The whole Gulf Coast region is full of pirate stories from Texas and down the western coast of Florida.
*Jose Gaspar, known as Gasparilla, was a very famous pirate and is believed to have buried treasures along the Gulf Coast. He left Spain at an early age and sailed to the West Coast of Florida. He picked a good spot in Charlotte Harbor, and began to build his pirate kingdom. His headquarters were on what is today known as Gasparilla Island. In the following years, he accumulated a hoard estimated at $30,000,000. It is said that he and his brother buried all of his money on the islands in and around Charlotte Harbor. His men, who numbered in the hundreds, also buried their smaller caches on these islands.
In 1822 the American Government decided to send a Navy squadron to end Gasparilla’scareer. One day Gasparilla prepared to attack a merchantman, which was a United States man-of-war. When he realized it was a warship, it was too late. He committed suicide by wrapping a heavy chain around him and jumping over the side. His ship soon followed him. The ship contained $1,000,000 in assorted treasure. (Florida's Fabulous Treasures By Jeffrey Kramer)
*Pirate Billy Bowlegs is another pirate that buried treasure in Florida around the Choctawhatchee Bay on the Gulf Coast.
Bowlegs, also known as William Augustus Bowles, was a British loyalist who came to Pensacola with his regiment following the Revolutionary War and dismissed for insubordination. He was later befriended by the Creek Indians and married a chief’s daughter.
When the Spanish took control of Pensacola in 1781 Bowles began organizing local Indian tribes, making raids and soon was a hated man by the Spanish but loved by the English.
He began to dislike both the British and Spanish and was hunted by both sides as his Indian friends tried to establish their own state of Muskogee. The Spanish claimed they wanted to discuss boundaries and Bowles accepted an offer to meet and was immediately imprisoned.
He was shipped away by the Spanish but in 1797 he escaped and returned to Florida with the support of the British. Bowles started his pirating and as tensions grew between Britian, Spain and America .
As tensions between the nations were resolved they all three focused on the pirating activities of Bowles and during an Indian congress in 1805 in Alabama, Bowles was again captured and sent to Cuba where he starved himself to death in prison.
He is believed to have buried over $5 million in gold, silver bullion, specie and church treasure some 6-8 feet beneath the sand in the Fort Walton Beach area.
In 1824 a British warship chased Bowlegs' Mystero into the entrance to the bay where she turned east and ran aground in shallow water.
The warship opened fire and the crew went over the side taking a chest with them which they buried on the beach. An estimated $2,000,000 in loot was aboard the Mystero when she sank.
A second “Bowlegs” was William Rogers who was a pirate operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Rogers was described as being excessively bowlegged . He was formerly with the pirate Jean Lafitte.
A third “Bowlegs” was Jesse Rogers who settled in the area of Mary Esther, Florida in 1838 and was believed to have stashes of Union and Confederate money.
A fourth “Bowlegs” was Holata Micco, a Seminole Indian chief who was identified by some as ‘Billy Bolecks” He was a major leader in the Seminole Wars in Florida and was later moved to Indian territories in Oklahoma were a town is named Bowlegs in honor of his grandson.
As writer Nicole Stallworth notes, “William Augustus Bowles could have received his alias by accident. Records are filled with references to “Billo Bowles” and William Rogers was called Charlie Bowlegs by this men. Bowles’ name lends itself to tan adaptation that blends the two pirates’ nicknames. It could even be that the nickname was originally held by someone else. True to the piratical way, he has claimed it for his own and is now probably the most celebrated of all who bear the name.”
*Jean Lafitte (1776-1823?) was the last of the great pirates of the Gulf of Mexico though he claimed to be a privateer and was one of the leaders or bos of the community of privateers on Grand Terre. He became a legend in his own time, after his patriotic actions in the Battle of New Orleans. His ship, the Goelette la Dilidente, was a 136 ton schooner with a crew of 84 and 12 14-pounder cannons. By 1813 he had a fleet of four ships - the Dorada, Petit Milan, la Dilidente and the Sarpis.
By 1805, he operated a warehouse in New Orleans to help sell the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre. Their privateering base was on Grand Terre, on the western tip of the island, facing Barataria Pass .
The French population of New Orleans was generally anti-American and sympathetic to the illegal activities of the Lafitte brothers.
In 1811 there was a slave rebellion and thereafter authorities took greater notice of the Lafitte slave smuggling activities .
Louisiana, Gov Claiborne, ordered an attack on Grand Terre on Sept 16, 1811, destroying the Grand Terre base.
Lafitte worked up and down the Gulf Coast favoring New Orleans, Galveston, St. Joseph’s Island and Aransas Bay (near Corpus Christi), and South Padre Island.
Many researchers and historians claim that Florida contains more buried and sunken treasure while becoming the haven of many notorious pirates, including Blackbeard, Lafitte, Gasparilla, Kidd, Rackham, Bowlegs, Bonnett, and possibly Morgan who all roamed the waters of the Caribbean. The majority of all buried treasure in Florida is the work of pirates and naval battles accounted for the sinking of many ships with valuable cargoes.
From the year 1500 hurricanes sunk many treasure-laden ships. The majority of them are Spanish galleons carrying gold and silver from the New World to the Old.
* In 1611, on the 2nd of June the Santa Ana Maria del Juncal, sank off Cabo de Apalachi. It was carrying several million pesos in silver bullion and specie.
* The pirate Bowlegs supposedly buried $3 million in a secret cavern below Pensacola’s Fort San Carlos which was built by the Spanish in the 1600s. The treasure has never been found but was believed to have been placed inside a hidden chamber that could be reached by two concealed tunnels – one inside the fort and another outside the fort.
* Seven pony loads of gold coins worth $100,000 were said to be buried by the Seminole Indians in 1818 and was given to them by the British for their support against the American colonists. The Indians were being pursued by Andrew Jackson when they selected a swamp – Old Yarbor Pond or the Money Pit just north of Hwy. 2 and northeast of the junction of Hwy 2 and the Chattahoochee River on Carter’s Mill Creek.
* Pirates Gasparilla, LaFitte and Bowlegs are all believed to have buried large amounts of treasure on the islands facing Choctawatchee Bay.
* Bowlegs is believed to have buried three chests of treasure around Bald Point in Escambia County.
* There are many legends of treasure being buried on Pine Island. The pirate Baker is believed to have buried treasure there in 1800.
* Legend says that Indians saw a pirate ship sailing up the Escambia River near Century, FL where it was supposedly beached about a half-mile in swamps west of the river where it was covered with sand and rocks. There is a mound in the area almost 30 feet high and 120 feet long that some think is the ship. Another nearby mound is believed to contain buried treasure from the ship.
* “Spanish Treasure in Florida Waters,” by Robert F. Marx.
* “Shipwrecks and Submerged Cultural Resources In and Around Pensacola, Florida” By Douglas Campbell
* MAHSNEWS Spring 2007
* Florida's Fabulous Treasures By Jeffrey Kramer
* “Shipwrecks of Dog Island” by Karen Cox-Dennis, Tallahassee Magazine
* “The Pirate Billy Bowlegs” by Nicole Stallworth, http://forum.treasure.com/index.php?topic=42624.0;wap2