- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

RANDOLPH, N.H.

For all of his 88 years, Almon Farrar has heard stories of the treasure missing in the heart of the White Mountains where he grew up and has spent most of his life.Mr. Farrar never went looking for the treasure, but his uncle, a game warden who crisscrossed the mountains through much of the first half of the 20th century, always kept an eye out for it while he pursued poachers.

“Everybody’s hunted for it,” Mr. Farrar said as he took a break from cutting firewood in the yard of the home he built in 1937 into the Cascade and Castle ravines. “I tell you, it’s rough up there.”

Up there, not far from Mr. Farrar’s home, is some of the most rugged terrain in the Northeast. It is where eight rangers from an elite force of American frontiersmen attached to the British army during the French and Indian War perished while carrying a silver statue of the Virgin Mary and Christ child.

The rangers are believed to have taken the 10-pound statue, a ruby ring, a gold calf and other priceless artifacts during a 1759 raid on a Jesuit mission at an Indian settlement in Quebec. Much of the treasure is still believed to be lost today somewhere among the cliffs, ravines and timber on the north side of Mount Washington.

Throughout the 19th century, treasure hunters prowled the mountains of New Hampshire looking for the spoils the rangers left behind.

And still they come.

Last summer, two men showed up at the Lancaster Historical Society looking for information about the path of the rangers. They planned to use a metal detector to find the statue.

The Rev. Jacques Monet, director of the Jesuit archives in Toronto, said he could find no record of the missing artifacts, but it is plausible that they would have been housed at the mission.

“They had these benefactors in Europe who would send these things to the missions,” Father Monet said.

Forty years of mission records were destroyed in the raid on St. Francis by rangers under the command of Maj. Robert Rogers, an acclaimed military leader who in 1756 formed a 600-man contingent that came to be known as Rogers’ Rangers. A party of about 140 colonial soldiers and a few British regulars went up Lake Champlain and crossed the broad plains of the St. Lawrence Valley before attacking the Abenaki village of St. Francis, near present day Pierreville, Quebec.

The raid at dawn on Oct. 4, 1759, was revenge for a series of attacks by the Indians into the colonies.

Rogers later claimed to have killed about 200 Indians, although French and Abenaki records put the number much lower — perhaps 30 killed, among them 20 women and children.

During the raid, Rogers’ men stumbled across the Jesuit mission and helped themselves to gold and silver, including the replica of the seated Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus on her lap.

Military historian Gary Zaboly, who is working on “A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers,” a book to be published later this year as the nation marks the 250th anniversary of the start of the war, found a letter in a November 1759 article in the New York Gazette that gives a rare firsthand account of the statue.

“The people did bring away considerable plunder, but they drop’d them, or the greater part before they arrived at Connecticut River. ‘Tis also said, that one man brought off 1,700 guineas; and another a silver image of 10 lb. wt,” New Jersey Capt. Amos Ogden wrote in the letter from Fort No. 4 at Charlestown, N.H., after the raid.

A description included in a 2002 history of Rogers’ Rangers by another military historian, Burt Garfield Loescher, went further:

“Her head was surmounted by a high crown containing many points, covered by leafy rosettes. The infant Jesus resting on her knees wore no crown. In his little left hand he held a globe of the world while his right hand was uplifted in the customary sign of benediction.”

Rogers’ initial plan was to return to Lake Champlain and sail back south in boats he had left in Missisquoi Bay. But the French discovered the boats and destroyed them. His alternate route went through what is now northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire.

During the retreat, the rangers were pursued by the French and their Indian allies. The weight of the treasure slowed them, though, and they began to go hungry and then, as winter approached, suffer from the cold.

The statue was in a knapsack carried by Sgt. Benjamin Bradley, of Concord. When Bradley and eight other soldiers reached the Connecticut River, an Indian guide promised a shortcut through what is now Lancaster and up the Israel River to a pass to the south side of the mountains and home.

Instead, they were led into the Castle and Cascade ravines.

One by one the soldiers perished. The only survivor had no information about the statue.

By the early 19th century, pieces of the treasure began turning up along the soldiers’ route home.

In 1816, a farmer in Newport, Vt., (some reports say Quebec) plowed up a pair of golden candlesticks valued at the time at $1,000. In 1827, an incense vessel was found on the banks of the St. Francis River in Quebec. Rusted muskets, tomahawks, decaying uniforms and human remains, thought to be from the rangers, have been found throughout the region.

Mr. Loescher’s book said the items plundered from St. Francis also included a ruby ring “as big as your eye,” a stash of coins and a golden calf. The coins were said to have been buried near the spot where the Cow Brook flows into the Connecticut in Littleton.

Throughout the 19th century, treasure seekers searched the area, not realizing the river had changed course. Now the spot is beneath the Moore Reservoir.

It’s not clear what the condition of the statue would be after 245 years. Anthony Blumka, a New York antiques dealer who specializes in medieval, Renaissance and baroque art, said silver would survive better than some other materials.

“It might stand a chance,” he said.

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