For more than a century, rumors have persisted in Carroll County, Md., of a lost treasure. Most versions of the story say it is a hidden silver mine, but at least one version of the story says that the treasure is gold bullion stored in a cave.
Either way, the treasure has eluded hunters, leaving residents split over whether it ever existed.
The story of a silver mine in the Silver Run area of Carroll County supposedly dates back to the late 1750’s when a German silversmith with the last name of Ahrwud settled in the area. The legend is that Ahrwud made friends with the local Indian tribe who knew of the location of silver, which they used for trading, but they admired Ahrwud’s craftsmanship.
“In return for all the silver he could possibly use, Ahrwud fashioned silver artifacts such as eating utensils and idols for the Indian tribe’s use,” Michael Spaur wrote in an article in the Frederick News.
Though Ahrwud was allowed access to the silver, he was led there in secret at night. The silver was being mined from within a natural cave that had a hidden entrance. The hill where the cave is located is said to be Rattlesnake Hill at Silver Run.
Ahrwud’s daughter, Frieda, pressured him to tell her where he got the silver he used in his work and finally one night, he gave in. He blindfolded his daughter and led her to the mine. Not only was she amazed to see the silver veins, but she had managed to mark the trail while being led to the mine.
Frieda returned during the day with a friend and they mined some silver for themselves. This excursion was seen by a member of the tribe who reported it to his chief. Angry, the Indians kidnapped Ahrwud and his daughter and killed them in the mine. They then caused a landslide that sealed the entrance.
The search for the mine appears to have begun not long after the Ahrwuds’ disappearance and yet, it has never been found or at least reported found by anyone.
The Hunt Begins
A Carroll County newspaper, The American Sentinel, reported that in 1868, a slightly different version of the story had been told to the editor. In that version, the Indians did not kill the Ahrwuds and Frieda did not attempt to find her trail markings until after her father died without telling her the route. However, she was never able to find the path.
This version added another clue to the map forming to locate the mine, which was that Frieda remembered having crossed a small stream just before she and her father had reached the mine.
The editor also wrote, “The above was related to us in 1868 and generally believed to be true by the greater portion of the citizens. Many shafts and holes were dug without success.”
In 1883, the Hanover Spectator stated that the tunnel of an old mine may have been located on Rattlesnake Hill, though nothing was noted about a find.
One report states that Josiah Myers of Hanover, Pa., believed that he had found the shaft to the old mine in 1875. He tried to restart the mining operations, but was killed in a cave in on August 15, 1876. No apparently tried to restart his work of they did and didn’t find anything for the mine continued to stay lost.
In trying to locate the mine, many hunters have sought to verify different elements of the story in the hopes of narrowing down a location, such as where exactly did Ahrwud live. No one is sure where this is, though, or if anyone named Ahrwud did live in the Silver Run area.
However, the Susquehannock tribe of the Oepowig Indians was known to live in the area. The area was also settled by German immigrants, though no family name of Ahrwud is known nor were any of the settlers known to be silversmiths.
Wayne Naylor was a treasure hunter who always wanted to find the big strike that would justify all of his time hunting. While he found coins and other items from sites around the country, he always felt that the big find was the one that was closest to him and that always eluded him.
Naylor met Carroll Countian Gene Dell during a hunt in Roanoke, Va. and the two became friends. When that friendship became trust, Dell showed Naylor some family papers that put the Ahwrud’s Mine story in a different light.
“Written on a large piece of ledger paper was a story that had been handed down to Dell’s grandmother by her grandmother,” Michael Spaur wrote in the Frederick News in 1980. Naylor’s best guess is that the account was written down about 150 years ago.
On the ledger page was a story about a woman named Earwood. As a young girl, she had been blindfolded by her father and taken to a cave where she was show gold ingots. The story placed the gold near Deep Run, which is a couple miles east of Silver Run. It even had a couple more clues as to the whereabouts, such as there being a broad, flat rock only a few feet from the entrance to the cave or that the on way to the cave, the carriage had crossed a stream near Rattlesnake Hill that had had a large outcropping of greenish rock. However, when the woman’s father died, she was unable to find the cave.
While gold ingots might be a little less believable than silver, there was an Earwood family who lived in Carroll County.
Dell had recognized the similarities between the two stories and began his own search for the treasure, not caring whether it was silver or gold. He leased land in the town and dug in promising spots. He used metal detectors and even dynamited in search of the treasure.
After Dell died in 1975, Naylor inherited his papers.
Naylor, who is now 69, spent years researching clues about the area and in the account. When he would think he had something, he would take his large metal detector out to he area and try to verify it.
“I don’t think I ever believed in it, but it was a chance at some big money,” Naylor said. “I would look, but it was such a large area, it would be easy to miss.”
He said he would run into other treasure hunters searching for the silver mine, but he wanted to find gold.
“I never located where the old man would have lived and that was key,” Naylor said. “I don’t think the mine would have been too far from there.”
Despite all of the looking, nothing has been found so far. That doesn’t stop people from hunting or believing.
“It’s fun looking for something buried so long ago and to be able to say that you found something,” Naylor said.