The history of the very beginning of this adventure is uncertain, but apparently around 1752 a Spanish Galleon ship called the "San Jose" arrived at New London in Connecticut, carrying 40 chests of silver and one chest of gold, along with a passenger by the name of Philip DeGrau. The story goes that the San Jose began to take on water and an American ship, the "Susannah" came to the rescue by escorting the San Jose safely ashore. The contents of the San Jose were immediately seized by American authorities and it is said that the cargo was stashed in a warehouse. (Another version of this story, put DeGrau aboard a ship called the Nebuchadnezzar, where he committed mutiny against the Captain and crew).
It is believed that DeGrau, with about 10 of his ship-mates jumped board before the San Jose was brought to port, they plotted and successfully burglarized the warehouse.
They were able to steal most of the treasure, so days later when the captain of the ship could inventory the loot, it was then discovered that the majority had been stolen. The remaining treasure when hence returned to the captain.
By this time, DeGrau and his cronies had made the proverbial beeline north and hoped to reach the safety net of Canada. The gang was just about 60 miles south of their destination, when they were attacked by Indians, near South Mountain in the Bristol area. During the violent confrontation, the treasure was said to have been buried between 2 great rocks (appearing to be somewhat cave-like) at the foot of the mountain, which is commonly referred to now as "Hell's Half Acre".
DeGrau and a few of the men survived the vicious attack and actually made it into Canada. Years later DeGrau returned to recover the stash, but was surprised to see that the entire landscape had changed! Apparently, a significant earthquake had rumbled through New England and indeed, the landscape was altered. Rock slides had covered the western slope of the mountain, which probably covered the entrance to the "cave".
To give credence to this event, I researched this and found on the US Geological Survey site and wiki this information:
"The Cape Ann Earthquake took place off the coast of the British Province of Massachusetts Bay (the present-day American commonwealth of Massachusetts) on November 18, 1755. At between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, it remains the largest earthquake in the history of Massachusetts. It damaged hundreds of buildings in Boston and was felt as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as South Carolina. Sailors on a ship more than 200 miles (320 km) offshore felt the quake, and mistook it at first for their ship running aground. Many residents of Boston and the surrounding areas attributed the quake to God, and it occasioned a brief increase in religious fervor in the city. Modern studies estimate that if a similar quake shook Boston today, it would result in as much as $5 billion in damage and hundreds of deaths."
"...the major earthquake of November 18, 1755, east of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, affected a large area (about 777,000 square kilometers), including all of Vermont."
Some accounts state that DeGrau then settled in the Bristol area and continued to search for his lost treasure until his death. He was never able to retrieve it, so perhaps it is somewhere deep in the ground in Hell's Half Acre?
Locals, being suspicious of strangers, questioned him as to why he was trespassing on private property. DeGrau went on to explain (all the while his nose growing in length) that "his name was DeGrau, that he was Spanish, and had visited the area many years ago as a child. His father and a group of associates were miners who had randomly prospected throughout New England. There on South Mountain in Bristol (then called Pocock) they discovered a rich vein of silver and had begun a mining operation."
"Eventually they accumulated a massive amount of high grade ore which they smelted into silver bars. In the fall, while preparing to leave, they discovered they had far too much wealth to carry away. They walled the surplus treasure up in an oven-shaped cave and disguised the entrance with earth and vegetation, planning to return for it later."
"Before departing for their faraway homes the miners agreed that in order to reclaim the loot they must all travel together, as a group. For various reasons they never coordinated the return trip. Presumably, they had already carted off enough wealth and never had to refill their coffers. Over the years the original miners died off until Señor DeGrau – now quite elderly -- was the only one left."
"After some deliberation, the villagers decided that the Spaniard's story had the ring of truth. Ultimately, they believed him." - Joseph Citro
So, Degrau was able to elicit the help of many of the local townspeople. He continued his search until his death, or as I have read, he just gave up and disappeared. I am unable to locate any grave with his name, on findagrave.com.
It is interesting to note that one old doubloon (a Spanish coin) was found in the South Mountain region in 1961. Also giving credence to this story, a crucible (a container for molted metal) was discovered however, it could not be dated, but it could be verified as being of Spanish origin.
The fever for those seeking treasure, has continued many with metal detectors in hand have tried and failed, to date. The cache could be worth multiple millions, if ever located.....
BUT...before you head out with your metal detector and/pickax, take heed!
Again, from Joe Citro:
"In the years to come an array of Bristol locals picked up ax and continued where the Spaniard had left off. They discovered some ancient signs of a mining operation, a mysterious marked container, and a few nondescript odds and ends. These worthless finds inspired more treasure hunters, but years of intermittent excavations revealed no mine and no silver.
For decades Bristol treasure hunters were joined by opportunists from far and wide, all determined to secure the Spaniard's silver. In the mid-1800s a group of Canadians arrived and organized a stock company. An affable sixty-year-old, florid-faced giant known as "Uncle Sim" directed the operation. He spurred the diggers on with humor and charisma, taking his directions from trusted fortune-tellers. One was a woman from Pawlet whom Uncle Sim regularly consulted. Another was an "old Frenchman" who conjured from his cabin on the eastern side of the mountain. Without callusing their hands or wielding an ax, their paranormal vision allowed them to identify the spot where the treasure lay. The amount that would eventually be unearthed, they promised, was $3,100,000 [over $50,000,000 in today’s coin].
Uncle Sim raised funds by promising a hundred dollar return on every dollar invested.
From 1840 to 1852 they dug shaft after shaft, some through solid rock, some 40 and 50 feet deep. One sank to well over 100! Still the silver remained just out of reach. Shafts caved in, filled with stifling gas, or flooded with water. As much effort went into reclaiming holes as digging them. But no treasure came to light. After more than twelve years and thousands of dollars, Uncle Sim gave up.
But unlike the rock face of South Mountain, Uncle Sim’s faith was never shattered. About a decade later he returned alone. He had met a new conjurer who assured him that by moving just a few stones he could open a passage leading directly to the treasure. By then he must have been in his eighties, a frail and broken man. His effort was short lived. Defeated, he tottered off into oblivion.
In spite of repeated failures, organized efforts to find the Spaniard's silver continued intermittently.
As recently as 1934 a man from New Haven took up the cause. His treasure finding techniques were more modern than Uncle Sim’s. Instead of consulting conjurers, he used his "divining rod," then began digging and dynamiting until little was left of the earlier excavations. It wasn’t long before he too left, tired, and discouraged.
The forlorn remnants of Addison’s Big Dig remain on South Mountain to this day. “The Money Diggings”, as they are locally called, are on private land. With permission, you can traverse the inhospitable terrain (as nasty as any in the state). You can still discover the rough rock caves where Uncle Sim’s crew lived during their twelve years on what has become known as “Hell’s Half Acre.”
You can locate the filled shafts and — if you’re brave enough -- descend into the only pit that remains open. It drops at a precarious 45-degree angle into – so they say -- a hand-dug cavern large enough to hold a dance hall. From there, three additional shafts burrow into the bowels of the mountain.
It is a dangerous spot, perhaps more so because of the hell hound and demon boy Uncle Sim swore will eternally guard the true path to the treasure.
The bottom line is that in two hundred years Addison’s Big Dig has produced nothing but questions: Was there ever any silver or treasure of any kind? Did one of the diggers secretly find the stash and covertly carry it away? Or is it still there, securely hidden, ready to inspire another century of treasure hunting?
Quite possibly someone is digging there now. Strange, almost fleshy rock faces: slippery, alien, and almost always hazardous." - Jospeh Citro
Joe tells a great story, doesn't he? Anyway, I was thinking.... I have a metal detector, and a pickax, and a shovel, and boots... maybe I will take a little journey north, come spring....