Top 10 Lost Treasures in Illinois

Many of you may not know that Illinois is loaded with forgotten loot and buried treasure, but millions of dollars in gold and silver are right under your feet – if you can find it. Luckily, Mysterious Heartland is here to bring you the story of some of Illinois’ most notorious lost treasures! Perhaps you have what it takes to solve these mysteries and strike it rich?

10. Mysterious Hurricane Creek

Cumberland County, IL

In 1920, two reddish-colored skeletons were unearthed in a gravel bank on a farm owned by a man named Jake Walters in rural Cumberland County. One was giant sized: twice as large as the other, adult skeleton. The lower jaw of the giant was well preserved, with ten teeth that were worn down, indicating that he or she died at an old age. The bones were buried four feet below the surface in a region of prehistoric trails and burial grounds at the extreme end of a ridge east of Hurricane Creek. The ridge was already well known for its tales of buried treasure. According to legend, a young Indian Chief, most likely of the Kickapoo, told the white settlers that an elder of the tribe had buried a treasure there, but he would not reveal its location because anyone who dug it up would be cursed and die. About the time the giant skeleton was found, a fortune teller in Charleston claimed to know where the treasure was buried, but “will not tell until the right person to claim it comes along.”

9. James Gregory Stash

Marion County, IL

Between 1880 and 1925, a man named James Gregory operated the only dry goods store south of Hickory Hill Church. Over the years, he became wealthy supplying local farmers with all their equipment, feed, and other supplies, but like many rural residents in the late 19th Century, James did not trust banks. He apparently did not trust his own wife either, because she had no knowledge of where he hid his money. Neighbors, however, sometimes observed that he would duck out to a pasture behind his home whenever he needed to stock up on additional inventory. In 1925, he suffered a stroke and died. His wife searched for her inheritance in vain, and there are believed to be several thousand dollars still hidden somewhere on his former property.

8. Colonel Clark’s Lost Silver

Steeleville, IL

George Rogers Clark is a celebrated name in Illinois history. In 1778, as the Revolutionary War raged out east, Clark asked Patrick Henry (then Governor of Virginia) for permission to lead a secret expedition to capture British posts in the Illinois country, which included Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes. Patrick Henry commissioned Clark as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia and authorized him to raise troops. Before his 175 man army left, the Virginia governor gave him several thousand pounds silver sterling to pay for the expedition. As Clark’s army was preparing to attack Fort Kaskaskia on July 4, they buried 1,200 pounds sterling west of present day Steeleville, near the Mississippi River, in case things went badly. He was victorious in battle, but unfortunately, the Mississippi flooded and obscured the location of the coins. This money has never been recovered.

7. The Sweetin Home

Greene County, IL

Otherwise known as “the old stone house,” the remnants of this manor were, at one time, part of a mansion built in 1848 by a stockman named Azariah Sweetin. During the Civil War, Azariah didn’t want to take any chances with banks, so he stuffed all his gold coins into jars and buried them around his property. Unfortunately, an equestrian accident in 1871 rendered him without any memory of where he had buried his money. After his death, his ranch was purchased by Cyrus Hartwell, who also lived there until he died. Treasure seekers soon tore the mansion apart, but no one has ever found Azariah’s gold. Storytellers say Azariah’s ghost—alongside snakes—now guards his lost loot.

6. The Farrington Brothers’ Gold

Farmington, IL

Outlaws became national folk heroes after the Civil War, when irregular guerrillas and veterans of the Confederate Cavalry used the skills they learned during the war to enrich themselves and their families at the expense of railroads and banks. Levi and Hilary Farrington were no exception. They fought with Quantrill’s Raiders during the war, and joined an outlaw gang after. In 1870, they robbed a train in Tennessee and made off with $20,000 in gold. During the escape, the two brothers were separated and Levi laid low at a farm near Farmington, Illinois, where he is rumored to have hidden the gold. He was captured by a deputy after a short time and lynched in Union City, Tennessee. The Farrington Brother’s loot was never found.

Check out these places and more in Michael Kleen’s
Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State!

5. Burrows Cave

Richland County, IL

In the early 1980s a man named Russell Burrows claimed to stumble upon a hidden cave somewhere near Olney. Even more incredible were the artifacts he said were hidden there. He found human remains, metal weapons, and an ancient language carved into gold tablets. Stranger still, the language was Middle Eastern and European in origin, and not from any known American Indian culture. According to Burrows, “The artifacts include ax heads of marble and other stone material, an ax head of what appears to be bronze, a short sword of what appears to be bronze, and other artifacts which might be considered personal weapons.” The find excited archeologists who believed that ancient cultures had interacted across continents. Unfortunately, Burrows refused to reveal the location of the cave to mainstream scientists, and the artifacts that allegedly came from the site were all shown to be frauds. After decades of debate, the Burrows Cave is now widely believed to have been an elaborate hoax.

4. Lost Stash of Henri de Tonti

Utica, IL

Between 1685 and 1702, Henri de Tonti was the most powerful man in central Illinois. He was a character of legend, even though most people do not remember him today. He lost his right hand at the Battle of the Messina Revolt during the Third Anglo-Dutch War and replaced it with a hook. He accompanied René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in his exploration of the Illinois country, and La Salle left him to hold Fort Saint Louis when he returned to France. During his time in the Illinois River Valley, he is rumored to have accumulated over $100,000 in gold, which he buried around Starved Rock. He told a priest about the gold just before he died, but it has never been found despite search attempts in the 1750s by the French and the Potawatomie.

3. “King of the Hold Up Men”

Richmond, IL

Harvey John Bailey (1887–1979) was one of the 1920’s most successful bank robbers. He worked in a gang or alone, and his career spanned 13 years and several states. In 1931, his gang robbed the Lincoln National Bank in Lincoln, Nebraska and made off with roughly $1 million in cash. After the robbery, he is said to have hidden the loot on a farm near Richmond, Illinois, where he had been staying. He robbed his last bank in Kingfisher, Oklahoma and was sentenced to life in prison on October 7, 1933. He served time until his release in 1964. He died seven years later, but without recovering his stash. To this day, no one knows what happened to the $1 million.

2. Payroll Payload

Arthur, IL

Many years ago, in the early 1800s, there was an old army way station in southern Piatt County near Arthur. It was well known in the area that several companies of regular army soldiers were coming there to receive their monthly pay, which meant that a total of around $286,000 in $20 gold coins was at the station. A gang of bandits planned to rob the station before the soldiers arrived. The station master learned of their plans, however, and with the help of several guards, he buried the gold coins. When the bandits arrived, they killed the station master and his guards and burnt the station to the ground. However, they never found the $286,000 in gold, which is presumably still buried somewhere nearby.

1. Cave-in-Rock

Hardin County, IL

Cave-in-Rock, located on the Ohio River, is one of the most notorious treasure-hunting destinations in Illinois. From the 1790s to the 1870s the area around Cave-in-Rock was plagued by river pirates, horse thieves, counterfeiters, and highwaymen. Over $1 million worth of stolen loot, gold, cash, and counterfeit bills changed hands there between 1790 and 1830 alone. In 1800, the Mason gang was rumored to have hidden a large stash of gold at Cave-in-Rock, but Samuel Mason was beheaded after he was caught on the Spanish side of the Mississippi River with $7,000 and 20 human scalps. Aside from Mason’s horde, there are supposed to be dozens of stashes of gold and silver all along the cliff face.


Haunting Illinois by Michael KleenCheck out these places and more in Michael Kleen’s Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State! Three years in the making, the 3rd edition of Hunting Illinois is your ticket to adventure in your own backyard. This edition contains 60 new listings and 35 new pictures, for a total of 260 haunted or mysterious locations and more than 120 photos and illustrations. Divided into eight distinct regions and listed by county and town or neighborhood, each location features a description, directions, and sources from a wide variety of books, articles, and websites. Haunting Illinois challenges you to get off the couch and start exploring our wonderful State of Illinois. Go here to order!

Sorry guys, this page is copyright Black Oak Media, 2010. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.


  1. james dennison says:

    mr kleen i was raised around centralia ill do u have more info about the location of the james gregory farm location also hickory hill church


    • Hello Mr. Dennison: My name is William and have be on a hunt for 2 years and other info would help and of course You would share credit for any finds of mystery in this history.


  2. Danny says:

    anyone know of any haunted site in or near peoria, will you please let me know?


  3. How can I get permission to metal detect around Starved rock or cave in rock?


    • It is State Parks property around the cave. You don’t need permission to use a metal detector there. If you venture onto private property, that’s a different story.


    • Ferd Berfle says:

      It is illegal to metal detect on state property. It is a violation of the Illinois Archaeological and Paleontological Resource Protection Act to do so. Fines for doing so can be as high as $10,000.00. Besides, there is no gold at Starved Rock as Tonti himself wrote shortly before his death “All the voyages I have made for the success of this country have ruined me.” It is nothing more than a silly 18th century myth.


  4. How can I get a map for Coffee cemetery in Hardin county illinois


  5. Jeff Macri says:

    As kids we saw a rectangular shaped object that looked like a algae covered steel plaque or carved rock under the ice of our creek. It definately wasn’t natural so we thought it was native American because we had found many arrowheads there. The next summer we made a dam using sod and big rocks and tried to dig it up. It was an iron box that was wedged in between large rocks in the creek bed. The box must of went deep because we couldn’t even budge it with our shovels, let alone dig it up. The water kept breaking our dam which ended up being a battle that a few 11 years olds couldn’t win. We gave up and over the years we talked about digging it back up but my 2 friends that discovered it have passed on, so I’m ready to team up with a treasure hunter to find out what’s inside a super heavy old iron box someone took time to bury in the middle of a creek.


    • Aaron says:

      Jeff I would be interested in helping you.


    • Jeff I also would be interested in helping you, when were you planning on doing this, I would like to know more.


      • Jeff Macri says:

        It won’t be easy to find. It’s been 30 years but I know the general area. Sediment or rocks may have covered it up so an underwater metal detector or ground penetrating sonar would be required. I want someone with the proper resources to locate it quickly so I can finally see what it was after all these years. We first thought it was an anchient petrified wood or a rock carving looking at it thru the ice thinking it was Indian related. When the ice melted we figured it was made of iron. We thought maybe it had something to do with the Indian Boundry line. When it seemed like it went down pretty deep we hoped it was a buried box of treasure. When it was impossible to dig up then it seemed like it could be something to do with public works or sewer system, so we gave up. But what kind of public works do they bury at the bottom of a creek bed between rocks in the middle of a small stream? I’d heard rumors from my friends that kids discovered others buried in the same creek. It’s something that’s hard to stop thinking about. You begin to doubt that it all really happened, but I do have a couple other friends who were there that will remember it, so it’s not all just some childhood dream I conjured back up or something. We haven’t talked about it for a long time so a third party should interview them to see exactly what they remember about it and what other kids we grew up with remember hearing about it back then. If anyone thinks they know what it is please offer up your opinion. It’s boggled my brain for way too many years!


    • jeff where are you from and if you are ever interested in some help digging that thing up me and my buddy will help we love treasure hunting and native american artifacts add me on face book mark redhawk nelson or give me a call 309-224-4204


      • Lilly Cache Creek in northern Will County. When we saw it as kids we were all absolutely stunned! We knew it was something very old and important. Like it was marking a spot with significance. I wish somebody would have an idea what it could be.


      • Kenneth says:

        Did you guys figure it out?I believe it to be associated with the race of giants that once roamed illinois.If could shed alot of light on things!!


      • Jeff Macri says:

        I appreciate your interest in helping me find it. I waded the creek in November. The water was high. I still can’t remember the exact location. It was in the middle of a bend but there’s like 3 small bends in the area. A small grass island appeared in one spot so I hope it’s not under there. My 2 friends who first found it are both deceased. I have not spoken to any of my other friends who tried helping dig it out. I’d like to have America Unearthed or some other experts interview them to try getting a better idea of where and what it was. I’ve avoided talking to them about it because I don’t want to put any false memories in their heads. I just want them to explain what they remember. Stories get embellished quickly. One friend said he saw it too but he didn’t even live in the neighborhood at the time. We never located it again after the day we tried digging it out. I remember it was set in the rocks perfectly but now it may be buried under more rocks or mud. The next dry spell I’ll go out there with my metal detector to see if I can find it, but I’m still not even sure what it’s made of. My only theory is that it’s some sort of 200 year old marker for the northern Indian Boundary Line that gave safe passage for travelers from Chicago to the Illinois River to the Mississippi. I wish it was buried treasure but I really doubt it. Thanks for spending the time to hear my story. Maybe someday if all other options get exhausted we can all go out there to look for it.


    • betty reid says:

      My name is betty and yes I would love to help dig it up with you here’s my email address please contact me thanx


    • kevin mize says:

      Hello my name is kevin and id love to get in contact with you and go see the box…im a big guy and im sure we can get it out…plz if you have any interest in teaming up plz feel free to call me at 4173898145…I live in decatur Illinois… number is a Missouri number ….plz I am eager to go on an adventure and learn about your story …thank you for your time …


    • Jason Pennington says:

      Did you ever go back and dig the box up??!!


  6. Dave Gerber says:

    Jeff, are you still looking for help in finding your childhood discovery?


  7. Megan Funchess says:

    Aren’t there any treasure such as sculpted buffalo skulls in Illinois?


  8. Is there anywhere near me in Downers Grove Illinois to hunt with a newly purchased COSTLY metal detector? Frustrated…..


  9. clint taylor says:

    jeff i was wondering if you ever unearthed that metal box im 21 and me and my girlfreind love to go arrowhead and indain bead hunting i wouldd love to help you find that boxor what was in it? im very interested and got to know please you can call 16185333749 leave a measage i have equipment ?


  10. J.Hamilton says:

    Get real people! Why would someone have to go on line to find someone to go with him? What no family, friends, neighbors etc he has meet throughout 30 yrs of his life? I smell a rat not a beaver.



  1. […] to Mysterious Heartland, there are at least ten known buried treasures in […]


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