After Missing Treasure

April 10, 2019

By Amorin Mello

 


 

The New York Times

June 15, 1897

 

AFTER MISSING TREASURE

James Arthur Looking for $35,000 Buried in Wisconsin at the Outbreak of the War.

GOLD HIDDEN IN THE GROUND

Net Assets of a Wisconsin Bank Closed When Arthur Enlisted in the Army – Put Away by His Partner, Ell Pingers.

SUPERIOR, Wis., June 14. – James Arthur, a veteran of the civil war, now a resident of Buffalo, N. Y., arrived in Superior a few days ago to make inquiries concerning a transaction dating back nearly forty years, and to complete arrangements for starting on a mission in quest of a treasure supposed to be sunk in the bowels of the earth at a point not far from the town of La Pointe, in Ashland County, Wis.

La Pointe Beaver Dollar
Northern Outfit, American Fur Company
~ Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters, Volume 54, page 159.

According to Mr. Arthur’s story, a bag containing $35,000 in gold was buried in the ground by Ell Pingers in 1861, and has never been discovered, though several expeditions have gone in search of it. It is a strange story, but it is not fiction, unless several old timers with records for veracity have combined to deceive the world, and unless State records lie and other documents fail to prove genuine. The money was certainly placed in a hole in the ground by Ell Pingers in the year 1861, and it probably was never taken away, for the man who did the planting was killed during the war, and no other person knew where the hiding place was. A paper has come to light recently which furnishes a clue to the location of the treasure, and Mr. Arthur expects to be richer by $35,000 within a fortnight.

Superior Chronicle – November 4, 1856
“INDIAN PAYMENT. – Mr. Jos. Gurnoe, last week, distributed among the Chippewa Indians of this vicinity their annuities.  An unlimited number of silver half dollars are now in circulation, and all are enjoying the benefits of Uncle Sam’s liberality.”

In the year 1856, when wildcat money flooded the State of Wisconsin, and when the country was on the verge of a financial and political crisis, James Arthur and Ell Pingers, two young men who had been supplied by their respective fathers with a good start in life, immigrated from New York to La Pointe and established a bank, which not only issued notes of its own, but made a specialty of discounting the issue of other banks throughout the State. They pulled through the panic of 1857, and the bank was counted among those that redeemed its currency at face value. When war became imminent between the North and South the young men decided to close out their banking business and return to the East to engage in something more lucrative. In 1861, however, before the bank closed, James Arthur made a trip to Milwaukee, and there became fired with a desire to serve his country as a soldier. He sent a letter to Pingers at La Pointe asking him to close out the business as soon as possible and leave for the East with all the funds. He also gave Pinger the number of his regiment and full directions as to where letters should be sent. Then he marched to the front with a Wisconsin regiment.

Facsimile of a $50 coin found at La Pointe.
~ Joel Allen Barber Papers, Summer of 1858

Six months after joining the army Arthur received his first and only communication from Pingers. It was a short note, dated from Milwaukee three months prior, and had been forwarded from post to post until it finally reached him at St. Louis. This note is now in the possession of Mr. Arthur, and was shown by him on his arrival here several days ago. It reads as follows:

“Milwaukee, June 8, ’61 – 4 P.M.
“Friend Jim: Got your letter all right. Have closed up bank and sold everything for cash. I realized in all $37,000, and take $2,000 of that with me, but not caring to take a large sum through such a wild country I buried it in a safe place and will advise later concerning exact spot. I am off for bloody war myself. Yours,
“ELL PINGERS.”

Julius Austrian operated a bank at La Pointe circa 1855.

In 1863 Arthur went on a furlough to visit his mother and sisters in New York City, and while there learned that Pingers had been killed at the battle of Richmond, Ky., on Aug. 30, 1862. The papers and numerous personal effects of the dead soldier had been shipped to his mother from Milwaukee previous to his enlistment in the army, but a thorough search failed to disclose any information concerning the location of the hidden treasure. So the furloughed soldier returned to the scenes of war without hope of ever being able to recover the snug little fortune stored away somewhere in Wisconsin soil.

The war over Mr. Arthur returned to New York, and in 1866 he made a trip to La Pointe in company with two friends for the purpose of hunting up the hidden gold. The mission was a fruitless one, but it had the effect of exciting the La Pointe community, and for years after that the natives dug holes in all directions from the old bank, but as far as known the treasure was never unearthed.

In 1867 Arthur’s mother died, leaving him a small fortune, and the following year he married the sister of the dead soldier, Ell Pingers. Through this marriage all the personal effects of Pingers came into Arthur’s possession, and he made many searches through the papers for a clue to the whereabouts of the missing $35,000, but without result. Ten years after his marriage he made another trip to the scene of his old banking operations, and five years after that he sent a trustworthy employee to look for the hidden gold, but no gold was to be found, and finally all hope of ever recovering the treasure was abandoned.

Hermit Island is believed by some to contain several other long-lost treasures:
– 1861 Wilson the Hermit
– 1760’s British Military Payroll
– Stereotypical Pirate Stories
Did Pingers bury their treasure here as well?

About three weeks ago, while turning the pages of an old book which had once been the property of Ell Pingers, a small piece of note paper was found by Mrs. Arthur which contained a memorandum written by the dead soldier and which gave the missing information for which search had been made for years. This note, Mr. Arthur claims, will no doubt lead to the discovery of the treasure in time, but the references it makes to roads, trees, and other landmarks have long since been removed by the hand of progress or obliterated by time, and the undertaking will therefore be attended by more or less of the difficulties before experienced. The old gentleman is confident that, with the information obtained from old acquaintances here and the assistance expected from old residenters at La Pointe, he will be able to unearth the long-buried treasure. He declares his intention of donating one-half of the $35,000 to the veteran soldiers of the Union Army and turning the remainder over to his wife to do as she pleases with.

2 Responses to “After Missing Treasure”

  1. Howard D. Paap said

    Amorin,
    Thanks for this. Nice to see you are continuing to comb the literature!

    HDPaap

    • Amorin Mello said

      Thank you, Howard. I actually combed this out a few years ago, it was finally time to share it before it went stale. (And so that I can refer back to it in upcoming posts…)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: