Note: This is my opinion and interpretation of the files released by the FBI in regards to the Dents Run treasure. Almost everybody following the case has their own belief of whether the treasure exists or not. If you are not familiar with it, you can learn more here : The Legend and The Debate.
I was definitely interested in the files concerning the supposed treasure of Dents Run the FBI released in May 2022. I personally due not believe the treasure ever existed. Looking at it historically, there is nothing that suggests a group of army men transported a stack of gold bars through the mountains of north-central Pennsylvania during the U. S. Civil War. With the release of the files, I wondered if there would be anything within them that would change my mind on the subject.
The report is in a file titled “Alleged Missing Civil War Gold in Dents Run, Elk County, Pennsylvania” and can be found in the FBI Records: The Vault. Due to the number of pages released – 1035 pages in all – the files are uploaded into four sections. After going through the files, I have some thoughts about the materials located within.
Sections 2, 3 and 4: These are photos showing the site before, during and after their dig. What I like about them: the size of the hole is well documented within the photos.
However, I have complaints about them too. 1) Why are all the pictures in black-and-white? Trying to make out any type of detail in the photos, especially when it had snowed, is nearly impossible. I’m going to add that despite the technological advances in color scanning, everything in black-and-white makes reading the color chart in Section 1 and the “important things highlighted” no-go’s. 2) There is nothing within the pictures (or even in the released files in Section 1 that give the photos a sense of placement. After doing a lot of additional map work, I was able to figure out where the photos were taken, but nothing within the pictures actually gives the reader a “sense of placement” of where the dig had occurred other than it happened near Dents Run.
Putting the pictures aside, I’m left with 921 pages of documents that comprise Section 1. I am not going to mention every single page located within the file. What I’m going to comment on is the stuff I personally found interesting.
Before I go into the paperwork, there are two things I have a major problems with. First, there are a couple emails which are obvious replies to the FBI about the legendary treasure. What is not present are the original emails from the FBI is what information they were requesting. While – for the most part – I can deduce what they were asking, it would have been nice to actually see what they were searching for.
The second thing I have a problem with is a number of the emails clearly show attachments arrived with them. What is not clear with these emails is: are the attachments sent with the emails present in the file or not? Which papers go with which emails is not defined anywhere in the files that I can tell.
With my major problems aired, let’s look at some of the stuff in the released papers and see if we can make sense of them.
Section 1, Pages 7-10: A copy an article from the October 15, 1975 edition of The Progress (Clearfield, Pa) titled “Lost-Treasure in Pennsylvania Recalled.” Dave Barry, the author of the article states that Francis X. Sculley was his source of information for the Dents Run treasure. Sculley’s version added some “details” that were not in the original article. Familiar with the numerous legends about the lost treasure, I’m surprised anyone – FBI or treasure hunters – would base their search upon Sculley’s version. Note: It is mentioned that someone looked at the original, but the first version of the the legend is not in the files.
Section 1, Pages 11-15: These are payroll receipts for Arthur Connor who had been a member of Company K of the 13th Regiment. According to the Pennsylvania Digital Archives Civil War Veterans’ Card File, Conner was from Ansonville in Clearfield County and was discharged from service on November 1, 1862 by a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability. While I find these payroll receipts interesting, there is nothing to explain why they are included. Are they trying to prove that Arthur Connor and Jim Connors were the same person or possibly related? Not a clue.
Section 1, Pages 16-61: Begins with an email that states pig iron had been found in a cave. No context in the email as to who found it, what cave and where? I’ll assume it is Dents Run, but this email is followed with an article by Ardis Jones Blenko in Historical Society Notes and Documents (Western Pennsylvania History, January 1975) about Morgan’s Raid into eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania and how the Economites, a religious sect, supposedly buried a small fortune along the Ohio River. After the initial article, it is followed with 41 pages from the same journal that I see no relevance to the lost treasure.
Note: I realize at this point, the FBI has not cited many of their sources and am highly disappointed. I had to search for these sources. If they are going to copy it and put it in their files, then there should be a citation included. Guess none of them took English composition or Historical writing. If they did, they surely must have failed the class.
Section 1, Page 65-70: Another version of the Legend of the Dent’s Run Treasure from the November 27, 1978 edition of The Progress (Clearfield, Pa.) adds two details to the legend: 1) the gold was hidden in a rattlesnake-infested cave and 2) Jim Connors, the civilian guide in Clearfield County, the army sent him to Arizona.
Section 1, Page 71: My personal favorite page. In the middle of the whole report is a random page for a metal detector. No context. Just a random page giving details about a metal detector. Was the type of metal detector used by those searching for the treasure?
Section 1, Pages 72-93: A lot of random papers. Includes information on the Pinkertons, because they supposedly investigated the theft. List of books that state deserters and draft dodgers were living in Elk and Clearfield Counties.
Section 1, Page 91: The narrative about how the gold got to Cameron County has changed slightly. Now, the reason is President Lincoln ordered the gold shipped by wagon from the San Francisco Mint to keep it out of the hands of the Confederacy.
Section 1, Pages 95-103: After wading through a lot of paperwork I find the report that is now at the center of the newest rounds of controversy: the Enviroscan of the area by RETTEW Associates. According to believers, this report verifies gold had existed at this location. However, that’s not exactly what the reports states – in fact, the word “gold” is not mentioned anywhere; the phrase they use is “denser object”. It states there is an anomaly in the area scanned that has a density of 17.5 g/cc, which may be the result of looser soil around a denser object. It is inferred that the object is gold.
Note: In the first paragraph of the report, it is mentioned they are scanning for a denser object. Would it not have been better for them to do the scan first, then use it to determine what may or may not be there? If they were going into the scan purposely searching for a denser object, then that information is going to mar their thinking from the start. In my opinion, those doing the scan should have done so without knowing what they were searching for, read the scans, then make a determination as to what the scans show. While it does not majorly affect the report, it puts the idea of gold into the minds of those doing the Enviroscan before they actually did the scan.
Something that was pointed out to me after I sent the report to a friend who has read a number of these reports, it is listed as being revised. The reason for the revision was the correction of a name – the email about the revision is on page 103.
One thing that I don’t see in the paperwork involves the scanned area. Was it scanned only one time? How long was the area scanned – that is, was it a one scan and done or was it scanned over a length of time? Did they rescan the area after the anomaly was discovered? If not, why not?
Section 1, Page 104: The official email stating they were done with the investigation and had found nothing there. Best quote of the file comes from this email: “Due to other priority case work and after considering the operational equities necessary to continuing this investigation, the FBI will close the captioned case.”
Section 1, Pages 105-109: communications between the FBI and Wells Fargo, in which the Wells Fargo representative states they would not have shipped treasury gold by wagon during the time frame the gold was supposedly lost. Gold would have been either placed on a boat or train.
Having waded through the mess of paperwork released by the FBI, the only thing that makes me question my thoughts is the Enviroscan report. While I do not believe it was gold, I’m curious to know what caused the anomaly. However, as far as I can tell, they only did one scan on the area. If they went back now and rescanned it, would the anomaly still show up?
Stepping back and looking at the file in a completely neutral stance, the biggest problems with the released files are:
1) They lack needed information to make sense of what is included in the papers. Maybe a table of contents listing what is there would have been nice.
2) It is hard to figure out how some of the paperwork connects to other pages in the file. What is the relevance of Arthur Connor? What is the random metal detector?
3) What attachments go with what email? Are all the attachments forwarded in the emails there or not? Aggravating.
Now being very familiar with the legend, I find it interesting there is only one brief mention of Lieutenant Castleton, the man who supposed led the group. I would have thought there would have been more of a search for him and the missing soldiers in their files. There is no paperwork included to suggest they made any attempt to verify if the men had really existed or not.
Final thoughts: There is nothing in the folder that would persuade me to change my mind about the lost treasure ever existing. My personal research, which has resulted in an organized folder almost as thick as theirs, still stands firm in my mind – this is merely a legend that has morphed over the years and with the FBI investigation, it will continue to grow.
With that said, I understand that believers will remain firm in 1) the treasure is there to be found or 2) secreted away during the night. Non-believers will continue to roll their eyes at the legend. At the end of the day, the real treasure is in the money that continues to pour into the region as treasure hunters search for the fabled gold.
And I’ll leave you with one last thought: this file, with its unorganized paperwork thrown together haphazardly, would be enough to make some believe the FBI might actually be hiding something.