Local man claims to have found lost Civil War treasure
Good as new - Dennis Parada found several pieces of what appears to be a whiskey bottle at an alleged treasure site in Dents Run and glued them back together to return the object to its original form. (Submitted photo)
Saturday, February 2, 2008
By Josh Woods Staff Writer
Part 1 of 2
Dennis Parada of Clearfield, his son Kem and close friends Scott Farrell and Mike Malley anticipated fame and fortune after believing they had discovered buried treasure in northern Pennsylvania that may have an estimated worth of millions.
The year of the alleged discovery was 2004, and three years later, the quartet is no more rich nor famous than it was prior to its findings. Contradictory reports, state law and lots of confusion has left Mr. Parada in a unique quandary - knowing the possible location of the largest treasure find in Pennsylvania and having no immediate means of doing anything about it.
Mr. Parada's journey to find the treasure, the lost gold of Dents Run, began in 1975 when he and a few of his co-workers had gained interest in amateur metal detecting.
While working at an area furniture store, a gentleman gave Mr. Parada a map he alleged would lead to the gold. The map lined up with other maps Mr. Parada already had in his possession and contained several landmarks, including a fire pit that would mark the location of the gold. The map, coupled with local legend, piqued Mr. Parada's interest.
A search of the map area by Mr. Parada turned up several landmarks; though, ultimately, the claim was left unfounded at that time. It was not until Mr. Parada, who had been telling the story of his search for years, was given the encouragement of friends and relatives that he made a successful return trip to the site.
According to a story written by Michael Paul Henson that appeared on page 24 of a 1983 issue of Lost Treasure magazine, a shipment of 26 partially refined gold bars lost by a Union Army patrol in 1863 was believed to be located in the vicinity of Hicks Run and Dents Run in Elk and Cameron counties.
The story reports that during the Civil War, a Union lieutenant, known as Lt. Castleton, read orders at Wheeling, W.Va., to proceed north with two wagons equipped with false bottoms and partially loaded with gold.
His orders, the story states, were to proceed northeast to avoid the possibility of running into Confederate patrols - Gen. Robert E. Lee's Gray Army had advanced northward and would eventually commence in the battle of Gettysburg.
When the lieutenant reached a point where he believed it was safe, he was to turn southeast and deliver the gold, which was brought from the West, to Union headquarters in Harrisburg, where it would then be moved to the mint in Philadelphia.
Lt. Castleton was eventually struck by fever and he and his men became lost in the wilderness while searching for the Sinnemahoning River. They had planned to build a raft and float to the Susquehanna and onward to Harrisburg.
Due to Lt. Castleton's condition, the group decided to separate. A man identified as Connors and two other men were to proceed on foot to Sinnemahoning and get help. Lt. Castleton and the rest of the men were to transfer the gold to pack saddles and go southward as fast as his condition would permit.
Castleton's party was never seen again. Connors arrived 10 days later with a rescue party from an Army post in Lock Haven and found only abandoned wagons. After several days of searching the rescue was called off.
Pinkerton Detectives, the main source of Army intelligence at that time, were then given the task of locating the gold, posing as prospectors and lumbermen as they canvassed the area.
Pinkerton's search also came up empty.
In November of 2004, with this story fresh on his mind, Mr. Parada returned to the Dents Run location he had searched years ago.
This time it was at the urging of Mr. Farrell, who thought Mr. Parada should continue his search for the final resting place of the gold.
Armed with only his recollection of the site and a metal detector, he and Mr. Farrell made a startling discovery: his map's final landmark. The two quickly became intrigued, because the site was located at the foot of the mountain where, according to Mr. Henson's story, surveyors of county lines found human skeletons in 1876.
Unfortunately the duo faced a big problem: the final landmark was located on state property.
"We first found the site in early November during bear season, on a Friday, and we called DCNR (the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) on Monday to report that we thought we had the location of the lost gold," said Mr. Parada. "I was told to call back on Wednesday, because Monday was the start of deer season and Mrs. (Jeanne) Wambaugh (the district forester) would be back then.
"On the third day of deer season, I called back and talked to her and she said to stop digging until she could talk to someone in Harrisburg. DCNR didn't think we had enough information to prove my find, so we waited until spring to do surface digging to look for artifacts."
Surface digging, digging that occurs no farther than two inches below the ground's surface, is allowed by law. The challenge here was that Mr. Parada was not allowed by law to do any "deep" digging.
Under Pennsylvania's consolidated statutes, Title 37, Historical and Museums, a person who conducts a field investigation on any land or submerged land owned or controlled by the Commonwealth, without first obtaining a permit from the state's museum commission, commits a third-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, one could pay a fine of not more than $2,500, face imprisonment or both.
Because of this, the gold, if it is in fact located where Mr. Parada's detectors have monitored it, had to remain underground.
Mr. Parada said that in the spring of 2005, he found several objects and unearthed them via surface digging - rock samples, a whiskey bottle, knives, animal traps, tin cans, a zinc mason jar lid and a bullet shell.
Fragile bones that appeared to be dragged away from the site by animals were also found.
According to Mrs. Wambaugh, DCNR had been seeking to contact the individual digging at the property at that time.
"We made contact and met up together," said Mrs. Wambaugh in a November telephone interview. "Once contact was made we notified Dennis (Mr. Parada) that digging on state property was illegal.
"He was very truthful and honest with us and told us that he was the person digging and did not realize that he was not allowed to do it. At that time, he ceased digging and gave us the items that he had found. We still have them here."
Mrs. Wambaugh followed up on the finds by placing a phone call to DCNR's Minerals Section in Harrisburg, which instructed her to inform Mr. Parada to cease digging and that they would test his finds for authenticity at his request.
"We thought we would be heroes," said Mr. Parada. "Instead, we ended up feeling like we were criminals."
Part 2 of Mr. Parada's story will continue in Monday's edition of The Progress.