The Treasure:Some 10,000 gold sovereigns.
How To Find It:Willapa Bay is an inlet of the Pacific Ocean located in the southwestern part of Washington State. Long Island is located at the south end of Willapa Bay, near the mouth of the Naselle River. Lead In:This story of this lost treasure took place on Long Island in 1854. Willapa Bay was packed with native oysters in those days and John Lyon was an oysterman who lived at the north end of Long Island. He was married to an Indian woman who was religious and even superstitious at times, a trait that would ruin their marriage and set the scene for one of Washington state’s best documented lost treasure stories. Sources:Treasure World, September 1975, page 13Washington State Writer’s Program, W.P.A.Webster’s New Geographical Dictionary, pages 685, 1319 and 1342. Willapa Bay is an inlet of the Pacific Ocean in the southwestern part of Washington State. Long Island is located at the south end of Willapa Bay, near the mouth of the Naselle River.
This piece of land derived its name because of its narrow, 7-mile length first explored by Lewis and Clark.
The first settlement in the area was at Tumwater in 1845, then Seattle in 1852. In 1853, the region became the Washington Territory.
This story of lost treasure took place on Long Island in 1854.
Willapa Bay was packed with native oysters in those days and most of the men working in the area made a living by harvesting those shellfish and selling them to merchants and traders who frequented the Washington coastline.
One of those oystermen was John Lyon, who lived at the north end of Long Island.
He was married to an Indian woman who had been educated at a mission school and was very religious and even superstitious at times, a trait that would ruin their marriage and set the scene for one of Washington state’s best documented lost treasure stories.
Some 10,000 gold sovereigns were cached on Lyon’s property and, as far as it is known, they have never been recovered.
Since most people in those days made just enough to get by, many of them sought ways to make some extra money.
John Lyon put his hopes and dreams in the English lottery.
He was persistent in his conquest for instant riches and, whenever he had a few dollars to spare, he bought lottery tickets.
John’s wife was not very happy with his gambling activities and fought with him constantly about it.
After quite a few heated arguments, he promised her he would give up gambling, but he still bought some lottery tickets now and then, hoping she wouldn’t find out.
Then one day he received some exciting news by mail. He had bought the winning number and won 10,000 English gold sovereigns.
Even though Lyon was extremely excited over the news, he didn’t tell his wife at the time. He wanted to show her the money. They would be rich now, and they could have anything they wanted in life.
A short time later the money arrived at Oysterville. It came in two heavy saddlebags on two packhorses, transported by two armed guards. Word spread quickly throughout the little community about Lyon’s good luck and good fortune.
His wife demanded a full explanation. Instead of being happy over their good fortune, she was furious with John because he had lied to her.
She told him the money was contaminated, and peace was restored in their home only after he put the gold coins out of her sight.
Lyon had to decide what to do with the gold coins. After thinking about it for several days, he solved the problem by putting them in leather bags and letting them hang down the inside of his water well. Every now and then, when his wife was away from the house, he would retrieve the coins and count them.
Then one fateful morning when Lyon went to the well, he discovered a screech owl roosting on the wooden bucket that was used to draw water from the well. He was horrified at the sight.
He knew this bird was an omen of bad luck to the Indians of the area and felt a surge of fear as he chased the owl away from the well and off of his property. A few days later his wife became very ill.
No one could determine the cause of her illness, but her condition grew steadily worse and she died a few days later.
Even though they had argued constantly since he had won the lottery, Lyon was overcome with grief at the death of his wife and was thoroughly convinced it was because of his gambling that she had died an unexplainable death.
After grieving for several weeks over his wife’s death, Lyon decided to take his small fortune in gold coins and move away from Willapa Bay to another location and start a new life.
The following day when he went to the well to get his money and there, in the well sitting on the wooden bucket, was the same screech owl he had seen prior to his wife’s death.
Looking at Lyon, the screech owl and flapped its wings wildly, then flew out of the well and into the nearby woods. Lyon was fear stricken. Believing now that the money was cursed like his wife had told him, he hastily packed up his belongings and fled the area.
He left the bags of gold coins hanging in the well and headed up Tarlett Creek to Ilawaco, crossed the Columbia River to Astoria, and was never seen again on the Pacific Coast.
A few weeks after Lyon left the area, heavy rains hit the Pacific Northwest and a wall of mud demolished his old homestead. The well, too, filled in, leaving no trace of its past location. The 10,000 gold coins were lost forever.
Down through the years, the story of Lyon’s gold coins was told time and again, but, as the old timers died off, it was nearly forgotten.
Then, in 1955, the story came to light again when a man from Naselle found an English gold sovereign dated 1854. He was doing construction work on Long Island near the site of the old Lyon place.
News of the find spread quickly around the little community and several local men conducted a brief search of the area, but, as far as it is known, no other gold sovereigns were recovered.