Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Dents Run Treasure in the Progress Part II

This is part II of the Progress' article on the Dents Run Treasure. Original author is Josh Woods, and original run date was Monday, February 4 2008. This is part two of two: part one can be read here. The Progress hosts this article at:


Dennis Parada of Clearfield anticipated fame and fortune after believing he, his son and some colleagues had discovered buried treasure, the lost gold of Dents Run, valued in the millions of dollars, in the Elk State Forest area. However, issues with contradictory reports, state law and lots of confusion has left Mr. Parada with a daunting problem: knowing the possible location of the largest treasure find in Pennsylvania's history and not being able to do anything about it.

In the last issue of The Progress, it was explained that Mr. Parada had unearthed several small objects which he turned over to the state Department of Conservation of Natural Resources after he was told to cease all digging at the supposed treasure site. DCNR's Minerals Section then tested those items to determine their authenticity. This is part two of the story.


A letter dated June 8, 2005, from Chief of the Minerals Section Ted Borawski to Mrs. Jeanne Wambaugh, district forester, was received by DCNR's District No. 13 office in Emporium and contained disappointing news: The artifacts found by Mr. Parada were "junk."

A copy of the letter was provided to Mr. Parada and obtained by The Progress. The letter states: "There exists no credible evidence, either from materials excavated from the site or from stories long-circulated in the local area or media, to support any conclusions that a lost Federal gold bullion shipment from the Civil War was ever located on state forest lands in the vicinity of Dents Run, Pa., at the location Mr. Parada insists is the resting place of the lost gold cache.

"The materials Mr. Parada excavated and were analyzed by the Pennsylvania Historical Museum staff may be returned to Mr. Parada as they have no cultural or historical significance and have been deemed ‘hunting camp debris' and therefore worthless in the estimation of the Commonwealth experts."

Disappointed by the news, Mr. Parada immediately sought a second opinion of the materials; however, he ran into a roadblock.

Upon contacting the DCNR District No. 13 office, he was told that the materials would not be returned to him, despite the Minerals Section's permission to do so outlined in the letter's excerpt above. Without the artifacts, Mr. Parada cannot send anything away for carbon dating or DNA testing that may help prove his find.

According to Mr. Parada, approximately 18 items were sent to the Minerals Section. A memorandum and analysis from Douglas C. McClearen, chief of the Division of Archaeology and Protection, to Mr. Borawski was attached to the aforementioned letter. The analysis outlines findings for 11 items, though it adds that other "loose items" were submitted, including pieces of an animal trap of an undetermined date, a few metal objects that are not dateable and a corroded nail, which appears to be a "cut nail." Cut nails, it says, originated in the 19th century and were still in use well into the 20th century.

"The final landmark was our main case," said Mr. Parada. "They didn't talk about the final landmark in the report, they didn't do a carbon date on the stones that we found and they didn't say anything about the man-made structures that we found.

"There is a lot of important information that was given about what we found at the final landmark location, but they only talked (in the letter) about what we found nearby. We called the state five months before we found artifacts nearby. I thought we had enough evidence with what we found at the final landmark site to file a claim without the artifacts."

Mr. Parada was further frustrated by the analysis of the bullet found at the site and because "neither the Minerals Section or Museum Commission sent anyone to investigate the site."

In the analysis, Item No. 8, labeled "tin cans and bullet," reads, "the bullet is a brass shell casing which is far later than the Civil War. It is probably World War I Era or more recent."

George Gill, a former employee of Hubler's Gun Room and Grice Gun Shop, Clearfield, trekked to the DCNR office on Jan. 14 in hopes of adding credence to Mr. Parada's finds by analyzing the bullet.

In a letter from Mr. Gill, a gunsmith with more than 40 years of experience, received by The Progress, he states that he believes that there is credible evidence that the bullet shell is from the Civil War Era. Mr. Gill based his opinion on the book "Cartridges of the World," authored by Frank C. Barnes and published by Follett Publishing Co.

In the letter, Mr. Gill includes drawings and measurements of the bullet shell, noting the following dimensions: rim diameter, varying from .496 to .519; cartridge base diameter, .470; rim thickness varying from .064 to .070 and primer pocket, approximately .180.

"The earliest cartridges that are reasonably close to the dimensions are the 38/40 and 44/40 Winchester, introduced in 1873 and 1874," Mr. Gill wrote, adding that, after taking into consideration the manufacturing tolerances of the time and the condition of the cartridge he examined, the original manufactured cartridge dimensions of rim diameter .525, cartridge base diameter .471, rim thickness .065 and primer pocket .175 "are a pretty good match." He also noted that "these were very popular cartridges in their era."

Because of this and other unspecified beliefs, Mr. Parada says he is certain he has found the location of the gold. Now his challenge has become coming up with enough money to obtain a digging permit and lobbying local legislators for their support. Mr. Parada is also exploring his legal options.

Mr. Parada has sought to obtain a permit to dig up the gold, which he originally thought would cost $15,000. That figure, he said, was based on a survey bond estimate from Ron Mardaga of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in Baltimore, Md. However, by the time Mr. Parada submitted an inquiry about obtaining a digging permit, the cost was much higher because, since Mr. Parada was searching other alleged buried treasure sites, the state labeled him a "professional" treasure hunter. As such, Mr. Parada said, representatives of the Museum Commission indicated that he might have to pay $500,000 to obtain the permit.

"Unless someone will back us up that the gold is there, they won't issue us a digging permit," he said.

To date, Mr. Parada has contacted several local and state government officials, but to no avail.

"We have been in contact with Dan Surra, John Peterson, Rick Santorum and Bob Casey," said Mr. Parada. "What we've found is when we talk to them the first time, they are willing to help us. But, as soon as they talk to the state's museum commission, they don't want anything to do with us. A few places we've contacted won't even return our phone calls."

State Rep. Dan A. Surra, D-75 of Kersey, responded to an e-mail inquiry sent to him at dsurra@pahouse.net by The Progress in regards to his correspondence with Mr. Parada, in which he said that he had met with Mr. Parada, but was unable to help him because "it is DCNR's call, not mine." Mr. Surra furthered the statement by writing "State lawmakers do not run DCNR, DOT (the state Department of Transportation), DEP (the state Department of Environmental Protection), etc. We often try to intercede for people when they run into issues with these agencies, but in the end, it is their call."

Mr. Surra suggested that what Mr. Parada needs to do is whatever DCNR asks of him, and noted that Mr. Parada does not live in his district.

E-mail inquiries placed by The Progress to U.S. Rep. John E. Peterson, R-5 of Pleasantville, and U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., D-PA, were unanswered as of press time.

"We just want to get this resolved," said Mr. Parada. "We've been waiting a long time for something to happen with this, and we would be satisfied with just knowing what it is we may have found."

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