The Lost Treasure of the Voyageurs

The hollow I believe to be Halfway Hollow

Almost immediately after posting the article about Halfway Hollow, I received an email from Jon about the mysterious hollow. “Hello I just read your blog about Halfway Hollow. You say Dabold Hare buried a small fortune in gold coins near his home. I’ve heard the treasure buried in Halfway Hollow is a lost treasure buried by Frenchmen.”

Note: more about the history of Halfway Hollow can be found here: Halfway Hollow

The story of the Lost Gold of the Voyageurs is one I grew up hearing and often crosses my mind when I explore Pennsylvania’s northern tier. Despite being familiar with the story, I had never heard the name Halfway Hollow attached to the legend. After browsing through a number of newspaper articles and treasure forum sites, I discovered that the treasure has become intertwined with the history of the mysterious Halfway Hollow.

According to legend, somewhere near the headwaters of the Allegheny River is a fortune in gold worth between $350,000 and $500,000. To find it, all one has to do is find a large stone with a cross chiseled into it – the treasure is buried at its base.

The legend of the Lost Gold of the Voyageurs takes place in the late 1600s, when a group of Frenchmen arrived in Potter County. The group had rafted up the Mississippi River from New Orleans with the goal of reaching Montreal and turning a small fortune in gold over to the French Governor of Montreal. Their journey would take them up the Mississippi to the Ohio River. They would follow the Allegheny River to the Conewango Creek, then to Chautauqua Lake, and finally go overland to Lake Erie.

Note: If this journey sounds similar, it should – the second half of the journey is the same route planned on being used by Captain Blackbeard’s men before they buried their treasure near Gardeau, a legend I’ve written about before. Blackbeard’s men planned on following the West Branch of the Susquehanna, then the Sinnemahoning before going overland to the Allegheny River. They would float downriver to the Conewango Creek, follow it to Chautauqua Lake then overland to Lake Erie. The legend of Blackbeard’s Treasure can be found here: Blackbeard’s Treasure.

The Frenchmen had packed the gold coins in small kegs and covered them with gunpowder to hide the fortune they carried. The group was instructed to protect their valuable cargo at all cost. They were not to let it be taken by the English colonists.

The party consisted of voyageurs,, a couple Jesuits priests and a number of Native American guides. The group poled their way up the rivers and finally arrived at present-day Warren. By the time they arrived at the mouth of the Conewango Creek, they had heard rumors of the Seneca attacking French settlements to the north.

The decision was made to continue up the Allegheny River. The new plan was to continue up the river then make portage over the hills to the Genesee River near present-day Wellville. From there they would continue their journey to Montreal.

They made it to the Coudersport region before once again they changed their plans. Since leaving Conewango Creek, the group had been harassed by the Seneca, who fired upon them from the wooded shoreline. They decided to bury the treasure and return for it at a later date. The treasure was buried at the base of a large rock and the priests chiseled a large cross on it to mark its location.

With the treasure hidden, they set out for the safety of French controlled lands. They never came back for the treasure which remains to be discovered.

While the tale of the lost treasure is a popular one that has been searched for by many, the questions to be asked are: “Does this treasure actually exist?” and “If it does exist is it near Coudersport?”

Note: the following are my thoughts, observations and personal opinions.

First, the most popular version of the legend claims it was buried “north of Coudersport near Borie.” Borie is not north of Coudersport, but instead south/southeast Coudersport. The Borie Branch follows from a spot east of Coudersport and a few miles west of Cherry Springs State Park and flows southward to join the First Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek.

In my mind, this seems strange – why would they go out of their way to bury the treasure? Borie is in an almost opposite direction than they needed to go to reach safety. The Frenchmen would have had to carry the treasure overland for a distance to bury it in this locale.

The second issue with this legend is how far could they have rafted up the Allegheny River? Unless the river was much deeper in the late 1600s than it is now – which is a possibility – I doubt the voyageurs made it as far up the Allegheny as thought. Some versions of the story state the reason the voyageurs managed to get as far as they did was due to the river being at the flood stage.

Along with this, I questioned the ability to paddle/pole the distance from New Orleans to Coudersport. Voyageurs were known to paddle canoes or pole rafts for twelve to sixteen hours a day. While the distance was great, this would not have been out of the range of possibility for them to accomplish.

The final issue I have with the legend is where did the gold coins come from? Most lost treasure stories have an origin of the treasure, but none of the versions of the Lost Gold of Voyageurs has an origin of the treasure they were tasked with taking to Montreal.

Despite my doubts, I have to admit I’ve ventured out a time or two to search for the lost treasure. The one thing I quickly discovered was – when you are searching for one large rock, all the rocks seem to be large. Despite searching a number of places, I have yet to find the large rock with a cross chiseled into it – maybe it has been weathered away or possibly destroyed over the years.

While I don’t have an answer to where the treasure was buried by the voyageurs, the hollow I believe is Halfway Hollow would be an ideal place for them to bury the treasure. If they were being harassed by the Seneca, they would want to bury the treasure quickly and at a point that was along their journey, not in some out-of-the-way place. The hollow is on the north side of the river. The Allegheny River is deep enough they could have possibly arrived at this location, but would have had a hard time going much farther upriver. The hollow is close to the river, so they would not have to haul it very far to hide it.

Maybe the lost kegs of gold are hidden in Halfway Hollow, either buried under present-day Route 6 or possibly hidden somewhere else within the hollow. Or Maybe it is buried in the mountains south of Coudersport in a remote place picked out by the group, waiting to be recovered.

All you have to do is find a large rock with a cross chiseled into it and – trust me – there are a lot of large rocks to be examined.

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