Buried Treasures in North America Jean Laffite's Loot

About buried treasure in North America, history of Jean Laffite's loot including Hill's ranch and Hendrick's lake, account of previous searches and locations.


Laffite's Treasure

Jean Laffite, the French pirate with an aristocratic air, and his confederates took millions in loot from ships in the Gulf of Mexico back in the early 1800s. Escaping from his American pursuers, Laffite most likely buried the treasure somewhere around New Orleans, La., or Galveston, Tex.

Hill's Ranch

How It Got There: When Laffite settled down in New Orleans, he was already a rich man, but he continued smuggling, using a blacksmith shop as a front. He quickly became the leader of the local pirates, and, in spite of the fact that he fought on the American side in the Battle of New Orleans, authorities gave him so much trouble for his illegal activities that he moved to Galveston Island, then under Spanish control. With a red house as his headquarters, he collected a 20% rake-off on all treasure taken by 1,000 local pirates. By the time he was driven from the island, he had, it is believed, amassed more than $10 million, which he took with him on his ship Pride.

Some say that the Pride went aground on a sandbar near the mouth of the Lavaca River, not far from Corpus Christi, Tex., and that Laffite buried the $10 million on land later owned by a rancher named Hill, marking the spot with a jacob staff, a brass rod used to support a compass.

Previous Searches: One of Hill's ranch hands found the rod, pulled it out, and took it home. Suspecting that it had marked something important, Hill went to the area where it had been, but even with the ranch hand's help, he was unable to locate the original spot. A pirate who helped Laffite bury the treasure allegedly told a bartender about its location, and the bartender in turn told it to treasure hunter J. C. Wise. Wise spent five days searching for the treasure with a brass rod, but he found nothing.

How to Get There: The Lavaca River empties into Matagorda Bay between Corpus Christi and Houston. Take Route 59, then a side road, to reach it.

Hendrick's Lake

How It Got There: The story goes that Laffite was ambushed by the Spanish while he was heading a wagon train that carried $2 million in silver ingots taken from the Spanish brig Santa Rosa. He cut the mules loose from the wagons and let the wagons roll into nearby Hendrick's Lake.

Previous Searches: A fisherman brought up three silver bars from the lake in 1920.

How to Get There: Hendrick's Lake is near Galveston, Tex.

Padre Island

How It Got There: Laffite reputedly buried treasure on Padre Island.

Previous Searches: John Singer, brother of the sewing-machine inventor, found a chest containing $80,000 worth of gold and jewels on Padre Island, then reburied it for safekeeping during the Civil War. When he attempted to dig it up again, he was unable to find it despite several frantic searches.

How to Get There: Padre Island is a stretch of land 180 mi. long between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, Tex., off Route 77.

Other Places

Gold Point in Matagorda Bay, Tex.; Barataria, near the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana; an island in Lake Borgne, La.; Pecan Island (where coins have been found), Avoyelles Parish (where a pot with 3,000 Charles IV doubloons was unearthed), Kelso's Island, and Honey Island, all in Louisiana.

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