Lost Lake Erie: Beach Glass, Bricks and Marbles

As you're beach-combing, be on the lookout for these three pieces of Lake Erie treasure.

What lies beneath Lake Erie stirs the imagination. No one knows that better than Kelleys Island resident and scuba enthusiast Chad Waffen, who also has a degree in archeology and is the author of Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands. “I definitely like seeing the maritime history preserved underwater,” Waffen says. “It’s like a time capsule.” While he leaves historical artifacts alone, items that wash ashore are fair game and may have ties to lost wrecks or lakefront industries. Here are three to look for.

Beach Glass

Beach glass that’s frosted, perfectly worn or boasts rare colors or shapes are the most coveted. A lot of beach glass comes from litter or garbage that made its way into waterways before being polished by Lake Erie’s rocks and waves. For many years, communities even dumped garbage directly into the lake. The General Electric plant that once existed in Conneaut, Ohio, is believed to have used its discarded glass to combat erosion — and that’s why cobalt blue and black amethyst glass is still found in the area.


Bricks once paved roadways throughout the region and, when those roads were dismantled, the bricks were sometimes thrown into Lake Erie. Parts of buildings have even crumbled down cliffs or been intentionally placed in the lake, including sections of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium that were used to build fishing reefs along Cleveland’s stretch of shoreline. Waffen says he’s even found marble bricks, which he assumes came from a building long ago demolished and dumped.


Of all the beach-combing finds, marbles are the most prized to many. Some say marbles wash ashore because they were once used as ballast on ships. However, most experts believe any marbles used on ships were likely less expensive and made of clay. Sought-after glass marbles began as toys and likely made their way into waterways by children playing with them and losing them. As they got older and tired of the toys, launching marbles directly into the lake with slingshots proved to be more fun.

Buried Treasure in Niagara Falls

Turns out, Oak Island isn’t the only place in Canada rumored to have buried treasure.

There are stories in Niagara Falls, as well — and whatever treasure might be there has proved just as elusive.

One legend has it that a pair of British navy deserters stole a trunk full of gold coins, valued at $100,000 and destined for British soldiers’ payroll, off a ship during the War of 1812. The treasure was buried on what’s now called Foster’s Flats, 30 feet from a large rock at the foot of an oak tree with roots like a hen’s foot.

Another tale tells of a British paymaster who, upon hearing that American forces were advancing, buried the payroll near a beech tree at the edge of a cemetery in St. Catharines, Ontario. The paymaster was then killed in combat in the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, taking the location with him into eternity.

No evidence has been found of the veracity of either of these stories. Yet.