155 years ago, Union and Confederate forces clashed in one of the most sanguinary engagements of the American Civil War at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where a combined 46,000 to 51,000 casualties were suffered by both sides. The triumph of Union forces at Gettysburg shifted the tide of the entire war in their favor as well, ultimately leading to the eventual surrender of Confederate forces on April 9, 1865. While the battle itself is legendary, especially among Pennsylvanian natives like me, another lesser-known legend associated with the battle is that a lost cache of buried federal gold exists somewhere in Pennsylvania as well. According to a March 17, 2018, article by the Associated Press, FBI agents have been amassing around a remote forest at Dents Run, where the civilian treasure-hunting group Finders Keepers claims to have found the lost gold which was allegedly lost during a shipment to the United States Mint in Philadelphia. The Washington Post also picked up the story on the same day, and in its coverage appears to indicate that the reason gold may have been buried there is still a mystery — if it is indeed buried there.
While it is still unknown if the gold of legend was actually found or not, or why it was buried, Finders Keepers owner Dennis Parada said in a statement last Friday that he is under orders from the FBI not to say anything. To me, that seems rather promising, or at least indicates that something else of equivalent interest may have been discovered instead. According to Parada, the site was originally discovered through the use of a high-powered metal detector. However, he additionally alleged that the Pennsylvania state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources denied his group the permission to dig after it was discovered. The lost shipment of gold is estimated to have a worth today between $27 million and $55 million, depending on whether it contains 26 or 52 gold bars.
There has always been a fine line, both in the U.S. and abroad, between what is considered treasure hunting and what is considered looting. While there are many professional organizations that take painstaking measures to ensure that they comply with all local and federal laws when hunting for treasure, a significant portion of the treasure hunting community is divided into individuals and small groups. Unfortunately for Finders Keepers, the forest in which the gold may have been discovered is owned by the state, and so if any gold is discovered, it will be considered the property of the Federal government. By contrast, treasure that is discovered on private property will typically be awarded to whoever owns the land. The reason that these treasure hunting laws were put into place was to protect historical artifacts, but often treasure hunters will feel that they are entitled to their share due to the notion of “finders keepers.”