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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Mysterious Treasure at Clarno

In the 19th century, an old man who lived alone on a small farm outside Clarno, near the Illinois border in Green County, sparked a lot of rumors.

His neighbors all believed that he had hidden a cache of money somewhere on his property. Folklorist Charles Brown recorded that when this farmer died, his relatives and friends searched every part of his land and buildings for the money but were unable to find it.

The farm was later sold to a stranger from Illinois. Years passed and the old story of hidden treasure was forgotten. But one day a man from Clarno appeared at a bank across the boundary in Illinois. He showed the banker a gold coin and asked to know its value.

The banker recognized the piece as a rare foreign coin and inquired if the farmer had more. The man said that he had found many similar coins when cleaning out an old dry well on his farm. The Illinois banker asked him to bring these in for examination, so a few days later the farmer returned with a bag containing a large number of gold and silver coins.

Brown wrote that, after a cursory examination, the banker convinced the farmer that a law concerning treasures required the coins be left with him until their value and provenance could be verified. The law-abiding farmer agreed to this, deposited the bag and the treasure in the bank, and went home with a receipt.

When he returned a short time later, he discovered that the banker had abruptly left town for parts unknown. The new owners of the bank could tell him nothing of the man's whereabouts or about any bag of coins.

To local residents, the origin of the treasure always remained a mystery. Presumably the truth about its disappearance was more obvious to them.

:: Posted in on September 22, 2011
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