang called Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp. Scenes from the movie were actually shot at the Little Bohemia Lodge. This movie is available on Amazon Prime.
MOVIE: Public Enemies MOVIE TYPE: Biographical Crime Drama STARRING: Johnny Depp YEAR: 2009 DIRRECTED BY: Michael Mann DISTRIBUTED BY: Universal Pictures BASED ON: Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34 by Brian Burrough
The Frederick Prentice Treasure
The story of the Frederick Prentice Treasure takes place on the same island that William Wilson had lost his treasure Hermit Island. Like I mentioned in the William Wilson story, Hermit Island is one of the smallest of the Apostle Islands that are located on Lake Superior in Wisconsin.
Frederick Prentice was called the “Brownstone King” because of his massive operations in the mining of brownstone which was a profitable venture in the 19th century. Many large buildings around the country were made with brownstone at this time.
Setting Up Shop on The Islands
Mr. Prentice came to Hermit Island in 1868 and started 3 brownstone mining quarry operations which he employed 100 men that he moved to the island. The 3 quarry operations were on 3 separate islands, Hermit, Basswood, and Stockton Islands.
By the 1890s Frederick had grown his mining operations and was making hundreds of thousands of dollars. This was a considerable amount of money in the 19th century. In 1895 he built a huge mansion that he called Cedar Bark lodge for his much younger wife. Unfortunately, she didn’t appreciate Frederick’s gesture and promptly turned around and went back home to New York the same day she came to Hermit Island.
Frederick Prentice ended up living out the rest of his days alone at Cedar Bark lodge. When he died there was no treasure to be found. You see he didn’t keep his money in a bank so where could the money have gone? Speculation has it that Frederick buried his treasure somewhere on one of the islands that he had his quarry operations on. So there could possibly be yet another buried treasure on Hermit Island along with William Wilson’s treasure!
Sand Island is another one of the Apostle Islands located on Lake Superior in Wisconsin. The majority of the lost Wisconsin treasures have taken place on the Apostle Islands.
The story goes that a British Officer during the Revolutionary war in 1778 buried a treasure chest full of silver coins on Sand Island.
I couldn’t find any more information about this story or how the story can about. If I find more information about the treasure buried on Sand Island I will include it here.
Yet another lost treasure story of the Apostle Islands. This one is on York Island. It’s reported that an iron box containing $12,000 in gold coin was buried on York Island in 1760 by British Soldiers who occupied the Island. It is said that they were hiding the gold from the Indians that inhabited the island at the time.
If you could find that treasure today it would be worth an unspeakable amount of money. And again that is all the information I could find on the lost treasure of York Island. I will update if I find out more.
Stockton Island is the largest of all the Apostle Islands. The story goes that British soldiers buried a cache of gold nuggets and ore on Stockton Island. It’s also reported that the British soldiers on the island stole from the residents of the island and buried the stolen cache as well.
Who knows there could be buried treasure all around the 10,000 acres of Stockton Island.
The R.C. Bennett Treasure
R.C. Bennett was a wealthy Wisconsin businessman. Upon his death in 1950 his wife found a treasure map of sorts that he had left. She ended up finding some of the treasure that was located under the basement floor of their home. The cache contained $40,000 worth of nickels, dimes, quarters, and half-dollars in 60 tin boxes.
Some people think because he was a millionaire that he may have buried more treasure around his property in Eagle River, Wisconsin. It could still be there and maybe someone will dig it up someday.
Lost Treasure of Balsam Lake
This story hits home because I live close to Balsam Lake, Wisconsin. Legend has it that gold miners that were returning from mining operations in Montana had a wagon full of gold bullion that was worth $200,000.
It’s unclear if the wagon sunk or the gold was buried but either way, it was lost to a swampy area located seven miles northeast of St. Croix Falls south of Balsam Lake, Wisconsin during heavy rains.
Of all the lost treasure stories I find this one to be the most intriguing and believable. When I find that lost wagon of gold I will let you know! 🙂
The Martha Battaglan Treasure
Martha Battaglan reportedly stole $11,200 worth of silver coins in 1924. The police recovered a few thousand worth of the coins in her St. Paul Minnesota home. Her father found $3,000 worth of the loot on his farm near Beaver Lake in Sawyer County Wisconsin.
The rest of the stolen loot is still missing and could still be at her father’s Beaver Lake farm.
The Crazy Man Treasure
After the Civil War, it’s reported that a Union officer who suffered from shell shock and mental illness became the owner of an uninhabited 13-acre island that’s called Crazy Man’s island. This is because this crazy Union Officer lived on the island alone for 40 years. His real name has been lost to history. This man is said to have had plenty of money even though he lived off the land eating fish, berries, and wild game.
He was reportedly a strong man and worked for nearby farmers and collected his pension checks. He had never been known to spend any money so people believe that he must have buried all of his wealth somewhere on the island. It is said that he cut trails all around the island so who knows maybe on the end of one of those trails you will find his buried treasure.
The James Becker Treasure
Downtown Glidden, Wisconsin
After his marriage failed in 1883 James Becker headed to the woods north of Glidden, Wisconsin in Ashland County. Mr. Becker had $50,000 worth of government bonds in his possession. After his death in 1893 people searched all over the woods for the government bonds. They only recovered 15 cents.
Who knows those bonds could still be out there hopefully hidden in a metal box. If you find them they will be worth a considerable sum because they would still be collecting interest!
The Fort Crawford Treasure
Fort Crawford Hospital Museum
Near a Fort named Crawford, which’s located along the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin it’s reported that in 1832 soldiers from the fort buried four saddlebags of gold coins that were the payroll for the post. Unfortunately, all that’s left is the hospital.
The cache of gold coins was buried on the highest bluffs that are close to the fort. The soldiers were killed by Indians so the treasure could still be buried there just waiting to be discovered!
There you have it, 14 Lost Treasures of Wisconsin. Although many of these lost treasure stories are theory and hearsay it’s still fun to think about what could be lost and what could be possibly found. Keep in mind many of these lost treasures are located in, state and national parks so you would need permission to metal detect and dig in those areas.
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.