Dauphin Island Alabama Treasure Legends

Dauphin Island Alabama Treasure Legends

Dauphin Island is located across the Mississppi Sound at the entrance of Mobile Bay. It was used by the Spanish, French and the British as an army base and Union troops were stationed here after the Civil War. Local legend says it was also a haven for early-day pirates and outlaws as well. The island holds many legends of hidden treasure.

Gasparilla The Pirate

The Gulf Coast pirate Gasparilla reportly buried several chests of pirate loot at various locations in Mobile Bay. José Gaspar, also known by his nickname Gasparilla (supposedly lived c. 1756 – 1821), is an apocryphal Spanish pirate, the “Last of the Buccaneers,” who is claimed to have roamed and plundered across the Gulf of Mexico and the Spanish Main from his base in southwest Florida. Jose Gaspar was a respected Spanish naval officer who turned pirate, stills inspires tales of buried treasure across the Gulf Coast.

Examination of various documents mentioning Gasparilla leave little doubt he was an adventurous soul but there is little, if any, proof of buried treasure. What is known is that he was born in Spain near Seville in 1756.  He was from an upper-class family but possessed a natural talent for unprincipled  behavior. At the ripe old age of 12, he kidnapped a young local girl and held her for ransom.  He was captured and the judge gave him the choice of entering the Royal Spanish Naval Academy or going to jail.  He chose a life at sea.

While in the Spanish Navy, he excelled in naval warfare and was said to be brave and cunning in battle.  He rose through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant, a captain, and then an admiral of the Atlantic Fleet before becoming a naval attaché at the Court of Charles III in 1782.  He was 27 years old.

While at the Court, he became romantically involved with several women all at the same time.  He publicly jilted the daughter-in-law of the King, in favor of another woman of the Court. 

The daughter-in-law’s revenge was to accuse Gaspar of stealing the Spanish crown jewels.  In 1783, hearing news of his imminent arrest, Gaspar commandeered a ship, the Floridablanca, and fled.  Swearing an oath to revenge his treatment by Spanish officials, he resolved to plunder any ship flying the flag of Spain. 

Gaspar took the Floridablanca and escaped to the Gulf coast of Florida.  He established his base in Charlotte Harbor near present-day Fort Myers.  He adopted the name Gasparilla and his career as a pirate began.

Legend also has it, Gaspar decided to retire at the age of 65 and decided to split up his treasures with his crew. It was said that he was lured to the merchant ship to take what would be his last ship, but was sabotaged by the USS Enterprise. Instead of surrendering, it is said he jumped into the sea after wrapping the ship’s anchor around his waist. To enrich the legend a bit, it is said that Gasparilla had deposited ashore the treasure of many years into twenty large chests.  Filled with gold and jewels, the chests were sitting on the beach when the merchant ship was spotted.   

Gasparilla left 10 of his most trusted men with the treasure chests while he took the rest of the crew in pursuit of the merchant ship.  The ten men witnessed the battle with the USS Enterprise from shore.  Seeing the Floridablanca go down, then loaded the chests into a longboat and slipped, unnoticed, up the Peace River to a place called Spanish Homestead.  Spanish Homestead was owned by Lady Boggess.  The pirates bribed Lady Boggess with a small part of the treasure, ensuring that she would not divulge their location if the Americans pursued them to the area. 

The ten pirates spent the next day burying the remainder of the chests in different spots along the streams and swamps of Peace River.  They then burned their longboat and disappeared forever, apparently never to return. 

How much of this legend is true can not be known. Even the truth is twisted somewhat such as the tale that $300,000 in gold coins was found years later in Spanish Homestead stating that the coins may have been part of Lady Boggess’ hush-money.  However, the only report I have been able to verify for $300,000 in gold coin was of a find on the east coast of Florida – quite a ways from Gasparilla’s west coast area: Florida family uncovers $300K in Spanish gold.

All legends are based on some truth. Did Gasparilla leave treasure on Dauphin Island? 

Jeweled Cross Dropped Into Well

Legend tells of a large jeweled cross was dropped in a well on Dauphin island to prevent its being stolen by pirates and was never recovered. According to the tale, the Catholic church on the island had a jeweled cross on top of the church. When the island was under attack, by an unidentified marauder, the cross was tossed down a water well for safekeeping and has never been recovered

$1 Million in Gold and Silver Deposited from Spanish Galleon

An unidentified Spanish galleon, carrying an estimated $1 million in gold and silver treasure, was caught in a storm and wrecked on the east end of Dauphin Island in 1801. Only 11 crew members survived and told of the rich cargo that was lost. There was no salvage reported.

We have other treasure tales to decipher at the Alabama Treasure Legends Index Page.