One stormy night on Lake Michigan in the late 1800s, a ferry overloaded with boxcars and other freight was being tossed around like a toy. With the vessel in danger of sinking, the crew lightened the load by throwing some of the empty boxcars overboard. It saved the ship. That would have been where the story ended, but according to one man, one of those boxcars may have been full of stolen Confederate gold.
In 1921, George Alexander Abbott, an accomplished banker, made a deathbed confession. He claimed to have stolen Confederate gold, and hidden it in one of the boxcars being shipped on Lake Michigan. He went on to explain the approximate location of the boxcar, and the fact that a tugboat sank the same night with a safe full of gold, silver and jewelry aboard. The story of treasure on the bottom of Lake Michigan was passed down for generations. And it may soon prove to be more than just a story.
Treasure hunters Kevin Dykstra and Frederick J. Monroe have been searching for the gold since 1972, when a friend told Monroe the story.
"I was sitting down and talking to a friend of mine, and all of the sudden he says, 'Fred, you're just the person I want to see with your diving experience,'" Monroe explained. "'My grandfather told me a story that he heard from a lighthouse keeper, who originally heard it during a deathbed confession, that there's two million dollars of gold bullion inside a boxcar that fell off a ferry into Lake Michigan.'"
On a recent search for the boxcar full of gold, the men found something with sonar that appeared to be a ship. Eager to investigate, the men put on their diving gear and dove into the frigid 37-degree waters to investigate. Sure enough, a tugboat from the late 1800s lay untouched at the bottom of Lake Michigan. And just as the legend described, in the cabin of that tugboat an undisturbed safe lay waiting. But for now, the safe must wait. State officials haven't yet issued a permit for any salvaging to proceed.
"To find a boat with a cabin intact, with a safe, while we're looking for the boxcar, the odds just seem too far that it must be related," said Dykstra.
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