The following story is true.
The skeleton of this Indiana legend came from author Harry Black’s book ‘Historic Trails and Tales of Northwest Indiana’. Black is a regional legend for his exhaustive research efforts. In 1992, Governor Evan Bayh honored Black for his “extensive service to Indiana.”
Throughout much of the 1800s, Momence, Illinois, held a prominent spot on the Kankakee River. At one point it was the marker between the settled United States and the wilderness in the West, providing travelers with a final stop for supplies or trade.
Consequentially, Momence’s history, and the history of the Kankakee River in both Indiana and Illinois, is bathed in legends of lawlessness and drama, but few were as well-known and as easily forgotten as Ol’ Shaffer’s lost keg of gold, also called the Buried Treasure of the Kankakee.
According to all accounts, William “Mike” Shaffer was big, ugly, mean and not averse to breaking laws for a living. Even among the rough and tumble characters living in Indiana and Illinois, Shaffer stood out.
Shaffer had several homes in Newton and Lake County, but calling them “homes” would be generous. “Filthy shanties” would be more accurate, with one being near Momence.