State Treasure - South Carolina

By Anthony M. Belli
From page 47 of the September, 2010 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2010 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved

The Dargan Treasure
RICHLAND COUNTY – The lost Dargan Treasure is one certain to grab the attention of any brilliant sleuth or research minded treasure hunter who wants to try their luck at solving a 105-year-old mystery with a pay-off of $800,000!
Keep in mind, however, that detectives of the time failed to solve this case, and some in-depth local research will be necessary.
On the evening of July 11, 1905, Robert Keith Dargan, president of the Darlington Trust Company and the South Carolina Independent Oil Company, committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid in the presence of his brother-in-law. He died shortly after.
In a suicide note Dargan left behind, he stated that he’d bilked both companies out of $800,000 during the past three months. An audit of both companies’ records later confirmed Dargan was telling the truth.
The Dargan family was a prominent family in Columbia, South Carolina, so hiding this much money might not have been a problem, however, investigators reported that Dargan had not been spending any unusual amount of money leading up to his death.
So how did $800,000 in currency just vanish?
Since investigators failed to find one dime of the missing fortune, speculation from the insurance company was that Dargan had faked his own death.
Dargan’s father granted the body of his son to be exhumed in January 1906.
In a letter he wrote, the father stated he agreed to the exhumation “to put to rest the scandalous rumors to the effect that R. Keith Dargan was not dead, but pretended suicide and escaped to Europe,” according to the Evening Herald of January 22, 1906.
The newspaper also reported that both companies had failed just before Dargan’s suicide.
Two points stand out in this story that are of particular interest to anyone seeking to find this missing fortune.
The Dargan family at that time was wealthy, so the money could’ve been hidden easily.
But when investigators looked into Dargan’s bank accounts and expenditures, they found no clue that the funds were ever deposited into Dargan’s accounts, not did he appear to have spent much, if any of it.
Since he only had access to the money during a 90-day period, and there is no indication that it was spent, it is reasonable to assume that he hid it. Perhaps you can figure out what really happened to the money and recover this $800,000 lost treasure.

South Carolina
Settler’s and Militia Forts
STATEWIDE - During the early days of the settlement period a number of local settlement forts were built to protect local citizens from Indian attack.
Although many of these civilian forts saw battles, they were not military in origin and, therefore, many have been forgotten about or lost to history.
Regardless, these old fort sites are great places for the treasure hunter to find artifacts and old coins of the period. Local research will be necessary to help pinpoint the exact location for many of these forgotten citadels.
-Earle’s Fort, (Spartanburg County) - A battle occurred there in May of 1776. The site of the old fort is approximately two miles east of Landrum. The fort may have been a blockhouse-type.
-Gowen’s Fort # 1, (Spartanburg County) – This was a settler’s fort dating to the 1770’s. A battle occurred there in 1780.
-Gowen’s Fort # 2, (Greenville County) – Also a settler’s fort dating to the 1770’s. A battle took place there in 1781, when the fort fell to forces lead by Bloody Bill Bates.
-Fort Woods (Spartanburg County) – Located in the vicinity of Lyman, Fort Woods was an English colonial militia fort.
-Fort Motte, also known as Thomson’s Fort, (Calhoun County) – This was a British colonial militia fort founded in March 1780. From February 22-24, 1781, a battle occurred there with American forces attempting to seize the fort.
Originally defeated by the English, the stronghold was later taken by the Americans after a battle from May 8-12, 1781. The site is located on the Congaree River near where US 601 crosses the river.
-Fort Winyah # 1, (Georgetown County) – This was a British militia blockhouse (1715 – 1716) located on the south side of the Black River, northwest of Georgetown.
-Ford’s Fort, (Berkeley County) – This was a settler’s fort located somewhere along the Wando river. It was used during the Yamassee War (1715 – 1716).
-Col. George Chicken’s Fort, (Berkeley County) – A settler’s fort used during the Yamassee War somewhere northeast of Summerville (1715 – 1716).
-Fort Edisto, (Dorchester County) – Fort Edisto was located on the Edisto River at Givhan’s Ferry. This was a British militia fort used during the Yamassee War.
-Thomas Elliot’s Fort, (Charleston County) – This was a settler’s fortified home located on Rantowles Creek. During the Yamassee War it was also used by South Carolina militia.
-Parker’s Ferry Earthwork’s, (Colleton County) – American patriots built the earthworks to protect the supply depot and ferry located there. The ruins of the earthworks are still seen today along the western bank of the Edisto River.
The last battle of the American Revolution on the eastern seaboard took place there in August 1782.
A historical marker is located for this site about 3-1/2 miles north of Jacksonboro.
-Barton’s Post, (Colleton County) – Little is known about this site. It is thought to have been a settler’s fortification of some type. A battle occurred there in April of 1781. Its location is unknown, but may be in the vicinity of Red Hill.

The Cape Romain Treasure
CHARLESTON COUNTY – Cape Romain just southeast of McClellanville was the scene of a Spanish galleon wreck, though the date is lost to history.
According to legend, the Spanish remained camped there for several months anticipating being rescued.
Finally, in desperation they abandoned their ship and camp.
The galleon carried a great sum of gold obtained in Mexico. It was buried near the wreck site before the more than 90 survivors began their trek back to Mexico.
Their journey is said to have claimed all the wreck survivors save one. That survivor later returned to the wreck site, but was unable to locate where the gold had been buried.

Venshaw’s Treasure -
Lost Plantation Cache
BEAUFORT COUNTY – When word reached the Venshaw Plantation that “The Yankees are coming,” Albert Venshaw knew what he had to do. He hastily gathered the family fortune and, with his daughters, buried the treasure on the grounds of his property.
Should anything happen to him, the girls would know exactly where the hoard was in case the worse happened and they needed to leave their home behind and escape.
The treasure is described as being “large” in size, consisting of gold, silver and jewels.
When their father rode off to join his fellow Confederate guerrilla fighters, it was to be the last time they’d see him alive.
Though Union troops used scorched earth tactics when laying waste to this region, it appears their father was shot dead by a Yankee soldier during a minor skirmish.
Set to flight long before either one had a moment to consider the fortune, the girls… were out when Union troops descended on their plantation.
Venshaw Manor was dynamited into oblivion; the barns, shops and other outbuildings were torched, as were crops and winter stores.
Nothing was left standing in their wake. And when Venshaw’s daughters returned they could recognize very little.
Trying to find their cache on the grounds, where there were little landmarks to begin with before the fires, was now impossible.
As far as is known the Venshaw treasure was never found and to this day remains exactly where Albert and his daughters consigned it so long ago, somewhere on the grounds of Venshaw Manor.
Old plot maps and county records for this property may be available locally, if they survived the war.
Also check Lost Treasure’s Map Library of over 1,500 historic maps, many are Civil War maps. The link is
Happy Hunting!

Henson, Michael Paul, “Hidden Wealth in South Carolina – Missing Funds,” May 1983, Lost Treasure, p. 30
Marion Daily Star, A. Keith Dargan Commits Suicide, July 12, 1905
Evening Herald, “Was Dead, All Right,” January 22, 1906
American Forts – East, South Carolina, http://www.northamerican
Marx, Robert F, Buried Treasures You Can Find, 1993, Dallas, TX, Ram Publishing Company, p. 315
Pallante, Anthony J, “South Carolina,” August 1999, Lost Treasure magazine, p. 39.
This story can be found at Lost Treasure Online at