California Sixth Graders Find Bags of 'Treasure' in Oakland Lake

PHOTO: Sixth graders from St. Pauls Episcopal School in Oakland, Calif. with the valuables they found in Lake Merritt.PlayDr. Richard Bailey, Executive Director, The Lake Merritt Institute
WATCH California Kids Clean Lake, Find Precious Loot

A group of sixth graders in Oakland, Calif., doing their weekly cleanup along the the shore of a local lake, stumbled across something that was not the usual tree limbs or old junk -- it looked like treasure.

"I was picking up some trash and I saw a bunch of people in my group gathering, so I quickly ran over there," said Simone, a sixth grader with the group.

"There were two bags almost full of pretty jewelry that had gold and silver."

The students, from St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland, had found two 15-pound canvas bags full of jewelry and other valuable objects including rings, pocket watches, two silver candlesticks, a silver spoon and a switchblade.

"We usually just think there is gonna be water or sludge in the bag. We were definitely not expecting anything like that," said Simone.

There were an estimated 75 to 100 pieces of jewelry and other valuables.

The students were skimming through the water on Thursday when they saw the bags in about two feet of water. One of the students needed help because she could not lift them.

"I put on hip boots, retrieved the heavy bags and gave them to the students," said Dr. Richard Bailey of the Lake Merritt Institute, a local group that organizes community cleanups.

Oakland police informed St. Paul's they are investigating the discovery and trying to match the items with records of stolen goods. If unclaimed the goods will return to St. Paul's.

"They are going to try to find the owners," Jane Adams, the communications manager at St. Paul's, told ABC "It looks like stuff that possibly came from an estate sale."

Adams said she thought the location of the bags and their contents, one with a Wells Fargo logo on the side, was odd.

"It appears to be stolen property, some of it old," said Bailey. "There is an engraving for Thomas F. Graham, 1931 or '32 on the back on one stopwatch. He was apparently president of St. Joseph's school for boys in New Jersey from 1921-25. A man by that name is buried here in California, having died Oct. 10, 1935."

Other items that have been found in the lake along with normal trash include a bowling ball, a tiny ribbon-wrapped casket with a gerbil inside, a college football trophy and a hand-carved pumice candle holder, Bailey told ABC in an e-mail.

"The kids were going crazy, they were so excited," Adams said. "Our school mission is service; we were very excited that we were able to serve the Oakland police as well as the community. It's a great lesson for our kids; they're hoping the goods get returned."

Oakland police did not return ABC's request for comment.

Sixth graders at St. Paul's have been participating in "The Clean Lake Program" for the past 15 years. A group goes every Thursday. Volunteers remove up to 6,000 lbs. of trash from the lake each month.

"For the most part, they're pretty excited about it," said Susan Porter, a sixth grade math and science teacher. "Some treasure that they find in the lake, most people would not think of as a monetary treasure, but it's something that they're fascinated by."