Tyngsboro Treasure: Bottle Found In Kentucky Hints At Riches Buried

Photo: Courtesy of Gary Marnhout

TYNGSBORO, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — A man from Kentucky may have struck gold, or at least a clue to it, that's said to be hidden in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts.

Gary Marnhout of Owensboro, Kentucky told WBZ NewsRadio about a bottle he bought at an estate sale behind his home. Marnhout said the bottle caught his eye when he found that he could read a letter lodged inside, the beginning of which stated: "the treasure of gold, silver, currency, valuables, buried-" and the rest was curled up.

Intrigued, Marnhout decided to pay $60 for the bottle in a silent bid. But after bringing the item home, Marnhout said he could not open it because the cap was severely rusted. Since the letter inside was dated 1862, Marnhout was hesitant to try and force the artifact open and decided to take it to a jeweler instead. There, an employee cut the bottom of the bottle off with a diamond saw, Marnhout said.

To avoid ruining the fabric, Marnhout said he then sent the bottle to a conserver where they exposed the letter to humidity over a two-week timespan. The conserver dated the letter as being from 1862 (because it was written on wood pulp fiber), but the first of many mysteries in this case was that it was held within a screw-top bottle, something we did not have until 1920, Marnhout said. Marnhout estimated there must have been a sixty-year gap where the letter was stored before being placed into the bottle, and that he has no answer for that.

At that point Marnhout said he brought it back home and found he could read the whole document.

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"The man's name was the biggest hold-up," Marnhout said. He did research into the family name on the document, but only found that they had not arrived in Kentucky until 1899. But more striking, Marnhout said there was a location written on the document: Tyngsboro Road, a place that only exists in Massachusetts.

The author's name was still a mystery though, as all that could be made out was the man's first name: Charles, his middle initial: T., and the first two letters of his last name: "St."

According to the letter, "Charles" was dying, and had apparently buried the treasure to avoid paying taxes to the Union during the Civil War. The Boston Public Library said that often times back then farmers would bury their valuables before Union soldiers could confiscate them for their efforts in the war. Soldiers were aware of that tactic though, as Marnhout said they would probe the ground with bayonets, and if their blades made contact, they would dig those detected treasures up. According to "Charles'" letter, his treasure was at least six feet deep under, out of range from Union search teams.

But one of the biggest hold-ups in the mystery has been "Charles'" full identity, Marnhout said. Even after research at the Boston Public Library, the library of Congress, and from two handwriting experts, the author's full name eluded investigators. According to officials, the signature on the letter is nearly impossible to decipher.

Marnhout then said he got into contact with Middlesex North Register of Deeds Richard Howe Jr., who was helpful in researching names and local documents.

From the letter, Marnhout said it was indicated that the author was around 97 years-old when he wrote the document, something that the Boston Public Library said would be impossible given the smooth handwriting. The library suggested that someone wrote the letter on the true author's behalf.

Howe found one person that died around the same time the letter was written, a man named Thaddeus Uriah Davis, but said that there was no Davis registered to Tyngsboro Road.

On the whole ongoing experience, Marnhout said it's been a fun one, but full of exhausting dead ends.

"Something significant was so carefully prepared and so deeply buried, that what he buried must have been of some wealth back then," Marnhout said.

WBZ's Shari Small (@ShariSmallNews) reports.

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