Why is Our Neighborhood Called The Treasure Coast?

Dated: January 9 2024

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Why is Our Neighborhood Called The Treasure Coast? 

Close to 310 years ago, a fleet of eleven Spanish ships wrecked offshore between what is now called Cape Canaveral and south towards Stuart. These galleons had sailed from Spain to collect new wealth from the American possessions of the Spanish Empire. On their way back to Spain, this treasure-carrying fleet was sunk by the winds of a hurricane, scattering gold, silver and jewels over the sea floor. In the early 1960s, an Indian River County resident found coins that he believed to be a part of the sunken 1715 fleet.

Kip Wagner first looked on land for the salvage camp that the Spaniards had made when they attempted to salvage the wrecks back in 1715. Together with a doctor friend, Kip Kelso, Wagner unlocked the key to the location of a substantial wreck site of the 1715 Fleet. He leased the land from the state, used a bulldozer to clear the land and then began excavating with shovel and screen. Later, Wagner applied for a nonexclusive salvage lease from the State of Florida for a 50-mile area from Sebastian Inlet to a point near Stuart. The state would receive 25% of whatever he found.

On January 8, 1961, Wagner and a group of his colleagues who had banded together on the treasure hunt, recovered more than 2,000 Spanish silver 8 reales, or “pieces of eight,” near the Sebatian Inlet. Within days, they established the Real Eight Company, which had eight members: Kip Wagner, Kip Kelso, Dan Thompson, Harry Cannon, Lou Ullian, Del Long, Erv Taylor and Libson Futch.

As Wagner and his partners wrestled with how to leverage their limited resources so they might work both the Sebastian Inlet wreck and a new site found further south, a young Californian, Mel Fisher, approached them. At the time, Fisher was living in California, but after talking to Wagner, Fisher created another dive team, moved to Florida, and began working on the Fort Pierce treasure site. In May 1964, Fisher hit the “Carpet of Gold,” a small area containing thousands of irregularly shaped Mexican, Peruvian and Colombian gold cobs (or macuquinos). Later that same year, Wagner helped arrange the first public auction of the 1715 Fleet coins.

After this amazing treasure discovery, John J. Schumann, Jr., former publisher of the Vero Beach Press Journal, and Harry J. Schultz, the newspaper's editor at the time, were discussing the fact that areas along the east coast of Florida had different namesakes. To the north in Brevard County was the Space Coast and to the south (Miami to Palm Beach County) was the Gold Coast, but there was no designation for the Vero Beach to Stuart area. The pair thought that Treasure Coast would be a good nickname, so they began to publish it in the newspaper. Through the years, the Treasure Coast brand has endured. Many local businesses have taken on the name, and the hopes and dreams of people who continue to comb the area for local Spanish treasure also endures.




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Kyle Von Kohorn

Born and raised in Vero Beach, FL, Kyle Von Kohorn is remarkably well-acquainted with this lovely coastal town and its satellite communities. After earning his degree in Business Administration at ....

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