MINERVA, Ohio — Spring weather is ushering in another gold rush in Minerva, Ohio.
Every year, treasure hunters head to the small village which sits at the intersection of Stark, Columbiana and Carroll counties.
Their search is based on local legend, historical record and a 250-year-old mystery involving $13 million in gold coins.
“Nobody has been able to find it in 250 years,” said local historian Roger Bartley.
The gold was the French military’s payroll in 1755 during the French and Indian War prior to the American Revolution.
French soldiers feared the British would sack Fort Duquesne, which is now Pittsburgh and steal the coins.
“They loaded the treasury onto 16 pack horses, and sent it with 10 men over the Great Trail for Fort Detroit,” said Bartley.
The historic Great Trail was the equivalent of a modern superhighway and passed through what is now Minerva.
Scouts informed the French that the British were gaining ground on them, so the soldiers stopped and buried the gold.
“About that time the British attacked,” said Bartley.
Only two French soldiers survived, but left markers and wrote down detailed clues with the intention of returning to retrieve the gold.
However, that never happened, according to a transcribed letter written by one of the surviving soldiers.
“The last line of the letter says events following made it impossible for us to return,” said Bartley.
Decades later a stranger came to town and claimed to be the nephew of one of the French soldiers.
He had a letter from the soldier that spoke of specific clues surrounding the gold. The soldier wrote that they buried the gold in the middle of four springs that’s formed sort of a square. A half mile to the west, they jammed an “odd rock” into the fork of a tree. A mile to the east, they carved a deer into a tree and 600 steps to the north they buried the shovels.
After an exhaustive search, the stranger left town empty-handed and never returned.
But the townspeople and early settlers had found all of the clues.
“My grandmother was in possession of this rock,“ said Ray Morgenstern, holding an odd shaped rock that looks like a Native American tool.
Morgenstern’s family founded the village and owned a significant amount of land near the Great Trail. The deed to the land is signed by President Andrew Jackson.
“One of our ancestors was splitting rails and cut this tree and found it,” said Morgenstern. The tree had apparently grown around it.
Shovels, rifles and soldiers’ remains were also unearthed on neighboring properties and storm revealed the deer carving.
“The storm came through years later and blew bark off a tree and under that was a deer carved there,” said Bartley. “But we’ve never found the gold.”
Over the years countless people have brought all sorts of equipment to the area looking for the treasure, but all have left empty-handed.
Bartley and Morgenstern believe that’s because the most important clue has vanished.
The four springs are gone.
“A spring just being a water outlet from the ground, sometimes they dry up, sometimes they go away, sometimes they reappear,” said Morgenstern.
Could the springs and saturated soil have caused the gold to shift underground or sink deeper into the earth?
They say anything is possible and that’s why the search continues.
Bartley wrote a fictional book about the gold titled, “Henry Muselle’s Treasure,” and believes that some day the gold might still be found.
“Technology has improved over the last ten years,” said Bartley, “If we had the right area pegged we might be able to find something.”
For more information and to communicate with Roger Bartley, head to this Facebook page.