Sunday, November 7, 2010

70,000 Spanish Doubloons Buried by Famous Corsair Lafitte -- The Real Treasure Island?


Island Quest for Jean Lafitte's Gold -- Claim 70,000 Spanish Doubloons Buried by Famous Corsair

It was 90 years ago, the story goes, when Henry Allock, grizzled old pirate, lay on his deathbed and dictated, in a gesture of remorse and out of gratitude to a man who once saved his life the story and location of Jean Lafitte's buried gold.

An old New Orleans priest sat at the bedside and took the letter.  Seventy thousand Spanish doubloons there were, and a bar of silver seven feet long.  Lafitte himself, dreaded plunderer of the seven seas, hid the booty under six feet of sod and marked the spot with an "unnecked" pirate's skull.

Today an expedition, composed of father and son, after twelve years of preparation, is almost ready for a quest of the buried booty, which they believe they have already located.

In the latter part of August, John Patorno and his son, Anthony, will leave for an unnamed island, where they recently made preliminary explorations, with the expectation of bringing back the treasure, $280,000 worth of it.


When the Patornos return to the island this time they will be equipped with a radio device for locating precious metals which the father himself has invented, and which, he said has already uncovered $2,000 in various caches around New Orleans.

Patorno has a map; faded with age, which was once in the possession of the mutinous crew of the barque Hispaniola, commanded by Lafitte.  It is the map, according to the story, that the pirate Allock sent to his friend, along with his letter giving the history of the treasure.  Patorno has the letter, too, and the story it unfolds matches the fabled Treasure Island.

Allock, the letter reads, was a member of Lafitte's crew.  He was one of six leaders of a pirate band that got possession of Lafitte's map in a mutiny. 

There were also Baros Carecros and Justin Bardelieux, who killed each other on the island.  Badeaux, another, died three days after the mutiny.  Still another, Cominorer, was hanged at New Orleans.  The fifth, Mora Dias, was "unnecked and drowned."  That left Allock the sole survivor, and gave him possession of the map.


Allock on his deathbed sent the map to the father-in-law of a Captain Clark, well known over the Mississippi River.  On the father-in-law's death, the map went into the hands of Clark, who guarded his secret throughout the years, fostering dreams of making an expedition to recover the treasure, but somehow leaving them unfulfilled.

Twelve years ago, Captain Clark, feeling his life's span near an end, summoned Anthony Patorno, then a boy who played about the neighborhood, and asked the youth to get his father.  The elder Patorno owned a big yacht.  When he went to visit the old mariner the story of the treasure was unfolded to him.  Captain Clark still entertained hopes of sharing the wealth and had a paper made out before a notary, contracting that Patorno would give him half the treasure if he located it.  Then he entrusted his secret to Patorno.

Patorno struggled for years with his radio device.  Meanwhile Captain Clark died and left no heirs.  About a month ago Patorno said he went to the designated island and verified positions on the map.  At the time, he said, he had only a pick and shovel and so much water seeped into holes that he was forced to stop digging.

In August, Patorno and his son will return to the island, equipped with a radio device, motor and sewer pump, bent on booty that may or may not have lain hidden for more than a century.


  1. In the below excerpt the treasure on Coca Island is "chests of silver" that allegedly remain unrecovered (from the state book "Gumbo Ya-Ya" by the Louisiana Writers' Project)

    "John Patorno of New Orleans is probably the most scientific treasure-seeker in the State, and the most practical. Patorno has invented a mechanism to locate treasure, a radio device with an affinity for non-magnetic metals, and this he rents, together with his services, for twenty-five dollars a day. He has done a thriving business.

    When an Algiers ferry pilot, named Clarke, found a map showing the location of buried Lafitte loot on Coca Island, he went to Patorno for assistance. An investigation seemed to give credence to the existence of the treasure .

    More than a century ago, said legend, two of Lafitte 's henchmen deposited several chests of silver on the island, then staged a drunken brawl. When it was over one of the buccaneers was dead and the other not far from it. A fisherman nursed the injured man back to health and in gratitude the pirate gave him the map showing where the chests were buried. This the fisherman passed down to his descendants, and it was from one of these that Clarke had obtained it.

    Clarke, Patorno and a group of assistants set out for Coca Island at once. This island is not easily reached, and even after landing, it was days before they found the spot. Then the Patorno diviner began to buzz. Excavations were begun, but the soft and sandy soil presented a formidable problem, often filling with slimy water as soon as dug. Tom Pimpton would have said there was a ghost-cat or something of the sort about.

    On the third day the whole side of a pit gave way and two of the men, caught in an avalanche of mud and sand, narrowly escaped being killed. Rather than risk lives, Patorno refused to
    continue the search after that. So, if legend and the map told the truth, treasure still lies buried on Coca Island."

    Another excerpt that also mentioned Coca Island from "Looking for Louisiana's Lost Loot," Mechanix Illustrated, March 1956

    "Lafitte had three islands that are still believed to be the best locales for a serious search. Besides Grand Isle (also a base for Henry Morgan) Lafitte often landed at Coca Island and $1,000,000 in gold is said to be buried on Kelso’s Island."

    Welcome any comments on this treasure story -- Has anyone else pursued this treasure in more recent times? The island is supposed to be difficult to locate. Any other info on Henry Allock, the other pirates named, the barque Hispaniola, Captain Clark or Clarke, the identifying characteristics that connect the story with the fabled "Treasure Island," was Mora Dias who was "unnecked" the source of the "unnecked skull" that marks the spot, and what about burying the treasure under 6 feet of sod, but sod doesn't usually grow on dry sand so were they digging in the right spot? Please add any other stories or info on Patorno, Lafitte and his crew in this area, and treasure searches on the island itself.

  2. Since the article is talking about treasure in Louisiana and Kelso's Island and Grande Isle are in Louisiana, one would think this Coca Island is there too, although not easily found on a map. But there was also a large treasure allegedly placed by Lafitte on Cocos Island near Costa Rica that the British and others pursued but never found. Could these two islands have been confused and they were looking in the wrong place?

  3. Good point. They said the island was hard to find, and the Cocos Island is obviously not. I found one obscure mention on TreasureNet at;all about coins being found on a Coco Island in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. This seems more likely to me. There are a ton of little islands and lakes there which would make it difficult to find one island, Lafitte's last known location was unknown and many possibilities have been posed, including reports that he went back along the Louisiana coast to the west, and this region in particular seems to be famous to this day for its Coco ponies so this also makes sense, so named because they ate the "coco" or "coca" on the island, which at the time in Spanish meant "plant" or "grass" (it now is synonymous with cocaine), but this makes me wonder if Coco Island was a nickname of where ponies were known to be in particular or it was also called "Grassy Island" (or something similar) -- numerous islands have this name, although I have been unnable to locate an old map with sufficient details on island names in that area. Certainly if coins were found on an island with that name in that parish, it was probably written about somewhere.

  4. I forgot to mention, the story says the treasure was buried under sod -- well, that means grass, and many islands are too dry to sustain grass, so a "grassy island" makes more sense than a windblown dry primarily sandy one that would be more exposed to the elements than sheltered inland.

  5. In this article below at the end it talks about two of Lafitte’s men living near Lake Charles which is directly north of the town of Cameron in that parish inland about 20-25 miles if you follow the river.

    It passes through Mud Lake, Moss Lake, and Prien Lake before getting to Lake Charles. Maybe the Coca island was somewhere in this area?

    Here’s the article – “BUCCANEER’S GOLD SOUGHT BY EXPEDITION” from the Miami Daily News. New Orleans – May 14, 1927.

    “Mysterious bands of treasure hunters still range across Louisiana marshes. They are seeking the buried spoils of the pirate Jean Lafitte.

    The buccaneer is said to have cached vast stores of doubloons and pieces of eight along the great coastal stretch southwest of New Orleans.

    A reported discovery of a buried treasure near Vermilion Bay a year ago caused considerable excitement. The party of treasure seekers went so far as to pull up a post set by government surveyors evidently believing that the stake was one of the markings made by Lafitte.

    It is said that two members of Lafitte’s band once lived in the vicinity of Lake Charles.

  6. There is a mention of a treasure near Lake Charles in the St. Petersburg Times from Dec 8, 1946 issue under the headline:

    by Jack Dadswell

    An excerpt says "At Niblett's Bluff, near Lake Charles, there's a sign reading 'Lafitte buried his treasure beneath 40 gum trees here.' The place is so pitted with holes made by treasure hunters that the gum trees are in danger of blowing over the first time a stiff wind comes."

    The odd things is its such a specific number and unless they were really small gum trees you'd have a hard time digging beneath them -- from what I could find in the area most of the swamp gums or tupelo have very large sturdy bases and most are submerged in water, although with warming trends the bases may be more accessible. I would be more likely to believe if they put treasure beneath some of these trees it was under water or on the bank where the soil might be more moist, and maybe not exactly in this area but nearby since they are all over the place there, especially considering other stories I have found that I will post following this.

    In addition, I looked up more on where this location is and how its described in the state guide for Louisiana compiled by the Louisiana Writers Project (WPA) from 1945, and it gives directions as follows: "From Vinton... to the Vinton Oil Field at 125.7 m and the junction with graveled LA 121, go right here 2.5 m to the junction with a shell road (Shell Rd?); left on this road to Niblett's Bluff 5.2 miles, bordering a channel of Sabine River known as Old River.

    The Old Spanish Trail crossed the Sabine River by ferry about five miles south, in the neighborhood of what is now Orange, Texas. Before the War between the States and the coming of the Texas and New Orleans Railroad, Nisbett's Bluff was a river port of consequence.

    During the war high breastworks were thrown up here by the Confederates. While the fort was never a scene of conflict, an epidemic broke out among the defenders in May 1863. Thirty men died and were buried within the confines of the fortifications.

    The low open bluffs afford a good view of the river and surrounding swamp growths. The old road that leads to Niblett's Bluff is part of a route that was opened between this point and Alexandria during the War between the States when supply lines to Mississippi and Red River points were blockaded.

    The remains of the Confederate breastworks are to be seen about 1,000 feet from the river and south of the church. A huge billboard at 130 m proclaims that this is where 'Lafitte Buried His Treasure Beneath 40 Gum Trees.'"

  7. More Lafitte stories from the region - From the book "Pirate's Pantry" published by the Junior League of Lake Charles


    It is a proven fact that the gentleman pirate and patriot came often to the Calcasieu country to trade, visit, and seek refuge; and he headquartered near here around the year 1810.

    A wanted man, the dashing young pirate sought refuge here from the United States war vessels. History relates that he slipped more than once under cover of darkness or fog, into safe harbor at the mouth of the Calcaseiu River.

    Once, learning from sentinels posted down river that an attack was imminent, he sent ashore a party of his most trusted men to bury a treasure by night. Next morning, he set a large force to building an embankment, behind which he placed cannons. When the warship lay at anchor, a shot from the newly constructed fort sank the schooner and routed the accompanying gunboat.

    The old fortification, known for many years as "Dead Man's Lake," can still be seen on the bank of the lake.

    Another oft-told tale relates that Lafitte, pardoned by the U.S. in return for his aid in the Battle of New Orleans, sailed to France, and secretly aided Napoleon, after the Battle of Waterloo, in an attempted escape to America. Sailing with a vast amount of gold and jewels, the "Little Emperor" was apprehended and arrested, but Lafitte escaped with the treasure, which he buried along the Calcasieu River.

    Strange tomblike vaults, marked with iron crosses, along the shore of Big Lake housed a treasure of gold Spanish doubloons, some say. Though the encroaching waters of the lake have obliterated all traces of the landmarks, the gold remains undisturbed at its bottom.

    Trees marked with Roman numerals are another indication of buried treasure; and Niblett's Bluff is the site where Lafitte's gold is said to be buried under 40 gum trees.

    Another story places the gold at the bottom of Contraband Bayou. Still another tells of a schooner laden with gold coin and jewels gathered along the Spanish Main, which sank in the marshes south of Lake Charles.

    And it is said, that the waters around Lake Charles, still provide sanctuary to the notorious pirate. Legend is that his final resting place is on the eastern shore of the lake. His spirit still guards the gold of Napoleon -- and casts a mighty shadow across "the Quelqueshue."


    from the Daily Star and Sentinel, May 6, 1914


    "Gueydan, La - An expedition, headed by Captain J.D. Bonnin, from Gueydan, is in the wilds of White Lake, south of this place, in search of the treasure of Pirate Jean Lafitte. The party is composed of Dr. J. Milton White, Adam Brasseaux and K.P. Foote. Captain J.D. Bonnin, a descendant of one of the oldest families of Vermilion Parish, has a chart and map left him by his grandfather shortly before his death, describing the locality of the famous treasure...

    In White Lake also are Frederick Mackenzie, magazine editor, and Charles Tenney Jackson, novelist. They claim to have the real Lafitte chart and started their hunt from New Orleans three weeks ago.

    Still another party is on the treasure hunt, having started from Abbeville, La. Its identity has been kept secret, however."

  8. Although this doesn't help solve the Coca Island mystery, there are a few interesting comments on potential treasure locations in the Lake Charles area I've excerpted below from W.T. Block's page reprinted from True West, Dec 1979, source: New York Herald, reprinted in the Galveston Daily News "Story of Lafitte" Apr 28, 1895.

    Much of the account came from former slaves and old-timers who personally knew Lafitte and lived to an old age including Michel Pithon, Arsene LeBleu, and Charles Sallier, two of whom I found on the Lake Charles census around the 1860 period. Their stories paint a slightly different picture of burial locations than other tales.

    "...rumored that the schooner anchored again at a marsh ridge downstream near Trahan's Lake, where Lafitte and his henchmen carried som of Napoleon's sea chests ashore and buried them in the marsh."

    "This time Lafitte saiiled north to Lake Charles, where his crew encamped for several weeks on the high bluff where later the H.C. Drew Lumber Company sawmill was built. Again his crew buried a large sea chest on the shores of the lake."

    "Lafitte posted sentries at the mouth of the river to watch the warship's movements, and put half of his crew to work burying treasure in the vicinity of the Barb Shellbank. The rest built a clamshell fort, moved the guns ashore, and then sank their leaky ship, with a portion of its decks still awash, nearby in the shore." (Barb Shellbank is now known as "Money Hill")

    "As late as the 1890's, the remains of Lafitte's old fort at the Barb Shellbank could still be seen. Long known as "Dead Man's Lake," it consisted of a small depression in the soil (which trapped rain water), about 100 feet by 50 feet in size, and separated from the main stream by a levee of clam shell."


  10. How much would about 20 to 30 spanish doubloons be worth in todays market