Could Confederate gold stolen after the civil war be buried in the depths of
Lake Michigan? Two Muskegon treasure hunters strongly believe it is.
This year's quest to find the gold has begun for Kevin Dykstra and
Frederick J. Monroe. They believe they may have already found a significant
piece to the puzzle, which would put them a step closer to proving their
Muskegon treasure hunters find undiscovered shipwreck in Lake
Dykstra and Monroe made worldwide news in December 2014 when they went
public with their claim of finding the holy grail of all Great Lakes shipwrecks
— Le Griffon. They say they actually found that shipwreck in 2011, but chose
not to go public until December 2014 because they wanted to research and
consult with maritime experts first.
The duo admitted they weren't searching for lost vessels at the time of
making their Griffon claim. Instead, they say they were looking for gold.
Thanks to a deathbed confession that's nearly a century old, and four
years of intense research done by Dykstra, both explorers believe they're on
The breakthrough they were looking for may have happened by accident in
April when they dove on their discovery for the first time.
"Sometimes it's not about what you're looking for, it's what you find
while you're looking," said Dykstra, who has been treasure hunting alongside
Monroe for the past several years.
The pair began scanning Lake Michigan off the coast of Frankfort as soon
as the ice melted, looking for a boxcar they claim holds more than $2 million
in gold bullion.
"Forty years of waiting," said Monroe, referring to how long it's been
since he first heard about the possibility of gold treasure in the lake. "I'm
sure this season we'll find it."
“Sometimes it's not about what you're looking for, it's what you find
while you're looking.”
Kevin Dykstra, treasure hunter
Dykstra and Monroe believe the lost Confederate gold is somewhere at the
bottom of Lake Michigan, thanks to a two-part story that has transcended
generations and was last relayed to Monroe in 1972.
"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,'" said Monroe. "'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.
After four years of research, Dykstra and Monroe discovered in January
that George Alexander Abbott delivered the deathbed confession in Muskegon,
Mich., in 1921.
Abbott was vice president of Hackley National Bank, under former Muskegon
lumber baron Charles H. Hackley.
"We believe wholeheartedly that the Confederate gold story is true, and we
believe that the boxcar is out there," said Dykstra.
It is fact that in the late 1800s boxcars were shoved off ferries into
Lake Michigan to lighten the load during bad weather.
The deathbed confession was only half of the story, according to Monroe.
His friend offered up a second tale in 1972.
"He told me about a boat that has a cabin in it, which has a safe in it,
and inside the safe, there was jewelry, gold and silver," Monroe said.
Even though this mystery ship was part of the story Monroe heard, the two
explorers say they weren't looking for it. But it may be what they found in
"We were searching for the boxcar when we decided to make one final pass
and head out towards deeper water," said Dykstra.
Suddenly, a large image appeared on their sonar. It looked like a ship
sitting upright on the lake bottom.
"Kevin got suited up," said Monroe.
The water temperature was a frigid 37 degrees, but Kevin Dykstra and his
brother, Albert, threw on their dive gear and began their 120-foot dive to the
As Kevin Dykstra worked his way down the dive rope, he says a perfectly
preserved vessel came into view.
He says it didn't take long to determine that it was a tugboat, roughly 70
"I was actually hovering over the bow of the ship, and when I looked down,
I could see the windlass very clear," said Dykstra, recalling his initial
investigation of the shipwreck. "Just back from the winch, I came across the
mast, which was sticking straight up."
Muskegon treasure hunters find undiscovered shipwreck in Lake
Just beyond the mast was a hatch cover on the deck of the vessel that
somehow didn't pop off due to pressurization while it sank.
"To the left of the hatch cover was a very pronounced anchor," Dykstra
said, smiling. that meant he was likely exploring a previously undiscovered
"I moved back towards the back of the ship when I came across the pilot
house, which was still perfectly intact," said Dykstra. "The steering wheel was
still in place."
As Dykstra peeked into the pilot house, he says he could see the
mechanical parts of the ship, including the engine, but then something even
more interesting caught his eye.
"Just to the left of the rear door was a safe," he said.
"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
Monroe says he, too, was excited, because all of the sudden, he believed
the story he was told in 1972 was starting to be confirmed.
"It just makes everything come together," said Monroe.
But the four-decades-long wait will continue unless the state of Michigan
decides it wants to get involved.
"We've got to find out what's in the safe," added Monroe.
"Once I realized there was a safe, I called the state archaeologist and
let him know," said Dykstra.
The state can decided if it wants to send somebody out to the wreck site
to excavate the safe, it can issue Dykstra and Monroe a permit to retrieve the
safe themselves, or it can decide that nothing is to be done, meaning the safe,
and its contents would remain a mystery.
"If that safe is opened, and there's gold, silver and jewels inside, to
us, it really puts the boxcars a lot closer," Dykstra said.
Dykstra and Monroe say that given the size, type and location of the
sunken vessel, they feel they know the identity of the wreck, though they say
they want to do more research to be 100% sure.
Dykstra says if the ship is the one they believe it to be, it was owned by
a prominent jeweler.
Michigan's state archaeologist, Dean Anderson offered no comment about
whether the state plans to investigate the wreck or excavate the safe.
So, for now, the contents of that safe will remain a mystery.
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