Peru was a great find for the Spanish colonizers. In Peru, the Spaniards found gold and silver, increasing the wealth of the Spanish Empire. Besides Mexico, Peru became an anchor of the Spanish Empire in the New World. From Peru, the arms of the Spanish realm spread out even to Guam. Peruvians were sent to the Marianas, including the famous Governor, Damián de Esplaña.
But things changed in the early 1800s. Starting in 1818, war to liberate Peru from Spanish rule broke out, ending in 1824 with the independence of the country. Political instability ensued, with one party fighting the others for political control. To raise money, the government in power at the time levied heavy taxes on the moneyed classes.
In order to protect their wealth, a group of rich Peruvians decided to gather their money, jewels and other valuables and hide them in a remote island of the Marianas. According to one account, $20 million in cash, jewels and artifacts was amassed. The rich Peruvians hired a schooner to take their fortune for hiding in the Marianas and had a banquet the night before the schooner was to sail.
One thing spoiled the plan. A British officer named Roberts discovered what was going on. He rounded up a group of cut throats and boarded the schooner while the dinner was going on elsewhere. It happened that the schooner's officers were also at the dinner, leaving behind a skeleton crew on board the schooner. Thus it was easier for Roberts and his brigands to seize control of the gold-laden vessel. Roberts stuck to the original Peruvian plan. He set sail for the Marianas.
Upon reaching the islands, he confided in two mates, Williams and George, and they buried the treasure in copper boxes under a volcanic rock on one of the Mariana islands. On top of the rock grew three coconut trees - a good landmark. Then they set sail for Hawaii, an independent kingdom at the time.
On the way to Hawaii, the crew members, who did not know what Roberts buried in the Marianas, found out and started to demand a share in the wealth. Roberts then set fire to the schooner and fled in one of the boats with his two associates, Williams and George, and a Peruvian cabin boy. Still on the way to Hawaii, George started to argue with Roberts, so the group used an oar to hit him on the head and throw him overboard. Roberts, Williams and the cabin boy made it to Hawaii, claiming that they had survived a ship wreck. Once in Honolulu, Roberts sent the cabin boy back to Peru. Now, only Roberts and Williams knew the location of the buried treasure.
Roberts then hired another schooner, the Swallow, to take him and Williams back to the Marianas to retrieve the buried treasure. On the way, the captain of the Swallow started to get suspicious of Roberts, especially when Williams disappeared. Roberts claimed that Williams fell overboard into the sea. The captain searched Williams' belongings and found a map of an island indicating buried treasure, but the name of the island was not identified. When the Marianas were in sight, the Swallow met up with another ship, whose captain was a friend of the Swallow's captain. The two captains discussed what to do about Roberts and the hidden treasure.
They offered Roberts two choices. Either help the two captains find the treasure, and be given a small share in it, or be turned over to the Spanish authorities in Guam. Roberts agreed to help find the treasure. But when Roberts was going down the ladder from the ship to the small boat below, which already carried the two captains, instead of getting into the boat, Roberts pushed it away with his foot and jumped into the ocean, from which he never came up. It was suspected that Roberts had filled his pockets and weighed himself down in order to commit suicide, rather than give up the details of the treasure's location.
The captains had their maps and notes left behind by Williams, but in spite of all their digging they never found the treasure. These maps and notes were then turned over to the Spanish government on Guam.
Enter another British captain, named Johnson. Being on Guam many years later, he learned about Roberts and the hidden treasure. He, too, got the bug to find it and hired a small ship and crew, relying on the treasure's location he learned from Williams' notes kept by the Spanish government on Guam. But, on the morning he was supposed to leave Guam and go north to search for the treasure, he discovered that the ship had gone. He suspected that the mate and the crew decided to go hunt for the treasure themselves and leave Johnson out of it.
This story, taken from a newspaper article in 1888 using Johnson as a source, differs in many details from Georg Fritz's account twenty years later of buried treasure in Pagan, which suggests that the two stories are of two separate events.
Unless Johnson's runaway crew found the treasure, there may just be millions of dollars' worth of buried treasure in one of the Mariana islands north of Guam. Which island is anybody's guess. Take your pick. And shovel. And go digging.
Where, oh where, is the buried treasure?