Billy Bowlegs Rogers, nicknamed Billy Bowlegs was part of Jean Lafitte's Baritarian pirates back in 1812. Lafitte moved his operations to Galveston Island in 1818, but Billy Bowlegs remained behind and built his own pirate fleet.
Billy Bowlegs preyed on the Spanish who shipped through the Gulf until 1838 when the aging pirates decided to disband. Over the years, Billy Bowlegs accumulated a huge fortune. History claims, Bowlegs stored hundreds of thousands worth of silver and gold on his personal schooner and set about hiding a large amount of this treasure on a sandy island off the northern Gulf Coast.
In 1840, Billy Bowlegs reassembled twenty-seven of his previous crew and set out once more on the pirate path. They found plenty of prizes in their ventures until they ran into a British-Man-o-War. This warship chased the pirates back to their base, but a sandbar prevented them from completing their chase with the ship.
Lowering longboats full of British marines to complete the chase caused Billy Bowlegs to scuttle his treasure-laden ship and run into the forest to hide. Once safe from the British, Bowlegs left his crew to secure the lagoon where his ship lay and set out to locate diving equipment to retrieve the sunken treasure.
When Bowlegs returned with the diving equipment and his family there were only four crewmen left. The rest of his pirate crew had died from either Indian attacks or a fever. Diving for the sunken treasure did not go well, and soon another bout of fever attacked the group. One of the victims of this fever was Bowleg's wife, which caused him to lose all interest in retrieving the treasure.
No longer interested in finding his gold and silver, Bowlegs built a cabin on the mainland and lived until the age of 93 watching his sunken treasure but never being able to spend it. Before his death, Bowlegs is reported to have given directions to a friend on how to find the treasure. The landmarks in his directions, however, had changed during his time in the cabin, and the treasure was never found.
Locations that match Bowleg's directions to the cache of coins range from the area on the Perdido River in Alabama to an area around Franklin County. Many even believe Bowlegs sank his ship on the Choctawhatchee Bay, and others think it was the Apalachicola Bay.
The Choctawhatchee Bay area reported to hold Bowleg's treasure provides a lot of speculation. It is said that Bowleg buried huge amounts of his treasure on the islands around this area, and others report he buried chests in a small river somewhere near the Bay. The Santa Rosa Island's however, has been a hotspot for finding silver coins and bags of gold, believed to be remnants of Bowleg's treasure.
One of the most intriguing possibilities for Bowleg's hidden treasure is around the Spanish Fort San Carlos in Pensacola. This fort is reported to have hidden tunnels that lead underneath the fort. The tunnels all lead to an underground chamber. Some stories state Bowleg found these tunnels and used them to bury his treasure. Learning if this theory is true, however, has been lost since the tunnels cannot be found.
History is full of stories about pirates and how they had to bury their stolen treasures. With all the coastline in Florida, this area has lots of pirate stories and hidden caches. One of them was told above about Billy Bowleg, another is Black Caesar.
Black Caesar, a notorious pirate once called Elliott Key home and he preyed on passing ships. The story states, Caesar used the island to hide his treasure as well as along the Southeast Florida coast. Others later in history, renamed gangs or later day pirates, include the Ashley Gang.
In 1915 the Ashley Gang Outlaws moved around the Everglades of Florida from 1915 to 1924 and stole more than $1 million from forty different banks. They also hijacked shipments of whiskey. Stories report John Ashley and his girlfriend buried $110,000 on the Southern end of Lake Okeechobee, others believe the gang buried $250,000 along different locations in the Everglades around the St. Lucie Inlet.
There has only been $32,000 of the Ashley Gang's loot recovered, and the rest is believed to be buried somewhere in the Florida Everglades.
These stories and countless others will tell you of lost, buried, and sunken treasures in Florida. Whenever you have the chance to visit Florida, make sure you make one of these areas a place to visit. You never know, you could discover your own lost treasure.