Treasure hunters don't come so much anymore to hunt for the lost treasures of Chief John Wabasis in the vicinity of Big Wabasis Lake in northeastern Kent County some 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the second largest city in Michigan. Most don't actively search for the lost silver and gold coinage along the shores of the biggest lake in Kent County, but they still dream about where the treasure lies still lost and waiting for discovery. Every year a few people still ask me "Has anyone ever found Wabasis' treasure?"
The answer is "Yes and No!" Wait just a minute! How can this treasure be both found or lost?
I must declare that it is possible the treasure has been found, but that's what some treasure hunters hope you to believe. Like the legends surrounding the Lost Dutchman's Mine in Arizona there are those throughout the pages of past history who for some reason decide to claim the treasure as found, but offer no tangible proof of its existence. If they actually found it why have they never shown where and what they've found or are they just trying to keep other treasure hunters away or as some suggest trying to keep the IRS from finding out they've skipped on paying taxes. I believe Wabasis' treasure is still LOST!
Both of these Indian treasure legends originated around the Civil War, but the active searching for these lost treasures has been in existence for about 150 years. Now back in the late 1860's to early twentieth century everyone with a lantern, pick and shovel became late night hobby treasure hunters seeking the lost fortunes of gold and silver supposedly buried by Chief Wabasis. Where could Chief John Wabasis have hid a fortune in gold and silver along the shore of Wabasis Lake?
Was it buried in a secret hole beneath some landmark; stones, roots of trees, submerged crevices or did the old man hide the treasure in the numerous mini-copper outcropping crevices or sandstone caves that overlook this picturesque deep body of water?
If the treasure was found today it'd fetch thousands of dollars more per ounce than it did when it was lost. Many have heard the story about Wabasis treasure being buried in an iron pot and many people with dollar signs in their eyes have stomped around Wabasis Lake Park and Campground searching for this treasure.
The park property was where Chief John Wabasis was banished to live upon between 1836-1863, because other Potawatomie and Ottawa (Blackskins) Indians who also owned land in the upper Flat River area believed he stole their annual payments and kept it for himself and buried it on that 40 acre parcel of property. They tried to keep him on his garden plot hoping he'd soon reveal its secret burial spot.
Wabasis lived with a Indian sanctioned death threat for 27 years if he left the property. He left that property more than 25 times to pick up his share of the treaty money and that of the Flat River tribes share of money as decreed by the Flat River and Grand River tribal chiefs. The sad part about this is that repeatedly telling the story of Wabasis and his lost treasure has falsified where to look. No Indian especially Chief Wabasis would keep all that money buried on his property, because he never left with money or returned with the money. He hid it somewhere else or was it buried in the sandstone caves outside of his banishment property?
According to a Greenville paper and a subsequent short snipit of community news in the old Rockford Register dated in the mid 1880's, several men reported to the newspaper in Greenville that nobody need look for Wabasis' treasure because they found it. Trouble is, it was all verbal, but no proof of what or where it was found was ever revealed. It was all circumstancial evidence, based not upon fact, but fiction. When you've been searching you don't want others looking for the same treasure. Treasure hunting is about secrets not shared, but as time passes and as each story is repeated the legend becomes more polished and tales embellished until it is far from the truth.
What I knew about "The Legend of Chief Wabasis' Lost Treasure" has changed since a story was written by Jim Mencarelli about my search for the treasure 25 years ago. Time changes what you once believed and time passage with more creative research reveals how the treasure's legend is askew. The treasure is still LOST!
This is the introduction to "The Legend of Chief Wabasis' Lost Treasure."