Treasure Hunters: Lake Michigan Shipwreck Could Lead to Lost Confederate Gold
OutdoorHub Reporters 05.28.15
There may be millions of dollars in gold bullion at the bottom of Lake Michigan, and those searching for it say they have found the first clue to its location. Kevin Dykstra and Frederick J. Monroe made news late last year after they discovered the remains of the 17th century French ship Le Griffon, the first ship to sail the Great Lakes. While the two men are still investigating the shipwreck, they said that they were not looking for historic ships when they discovered the wreckage. Instead they were looking for something a lot more lucrative.
“We were looking for $2 million dollars [sic] in gold bullion that is somewhere at the bottom of Lake Michigan,” Dykstra told WZZM last year. “In the late 1800s, there were box cars crossing the Great Lakes, and some of those box cars were pushed off from car ferries that were hauling them to save the ferries in bad storms.”
With the weather warming up and summer just around the corner, the two men now believe they may have found the first clue to locating the lost Confederate gold. According to WZZM, Dykstra and Monroe discovered an uncharted shipwreck on the bottom of Lake Michigan in April. An exploratory dive revealed that the ship was mostly intact and Dykstra spied what appeared to be a locked safe in the interior of the wreck. Eager to discover its contents, the treasure hunters have petitioned the Michigan government to grant them a permit to retrieve the safe from its murky resting place. They say it may contain the first clue to finding the sunken box car full of Confederate gold.
Some historians say Dykstra and Monroe are grasping at straws.
The story behind the lost Confederate gold, while fascinating, can count as little more than rumors and unsubstantiated speculation. In 1921, a Muskegon banker by the name of George Alexander Abbott gave a deathbed confession regarding a sunken box car on the bottom of Lake Michigan. That story was told to Monroe’s grandfather, who later told it to him. After further research, Monroe and Dykstra speculated that the gold was actually part of the treasure that Confederate president Jefferson Davis took with him when he fled Richmond in 1865. Davis was later captured, but most of the gold and jewelry he took with him was unaccounted for. Dykstra and Monroe say that this treasure may have actually been taken by some members of the Union cavalry unit that captured Davis—the Michigan Fourth Cavalry. The two men further speculated that the gold was later retrieved by Robert Horatio George Minty, who retired after the Civil War as a Brigadier General.
After the war, Minty worked as the railroad superintendent. That, the treasure hunters said, gave the former soldier ample opportunity to ship the gold to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The treasure was put into a box car and sent across Lake Michigan on a ferry, but rough waters forced the crew to push it overboard. It may sound all like conjecture, but Dykstra and Monroe do have one key piece of evidence they say bolsters their claim. Grace Ann Abbott, the sister of George Alexander Abbott and Minty’s first wife, had a necklace made of Confederate gold.
Civil War historian and author Rand Bitter agrees that the necklace likely exists, but disagrees that Minty took the gold. In fact, Bitter says Minty was not even present during the capture of Davis. One of his subordinates, Lt. Colonel Benjamin Pritchard, oversaw the capture.
“If three tons of gold had been hidden away in a hurry by Prichard and his men, how would Minty have coordinated that from 150 miles away?” Bitter told Mlive.
Additionally, stealing and hiding that amount of treasure—a highly treasonous act—would be very difficult to keep secret for long. Yet Dykstra and Monroe are undaunted in their quest and say they expect to find the treasure later this summer.
You can watch an interview with the treasure hunters below: