The LEGEND speaks of how it is valued at over $350,000 or probably more given the recent spike in the price of gold and it mentions how Native Americans knew of the tale of the “Cross on the Rock” as handed down by their elders. Also known as the lost treasure of Borie it is conjectured to be one of the little known caches of hidden wealth yet to be found in America in the center of a woodland paradise known as God’s Country, Potter County, USA.
Could this treasure still exist?
Intrigued by the legend I embarked upon a journey of discovery searching for the source of tale; determined that if it existed it was to be mine.
When this treasure was hidden, America was yet a vast wilderness in the 1600’s. Few other than the hardiest explorers and fur trappers had ventured further inland than the coastal colonies. However when Louis Frontenac arrived in 1672 Canada was no longer the infant colony it had been when Richelieu founded the Company of One Hundred Associates. Through the efforts of Louis XIV and Colbert it had assumed the form of an organized province and Frontenac as the new governor sought to create regulated parishes and trade opportunities from Montreal to New Orleans in “New France”. Through armed conflict Frontenac expelled English Colonists and subdued the Native Americans claiming a vast territory for France which was later marked by lead plates buried in the ground as identified by Celoron de Beinville and mapped by Father Pierre Bonnecamps, a “Jesuit Mathematician. The fur trade in particular flourished creating the wealth that Frontenac sought and the expansion of “New France” was progressing rapidly.
My research yielded that mid in the 1680’s, almost a full century before white settlers began to permanently occupy what is now Potter County, a small party of French Canadians from the fur trading establishment that belonged to Louis Frontenac and Robert Cavelier left New Orleans by boat, for the return trip to Montreal. I quickly discovered errors in the legend as recorded by others. I had been deceived in the details of the trip; most deliberately by someone desirous of keeping the secret of this treasure cache to themselves.
The original tale states [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 Jamestown, New York. From this point, the party could practically roll down hill by the way of Prendergrast Creek and then home free by the way of Lake Erie into Lake Ontario and Northward to Montreal. Nearly the entire trip would be made by water, without the danger of long overland, backbreaking portages.]
I soon came to learn that a trip down the Mississippi was a one way ticket in the late 1600’s. A folly to think that one could pull rafts or paddle canoes counter current for over 3000 miles back to Montreal in an expeditious manner through a hostile and unsettled wilderness! The return trips were always accomplished by means of sailing ships from the port of New Orleans to the port of Baltimore and then by ascending the Susquehanna River in canoe to the West Branch and Sinnemahonning Rivers and onward to Jamestown N.Y., up the Great Lakes to Montreal. The rivers were the highways of the 1600-1700’s with the only trails being those of the Native Americans; roads had yet to be created in any of the interior colonies.
[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 Majesty’s Royal Governor in Montreal, (Gov. Frontenac) 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. ]
The party made the uneventful trip around the tip of Florida and up the East Coast of America to the Chesapeake Bay and began the second leg and more arduous portion of their journey. The Susquehanna River a relatively shallow body of water snakes languidly through Pennsylvania interspersed with white water and rapids that are known to wreak havoc on Northward voyages depending upon the season. The hazards of ascending rapids, portaging small waterfalls and evading hostile Indians through Pennsylvania’s Wyoming area were well documented. As the rivers narrowed avoiding Indians became increasingly impossible. Greatly outnumbered and pursued through the wilderness the Frenchmen became increasingly wary realizing that they had become the prey in much more than a cat and mouse game along the West Branch River.
With position fixed and mapped by the Jesuits the exasperated Frenchmen buried their treasure for safe keeping near the confluence of two rivers deciding that it was safer to secret it temporarily and return for it with a larger expeditionary force than to risk losing their lives and the treasure to the Seneca war party. The exact spot of the treasure was marked by the Jesuits by chiseling a large cross into the rock beneath which it lay.
The Jesuits led by Étienne da Carheil, well educated as a mathematician, religious scholar and cartographer and Father Ernest Laborde determined to stay behind to decoy and convert the savages to Christianity as the voyagers proceeded under cover of darkness up the Sinnemahoning River and onto New York eluding their enemies and escaping to Montreal.
Louis Frontenac was recalled back to France shortly after his fur trading party arrived in Montreal; unable to get to his money, and Cavelier died in 1687 at one of the trading outposts that he had helped to establish.
Frontenac returned to Quebec in the autumn of 1689, just after the Iroquois massacred the people of Lachine and just before they descended upon those of La Chesnaye. The universal mood was one of terror and despair. Quelling the warring redmen and securing his outposts from English squatters led Frontenac on a military campaign that lasted several years. Upon his victory he immediately sent solders to the Pennsylvania wilds to get his gold. With his health declining Louis Frontenac was unable to accompany his men and on the 28th of November 1698 Frontenac died at the Château St Louis. His fortune now destined to remain in the ground.
Frontenac’s enemies were fond of saying that he used his position to make illicit profits from the fur trade. Beyond question he traded to some extent, but it would be harsh to accuse him of venality or peculation on the strength of such evidence as exists. There is a strong probability that the king appointed him in the expectation that he would augment his income from sources which lay outside his salary. As a member of the King’s Court it was expected that to undertake such a desolate appointment in the new world it would go unsaid that any riches that could be garnered would be one’s to keep. Public opinion varies from age to age regarding the latitude which may be allowed a public servant in such matters. Under a democratic régime the standard is very different from that which has existed, for the most part, under autocracies in past ages. Frontenac was a man of distinction who accepted an important post at a small salary. We may infer that the king was willing to allow him something from perquisites. If so, his profits from the fur trade become a matter of degree. So long as he kept within the bounds of reason and decency, the government raised no objection. Frontenac certainly was not a governor who pillaged the colony to feather his own nest. If he took profits, they were not thought excessive by anyone except Duchesneau who was Frontenac’s rival in the King’s court who had been snubbed for the position of Governor. The king had recalled Frontenac not because he was venal, but because he was quarrelsome and returned him upon realizing that he was precisely the correct man for the job.
Native Americans knew of the rock and conjecturing as to its significance created their legend to explain its existence.
Near Keating until the railroad was built in 1901, could be seen the “Cross on the Rock” a great natural wonder a perfect cross of heroic proportions carved on a rock along the river. Fortunately an excellent photograph of the remarkable natural curiosity is in existence since it since has sloughed away.