THE LOST TREASURE OF THE VOYAGEURS
By Francis X.Scully
Those who claim to be "in the know" feel that it is valued over $350,000 by todays standards, and perhaps even more. Often mentioned by the Senecas in the tales and legends handed down by the elders, the lost treasure of Borie may be the least known of all the hidden wealth yet to be found in America. Yet, there is a good chance that it lies buried somewhere a few miles south of one of the nations greatest and busiest highways near Borie, in the heart of the vacation paradise known as Gods Country, Potter County, USA.
Late in the 1690s, almost a full century before the white mans first recorded visit to what is now Potter County, a small party of French Canadian voyageurs left New Orleans by raft,for the return trip to Montreal. The planned route was up the Mississippi to the junction of the Ohio and then up the Beautiful River, as the Indians call it, to the Allegheny and then northward to the mouth of the Conewango near present day Warren. From that point, a short run would bring the expedition to Chautauqua Lake near the present day furniture center of Jamestown, New York. From the extreme north end of that muskellunge paradise, the party could practically roll down hill by the way of Prendergrast Creek and then home free by the way of Lake Erie. The entire trip would be made by water, without the danger and travail of long overland, backbreaking portages.
And so the coureur de bois left New Orleans on rafts loaded with provisions and a number of small kegs, each of which were loaded with gold coins covered with a thin film of gunpowder, and anchored securely to the crude log transports by means of ropes and iron nails. The gold was to be delivered to His Most Gracious Majestys Royal Governor in Montreal,and the party was instructed to guard the valuable cargo with their lives. Under no circumstances was it to fall into the hands of the English, the Americans nor the hated Senecas, who were always at war with the French.
And so the party consisting of about a score of French runners, two Jesuit priests, and a few Indian scouts made it up the swollen Mississippi without incident, other than to comment on the awesome breadth of the Father of Waters, when at flood stage. It is generally believed that the party spent a week or so at the mouth of the Ohio, in repairing the rafts, and building canoes for the trip up the narrower and swifter streams which the Gauls would encounter as they proceeded further north.
From time to time, the party bumped into hunting Red Men, who were gifted and feted, as only the French could do it. During the evening by firelight the two Black Robes drew maps of the areas that had been visited during the day. The Jesuits for reasons never explained in history books, were the greatest cartographers of their day, and maps made by the great missionaries of that era, survive to this day, remarkable in their accuracy and description. Occasionally the party surveyed locations for forts and settlements, and hunted for provisions to feed the ravenous appetites of the expedition.
All agreed that never had they seen such a paradise as what the English called Pennsylvania, as they entered the Allegheny near the present Golden Triangle of Pittsburgh. Bison grazed in the open meadows and elk browsed in the park-like forests bordering the historic river. The rich bottom lands could produce enough food to feed all of France, mused the French, and rightfully it all belonged to the King of France, by right of discovery, they told themselves. There was one difficulty other than the falls of the Upper Allegheny that the French couldnt discount, and that was the relentless warriors of the Seneca Nation, whose home the fair skinned Europeans were rapidly approaching. Implacable enemies of the French since the time of Champlain, the fierce warriors would like nothing better than an opportunity to waylay the little party. The leaders shuddered as they approached present day Warren. The warwhoop of the Senecas had often been heard in the French settlements of Canada, and just a few years previous the stalwart and ferocious braves had brought the tomahawk and scalping knife all the way to Montreal, killing over two hundred in the process. The Frenchmen shuddered at the thought of a confrontation with their most mortal enemy.
And so it was decided to eliminate the voyage up the narrow, tortuous Conewango, where the little band would be more vulnerable, than in the wider rivers further south, and head on up the Allegheny to its headwaters, thus skirting the hunting ground of their fierce adversary, to a certain degree.
From the head of the Allegheny, they could portage to the source of the Genessee River near present day Wellsville and then northward to the shores of Lake Ontario. An attack through the gorges of the Genessee was a virtual impossibility reasoned the French.
And so it is believed that the little band reached the area near what is now North Coudersport. Harassed throughout the upriver trip from Cornplanter to what is now Coudersport, the voyageurs and the priests decided that they would bury the kegs of gold, mark the site, and continue as rapidly as possible toward the Genessee if they expected to retain their hair. And so legend has it that they turned south, toward the valley now known as Borie. Near a huge rock which the Jesuits marked with a cross chiseled into its side, the now thoroughly frightened Frenchmen buried the gold. A map was made of the location, and the band headed once more back to the Allegheny and then made the perilous thirty miles over the mountains to the Genessee. Hiding by day, and traveling by night, the French made it to the Genessee and thus back to Canada where they reported to the exasperated governor that they had buried a tremendous treasure near a large rock, somewhere near the head of the Allegheny. They had marked the site with a cross, explained the Jesuits.
For years, the Senecas mentioned a rock in the Borie area that had a puzzling carving upon its face. But then the white man was known to do unusual things, even planting things that wouldnt grow. Since the carving had some religious significance, thought the Indians, they did not disturb the rock or search for the hidden treasure, of which few were aware, until the return of the French to look for the buried loot.
It has never been found, and has become one of the lesser known legends of Potter County. While it has a ring of the improbable, it is a known fact that several historians mentioned the great rock, as did the Senecas. If true, it is one of the largest treasures to be buried in an area which can lay claim to four of the greatest caches made in other centuries. Few have searched for it.
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