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The Curious Story of Larry Justus (Grasson)

Through the years I have heard of a man named Larry Justus only a couple of times, just a small story and I was never sure if it was noteworthy. I’m still not really sure if it is… But, I believe in the saying “leave no stone unturned.”

Larry Justus
Courtesy of Treasure Found magazine Vol 10 No 1

According to the story, in the mid 1970’s Larry allegedly found the fabled Lost Ship and even reached out to Anza Borrego Desert State Park about making arraignments to dig it up. He hired a lawyer named Eugene V. McPherson to draft several letters and sent them to the Park headquarters located in Borrego Springs. Larry may have found some Indian artifacts, but I doubt that he found the Lost Ship. According to the legend and the geographic area, meaning where the shoreline of ancient Lake Cahuilla would be, there could only be one spot that would make sense in the place he was describing, the Fishcreek Mountains north of Ocotilio California

I petitioned State Park headquarters in Sacramento for a copy of the letters and they were gracious enough to send me a total of three different correspondences. The first one is dated July 10th 1974, this is a response letter from ABDSP to an earlier letter that was sent by Larry’s lawyer, one that I do not have in my possession. But it clearly has nothing to do with the Lost Ship; it does reference collecting Native American artifacts in the Fishcreek Mountain area.

There are stories about a fabled double decker cave, located somewhere on the eastside of the Fishcreek’s that was loaded with countless ollas and a host of other Native American artifacts, untouched for centuries. I thought this must be the treasure Larry was talking about, but when I read the letters Mr. McPherson sent to the Park, he clearly describes “gold and silver.”

“Mr. Justus is prepared to enter into an agreement with the State that he keep all gold, silver and rare stones that he finds, and all other items to remain in place for a museum” 

more threatening than anything. They basically are stating that if he has any artifact in his possession, he is violating the law. I have not read anything in any of the letters that says the State was willing to sit down and listen to what Larry had to offer.

 If I was part of the Park system I would have at least sat down and talked to Larry and his lawyer, if only to “feel them out” about the supposed find. The only real clue to any location is that it was in the Fishcreek Mountains and possibly near the Carrizo Bombing Range. One has to remember this was the mid seventies and the story basically follows what I call the “golden era of treasure.” Where virtually anyone with a shovel or pick and later a “doodlebug” or metal detector, was out looking for treasure. Maybe the Park was getting a lot of requests; remember the Lost Pegleg legend is all over the Park, as are other legends as well.

Bottom line is that to the best of my knowledge, no treasure was ever found, no agreement was ever entered and the story kinda dies after the last letter. So to me, this yarn has ran it’s course, unless at some future date more info becomes available…

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