In Episode 222, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger search for Governor John Wentworth’s missing treasure in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. In 1775, with the American Revolution about to come to a boil, British Governor Wentworth is forced to flee his mansion with his family, his servants, and chests of gold and silver. On his way to Portsmouth, the governor is forced to lighten his load, so they say he buried his riches intending to come back for them after England squashes the American rebellion. Gov. Wentworth never set foot in New Hampshire again. Could the treasure still be out there?
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[DRIVING IN CAR]
JEFF: Did you bring the shovels?
RAY: Shovels. Yup. Check.
RAY: Yup. Got the pick-axe.
JEFF: Uhhhh bags? Do we have some kind of bags to carry all of the treasure?
RAY: We got plenty of bags.
JEFF: Perfect! Our first stop on this treasure hunt is right here in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
[CAR STOPS DOORS CLOSE]
RAY: We just arrived at the site of former Governor Wentworth Mansion in Wolfeboro. Though all that’s left today is a large, rectangular stone foundation and an old plaque telling us this was the site of the Governor Wentworth Mansion. It says it was built in 1769 and burned to the ground in 1820.
JEFF: Right… this is the starting point for our treasure hunt, Ray. They say during the early days of the American Revolution, Governor Wentworth fled this mansion site with chests full of gold and silver. Fearing the treasure would get captured, he buried it between here and Portsmouth.
RAY: So we don’t have a map to go?
RAY: And all we know is that it could be between Wolfeboro and Portsmouth, New Hampshire… which is 50 miles away?
JEFF: That’s right.
RAY: Our search area is 50 miles?!
RAY: Do you know what these means?
RAY: We’re gonna be rich!
JEFF: Hey I’m Jeff Belanger, and welcome to Episode 222 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thank you for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. Did you know some many of our story tips and leads come from you? This one did! Thanks to Alanna Jablonski for emailing us about this one. We love when you reach out to us through social media, our super-secret Facebook Group, or when you call or text our legend line anytime at 617-444-9683.
JEFF: Now, before we start our hunt for Gov. Wentworth’s buried treasure, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals!
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RAY: Okay, Jeff, so we’re going on a treasure hunt that starts here at the ruins of the old Governor Wentworth Mansion in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
JEFF: That’s the plan. Governor John Wentworth was the British Colonial governor at the time of the American Revolution. So let’s head back to 1775, to see what happened.
RAY: It’s June of 1775, and the heat is rising on Governor John Wentworth… and I don’t mean the summer temperatures.
JEFF: No, I can imagine. The Boston Tea Party was less than two years ago, and revolution is in the air. It’s not the best time to be aligned with the King of England. Governor Wentworth has already written letters to Admiral Graves and Governor Gage urging them to send more ships of war to Portsmouth to protect the treasuries of the province. Tensions are high.
RAY: Still, Gov. Wentworth is trying his best to walk a razor’s edge. For the most part, the people of New Hampshire like him, even if they’re growing less fond of their king. And John adores his wife…
JEFF: And also his first cousin…
RAY: Right… and also his first cousin, Frances Deering Wentworth. In fact, he likes her so much, he’s named two different towns after her. Francestown and Deering, New Hampshire. The couple have also recently welcomed a son into a world where their parents are in a tight spot. They owe their allegiance to the King of England, but their home is right here in New Hampshire.
JEFF: It’s afternoon on June 13th when an angry mob shows up to arrest a Loyalist militia officer in town. The mob seems satisfied to get their man, and goes away. But Governor Wentworth realizes, it won’t be long before that mob returns for him. Plus, there are rumors swirling about a plot to kidnap the governor and other officers and hold them for ransom should any Boston or Portsmouth patriots get arrested.
RAY: Governor Wentworth sends a letter to the King of England telling him he and his family are in grave danger. Following the advice of other Loyalists, Gov. Wentworth gathers up his riches into chest, he takes a few more of his prized possessions, and sets off for Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth.
[HORSE AND WAGON]
RAY: The journey from the governor’s Wolfeboro mansion to Portsmouth is about 50 miles. It’s going to take a few days to get there, and the wagon is heavy with chests of gold, plus some servants, Mrs. Wentworth, and their five month old son.
JEFF: Everyone is nervous that the mob that came for the Loyalist militia officer is going to track down the governor. The first ten miles to Middleton, New Hampshire, are smooth. But then, the road turns muddy. The wagon is simply too heavy. And now Gov. Wentworth has to make a decision…. Dump out his wife and servants, and keep racing toward Portsmouth with his treasure…. Or….
RAY: Yeah, one look from Frances Wentworth’s face makes it clear that the governor better not be considering what she thinks he thinks he may be thinking….
JEFF: So Governor Wentworth has the carriage pull off the road. And they wait for night to fall.
[DIG DIG DIG]
JEFF: Under the cover of darkness, they dig a hole, and hide the treasure.
[HORSE AND WAGON]
RAY: At the crack of dawn, they’re back on the road to Portsmouth, racing with all possible speed toward the safety of Fort William and Mary.
[HORSE AND WAGON]
JEFF: Meanwhile, New Hampshire is growing more hostile toward British loyalists by the day. To keep them safe, Governor Wentworth sends his family on a ship back to England, while the governor sails to Boston, where there’s more protection for him. But he never stops thinking about the buried treasure…. He wants to go back to New Hampshire and get it, but all of the money in the world does him no good if he’s dead.
RAY: It’s 1776, when Governor Wentworth is forced to evacuate Boston, and eventually make his way back to England.
[GUNS AND CANNON]
RAY: The Revolutionary War has begun…
JEFF: Still, Governor Wentworth is certain England will win the war and he’ll return to New Hampshire to be reinstated at governor once again. It’s just a matter of time.
RAY: The King of England sends John Wentworth to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he can serve as lieutenant governor while he waits out the war.
JEFF: Still, Wentworth can’t stop thinking about the treasure he buried in New Hampshire. I mean, it’s not THAT far to go get it, right?
RAY: No, it’s not, but there’s a war going on, and it’s not going England’s way. Showing up in New Hampshire right now is too risky. Plus… there’s another problem.
JEFF: What’s that?
RAY: Frances Wentworth is NOT a fan of Nova Scotia living. Maybe out of boredom or out of spite, Mrs. Wentworth has an affair with Prince William.
JEFF: That IS scandalous.
RAY: So not only is John Wentworth’s home province of New Hampshire changing hands, his marriage is on the rocks.
JEFF: Considering the colonies ultimately win their independence from England, John Wentworth will never step foot in New Hampshire again. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: Though centuries have passed, people have never stopped talking about Gov. Wentworth’s buried treasure. It’s believed he buried $25,000 of gold and silver coins, plus silverware.
JEFF: Converting $25,000 dollars into today’s money, you’re looking at about $900,000, plus the value of the silverware, plus the historical value, and I’m quite sure we’re north of a million dollars.
RAY: But all we have to go on is that it’s buried somewhere between Wolfeboro and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is 50 miles of road.
JEFF: Right, but we know from the story, the going got slow somewhere around Middleton, New Hampshire.
RAY: If we drive down King’s Highway out of Wolfeboro toward Middleton, which would roughly be near the some road Governor Wentworth traveled all those years ago, there’s still tons of forest on either side of the road. You’d have to figure he would have traveled off the beaten path enough so people wouldn’t see his tracks, but not too far, because he would be intending to return for it somewhat soon.
JEFF: That all makes sense, yet the treasure has never been found.
RAY: It’s also possible the story is a red herring – something meant to throw people off. That maybe the treasure is buried near his mansion in Wolfeboro. If you Google this story, it pops up on several treasure-hunting Web sites, plus Web sites for people who use metal detectors to search for these kinds of things.
JEFF: But without more to go on, you’re basically shooting in the dark over the span of miles of forest. But… there is one other clue. Governor Wentworth was said to be an experienced woodsman, with an eye for unique geological formations. If one is burying treasure in the woods, and you intend to return for it, you might want to bury it near some kind of landmark you can remember.
RAY: So we need to comb those woods looking for something that sticks out?
JEFF: Yeah, it’s not much to go on.
RAY: It’s not. But the story survives, and I love that it connects us to yet another buried treasure in New England.
JEFF: You know who we treasure here at New England Legends?
RAY: Our patreon patrons!
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RAY: We love when you connect with us, whether it’s through our social media, the New England Legends super-secret Facebook group, or when you call or text our legend line anytime at 617-444-9683. You can leave our show closing on there for us as well.
JEFF: Just a heads up that my Creepy Christmas holiday story tour kicks off in December. I have a bunch of live story nights, both in-person and virtual, so I’d love to have you join me.
RAY: We’d like to thank our sponsor Nuwati Herbals, and our theme music is by John Judd.
VOICEMAIL: Hi, this is Scout Hammel from Charlestown, Massachusetts until next time remember the bizarre is closer than you think.